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Mary’s Better Path Must Not Lead to a Rejection of the World

February 22, 2010

One of the most misunderstood and abused stories from Scripture relates to Sts Mary and Martha:

Now as they went on their way, he entered a village; and a woman named Martha received him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving; and she went to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke10:38-42 RSV)

Because Jesus confirms the way of Mary, many people assume ill of Martha, forgetting that both of them are saints and Jesus even affirmed what Martha had done (Mary’s way was better, but not bad).[1] More importantly, people carelessly look at the story and assume that Mary’s way is better merely because she is contemplative while Martha is active. When condemning the corporeal works of mercy, that is social justice, many heretics follow through with quietism. And if people challenge them on this, they point out that what is important is the salvation of souls, not bodies. This is far from what people are meant to get from the Scriptural text. Not only is such dualism a heresy, when looking to Scripture we can see this answer entirely misrepresents Mary. For Mary was not being approved because she went out and preached the Gospel for the salvation of souls. It was not because she was active, but because she was looking for self-glorification and recognition for what she did, that Martha is shown to follow a lesser good and had yet to achieve perfection. Mary’s way of love looked beyond herself and merely to Jesus — without expectation of reward or honor; that is why her way is the better way. The one who gives of the self in pure love without desire for honor, as St Bernard of Clairvaux points us, has achieved the peak of love; anything else, even if done in love, is less than what ought to be and is inferior because of it. And yet, we must remember that Martha’s way is good. Indeed, as the Desert Father Silvanus points out, Mary needed Martha and it is because of Martha that we can see and understand Mary.[2]

The dualism which people bring out of this text is dangerous. It ignores the human person and divides them into a body and soul, ignoring that it is in their unity that a person is who they are meant to be:

On the anthropological question, the assembly reaffirmed the vision of the unity of the human person, ‘corpore et anima unus‘ (one in body and soul), rejecting any dualism or reductionism, either of the spiritualist or materialist type. Genuine respect for every human subject is based on his corporeal and spiritual identity, where corporeality is a component of the person who, through it, manifests and expresses himself (cf. Donum vitae, n. 3) along with the spiritual dimension in which the human person opens himself to God, finding in him the ultimate foundation for his dignity.[3]

And so it is in their unity that we are to be saved. Matter is not to be disparaged, corporeal works of mercy are not to be mocked. Christ heals us body and soul, and not just the soul. The world is meant for salvation, not condemnation. The body is meant for salvation not rejection.[4] False understandings of Christianity, often perpetuated by the anti-Christian intelligentsia, suggest otherwise — they keep misrepresenting the Christian faith as some sort of heavenly liberation from the body. This must be repudiated. Pavel Florensky expresses the Christian position against this anti-Christian representation of the intelligentsia well:

When the intelligentsia reproaches the church’s understanding of life with metaphysical dualism, it does not notice that it dumps the falsity of dualism from itself onto the Church. Meanwhile, patristic theology reveals with ultimate definitiveness the truth that eternal life is life not of the soul only but also of the body. Thus, according to St. Gregory of Nyssa, ‘he zōē autē ou tēs psuchēs esti monon, alla kai tou sōmatos.’ Not only the ‘soul of a Christian’ becomes a ‘coparticipant in the Divine nature.’ But so does the body. A man is united with God both in spirit and body, as Symeon the New Theologian says: ‘homo Deo spiritualiter coporaliterque unitur.’ And so on.[5]

Those who would follow such an ideology are in error; if they try to encourage the faithful to fight against the Magisterium based upon this ideology, then they enter into a perilous state. They must be given a chance to recant their error; if they do not, they have fallen for heresy — for they then would be using a private interpretation of the faith to contend against the leaders of the Church, the Bishops.

St Thomas Aquinas presents to us the authentic relationship between soul and body as being that of form and matter — both are needed. Without the matter, the form would not be manifest.  This is why the body which will be resurrected is the same which we have now:

The soul is, furthermore, united to the body as form to matter. Of course, every form has its determined matter, for there must be proportion between act and potency. Since, therefore, the soul is the same in species, it appears its matter must be the same in species. Therefore, the body will be the same in species after the resurrection as before. And so it has to consist of flesh and bones and other parts of this kind.[6]

St. Bonaventure agrees. Indeed, if we are to be judged and rewarded, it must be as a unified person, one which exists by the undivided unity between soul and body:

Because justice necessarily requires that, as man, who deserves merit or demerit not in soul alone but in both soul and body, should be punished or rewarded in both, and because the reformation of grace requires that the whole body should be likened to Christ, the head, whose dead body had to arise since it was inseparably united to His divinity, and because the fulfillment of nature requires that man  be reorganized in body and soul as matter and form which possess a mutual appetite and inclination, it follows that the resurrection will occur in the future by the exigency of the plan of nature, the infusion of grace, and the retribution of justice, for the whole universe must be governed according to these.[7]

Of course, we must understand, as St Maximus properly points out, the soul and the body have their own virtues and their own vices:

Of the things given to us by God for our use some are in the soul, others in the body, and others are concerned with the body. Those in the soul, for example, are its powers, in the body are the organs of sense and the other members; and those which are concerned with the body are food, wealth, possessions, and so forth. Therefore, the good or evil use of these things or of those corresponding to them indicates whether we are virtuous or wicked.[8]

This means we are to follow not only spiritual works of virtue, but bodily virtue as well. We must not confuse this as meaning there is a real  division in the person between the two, between the soul and body. Being a soul without a body or a body without a soul would lead to a degenerate state for us, and it is because of this that the two are necessarily united now and in the resurrection. Death is a curse because it seeks to divide that which is to be united. St. Irenaeus, in his contention against the Gnostics and their seeking for the salvation of souls without bodies, explains:

Now God shall be glorified in His handiwork, fitting it so as to be conformable to, and modelled after, His own Son. For by the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit , man, and not [merely] a part of man, was made in the likeness of God. Now the soul and the spirit are certainly a part of the man, but certainly not the man; for the perfect man consists in the commingling and the union of the soul receiving the spirit of the Father, and the admixture of that fleshly nature which was moulded after the image of God. For this reason does the apostle declare, We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, terming those persons perfect who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual. For if any one take away the substance of flesh, that is, of the handiwork [of God], and understand that which is purely spiritual, such then would not be a spiritual man but would be the spirit of a man, or the Spirit of God. But when the spirit here blended with the soul is united to [God's] handiwork, the man is rendered spiritual and perfect because of the outpouring of the Spirit, and this is he who was made in the image and likeness of God. [9]

It is therefore the Christian understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God, and this is found only when we are all that God made us out to be. Death destroys that image by dividing that which is not meant to be divided. Those who work for such division remain in the domain of death and practitioners of the culture of death. They promote the effects of sin and not of grace — they preach the degeneration of the fall and not the salvation wrought by Christ. This, of course, is understandable for those who are not Christian, and who follow the way of fallen nature, but for the Christian to continue to preach this is to say death is victorious after all. The world and all that is in it is saved through Christ and is shown to be of value, to be respected because of Christ’s work:

Christianity does not reject matter. Rather, bodiliness is considered in all its value in the liturgical act, whereby the human body is disclosed in its inner nature as a temple of the Spirit and is united with the Lord Jesus, who himself took a body for the world’s salvation. This does not mean, however, an absolute exaltation of all that is physical, for we know well the chaos which sin introduced into the harmony of the human being. The liturgy reveals that the body, through the mystery of the Cross, is in the process of transfiguration, pneumatization: on Mount Tabor Christ showed his body radiant, as the Father wants it to be again.

Cosmic reality also is summoned to give thanks because the whole universe is called to recapitulation in Christ the Lord. This concept expresses a balanced and marvelous teaching on the dignity, respect and purpose of creation and of the human body in particular. With the rejection of all dualism and every cult of pleasure as an end in itself, the body becomes a place made luminous by grace and thus fully human.[10]

We must avoid every trivialization of the body; as many Gnostics of old used their rejection of the world to follow a path of licentiousness, so we can understand modern humanity with its licentiousness demonstrating the same unhealthy understanding of the body:

Today, the various forms of the erosion of marriage, such as free unions and “trial marriage”, and even pseudo-marriages between people of the same sex, are instead an expression of anarchic freedom that are wrongly made to pass as true human liberation. This pseudo-freedom is based on a trivialization of the body, which inevitably entails the trivialization of the person. Its premise is that the human being can do to himself or herself whatever he or she likes: thus, the body becomes a secondary thing that can be manipulated, from the human point of view, and used as one likes. Licentiousness, which passes for the discovery of the body and its value, is actually a dualism that makes the body despicable, placing it, so to speak, outside the person’s authentic being and dignity.[11]

Only by affirming the body, by presenting it as good and a means by which we practice virtues can modern sexual errors be shown for what they are and rejected. Those who follow Gnostic dualism and reject the body for the sake of the mere salvation of the soul risk losing those own soul, because they deny the body, its virtues, but more importantly, because they deny the work of the incarnation.

Let us pray they come to their senses before it us to late.

Footnotes:

[1] “Good are the ministrations done to the poor, and especially the due services and the religious offices done to the saints of God. For they are a payment, not a gift, as the Apostle says, ‘If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?’ Good are they, we exhort you to them, yea by the word of the Lord we build you up, ‘be not slow to entertain’ the saints. Sometimes, they who were not aware of it, by entertaining those whom they knew not, have entertained angels. These things are good; yet better is the thing which Mary hath chosen. For the one thing hath manifold trouble from necessity; the other hath sweetness from charity.” St. Augustine, Sermons On the New Testament Lessons, LIII.5 in NPNF1(6), 428.

St. Augustine explores this further in his next sermon on the same text:

“For what, do we imagine that Martha’s serving was blamed, whom the cares of hospitality have engaged, who had received the Lord Himself into her house? How could she be rightly blamed, who was gladdened by so great a guest? If this be true, let men give over their ministrations to the need; let them choose for themselves ‘the better part which shall not be taken from’ them; let them give themselves wholly to the word, let them long after the sweetness of doctrine; be occupied about the saving knowledge; let it be no care to them, what strangers in the street, who there is that wants bread, or clothing, or to be visited, to be redeemed, to be buried; let works of mercy cease, earnest heed be given to knowledge only. IF this be ‘the better part,’ why not all do this, when we have the Lord Himself for our defender in this behalf? For we do not fear in this matter, lest we should offered His justice, when we have the support of His judgment.

“And yet it is not so; but the Lord spake so it is. It is not as thou understandest; but it is as thou oughtest to understand it. So mark; ‘Thou art occupied about many things, when one thing is needful. Mary hath chosen the better part.’ Thou hast not chosen a bad part; but she a better. And how better? Because tho art ‘about many things’ she about ‘one thing.’ One is preferred to many. For one does not come from many, but many from one,” St. Augustine, Sermons On the New Testament Lessons, LIV.203 in NPNF1(6), 429.

[2] See The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 223.

[3] Pontifical Academy for Life, Concluding Remarks, 8th General Assembly, Feb 25-27, 2002 (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_20020227_final-doc_en.html).

[4] As Mary Timothy Prokes points out, looking to contemporary anthropology and the docetism which underlies it, it was the Gnostics who rejected the body and thought salvation was for the soul alone, separated from the body and liberated from it: “While the simulated and artificial pervade contemporary understandings of what it means to be embodied in the world, the attempt to escape bodily realities has not originated in the present age. Radical separation of matter and ‘spirit’ and the demeaning of body have recurred through past millennia. In early Christianity, Gnosticism in variant forms persuaded many that the God of the Old Testament, either out of evil intent or ignorance, had created the present material world and its miseries. Liberation from the body was the ideal set before its followers,” Mary Timothy Prokes, FSF, At the Interface: Theology and Virtual Reality (Tuscan, AZ: Fenestra Books, 2004), 27.

[5] Pavel Florensky, The Pillar and Ground of the Truth. Trans. Boris Jakim (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 213.

[6] St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles IV: Salvation. Trans. Charles J. O’Neil (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975),   321.

[7] St Bonaventure, Breviloquium. Trans. Erwin Esser Nemmers (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1946), 231.

[8] St Maximus the Confessor, “The Four Hundred Chapters on Love,” in Maximus the Confessor: Selected Writings. Trans. George C. Berthold (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985), 57.

[9] St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies V.6 in ANF(1), 532.

[10] Pope John Paul II, Orientale Lumen (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_02051995_orientale-lumen_en.html ).

[11] Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome, June 6, 2005 (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2005/june/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20050606_convegno-famiglia_en.html).

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26 Comments
  1. February 22, 2010 4:23 pm

    Ok, I admit it. This post came as yet another response to Michael Voris – who wouldn’t allow criticism of his errors show up on youtube. I don’t like being “reactionary” like this, and I didn’t want to do another post on RealCatholicTV, but this video really upset me for many reasons, which you should be able to deduce from my post:

    Nonetheless, I tried to make the post more than a response to this, and to have some affirmation of its own.

  2. David Raber permalink
    February 22, 2010 5:00 pm

    We need to treasure Jesus’s “hard sayings” and enigmatic parables as ways to help us think deeply into his teachings, and I appreciate your commentary here. If this was prompted by Voris the Vortex, maybe he is doing some good in the world after all, though I still find it hard to listen to him and despair of the future of our Church when I think that he and others can regard his brand of religion as “real” Catholicism.

    • February 22, 2010 5:03 pm

      David

      Yes, we need to treasure and explore those hard sayings. And yes, Michael Voris’ commentary led me to want to say something about his positive support for dualism in his commentary. I decided it was also important to respond to his position on Sts Mary and Martha at the same time, and engage him while doing something which transcended his commentary. As such, if there is any good in this post, he has contributed to a good, even if he didn’t intend this.

      As for the future of Catholicism, we must remember, quietism appeared before. It will probably appear again. Don’t despair. The truth will prevail.

  3. February 23, 2010 8:00 pm

    Why did you censor my last comment?

    • February 23, 2010 8:19 pm

      I don’t know what comment you are talking about, and so I can’t answer the question. Maybe you thought you submitted one but you didn’t?

  4. February 23, 2010 10:34 pm

    Hmm weird!

    • February 24, 2010 5:50 am

      Well, as I said, I have no idea; wordpress sometimes has problems and maybe you wrote it in one such wordpress problem time, causing them not to get it?

  5. siena permalink
    February 24, 2010 10:30 am

    Excellent, excellent! Michael Voros’ YouTube talk on Martha and Mary that is!
    Nothing could more be more clear from the mouth of Jesus. Mary has chosen the better path!
    I had long ago parted company with the strange theology found on VN and was directed here by InsideCatholic, thinking you had perhaps changed course but sadly the arrogance and ‘social justice’ thinking still predominates.
    There is schism in the Church and your writers are part of the dissenting/new age group that leads souls astray. We will return to orthodoxy and the Word of God when liberals recognize their need for the God of the gospels as the way to salvation.

    • February 24, 2010 10:42 am

      Siena

      You reminds me of what many fundamentalists do with Scripture. “Excellent article, Jack Chick! Nothing could be more clear from the mouth of Jesus” in regards to salvation than just being born again.See the similarity? Probably not. However, for those who look into the text itself, the words that Mary’s path is better is clear; however a condemnation of St Martha is not, and indeed, what exactly was her problem is only clear if you look at it properly: she wanted some recognition for her work! That is the problem. As St Bernard points out, the highest form of love is the love which loves without any self-seeking; that is why Mary’s way is best. It has nothing to do with work or lack of work. Quietism, however, is a heresy. Be careful you don’t enter into a quietist interpretation of this text. And dualism is also rejected as a heresy — and when someone is using a known heresy to dismiss Bishops, you better be careful. They could be ignorant, but they are not following the truth.

      As for “new age” group — how is following the saints and their words, which is what is found in this article, “error” and “new age”? What is clear is a very protestant faith without works, souls without bodies, understanding of Catholicism is hurting the Church in the USA. This is not “new age.” This is basic doctrine.

  6. siena permalink
    February 24, 2010 12:40 pm

    No one would dispute the valuable contributions of a Martha. Even the traditional interpretation of ‘faith without works is dead’ seems at odds with this reading of Luke 10:38 but the emphasis here is on the word ‘better’ as spoken by Our Lord. “There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part……”
    Why muddy these profound words with a humanistic defense of ‘poor’ Martha? We know Christ loved her well.
    Busyness is the disease of our day. Would that we heed the words of our Savior and listen to Him and not necessarily the modern interpreters of His Word who may, or may not, be guided by the Holy Spirit!

    • February 24, 2010 1:02 pm

      Siena

      Did you actually read the text? St. Augustine points out the error of your interpretation. If you read further interpretations of this verse from the saints, you will see the same issues raised. The question is why is Mary’s the better part, and again the answer is because hers is the selfless love. That is the point. And everyone is interpreting the text as they read it. Which is why I would recommend looking to St Augustine and the saints — this it not a “modern” interpretation. Yours is!

  7. grega permalink
    February 24, 2010 4:25 pm

    Siena glad to read that you have it all figured out -enjoy your blissful pseudo certainty while it lasts- I am too liberal of a catholic to even begin to seek common ground with you -all I can say is my truly traditional orthodox catholic mother absolutely disliked both the actual scripture passage debated here and how it sometimes is interpreted by folks like yourself – as you perhaps know most Catholics in this world sure are not exactly inflicted by what you call “Busyness is the disease of our day” – most have to work very very hard to make it on this planet.

    And yes while the relative prosperity in this part of the world allows your kind to ridicule ‘social justice’ – ‘equality’ etc. – most Catholics around the world do not exactly have that luxury.
    To slap the word arrogant onto those that work to a make this a bit more just and peaceful planet is pretty shallow if you ask me.
    But hey I understand if the proper way to worship my Savior Christ the Lord ( down to the exact word of the KJV bible)becomes the primary focus of ones religiousness of course those that have priorities shifted towards actually doing things like Martha ought to be belittled.
    So evangelical of you.

  8. siena permalink
    February 24, 2010 6:23 pm

    Was the primary reason Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes to feed the hungry or was it an act of compassion for those who followed Him and hungered for something more… the words of everlasting life?

    Mother Teresa shared the following:
    In 1976, by invitation of the president of Mexico, we opened our first home outside of Mexico City. All the areas the Sisters visited in the outskirts of the city were extremely poor. But the requests of the people surprised the Sisters very much. The first thing they asked for were not clothes, medicines or food. They only said, “Sisters, talk to us about God!”

    • February 24, 2010 6:44 pm

      This was not a superfluous show, but in order that the matter might not be deemed a mere illusion; and for this reason He createth 40 from matter already subsisting. “But why gave He not the bread to the multitudes to bear, but (only) to His disciples?” Because He was most desirous to instruct these who were to be the teachers of the world. The multitude would not as yet reap any great fruit from the miracles, (at least they straightway forgot this one and asked for another,) while these would gain no common profit. And what took place was moreover no ordinary condemnation of Judas, who bore a basket. And that these things were done for their instruction is plain from what is said afterwards, when He reminded them, saying, “Do ye not yet understand—how many baskets ye took up?” (Mt 16,9). And for the same reason it was that the baskets of fragments were equal in number to the disciples; afterwards, when they were instructed, they took not up so many, but only “seven baskets.” (Mt 15,37). And I marvel not only at the quantity of loaves created, but besides the quantity, at the exactness of the surplus, that He caused the superabundance to be neither more nor less than just so much as He willed, fore-seeing how much they would consume; a thing which marked unspeakable power. The fragments then confirmed the matter, showing both these points; that what had taken place 41 was no illusion, and that these were from the loaves by which the people had been fed. As to the fishes, they at this time were produced from those already subsisting, but at a later period, after the Resurrection, they were not made from subsisting matter. “Wherefore?” That thou mayest understand that even now He employed matter, not from necessity, nor as needing any base 42 (to work upon), but to stop the mouths of heretics? 43 (Chrysostom on John 42)

  9. February 24, 2010 6:43 pm

    Was the primary reason Jesus performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes to feed the hungry or was it an act of compassion for those who followed Him and hungered for something more… the words of everlasting life?

    The right answer is usually the most spiritualized answer you can think of.

    But seriously — why the need to frame it as an either or? The words and acts of compassion of Jesus, including the concrete act of feeding the hungry — are words of everlasting life. The “political”/”material” meaning is not simply a “symbol” of a deeper “spiritual” meaning. They are one. IN-CAR-NA-TION.

  10. David Raber permalink
    February 25, 2010 9:45 am

    siena,

    I think you have been answered quite well already by previous posters, and will only add the following, which to me states the whole issue pretty plainly:

    Jesus sums up his teaching by telling us to love God, and our neighbor as ourself. Loving the neighbor does come second–if there is ever an issue between the two–but there it is still, out of Jesus’ mouth, and it seems to be a pretty clear injunction. How do I behave in this world if I truly put the interests of my “neighbors” on a par with my own?

    Loving others through both the spiritual and corporal acts of mercy is a job we are tasked to get done as Christians. Some of us think that a good part of that job can be done through government under the heading of “social justice”–those of us who do not regard government as an intrinsically evil thing. And those who agree with this view include the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

  11. siena permalink
    February 25, 2010 8:37 pm

    David:
    I believe in limited government involvement in ‘social justice’ as it takes away an individual’s initiative and sense of duty and love towards others.
    Again, from Mother Teresa:
    “I tell my Sisters that when we lovingly help Christ in the poor, we do it not like social workers. We do it like contemplatives in the world”.
    There’s something beyond the act of ‘doing’ and it’s rooted in ‘knowing’ Christ – hardly something we can expect from a socialist government. They are looking for pay back!

    • February 26, 2010 3:34 am

      Siena

      Governments are made for the common good; it’s not “socialist” for a government to indeed work for it. It’s not “socialism” when the military is funded by the government. It’s not “socialism” when sidewalks are made by the government. Do police take away an individual’s initiative to justice?

  12. siena permalink
    February 26, 2010 12:34 pm

    Henry:
    Governments are made for the common good? My use of the word ‘socialist’ was meant as ‘marxist’. Is a marxist government intent on the common good?
    Our socialist government recently spent huge sums of taxpayer money (yours and mine) on Haitian relief. Warehouse space was soon filled to capacity with crates of condoms, holding up necessary supplies of food and medicine to desperate people!
    You and I helped the poor? I think not.
    Sadly, as God is forced out of the public square our individual initiative and freedom in responding to Christ’s call to serve the poor is relegated to ‘big brother’.

    • February 26, 2010 1:09 pm

      Siena

      Go out and get a copy of the Compendium of Social Doctrine. You need it. Read it.

      For your benefit, here are some words from it:

      168. The responsibility for attaining the common good, besides falling to individual persons, belongs also to the State, since the common good is the reason that the political authority exists[355]. The State, in fact, must guarantee the coherency, unity and organization of the civil society of which it is an expression[356], in order that the common good may be attained with the contribution of every citizen. The individual person, the family or intermediate groups are not able to achieve their full development by themselves for living a truly human life. Hence the necessity of political institutions, the purpose of which is to make available to persons the necessary material, cultural, moral and spiritual goods. The goal of life in society is in fact the historically attainable common good[357].

      169. To ensure the common good, the government of each country has the specific duty to harmonize the different sectoral interests with the requirements of justice[358]. The proper reconciling of the particular goods of groups and those of individuals is, in fact, one of the most delicate tasks of public authority. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that in the democratic State, where decisions are usually made by the majority of representatives elected by the people, those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.

      170. The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it[359]. This perspective reaches its fullness by virtue of faith in Jesus’ Passover, which sheds clear light on the attainment of humanity’s true common good. Our history — the personal and collective effort to elevate the human condition — begins and ends in Jesus: thanks to him, by means of him and in light of him every reality, including human society, can be brought to its Supreme Good, to its fulfilment. A purely historical and materialistic vision would end up transforming the common good into a simple socio-economic well-being, without any transcendental goal, that is, without its most intimate reason for existing.

  13. siena permalink
    February 26, 2010 6:43 pm

    The last sentence here presumes a ‘transcendental goal’. Name one State that aspires to such a goal!……. apart from our beloved United States with it’s superb Constitution!
    Is the ‘common good’ to be found in this administration’s latest attempt to ram a health care bill through? By ‘reconciliation’?
    Just curious.

    • February 26, 2010 7:00 pm

      Siena

      Well, yes, having health care for everyone is recognized by the Church as work for the common good. The Church speaks of such need. Again, I recommend you read the whole Compendium and stop thinking in the lines of the secular state (with what appears to be an idolatrous reverence to the Constitution — it was ‘transcendental’? really?!? ). Historically speaking, most states indeed aspired to such goal, and it is only in modern times, thanks to creeds such as the US Constitution, that this has been rejected.

  14. siena permalink
    February 27, 2010 8:02 am

    May God bless you Henry.
    It seems you can’t answer questions unless you have a musty tome under your arm seeming to back up your ideologies.
    As for Voris’ Youtube talks, there was a very good one last week on Schism in the Church.

    • February 27, 2010 8:16 am

      Siena

      I see. The thing is, I keep backing myself up with authentic Christian spirituality, theology and tradition. On the other hand, I see people like you making all kinds of claims without anything backing it up — indeed, what I see is ignorance of the Church’s teachings, and when they are brought up, you reply like this. I’ve let you use all kinds of accusations without questioning them, because I think most people can see through your rhetoric and see you do not understand the basics of the Catholic faith when it comes to living in the world. You mocked a basic teaching — that the state is for the common good, and when it is shown this is the case from the Church’s own teachings, you just silently the errors you have promoted and just go on other attacks. You make use of catchwords like “Marxism” and “Socialism,” calling the President of the United States both — though no evidence is given, and indeed, people who are familiar with those errors could easily see Obama follows neither. Finally, your words on the US I think says you confuse your political ideology as religious truth, and that is where the foundation of your error lies. Get the Compendium of Social Doctrine. Study it. Michael Voris is constantly mocking the Church’s teachings, and has promoted at least one heresy (dualism) to use as a means of mocking Princes of the Church, the successors of the Apostles. Be very careful who you support.

  15. Ronald King permalink
    February 27, 2010 10:00 am

    Henry, Thank you once again for the depth of your understanding with Martha and Mary. I would like to add one more thing which seems to be present in Martha’s situation.
    Martha seems to be also influenced by a state of fear and in that state she is hypervigilant to the potential of suffering which she then takes on as her responsibility for resolution. She does this under the influence of fear and she is then angry that Mary does not join her in this effort. This anger then turns into contempt for Mary. It is not written in the passage, but, I perceive that she also harbors anger with Jesus because He has not directed Mary to join her in her fearful hypervigilant state.
    There is Christ within the safety of the home He has visited and there is no need for any fear. However, Martha is dominated by fear and Mary is not. Fear is what contaminates the relationship with Christ and Martha’s response illustrates that she is isolated in her fear and wants Mary to resonate with her distress and her strategy to resolve that distress. She wants Christ to tell Mary to be afraid and do everything that Martha is doing to support her individualistic isolated fearful reaction that actually separates her from the peace of Christ. This passage has nothing to do with social justice. This passage has everything to do with the present split within the Church.
    It is about unresolved fear and the unresolved hatred that is the protection against being fearful. That hatred is very apparent in the CONTEMPT which I hear and see when I watch the videos that are linked to Voris’ broadcasts. I hear it all the time on EWTN and I just read it above in Siena’s comments. It is that CONTEMPT which is creating the backlash against our faith. It is that CONTEMPT which is the darkness within our faith that creates a wall that separates the individual from feeling the vulnerability of being a creation of God. Without feeling vulnerable we can never know ourselves within the Light of God’s Love. Without feeling vulnerable we can never develop the empathy necessary to understand the suffering of those who we can actually see, hear and feel. Without being vulnerable we become hard and loud and only see evil in things that are not evil.
    Martha was fearful when she did not need to be fearful and she was looking for a God who would support her fearful perceptions and actions.
    I think Christ was telling her that she is with Him now and in this environment all she needed was to feel safe and be present with Him. She could still perform the tasks without fear and who knows she may not have been driven to do so much.
    This is within the context of being in the safety of Christ’s presence.

    • February 27, 2010 11:11 am

      Ronald,

      I think you are right; there are reasons why she was looking for recognition, the same reason most people do. It represents needs not being met and people, afraid they won’t be, look for ways to substitute for those needs, and thus as you say, there are all kinds of imbalances in what St Martha was doing.

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