The Dilemma of Emotional Accommodation

April 29, 2024

In his second Epistle, St. Peter reminds his brethren that he and his fellow Apostles were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus Christ. His account was not a conjured fable or false narrative, but a transmission of what had happened to the Son of God the Word made flesh. St. Peter was very specific and strident in his explanation and stressed that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own personal interpretation because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. [1]

St. Peter’s testimony provides us with four important factors that I argue properly demonstrate how to convey the message of Jesus Christ to his fellow brethren. First, he reminds them of what happened to Jesus and retells the salvific acts of Christ on the Cross for man’s salvation from sin and death. Second, the events of Jesus' life and death did happen, they are true and it is everyone’s responsibility to convey the truth of faith. Third, the proclamation of the Word of God-Sacred Scripture comes from God through the Holy Spirit. Fourth, it is the Holy Spirit and not a personal human impulse that guides man moved by God to speak well of him.

There is a continuity visible within these four pillars that affirm the life of Jesus Christ to save the human race and provide an entryway to His Father’s Kingdom. What is striking about St. Peter’s boldness is that he eliminates the possibility of accommodating the spiritually misplaced whims of those around him. He simply provides a specific path to heaven through the aid of the Holy Spirit to Jesus Christ. Hence, the journey to salvation[2] is not based on an emotionally driven self-proclaimed prophecy but more appropriately on a proper accommodation toward the Holy Spirit. When we exercise spiritual docility to the Holy Spirit, he guides us toward a proper understanding and interpretation of the Word of God and the salvific message it possesses.  

The reality of Jesus’ mission is that it was not based on an emotional or theorized praxis of faith based on a sociological movement but rather a revelation of truth given to us by God and revealed through his Son Jesus Christ.[3] The identity of the Shema was specific toward Israel's understanding of God’s accommodation to them by way of the Law and the promise. Jesus fulfills the law and the promise as the Word made flesh.[4] Genuine accommodation involves a free assent of faith. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explains;

Assent is produced by the will not by the understanding’s own direct insight: the particular kind of freedom of choice involved in the decision of faith rests upon this. “Cetera potest homo nolens, credere non nisi volens”, says Thomas on this point quoting St. Augustine: Man can do everything else against his will, but he can believe only of his free will.[5]

Ratzinger places significant emphasis on the reality that man cannot rely on himself to believe and engage in an act of faith. He must develop a dialogue with God that involves both the human will and the intercession of the Divine will. This is the apex of developing a proper sense of accommodation accompaniment where the person is guided and nurtured toward developing a fruitful and active dialogue with God.

A conversion of the heart

In the Good Shepherd discourse, we read how our Lord describes the characteristics of the Good Shepherd as one who enters or engages the person directly. As the relationship continues to mature and strengthen the person will follow the shepherd or in this case, the shepherd is you and I who actively choose to accompany someone toward Jesus Christ. Jesus describes himself as the door, the entryway, the first instance of encounter and accommodation so that the person may discover the love of Jesus Christ in abundance.[6] In the end, the climax of the Good Shepherd discourse is Jesus’ proclamation that He has the authority to lay down his life for all of us.

Genuine accommodation of the Catholic faith helps strengthen a person’s ability to avoid sin and understand the importance of redemptive suffering because the ultimate end is the cross of Jesus Christ.  St. Paul reminds us that to owe no one anything except to love one another for he who loves his neighbor has been fulfilled by the law.[7]

The Catechism of the Catholic provides us with a proper understanding of accommodation:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” This is “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”:2 God has visited his people. He has fulfilled the promise he made to Abraham and his descendants. He acted far beyond all expectation—he has sent his own “beloved Son.[8]

Discernment is that light which dissolves all darkness dissipates ignorance, and seasons every virtue and virtuous deed. It has a prudence that cannot be deceived, a strength that is invincible, a constancy right up to the end, reaching as it does from heaven to earth, that is from the knowledge of me to the knowledge of oneself, from love of me to love of one’s neighbor.

 

God the Father to St. Catherine of Sienna

 

[1] 2 Pt 1:17-18, 20-21

[2] Deut 5:6; Ps 51

[3] Jn 14:6

[4] Jn 6:47-51

[5] Ratzinger, Joseph, Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, The Church as Communion, (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2005), p. 23

[6] Jn 10:1-10

[7] Rom 13:8

[8] CCC, 422

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