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Prisoners of Moral Mediocrity

March 1, 2013

This was the commentary added to the readings by Daily Gospel Online, a service I use to get the daily readings emailed to me, for Ash Wednesday.  Now that the first burst of  Lenten “enthusiasm” (for want of a better word) has worn off, I think it is a timely reminder for me and for all of us:

Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6: 1-2). Indeed in the Christian vision of life every moment must be favorable and every day must be a day of salvation but the Church’s Liturgy speaks of this in a very special way in the Season of Lent. This is the appeal that the austere rite of the imposition of ashes addresses to us…: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”…

The appeal to conversion lays bare and denounces the facile superficiality that all too often marks our lives. To repent [or convert] is to change direction in the journey of life: not, however, by means of a small adjustment, but with a true and proper about turn. Conversion means swimming against the tide, where the “tide” is the superficial lifestyle, inconsistent and deceptive, that often sweeps us along, overwhelms us and makes us slaves to evil or at any rate prisoners of moral mediocrity.

With conversion, on the other hand, we are aiming for the high standard of Christian living, we entrust ourselves to the living and personal Gospel which is Jesus Christ. He is our final goal and the profound meaning of conversion, he is the path on which all are called to walk through life, letting themselves be illumined by his light and sustained by his power which moves our steps. In this way conversion expresses his most splendid and fascinating Face: it is not a mere moral decision that rectifies our conduct in life, but rather a choice of faith that wholly involves us in close communion with Jesus as a real and living Person… Repentance is the total “yes” of those who consign their whole life to the Gospel responding freely to Christ who first offers himself to humankind as the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14,6), as the only One who sets us free and saves us. This is the precise meaning of the first words with which, according to the Evangelist Mark, Jesus begins preaching the “Gospel of God”: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1: 15).   —Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience  17/02/2010.  (emphasis added)

 

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8 Comments
  1. Ronald King permalink
    March 1, 2013 11:59 am

    David, What is the reality of applying this to our daily life in this culture?

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      March 1, 2013 1:30 pm

      A good question, and I wish I had had more time to reflect on it. My quick thought is that this is a reminder that compromise, backsliding and half-steps are part of our sinful condition. We can move forward: this is the promise of grace. But we don’t move steadily forward. Therefore, not just during Lent but at all times we are called to scrutinize our lives and hold them up to the standard laid out by the gospel. At some times we may focus on one thing (instead of another), at another time we may conclude we are doing okay. The point is to keep revisiting these choices and assessments by entering into a conversation with Jesus in prayer.

      I think St. Francis put it well when he enjoined his brothers: “Begin anew! Always begin anew because up to now you have done nothing.”

      • Ronald King permalink
        March 1, 2013 2:26 pm

        For me, I am always led to His statement that I must give up everything in order to be a follower of Him. When I focus on that…

  2. Mark VA permalink
    March 1, 2013 4:08 pm

    Many roads can lead to mediocrity – sloth, pride, being lukewarm, having an inflated or deflated self-esteem, etc. Whenever I can, I like to promote the memory of one man, Jaime Escalante, who accomplished astonishing things by giving and believing beyond what’s expected, truly living what Mother Theresa once said: “Intense love doesn’t measure, it just gives”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaime_Escalante

    http://www.thefutureschannel.com/jaime_escalante/jaime_escalante_math_program.php

    Perhaps one way to help our own conversion to God is to give, expecting nothing in return.

    • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
      March 2, 2013 8:39 am

      As a mathematician and Mexican-American I have always loved the story of Jaime Escalante. I even like the movie “Stand and Deliver” though it did seriously distort the story. (The scene where the gang-banger played by Lou Diamond Phillips explains that he was able to cheat by murdering the postman and stealing a copy of the exam is priceless.)

      • Mark VA permalink
        March 2, 2013 5:24 pm

        Yes, the movie did take an artistic license by using a compressed timescale. Jaime Escalante addressed that aspect of the film, as reported in the above Wikipedia link:

        “Escalante has described the film as “90% truth, 10% drama.” He stated that several points were left out of the film: It took him several years to achieve the kind of success shown in the film.
        In no case was a student who didn’t know multiplication tables or fractions taught calculus in a single year.”

        Perhaps the broader lesson we can draw from this is that a worthy spiritual quest, and I believe that his was, in its essence, such a quest, once embraced, consumes the rest of a lifetime. Its completion is an asymptote that can be glimpsed, yet, by God’s decree, remains beyond reach.

        On the other hand, in this life, would we enjoy quests if their “holy grails” were within our grasp? Wouldn’t such “quests” be spiritually unsatisfying, the very embodiments of spiritual mediocrity and harlotry? All the fun and joy is when an answer leads to a question.

        By the way, do you think your students would enjoy this tale:

        PS: I too think that the postman scene is priceless.

        • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO permalink*
          March 2, 2013 6:25 pm

          One of my colleagues has used this book in a senior level seminar. I have not read it but have heard of it.

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