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On Holiness: Subtle Crosses

We have to be careful of how we approach holiness and how we better ourselves in Christ Jesus. Indeed we are to 'pick up our crosses and follow Him,' but how often is it that we chase holiness as if we know what is best? For Paul says that "God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with [that] trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it" (1 Cor 10:13). Indeed James also says "Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire" (James 1:14).

What does this mean? Simply this: even our desire for holiness can be a cause of temptation and sin when we dictate it. We often desire glorious crosses/paths to holiness—persecution, evangelization, greater prayer—and often neglect the very clear signs God gives us. We tend to ignore the "subtle crosses." For rather than being in fire, earthquakes, and driving winds (i.e., our ideas of glory and faith) God is in a "tiny whispering sound" (1 Kings 19:12). These subtle crosses present themselves every day and often at the heart of our habits and thoughts. Where we may want to prove unbelievers wrong (or whatnot), when you get that urge to pray, read Scripture, pray for a friend/enemy, or acknowledge the poor (if you don't have money), that is God handing you a subtle cross. When you neglect these little whispers of your conscience you prefer a cross of your own choosing to the cross picked out for you so you might grow.

For Origen (d. 253/54 AD)so wanted martyrdom that he was willing to present himself before the Romans who bitterly persecuted the Church. Yet when those same Romans were rounding up men and women in his hometown Origen's mother hid all of his clothes. He would have been too ashamed to go out naked and hid instead—even though the tortures the Romans inflicted were much worse than the shame of nakedness. In that moment he realized what a fool he had been. He saw how pride infected the noblest intentions. He learned the true meaning of "each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."

Determining the will of God for us is often confused and muddied by our own desires such that we take every strong feeling of faith to be a godsend, but in reality they can plunge us deeper into darkness and misdirection. This is why, then, prayer, silence, and Scripture are necessary. Equally important, however, is our Tradition that stands as the deposit of human wisdom tried and guided by the Holy Spirit in His Church. For do not "plans fail when there is no council, but they succeed when the counselors are many" (Prv 15:22)?

Indeed, let Scripture be your council, but do not neglect the holy ones of God who came before us who suffered but also earned their crown. The word of God is just that, the word. But in order to hear the word it must be spoken—rather it must be 'spirated,' meaning that the Spirit must speak it to us. But how does the spirit speak to us? Breath must come from the body for words to be heard. And who is the body? Christ and the Church. For "he is the head of the body the Church" (Col 1:18). And we must become members of that body. We must "make up for what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church" (Col 2:24). If Christ's body is the Church, of whom he is the head, is not the body something that is seen and visible in this world, persisting through all ages like Christ the head?

Look now at this as well: "The man of wisdom fixes his gaze on wisdom, but the eyes of the fool are on the ends of the earth" (Prv 17:24). I would say, though, that those who say they do not listen to the Church or the wise council of their priests, brothers, and sisters because it is the "wisdom of men" and not "true wisdom" (cf. 1 Cor 2:6-10) are rather the ones whom Proverbs admonishes: "he who rejects admonition despises his soul, but he who heeds reproof gains understanding" (Prv 15:32).

Are we to say that Scripture is the only arbiter, or that it is the only authority? Is it of Scripture or to men of faith that Paul says "we have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2:16b)—and not just to any sort of person, but spiritual persons, i.e., those whom we trust and are known to show God's love. Was it Scripture or men who were named the Body of Christ? Reconciling the two is no small difficulty—it is not unlike that beautiful mystery of Christ taking the form of a slave and becoming man.

Therefore, my friends, will we really be that blind when we neglect the wisdom of holy men and women, the wisdom of the Apostles, and the wisdom of Tradition which was tried by fire, flowering from the blood of the martyrs, and on the lips of men and women throughout the ages?

No. The path to holiness is in listening and discerning—the humility and courage to listen not only to Scripture but men forged by Scripture, the Spirit, and integrated into the Body of Christ, the Church. God not only gives us the word but all of creation to speak to his glory. Will you listen?
A special thanks to my friend Tom whose conversation at breakfast today produced this wisdom. I knew that when we were talking, it was the Holy Spirit speaking to both of us--there was no way I could have come up with these insights if not for our friendship and earnest desire that we both better our souls through prayer and humility. The moment I got home, about 11:20am, I raced to record what we spoke of. In recounting what we said, the Scriptures spoke to these things we talked of and our studies likewise sparked our imaginations.

In a way I imagine that was how the records of the prophets were first recorded. Men heard the words of these holy and wise men and with great zeal sought to preserve for all ages a wisdom that seemed as if it came from God--and as the Scriptures show, it did.

Now, I won't compare my words to Sacred Scripture--not one bit. But I will say that these words were the fruit of prayer, friendship, and an earnest desire to build the Church of God with us as living stones.

I present this to you and recognize its imperfection.

It may be difficult for some of you who are not Catholic to fully understand or appreciate what I'm talking about, but I did have you in mind when I wrote and tried to reveal to you what I mean.

I think that holiness is something we all strive for in one way or another, but this warning that my friend and I gave to each other--not unlike a revelation as we spoke back and forth--is something vitally important for anyone.


Also, for my Protestant friends: I realize you do not consider James as canon, but it's a shame you don't. Out of curiosity you should read it and in it you should find great wisdom. I guarantee it.


Please leave a comment or a kind word--even a bad word is an occasion to learn (or be pissed off!). I'm happy all the same to read them.

M
___
EDIT: Okay, I didn't think this whole thing about "James as not canon" would soon become the thing most people focus on. Please don't.

At the very least, James is often quoted rarely if at all in favor of Romans or some other epistle. Luther and Calvin, and early Protestants did indeed consider it canon but often phased it out. In a manner of speaking they called it the 'least inspired' epistle.
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:iconaegris:
Aegris Oct 7, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
You have no idea how much I needed to read this article. Thank you! :heart: GOD bless! :D
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:icontesm:
TESM Oct 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you very much. This, as you may have read, came from a conversation between a friend and me concerning holiness. I recorded it right after so I wouldn't forget. Almost half a year later we were talking on the subject and it reminded me of this.

I appreciate it very much and hope some of my other stuff (Forgiveness, Confession, Workers and the Wheat--especially this last one here) are helpful should you ever want to read something.

Have a blessed Sunday!
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:iconroxas1296:
roxas1296 Jun 28, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Subtle crosses... I'd definately given the issue some thought before, especially in regards to prayer and guidance, but I hadn't really connected the pieces together.

It's very true that the desire for holiness can sometimes be our demise. God sends us many signs; the problem is our ability to see them and understand them. We sometimes see what we want to see instead of what is the truth.
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:icontesm:
TESM Jun 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Very true. Or sometimes we feel like we know better.

I've always been a second guesser, but sometimes we just have to stop and listen to our conscience. We have to form it again and again, naturally, but we have to listen to it as well.
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:iconpeekeeboo:
Peekeeboo May 18, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I wholeheartedly agree that God's voice is heard in the "tiny whispering sound". It is sad that today we have so much noise in our world. How many young people and older folks, too, can't turn off the radio, TV and all those computer games. These aren't bad in themselves but a time spent in Silence with the God whom we love is of utmost importance in life. I spent a whole week with my sister last week and many times we were just silent and it was a silence where we both felt at peace. It's hard to do in a dorm or even at home but a space for God - even 10 minutes is worth more than all the preaching, teaching and reading that one can do. I hope you don't take this wrong since your post is both sound and enlightening in many ways.

I can think of many times when that gentle push to do something other than what I had planned is ignored and put on the back burner. I often think that God has put His Will right in my path and then I run the other way. Giving God our full attention is almost impossible in this life but I know that God is always there with me - in the center of my being - and sometimes he chides me for my lack of seeing the obvious but he also forgives readily. I can't wait to see my Lord and God face to face. It gives me goosebumps just writing this and not in a scary way either.

This week we again wait with the apostles to receive anew the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It's the guidance from the Spirit of Love that is most important through Scripture, The Church and from one another.

One other thought. At our Baptism we received the anointing to be priests, prophets and kings so we have an obligation to be what Jesus has called us to be for the greater glory of the Body of Christ.
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:icontesm:
TESM Jun 2, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Mm, I agree and thank you for sharing.

We have an obligation to be what we are called to be, but that is best done through self-discernment but also the help and assistance of others as well.
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:icondaludoidoi22:
Daludoidoi22 May 7, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
0.0......
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ugh... tried to express how i feel, but that was all i can manage...
I can't explain, but I don't think it is just chance that I saw this...
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:icontesm:
TESM May 7, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ha, I hope that means it's a good thing then. Thanks!
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:icondaludoidoi22:
Daludoidoi22 May 7, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
happy tears~ XD
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:iconhanciong:
hanciong May 7, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
even our desire for holiness can be a cause of temptation and sin when we dictate it

exactly. sometimes, we feel we are holier than other people. or, we strive to "accumulate holiness" as much as possible. this is another source of attachment
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