We now see how inadequate and misleading it is the question of “too much” or “too little.” The one question that we ought to raise is, “What ought we to do in this particular situation? What is God expecting from us – independently of our subjective wishes?
When facing a starving person, there is a clear call to help him generously. But to feel noble and generous in giving a most expensive gift to George Soros would trigger our laughter. In other words, the ethical question is, “What is the call of the moment?” In Christian terms, “What is the theme of Christ?”
When St. Francis chose “lady poverty” and gave everything away he certainly was not motivated by prodigality, but responding to a divine call to follow the One who chose to be born in a stable. From the point of view of the “mesotes,” he was highly unreasonable. He stood in front of nothing. But why? Because of his burning love of Christ that he wanted to follow.
To a secular mind, saints are shockingly unreasonable. “It is all well and good to be a good Christian,” they will tell us, “but to wear a coat in tatters and eat the left over from a garbage bin, is plainly an exaggeration.” A secular mind might reason that a prostitute should change her “life style” which ultimately is unhealthy and will not be beneficial to her. But at the same time they will strongly object to Mary Magdalene’s way of repenting : was it not a bit too extravagant? Alas, this question was raised by the Apostles.
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But can one love God too much? Can one be too humble or too charitable? Flat footed reasonability sounds so convincing. It is the guide line of successful politicians. Yet, the saints while giving everything to God felt subjectively that they have given nothing. It is worth mentioning that this truth was already intuited by Plato, “a preparer of the ways of Christ.”
In one of Plato’s dialogues, Phaedrus, Socrates listens to a friend who shares with him the content of a discourse of a man who claimed that love is a sort of “madness”: the lover loses his head for the loved one, and inevitably will harm himself. The non-lover on the contrary, keeps his sanity, and will wisely use a relationship to his advantage, so that he will come out “the winner.” At first Socrates seems to agree with this thesis, but then he “hears his voice” and realizes that he has gone off track.
He cannot take another step: he must first correct the erroneous view he had adopted. He now tells us that there are two very different types of madness. There is a sort of madness that militates against reason. But there is also a divine madness which even though not following the “prudent” dictates of reason, transcends reason. Man then grows wings and is given to perceive that there are things of such greatness and beauty that they are worth giving everything to attain them. To trample on reason leads to disaster. To grow wings and go beyond reason is the road to all great things.
We are told in the Gospel that when a man finds a pearl of great price, he sells whatever he possesses in order to acquire it. This is the holy madness of the saints.
Let him hear, he who has ears to hear.