I had the Rite of Penance open the other day, and this passage was at the top of the page:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the person through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”
Difficult. One of the most difficult passages in the Bible. We are cheering for a sinner to be cast into the ocean depths one verse, and the next verse we are asked to forgive. And if we ever hear, “I am sorry,” we are called to respond favorably multiple times in a day.
Does the line, “with God all things are possible” spring to mind?
Jesus tells us sin is inevitable. And harm is unavoidable. And a broken relationship with God and others something of the very substance of our existence. We can’t avoid it. How can we hope to try to do so?
One of my biggest fears as a parent was to mess up my child’s life by some stupid, soul-shaking outburst. So far, I’ve avoided it. I hope. (No comment on embarrassment passed on to a teenager, though.) I’m always struck by the awesome responsibility I have as a parent. And more, when parishioners entrust their young daughters and sons to me.
One thing I’ve not tried to shy away from, and a break hopefully from my parents, is to accustom myself to apologizing to my daughter. I suspect there are some in the spare-the-rod crowd–my parents in their heyday included–who will be shocked. But one good benefit I see is that my daughter is now herself accustomed to apologizing, unprompted, for some of the smallest little things. That little flare of teen anger/angst, and not five minutes later a small, sincere apology. Of course I will accept that. I asked my wife a year or so ago, was that really our daughter? And we shared that moment that seems to come all too infrequently, I think we’ve done alright on that.
I have to reflect on my internet relationships, especially. I offer quite a bit of rebuke. I don’t think I succeed very much at the forgiveness angle. Shouldn’t I be doing that even without, “I’m sorry”? Isn’t that what Jesus modeled by his very life–not only his preaching? And isn’t this the essence of the cross? That Jesus indeed forgives them all. Us all.
A colleague in ministry emailed me yesterday asking If I’d heard about the new archbishop in Portland. Or the breaking news on Cardinal Mahony in Los Angeles. I sent her the link to my post yesterday and said that music/liturgy peeps on the internet have been abuzz about the former for three days now.
She read the links and came back and said that maybe she needs to get online more often.
I haven’t replied yet, but my first thought was, no you don’t. And maybe I need to get offline more often.
It is easier to find allies online than in real life. It has become very easy for an intent person to find others who are largely in agreement. They can readily eject noncomformists from the circle, and reinforce their own thinking. If I were of a mind, I could do that in parish ministry. I once found a hidden memo from a predecessor who had charted out the people in liturgy she “needed to get rid of” and there were a few notes about a timetable for it. I didn’t get that at all.
I relish the people in the parish who don’t agree with me. I value their friendship all the more. We have a staunch Republican in the campus parish here. He and I are about as opposite as you can get, politically. Yet when he misread a recent letter from the pastor announcing that parish liturgy and music was going to be trimmed to half-time and the other half of my position would be campus minister, he was concerned about my family and me. I reassured him this was largely a bookkeeping switch, as half the people involved in liturgy and music are students, and that the line items of the parish budget and our campus ministry endowment should reflect the reality of what I do. Still, I was deeply touched by the gesture of concern and friendship. And he set aside his letter to the pastor.
One of the things that bothers in the whole Bishop Sample-to-Portland discussion are the lies, smears, distortions, and such of people who work for OCP and who use their products with quite fruitful results in liturgy and spirituality. I’m reminded of Thomas Aquinas’s maxim that bearing wrongs patiently is a sign of holiness, but remaining silent when wrongs are done to others may be a sign of actual sin.
Iowa has been broadcasting an anti-bully ad on tv the past few days. Most of the video shows bleeped out taunts of some poor kid, but at the end, they zoom in on a bystander, obviously thoughtful. And troubled. That was striking to me. When is it wrong to remain a bystander?
Perhaps the time I’ve spent sharpening my positions and thoughts among Catholic conservatives should be coming to an end. Another friend sent me a link to Fr Z this week. I really dreaded clicking on it. I don’t feel a compulsion to comment there, less so than I have an urge to slash myself bloody and jump into a pond of piranhas.
There are good people on the fringes of these folks, and maybe it’s time to let them have a try at Thomas Aquinas. Maybe they can do it more fruitfully than I.
Have you noticed Lent is coming soon? Eleven days away, can you believe it? I don’t think I’ll give up computers or the internet for Lent, but maybe I’ll get an early start on commentary elsewhere.
Here, I’ll still keep going. Last month was my lightest month for blogging in over eight years. That felt right to me. I don’t miss the daily slog through documents. And since the hit count hasn’t gone down that much, apparently neither do many of you.
Any thoughts on what you’re seeing online these days? The worst and the best?