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

Previous Articles Finally Published!

Faith Seeking Understanding for October 22, 2006

Although I’m writing this article before we leave to Italy, according to our itinerary, we should be leaving San Giovanni Rotondo today and arriving in Rome this evening. We’ll return on Friday evening, hopefully with many wonderful stories and photographs, as well as a renewed spirit of faith and desire for holiness. Be assured of our prayers throughout the pilgrimage.

Returning to the Shepherd of Hermas, we continue with the second book, on the commandments. The commandments that are given come from the vision of the shepherd which completed the first book. He gives a total of twelve commandments; we will briefly explore each one.

“First of all, believe that there is one God who created and finished all things, and made all things out of nothing” (bk. 2, commandment 1). Clearly, even obedience to the commandments comes from God Himself; He is the source and goal of our lives.

The second commandment says, “speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another” (commandment 2). As a corollary, we are also urged to give alms and care for the poor. The two are related through a certain purity of heart which always seeks holiness of life.

Third, we read, “Love the truth and let nothing but truth proceed from your mouth, that the spirit which God has placed in your flesh may be found truthful” (commandment 3). At these words, Hermas weeps in repentance and begs forgiveness for his lies, at which point the shepherd encourages him in his sorrow – and in reforming his life.

The fourth commandment forbids adultery and other sexual immorality: “Guard your chastity and let no thought enter your heart of another man’s wife, or of fornication, or of similar iniquities” (commandment 4, ch. 1). Yet the shepherd constantly counsels repentance and forgiveness, even for a spouse who has been unfaithful. This prompts Hermas to inquire about the importance of repentance even after baptism, at which point he learns that “if anyone is tempted by the devil and sins after [baptism], he has opportunity to repent but once” (ibid., ch. 3). From this statement, we see that the penitential discipline in the early Church was very rigorous, but offered hope to those who sinned after baptism.

Next, the struggle between patience and anger is analyzed; we can recognize the same struggles in our souls, even today: “For nothing at all, the man or woman becomes embittered on account of occurrences in their daily life, as for instance on account of their food, or some superfluous word that has been uttered, or on account of some friend, or some gift or debt, or some such senseless affair. For all these things are foolish and empty and unprofitable to the servants of God. But patience is great, and mighty, and strong, and calm in the midst of great enlargement, joyful, rejoicing, free from care, glorifying God at all times, having no bitterness in her, and abiding continually meek and quiet. Now this patience dwells with those who have complete faith” (commandment 5, ch. 2). Patience, he says, will then strengthen us for the rest of the commandments.

The sixth commandment, rather than being something to avoid, offers guidance for the “discernment of spirits.” Hermas asks how to know the difference between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the evil one. Just as Jesus says, we know these spirits by their fruits: the evil spirit encourages us in anger, harshness, greed, lust, pride, and similar things; the good spirit, however, encourages us in righteousness, purity, chastity, gentleness and modesty. His counsel? “Understand them, and trust the angel of righteousness; but depart from the angel of iniquity, because his instruction is bad in every deed” (commandment 6, ch. 2).

Next week, we will finish the commandments of the Shepherd. Confidently, too, we should be celebrating a victorious Detroit Tigers World Championship team as well. May God bless you all!