Monday, October 25, 2010

Norms of justice

In today's Office of Readings, we find this passage from Wisdom (expressing the rejection of God by the unrepentant):

But let our strength be our norm of justice;
for weakness proves itself useless.
Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.
He professes to have knowledge of God
and styles himself a child of the Lord.
To us he is the censure of our thoughts;
merely to see him is a hardship for us,
because his life is not like other men's,
and different are his ways.

The just one in this passage is of course Jesus Christ; but since we belong to Him, what is said about Him should also be said in some sense about us. Our lives should be different enough from the lives of those who don't belong to Him to be noticed, to be a reproach - a positive witness to His love and truth, and an implicit invitation to conversion. If strength is the norm of justice for those who don't belong to Christ, how can it be the norm of justice for those of us who do? Of course, it isn't supposed to be. The whole paradox of the Cross, of the truth that "when I am weak, then I am strong," is supposed to be our norm.

I think this applies to our witness as families in a special way. To be weak as a family doesn't mean to be a doormat; it means to be humble in our submission to the demands of that vocation. As husbands, in particular, those of us who are or hope to become deacons are called to subordinate our own needs to those of our wife and children; and to the extent that is reasonably and prudently compatible with that priority, to subordinate our needs to those of our neighbor, also. In other words, we are to choose to love, to "prefer the good of the other, even to our own good." This is how we show that Christ is indeed our Lord; and that marriage is indeed a very special and fundamental form of service, not something that feeds and strengthens our baser appetites in "socially acceptable" ways.

When Joe asked us this past Saturday to consider the point of view of those who support the legality of SSM, I jumped on that idea -- the idea, I say, not the people who hold it -- as hard and as strong as I could. I hope it was clear from the discussion and what followed, that I did this, not because I don't want to consider the idea, but because I have considered it, and I know and believe that this idea requires precisely that rejection of God expounded in this passage of Wisdom. I grant that many, perhaps even most or all, of the people who support the legality of SSM do not see this implication, that they don't intend to reject God, and that their desire for justice is real. But nevertheless these ideas are incompatible with each other.

So, simply in respect of our vocation as husbands and fathers, not to mention our vocation as deacons, we cannot afford the confusion -- clear to the eyes of faith, if not to worldly eyes -- of mistaking our strength, our own idolatrous norm of justice, for God's will. It is always a mistake to believe that weakness proves itself useless, for this is fundamentally a rejection of the Cross. And our weakness here needs to be a daily, joyful commitment, in prayer and action, that "not my will, but Yours, be done."


dbrockhaus said...

I loved the discussion on SSM Saturday. The debate from a spiritual stand point verses a legal secular stand point ,I thought could not be debated (2 different worlds) but you and Joe proved otherwise. thanks Joe and David, I learned a lot.
I became aware also that some times when discussing a point with someone, you don't have to go toe to toe on facts and quotes, you can always go by faith and church doctrine. I could not have held the ground on a theological or legal standpoint but could stand a chance based on faith and church teachings.

Tom said...

I also learned a great deal from the discussion sat. and found tremendous understanding from the discussion. In the end, for me, I continue to look at the Catholic faith as a seamless garment: I will accept and receive all of it, or I will not. In the end, on this issue, that question comes back: "do I or do I not accept all of the teachings of the church?" My answer has to be a resounding "Yes" on every issue, no matter how difficult it may be (and I have many, I assure you). I have to submit my will to the magesterium and their teaching. If I am to be ordained, I will swear an oath to that end. I will gladly and lovingly do so, God willing!