Tuesday, January 17, 2012

As God Sees

 The gospel story of hungry disciples plucking grain to eat, to eat on the Sabbath, a day that they just happened to be out of food, and the parallel story of David seeking out the high priest to feed himself and companions is a reminder to put Christ, ultimate truth, goodness and beauty at the forefront of our lives and keep law in perspective.  

Christ, telling the story of David, reminds his legalistic detractors that they do not know their own tradition.  As happens time and again, Jesus is on the defensive from people who are scandalised by what they see. 
Why?  Because what they see is outside of their experience.  And simply, they do no see as God sees.  They lack appreciation for truth, goodness and beauty.
 Having grown up in Vancouver, I was 22 years old the first time I encountered a Catholic Priest in a T-Shirt.  And, because this was new to me, I presumed he was somehow hypocritical or unholy.    
I later realised it was wrong of me to judge Fr. Jim as I did, but hey I am merely a mortal.  As 1 Samuel says I/we only see as mortals see.
We tend to see what outwardly appears; we tend not to see the truth, goodness, and beauty of the heart.  Because of this tendency within us, our compulsion to assess by what we see, we risk getting caught up in a game. 
We may, for good reason or not, feel the need to keep up appearances.  And that may not be a bad thing, so long as we never lose sight of the fact that God sees through us. 
The source of what He sees, the light of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that we reflect, God is concerned with what matters; God assesses the heart. 
So what does my heart look like?
 This question is problematic because we are, arguably, the worst judges of ourselves.  But if we believe that God is faithful to those God loves, and that the Lord truly loves His own, we can rest assured that before God, anyway, each and every heart is honest, good, and beautiful. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

We are rich in Grace as well as Sin

Money, Sex, Power: Because It Is So Intriguing

It is high time I publish something other than a homily.  So let it be done – my musings on sin and the conflict between faith and fear.  

Conservatism is a crippling ideology.   Rooted in, based on, and perpetuated by fear, conservatism is a paranoia of the unknown.  Given its anti-gospel nature, conservatism should not exist within believers of a Good and mysterious God.  And yet the inordinate urge to preserve, maintain, and posses, so often dominates our church.  So why do we hate freedom?  Is our faith imperfect?  In reality, we love freedom but are afraid to exercise it.  And yes, our faith is imperfect.

In Christianity, the essence of God is made known by God’s Word (Jesus Christ is the revelation of God as Love), but the revealed facts about God only lead to more mystery.  What is love?  And why would anyone believe in such?   The answer is faith, but our faith is imperfect.

When I reflect on the core of my faith as it challenges the human condition, some usual themes -the want for stability, security, certainty, and the affirmation of self-worth- consistently appear.  Perhaps these are my own issues, I am willing to concede that, but evidently I am not the only one.  

Recently I read a stellar book, Render to Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church, by Jason Berry.  Extremely well researched, Berry exposes the sins of an institution plagued by conservatism.  In fairness to Berry, he never uses the C word; his issue, not mine, is with an all male hierarchy.
Scandal rocks the church.

Legitimized cults, in my view, the Legionaries of Christ and the Society of St. John, Religious communities whose sins (re: money, sex, and power) have been exposed in recent years were enabled by the conservatism God's people.  Fear, the great enabler, has empowered the poisoned.  The poor in the pews, those longing for stability, certainty, and an affirmation of their quaint images of God , church, world and themselves, have allowed con-artists like Maciel Degollato, Carlos Urrutigoity and Angelo Sodano to use and abuse.  And for doing so, the people of God must account.  

Fear is in everyone, Christians are not immune, such feelings make us vulnerable.  When all we want to hear is what we already believe, we are easily duped.  We are told what we want to hear, and believe because we, the ignorant, have been affirmed.  This, a capitalising on vulnerabilities of frightened, naive and needy, etc, is abuse.  

Conservatism enables abusers (consider the behaviour of unregulated banks –enabled by conservative ideology).  In light of church scandals exposed by people like Jason Berry and Catholic media (see. National Catholic Reporter), it is fair to say that we, the frightened and therefore conservative people of God, have been abused, while we too have enabled.   For the latter, we must account!   

It is not easy to be free; to own (be responsible for) the church to which we belong, but it is our vocation.  As people of God, it is our duty to question authority and offer ourselves in service of Christ’s true mission.  In baptism we are anointed priest, prophet, king, and become sharers in the ministry of God Himself.  The task, therefore, of preaching the gospel is not reserved for the ordained but belongs to all baptised.  So let’s proclaim it!  We, the people of God, must account for our sins (for enabling abusers of money, sex and power).  We can defeat fear and embrace faith.  Like Christ, we will learn to liberate instead of conserve.  Or will we?   I am not so sure; my faith is imperfect.