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  • Benedictine Online Book Club Part 2: The Subtle Enemies of Holiness
Benedictine Online Book Club Part 2: The Subtle Enemies of Holiness

Benedictine Online Book Club Part 2: The Subtle Enemies of Holiness

By Sister Mary Core, OSB

This week in our discussion we addressed the rather “dark side” of the Pope’s Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, which means Rejoice and Be Glad. 

Chapter 2 shares 2 ways of thinking and acting that were condemned as heresies in the early Church. These ways - Gnosticism and Pelagianism - have crept back into our culture today.

Gnosticism is the idea that we are meant to be spiritual and to have great knowledge.

Laudable ideas, but gnosticism carries it too far. It considers the material world bad. Further, it considers those who have great knowledge and good life experiences “enlightened.” They are “the chosen ones” of God.

This kind of thinking can lead to setting ourselves above others. We can believe we have the answer for everything. We can close ourselves to the graces and wisdom that come through others. 

A gnostic worldview leads us to to think of others as ignorant and of little worth. We are worthy and above others. It closes us to our call to be humble and of service, as Jesus was.

Pelagianism holds that we can be saved by our own work and personal efforts.

This thinking lands us in the same place as gnosticism. We are superior to others, because we have used our God-given powers to make the right choices!

That is, we have followed the rules, embraced "right teaching," and lived our lives as we know God wants us to.

Well, I don't know about you, but aside from being comfortable sharing the love and compassion modeled by Jesus Christ, I would never speak for God. 

Moreover, any time we find ourselves looking down on others' choices as inferior, as being Wrong, we tread on a very slippery slope.

When we are confident we have it right, that we alone know the way, it negates the need for the grace of God in our lives. After all, we can do it alone!

We sit in judgment of others. We use our righteousness as a cudgel. 

How - and Why - Gnosticism and Pelagianism Endanger Us

As we discussed these 2 ways of thinking, we could see how Gnosticism and Pelagianism have surreptitiously crept into our world and taken hold of our culture.

We shared examples of times when we have judged ourselves better than others because of their intellectual or physical disabilities, or because they “don’t practice their faith the way we feel they should,” or because their life choices are "wrong" by our narrow standards. 

It was a heavy and sobering conversation.

The temptation to elevate ourselves above others is immense. We agreed we must become more aware not just of our actions, but our motivations. We need to make this part of our examination of conscience.

Questions for Your Reflection

Pope Francis called these 2 heresies narcissistic in nature. Do you think our society is narcissistic? 

What about you? In what ways are you self-centered? Are you serving or self-serving? 

Do you build yourself up at the expense of others?

Do you look down on others or not value their gifts – however great or small?

Do you think you can do things alone, without God’s grace? 

Can you think of a time or times in your life when you felt God’s grace at work in you? 

Next week, we'll tackle Chapter 3. Happy reading!

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