Sunday, 6 June 2010

Reclaiming the Supernatural

Coming to the end of Lawrence Feingold’s book on the supernatural, I came across this passage on page 443:

Finally, one of the great pastoral problems of our time is that so many people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, take heaven for granted as something somehow due simply to natural goodness. This view debases heaven by naturalizing it. We have to discover ever again a radical wonder at the inconceivable dimension of the gift of our supernatural vocation, which carries with it a true divinization, enabling man to enter into the divine friendship, into a spousal relation with the Holy Trinity, into the beatitude proper to God Himself. We must continue to repeat with Isaiah and St Paul (1 Corinthians 2:9): “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what God has prepared to those who love him.”

Beautiful in itself, this passage brought back memories from a few years ago of sitting in a small (Anglican) parish group, hearing a dearly loved old cleric say that he felt that Christians spent too much time thinking of Jesus as divine and too little time thinking of Him as human. I remember having to stop myself from falling off my chair at the time; how could it be possible to be so wide of the mark? What catechesis there was (and largely still is, it seems to me) focuses on the Jesus as human exemplar, the perfect man. I’m not sure, at that point, that I had ever heard anybody teaching about Jesus as divine: that is, any probing enquiry beyond simple creedal affirmation of what the consequences of His being divine would be.

Reconnecting with the supernatural is difficult. We live in a world where the common sense is of a vague atheistic materialism and where even educated Christians can often be unaware of the shifts of philosophical presuppositions that work to undermine their faith.

His Holiness John-Paul II showed great wisdom in setting new standards for priestly formation in philosophy (inter alia!) in Pastores dabo vobis. Perhaps now is the time for a similar lead in the formation of the laity?

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