instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, January 26, 2004

We are all anawim

There's a priest I know who follows what I'll call an "anawim spirituality." His homilies are generally directed at people who are beaten down by life and need to hear, again and again, that God loves them.

Now, that's not a message I, personally, need to hear very often. I've done quite well by life, all things considered. And of course God loves me. What's not to love?

Still, I take the broad, flexible outlook on Catholicism and am prepared to allow this priest his trickling stream of spirituality for his own benefit, and whoever among his hearers might be anawim in spirit.

This is a glib way of expressing my belief that most American Catholics today need to hear more about how sin keeps them apart from God, but some genuinely do need to hear more about how close God is.

Yesterday's first reading from Nehemiah, though, teaches me that it's not an either/or matter, even for a single person with a single dominant temperament:
"Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep"-- for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law.... "Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!"
The words of the Law should not be for us a condemning indictment, even though we stand condemned before the Law. Rather, it should be a cause for rejoicing:
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life....
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart....
If we're condemned under the Law, how can its precepts rejoice the heart? Because the simple fact of the Law is proof of God's love. The Law of Moses proved God's love for Israel; its fulfillment in the Person of Jesus Christ proves God's love for all of us – that is, for each of us.

It seems to me this is the better way to understand sin. We do not overcome sin in order to become close to God, but because God is close to us we desire to overcome sin.