Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 29, 2006

Although we’re already back from our pilgrimage to Assisi, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Rome, I’m actually writing this article before we leave. Next week, I promise to include some photographs of our group and share some of the great stories from our journey. I also hope to return to a World Championship Tigers victory!

This week, however, we continue our reading of the Shepherd, and his second book of “commandments.” The seventh commandment the shepherd gives to Hermas is to “Fear the Lord and keep His commandments” (commandment 7). Obeying the commandments might seem obvious, but more importantly, we need to properly understand the “fear of the Lord”. He says “the fear of the Lord is strong, and great, and glorious” (ibid.). This fear does not shrink, cower, or hinder our action; rather, it compels us to love. Such “fear” is not “being afraid,” but rather knowing God’s immense power and love for us, seeks to respond by obeying Him and loving Him in return. Conversely, we are not to fear the devil, because as the shepherd says, “there is no power in him” (ibid.).

Moving to the eighth commandment, we discover what philosophers call the “First Principle of the Natural Law,” or “Do good and avoid evil.” As the shepherd tells Hermas, “Restrain yourself in regard to evil and do it not; but exercise no restraint in regard to good, but do it” (commandment 8). Hermas wonders what he should avoid, and the shepherd covers every sin from lust to slander; but then he hears what good things he should do; the list is beautiful: “First of all, there is faith, then fear of the Lord, love, concord, words of righteousness, truth, patience. …[H]elping widows, looking after orphans and the needy, rescuing the servants of God from necessities, being hospitable, never opposing anyone, being quiet, having fewer needs than all men, reverencing the aged, practicing righteousness, watching the brotherhood, bearing insolence, being long-suffering, encouraging those who are sick in soul, not casting those who have fallen into sin from the faith, but turning them back and restoring them to peace of mind, admonishing sinners, and not oppressing debtors and the needy” (ibid.).

Unceasing prayer is the topic of the ninth commandment: “With all your heart turn to the Lord, and ask of Him without doubting, and you will know the multitude of His tender mercies; that He will never leave you, but fulfill the request of your soul. …Do not cease to make the request of your soul and you will obtain it” (commandment 9).

The tenth commandment exhorts Hermas to cast out grief, which comes from doubt and anger, and to instead “put on cheerfulness, which is always agreeable and acceptable to God, and rejoice in it. For every cheerful man does what is good, and minds what is good, and despises grief; but the sorrowful man always acts wickedly. First, he acts wickedly because he grieves the Holy Spirit, which was given to man a cheerful Spirit.” (commandment 10). Also, grief tends to consume a person, he says, even pushing away the Holy Spirit.

As we move to the eleventh commandment, we find another tool for discernment, rather than something to avoid. The shepherd instead exhorts Hermas to discern between true and false prophets by examining their works: “Try by his deeds and life the man who says that he is inspired” (commandment 11). Certainly, even today, this is sound advice.

Finally, the twelfth commandment concludes this section of the Shepherd. After all the previous exhortations to action or choices, Hermas is now encouraged in his desires: “Put away from you all wicked desire, and clothe yourself with good and chaste desire” (commandment 12, ch. 1). Desire is at the root of our choices and actions; when we strive to purify even our desires, the shepherd says, we cultivate good desires and live in the Spirit of the Lord. Even though these are difficult commandments, we should not be discouraged, because “the man who has the Lord in his heart can also be lord of all and of every one of these commandments” (ibid., ch. 4). In truth, he says, with the Lord in our heart, “there is nothing easier or sweeter, or more manageable than these commandments” (ibid.).

This builds confidence in our own ability to follow Christ. May God bless you all!