Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Boundaries of the Possible

In Christianity on July 30, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Moral theology might sound like a dry topic—not what most of us would choose as exciting reading. Yet I recommend Catholic Moral Tradition, by Monsignor David Bohr. The riches of God’s love break through, page after page.

This morning I was particularly struck by Bohr’s discussion of hope as a motivating force in our discipleship. As background, let’s quickly review the seven Christian virtues:

  • Cardinal virtues (“cardinal” in the sense of basic or foundational): prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance
  • Theological virtues (“theological” in the sense of divinely prompted, or infused, in us):  faith, hope, and love

Most of us know St. Paul’s soaring chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13). It concludes, “So faith, hope, [and] love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Notes on the chapter explain love is given preeminence because, unless tongues, prophecy, faith or even self-sacrifice are motivated by love, they are of little value. Moreover, beyond time—”when faith has yielded to sight, and hope to possession” of our eternal inheritance in Christ—love will remain.

Presently, however, we live within time. Hope is essential. “Hope is faith and love on a journey,” writes Msgr. Bohr, quoting William Lynch, SJ.¹  Msgr. Bohr then continues:

Hope . . . can only be made known to us through symbols, images, and parables. Hope . . . appeals to our imaginations rather than to our intellects. For the imagination . . . is the gift that envisions what cannot yet be seen, the gift that proposes to itself that the boundaries of the possible are wider than they seem.²

The boundaries of the possible are wider than they seem! Wider than our failures. Wider than the rancor of the 2012 presidential campaign. Wider, even, than the whole world’s problems. Imagine that! Hope is the “interior dynamism that exudes confidence, perseverance, peace, joy, and serenity in the midst of life’s storms . . . anchored in God’s forgiving and reconciling love manifested in Christ.”³

This is the Christian hope described in Romans 8:18-25. This is the hope that anticipates Philippians 2:9-13. This is Christianity Richly!


¹ William F. Lynch, Images of Hope (New York and Toronto: A Mentor-Omega Book, 1965), page 27.

² Bohr, Catholic Moral Tradition, p. 129.

³ Ibid.

Pools of Water

In Christianity on July 17, 2012 at 2:35 pm

As much as we rightly bemoan it, our Christian experience inevitably includes occasions of falling into sin. For myself, if not for Saint Paul¹, I often think of the Apostle’s “thorn in the flesh”² as concupiscence: the tendency to sin; to do that which is contrary to God’s will, as well as our own good.

Yet even our sin provides an occasion to be reminded of the richness of God’s mercy and to give thanks.

The favors of the LORD are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

This is a perfect example of God answering our prayer from the Responsorial Psalm last Sunday, when our response to Psalm 84 was, “Lord, let us see your kindness, and show us your salvation.” Salvation! Saved from weeping and bemoaning our sin. Verse 7 of that Psalm talks about passing through the Baca valley. Baca is sometimes translated “the valley of weeping.” Yet what is God’s promise?

As they pass through the Baca valley, they find spring water to drink. Also from pools the Lord provides water for those who lose their way. (Psalm 84:7

How often do you and I lose our way? Yet we have the promise of God that He will restore us through the Sacrament of Confession and Penance, and in doing so, we shall go on “from strength to strength, and see the God of gods on Zion” (84:8).

May it be so, O Lord, as we give you thanks for your love and mercy. That is Christianity Richly!


¹ Romans 7:14-25 suggests that, as highly we venerate this beloved Apostle (as I do — St. Paul, pray for us!), he experienced the flesh warring against the spirit, too (Galatians 5:17).

² Commentators differ on what the thorn was. Some say a physical malady. Others, including Church Father and Doctor of the Eastern Church, St. John Chrysostom, say the thorn was opposition to St. Paul’s preaching of the Gospel. See here. Yet Scripture may have multiple senses without resulting in equivocation or confusion, as declared by St. Thomas Aquinas in Summa Theologica, Question 1, Article 10. Hence, we are not distorting Sacred Scripture to see the thorn in the spiritual sense as the tendency to sin, which we so much wish were removed from our lives.

³ If you followed the web link, you may have noticed a difference between the text I quoted (from my 2004-2005 printed edition of The New American Bible) and the USCCB New American Bible online. Some of the differences are addressed in online footnotes, e.g., for 84:8, but not for 84:7.