It was a St Blog’s meme of the last decade: the fretting when a gospel about a miraculous feeding appeared in the Sunday Lectionary. What if, my blogging colleagues mused, the preacher spoke of the “miracle of sharing” instead of Jesus actually fabricating bread and fish from scraps? I wondered how frequent that feared homily actually was. I think I might have heard it twice in forty-five years of churchgoing. And since I’ve heard it preached so many other ways, it was never a concern to me that I might hear of a third miracle of sharing.
Now I know how people felt about that. I read Msgr Pope’s homily for this past weekend. My colleague preached about the importance of correction from this weekend’s gospel, too. Audio in two parts here. Not quite the same, but close enough that I thought I was getting a rehash Saturday night.
Sunday readings for the 23rd Ordinary Week are here. Ezekiel is characteristically blunt. Jesus seems to offer two nuances. First, it is a question when another believer sins against me. Not somebody else. Not some vague sense of blanket harm to elder sibling sensibility:
If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
That means not blogging about it. Not grumbling to a spouse or roommate. It also means a sin. Not leaving the milk out on the counter. Not leaving a toothbrush in the sink. It means real harm, real sin.
I was thinking Cardinal George somewhat overstates the case here:
In recent years, society has brought social and legislative approval to all types of sexual relationships that used to be considered “sinful.” Since the biblical vision of what it means to be human tells us that not every friendship or love can be expressed in sexual relations, the church’s teaching on these issues is now evidence of intolerance for what the civil law upholds and even imposes. What was once a request to live and let live has now become a demand for approval. The “ruling class,” those who shape public opinion in politics, in education, in communications, in entertainment, is using the civil law to impose its own form of morality on everyone. We are told that, even in marriage itself, there is no difference between men and women, although nature and our very bodies clearly evidence that men and women are not interchangeable at will in forming a family. Nevertheless, those who do not conform to the official religion, we are warned, place their citizenship in danger.
So often it seems it boils down to sex. Housing and financial scandals did far more harm to my family than the same-sex couple in my neighborhood. My wife and I maintain a strong marriage. But bankruptcy and financial strain often put our good mood to the test here and there. If Cardinal George has taken one extended vacation since 2007, he’s got me beat. The most I’ve been able to afford is a weekend away every other year.
Cardinal George talks about no high places for lay people in society, in government or entertainment or academics. Is that what we’re all about, really? Sounds like another variant of Cardinal Dolan, that having friends in high places is an important reportable aspect of being a prince of the Church. A clue here: most laypeople do not aspire to celebrity. And often the reason for hoping for a little more money is to do a little something for loved ones.
Tolerance and good manners have a place in civilized society. We presume to confront a person we know well, someone whose confrontation in turn we would not run away from. We confront when it satisfies a threefold condition: is it true, is it kind, is it helpful? Truth is an objective reality, not our spin. Kindness is actually defined not by us, but by the person being assisted. And helpful is a judgment. Do we have a hope for being listened to? Sometimes the answer is no.
My sense of this Gospel and the meme of correction is that we can be very cautious about it, make sure we’re not doing it for any sense of our own profit (Ezekiel the prophet notwithstanding), and that we’re following the good advice Jesus gave us. In the order he gives it.
And this too: keep it out of the blogosphere.