The following incident in the life of Jesus Christ, and His words and His accuser's reaction, hits the nail on the head.
From John 10:31-42:
"Jesus answered them,
'Is it not written in your law, I said, 'You are gods'"?
If it calls them gods to whom the word of God came,
and the Scripture cannot be set aside,
can you say that the one
whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world
blasphemes because I said, "I am the Son of God"?
If I do not perform my Father's works, do not believe me;
but if I perform them even if you do not believe me,
believe the works, so that you may realize and understand
that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.'"
How appropriate! What an answer!
Notice the words: whom the Father has consecrated. Apply this situation and Jesus' answer to that of today's church and its accumulated laws as well as their interpretation. Consider all in relationship to those who discern a call to live a life devoted to and intimate with God, attempting to follow Jesus more closely, with professing obedience to Him, poverty of spirit and worldly tangibles, and chastity in order to step in His footsteps of a chaste and celibate life.
In today's church, this profession distinguishes the consecrated life. Plus, we must consider the performance of the Father's works. What are the Father's works? Are they not the lived efforts and resultant signs of a life lived in beauty, truth, and goodness? Are the Father's works His will lived out in our own lives, daily, in imitation of Jesus' earthly life and fulfilling God's commandments--highlighted by lived example by Jesus Christ?
By what means and reality is a person consecrated? Who consecrates a hermit, for example? Is it a human being who consecrates a hermit? Is it a church law that consecrates a hermit? Is it the person him- or herself who consecrates him- or herself?
It is none of these. God consecrates those whom He calls. And the consecration is distinguished and validated by the works that the consecrated one performs.
Does the consecrated hermit (or consecrated virgin, widow, religious, member of secular institute or society of apostolic life) perform works in accordance with God the Father? Are the works inconsistent with the teachings and life example of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father? Are the works performed inconsistent with the commandments of God--the pinnacle being to love the Lord your God with all your strength, all your mind, all your heart and soul--and to love your neighbor as yourself?
Yesterday received a short note from the spiritual father, written and mailed from far away. Or, is it that he writes to a consecrated Catholic hermit who is far away? There is that reality of perspective, always. And perspective, if only of self, can confuse and hinder our works. If that perspective is of the Father, of the Son, of the Holy Spirit, then love will illuminate our works.
This hermit then called him. It shared some of its recent thoughts as well as the physical struggles. It shared the considerations of the temporal Catholic church--what some term the secular church--and the sorrow and concerns therein. As in the time of Jesus and the religion of His upbringing, the temple laws had accumulated over hundreds of years. And there were people who became intent upon these laws as well as distracted by them to the point of using them to test other people and to judge other people.
And also, then, they used the laws as a means of meting out consequences if they decided that these other people were not living the laws according to their interpretations of the laws. And the interpretation of these laws included not only the temporal aspects but the spiritual, theological aspects, as well.
The hermit shared with the spiritual father, some of the recent considerations and being judged by others according to their interpretations of the temporal Catholic Church's laws, specifically regarding consecration of those who received calls by God and professed according to those laws, and were striving to live in accordance with the professed avowal, a life of intimacy and with determination and desire in living out a closer, purposeful following of Jesus Christ.
The hermit made the comment that just as in Jesus' time and life, the laws have seemingly caused division and temptation for some to fall into the wrong kind of judging of others even to the point of writing that others have blasphemed, or will face the torments of hell, or that they have made false claims regarding being consecrated.
The spiritual father responded that Christianity has been lost in such cases, and that this hermit is not dealing with people acting as Christians, as followers of Jesus. "Where is the charity?" he asked. "What are their motives for trying to demean others and publicly detract them, and judge and declare them to not be consecrated?"
No one really has the answers to his questions. Perhaps when and if we act like those questioning Jesus and preparing to stone Him, do not question their own motives nor have answers for themselves. But they think they have the answers regarding others, even the Son of God. And in honesty, we can change the pronoun to "we": We think we have the answers regarding others. Often enough, we slip into the similar judging. There were many Jews ready to stone Jesus for what they judged and concluded was His blasphemy. In their eyes and minds, He was not the one who God consecrated and sent into the world.
This nothing hermit told the spiritual father how it grieves for the problems that canon laws have obviously created in the Church today and perhaps in past centuries. It noted the inconsistencies of interpretation, the hypocrisies, the personal conflicts that arise as a result, and the temptation to use the laws as a means to elevate oneself over others, or at minimum the distraction that the focus by some upon the laws causes in our losing the pearl of great price.
The hermit mentioned the Catholic high school as reported in the news, of which the school administrators are requiring the girls to bring in photographs of the dresses they plan to wear to the school prom (dance) so that they may be approved. The consequences of not wearing an approved dress is to be turned away from the dance upon arrival.
There are obstacles that the new rule is already facing. Parents and students alike are in division over it. The school is merely trying to enforce the moral decency so that dresses are in keeping with a standard of modesty, in line with chastity. But it is becoming a nightmare of strife. The process is taking time and focus away from other aspects of education. People are essentially picking up stones, readying to throw them at the administrators and at each other. What if a girl takes in a photo of a dress she'd like to wear, and by the time it is approved, the store has sold the dress?
This and several other tangible problems are popping up. What difficulties will those trying to enforce the rule encounter, the night of the prom, trying to match photos of approved dresses with what the girls are actually wearing? And, what if those making the decisions to approve or disapprove, in the offset have different values in judging, or from one day to the next have personally different feelings regarding what dress passes and what does not? It can happen. We are but contrary and fallible humans.
So we see just in this example, the trouble with human laws, even if the intentions are good in wanting to stop what are or could be abuses and inconsistencies with Christian values. But it seems, as in the larger example and "picture", that the solution resides within each of us: Are we performing the works of God? Are we living the commandments? Can we or others believe in the works themselves, or are the works gone awry, counter to Jesus' teachings and life, counter to God's commandments? In the situation above, if the parents and the girls themselves, live in accordance with God, there will not be the problem of dressing immodestly. But the problem remains that not all who say they are following Christ, are; or they may not be following consistently or in truth, beauty, and goodness.
There has been a loss of the humble and sincere following in Christ's footsteps, of trying with each step each day and night, to place our feet into the imprints of His feet, exactly as he stepped out His life on earth. There has been a loss of focusing on His teachings, His laws of love, obedience to God's will, of poverty to our tendency to pride and lust and selfishness, His laws of living in purity of body, mind, heart, and spirit.
Who consecrates us--any of us? Who confirms us as Christians? How do we know we are consecrated? How do we know we are Christians?
We (and others) will know by our works. If we do not believe that God consecrates us and that God is in us and we are in God, we and others will know by our works. Works that are in keeping with Christ's teachings and the commandments of God--and of these love is the greatest--are the proof of the fulfillment of God's laws.
Yes, they (and we) will know that we are Christians by our love, by our love.... It is God Who consecrates us, not laws, not even laws created by church leaders. They might write out what seems to be the consensus of how hermits have lived, based upon the holy prophet eremites cited in Scripture and noted by their works, and the life-traits and spirituality of holy hermits in the past two thousand years, evidenced by performing God's works. But it is God Who consecrates, and it His commands and His Son's life example that form the benchmark of what is the performance of God's works.
God bless His Real Presence, and may our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits be Christ-open and Christ-worthy abodes of His indwelling. Love one another, and remain in His Love!