Friday, July 8, 2011

Why is Hostage-Taking So Effective for Bank Robbers?

Why is hostage-taking so effective for bank robbers?  Ponder that for a moment and read on.

The idea behind being FiatMen is to be prepared at all times to say "Fiat" to God's will.  The trouble with that is knowing God's will.  How can I be certain that what I am saying "Fiat" to is indeed God's will?

There are a number of practices which help us to discern God's will.  In this post, I want to reflect briefly on detachment.

"Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever."
-1 John 2:15-17

This passage from St. John (like most Johannine literature) is filled with depth of meaning, but I'm going to focus on his general instructions and the three specific categories he refers to.

First, St. John instructs us not to love the world or its things.  Why?  Because they are passing away.  St. John, the last living apostle, had the apocalypse on his mind a lot.  His friend St. Peter described the end of the world this way: "the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out" (2 Peter 3:10), to which St. John added, "the former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more...there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away" (Revelation 21:1, 4).  The world in which we live, all our astonishing monuments and engineering achievements, our cities and our homes, our landscapes and our wide open country places, the heights of our mountains and the depths of our seas, all these will come to an end.  St. John is warning us: don't get attached to the world, lest you be destroyed with it.  Instead, you should do the will of God, which abides forever.  Saying "Fiat" to God goes hand in hand with being detached from the world.

What constitutes detachment?  Detachment can mean different things, according to how one is called by God's will.  The rich young man in the Gospel (Matthew 19:16-22) was called to be an apostle and to detach himself from everything absolutely, but cowered before his calling and went away, still possessing everything, but ultimately empty-handed.  Everything he valued was in transit.  It would not last through the end of the world.  For most of us, it is not an absolute detachment that requires us to give up everything.  We can still possess things, indeed, many of us need to possess things for the good of our families.  Still, Christ tells us:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."
-Matthew 6:19-21
It is for most of us simply a matter of what we treasure.  King David, recognized as a saint of the Old Testament, normally practiced genuine spiritual detachment.  He had great riches, but was not attached to them, and instead devoted them to God.  His treasure was not in earthly things, but in heaven.  We are called also to put our treasures in heaven, so that we will place our hearts there, also.  In other words, if we treasure earthly desires, we will devote our hearts to them, but if we treasure heavenly things, we will devote our hearts to God, that is, we will say "Fiat" to His will.

King David may have been a great example of spiritual detachment, but his son was not.  In the earlier passage, St. John made reference to sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life.  These three things have plagued us since the beginning.  They were present in the Garden of Eden, when Eve desired the fruit because it was "good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom" (Genesis 3:6).  They were also present in the Law of the King, which prohibited the king from having "a great number of horses [an army]..., a great number of wives, ... [or] a vast amount of silver and gold" (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

Pride, lust, and greed were prohibited to the king, but David's son, Solomon, had massive amounts of gold (1 Kings 10:14), 1400 chariots (1 Kings 10:26), and 1000 wives and concubines (1 Kings 11:3).  These things dragged his heart down to worldly desires and turned him toward idolatry, his downfall.  Solomon's son, Rehoboam, made the same worldly mistake.  When the people of Israel asked him to lighten the workload Solomon had set for them, he replied, "my father put on you a heavy yoke, but I will make it heavier" (1 Kings 12:14).  This selfish attachment to his own glory led to the division of the kingdom and the eventual descent of Israel and Judah into exile and slavery.

Yet we have an example for ourselves: Our Lord is the same King who called to Himself the the people of Israel, "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Matthew 11:28-30).  This same King began his reign in the midst of detachment.  While fasting in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), he was tempted to pride, greed, and lust by Satan himself, and responded with His own "Fiat" to God's will in the form of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Why is hostage-taking so effective for bank robbers?  Because the negotiators are attached to the hostages, and do not want them to come to any harm.  In a real bank robbery situation, this is a good thing (human life is more valuable than money, afterall).  Consider, though, a spiritual bank robbery.  Satan wants to steal your virtue and get you to sin.  So he holds hostage the things you love: "if you don't do this, you'll miss out on pleasure.  If you don't do this, you'll never be able to buy that sports car.  If you don't cheat, how will you ever be able to compete with your coworkers on the new project?"  Lust, greed, and pride.

The evangelical counsels (or the penitential "prayer, fasting, and almsgiving") are the way for us to be detached.  When we are detached, we can resist the devil's temptations because we put all of our desires under our desire for God.  If we desire nothing more than we desire God, them temptations cannot draw our hearts away from Him.  When we are tempted, we simply remind ourselves, "that is a sin.  I value God more than I value pleasure/sports cars/victory in competition."  To practice detachment is to work at making oneself free from temptation and sin, that is, free to say "Fiat" to God and no to sin.



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