Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Inside Out - Actors and Catholics

I have known some actors who have an extrinsic view of their careers.  In other words, they see their success in show business as a kind of thing an actor acquires, an adornment, a sort of garment to be put on - and they seek with tireless energy the luck that will throw them that garment.

Others focus on the love they have for their craft and on doing good work and figuring out a way to make a living doing what they love.  The difference between the two is the difference between a man who marries a woman because he likes how she looks when he parades her in public and a man who marries a woman because he loves her and would do anything for her.  If, in the latter case, she happens to look good on a date, that's a bonus, but it's not the heart of the matter.

Love for your vocation is intrinsic.  The trappings of your vocation are extrinsic.

We see something similar in theology.  Martin Luther saw justification as an entirely extrinsic thing, a covering put on by a sinner that does not change the sinner in any way, but that merely makes him acceptable in the eyes of God.  This is radically different from the Catholic notion of justification, which involves sanctification, an ontological change, a change in the very being, an intrinsic change - indeed a death and rebirth - in the sinner who receives God's grace.

But most American Catholics are Protestants with beads.  Many of my Devout Catholic friends seem to have this same Protestant extrinsic view of their faith.  They may not articulate justification in a Lutheran way, but they act as if Faith for them is a kind of fashion, a garment they put on, not a change that starts from within.  In the same way that Hipsters dress and talk a certain way, and identify with the externals, thinking that the music they play and the things they say and the clothes they wear actually make up who they are, so some Devout Catholics go to Daily Mass, pray devotions, know the pop-Catholic catch phrases, fawn over Catholic media celebrities, and identify as Catholics because of this, getting trapped in the trappings of the Faith.

Please don't get me wrong.  I'm not judging them because of this, because I'm often like this, too.  Everything we do in life is a mixture of organic things that express who we are and extrinsic accotrements that we sometimes have to rely on when the motivation is lacking, when who we are falls short of what we ought to do.  

In a sense, we are all actors cast in roles that are too big for us to play.

St. John addressed this sort of thing about 2,000 years ago ...

No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister. (1 John 3:9-10)

In other words, we shall know them by their fruits (Mat. 7:20), for the true works of Christians are the fruits of the seed of God - His Holy Spirit, dwelling in us.  But what a great rebuke this is to all of us unregenerate sinners who persist in our sins - and who thereby remain "children of the devil"!

... or, as I like to call them, bad actors.


Anonymous said...

So, just as in the Eucharist, where the substance changes while the accidents remain, we should allow our substance, our soul, to be transubstantiated by His Grace, thus becoming Children of God, and then our accidents (our lifestyle, moods, etc.) will change afterward? Is this what you mean?

- Daniel

Kevin O'Brien said...

Sort of, except that our lifestyles and moods are not accidents, but are indications of who we are.

Of course this comes with the caveat that a mood can be the result of a passing thing, like health or sleep or something we ate. And a lifestyle can be a kind of blind choice influenced by society and custom as much as anything.

But to the extent that our moods and lifestyles are expressions of who we are, then these things should end up being fruits of the Spirit, the effects in nature of the supernatural grace within us.