Memorial of Saint Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church



“This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Summarizing his life’s work in philosophy the 20th century Scottish philosopher, John Macmurray wrote,
"The simplest expression that I can find for the thesis I have tried to maintain is this: All meaningful knowledge is for the sake of action, and all meaningful action for the sake of friendship." (Wikipedia)
Macmurray understood friendship as the encounter/dialogue/bond of one person with another and all persons in a community. A survivor from the trenches of World War I, he recognized and spent his life sounding the alarm about mechanistic and organic explanations for the human being and human community. Created in God’s image, I am not a machine, not even a marvelous physical/chemical machine. Nor am I an organism mindlessly reacting to the environment.
A group of human beings is not a machine or organism. We cannot use that excuse for our criminal behavior.
Sciences like economics, psychology, anthropology and sociology – founded upon mechanistic and organic paradigms -- might help to explain some human behavior but they can neither fathom human freedom nor excuse our sin. 
When Macmurray speaks of knowledge and action he is speaking of the decisions a human being makes. Systems may react but they cannot choose; they do not act in freedom. Only a person or community can act in freedom.
When the United States was attacked on September 11, 2001, did the nation act or react? I remember the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as inevitable reactions; they played right into the schemes of Al Qaeda. I pleaded with a small congregation the next day saying, “This was a criminal act. Let us not go to war!” Fifteen years later I hear the same nation demanding that we withdraw from the chaos we spawned; but that withdrawal would be a reaction in pain and grief, not the action of a Spirit-guided nation.
To react is to withdraw from the invitation to engage with another human being. When Jesus commands me to “Love your enemies” he insists that I regard every human being as a child of God, regardless of that person’s intentions or responses toward me. Even a pleasant reaction in desire ignores the reality of the other person; he or she was not placed in this world to satisfy my lust, avarice or greed.
The command to love is God’s commission – God’s sending you and me – to welcome, engage and embrace the other as one who enjoys God’s favor. That command should be the starting point, the core of my response to others, rather than my primitive pleasure in the company of an attractive woman or man, child or adult. 
(In Roman Catholic doctrine grace builds on nature, meaning that the Holy Spirit can animate and direct the natural pleasure we feel in another's company -- the joy of a woman for a stranger's infant, for instance. But that animal response is not a human response unless it is disciplined by the Holy Spirit.) 
After the wars and genocides of the last two hundred years – conducted systematically, thoroughly and diabolically by formerly Christian nations -- we surely must be ready to hear Jesus’ “new command” to befriend one another.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.