“Inner Thoughts” Rodrigo Rodriguez, from the album “Inner Thoughts” (2006)
Prayer and self indulgence, self love, do not go together. If we are to be generous, in both prayer and temporal works, we must put away all inordinate love for our body and ourself. We must put away all excessive preoccupation about our health, and we must put away all anxiety about food, clothing, rest and comfort.
Our body, and our self love have a common fault, that is the more we indulge it, the more it discovers to be essential to it, and if one discovers any reasonable object for indulgence, however unnecessary it might be, we are easily deceived and move the object of interest to the “needs” column of our personal life ledger.
These “objects of interest” might be something physical outside our self, like food or material possessions, or they might be something inside ourself connected to desires or fears. For example, a new pair of shoes, or a new shirt, or going out for a nice meal of sushi when I have lots of left over turkey and gravy in the fridge, ready and waiting to be eaten … I just want the sushi because I “feel like a change”. Or the other “needs”, like the “need” to share my low opinion of some sequence of actions playing out in the media and my equally low opinion of the perps.
In the moment of self love, of self indulgence it is very easy to slide any number of things from the wants column to the needs column, thereby justifying all sorts of bad behaviors. Our desires and fears play a large role in embracing behaviors and activities which may be less about God and others and all about ourselves.
Some examples of these are our desire of being esteemed, being loved, being extolled, being honored, being praised, being preferred to others, being consulted, being approved. Our fears include fear of being humiliated, being despised, of suffering rebukes, of being calumniated, being forgotten, being ridiculed, being wronged, being suspected.
I believe at this time that all of those fears and desires arise in our lack of trust in God and Jesus Christ. We don’t trust that God has our best interests at heart, that He loves us absolutely, and we turn to the world to make up for the imagined shortfall rooted in our self love.
I find myself doubtful at times. In spite of having made a commitment to follow Christ and having drunk from his redemptive hand I still have trouble trusting and thereby receiving all the goodness God offers me, because I am always acutely aware of who I really am.
Because of that awareness of my sinfulness, and my failing to forgive myself (in my pride) I hesitate to commit fully, to abandon myself to Jesus. I continue to lose sight of the truth that the more we know our failings the more Jesus wants to give us.
Christianity, unlike any other worldview, accepts the fact of human sinfulness while providing a solution whereby God and man work together to recover, reclaim, restart and advance towards Divine Intimacy.
To move forward we have to accept God’s forgiveness in Reconciliation, and we HAVE TO FORGIVE ourselves sincerely and trust Jesus. The grace of forgiveness drives us not to more sin but to desire to be more like him and nearer to him. But the secular world’s loudest mantra is “We Are Not Worthy” … and to become worthy the world tells us to accept the values of the world, to “join the team”.
To follow Christ in a world as secular as Western Society takes a special diligence and commitment to stay in the Scriptures and to find like-minded and deeply committed people in a community who can help one another stay focused and growing. We constantly have to overcome the more shallow lures of the world, that intentionally play on our fears and desires.
Nothing is static. WE cannot indulge in “coasting” or “drifting”. We are always moving toward or away from an intimate relationship with God; there is no standing still.
And I discover that there is a spiritual dimension to my thoughts which has no credibility in the secular world where the preoccupation is with justifying everything by the numbers and the guidelines relating to the non-existent “standard” human.
“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Trust in the Truth … no matter how things appear to us in this world … trust in the Truth.
Fortunately, as we grow older, the spiritual aspect of our lives becomes stronger, as Paul wrote, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).
The readings from yesterday’s and today’s Mass are particularly applicable to our life in modern secular society. They are taken from the book of Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus) and have been a part of Torah and the Bible since they were written in about 175 BC.
The Book of Sirach has been especially important to me in trying to understand our modern secular worldview, our culture and society as it has developed since the Reformation and the Enlightenment.
I am not going to get into the what, when, and why of the leadership of the Reformation removing the Books of the Bible which the leaders and Reformers had problems with, disagreed with, or were unhappy with for some personal or public reason. The Roman Canon has been the trusted source as far as I am concerned since about 175BC (includes Old Testament).
All that “He said, She said” is well above my pay-grade and the quality of the scholarship which resulted in those decisions from 1721 is questionable at best … my gold standard for scholarship is N.T. Wright and his “Christian Origins and the Question of God“ series.
If a scholar can’t measure up to that level then he is no better than a Facebook guru and his work deserves the credit one would give to just such a post. What was good enough for the church fathers. is good enough for me.
Mathew, Mark, and Luke all recount: Christ Himself saying “AND he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. 2It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. ”
The Wisdom of Solomon or Book of Wisdom is a Jewish work, written in Greek, composed in Alexandria (Egypt). Generally dated to the late first century BC, the central theme of the work is “Wisdom” itself, appearing under two principal aspects.
In its relation to man, Wisdom is the perfection of knowledge of the righteous as a gift from God showing itself in action. In direct relation to God, Wisdom is with God from all eternity.
The Book of Wisdom is one of the seven Sapiential or wisdom books included within the Septuagint, along with Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Job, and Sirach, and is included in the canon of Deuterocanonical books by the Roman Catholic Church and the anagignoskomena (Gr. ἀναγιγνωσκόμενα, meaning “those which are to be read”) of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
The Book of Wisdom, including Sirach, has formed part of the official Roman Canon since 382AD. It was listed as canonical by the Council of Rome (382 AD), the Synod of Hippo (393), the Council of Carthage (397) and the Council of Carthage (419), the Council of Florence (in 1442) and the Council of Trent (in 1546).
So Sirach is in the Jewish Canon, the Roman Canon, and my Canon. That a bunch of Northern European rebels rejected it in 1721 because it shone a light on the direction of their desires is of no account with me. Sirach 1 is all about Wisdom and the importance of same as regards the views of the world. Sirach 2 is all about serving the Lord in justice and in fear:
 Son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand in justice and in fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation.  Humble thy heart, and endure: incline thy ear, and receive the words of understanding: and make not haste in the time of clouds.  Wait on God with patience: join thyself to God, and endure, that thy life may be increased in the latter end.  Take all that shall be brought upon thee: and in thy sorrow endure, and in thy humiliation keep patience.  For gold and silver are tried in the fire, but acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.
 Believe God, and he will recover thee: and direct thy way, and trust in him. Keep his fear, and grow old therein.  Ye that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy: and go not aside from him, lest ye fall.  Ye that fear the Lord, believe him: and your reward shall not be made void.  Ye that fear the Lord, hope in him: and mercy shall come to you for your delight.  Ye that fear the Lord, love him, and your hearts shall be enlightened.
 My children behold the generations of men: and know ye that no one hath hoped in the Lord, and hath been confounded.  For who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him?  For God is compassionate and merciful, and will forgive sins in the day of tribulation: and he is a protector to all that seek him in truth.
After this it goes on to the “Woe to’s” … but I will leave that up to you to visit if it interests you. My particular take on Sirach is that it perfectly explains the world which has has utterly rejected anything which might call into question the “truth of the world” and so utterly rejects even the existence of critical reviews embodied in works like Sirach. Satan always tries to shoot the messenger. Jesus I trust in You.