Category Archives: Modern Wisdom

Short written pieces by modern writers that add color and depth in my journey to God.

Christ’s Agony in the Garden, A Reflection, Part 1

By tradition, Catholics reflect only on Christ’s Sorrowful Mysteries during Lent.  I wanted help to recall the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus was praying in sorrow until he started to sweat blood.  I would like to share with you this reflection from Archbishop Fulton Sheen in his book, “Life of Christ.”

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This was the moment when Our Blessed Lord, in obedience to His Father’s will, took upon Himself the iniquities of all the world and became the sin-bearer.  He felt all the agony and torture of those who deny guilt, or sin with impunity and do no penance.  It was the prelude of the dreadful desertion which He had to endure and would pay to His Father’s justice, the debt which was due from us: to be treated as a sinner.  He was smitten as a sinner while there was no sin in Him — it was this which caused the agony, the greatest the world has ever known.

As sufferers look to the past and to the future, so the Redeemer looked to the past and to all the sins that had ever been committed; He looked also to the future, to every sin that would be committed until the crack of doom.  It was not the past beatings of pain that He drew up to the present, but rather every open act of evil and every hidden thought of shame.  The sin of Adam was there, when as the head of humanity he lost for all men the heritage of God’s grace; Cain was there, purple in the sheet of his brother’s blood; the abominations of Sodom and Gomorrah were there; the forgetfulness of His own people who fell down before false gods was there; the coarseness of the pagans who had rebelled even against the natural law was there; all sins were there: sins committed in the country that made all nature blush; sins committed in the city, in the city’s fetid atmosphere of sin; sins of the young for whom the tender heart of Christ was pierced; sins of the old who should have passed the age of sinning; sins committed in the darkness, where it was thought the eyes of God could not pierce; sins committed in the light that made even the wicked shudder; sins too awful to be mentioned, sins too terrible to name: Sin, sin, sin!

Once this pure, sinless mind of Our Savior had brought all of this iniquity of the past upon His soul as if it were His own, He now reached into the future.  He saw that His coming into the world with the intent to save men would intensify the hatred of some against God; He saw the betrayals of future Judases, the sins of heresy that would rend Christ’s Mystical Body; the sins of the Communists who could not drive God from the heavens but would drive His ambassadors from the earth; He saw the broken marriage vows, lies, slanders, adulteries, murders, apostasies — all these crimes were thrust into His own hands, as if He had committed them.  Evil desires lay upon His heart, as if He Himself had given them birth.  Lies and schisms rested on His mind, as if He Himself had conceived them.  Blasphemies seemed to be on His lips, as if He had spoken them.  From the North, South, East, and West, the foul miasma of the world’s sins rushed upon Him like a flood; Samson-like, He reached up and pulled the whole guilt of the world upon Himself as if He were guilty, paying for the debt in our name, so that we might once more have access to the Father.  He was, so to speak, mentally preparing Himself for the great sacrifice, laying upon His sinless soul the sins of a guilty world.  To most men, the burden of sin is as natural as the clothes they wear, but to Him the touch of that which men take so easily was the veriest agony.

My Intellectual and Spiritual Pride

As I go through Chapter 28 of Fr. Garrigou-LaGrange’s book on the interior life, I find myself horribly exposed to my intellectual and spiritual pride.  I was aware that pride was my root sin, but I did not realize how badly I suffered from it.  It’s odd: I’m disappointed with myself, but I’m also filled with joy to discover this flaw.  I want to be perfect, as Jesus is perfect; but, I know I’m not, yet.  By His grace, I was able to remove the big rocks on the field of my soul.  My intellectual and spiritual pride is hidden, like garden cutworms, potato tuberworms and other soil-dwelling pests.  Now, with the light of the Holy Spirit shining on my wounded soul, I can see how these hidden types of pride have infested the garden of my soul and blinded me from seeing these truths about myself:

  • I believe that I have through my own efforts what I have received from God
  • I believe that I have merited what I have gratuitously received
  • I attribute to myself goods I lack, (i.e. great learning, strong faith, heroic charity), when I do not possess it
  • I wish to be preferred to others and depreciate them

I felt the loving finger of God pointing at me when I read this passage:

Some finally, who are theoretically in the truth, are so satisfied to be right, so filled with their learning which has cost them so much, that their souls are, as it were, saturated with it and no longer humbly open to receive the superior light that would come from God in prayer.  Intellectual pride, even in those who are theoretically right, is a formidable obstacle to the grace of contemplation and to union with God.

I thank the Holy Spirit for the grace and consolation in knowing this fatal flaw in my soul.  How can I grow in Christian perfection with these soul-dwelling pests eating the crops planted by the Holy Spirit?  So, while I am truly disappointed with myself, I am also happy to experience this grace.  What a mercy to know that I’m still a sinner!

St. John of the Cross, pray for me.  Your words have brought me to shame:

When beginners become aware of their own fervor and diligence in their spiritual works and devotional exercises, this prosperity of theirs gives rise to secret pride — though holy things tend of their own nature to humility — because of their imperfections; and the issue is that they conceive a certain satisfaction in the contemplation of their works and of themselves.

From the same source, too, proceeds that empty eagerness which they display in speaking of the spiritual life before others, and sometimes as teachers rather than learners.  They condemn others in their heart when they see that they are not devout in their way.  Sometimes also they say it in words, showing themselves herein to be like the Pharisee, who in the act of prayer boasted of his own works and despised the publican (Luke 18:11)….  They see the mote in the eye of their brother, but not the beam which is in their own.

If you are reading this, pray for me.  Pray that I do not imitate Christ in the wrong way.  Pray that I bear with the equality of our fellow men & women, that I do no wish to impose my domination on them.  Pray that I live with them in humble submission to the divine law.

St. Francis de Sales on the Interior Life

St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales

When God the Creator made all things, he commanded the plants to bring forth fruit each according to its own kind; he has likewise commanded Christians, who are the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion, each one in accord with his character, his station and his calling.

I say that devotion must be practiced in different ways by the nobleman and by the working man, by the servant and by the prince, by the widow, by the unmarried girl and by the married woman. But even this distinction is not sufficient; for the practice of devotion must be adapted to the strength, to the occupation and to the duties of each one in particular.

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbor. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganized and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all. On the contrary, it perfects and fulfills all things. In fact if it ever works against, or is inimical to, anyone’s legitimate station and calling, then it is very definitely false devotion.

The bee collects honey from flowers in such a way as to do the least damage or destruction to them, and he leaves them whole, undamaged and fresh, just as he found them. True devotion does still better. Not only does it not injure any sort of calling or occupation, it even embellishes and enhances it.

Moreover, just as every sort of gem, cast in honey, becomes brighter and more sparkling, each according to its color, so each person becomes more acceptable and fitting in his own vocation when he sets his vocation in the context of devotion. Through devotion your family cares become more peaceful, mutual love between husband and wife becomes more sincere, the service we owe to the prince becomes more faithful, and our work, no matter what it is, becomes more pleasant and agreeable.

It is therefore an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state.

Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.

The Field of Our Soul

I came across a wonderfully analogy for the pursuit of the interior life in Dan Burke’s book, “Navigating the Interior Life.”  He also maintains a website promoting the themes in his book.  I highly recommend the book to anyone whose prayer has led them to an awareness that a spiritual director is needed.  While you’re still searching for one, this book is a godsend.

When we begin the work of a serious commitment to holiness, we will discover that the field (the soul) that we desire to plow and plant is riddled with rocks (sins) that need to be removed in order to make progress.  At this point of discovery, the faithful farmer begins to remove these big obvious rocks (usually mortal sins).  At some point the farmer becomes satisfied with this effort, pulls the plow out of the shed and sets out to prepare the soil, but then is startled at a disconcerting discovery: Though all the big rocks are gone, there are many more rocks that are smaller (venial sins) that had not been seen before.  The big rocks had properly drawn all of the attention.  Now that the big rocks are clear, a more detailed and sometimes more rigorous effort is then needed to further prepare the field.  The same is true with the progressive nature of root sin identification and clarification as we grow in spiritual maturity.

Comedian Louis C.K. on Original Solitude

Who would have thought a comedian known for his vulgar jokes would speak so profoundly about Original Solitude?  This YouTube video clip has garnered over 5.3 million views.  The clip specifically addresses this aloneness that leads us to happiness.  In Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, the Pope describes this phenomenon as Original Solitude, a realization in solitude that opens up our heart to God.  All the noise in the world is distracting us from entering that solitude.  Louis C.K. definitely hit a nerve:

The Amazing Pope Francis Interview

I nearly cried when I read how Pope Francis saw himself as the sinful tax collector Matthew called by Jesus to follow him.  He referred to Caravaggio’s painting The Calling of Saint Matthew and had this to say: “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’  Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.”  I guess I got emotional because I know how power and fame would go straight to my head, but here’s a man who is still filled with so much humility despite that power and fame.  He is living out the virtue of humility in the spotlight for folks like me to follow.

painting-the-calling-of-saint-matthew-caravaggio
“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio

The interview is as explosive as the commentators are making it out to be.  Although it’s rather long, I agree with others who say it is worth reading in full, and then again.  The original article can be found at America Magazine.

In his answer about why he chose the Jesuit order and why he decided on a room in the Santa Marta for his Papal Residence, I found myself asking myself why I’m a loner.  Am I really a loner?  Don’t I also yearn for community?  I think I hold onto this idea that I’m a loner as a badge of honor, something to be proud of because I never really fit in with the popular crowd.  It is probably closer to the truth that I desire to be a part of a group, but hold up this shield of being a loner as a defense.  I don’t want to get hurt when a group decides not to include me.

When Pope Francis talked about his management experience as a Jesuit superior of a province, I found myself reflecting on how I am as a manager.  Am I making the same mistakes?  How can I learn from the Pope’s mistakes?  While the virtue of magnanimity was a bit unclear, I think I understand what he was saying better when he described it:

Thanks to magnanimity, we can always look at the horizon from the position where we are. That means being able to do the little things of every day with a big heart open to God and to others. That means being able to appreciate the small things inside large horizons, those of the kingdom of God.

It’s easy for me to fall into the trap where I desire the bigger office, the corner office.  I even found myself thinking that a good act of humility would be to give up my current office to use as a conference room and take up a cubicle where I’m sharing the space with someone.  It would force me to go out and meet my team instead of waiting for my team to come and speak with me.

His emphasis on discernment is interesting to me.  When I first converted to the faith, I did not trust my discernment.  I always second-guessed myself and asked God to give me signs that this is what He wants me to do.  I guess I still do that.  What I found interesting was how doubt was important in the discernment process.  It’s as if there is a certainty in doubt, if that makes any sense.  By doubting whether a course is the right one, I seek God.  In seeking, I become certain of what God wants — all the while still doubting my motives!  It’s a paradox: the certainty in doubt, but it’s true.  I experienced it when I asked God about Anne Marie, whether she was His choice to be my wife.  [I should blog about that sometime.]

I loved the section when he talked about a “holy middle class.”  It’s true that modern saints like Saint Therese, Mother Teresa, or Jose Maria Escrivá lived lives that may seem far out of reach, the poor working holy class doubting he can ever become a part of the “holy upper class.”  I should not fear because it’s still possible to strive for a middle class in holiness:

“I see the holiness,” the pope continues, “in the patience of the people of God: a woman who is raising children, a man who works to bring home the bread, the sick, the elderly priests who have so many wounds but have a smile on their faces because they served the Lord, the sisters who work hard and live a hidden sanctity. This is for me the common sanctity.”

That first example is poignant: a woman who is raising children.  I definitely see the sanctity shine in my wife when she’s with our girls.  She has her flaws of course, but I see her shine with holiness as a mother.  It’s humbling and very inspiring.  And, it makes me love her greatly!

I remember another living saint who once told me, “Don’t be turned off by the hypocrites.  A church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”  So, when I read Pope Francis’ extension of that analogy, I really could relate:

…the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds….

Apparently, there were commentators who wanted to “clarify” what the Pope meant when he said “Who am I to judge?” when it came to homosexuals.  Those commentators wanted to think the Pope meant only priests who were gay.  In the interview, it was clear his sentiments applied to all homosexuals:

A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’  We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy.

I like this focus on the person and on relationships.  We don’t learn truths from books, we learn them through encounters with people.  We may intellectually understand a truth as it is presented in a book, but we don’t really learn it until we live it in the context of relationships (i.e., redemptive suffering via marriage; the inner life of the Trinity via parenthood; virtue of humility via friendships, etc.)

Pope Francis said so much more that his interview is worth reading, again.  I think his words have already begun a change in me, something I know I should eventually do when the time is right.

My Highlights and Notes from Lumen Fidei (Part 3 of 3)

http://instagram.com/p/b0SamhwKAi/

I have a lot of highlights and notes from Lumen Fidei.  Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here.  As before, my own remarks are [in bold & italics].

Faith makes us appreciate the architecture of human relationships because it grasps their ultimate foundation and definitive destiny in God, in his love, and thus sheds light on the art of building; as such it becomes a service to the common good.  … it helps us build our societies in such a way that they can journey towards a future of hope.  (LF 51)  [Pope Francis then goes on to highlight Heb 11:33 and 1 Sam 12:3-5; 2 Sam 8:15.  Specifically, how faith helped the rulers be just and provide wisdom that brings peace to the people governed.]

As salvation history progresses, it becomes evident that God wants to make everyone share as brothers and sisters in that one blessing, which attains its fullness in Jesus, so that all may be one….  Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters….  Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity….  At the heart of biblical faith is God’s love, his concrete concern for every person, and his plan of salvation which embraces all of humanity and all creation, culminating in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  (LF 54)

Here is the concluding prayer for Lumen Fidei:

Let us turn in prayer to Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of our faith.

Mother, help our faith!

Open our ears to hear God’s word and to recognize his voice and call.

Awaken in us a desire to follow in his footsteps, to go forth from our own land and to receive his promise.

Help us to be touched by his love, that we may touch him in faith.

Help us to entrust ourselves fully to him and to believe in his love, especially at times of trial, beneath the shadow of the cross, when our faith is called to mature.

Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One.

Remind us that those who believe are never alone.

Teach us to see all things with the eyes of Jesus, that he may be light for our path.  And may this light of faith always increase in us, until the dawn of that undying day which is Christ himself, your Son, our Lord!

My Highlights and Notes from Lumen Fidei (Part 2)

I’d like to continue my notes from reading Lumen Fidei.  There are so many good nuggets of wisdom.  This is Part 2; I posted my first set yesterday.  My goal is to jot them down here and then review them more in depth in the future.  Again, as with the first, my notes are in [bold & italics]:

This love, which did not recoil before death in order to show its depth, is something I can believe in; Christ’s total self-gift overcomes every suspicion and enables me to entrust myself to him completely.  (LF 16)

Had the Father’s love not caused Jesus to rise from the dead, had it not been able to restore his body to life, then it would not be a completely reliable love, capable of illuminating also the gloom of death.  (LF 17)  [If it wasn’t for Christ’s horrible death and glorious resurrection, His saving message wouldn’t have lasted so long.  His self-sacrifice is so compelling.]

Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus, but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing.  (LF 18)  [It is so weird to think that when we are in communion with Christ, that we are His eyes and ears.  We are His hands and feet.]

We trust the architect who builds our home, the pharmacist who gives us medicine for healing, the lawyer who defends us in court.  We also need someone trustworthy and knowledgeable where God is concerned.  (LF 18)  [This is why we ultimately need the Magisterium to help interpret Scripture and define core doctrine.  It’s easy for Christ’s sheep, out of misguided sense of justice to redefine right/wrong to fit with the times.]

To enable us to know, accept and follow him, the Son of God took on our flesh.  In this way he also saw the Father humanly, within the setting of a journey unfolding in time.  Christian faith is faith in the incarnation of the Word and his bodily resurrection; it is faith in a God who is so close to us that he entered our human history.  Far from divorcing us from reality, our faith in the Son of God made man in Jesus of Nazareth enables us to grasp reality’s deepest meaning and to see how much God loves this world and is constantly guiding it towards himself.  This leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity.  (LF 18)

In accepting the gift of faith, believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children, they are now “sons in the Son”.  The phrase “Abba, Father”, so characteristic of Jesus’ own experience, now becomes the core of the Christian experience (cf. Rom 8:15).  (LF 19)

Paul rejects the attitude of those who would consider themselves justified before God on the basis of their own works.  (LF 19)

The beginning of salvation is openness to something prior to ourselves, to a primordial gift that affirms life and sustains it in being.  (LF 19)

The image of a body does not imply that the believer is simply one part of an anonymous whole, a mere cog in the great machine; rather it brings out the vital union of Christ with believers, and of believers among themselves (cf. Rom 12:4-5).  Christians are “one” (cf. Gal 3:28), yet in a way which does not make them lose their individuality; in service to others, they come into their own in the highest degree.  (LF 22)

Faith is necessarily ecclesial; it is professed from within the body of Christ as a concrete communion of believers.  (LF 22)

In contemporary culture, we often tend to consider the only real truth to be that of technology: truth is what we succeed in building and measuring by our scientific know-how, truth is what works and what makes life easier and more comfortable….  Yet, at the other end of the scale we are willing to allow for subjective truths of the individual, which consist in fidelity to his or her deepest convictions, yet these are truths valid only for that individual and not capable of being proposed to others in an effort to serve the common good.  But Truth itself, the truth which would comprehensively explain our life as individuals and in society, is regarded with suspicion.  (LF 25)  [Again, a great summary of our current spiritual condition.]

[Paragraphs 26-28 talks about how faith can lead to knowledge about truth and love.  Popes Francis and Benedict compare faith-knowledge to the limits of scientific knowledge.]

Faith-knowledge sheds light not only on the destiny of one particular people, but the entire history of the created world, from its origins to its consummation.  (LF 28)

By his taking flesh and coming among us, Jesus has touched us, and through the sacraments he continues to touch us even today… (LF 31)

One who believes may not be presumptuous; on the contrary, truth leads to humility, since believers know that, rather than ourselves possessing truth, it is truth which embraces and possesses us.  (LF 34)

The gaze of science thus benefits from faith:  faith encourages the scientist to remain constantly open to reality in all its inexhaustible richness.  (LF 34)

Anyone who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God… (LF 35)

Faith is passed on, we might say, by contact, from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another.  (LF 37)

It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus.  (LF 38)

We come from others, we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others.  Even our own knowledge and self-awareness are relational; they are linked to others who have gone before us: in the first place, our parents, who gave us our life and our name.  Language itself, the words by which we make sense of our lives and the world around us, comes to us from others, preserved in the living memory of others.  Self-knowledge is only possible when we share in a greater memory.  The same thing holds true for faith, which brings human understanding to its fullness.  Faith’s past, that act of Jesus’ love which brought new life to the world, comes down to us through the memory of others — witnesses — and is kept alive in that one remembering subject which is the Church.  The Church is a Mother who teaches us to speak the language of faith.  (LF 38)

It is impossible to believe on our own.  (LF 39)

The Church, like every family, passes on to her children the whole store of her memories….  The sacraments communicate an incarnate memory, linked to the times and places of our lives, linked to all our senses; in them the whole person is engaged as a member of a living subject and part of a network of communitarian relationships.  (LF 40)

The Eucharist is a precious nourishment for faith:  an encounter with Christ truly present in the supreme act of his love, the life-giving gift of himself.  In the Eucharist we find the intersection of faith’s two dimensions.  (LF 44)  [The two dimensions being “history” and the “supernatural.”]

… the four elements which comprise the storehouse of memory which the Church hands down: the profession of faith, the celebration of the sacraments, the path of the ten commandments, and prayer.  (LF 46)

Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity.  Precisely because all the articles of faith are interconnected, to deny one of them, even of those that seem least important, is tantamount to distorting the whole… hence the need for vigilance in ensuring that the deposit of faith is passed on in its entirety (cf. 1 Tim 6:20) and that all aspects of the profession of faith are duly emphasized.  (LF 48)  [Another reason for the Magisterium (cf. Acts 20:27).]

My Highlights and Notes from Lumen Fidei (Part 1)

I finished reading Lumen Fidei a couple days ago and I really enjoyed it.  Pope Francis’ and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s encyclical was a well-articulated diagnosis of the state of faith in the world, today.  Maybe at some point I will write more about it, but for now I will just put down my highlights and notes (in bold & italics) as I read through the 80-page encyclical:

Lumen Fidei and Pope Francis
Lumen Fidei and Pope Francis

… humanity renounced the search for a great light, Truth itself, in order to be content with smaller lights… (LF 3)

The light of faith is unique, since it is capable of illuminating every aspect of human existence.  A light this powerful cannot come from ourselves but from a more primordial source: in a word, it must come from God. (LF 4)

… [a dialogue between] the Roman prefect Rusticus and a Christian named Hierax: “‘Where are your parents?’, the judge asked the martyr.  He replied: ‘Our true father is Christ, and our mother is faith in him'”.  (LF 5)

The Church never takes faith for granted, but knows that this gift of God needs to be nourished and reinforced so that it can continue to guide her pilgrim way.  (LF 6) [My note: That is why the Sacraments are needed.]

Faith is linked to hearing. (LF 8)

God is not the god of a particular place, or a deity linked to specific sacred time, but the God of a person, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, capable of interacting with man and establishing a covenant with him. (LF 8) [My note: if God is the God of a person, then faith needs to be transmitted by persons.]

Faith understands that something so apparently ephemeral and fleeting as a word, when spoken by the God who is fidelity, becomes absolutely certain and unshakable, guaranteeing the continuity of our journey through history.  (LF 10)  [My note: I can trust in God’s word.]

God ties his promise to that aspect of human life which has always appeared most “full of promise”, namely, parenthood…  (LF 11)

… his [Abraham’s] life is not the product of non-being or chance, but the fruit of a personal call and a personal love.  (LF 11)  [My note: This is true of our lives as well.]

Faith becomes a summons to a lengthy journey.  (LF 12)

God’s love is seen to be like that of a father who carries his child along the way (cf. Dt 1:31).  (LF 12)

… the light of faith is linked to concrete life-stories, to the grateful remembrance of God’s mighty deeds and the progressive fulfilment of his promises.  (LF 12)  [My note: Much like God fulfilling the prayers in my life (i.e. marriage, first child, an international career, etc.)]

The history of Israel also shows us the temptation of unbelief to which the people yielded more than once.  (LF 13)  [My note: we can learn from our elder brothers in the faith.]

In place of faith in God, it seems better to worship an idol, into whose face we can look directly and whose origin we know, because it is the work of our own hands.  (LF 13)

Idols exist, we begin to see, as a pretext for setting ourselves at the centre of reality and worshiping the work of our own hands.  Once man has lost the fundamental orientation which unifies his existence, he breaks down into the multiplicity of his desires; in refusing to await the time of promise, his life-story disintegrates into a myriad of unconnected instants.  (LF 13)  [My note: all of paragraph 13 is a beautiful diagnosis of our spiritual condition.]

Here mediation is not an obstacle, but an opening: through our encounter with others, our gaze rises to a truth greater than ourselves.  (LF 14)  [My note: this is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so powerful.]

On the basis of an individualistic and narrow conception of conscience one cannot appreciate the significance of mediation, this capacity to participate in the vision of another, this shared knowledge which is the knowledge proper to love.  (LF 14)

… the patriarchs were saved by faith, not faith in Chris who had come but in Christ who was yet to come, a faith pressing towards the future of Jesus.  (LF 15)

The history of Jesus is the complete manifestation of God’s reliability.  (LF 15)

The word which God speaks to us in Jesus is not simply one word among many, but his eternal Word (cf Heb 1:1-2).  (LF 15)  [My note: what God wants to tell us is so complicated, so difficult for us to hear, that he gave us a whole person as the message — Jesus is not the messenger, he IS the message.]

If laying down one’s life for one’s friends is the greatest proof of love (cf. Jn 15:13), Jesus offered his own life for all, even for his enemies, to transform their hearts.  (LF 16)