Emmitsburg Council of Churches

How to be a Human Being ...
a Holy Human Being
part 1

Father John J. Lombardi

Jesus says: "Whoever believes in me will never thirst" (Jn 6:35). St. Thomas Aquinas states: "The proper effect of the Eucharist is the transformation of man into God."

These are great, bold sayings-the promise of becoming whole, holy, and saints! We humans, though, are not always saintly or godlike. In our pursuit for holiness we sometimes thirst and hunger for wrong things, and we seem to do this interminably. And, it appears, both the volume and quality of our desires is endless. These errant cravings can often go wrong because we are fallen creatures (from grace), and we are sinners--laced with concupiscence (the tendency to sin-St Paul says, "For I know that good does not dwell in me. I do not do the good I want to do but, the evil I do not want"- Rm. 7:18-19 ).

Of course, as humans, we will physically hunger and thirst all our lives-we will always need food and drink to nourish our bodies and souls in this world. We are not angels without corporeal needs, nor robots mechanized without human metabolisms. However, what Jesus is talking about in today's Gospel (Jn 6: ff), describes our spirits hungering and thirsting, too. The Divine Master is saying that if we focus and feed upon Him-God--His divinity and grace-giving infinity-we will no longer hunger and thirst spiritually-in the soul, because the Lord God will provide for us. We will be spiritually sustained not only thru prayer and other holy disciplines, but also, physically, in the Eucharist.   "He who eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood will abide in Me and I in him" (Jn. 6:56).

While pilgrimageing thru this world, we think people or things can fill, and fulfill, us--you know, that "Grand Canyon-sized hole" within which we deliriously try to deluge with divers things. We think finite objects and people can fill us because our knowledge of the world and our emotional lives within are affected by sin and inordinate attachments, and we are not, thus, in a stable, peaceful order to make proper choices. We're overly affected by our disorderly passions and ignorance of the truth. We need to basically realize no one thing or person, no matter how good or seemingly appeasing, can fulfill our infinite desires: St Teresa of Avila says: "All things are passing. God alone suffices."

This state of brokenness is a kind of "interior, psychological anarchy": "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications and murders" (Mk. 7:21-22). Human beings are not integrated and whole in this sinful world; we are sometimes wiley creatures looking for happiness in wrong places. Sin is the result of wanting the wrong things which go against God's will and plan, thinking they will feed our hunger and satiate our thirst. Because we do not properly know ourselves-our souls, our emotions and minds-we often live "unexamined lives" and continue making the wrong choices, committing the same sins repeatedly. But, in this condition, God does not leave us astray: "For it is God Who commanded light to shine out of darkness, Who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. "(2 Cor. 4:6).

We need the right knowledge, truths and emotional equilibrium to live by to gain happiness and internal peace. We humans keep trying to put "square pegs into round holes"-forcing improper objects, people or actions (i.e., riches, hurtful relationships, lying) into our lives-this is variously called hedonism or immoralism. This can lead some people to despair: they realize they have little control over their emotional drives, and they are seemingly powerless to amend their lives-to know and want the right things and activities.

They thus live a "fatalistic end game" of constantly trying to seek wrong things and relationships, in faulty ways, attempting to fill that spiritual void within, and never coming to happiness. But Jesus gives hope and an alternative: "You must be begotten from above" (Jn. 3:3), and St John says: "From Him we have all received grace"-Jn 1:16). We cannot rely solely on ourselves, but need know and follow God. But, because human development is so difficult, still, some people close off varied persons or shut them out completely; seeking an emotional life of spiritual equilibrium is far too difficult, and to follow the course of integration is seemingly impossible.

Thus, some people completely detach from relationships with others and become "relational hermits" cloaking and denying their feelings. Other persons extrematize by living too much in the head (intellectualists who ignore natural passions), or in the heart (emotionalists who neglect right reason), and thereby fail to balance and develop the gifts God has given us. It's hard to be human and difficult to harmonize all this and be holy!

St. Paul characterizes this situation: "I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive. O what a wretch I am" (Rm 7:23-24). For example: We may feel the urge to drink something, be with someone or utilize some thing, in a wrong, sinful way. But we do not integrate these sometimes hidden desires with our minds, and fail to blend our emotions and intellect-we act before reflection, we grasp without spiritual observation, and thereby harm ourselves and possibly others.

St Paul observes misinformed unbelievers this way as: "Darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance, because of the hardness of heart" (Eph. 4:18). But the saints-sinners who became whole and holy by knowing themselves God, and His divine order-show us we can govern ourselves, gain peace within, and attain self-mastery. Jesus counsels and commands the possible--"Be ye perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt. 5:48. See, also: Eph. 4:22-23).

This is a lifelong, arduous struggle, challenge and path. God created us humans for happiness and spiritual joy-as incarnate sprits, body and soul together, not as divided dualists who overemphasize reason or passion. But, do we know the path of this holy harmonization and spiritual transformation? Do we know God's plan which will help shape all this? Do we have proper self-knowledge, and try to balance our subjective wants and quirks-very quixotic and temperamental-with the sure, objective commands and counsels of God, the Bible and Church teachings? Jesus implies, in the following, that we can attain joy (Latin> gaudium, delight), keep it, and overcome all obstacles when we are rooted in Him: "I will give you a joy no one can take from you" (Jn. 16:22 ). And St Paul describes the conversion from interior duality, dissonance and division, by transformation in Christ: "For He is our peace, He Who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity. that He might create in Himself one new person, thus establishing peace" (Eph 2:14-15).

We need to know the truth about man, as Pope John Paul stresses, and how Christ reveals man to himself. There are valid ways of salvation (the word means healing) and wrongful ways. Therefore, following, are essential "emotional and spiritual ingredients" which affect our lives, and help form us into spiritual, whole, persons. These are descriptions of the interior human landscape from the consistent tradition of the Bible and Church. Some may seem odd, "clanky" or challenging-- remember, they are interior powers and drives we all have, and can either help or hinder our path of salvation. The more self-knowledge we have-in Christ-the more we can become human, and holy! St Irenaus described the divine human drama well: "The glory of God is man fully alive." (Quotations are taken from "A Catholic Dictionary," D. Attwater, ed.: Tan, 1997; chaplain's comments follow).

  • The WILL - is "the power which is capable of directing itself to a good apprehended by the mind. The will is a blind faculty, in the sense that it depends upon intellectual cognition, whence the axiom: 'There can be no wiling of an unknown thing.'. (Meditation)

    How can I train my sometimes misinformed and wayward will to want the right things and conform to what God has designed for me--in accord with the Ten Commandments and Teachings of the Church? The "job" of the will is to "command"-sort of like an "internal general barking at chaotic troops of rascally passions"!. So, how can I will the right, holy things, alter my wanton will, if needed-by blending and amending it with God's ways and valid human reason, persist in this, and thereby become holy and happy: "Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind in the Spirit" (Rm 12:2). Am I constantly willing wrong, unholy things? 
  • EMOTIONS-"from the Latin-emovere, to move. Complex feeling inducing a state of consciousness formed by the fusion of minor feelings.". These often tumble and sway us, esp. when not reflected upon or channeled properly, especially by right reason. But they can also be effectively "spiritualized" to love God and neighbor: As the Lord took pity on many persons, so my compassion can be an internal fuel for helping others and also bring that to intercessory prayer to God. These roughly translate to the passions, described below. PASSSIONS-"fr. Latin, pati, to suffer. A movement of the sensitive appetite accompanied by some bodily alteration. A passion therefore resides not in the will nor in any physical power, but in the sensitive appetite. The will, however, can direct or subject a passion and also combat it"

    These passions need to be bridled and constantly imbued with right reason so they do not control us, turning us into blind animals without restraint or proper harmony. In the following list of passions see how your passions are described (the first description is negative, the second, positive): Fear can turn into cowardly aversion (of discipleship), or filtered into healthy respect (of God or human danger-"Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"- Ps. 111:110 ). Love spirals into lust or is channeled into charity (for God and neighbor- ( I Cor. 13:1ff, is the "still more excellent way" ) ; Anger turns into misplaced, spontaneous aggression or righteous indignation (like Jesus cleansing the Temple-Jn. 2:13); and sadness descends into depression or legitimate spiritual mourning (Mt. 5:4). The passions are not objectively right or wrong in themselves, but must be used in accord with the Bible, the Lord, and healthy Catholic wisdom. We neither completely "baptize" them nor deplore them. They can often go wrong, given our human nature, but when channeled rightly, we can be heroically holy like the saints. Refuse to be used by the passions, but use and fuse them with God's ways.
  • FEELINGS - "complex mental excitement not distinctly cognitive. The word feelings is popularly used to denote a state or attitude of consciousness in the formation which emotions and sensitive affections play an important part. Because human experience depends so largely on sensation, feelings exert an immensely powerful influence on consciousness; but since they are conditioned by health, weather, fatigue, etc., our feelings are not completely under our own control. They are not. of themselves a reliable medium for the valuation of the actions and events of our lives."

    Our feelings are the "raw grist" of the "human mill" of our personhood-when repeatedly chosen or harbored they "constellate" and form into emotions-- and must be checked and filtered by reason and intellect so they are harmonized with God's eternal Will. Often we are in disharmony with God because our feelings are controlling us, causing inner disturbance and "mental storms". A particular feeling can be good-- "happy" about the day or another's success; or bad--jealousy, envy, rage. We need to decipher which are good and which are bad and unhealthy, and make judgments about them as the ones we "harbor" and cultivate, help form us into healthy persons. How do you need to discern feelings and either purify them-their content and constancy-or dispel them, so as to be free and gain more self-mastery? A common myth is that all feelings and thoughts are neither good nor bad. We Christians need to discern decide and "do" good, holy feelings. St Paul warns: "For the flesh has desires against the Spirit (Gal 5:17).
  • APPETITES - "An inclination towards something consequent upon knowledge. If the order is sense, it is called sense appetite; if it is of knowledge, it is called intellectual appetite. IRASCIBLE APPETITE - (L, "to get angry") - where these appetites are difficult to obtain and are often aroused negatively (anger)."

    Do I know my inclinations, decipher between good and bad ones? Am I captive to them? How can I incline my heart to God's ways and holy things? Who or what "stirs me up" to choose wrong habits or things? St Paul pictures this situation: "All of us worked among them (the disobedient) following the wishes of the flesh and impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath. " (Eph 2:3).
  • CONCUPISCENCE - "fr. Latin, concupiscere, to desire; The general name given to any movement of the sensitive appetites towards whatever the imagination portrays as good or away from whatever it portrays as bad. In Scripture it usually means the desire for worldly things. It also means the insubordination of the sensual appetite against the dictates of reason and the general propensity of human nature to sin."

    Jesus strongly describes an unruly human condition: "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Lk. 16:15). How can I guard against and purify this tendency toward sin within me? Do I have a healthy knowledge of this "tendency toward sin" regarding myself and the Seven Capital Sins-pride, anger, greed, avariciousness, lust, envy, sloth.
  • VIRTUE - "fr Latin, virtus--manliness, power. The habit operative of good, for a lasting disposition of the soul's faculties setting them towards good and thus perfecting them by lifting their natural indetermination and substituting a definite tendency to good rather than evil. Thus we speak of intellectual and moral virtues."

    Herein is one of the key keys toward wholeness and holiness-I must habitualize good holy habits for persisting against bad inclinations and disordered passions within me. Therefore I must practice, refine and persist in the Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope, and Love; the Cardinal Virtues are Justice (the right ordering of parts), Prudence (utilizing right wisdom in practical matters), Temperance (seeking balance and order), and Fortitude (overcoming difficulties). Do I practice these persistently and use them to alter my ways and counter-balance vices and stubborn passions?
  • GRACE - "Fr. Latin, gratia, favor. A supernatural gift of God to a creature, bestowed with a view to eternal life."

    God's life within us. Sanctifying grace is a permanent inherence of the soul in God's grace, making us His friends. Actual grace God gives to us in specific situations of need. A classic definition of grace and God's work: Grace builds on nature; it does not destroy it. How can you pray for more grace to favor, free and flavor your nature, your personality and soul, so as to be more godlike? St Paul gives God the credit: "It was not I but it was the grace of God that is with me" (I Cor. 15:10), and encourages: "for all of you share in God's grace with me" (Phil. 4:23).
  • PERSONALITY - "'The individual substance of a rational creature' (Boethius). A substance perfectly subsistent, master of its own acts, and incommunicateable the human person is thus neither body nor soul but the rational being arising out of the substantial union of both."

    Personality is, basically, who we are. Ask: Is who I am a pleasure for God, or a shame? How can I fuse my personality into Christ's Divine Personhood? How can I be more Christ-centered, less self-centered?
  • JUDGEMENT - "The mental act by which something is asserted or denied. Moral judgment judges the morality of an action."

    How is your ability for judgment? Is it being formed and informed by the Bible and Church teachings, or more by your passions and the world's passing fads and relativistic proposals of truths?
  • INTELLECT- "fr. Latin-inus legere, to read within. Broadly speaking, intellect is the faculty of thought. Under thought is included attention, judgment, reflection, self-consciousness, the formation of concepts, and reasoning."

    These different names denote different aspects of the same power. This faculty is suprasensuous because it is performs operations beyond the scope of the senses; for its formal and direct object is the universal and immaterial, the absolute; whereas the object of the senses is always the particular, concrete and material.". Seek Truth and "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free" (Jn. 8:32).
  • CONSCIENCE-"The judgment of reason concerning the lawfulness or unlawfulness of an act. The dictates of a true or right conscience are in real conformity with the law of God. A lax conscience habitually, and for the lightest of motives, judges something right to be what is wrong and venial sin what is mortal sin."

    How can I form my conscience in accord with God, His Commandments and Church teachings? This is a most important today-esp. when it seems everything-from truth to morals to sexuality-"is up for grabs". You will become psychologically immature if you do not base your conscience in godly ways, and realize, with St Paul, you have two options: "My conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit" (Rm. 9:1). Or: "conscience, being weak, is defiled"
  • DESIRE - a craving, a yearning, a feeling of want; the mental state of uneasiness awakened by the representation of an absent good."

    Are your desires in conformity with Christ's desires? Remember: "Desire without knowledge is not good" (Pr. 19:2).

All these various elements which make up a human being can either help us to be holy or be fuel for unhealthy lifestyles and sadness. They all need to be harmonized with each other-each has its place and yet one cannot dominate over another. Reason and intellect (informed by knowledge and study) must temper and steady the passions and will-this is the constant battle of life. And yet Christ shows us the Way-by His fasting and love of neighbor, His prayer and serving the poor, His selflessness and constant attunement with God the Father--He shows us the Perfect Equilibrium of Man. We must strive for this ourselves, and know it is possible-and probable!

The options humans employ include the extremes of extinguishing the passions (as some forms of eastern spirituality suggest, and western ones, too), and become robotic and mechanical cogs in a fatalistic world; or constantly giving in to passions and emotions-as sensualism and hedonism promote- constantly seeking sensate happiness and pleasures (this is modernism's tendency). The Middle Path is to transform our bodies and souls to work in uniformity; to purify wrong our impure passions in conformity to the objective, God-given truths of the Commandments and Church counsels.

How to be a Human Being ... a Holy Human Being part 2

 Briefly Noted

Go West, Young Man. Time issue, July 27, covered the theme of meditation-a diversely growing phenomenon in our country and world. In our Catholic Tradition we have a rich treasury-unparalleled, really, both in its depth and breadth- to enrich the spiritual interior world of the soul. You don't have to look East (as one Time article implies) for enlightenment or salvation, but consider studying the works of popular and popularized Saints John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. This Fall a new website begun by this Chaplain and associates is dedicated to this very issue-the mystical and spiritual treasuries of the Roman Catholic Church.

For your soul consider: Even though it's Summer-Fasting;

The Vatican and Same-Sex Marriages: Our Church has noted that these terms are misnomers and these alleged "unions" threaten our families and Faith. We must distinguish between persons who are homosexual (we should always respect) and making a homosexual lifestyle or actions, proposed to seem equal to herosexuality or marriage as . This will not help anyone. Pray for conversion! See upcoming Bulletin on how to love homosexuals and still keep Church teaching.

ANNUAL NOVENA IN HONOR OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE Blessed Virgin Mary: August 7 thru 15, 7 pm each night.

DAY OF PRAYER FOR PEACE THRU CONVERSION: August 7: annual pilgrimage diocese of Harrisburg, 10:30 am conference, 11:15 am Mass, outdoor rosary, 2:45 pm Benediction-EVERYONE WELCOME.

Bible Readings: Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35. God fed the Israelites thru manna and Moses; then He sent Jesus: When will you receive Him more frequently in the Holy Eucharist and become His instrument of Grace?

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi