Rabbi Yeshua told the crowds, “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” Mt 11:12. St. Matthew’s Greek is, ho basileia ho ouranos biazo kai biastes harpazo autos. Literally, word by word, “The kingdom of-the heavens is-being-forced and violent-ones seize it.” St. Luke has a similar passage: “The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and every one enters it violently” Lk 16:16.
“Catholicism is in the throes of the worst crisis in its entire history. Unless true and loyal Catholics have the zeal and the spirit of the early Christians, unless they are willing to do what they did and to pay the price that they paid, the days of America are numbered.”
Father John A. Hardon, S.J. 1914-2000
Temptation is one of Satan’s weapons against us, It is also one of God’s weapons to strengthen us. The seven capital sins that tempt our fallen race to evil are pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth. God gives us seven capital virtues, Humility, Liberality, Brotherly love, Meekness, Chastity, Temperance, and Diligence. Each capital virtue is a spiritual exercise that can strengthen us against a particular capital sin as we work toward radical transformation of our souls.
The Kingdom of Heaven Has Suffered Violence
The humble always see it first. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; he makes me lie down in green pastures” Ps 23:1–2. Each shepherd watched over his flock day and night. At night when the shepherd had to sleep he would lead the sheep to a hillside and pen them by piling up rocks, crowding the sheep into a small fold. Then he would lie down and sleep during the night across the opening to protect the sheep and keep them penned in. The next morning he would stand up and walk out, making a breach in the fold by removing his own body, and leading the sheep out toward a green pasture. The sheep, penned up all night in a crowded fold, eagerly followed the shepherd, pushing and shoving one another to get through the breach all at once, knocking down more rocks to make the breach wider so that they could get to the green pasture.
Rabbi Yeshua’s Jewish audience recognized his reference to the prophet Micah. “I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob, I will gather the remnant of Israel; I will set them together like sheep in a fold, like a flock in its pasture, a noisy multitude of men. He who opens the breach will go up before them; they will break through and pass the gate, going out by it. Their king will pass on before them, the Lord at their head” Mic 2:12–13. Jesus’ crowds recognized in it His proclamation of the kingdom. “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” Lk 4:18. The rabbis of that time understood that Elijah would be the breach-maker and the Messiah would lead the sheep through the breach.
Radak’s midrash on Micah 2:13 explained that the kingdom of heaven would break forth. Literally translating from the Hebrew, haportzim yifretzu bo, “Those who are breaking out break out in it.” This lifrotz, breaking, is very forceful and violent, the way an army tank might break through a wall.
Again, Rabbi Yeshua meant every word. We need to be radically transformed, to vigorously push aside whatever barriers stand in the way of our journey to the green pastures of heaven, which we reach by way of the Cross. Let us see what will happen to those who are lukewarm. At the beginning of salvation history God told us: “In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground … for Cain and his offering [God] had no regard” Gen 4:3, 5. And, near the close of the apostolic age, God’s angel told John to write to the Church in Laodicaea: “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” Rev 3:16.
How We Do It
How many of us consider this and say, “I can’t do it.” It’s true, we can’t do it without Rabbi Yeshua‘s sanctifying grace. Once Rabbi Yeshua opened heaven through His redemptive sacrifice on the Cross Lk 23:43, He gave us a radical transformation, the Communion of Saints. § 1474 “The Christian who seeks to purify himself of his sin and to become holy with the help of God’s grace is not alone. The life of each of God’s children is joined in Christ and through Christ in a wonderful way to the life of all the other Christian brethren in the supernatural unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, as in a single mystical person.
God is Radical and Total
Father Thomas Dubay writes, “There is nothing lukewarm about the God of revelation. Always radical and total, never does He reduce what He expects of us to fractions.” He adds, “Reflecting like mirrors the very brilliance of the Lord,” we are to be “changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.”
St. Catherine of Siena, in her letter to Stefano Maconi, wrote, “If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder.” St. John Paul II paraphrased, “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” If we are totally obedient to God, he will do works through us that would transform the world Mt 7:7–12.
St. John Vianney wrote, “We must never lose sight of the fact that we are either saints or outcasts, that we must live for heaven or for hell; there is no middle path in this. You either belong wholly to the world or wholly to God. If people would do for God what they do for the world, what a great number of Christians would go to heaven.”
Rabbi Yeshua gave us a perfect set of teachings, and a living authority to be sure we would understand them. Remove a single strand and it all unravels. That is why the sofer’s work had to be perfect; even a single letter or mark would invalidate the entire scroll. In Greek, homoousios and homoiousios differ by only a single Greek letter, iota, yet all Christianity depended on it.
The First Council of Nicaea in AD 325 affirmed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are homoousios, the same spiritual substance, and not, as the Arians claimed, homoiousios, similar in spiritual substance. And so we affirm each Sunday morning in the Nicene Creed that Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father.” If the three divine Persons were merely similar they would be not one God but three gods, thereby breaking the connection with the God of Israel. From this, by the way, we get the idiom, “Differ not by one iota.” These Greek words homoousios and homoiousios are spelled exactly the same except for the letter iota. If two things are said to differ not by one iota they are identical.
Father Hardon constantly taught his disciples, “Never waste a heartbeat.” He meant it literally. He always insisted that this life is our only opportunity to make of ourselves what we hope to be for all eternity, and to prepare for the celestial neighborhood where we hope to live for all eternity. He considered it folly to waste even the smallest amount of time pursuing anything else.
On one occasion Irene and I were driving Father Hardon to the airport from a speaking engagement. When you had Father Hardon all to yourself the only wise thing was to ask him your hardest questions about the Faith, and this I did. When he had answered all my questions I shifted toward small talk. Father Hardon listened for maybe a minute to see whether I was leading up to a question. When he realized I was intent simply on pleasant passage of time he interrupted and asked how much time until we reached the airport. When I told him, “About 20 minutes, Father.” He said, “Perfect. Just enough time for a Rosary and an Angelus.” He knew the length of every prayer by heart, and had immediately put together a “prayer package” that would fit perfectly into the remaining travel time. Of course we joined him in prayer, and the Angelus ended at the very moment we had to drop him off.
Father Hardon declared on the fiftieth anniversary of his priesthood, June 18, 1997, “I know Pope John Paul II too well not to be able to tell you he sincerely believes two things: that the twentieth century has been the most sin-laden century in human history, but he also believes the twenty-first century will be the most grace-laden, the holiest century in the history of mankind.” Foreseeably, that radical a transformation could only be God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil § 677.
Rabbi Yeshua taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” Mt 6:12, and taught us the parable of the king who wished to settle accounts with his servants Mt 18:23–35. The king began by forgiving a servant who owed him ten thousand talents, an unimaginable amount of money. A day’s wage was a denarius. Six thousand denarii, about sixteen years’ wages, added up to a single talent. The Roman tax collectors in the entire province of Palestine, Idumea and Syria, over an entire year, collected perhaps a few talents. Yet God will forgive us ten thousand talents of sin if we forgive others that much. But if we impose limits on our own forgiveness, look how much we lose! That servant refused to forgive only a hundred denarii, and thereby lost forgiveness worth ten thousand talents!
Where We’re Going
Let’s look at how Rabbi Yeshua‘s two great commands fit in with the New and Eternal Covenant. Remember what he told the scribe: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
Rabbi Yeshua says we have to love the Lord with all our heart, and with allour soul, and with all our mind. Why? Because God is everywhere in heaven. He has decreed that heaven will be a place of perfect happiness. If we truly love God with a fiery passion we will be filled with joy in his presence for all eternity. However, if our love for God is merely lukewarm Rev 3:16, we’re apt at some point to resent him. If even one soul is unhappy heaven would no longer be a place of perfect happiness. God wills it to be a place of perfect happiness forever so he cannot take in even a single soul who is not passionately in love with him.
Same is true for loving one another. God gives us all wonderful gifts. If we truly, deeply are as joyful over the gifts others get as the gifts we ourselves get, our joy in heaven will be multiplied by all the gifts to all the souls in heaven, and all our joy will be complete. But if someone were resentful of the gifts others get, heaven would not be the God-decreed place of perfect happiness forever. If we don’t take full advantage of the preparation he offers us he can’t take us in.
I hear many people say they’re not that good so they’re aiming for purgatory. No! If we aim for purgatory we’ll get hell. Aiming for purgatory means we don’t really love Rabbi Yeshua very much but we’re willing to give it a half-hearted attempt. That’s not all our heart and all our soul and all our mind. Rabbi Yeshua said so. “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth” Rev 3:16. If we have a fiery passionate love for Rabbi Yeshua and all that he taught us, if we put him first ahead of everything, he will give us the sanctifying grace we’ll need to complete the steep climb on the journey to heaven. Yes, Rabbi Yeshua knows we’re a fallen race, we’ll slip, but we have the § 1422 Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation to get us back on track.
The early Christians witnessed to Rabbi Yeshua by attending the celebration of Mass even though they knew that if the Romans discovered them the penalty was death. They walked to the arena where they would be fed to the lions singing Christian hymns, witnessing to all who saw them that Rabbi Yeshua had truly conquered death. The early Christian martyrs reflected Christ’s light back to him and to one another. Thanks be to God no one feeds Christians to actual lions anymore. But the spiritual lions are far more dangerous. “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour” 1 Pet 5:8. St. Paul reminds us: “For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”Eph 6:12.
Eusebius of Caesarea, in his immense book, Church History, published around AD 325, tells us that in the year 312 Constantine was preparing to fight a great battle at the Milvian Bridge, a bridge into Rome. Before the battle Constantine looked up and saw a cross of light in the sky and Greek letters reading, “In this sign you will conquer.” Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with the Christian symbol (the Chi-Rho). Constantine then won victory and marched into Rome. The following year, 313, Constantineand Licinius, that year co-emperors, published the Edict of Milan, legalizing Christian worship throughout the Roman Empire. Later Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. And in the Sign of the Cross we conquer our own sinful tendencies. Rabbi Yeshua gives himself to us, and we give ourselves to him in the New and Eternal Covenant.
How We’ll Get There
Man’s Search for God
“Follow me” Mt 4:19 is man’s search for God. We follow him, we ask, we seek, we knock Mt 7:7. He reassures us Mt 7:8.
We start our journey toward God by reaching out to him as a friend in every way. In ancient Israel the halakha was God’s law for man. Rabbi Yeshua is the Halakha. The way to Rabbi Yeshua is Rabbi Yeshua! “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6. How can this be? Rabbi Yeshua explains, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” Mt 25:40. We can prepare by reflecting on the virtues.
We can begin by reflecting on the four cardinal virtues. “Cardinal,” comes from the Latin cardo, hinge. They open the door to all the rest. They govern our relationship with one another. We reflect on prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. We start by reflecting on prudence, on why it is called the mother of all virtues, and then proceed to reflect on the others. First separately, how each can fit into our daily life, and then how they can fit together in our life, always how they can fit into our own life.
Having begun our preparation for the spiritual life, we elevate it by reflecting on the three theological virtues. They govern our relationship with God. We reflect on faith, hope, and charity. Love and charity are the same supreme theological virtue. Pope Benedict XVI speaks on Christian charity in Caritas in Veritate particularly in its relation to truth and love. We can enrich our elevation through Ignatian Spirituality.
Mirrors of Rabbi Yeshua
Abraham Joshua Heschel often said that authentically Jewish life is a continuation of the lives of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Authentic Catholic life is a continuation of the life of Rabbi Yeshua. We must become like him, living at the Torah’s highest level, fulfilling our humanity as God’s image and likeness by reflecting his glory back to Him, refreshing our souls every day with a foretaste of heaven. We have seen the awesome power of the Holy Eucharist. We have seen that Rabbi Yeshua was an awesome presence, that great crowds followed Him. If we live as mirrors of Rabbi Yeshua, reflecting his shining glory back to him and to one another, we will share in his victory over the final unleashing of evil.
Rabbi Yeshua “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” And he told us, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” Rabbi Yeshua calls us to be more like him than like the fallen humanity we are. The Blessed Virgin is the spiritual mother of Rabbi Yeshua‘s shlikhim; her counsel to us is, “Do whatever he tells you.” Rabbi Yeshua told us, “He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” We are Rabbi Yeshua‘s image and likeness. He knows that we are a sinfully proud people. But he has given us grace to overcome sin. “Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
“In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” The Triumph of the Blessed Virgin’s Immaculate Heart will be the transformation of hearts through which men become very much like Rabbi Yeshua Eph 5:25 and women very much like the Blessed Virgin Mary Jn 2:5.
Choosing Life or Death
Father Hardon prophesied repeatedly, “Ordinary Catholics will not survive. Only heroic Catholics will survive.” It will be worse for ordinary Catholics than for the assimilated Jews. “Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required” Lk 12:48. Many ordinary Catholics, assimilated into a world propelled by demons, not believing that God set them apart as a light to the world, will experience a holocaust of spiritual death. “This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one’s name was not written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” Rev 20:14–15.
Deus Caritas Est
Some Scripture translations render the Greek agape as “charity,” from the Latin caritas, which has the same meaning as agape. Pope Benedict XVI speaks on Christian love in Deus caritas est. § 1 “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn 4:16).
Love Your Enemies
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” Mt 5:44–45. “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Mt 5:46–47. “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5:48.
These passages cause even many serious Catholics to take refuge in imaginative exegesis. “Well, he didn’t really mean … He only meant …” Dear friends, Rabbi Yeshua meant exactly what he said. St. Matthew’s original Greek quoted Rabbi Yeshua as saying agapao tous echthrous. Agapao is a form of agape, perfect love, given entirely for another’s happiness. And echthrous means an enemy, openly hostile, animated by deep hatred, resolved to inflict harm. Rabbi Yeshua’s audience during the Sermon on the Mount understood perfectly. They had in their history many such enemies. “When news of what had happened reached [ Antiochus IV], he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm” 2 Mac 5:11. “Within the total of three days eighty thousand were destroyed, forty thousand in hand-to-hand fighting; and as many were sold into slavery as were slain” 2 Mac 5:14. That kind of enemy. That kind of radical transformation.
Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Lives
During the days of the Old Testament, Israel was to live as a people apart Deut 7:1–5, a shining light amid the spiritual darkness of demonic worship. We are today living in an extraordinary age of salvation history in which the people of the new Israel are once again called to be a shining light Jn 8:12 amid a spiritual darkness of demonic influence and possession.
The spiritual and moral fog in which we are now living will continue to become the valley of the shadow of death. But King David assured us, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me” Ps 23:4.
St. John told us, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” Jn 1:4–5. If Rabbi Yeshua‘s light reflects from us, we will be “the light of the world” Mt 5:14.
The people Rabbi Yeshua redeemed were holy. We receive sanctifying grace at the time of our baptism into his redemptive sacrifice. Still, many Catholics say, “I can’t do it. I’m an ordinary man, I have a family to support.” They are right; they can’t. None of us can. But God does not choose the qualified. Through his abiding grace, he qualifies the chosen.
God chose Moses, who pleaded, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice” Ex 4:1. Moses begged, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and of tongue” Ex 4:10. God made him the greatest human prophet in all Israel. Rabbi Yeshua chose an ordinary Jewish fisherman named Shimeon bar-Yona, who tried to stop the Final Sacrifice by declaring, “God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you” Mt 16:22, and commissioned him as head of the Church Jn 21:15–17. He chose Shaul ha-Tarsi, a fierce rabbi intent on destroying the Church, as its greatest evangelist.
In Rabbi Yeshua‘s day a student would listen to various rabbis speak. When he encountered a rabbi whose thinking was brilliant or consistent with his own, the student would approach the rabbi and ask, “May I follow you?” If the rabbi saw that the young man would fit into his entourage he would say yes. Rabbi Yeshua, however, chose his own talmidim and made them shlikhim. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide” Jn 15:16. The talmid certainly wanted to learn from the rabbi, but more, he wanted to be like the rabbi. That’s why talmidim followed their rabbi everywhere, 24 hours a day. If a talmid grew disillusioned with his rabbi he would normally return to his old trade. Rabbi Kefa evidently did while warming himself at the fire Mk 14:54, but Rabbi Yeshua, after rising from the tomb, gave him a second chance beside the Sea of Tiberias by asking him three times, “Do you love me?” Jn 21:15–17.
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Mt 11:29–30. St. Matthew’s Greek word for “easy,” chrestos, also means “excellent” and “well-fitting.” Young Yeshua as a carpenter in his father’s shop made wooden plows and yokes. An ox can pull a plow strongly enough to make furrows only if its yoke is custom-made to fit the ox’s shoulders, making its burden light. An ill-fitting yoke would inflict so much unnecessary pain that the ox could not pull strongly enough to till the field. The cross that Rabbi Yeshua places on our shoulders is custom-fitted to help us prepare for heaven.
Rabbi Yeshua will raise up any ordinary man who asks. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” Mt 7:7. But how must we ask? “With all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” Mk 12:30.
“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Mt 19:26. In the royal priesthood he has given us the grace to offer him the sacrifice of ourselves in the New and Eternal Covenant, whole and entire, our body, blood, soul and humanity. If we pray for the grace to follow Rabbi Yeshua all the way to the Cross, if we put out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch Lk 5:4, he will help us to become saints and create the world anew.
God’s Response to Man
Fr. Thomas Dubay gives us the Church Militant’s guidance.
An analogy with modern warfare may be helpful here. High-level military officers plan their ground, air and sea campaigns in fine detail—including alternative responses to differing situations and responses of the enemy. The best officers leave little to chance (p. 103).
The spiritual life is, as Job 7:1 reminded us, a warfare. Vague wishes go nowhere. This is why many of the wise religious orders retain the practice they call particular examen. It is exactly what its name indicates. In this exercise the person focuses special daily attention on one fault to be corrected or one virtue to be acquired or improved upon: gossiping, overeating or bursts of temper, for example; or gentleness, humility or truth telling. At the same time each day (an aid to remembrance), in a prayerful atmosphere and place, this individual goes over the previous twenty-four hours, examining how he behaved on the one specific point. He notices how he succeeded or fell with regard to that one aim, what were the times and circumstances, who were the persons who triggered the successes or failures. Most likely it will not be many days before he sees a pattern emerging (if he did not already know it). This first part of particular examen can be done in one or two minutes (p. 103).
Then he spends another short time planning for the next twenty-four hours and preparing to do better on this one point. It is wise to begin particular examen with a short prayer for light to know oneself better, and to conclude it with another for vigilance and readiness aimed at success in execution. This whole exercise can be done in a few minutes. Its helpfulness is due to putting concern and determination into practice (p. 103).
Fr. Dubay on his page 104 explains that that Fr. Bernard Bro, in his study of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, acquired a specific virtue and avoided a potential fault. She went far beyond a general wish to love her sisters in religion. She targeted a specific need for improvement and anticipated the time, persons and situations in which she would encounter the problem: Thérèse had acquired the habit of smiling every time when, at work, she was disturbed by a Sister who came with or without reason, to ask her for some service. She noted this with humor in her last manuscript. She was ready for annoyance: “I want it; I count on it … so I am always happy” (Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, p. 62).
That is particular examen! Most Catholics can sustain it for a day or two. If we give ourselves to Rabbi Yeshua whole and entire in the New and Eternal Covenant we are committing our entire lives to heroic virtue. Often we make a great retreat or parish mission ready to go at it, but as time passes we again become enveloped in our ordinary lives and gradually return to where we had been. To some extent we can ask ourselves, “Have I continued going to Daily Mass every morning? Am I still praying the Rosary every morning? Am I treating my wife ‘as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’” Eph 5:25? And, more broadly, “How, precisely, have I grown significantly during the past year?”
Rabbi Yeshua told us, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” Jn 15:12. How did he love us? “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” Jn 15:13. Rabbi Yeshua asks some of us to lay down our lives as martyrs. He asks all of us to lay down our lives as living witnesses, to be his image and likeness Gen 1:27.
Is this asking more of our fallen race than we can give? It is if we try to do it all ourselves. But if we live the New and Eternal Covenant every day of our lives, going to Daily Mass and frequent Confession, and constantly asking Rabbi Yeshua for help, he will help us gradually to become his image. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” Mt 19:26.
God’s Promise of Protection: Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the LORD your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot. Because he clings to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him my salvation. Ps 91:1–16.
On Eagle’s Wings 4:49
Koine Greek had three words for the English word “love”: agape, phileo, and eros. Phileo is the love between friends who enjoy one another’s company. Pope Benedict XVI, in Deus caritas est “God is Love,” December 25, 2005, § 3, says, “As for the term philia, the love of friendship, it is used with added depth of meaning in Saint John’s Gospel in order to express the relationship between Jesus and his disciples.” And the entire body of authoritative Catholic teaching on eros is contained in Deus caritas est.
Agape is the Greek word meaning perfect love, love given entirely for another’s happiness. The only love that will get us into heaven.
Rabbi Yeshua, asked for the great commandment in the law, replied, “You shall love [agapeseis] the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love [agapeseis] your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
We must be exceedingly careful to love God primarily for his own magnificent glory and perfection, not the heavenly kingdom we hope to receive from him. And we must be careful to love each man or woman we encounter the same way, to please him or her, not for what we hope to receive.
A popular version of the Act of Contrition recognizes the weakness of our fallen race by acknowledging that we are sorry for our sins, “Because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell.” However, it immediately acknowledges: “but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love.”
And he commanded us, “Love [agapate] your enemies” Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27. We are to love even our enemies with an agape love. And he means it! § 1022 At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.
Rabbi Yeshua loved us so much that he freely chose the Cross, for us. How many of us could endure the Cross for three hours for our own cherished wife? He endured it for all who had sinned against him! In the New and Eternal Covenant he expects the same of us. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [agapate] one another; even as I have loved [egapesa] you, that you also love [agapate] one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love [agapen] for one another” Jn 13:34–35. He knew we could not reach that standard so he gave us Penance and Reconciliation, but that is the mark we strive for. Kneeling humbly before Rabbi Yeshua in the little booth actually helps us concentrate on him rather than on ourselves.
In the Dawn of Creation God spoke his mighty name, EHYEH, “I AM” Ex 3:14. We say it, YHWH, “HE IS.” When Rabbi Yokhanan tells us that God is love, he is speaking directly of God’s nature. “He who does not love does not know God; for God is love” 1 Jn 4:8. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” 1 Jn 4:16.
There are only three theological virtues infused by God into his faithful. The greatest, even among these, is love. Rabbi Paul tells us, “So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Cor 13:13.
Rabbi Paul described agape: “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” 1 Cor 13:4–7
In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables 1:58:08, after Jean Valjean’s release from the slave labor camp, he is taken in by a bishop who displays agape love. Temptation overcomes Valjean; he steals silver items from the bishop’s cupboard and escapes into the foggy night. The authorities find Valjean with the silver and bring him, and the bag of silver, back to the bishop, who surprises them by saying that he had given Valjean the silver. Moreover, the bishop gives Valjean a pair of silver candlesticks saying, “You forgot I gave these also.” After the authorities leave and they are in private, the bishop tells Valjean, “Remember this my brother, see in this some higher plan. You must use this precious silver to become an honest man. By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood, God has raised you out of darkness: I have bought your soul for God.”
Philia, or phileo, is the Greek word used in the Gospels to describe friendship or brother love. Its opposite is phobia. Its most common form is friendship, but it can also apply to compassion for people in need and welcome for the stranger.
Rabbi Yeshua showed us the steep spiritual climb from phileo to agape. Just before he ascended to the Father, he wanted to show Rabbi Kefa the spiritual level that he would need after the Holy Spirit descended. Rabbi Yeshua asked Rabbi Kefa, “Simon, son of John, do you love me [agapas me] more than these?” Rabbi Kefa replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you [filo se].” Rabbi Yeshua then told Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my lambs” Jn 21:15. A second time Rabbi Yeshua asked Kefa, “Simon, son of John, do you love me [agapas me]?” Rabbi Kefa answered, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you [filo se].” Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa, “Tend my sheep” Jn 21:16. A third time Rabbi Yeshua asked Kefa, “Simon, son of John, do you love me [fileis me]?” Rabbi Kefa, grieved, replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you [filo se]..” Rabbi Yeshua told Rabbi Kefa, “Feed my sheep” Jn 21:17.
Our English translations do not fully mirror St. John’s original Greek in this conversation. Rabbi Yeshua asked whether Kefa loved him with agape [perfect] love, but Rabbi Kefa replied with fileo, [friendly] love [filo se]. Again Rabbi Yeshua tried again to get Rabbi Kefa to reply agapo se, but again Rabbi Kefa replied, filo se. When Rabbi Yeshua saw Rabbi Kefa‘s grief that his spiritual level extended only as high as fileo, Rabbi Yeshua comforted Rabbi Kefa by asking, fileis me, and at last Rabbi Kefa could reply to Rabbi Yeshua at the same fileo level, filo se.
But after Pentecost, in his epistles, Rabbi Kefa consistently used agape, except when he needed philadelphia to express brotherly love. “Without having seen him you love [agapate] him” 1 Pet 1:8. Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren [philadelphian], love one another [agapesate] earnestly from the heart 1 Pet 1:22. “Love [agapate] the brotherhood [adelphoteta]” 1 Pet 2:17.
The Septuagint contains the word eros only in the Book of Proverbs.
The first use is Prov 7:18: The RSVCE translates it, “Come, let us take our fill of love [philia] till morning; let us delight ourselves with love [eros].” The Septuagint’s original Greek says, “… orthrou [dawn] deuro [coming of] kai[and] enkylisthomen [let us reel] eroti [in erotic love].” Benedict himself supplies the best explanation of the original Hebrew. § 6 “First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love.”
The second is Prov 30:16. The RSV2CE translates it, “Sheol, the barren womb [eros], the earth ever thirsty for water, and the fire which never says, ‘Enough.’” The Septuagint’s original Greek says, “Hades [Sheol] kai [and] eros [erotic] gynaikos [woman or wife] …” The sense of it is, put delicately, a womb ever hungry for a man’s presence.
The original Greek New Testament manuscripts do not contain the word eros anywhere.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not anywhere contain the words eros or erotic.
Eros, Philia, Agape
Pope Benedict XVI tells us in Deus Caritas Est (DCE), § 3, “Let us note straight away that the Greek Old Testament uses the word eros only twice, while the New Testament does not use it at all: of the three Greek words for love, eros, philia (the love of friendship) and agape, New Testament writers prefer the last, which occurs rather infrequently in Greek usage. As for the term philia, the love of friendship, it is used with added depth of meaning in Saint John’s Gospel in order to express the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. The tendency to avoid the word eros, together with the new vision of love expressed through the word agape, clearly point to something new and distinct about the Christian understanding of love.
Benedict observes that the pre-Christian world considered eros an overpowering of reason by a “divine madness.” He says in DCE § 4, “The Old Testament firmly opposed this form of religion, which represents a powerful temptation against monotheistic faith, combating it as a perversion of religiosity. But it in no way rejected eros as such; rather, it declared war on a warped and destructive form of it, because this counterfeit divinization of erosactually strips it of its dignity and dehumanizes it. … Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns.”
DCE § 5 “Man is a being made up of body and soul. Man is truly himself when his body and soul are intimately united; the challenge of eros can be said to be truly overcome when this unification is achieved. Should he aspire to be pure spirit and to reject the flesh as pertaining to his animal nature alone, then spirit and body would both lose their dignity. On the other hand, should he deny the spirit and consider matter, the body, as the only reality, he would likewise lose his greatness. … True, eros tends to rise ‘in ecstasy’ towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.”
DCE § 6 “Concretely, what does this path of ascent and purification entail? How might love be experienced so that it can fully realize its human and divine promise? Here we can find a first, important indication in the Song of Songs, an Old Testament book well known to the mystics. According to the interpretation generally held today, the poems contained in this book were originally love-songs, perhaps intended for a Jewish wedding feast and meant to exalt conjugal love. In this context it is highly instructive to note that in the course of the book two different Hebrew words are used to indicate ‘love’. First there is the word dodim, a plural form suggesting a love that is still insecure, indeterminate and searching. This comes to be replaced by the word ahabà, which the Greek version of the Old Testament translates with the similar-sounding agape, which, as we have seen, becomes the typical expression for the biblical notion of love. By contrast with an indeterminate, ‘searching’ love, this word expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier. Love now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it self-seeking, a sinking in the intoxication of happiness; instead it seeks the good of the beloved: it becomes renunciation and it is ready, and even willing, for sacrifice.”
DCE § 9 “The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. Here we find a specific reference—as we have seen—to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God. The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel’s eyes to man’s true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism. It consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God, and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness—a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness: “Whom do I have in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you … for me it is good to be near God” (Ps 73 :25, 28).”
DCE § 10 “We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God’s love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed ‘adultery’ and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: ‘How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! … My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst’ (Hos 11:8-9).”
DCE § 12, “Though up to now we have been speaking mainly of the Old Testament, nevertheless the profound compenetration of the two Testaments as the one Scripture of the Christian faith has already become evident. The real novelty of the New Testament lies not so much in new ideas as in the figure of Christ himself, who gives flesh and blood to those concepts—an unprecedented realism. … This divine activity now takes on dramatic form when, in Jesus Christ, it is God himself who goes in search of the ‘stray sheep’, a suffering and lost humanity. When Jesus speaks in his parables of the shepherd who goes after the lost sheep, of the woman who looks for the lost coin, of the father who goes to meet and embrace his prodigal son, these are no mere words: they constitute an explanation of his very being and activity. His death on the Cross is the culmination of that turning of God against himself in which he gives himself in order to raise man up and save him. This is love in its most radical form. By contemplating the pierced side of Christ (cf. 19:37), we can understand the starting-point of this Encyclical Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8). It is there that this truth can be contemplated. It is from there that our definition of love must begin. In this contemplation the Christian discovers the path along which his life and love must move.”
DCE § 13 “Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33). The ancient world had dimly perceived that man’s real food—what truly nourishes him as man—is ultimately the Logos, eternal wisdom: this same Logos now truly becomes food for us—as love. The Eucharist draws us into Jesus’ act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realized in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood.”
Love is will for the good or happiness of another above our own. Erotic love is false love when it places our good or happiness above that of the other person, that is, when it uses the other person for one’s own happiness.
Venial and Mortal Sins
§ 1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.” Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become like gods, knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus love of oneself even to contempt of God. In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.
§ 1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.
§ 1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
§ 1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
Sin is an offense against God. A mortal sin requires both full knowledge and complete consent. We know it’s against God’s law and we freely choose to do it anyway. It is therefore impossible for a Catholic intent on obedience to Rabbi Yeshua through his Church to commit a mortal sin. Father Santa offers the example of the one hour fast prior to receiving Holy Communion. While we’re at Mass we notice a tiny bit of food stuck between our teeth and inadvertently swallow it. Have we eaten and thereby broken the fast?
Holy Mother Church has no rule for precisely how big a piece of food stuck between our teeth can be to break the fast. Rabbi Yeshua wants to be honored by our stopping eating an hour before we anticipate receiving Holy Communion, and we have done that. If our intention in swallowing the tiny bit of food between our teeth is to protect our dental health or to avoid distraction we may do it, serenely aware that Rabbi Yeshua knows our hearts.
Similarly, before Mass most Catholics stop eating an hour before the earliest time we can imagine Father serving Holy Communion, no homily, no rite of peace, and a fast celebration because Father needs to be somewhere else soon and is concerned about the time. In that way we minimize the possibility that we will breach the one hour fast. However, let us now imagine that we intended to stop in plenty of time but inadvertently ran a little late. Now we are looking at our watch. If we remain in the Communion line we will get there 59 minutes after we stopped eating. We can go to the back of the line and see whether we can stretch it out to a full 60 minutes.
However, if we are last in line and still haven’t reached 60 minutes we can reflect that Rabbi Yeshua wants us to receive during Mass, that the timing is very close, and that we have done our best to obey the Church. However, if the difference is significant then we would approach the priest with our arms crossed and receive a blessing instead. After Mass, if by then the hour has been fulfilled, we can explain the situation to Father and ask whether he would serve us Holy Communion before he leaves the church. If the priest agrees to give us Holy Communion we do not question the situation further. We have submitted our situation to the Church and have been obedient.
How We Prepare for Eternal Life
Catholic teaching recognizes a hierarchy of truths.
Rabbi Yeshua, was asked by a Scribe, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law” Mt 22:36. He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37–40.
Rabbi Yeshua’s law of love is very near the center, and perhaps the best reference standard for ordinary Catholics who suffer from scrupulosity. He tells us, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:40. Rabbi Yeshua is telling us that the whole of the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints is to get us to sail across the years of our lives under the flag of these two commandments. If we do, we will not fall into mortal sin.
How are we supposed to do it? The Catholic Church is ready to teach us. We need to be aware of the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, to study each one, especially charity, and try to live it in our daily lives. And we need to reflect on the seven capital virtues and live them in our daily lives as best we can. We put most of our emphasis on these positive virtues, living to actively please God, but we also need to avoid offending God; we reflect on the seven capital sins and emphasize the capital virtues that overcome our habitual faults.
Radical transformation toward humility heals scrupulosity. We accept that God strengthens us by allowing us to remain in the fallen state but to struggle against it as part of the New Israel, and that Rabbi Yeshua’s grace will always be sufficient for us to reach heaven if we do as he taught us Mt 22:37–40.
Through humility, highest of the capital virtues, we recognize, at a deep level in our souls, that we participate in our first parents’ fallen nature. Through baptism all sins are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. § 1264 “Yet certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized, such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so on, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, ‘the tinder for sin’ (fomes peccati); since concupiscence is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ. Indeed, ‘an athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.’”
By far the best recourse for mild to moderate cases of scrupulosity is frequent Confession. We engage in Father Hardon’s Examination of Conscience, particularly observing: “It is valuable to reflect on this tactic of the evil spirit before we offer some practical norms for making our daily examination of conscience. Why? Because otherwise, we are liable to overlook the importance of a daily inventory of our moral conduct for fear of becoming scrupulous.”
We ask our confessors how often we should go to Confession, and for their assessment of the state of our soul. If our confessor tells us to relax, then we relax.
For more serious cases we can read Dr. Mark Lowery’s Scrupulosity: The Occupational Hazard of the Catholic Moral Life, Leila Miller’s Scrupulosity: A Little Bit of Hell, and Fr. Thomas Santa’s Scrupulosity And How To Overcome It. Each Catholic suffering from scrupulosity can assess which of the three best “speaks” to him, or draw from two or all three if he prefers. After we have reflected on the situation for some time, we consult with a holy priest, either in the confessional or by a parish office appointment.
The Marian Catechist Apostolate
Cardinal Burke, International Director of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, requires that each Consecrated Marian Catechist maintain these daily practices:
Holy Mass and Holy Communion
Holy Rosary (5 decades)
Morning Offering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Angelus (twice daily)
Stations of the Cross
Spiritual Reading (suggestions)
Examination of Conscience (Particular Examen)
Sacrament of Penance (every 2 weeks)
In the Evening
§ 1022 “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.”