Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Matthew and Work

St. Matthew, September 21, 2011: Theme – Sanctification by and in Work

1) Matthew was called by the Lord in the exercise of doing his work as a tax collector.

2) He was called “to follow” Christ = to become Christ.. The vocation is not just to be moral or be virtuous, or even to imitate Christ. There is no holiness independent of Christ, since Christ is the God-man. There is no salvation independent of Christ. Divinization and divine filiation can be achieved only by becoming “another Christ.”

St. Augustine: “Following Christ is not an outward imitation, since it touches man at the very depths of his being. Being a follower of Christ means becoming conformed to him who became a servant even to giving himself on the Cross (cf. Phil 2, 5-8). Christ dwells by faith in the heart of the believer (cf. Eph. 3, 17), and thus the disciple is conformed to the Lord…

“Having become one with Christ, the Christian becomes a member of his Body, which is the Church (cf. 1 Cor. 12, 13, 27). By the work of the Spirit, Baptism radically configures the faith to Christ in the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection, it ‘clothes him’ in Christ (cf. Gal. 3, 27): ‘Let us rejoice and give thanks,’ exclaims Saint Augustine speaking to the baptized, ‘for we have become not only Christians, but Christ (…). Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ!’”[1]

3) St. Josemaria Escriva on becoming Christ: “With all our personal defects and limitations, we are other Christs, Christ himself.…” Notice that sin and defect (as obviously in the case of Matthew) are not an obstacle to becoming “another Christ.”

4) But how does this happen after the fact of Baptism? Work! You cannot separate the fact that Christ is God from his role as redeemer.” As the divine Persons are pure relations, so also the divine Person who becomes flesh is pure relation: his very Person is work.

Benedict XVI says this best: “(W)ith Jesus it is not possible to distinguish office and person; with him, this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. The two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an ‘I’ which remains in the background behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can be ‘off duty;’ here there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I.’”[2] The meaning of the name “Jesus Christ” is that Jesus is the Christ. His very being is the relation of self-gift, and every human deed of work has the divine “I” as protagonist of the deed. The divine “I” wills with a human will and turns all the sin of the human will into the obedience of total self-gift: the Cross. This is redemption and salvation. The theology of the Incarnation must be completed by the theology of the Cross. Chalcedon (451) is completed by Constantinople III (680-681) that does the phenomenology of Christ before its time and gives us the prototype of Christian personalism and the Christian anthropology of the sanctification of work.

Divinized Human Work: “Work too has been taken up in the mystery of the Incarnation, and has been redeemed in a special way.”[3] This is the development by Constantinople III of Chalcedon’s one Person, two natures. It is developed from an objectified epistemology to a subjectified epistemology. The Person of Christ is not merely a substance or substratum in the background sustaining the human nature and its acts. The divine “I” of the Son is the Actor, the One Who acts in human work.

Secularity: ” Baptized into that, we too are able to make the gift of ourselves to God in the service of the others in ordinary secular work. And this so much so that secularity is derived from it. That is, secularity is the very freedom of the human will and work of Christ that is His very Person. The freedom of the Son is the grounding of the secularity of the world. “Secularity, with all that it implies (work, occupations, outlook, lifestyle, ways of acting and behaving) is not added on to our vocation from outside. On the contrary, it receives its fullest meaning from our vocation….Secularity is something Christian, a Christian way of being and living. In other words… Christian faith and morality… cannot be judged from the starting-point of a secularity defined a priori. Rather, secularity should be judged and valued – or rather, discovered – from the starting-point of… what Christian faith reveals to us about man, about the world and about our destiny.”[4]

In other words, secularity is not the given state of affairs we find in the given culture and street and in which we are immersed. Secularity is not extrinsic to us or added on to us from outside. Secularity comes from us in that we are becoming Christ. The humanity – the human will – of Christ is the meaning and measure of secularity. And this is what must be imparted to the world by us in the very exercise of work.

5) Secularity as “Dimension;” Secularity as Characteristic:” The entire Church is secular because it is the Body of Christ. Even the religious are “secular” as “dimension.” However, the laity become Christ-in-act precisely in the exercise of work in the world. Hence, secularity as characteristic is a theological note, not merely sociological or geographical.[5] Authentic work itself is always the exercise of the self-gift of the worker who is becoming another Christ. It is never merely an external performance. Authentic work must be an act of obedience of the “I” of the worker. And the work must be a manifestation of that “I.” Therefore, it must be well done. The worker becomes good, nay, another Christ, in the exercise of the work. He becomes Christ precisely in working. The work itself must be prayer that becomes a consciousness accompanying the true going out of self that work must be.

6) Awaiting a New Culture: Benedict XVI has asked on January 6, 2007: : “Is European culture perhaps nothing more than the technology and trade civilization that has marched triumphantly across the planet? Or is it instead a post-European culture born on the ruins of the ancient European cultures?... The victory of the post-European techno-secular world and the universalization of its lifestyle and thinking have spread the impression – especially in the non-European countries of Asia and Africa – that Europe’s value system, culture, and faith – in other words, the very foundations of its identity – have reached the end of the road, and have indeed already departed from the scene. From this perspective, the time has apparently arrived to affirm the value systems of other worlds, such as pre-Colombian America, Islam, or Asian mysticism.

“At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life subjecting it to transplants that erase its identity. At the same time as its sustaining spiritual forces have collapsed, a growing decline in its ethnicity is also taking place.”[16]

Further: Ratzinger ends his talk announcing this insightful yet chilling fact:

“The essential problem of our times, for Europe and for the world, is that although the fallacy of the communist economy has been recognized – so much so that former communists have unhesitatingly become economic liberals – the moral and religious question that it used to address has been almost totally repressed. The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man’s original uncertainties about god, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is still our problem today. Left untreated, it could lead to the self-destruction of the European conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger –above and beyond the decline predicted by Spengler.”[17]

[1] John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, #21.

[2] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 149.

[3] John Paul II, “Redemptoris Custos,” #22.

[4] Letter from the Prelate of Opus Dei, November 28, 1995.

[5] Christifideles Laici, #15.

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