Thursday, July 28, 2011

A docile heart

On July 24, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to those who had gathered at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.  The Holy Father said:

"Dear brothers and sisters!

Today in the Liturgy, the Old Testament reading presents to us the figure of King Solomon, son and successor of David. He is presented to us at the beginning of his reign, when he was still very young. Solomon inherited a demanding task and the responsibility that weighed on him was great for a young sovereign. The first thing that he did was offer a solemn sacrifice to God –- '1,000 holocausts,' the Bible says. Then the Lord appeared to him in a vision at night and promised him to grant him what he asked for in prayer. And here we see the greatness of Solomon's soul: he did not ask for a long life, nor riches, nor the elimination of his enemies; instead he said to the Lord: 'Grant a docile heart to your servant that he might know how to render justice to his people and know how to distinguish good from evil' (1 Kings 3:9). And the Lord heard him, so that Solomon became celebrated in all the world for his wisdom and his just judgments.

Solomon asked God for 'a docile heart.' What does this expression mean? We know that in the Bible the 'heart' does not only mean a part of the body, but the center of the person, the seat of his intentions and his judgments. We might say that it is the conscience. 'Docile heart' therefore means a conscience that knows how to listen, which is sensitive to the voice of truth, and because of this it is able to discern good from evil. In the case of Solomon, the request is guided by the responsibility of leading a nation, Israel, the people through whom God had chosen to manifest his plan of salvation to the world. For this reason the king of Israel must seek to be in harmony with God, listening to his Word, to lead his people in the ways of the Lord, the ways of justice and peace.

But Solomon's example is valid for every man. Each of us has a conscience to be in a certain sense 'king,' that is, to exercise the great human dignity of acting according to a properly formed conscience, doing good and avoiding evil. Moral conscience presupposes the capacity to hear the voice of truth, to be docile to its instructions. Persons who are called to the office of ruling of course have a further responsibility, and therefore -- as Solomon says -- have even more need of God. But each person has his own part to perform in the concrete situation in which he finds himself. An erroneous mentality suggests that we ask God for nice things and privileged situations; in fact, the true quality of our life and social existence depends on each person's properly formed conscience, on the capacity of each and every person to recognize the good, separating it from evil, and to attempt patiently to realize it.

So, let us ask for the help of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Her 'heart' is perfectly 'docile' to the Lord's will. Although she is a humble and simple person, Mary is a queen in the eyes of God, and as such we venerate her. May the Holy Virgin help us also to form, with God's grace, a conscience always open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God..."

For somepeople, the first demand of conscience, which is that the truth be honestly sought, is not essential. And this because they have a different concept of conscience. One which Pope Benedict XVI has rejected. Our Holy Father explains that liberalism's idea of conscience, "...does not mean man's openness to the ground of his being, the power of perception for what is highest and most essential. Rather, it appears as subjectivity's protective shell, into which man can escape and there hide from reality." Such a notion of conscience, ".does not open the way to the redemptive road to truth - which either does not exist or, if it does, is too demanding. It is the faculty that dispenses with truth. It thereby becomes the justification for subjectivity, which would not like to have itself called into question. Similarly, it becomes the justification for social conformity...The obligation to seek the truth terminates, as do any doubts about the general inclination of society and what it has become accustomed to. Being convinced of oneself, as well as conforming to others, is sufficient. Man is reduced to his superficial conviction.." (Keynote Address of the Tenth Bishops' Workshop of the National Catholic Bioethics Center, on "Catholic Conscience: Foundation and Formation," February 1991).

The liberal notion of conscience becomes the justification for subjectivity and becomes the faculty that dispenses with truth.


Wendy said...

That's the problem today in a nutshell. So many lack a docile heart. They rely on their own intelligence rather than on the wisdom of God. We all need to inform our conscience with the truth that sets us free (John 8:32). And that truth is made known by the Church's Magisterium.

Michael Cole said...

"My son, if you receive my words and treasure my commands, Turning your ear to wisdom, inclining your heart to understanding;Yes, if you call to intelligence, and to understanding raise your voice; If you seek her like silver, and like hidden treasures search her out: Then will you understand the fear of the LORD; the knowledge of God you will find; For the LORD gives wisdom, from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; He has counsel in store for the upright, he is the shield of those who walk honestly,Guarding the paths of justice, protecting the way of his pious ones. Then you will understand rectitude and justice, honesty, every good path;
For wisdom will enter your heart, knowledge will please your soul, Discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you; Saving you from the way of evil men, from men of perverse speech, Who leave the straight paths to walk in the way of darkness,Who delight in doing evil, rejoice in perversity;Whose ways are crooked, and devious their paths.."(Proverbs 2:1-15).

Ted Loiseau said...

We're called to put on the new man in Christ Jesus and to die to ourselves. But this fundamental message of St. Paul is not preached from the pulpits. Small wonder then that the sense of sin has been lost. If we are to have authentic renewal, it will have to begin with authentic reconciliation - first with God and then our neighbor.

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