Stumbled across this commentary via Commonweal Magazine. The author is Paul Elie, a senior fellow in Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. It’s succinct, thoughtful, and makes sense to me!
New Ways Ministry always does a great job of speaking the truth with charity.
Originally posted on Bondings 2.0:
I generally don’t like to criticize other bloggers, but when a gay-friendly Catholic parish has been wrongly accused of anti-LGBT behavior, I think it is important to set the record straight (so to speak). Such is the case with a blog post by John Becker, who writes at The Bilerico Project. I often find Mr. Becker’s commentaries challenging and thought-provoking, but in a recent post, he oversteps the mark by making a claim that needs to be corrected.
Becker’s June 17th post is entitled “Catholic Church’s ‘Pride’ Event Smells Like False Advertising.” In it he creates suspicion that the LGBT outreach ministry at St. Ignatius parish, Baltimore, may not be as welcoming as it makes itself out to be.
Becker became aware of an event advertisement on the Archdiocese of Baltimore website that stated:
“Embracing God’s Gifts, St. Ignatius’ Gay & Lesbian ministry, is inviting you to join us…
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This past week, a TV station here in Southwest Florida broke a story that received a fair amount of local coverage. It’s a story not surprising to Catholics involved in their local parishes and familiar — even from a distance — of how Frank Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, exercises his office. The TV station made public a letter sent in January by 10 diocesan priests to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Apostolic Delegate to the United States.
The letter — available here: Venice Priests Letter to Vigano — has not yet received a response, at least not one reported publicly. Although we don’t know who the signers of this letter are, what can be said is this: change happens when individuals take a stand. Working within the existing and legitimate structures of the Church, these priests are courageously standing up to a bishop — their boss! — by seeking guidance on how to proceed when a bishop ignores both the letter and spirit of the laws intended to govern the Church in charity and fidelity. Although time will tell whether their efforts are successful, the more people — laity and clergy — who embrace their rights and responsibilities as faithful members of the church, the sooner change will occur.
This thought from Richard Rohr’s daily meditation seems apropos after last evening’s discussion in which the Dignity/Washington community continues to consider whether “to have women presiders at Eucharist”:
In the second half, you try to influence events, work for change, quietly persuade, change your own attitude, pray, or forgive instead of attacking things head on.
March 29, 2014
In those Catholic parishes that have an active RCIA program, these readings to which we just listened – including the long Gospel story from John about the Man Born Blind – are read not just every third year in the Church’s 3-year Sunday cycle, but they are read every year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent. It’s during the Lenten Season when the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – reclaiming the Church’s ancient practice of welcoming new members through a very thoughtful and prayerful process of initiation – welcomes adults who have been preparing for many months, sometimes years, to become Christian through the Easter Waters of Baptism.
On this Fourth Sunday of Lent, those adults – now called The Elect – will come forward for what’s called the Second Scrutiny, a ritual in which they, accompanied by their Godparents, are called to a deeper conversion of heart and mind to continue with their resolution, their decision, “to love God above all.” It’s a ritual in which the Community prays that they will be given “a sense of repentance, a sense of sin, and strength of will to live in true freedom as children of God.” Then, during the ritual itself when the Godparents place their right hands on the shoulders of the person with whom they have been walking this journey of faith, the celebrant prays these words: “God of mercy, you led the man born blind to the kingdom of light through the gift of faith in your Son. Free these elect from the false values that surround and blind them. Set them firmly in your truth, children of the light for ever.”
“The false values that surround and blind them.”
Most of us, probably, have a sense of what values are, let alone what values might be true or false, or perhaps what values appear true, but, when brought into the light of faith, are seen for what they truly are. I had an experience recently that made me wonder how common such an understanding is. Recently I had the occasion to speak with someone and I asked this person what values he was handing on to his children by certain actions he was engaging in. I almost was caught off guard when the response came, “what do you mean by values?” I tried to find a way to say what I meant, to get him to think of what is important in his life, what he finds to be of worth and lasting significance. He was able to say “family” was important to him – but knowing a bit about his family – I pressed further. “What about ‘family’ is valuable and important?” After all, I thought – even Vito Corleone or his real life counterparts in the contemporary Mafia – a crime organization whose members Pope Francis forcefully addressed this past week – would also have expressed belief in “family,” wouldn’t they? And, in our own country and culture wars, how often do we see bumper stickers promoting “family values” by those whose life choices make one ask whether Jesus would have chosen similarly.
When we listen to today’s readings, it doesn’t take a degree in theology to understand what their real meaning is all about. As we listen to this story of the man who, blind from birth, is given physical sight by Jesus’ actions, we also know that those religious leaders of the day, gifted with physical sight like most of humanity, have become blind to what is truly important, what is truly real, what is truly good, what is truly of value. Through the false values they have subscribed to, they seem chained to a rigid understanding of human rules and laws and regulations, for the Gospel writer tells us they cannot see what is plainly in front of them. Not only do they fail to stand back in awe and in wonder at the miracle of healing that Jesus has brought about, more importantly they fail to see who Jesus is. Blinded as they are by pride, power and position, they fail to see the identity of this miracle worker from Nazareth, the one who not only demonstrates power now over human ailments, but who soon will be shown as the One Who has power of death itself.
How often do we, too – or religious leaders in our own day – succumb to the same temptation? How often do we fail to recognize the Hand of God at work in the world simply because what we see does not fit with our preconceived notions of what is good and right? How often are we blind to the face of God in other people – either in our own backyard or across the globe – simply because they do not look like us or have lives which have traveled a different path? Do we have eyes to see that we are created in the Image of God, or do we prefer to limit our vision to a god created in the image of ourselves?
Today’s first reading from Samuel says it very clearly. In a line that seems uncannily similar to that famous line in the children’s book, “The Little Prince” about what is essential being invisible to the eye, the author of Samuel says this of Jesse’s eldest son, the one whom everyone expected would be anointed king: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as the human person sees does God see, because the human person sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”
As we move toward the end of our Lenten journey, what still blinds us to seeing, like God, into not only the hearts of others, but into our own hearts? Let us pray that, as our gathering son prays, our eyes might be opened to see the face of God in everyone, our ears might be opened to hear the voice of God in the cries of God’s people, and that our hearts might be opened to love one another as God loves us.
March 1/2, 2014 — Readings
When I first looked at the readings for today, I couldn’t help but focus on that word “worry,” which we hear Matthew place on the lips of Jesus in this passage that comes in the middle of Matthew’s long Sermon on the Mount. Some scripture commentators refer to this as “The Great Sermon” because it includes so much of what is at the core of Jesus’ message and because it presents Jesus’ teachings in such a straightforward way. So it is in this “Great Sermon” that we hear Jesus tell us not to worry about our lives or any aspect of our lives. We are not to worry about food or drink or clothing, because worrying about these things will, as Jesus suggests, “add not a single moment” to our lives. I think this word, “worry,” grabbed my attention for two reasons. First, it reminded me of that little prayer which comes right after the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer that includes the line, “… and protect us from all anxiety.” Worry, after all, is anxiety. It’s that experience in which we get all worked up about one thing or many things and we dwell on difficulties or problems that are either real or imagined. The second reason I was drawn to this word is because I spend much of my time as a therapist working with people who suffer not just from “ordinary worry” – if there can be such a thing – but who are so filled with worry and anxiety that it gets in the way of their ability to function fully in daily life. You may be surprised to know that Anxiety is so prevalent in our culture that in any given year, over 18% of American adults have a diagnosable anxiety disorder. That’s a lot of worry!
Although Matthew places this passage in the middle of The Great Sermon, it wouldn’t be out of place if it came at the Sermon’s beginning. It is in The Great Sermon that we hear Jesus’ teachings about who is truly blessed in the Beatitudes; we hear Jesus call upon his followers to be “salt of the earth” and “light of the world”; and, it is in this Sermon that we are challenged by Jesus’ command – not suggestion, but command – to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I suggest, however, that before we can understand true blessedness, or begin to be light and salt for others, and especially before we can allow our hearts to be softened so that we do love our enemies and pray for those who despise us – before we can do any of this we must first ask and answer a basic question. For us and for every Christian that question is the one that Jesus suggests in today’s Gospel passage: Will I live for God or will I live for ‘mammon’?
‘Mammon’ is an Aramaic word and while it does mean money or property, it also more broadly means anything in which I put my trust and in which I find my security. For many ‘mammon’ might actually be money or tangible resources, for others it could mean professional success or accomplishments or reputation or another person or – as we are reminded this weekend as Oscar’s Red Carpet is rolled out in Hollywood – it could even mean my looks and outward appearance.
Now professional success, accomplishments, reputation, relationships and even caring for our physical bodies – these are certainly not bad things nor are they values to be disdained. They can, however – if we let them – distract us from what is most important in our lives – our lives as individuals and our lives as a community of believers. Only when God is valued above every other value will the subordinate but necessary values of food, shelter, livelihood, and human relationships fall into their proper place.
We must never forget that those first persons who heard Jesus preach this and other sermons were probably quite poor. As he taught them about genuine values and priorities in one’s life, they may have heard these in the midst of experiencing want. For some, their poverty may have predisposed them to seek God’s reign with pure, unencumbered hearts. For many more, I suspect, their poverty and desperate need for the essentials of life became obstacles from focusing on God, trying simply to survive in a world and culture that had little room for them and their needs. As I thought about this, I tried to place myself in the shoes of an individual or community who knows first-hand the pangs of hunger or the lack of adequate shelter. I wonder what it would be like today for such a person or community who is hearing these words just as we are, words of Jesus telling me not to worry about the things I don’t have yet sorely need, wondering when God will provide for me enough food to eat and clothes to wear, just as God provides for the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field?
While you and I are hopefully filled with gratitude for the food and drink and clothing and shelter and every other blessing that we do have, what are we to do when we know that others in our world are not so fortunate? In remembering that Jesus calls both poor and rich alike to trust in the love of God and not be consumed with fearful fretting and useless worrying, perhaps we should also remember that the God of Isaiah and the God of Paul and the God of Jesus promises to love us and all creation with a love that goes beyond even the greatest of human loves we can imagine. This God knows the needs of the hungry, the homeless, the addicted, the refugee, and those on the margins of society. This God knows the needs of the aging, the dying, and the victims of injustice, violence, and greed. And so the question, “Will I live for God or will I live for ‘mammon’? remains for us to answer each and every day. If I choose to live for God, what then does this mean not simply for what I believe, but what does it mean for what I do? How will I live for God today? If I do live for God, then how does God’s care for all creation inspire me to similar caring and compassion for others?