Last night, I returned from Philadelphia, where I attended the always wonderful annual retreat of the Order of St Michael (http://www.michaelines.net/). Interested parties should note that next year’s retreat will also be at Temenos, outside Philadephia – April 18-20, 2008. I am still recovering from some late nights filled with “recreational theology” – and am getting ready to leave for North Carolina on Thursday morning to interview Carol Parrish (www.sanctasophia.org) for Quest Magazine.
In the meanwhile, here is a word from Brother Jeremy Puma’s fantastic new commentary on the Gospel of Thomas (you can find details and ordering info at http://www.thegospelofthomas.org/). Jeremy is commenting on part of Logion 6, where Jesus tells the disciples: “Do not do what you hate.”
Notice, Jesus is not telling the disciples to do whatever they want to – he tells them not to do anything they do not want to do. This is an important idea. When one prays, or gives charity, or observes a specific diet, but hates doing it, one is acting dishonestly. Better not to pray at all than to pray because it is a chore that the law proscribes. It does not matter one bit if one gives to the poor just because he or she is told to give to the poor. What matters is that the person giving, or fasting, or obeying the “law” does this because he or she knows for him or herself that it is the right thing to do, that it is something worth doing because it is pleasing to God.
Exactly what Jesus means by prayer, charity, fasting, etc, is left up to the reader/listener. Jesus has confidence in humanity’s ability to recognize the good for what it is, and follow through in action. When one comes right down to it, in spite of the heaviness and intricacy of Judaic legal code, one’s diet, one’s chosen method of prayer, one’s decision to fast, one’s decision to give to the poor – these are all relatively unimportant and focusing on them is worthless. The important thing is honesty to God, one’s self, and one’s neighbors.
(Br Jeremy Puma, The Face of the Sky and Earth: Meditations on the Gospel of Thomas, Palm Tree Garden Publications, 2007, p.13)