New is this feast and all-embracing;
all creation assembles in it.
Joy to all creatures, honor, feasting, and delight. (Hippolytus)
A blessed Easter to all.
30 March 2013
New is this feast and all-embracing;
all creation assembles in it.
Joy to all creatures, honor, feasting, and delight. (Hippolytus)
A blessed Easter to all.
28 March 2013
I have a mixed heart today. This afternoon I heard the encouraging news of the Holy Father’s Mass in the Roman youth prison, which included washing the feet of young women and Muslims. Surely this must be throwing some of my sister and brother Catholics into apoplexy. I feel for them. I can imagine how it must seem to have a spiritual worldview come crashing down.
I remember well enough my confrontation with mortality when my brother died nearly two years ago in a highway crash. We learned a few days ago my wife’s sister is gravely ill. It is hard to get information all the way from Florida, and lensed through upset loved ones. But it seems the end is near. I remember being in denial about my brother, trying to convince myself I did not hear his wife quite right, and that I would arrive at their home and he would be fine. But he wasn’t. My heart could not steer my mind, not totally. My wife spent most of the day helping me prepare for the first two Triduum liturgies. I hope it was helpful. We didn’t talk too much about things, except over lunch.
Our niece did tell us that she read the Bible to her mother last night. And a tear came from her eye. Otherwise, she has been totally unresponsive to people. My wife debates whether to go now or wait, perhaps, for a miracle. The Triduum is here, the anniversary of her reception into Full Communion over thirty years ago.
This was the backdrop for me of our parish’s Holy Thursday Mass tonight. We were in our temporary location on campus at the Iowa State Center. Our open foot washing got off to a slow start. For a moment, I didn’t think anyone would come forward. It was the first year the young miss declined to wash and be washed. (Usually the three of us would wash each other’s.) But finally, people did come, and it went on for four songs.
The students opted to conduct a transfer procession from the auditorium back to our parish’s lower lounge. Ordinarily, I’d feel heartened by the public act of worship past a few blocks of fraternities and dorms to our student center. But no flowers were prepared, and no special lighting employed. Just a ciborium on the altar, and the “corporate” fluorescent lighting beaming down.
I feel mostly at a loss. Too much time away in exile away from church. Too much heaviness inside of me.
Where to go from here? Psalm 4 is one of my favorite Compline psalms. Verse 2 promises a path out:
Answer when I call, my saving God.
In my troubles, you cleared a way;
show me favor; hear my prayer.
Show me favor: that’s direct. The ICEL Psalter was a bit more insistent: “Be good to me.” Sounds like a Blues song. Dare we insist, “You better be good to me.”? What about this great tune? That sums up where I am right now, ’round midnight. Quiet and melancholy drift, and the occasional blast.
Verse 7 echoes my thoughts tonight:
Many say, “May we see better times!”
But that’s not the conclusion, the “Amen” of Psalm 4. Verse 9 is:
In peace I shall both lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord, make me secure.
There are nights when we can only lie down, and sleep does not come. I hope for both after midnight. I suspect the Lord will be good to me.
I realize I am not invulnerable. My brother was not. And now, my wife’s only sibling she has known. Certainly, the human body of Jesus was not, victimized as it was on Good Friday. What is the meaning, and where is the redemption in such suffering? We grow weary from the pounding of life’s events. It may seem as if God is not there. But if not, from where will hope come? On dark, troubled nights like this, I realize clearly I have nowhere else to go. So I will go, banging on the door. “Be good to me.” It’s nearly midnight.
28 March 2013
Lent concludes at sundown. Indeed, as this is posted, a good chunk of the Eastern hemisphere is already into the Triduum, washing feet and transferring the Eucharist for adoration and prayer.
I’ve been noting the heightened discussion the past few days as the American SCOTUS considers anti-gay laws. One of the more laughable tracks in the argument centers on the biblical foundations of marriage as set down in Genesis. Have any of these people actually read the whole book? Or are they fixated on the charming quote Jesus pulls out to urge people to fidelity?
I’ve spent the last several months in Genesis as part of my daily practice of lectio divina. At times it has been a struggle. A serious struggle. There’s a lot of behavior by traditionally sympathetic characters that I’ve found distracting, disturbing, and not directly conducive to prayer. In my own life these past several weeks, it has led me to a long consideration of compassion. Compassion for people long-dead. Compassion for people who put up with me on a daily basis. Compassion for the situation in ministry in which I find myself: a university town in the 21st century.
That said, can we bad-mouth the patriarchs? Can we criticize Abram’s panic at his wife’s barrenness, and Sarai’s initiative to topple her servant into her husband’s bed? I’d like to think so.
This is an episode as dysfunctional and salicious as any tv soap opera. And we honor Abraham as a Father in Faith for it? The purpose of Abram’s dalliance was to produce a child, and there was nothing special about Hagar in his or his wife’s eyes, except that she was a convenient, nearby fertile woman in their power.
The Genesis philosophy is clear: build a family by any means necessary. Especially if you are an aristocrat who can afford it.
Now for the compassion. The moral of this patriarch’s adventures is, of course, faith in God. But Abram was also given a great burden. God promised him a nation, but he had no idea how this could be accomplished with an unable wife. So he and Sarai took matters into their own hands. And while I shudder at the thought of Ishmael (or anyone) not ever being born, what was the point of this? Enmity sown between woman and servant, the separation of brothers (and some might say alienation), and for what? God worked his grace through Sarai in the end.
There are good arguments to be made in the pros and cons of same sex unions. But I don’t see many of them. I don’t really see any of them in Genesis, a book more difficult to pray through than I had imagined. Maybe I need to reflect a little more deeply on these men. But I genuinely felt sorry for the women on the sidelines: Hagar, Rachel, Dinah, among others. The callous treatment of women–family members even–leaves me with a very dissatisfied taste.
So what do you think? Can a Christian honor the roots of our faith in Judaism while criticizing the patriarchs? Are we obligated to hold pen or tongue and just mutter to ourselves, “I can’t see that being right.”?
27 March 2013
In the NAB, we read in Luke 22:4-5:
(Judas) went to the chief priests and temple guards to discuss a plan for handing him over to them. They were pleased and agreed to pay him money.
Pleased? The NRSV gives it as “greatly pleased.”
Good that we have that cleared up. I greatly dislike the glee over wrongdoing, that smarmy attitude that communicates, “We have control and we’re enjoying it.”
Today is Spy Wednesday, and the old English carol tells it:
It was on Spy Wednesday,
And all in the morning,
That Judas betrayed our dear heavenly King:
And was this not a woeful thing?
And sweet Jesus we’ll call him by name.
26 March 2013
I’ve spent over a week with David Mitchell’s thoughtful and intriguing Cloud Atlas. The book has been highly praised in critics’ corners. I noticed the film release a few months ago. But a book is nearly always better than its adaptation. I can’t compare novel and movie, but I can recommend the book. Let’s talk about it.
This work is like a nesting doll. The first story, set on an 1850 Pacific Ocean journey is interrupted by a 1931 summer adventure of a would-be composer, which in turn is left behind for a mid-70′s mystery thriller. A cliffhanger moment leads to the next century–ours–and a farce. From farce to next-century-Asia, and the final story follows, told in one part, in a post-apocalyptic Hawaii. Each of the other five stories are finished in reverse order, and at book’s end, the reader is treated to a resolve of the 1850 situation and a philosophical insight that incorporates compassion and mercy in the face of inhumanity and the long stretches of time.
Cloud Atlas gives us something of a demanding read. The author gives us different viewpoints, multiple genres, styles, and use of language. The first story’s interruption is abrupt, and unlike chapters which switch points of view, the reader has to recall, “Oh yeah, that’s where we left off.” So it’s a clever idea integrated into the narrative. There is something of a forward and backward flow to the whole book. And the thread of reincarnation, though not essential to the plot, isn’t the only common thread. I think the author is successful in transcending what could have been a gimmick in lesser hands.
Religion has an interesting portrayal here. It’s not Mr Mitchell’s strong point. Colonialist Protestants, but a faintly positive spin on monasticism, both Buddhist and Catholic. By the time we get to story 5 in the 22nd century, corporations, at least in future-Korea, have abolished religion.
Does one-third of this narrative taking place in the future make this a science fiction novel? It’s a good question. Let other readers decide, but I’m a skeptic on that. I take this as a work of historical fiction.
Pelagianism is inevitable in an optimistic novel without an explicit religious worldview. Will it be enough to bring humankind back from the brink of a dystopian and ruined future? I don’t think so.
All the main characters struggle with virtue. Some are more successful, but each is flawed in some way. The final message of the book is one of optimism born of an experience of showing someone mercy, and having it turn out to be a lifesaver for the character later on. But in the final analysis, the character considers the single good deed, the well-lived life of virtue. Is it enough to matter when forces of brutality overwhelm humanity? Does on pure drop matter in an ocean? Perhaps there will be more than just a single drop. And Cloud Atlas presents other moments of generosity–even grace.
This book isn’t a work of genius like another recent read, Mariette In Ecstasy. But this excellent and thought-provoking book is well worth the effort to digest it.
26 March 2013
Still finding the stomach for an occasional lurk in the Catholic blogosphere these days. Of course, the progressives seem to be leaning to crowing and the Catholic Right seems split between disarray and spinning the new pope faster than a neutron star.
As a side bar, the discussion has heated up about who’s meaner: a liberal or a trad. I have to watch my own snark and temper, of course. But sometimes meanness is more a perception of the listener. Sometimes people experience life as a series of beat-downs, so they are sensitized to reacting to anything, or even everything, as if someone is abusing them. This is the well-known victim mentality. Pope Benedict might have referred to it as part of the hermeneutic of relativity. If one self-identifies as a victim, then all one’s unpleasant social interactions are the mark of persecution, or even hate.
It really doesn’t matter if the people involved, victims or tormentors are “orthodox” or not, virtuous or not. This is true for two reasons. First, as I mentioned already, to a victim, every adversary is a persecutor. But we also have to concede that any mortal being is imperfect. And liable to sin. Virtue can never be the identifying mark of the orthodox, not in this world. All fall short of the ideal of Jesus Christ.
Increasingly, I’m thinking that orthodoxy matters less and less. More important is the cooperation with God’s grace to present an “Ortho-Agape” (Orthocaritas sounds smoother, but mixing languages like that is a question mark.)
We could be aiming more to a “right-charity/love/kindness” in presenting ourselves as believers and followers of Christ. Though it doesn’t appear in this week’s Lectionary, the parable of the two sons does occur after Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. In some way, that should point the way that Christians are called to an integrated stance of being ordered to God and to other people, and that this is not a natural conflict.
25 March 2013
I’ve enjoyed Rory Cooney’s entry into the blogosphere, Gentle Reign. I especially like the stories behind his songs and recordings. This week, his post on his thirty-year anniversary as a parish music director plucked a few of my historical strings. It was thirty Lents ago I began my own journey into ministry. My path wasn’t quite as crystal clear-cut as Rory’s.
Thirty years ago this Lent I came to the realization that I was in a dead-end job and my life wasn’t leading anywhere. The deeper I got into college, the better student I became and the less sure of where it was all leading. The last two years (1979-1981) were a struggle. I almost enjoyed my three student jobs more than classes. Residence halls. Food service and catering. Communications.
I think I still had an attachment to my university after a handful of years. I found a fourth job when telemarketing came to the university campus. I hung on after graduation because I could help manage an office, train callers, keep statistics, and be an eagle-eye on mistakes. After a day off I came in to help complete a 1200-person mailer and in a few minutes I noticed some familiar names on the labels. We already called these people. My boss said I was dreaming. A quick check of our last campaign’s files found about a third of these new names had been called just three months before in the preliminary round of the campaign. Attention to detail.
My boss wasn’t impressed with the attention. Our consultants weren’t happy that 382 out of 12oo “new” potential pledges were x’ed out of the campaign. The development office had a bit of face egg–they vouched for the list. People don’t like attention to detail, especially when it’s pointed out by an obnoxious recent graduate.
The last straw was when an entry-level position opened up in development and it was filled before I got the interview. My alma thought the reverse would kick, so they hired a guy who was coming off five years of telephone fundraising for one of the two major political parties. No way was I going to compete with nonsense like that. And after a number of applications and just two interviews elsewhere, it was clear no other college was going to hire me either.
With my fate sealed, I swept off my desk into the trash, announced to my boss I was leaving (and she could interpret that as unpaid vacation or resignation) and walked out the door, nearly broke, but fairly free. I packed up and bought a bus ticket to Ohio to visit my mother’s family. I had about three weeks to a month before running out of money and getting to the Next Stage and maybe something would come to me.
I took a walking tour of Dayton Ohio one day. I like being dropped into a city when I can start walking and see what I find. This day was cloudy, though. I think I was trying to find a historical museum or something. But I got turned around. I was in a neighborhood where it’s good to look tough and not make eye contact. Passed a bookstore. Almost walked in, but I realized that the product offered there wouldn’t make a good impression on my good Baptist cousins. I turned a corner instead. The sun came out. And there to my right was St Mark’s Bookstore. They had stacks of liturgical albums and songbooks I had never seen before: PAA, GIA, St Meinrad’s, Collegeville, and others. I picked up a few and a few days later, it was time to move on.
The next stage of the trip took me to Indiana University to visit a friend in law school. I’ll write more in detail about that experience some other day. They had a “liturgist” (never heard that term before) on loan from St Meinrad’s. I experienced my first really serious Triduum at St Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington that Holy Week. It wasn’t immediately clear to me that I was going to follow in the footsteps of the liturgist-on-loan. I did think how great it would be to have liturgy like that back home. Or in every parish.
More on the next steps in a few days. Maybe.
24 March 2013
I was struck by Peter’s earnest support in today’s Passion reading:
Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.
And we know how that ended.
I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.
I think any believer would say, in good times, that we are more than willing to suffer and make sacrifice. Maybe when it gets to crunch time, less so. Many of us see ourselves as a hero. It’s a nice thing to be. It’s part of a “right praise,” an orthodoxy. But how we actually perform–that may be another matter. Do we rely on God’s grace? I know when I have difficulties, it is very hard. It is easy to say when I sit in prayer, “I will be gentle, I will be just. I will be calm. I will stay awake.”
Ha! Even today I fell asleep during prayer. Twice I shook myself out of a midafternoon slumber to tell the Lord, “I’m still here.” But what I really meant was that the Lord was still there. Waiting for me to come back.
I’m grateful for the insight, though. I head into Holy Week with a moderately busy agenda–I mean for my spiritual life. I’ll need to take time for that, I know. And stay awake. I am prepared, but I will need grace to make it through.
23 March 2013
This might be in that twilight zone of things recently frowned on, but my parish has a long tradition of musical acclamations inserted within the Passion Gospels. I see the Lucan refrain of the thief on the cross used in many places every year. But I don’t like that. It reminds me too much of the pastor who used to tell his own version of the Passion from “memory” every year, incorporating all four Gospels. And maybe Veronica, too.
Last year, for Mark we used a refrain based on the centurion’s confession:
Jesus, Jesus, truly the Son of God.
Did you know that the good thief’s refrain is one of the few times in the Bible (maybe the only in the Gospels) in which the Lord is addressed by name and without an honorific?
Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.
I confess a love for the hymn from which this refrain is derived. And I use it on Good Friday:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand.
What would be a good one for Matthew? I can’t recall what I used two years ago. If anything. Maybe the refrain from Psalm 22 or 31. What would you use? Take up the purple chair and decide: how would you handle the Passions readings of Holy Week?
23 March 2013
NCRep editorial on Pope Francis. I’d like to take a look at some of the conclusions drawn in the middle of the piece.
The editorial board suggests that the hierarchy has been behind the times in assessing the state of the Church and the deepest needs we face, both within the Body and in the world. I think this became painfully evident to the cardinals. Clearly they weren’t distracted by the combination of celebrity, legacy, and grief as they were eight years ago:
It became evident that the church’s troubles had grown to such proportions that they could no longer be ignored, not even by the gathered cardinals. This interregnum and conclave were quite different in tone and content from the last precisely because subjects that were swept aside in the tide of sentiment accompanying John Paul’s death came roaring back to shore. Curial corruption and infighting had been documented and were no longer a matter of mere speculation. Figures like the late Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado and his order, the Legion of Christ, still seen eight years ago as unfairly under siege, were now, beyond dispute, a world-class fraud and a failed project respectively.
The condemnation of Fr Maciel is devastating, but too true.
As for the curia, corruption may well be too strong a word, given what we know. But corruption is eminently plausible, given what we see: not only the infighting, but also the careerism. And then we have scandals with banking, conservative prelates’ sexual escapades, leaks, and such. This would be my strongest criticism of the previous two popes. Their role as the Church’s guardians of unity cannot be understated. Each, perhaps, was blinded by their own fallibilities to the notion that unity extends more broadly and deeply than uniformity on public issues. The handling of bishops and conferences has been particularly difficult for these men, and in some locations, especially the United States, a near total failure. What we’ve been handed is a classic case of Old Testament lament: why do the just suffer and the guilty prosper? More on that:
John Paul II’s notions of heroic priesthood lay in tatters, his episcopal appointments too often a collection of hot-blooded and imprudent ideologues who love to parade around in yards of silk and fine lace. Eight years ago the gathered cardinals would have smirked at talk of a church in crisis; this year they spoke of it themselves.
The silk and lace I can tolerate. I just want competence. Cardinals Wuerl and George, to name the two most high-profile American prelates, and touted for the intellectual heft they brought to the USCCB, have been far from stellar thinkers. Lack of prudence is clear. Willing to be led by the nose by curialists with agendas doesn’t speak at all to their leadership style. Cardinal George couldn’t be bothered with his own archdiocesan review board and placed children in his parishes at risk from a known predator. Clearly, some cardinals have learned something by the repeated smackdowns delivered to the Catholic Right from the Iraq War to the 2012 elections.
I wouldn’t want to lose John Paul II’s “notion of heroic priesthood.” Let’s just call it unneccessarily limited and inadequate. Every Catholic believer should be a hero in the sense of an outward looking, joyful, and confident presentation of the Gospel in every corner of the world. It might be nice if one in every thirty or forty Catholics were a priest. Then the JP2 Method might work. But the Church has never been awash in priests everywhere. An active and engaged laity is the key. JP2 gave us plenty of fodder to start that. Let’s honor it by building on it and moving beyond the clerical focus of the past two pontificates.
The 34 years of Wojtyla and Ratzinger comprised a three-and-a-half-decade attempt to rein in the impulses of the Second Vatican Council. The first 15 post-conciliar years were alive with a rich, if at times messy and excessive, enthusiasm for the possibilities of this Christian community called Catholic. Wojtyla and Ratzinger set out to re-square the corners and redraw the lines. What once was so outward-looking became inward and withdrawn, in Francis’ term, “self-referential.” Both popes spent an inordinate amount of time and energy going after those who raised inconvenient questions or explored areas of theology that didn’t fit their prescriptions of church. All the while, the real sins against the community were being committed by priests and hidden for years, under elaborate schemes and at unconscionable cost, by the community’s bishops.
It’s been clear to the Catholic imagination, at least in America, that the past decade has continued the adventure of those who couldn’t shoot straight.
In a word, the past several years has seen the screeches of the antigospel preached louder than the message of Christ.
Francis will, very soon, have the opportunity to show how serious he is about re-establishing integrity and sound judgment within the church with appointments to major sees, such as in this country the Chicago archdiocese, and with appointments to the Curia. Our hope is that his humility and sense of service and concern for the poor will guide his choices. Without such qualities, his wish that the church look beyond itself will remain unrealized.
This is right. It has to be about more than symbols. My sense is: thanks for the symbols. Let’s wait out the discernment period with patience, and then we’ll see how well Pope Francis can accomplish a rejuvenation of the Gospel within the hierarchy. And in the meantime, it’s as good a season as any for the rest of us to present and proclaim the real Gospel to those around us.
21 March 2013
I’ve been reticent about posting on every news item coming from the vicinity of Pope Francis. Cardinal Law. Msgr Marini. Et cetera. It seems he will be celebrating the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in a youth prison. It had been his custom as a bishop to pray this Mass in hospices, prisons, hospitals, and such.
The medieval custom of washing the feet of the poor on Holy Thursday was kept alive by monastics. I’m sure that’s as much of a derivation of the ritual as associating it with ordained ministry (hence 1956′s viri selecti).
Still, this sort of gesture moves liturgy far beyond the placement and number of candlesticks. It begins to place the liturgy in a direct context of evangelization. (Not to mention service.)
In the internet age, it seems we can no longer suggest the pope’s liturgies have little bearing on the life of faith. Fifty years ago, they progressed in pomp and finery unnoticed by people outside the walls of a big Roman church. Today, they serve as fodder for cheerleading or dismay or things in between.
The stories of Pope Francis’s liturgies are also picked up and noted by others. But it’s good to keep in mind that Holy Thursday in a prison is not the Event, but merely a start. Liturgy, as ordinarily celebrated, is partly for the purpose of the sanctification of the faithful. And how do people become holy? How do they cooperate with God’s grace which offers them holiness? It’s simple. By saying yes to God. We can say yes as we receive the Eucharist. We can, and really must, say yes in other ways in our lives.
One becomes touched by a leader’s gesture of reaching out to the young in prison. It does not end with a feeling of regard for the man. It must continue with a searching of the observer’s heart. Is my heart moved to pity for young people? Or do I feel contempt? Perhaps I feel nothing at all. This is where discernment is key.
Discernment guides the believer to make present and future choices in response to the event. For me, I have to listen carefully in these situations. I must watch my thoughts and feelings–my whole reaction. Am I feeling the urge to assist in some way? Is there an inner movement, nudging me forward? Or am I called elsewhere? And with that last question, is the nudging away due to my own fears or deafness? Or has another path been set for me by the Lord?
This is why I am most hopeful (as I think I’ve written) that Pope Francis is well-grounded in Ignatian discernment. Like a good director, he places options and surfaces choices that might be more or less hard to perceive. And the question sits with us: is this my path? Or is there another?
This must be the best way to approach these news stories. Pope Francis brushes aside Msgr Marini, and perhaps I disagree or get bothered. Then I look to my own life and the times I have been brusque and dismissive. And if this is wrong for the pope (whether or not it is true) then it is wrong for me. And if the pope carves out the opening of the Paschal Triduum for imprisoned youth, then I am responsible for adjusting my regard for a celebrity event into an opportunity for personal reflection.
Getting back to the bigger picture of liturgy as evangelization, this is cause for some long and deep reflection for me personally. Perhaps we are moving past an age of “contemplation,” where getting the liturgy done “properly” is no longer enough. How does liturgy contribute to Matthew 28:19-20 and the commission we have all been given in baptism? And for what will I stand? Liturgy? Evangelization? Or something wholly different than what I did before?
20 March 2013
I have yet to hear major things I dislike on the Pope Francis front this week. Now he wants to engage
the Evil Empire the Dictatorship of Relativism non-believers as partners in the struggle for environmental conservation and for peace. Now that’s the Vatican II I’m talking about.
The truth is that the world isn’t entirely on board with the Church. And we needn’t be with them. But offering a Gospel partnership with individuals, and accepting who comes: this is good. Writing off the whole lot, not so much.
20 March 2013
In a preview of the Easter Vigil reading many of you probably won’t hear, let’s look at that strange prophet Ezekiel. I confess I found this man intimidating. Fiery wheels in the sky. Eating sweet lemon scrolls. Cutting off his hair and doing weird symbolic things with it. Ezekiel is the kind of guy you don’t want to cross. But he has a tender moment in chapter 36, the last of the seven Easter Vigil Old Testament readings. It also appears in the Rite of Penance, number 125:
Thus says the LORD:
I will prove the holiness of my great name,
profaned among the nations,
in whose midst you have profaned it.
Thus the nations shall know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD,
when in their sight I prove my holiness through you.
For I will take you away from among the nations,
gather you from all the foreign lands,
and bring you back to your own land.
I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you,
taking from your bodies your stony hearts
and giving you natural hearts.
I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes,
careful to observe my decrees.
You shall live in the land I gave your (ancestors);
you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
A person in sin is a person in exile. This exile was known to Ezekiel–this was the Big One: Babylon. Like his major prophet brothers (Isaiah and Jeremiah) Ezekiel offers us a “section” of consolation, which Scripture scholars identify as chapters 33 through 39. This passage lands in the middle of it.
Whatever idols to which we have succumbed, whatever wanderings we have indulged, God is prepared to receive us. Ezekiel points the way in this passage. It’s not a mistake this concludes the Old Testament readings of the Easter Vigil. We may think of Creation and Exodus as the cornerstones of the Liturgy of the Word. But in many ways, Ezekiel prepares the way for the Risen Christ. We are promised not only a new life in our homeland, but also a physical rejuvenation from stone to flesh. Not unlike the transformation from death to life.
Reconciliation offers the Christian a promise. Sacramental reconciliation offers a bit more: the presence of the real Christ. That presence is proof of the holiness …
18 March 2013
So the various early stories about Pope Francis are coming up short on truthiness. No matter. I think what we are seeing is a groupthink of Catholics and a few others who have plugged into the Hope. I have to count myself among them. Face it: we want the Church to succeed. And we don’t think the path involves ermine, six candlesticks, bureaucracy, and doubletalk. We want symbolic leadership. Real symbols that speak to something deeper than what we’ve seen in and from Rome the last decade or two.
Many Catholics are dismayed over this. They identified and attached to Pope Benedict and they identified and attached to the symbols associated with him. And, of course, his words. They became slogans: the dictatorship of relativism, continuity in reform. They provided a cautious optimism about a Church navigating the rough waters of a 21st century world.
But other Catholics had very valid questions. Why does the pope reach out to Holocaust-denying schismatics and not to my divorced-and-remarried family members? Why do bishops harp on lay people about a loss of a sense of sin and yet totally blunder about when managing sex predators? Why do Catholic populations of whole nations go into meltdown over the sins of bishops? Why do bishops get fired under mysterious and not-so mysterious circumstances, while convicted criminals stay on the cathedra? Why the witchhunts on women religious?
It’s no wonder many of the faithful have been thirsting for some sign of real leadership from the top. And if stories get made up to push the matter along, it’s a mild surprise to me. But no shock.
I can accept that Pope Benedict did the best he could, with the tools he had, in the time he was given. Looking back to 2005, I know I wanted him to succeed. But I think his ministry as Bishop of Rome has been an interlude. The ship didn’t sink or blow up or run aground. Maybe the winds have tossed us much. Maybe we heard some scraping on the bottom in Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Kansas City, Philadelphia, and a few other places. But the Church isn’t a Big Problem that needs fixing. Just some pieces.
Now is the time to be setting sail for the big ocean and casting into the deep. Now is the time for courage. And checking stories. And looking for the real story that inspires.
18 March 2013
Today’s Roman Lectionary offers a stark contrast to yesterday’s cycle C gospel. On Sunday, a woman is accused of a crime she did commit. Today, another woman is accused, but she is innocent. Daniel the prophet to the rescue in an ancient episode of Law & Order: Old Testament.
I have a musical sketched out:
When You Find A Worthy Wife (Pr 31:10-31) women’s schola
Many Are The Women Joakim
Sitting With The Elders men’s schola (elders)
The Two Ways (Ps 1) Joakim & elders
Wickedness Out of Babylon women’s schola
In The Garden band
Time For Lunch two elders
Shut The Garden Doors Susanna & two maids
Our Desire two elders
Accusations two elders
Like Lions (Ps 17:8-15) Susanna
A Worthy Wife (reprise) band
Send for Susanna (Sir 26:7-11) two elders
Testimony two elders
You, My Other Self (Ps 55:13-15) Joakim
Condemnation town elders
O Eternal God Susanna
Return To Court Daniel
Come Inform Us two elders
If You Were A Witness Daniel & two elders
Sing to the Lord (Ps 9) all
I remember this story from before my baptism, in 6th grade. It wasn’t in my mother’s Protestant Bible at home. I needed to refer to my new Catholic RSV to find it.
Of course, Ruth has gotten bogged down amidst the concerns of our church fire and other life adventures. So Ruth, only one-fourth complete, is the priority. But Susanna next. But the book for this musical has a good start. I still haven’t solved the problem of Susanna’s reconciliation with a husband and family so quick to jump on the wicked elders’ bandwagon. That just doesn’t ring true for a modern audience. It will need some finesse.