Today's Wisdom

Those who do not pass from the experience of the cross to the truth of the resurrection condemn themselves to despair! For we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power
Pope Francis

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Karl Rahner SJ on Holiness, Death and Life

Fr. Karl Rahner, S.J. was one of the most influential theologians in the reforms of Vatican II, and possibly the greatest Catholic theologian in the 20th century. Liberals in Post-Vatican II portrayed him as their defender, yet his generally-balanced views remained admired by many conservative Catholic theologians. One of the most striking books written by Karl Rahner is a book that I am still reading. "Spiritual Exercises" was written by Karl Rahner in mid 1965, with an imprimatur by the bishop of Burlignton when books written by Catholic theologians were deemed in good standing, i.e. not containing doctrinal errors, if an imprimatur was granted. At that time Vatican II was in full swing yet Karl Rahner's notes can be given as a great example to everyone on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus in the 16th century. Karl Rahner is not an average mind and certainly was a sophisticated yet polished person who advanced the research in the theology of salvation with his "Anonymous Christian" proposal without in anyway diminishing the responsibility and vocation, indeed the duty, of carrying out the Church's missions to non-Catholics. But, as St Augustine indicated, there are many inside the Church that are not Christians and many outside her that are more Christian than some inside her.
In the "Spiritual Exercises" by Karl Rahner, in which he is writing to those taking the Jesuit retreat, one of the most sophisticated statements to me reads: "The Other Things: By the 'other things' St. Ignatius (of Loyola) understands everything between my ego and God. They embrace many natural gifts with which I am perhaps 'actually identified,' and with which I naively try to identify myself. In this retreat, I should try to separate myself from them, and I should try to understand that I am different from them. I should realize interiorly that nothing can take the place of my pure ego, that I cannot run away from it, that I cannot relinquish my self-responsibility to the world around me. This type of separation from self is one of the main tasks of the Christian-and it takes a whole life to complete it. It is a necessary part of the road to Christian sanctity. Let us ask ourselves very concretely what these 'other things' are from which we must separate ourselves. They are not only material possessions, time, friends, but also my activity, my abilities, even my nature that has been formed by my own free decisions, health and sickness, honor and dishonor, thoughts and desires, and so forth. This process of freeing the self from the self includes everything that can be said about the ego- these all belong to the 'other things'. That which remains is the 'peak of the soul' that is, the free, self-surrendering person posited by God. This person has mastery over all other things, takes them or leaves them, orders them or forms them, and in this dealing with things finds God and itself and comes to an understanding of the relationship between God and self. Therefore, the 'other things' are not an obstacle between God and me. I cannot desire simply to eliminate them. We may not strive stoically to remove ourselves from them in such a way that we are no longer affected by them. The question here is how to use them properly and how to direct all of them to God." (pp. 19, 20).

I will stop here for now...In the above writing it is clear to me that although the Christian has to live in the world - indeed work in the world to attract it to Christ- he, nevertheless, has to separate himself from the world so that he may find holiness which is in God alone. In the Old Testament, if I remember correctly, the holy is the one set aside from the world or dedicated completely to God. It is a very fine balance, I think, that Christians need to find and walk always through prayers to Christ from the heart. We need to read again Scriptures and ask the Tradition of the Church mainly traditional writings of the Fathers including the Second Vatican Council. May the Lord help all with their sincere walks in life in order to finally attain holiness and eternal life.

Today's Quote

"Behold I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)


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