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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

A kind friend gave me the gift of an Kindle copy of Fr. Stinissen's magnificent book Into Your Hands Father.  Being a Kindle edition, my highlights and notes are made available online (another fact that I owe a great debt to my friend for making clear to me.)

Having my highlights available online makes it so much easier to write and comment about the book.  One of the point that Stinissen makes is that God speaks to us in the ordinary events of life, even those events with which we are not so pleased.

from Into Your Hands Father
Fr. Wilfrid Stinissen

If God is the creator of heaven and earth and the great director guiding the drama of the world and mankind, then I can encounter him everywhere. He pours out his love upon me in and through all that happens. “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it” (Ps 81:10). I do not need to consider when it is wise to open my mouth and when it is better to close it. I will always have my mouth wide open. I live in a land where milk and honey flow. At every moment I receive wonderful and substantial food. It does not always taste like honey, to be sure. Sometimes it seems bitter, but we know that what is bitter is often the most wholesome. God’s action fills the entire universe, and I may surrender to it and let myself be carried by its waves.

He makes this point over and over, and yet it is a hard point to internalize--one that raises a great many questions.  Permissive will v. ordained will, etc. But he has these words for those who would screen out the world and build for themselves an artificial, rarefied piety.

We often flee from the concrete, apparently banal reality that is filled with God’s presence to an artificial existence that corresponds with our own ideas of piety and holiness but where God is not present. As long as we want to decide for ourselves where we will find God, we need not fear that we shall meet him!

In creating the world God called it good. He presents Himself through this goodness.  To screen out the goodness of the world and enter a kind of manichean separateness is not the way to observe the Father's will, but a way to observe our own.

This is at once one of the most beautiful things I've read so far and one of the most demanding in terms of understanding and parsing what is being said.

A problem many people have today is that they no longer recognize God’s will in everything that happens. They no longer believe in a Providence that allows all that takes place to work for the good of those who love God (Rom 8:28). They say all too easily and superficially: “But it is not God’s will that there are wars or that people starve or are persecuted. . . .” No, it is not God’s will that human beings fight with each other. He wills that we love one another. But when evil people who are opposed to his will hate and murder others, he allows this to become a part of his plan for them. We must distinguish between the actual deed of someone who, for example, slanders us and the situation that comes to us as a result of the deed, which was not God’s will. God did not will the sinful act, but from all eternity he has taken into account the consequences of it in our lives. He wills that we grow through those very things that others do to us that are difficult and painful.

To which I appended this note (originally in iPad speak and here translated for those requiring reasonable orthography)

Beautiful and perfect passage that not only distinguishes ordained from permissive will, but also helps us to understand that even what is in His permissive will is woven into the fabric of the good of all. And perhaps that helps explain how something bad for an individual can redound to the good of God's people. Biko's brutal death alerts others to an injustice that they then fight to end.

I record the comment, its error and all.  Because it is a poor sort of God who sacrifices one to make things better for others.  And that is where this becomes a difficult and intricate study.  How is it to the good that these things should happen?  I can see the communal good, but to accept the thesis, I must also accept that it is good for the individual, and I'm not yet certain I'm in a place where I can make that leap.  But that is a matter for thinking and reflection and time. 

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