In the midst of irrationality, rescue common sense

Image: Eugenio Barboza
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By LEONARDO BOFF*

Losing reason, we lose the criteria that guide our practices and human beings demonstrate crazy behavior

With the war in Ukraine, moved by Russia, with the risk of a nuclear hecatomb compromising the biosphere and human life, with the predominance of selfishness at an international level in the face of Covid-19 and with the rise of Nazi-fascism with its wave of hatred and of violence and reactionary and ultra-conservative thinking in various parts of the world, the irrationality of modern reason is being revealed.

By losing reason, we lose the criteria that guide our practices and human beings demonstrate insane behavior. At times like this, we have to resort to what is most fundamental in human life: critical common sense. Common sense, critical and not naive, has always been the great guideline in advance of our practices so that they maintain their human and minimally ethical level.

What is common sense? We say that someone shows good sense when he has the right word for each situation, the appropriate behavior and when he immediately hits the heart of the matter. Common sense is linked to the concrete wisdom of life. It is to distinguish the essential from the secondary. It is the ability to see and put things in their proper place.

Common sense is the opposite of exaggeration. For this reason, the madman and the genius, who are similar in many ways, here differ fundamentally. Genius is the one who radicalizes common sense. The madman radicalizes exaggeration.

To make common sense concrete, let us take two examples of archetypal figures: the closest, Pope Francis, and the most original, Jesus of Nazareth.

The structuring axis of Pope Francis' rhetoric is not the doctrines and dogmas of the Catholic Church. Not that I value them any less. He knows that they are historically created theological creations. But they provoked conflicts and even wars of religion, schisms, excommunications, theologians and women (such as Joan of Arc and those considered “witches”) burned at the stake of the inquisition. This lasted for centuries and the author of these lines had a bitter personal experience in the cubicle where the accused were interrogated in the severe and dark building of the former Inquisition, to the left of Saint Peter's Basilica from those who look at it from the front.

Pope Francis revolutionized the thinking of the Church referring to the practice of extreme common sense of the historical Jesus. He rescued what today is called "the Tradition of Jesus” which is prior to the current Gospels, written 30-40 years after his execution on the cross.

The Tradition of Jesus or also, as it is called in the Acts of the Apostles “the way of Jesus” is based more on values ​​and ideals than on doctrines. Essential for the Pope are unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, justice for the oppressed, the centrality of the poor and marginalized and total openness to God-Abba (Dear Father). These are the core values ​​that guide his interventions and he reveals them concretely in his gestures of kindness, of care, particularly towards immigrants from the Middle East, Africa, and now Ukraine, as well as the victims of pedophiles by some of the Church itself.

Let us turn to Jesus of Nazareth. He did not intend to found a new religion. He wanted to teach us how to live. To live with fraternity, solidarity and care for one another and total openness to God-Abba. These are the contents of his message: the Kingdom of God and the boundless mercy of your God of infinite goodness.

As the gospels testify to us, he showed himself to be a genius of common sense. An unparalleled freshness pervades everything he says and does. God in his goodness, human beings with their fragility, society with its contradictions and nature with its splendor appear in crystalline immediacy. He doesn't do theology. Nor does it appeal to higher moral principles. Nor is it lost in a tedious and heartless casuistry as the Pharisees of yesterday and today did and do. His words and attitudes bite straight into the concrete where reality bleeds and he, in the face of the sufferers, consoles them, heals them and even resurrects them.

His admonitions are incisive and direct: “be reconciled with your brother” (Mt 5,24). “Do not swear at all” (Mt 5, 34). “Do not resist evil” (Mt 5, 39), but “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt, 5, 34). “When you give alms, let your left hand not know what the right hand is doing” (Mt 6, 3).

This common sense has often been lacking in the institutional Church (Popes, bishops and priests), especially in moral issues related to sexuality and the family. Here it has been severe and implacable. It sacrifices people in their pain to abstract principles. It is governed by power rather than by mercy. And the saints and sages warn us: where power reigns, love fades away and mercy disappears.

How different it is with Jesus and with Pope Francis. The main quality of God, the Master tells us and the Pope continually repeats, is mercy. Jesus is blunt: “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36).

Pope Francis explains the etymological meaning of mercy: miseris cor dare”: “give your heart to the poor”, to those who suffer. In a speech on Angelus of April 6, 2014 says in an altered voice: “Listen well: there is no limit to the divine mercy offered to all”. He asks the crowd to repeat with him: “There is no limit to the divine mercy offered to all".

He acts like a theologian when recalling Saint Thomas Aquinas' conception of the practice of mercy: it is the greatest of the virtues “because it is up to him to pour himself out to others and even more so to help them in their weaknesses”.

Full of mercy, faced with the risks of the zika epidemic, he makes room for the use of contraceptives. It is about saving lives: “avoiding pregnancy is not an absolute evil”, he said during his visit to Mexico. During the Covid-19 pandemic, he made continuous appeals for solidarity and care, especially for children and the elderly. Screaming were his appeals for peace in the war between Russia and Ukraine. He even said, “Lord, stay Cain's arm. Once arrested, take care of him, as he is our brother.”

To the new cardinals he says in so many words: “The Church does not condemn forever. The chastisement is for that time.” God is a mystery of inclusion and communion, never of exclusion. Mercy is always triumphant. He could never lose a son or daughter whom he raised with love (cf. Wis 11,21:24-XNUMX). Of course, you don't just enter the Kingdom of the Trinity. God's purifying clinic will pass until people come out purified.

Such a message is truly liberating. It confirms his apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel”. Such joy is offered to everyone, even non-Christians, because it is a path of humanization and liberation.

This is the triumph of common sense that we so lack in this dramatic moment in our history, whose destiny is in our hands. Pope Francis and Jesus of Nazareth appear as inspirers of common sense, mercy and a radical humanity. Such attitudes can save us.

*Leonardo Boff he is a theologian. Author, among other books, of Inhabiting the Earth: what is the path to universal fraternity? (Vozes).

 

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