Saturday, 6 February 2010

Times: From the prisoner to the prisoners

Thursday, 4th February 2010 by Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap, San Ġwann

February 10 is a landmark in the history of the Church in Malta. On this day we, Maltese Christians, celebrate the event when St Paul, the prisoner apostle, was shipwrecked on our shores.

What makes this particular historical episode an ongoing vivid and providential remembrance? What prevents it from becoming a lifeless nostalgia? The key word which kept reverberating in my heart and mind in my reflection is prisoner.

The 19th century American author and writer, Henry Miller, said: "The prisoner is not the one who has committed a crime, but the one who clings to his crime and lives it over and over". The prisoner is the person who is continually being enslaved by her/his own evil doings.

Reflecting on today's existential malaise, which is rapidly creeping and deteriorating the highly technological societies of our time, Pope Benedict XVI has rightly reiterated on various occasions that the principal root which is imprisoning modern men and women is the dictatorship of relativism. In fact, in his address of June 6, 2005, to the participants in the ecclesial diocesan convention of Rome, convened at the basilica of St John Lateran, the Holy Father said: "Today, a particularly insidious obstacle to the task of education is the massive presence in our society and culture of that relativism which, recognising nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires.

"And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own ego". Can we not say that even in Malta, the island of the prisoner apostle, our society is also getting impoverished and disintegrated by egoism, prejudice and fragmentation? Are we not Maltese being deluded by what appears good and true, by what gives a temporary positive feeling and then leaves our spirit in that tragic and massive spiritual crater?

Relativism is the ending result of Kant's "self-limitation of reason". When reason is imprisoned in its own world without approaching the wide spectrum of life, unfortunately it breeds and fosters the pathologies of religion, such as terrorism, and the pathologies of science such as ecological disasters.

Within the same address Pope Benedict XVI continued to accentuate the moral distortions which relativism infuses in society, principally with the introduction of uncommitted unions, same sex marriages and abortion.

"The various forms of the dissolution of matrimony today, like free unions, trial marriages and going up to pseudo-matrimonies by people of the same sex, are rather expressions of an anarchic freedom that wrongly passes for true freedom of man...from here it becomes all the more clear how contrary it is to human love, to the profound vocation of man and woman, to systematically close their union to the gift of life, and even worse to suppress or tamper with the life that is born."
As we all well know, the traditional Catholic Maltese mentality is getting progressively influenced and slowly giving in to new ways of thinking that regard as morally acceptable same sex marriages, uncommitted unions and abortion. Are these modes of reasoning and acting making us freer as God's redeemed children would be or rather imprisoning us more and more into the slavery of sin, death and disintegration?

St Paul came to our shores as a prisoner, negated from total social freedom. Yet, interiorly he was the freest person on earth, precisely because he was "a prisoner for Christ Jesus" (Eph 3, 1). For Paul this meant "sharing in suffering for the gospel in the power of God" (2 Tim 1,8).

But this power turned the apostle of the gentiles into a free man because under the Holy Spirit's unction he could gradually grow into the qualities of Jesus, namely in "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Gal 5, 22-23).

St Ignatius of Loyola is reported to have said: "It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey". Whom do you want to obey, the tyrant called relativism or the liberator called Jesus Christ? February 10 is waiting for a sincere answer...

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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