Reading Danielou for Lent

The most beautiful and inspiring words I have read this week were in this post by Sandro Magister about Cardinal Jean Danielou.   They moved me so much I ordered several of his  books via Amazon and I cannot wait to start reading them.

Here they are:

The spiritual diary of the theologian and cardinal Jean Daniélou also displays his anxiety for the salvation of the soul of his homosexual brother, who was very dear to him. As for example when he recalls his desire to go on mission to China:

“The reasons for my desire to go to China stem from zeal for the salvation of souls that is the object of my vocation. Life as a Jesuit is complete only if it participates in the passion of Our Lord as well as in his public life. I know that nowhere does Our Lord refuse this participation to those who ask him for it; but I am afraid of allowing this desire to slacken within me. In the missions there is an almost certain dose of privations, disappointments, dangers, perhaps death, perhaps martyrdom. In addition to these reasons, I know that I have a capacity for adaptation that would help me to become Chinese with the Chinese; that missionary life offers more opportunities for performing corporal works of mercy than does life in France; that I will consider my life as not useless if because of it Alain’s soul is saved, and that I do not know the measure of immolation that God desires from me for this purpose.”

On another page of the “Carnets spirituels,” meditating on the passion of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he comes to the point of wanting to take upon himself the weight of the “sins” of Alain and of anyone else:

“Jesus, I have come to know that you do not want me to distinguish my sins from the other sins of the world, but to enter more deeply into your heart and consider myself responsible for the sins of those persons whom you may wish: those of Alain, of anyone else as it may please you. You make me feel, Jesus, that I must descend even lower, take with me the sins of others, accept as a result all the punishments that these may draw down upon me from your justice, and in a particular way the disdain of the persons for whom I will offer myself. To accept, or rather to long for dishonor, even in the eyes of those whom I love. To accept the great abasements, of which I am not worthy, in order to be ready at least to accept the small ones. Then, Jesus, my charity will resemble that with which you have loved me.”

And always in perfect gladness:

“To live by faith, about which the clearest thing to me is that it is incomprehensible. To be of a Franciscan mood, mortified and cheerful, playful and mystical, totally poor. To admire the sense of humor with which the Curé d’Ars treated himself in order to flee from all vanity. To turn to the comical side all the vanity of my life.”

This makes my heart burn within me.

Now, turning to what Pope Francis said to the new cardinals he created.

Reinstatement:  Jesus revolutionizes and upsets that fearful, narrow and prejudiced mentality.  He does not abolish the law of Moses, but rather brings it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17).  He does so by stating, for example, that the law of retaliation is counterproductive, that God is not pleased by a Sabbath observance which demeans or condemns a man.  He does so by refusing to condemn the sinful woman, but saves her from the blind zeal of those prepared to stone her ruthlessly in the belief that they were applying the law of Moses.  Jesus also revolutionizes consciences in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5), opening new horizons for humanity and fully revealing God’s “logic”.  The logic of love, based not on fear but on freedom and charity, on healthy zeal and the saving will of God.  For “God our Saviour desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4).  “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 12:7; Hos 6:6).

Jesus, the new Moses, wanted to heal the leper.  He wanted to touch him and restore him to the community without being “hemmed in” by prejudice, conformity to the prevailing mindset or worry about becoming infected.  Jesus responds immediately to the leper’s plea, without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences!  For Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family!  And this is scandalous to some people!

Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal!  He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness which does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity.  He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp (cf. Jn 10).

There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.

If the Holy Father is talking about a Danielou-type self-immolation to go out and save the lost, then I am all for it.  But when I received an email with this text, there was a note from a Holy See media spokesman that said: The Pope’s homily should be considered a very good prelude to and preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the family in October 2015.

When I look at some of the cardinals around Pope Francis, who have a big role as his advisors, I seem to be hearing something along these lines:  mercy means never having to say you are sorry.   That you can be welcomed and reinstated without repentance and a sincere desire to amend your life.

I sure hope I am wrong, but the midterm relatio was all about a gospel of welcome and inclusion that seemed to skip the part about how we are sinners in need of salvation and that our redemption was costly not cheap grace.

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3 Responses to Reading Danielou for Lent

  1. EPMS says:

    I guess it is important to focus on how sorry you have to be, not how sorry someone else has to be, to merit welcome and reinstatement. Otherwise there is a serious risk of “elder brotherism”, I think.

  2. Macy says:

    “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: stick around that house or city and affirm people just as they are.”

  3. John Walter S. says:

    Grace freely given is not cheap because it demands you respond to it. And for many, it signifies a life-long struggle, of rejecting the effeminate comforts of life for masculine sacrifice. Sacrifice and martyrdom is not fashionable in the West, where fashion is respected and tradition is ridiculed as backwards and ignorant. This is linked to the lowered birthrate, the rise of homosexuals and other aberrant sexuality and modes of thought.

    If the grace of God were cheap, then sin and virtue, evil and goodness lose their meaning, for it is as common as water in the ocean and exists in our very being, making God superfluous.

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