Today is Yom Kippur, when our Jewish brothers and sisters fast and spend the day in the synagogue, atoning for sin, seeking a fresh start to the new year. The Jewish New Year began last week on Rosh Hashana, and these days between the High Holy Days are called the Days of Awe, which are meant for introspection in preparation for repentance. Jesus would have observed these days in these same ways. I wrote a little about Kol Nidre over at my Times Union blog, please feel free to check it out. No subscription or registration is required.
As an aside, no one wishes anyone a “happy Yom Kippur.”
You can read more about that over at the other post.
A day of repentance and fasting is never a bad thing, so may we all find ways to turn to God.
The 50th anniversary of Vatican II is upon us. I am always mystified by the extreme reactions to this event in our church, a monumental time in history. Talk is cheap, so it is easy to reflect back and either romanticize the entire event beyond any reality, or to make it into a huge “error.”
“In virtus media stat,” which I believe means truth stands in the middle. The results of Vatican II have not entirely ruined our church, unless perhaps you are a follower of the Society of St. Pius X, who remain in schism with our church to this day. The results of Vatican II, were not perfect. Nothing is perfect and our journey to the perfection is what we all seek through the transformation of the Eucharist.
This essay by Robert J. Nogosek, C.S.C., published in America Magazine really caught my eye, and I present it here today for us to all muse upon today. There is no shortage of good reading material on this topic and I will try to post more about it. The website Conciliaria is a tremendous resource, so have a look at that.
Here is the link to the Vatican website resources for Vatican II documents. A quick look at that reminds me that one of the true gems of the Council was Dei Verbum. If you are Catholic and you read any Scripture today, thank this Dogmatic Constitution! No matter what you think of everything else about Vatican II, where would we be without this?
Oh those Corinthians! St. Paul has a lot to say to them, and it is not always pretty, is it? As we go through this cycle of readings from 1 Corinthians at daily mass, I find myself wondering what St. Paul would say to us.
Oh wait – he is saying this to us, isn’t he?
Corinth was a seaside town, a port on the busy Mediterranean Sea and apparently it could be a pretty wild place. This letter is addressed to them after Paul had spent some time there establishing the church. Today we hear,
Brothers and sisters:
In giving this instruction, I do not praise the fact
that your meetings are doing more harm than good.
First of all, I hear that when you meet as a Church
there are divisions among you,
and to a degree I believe it;
there have to be factions among you
Sounds familiar. As people who know me are aware, I loathe the designations of what “kind” of Catholic one might be. By this I mean any and all of the following: liberal, conservative, progressive, or orthodox. It might feel good to get up close with those of “our kind” but it is also very dangerous. This is not just about how we practice and live our faith, but also about the other areas of our lives.
So are our meetings doing more harm than good?
Let’s hope not, but perhaps they are. If we are sitting in the pew, judging, rejecting, denying anyone, then we are already on murky ground. I can only speak for myself, I have a lot to consider, because I have often done all of those things and worse.
He goes on,
Or do you show contempt for the Church of God
and make those who have nothing feel ashamed?
What can I say to you? Shall I praise you?
In this matter I do not praise you.
Ouch! How do we make those who have nothing feel ashamed? I could write volumes on this one, but let’s just all consider this at large for a moment.
Who do we want to “drive out” of our church? Who do we want to deny in our church? Who do we reject before they even get in the door of our church?
Is it the “poor” people who leach off of “the system?” Is it those who do not work as hard as “we” do? Is it those who we might think are getting what “we earned?” Is it people lost in addiction? Is it someone who is divorced? Is it someone who is gay?
It is very easy for us to gather together and close the doors behind us, to begin without “waiting” for everyone to arrive, and for judging others who are present, or trying to get in.
The wisdom of all of this, the healing wisdom, I might point out is something that we say as we prepare to receive the Eucharist, words that come from today’s very Gospel from Luke. There is a centurion who has an ill slave and there is a push for Jesus to heal this slave. These words always strike me when I read or hear them:
They approached Jesus and strongly urged him to come, saying,
“He deserves to have you do this for him,
for he loves our nation and he built the synagogue for us.”
Deserves? Hmmm, OK – where are we headed here? What does this centurion end up doing?
...when he was only a short distance from the house,
the centurion sent friends to tell him,
“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
There is no expectation on the part of the centurion, there is respect, there is deference, there is humility. And in the midst of this, the centurion adds these words that will be altered slightly for our use at communion…
I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
Suddenly, Paul’s message to the Corinthians comes into focus.
None of us is worthy. Ever. Yet, if Jesus says the word, our souls shall be healed. Our souls and the souls of others that we may have judged, rejected or spurned.
If the centurion can do this… well, let’s see what Jesus has to say,
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Not even in Israel (among the “assembly”) has Jesus found such faith.
What a reminder that none of us is worthy, yet we are all called to be healed, if we find the humility and openness to be healed. We are all called to the table in the unity of Christ. Yet how we fracture things from the start.
Can we do this differently? If so – how?
I know that I am not sure how to do this and that I have in general (um – not worthy!) failed at it, but step by step, and always in community, I will keep trying. Will you join me?
There is a lot of talk in our world about doing what Jesus tells us to, a lot of influence to be obedient to the Gospel and to live a holy life. As for me, I tend to be leery of a lot of this talk, but hey- that’s just me. Oh I get the obedience thing, but don’t ask me about obedience, unless you want some etymology – after all, the word is based on deep listening, not simply following marching orders.
Today’s Gospel from Luke really caught my ear, well my eye, because I read it, I did not hear it. Did you read or hear it today? If not, allow me to reprint some of it right here:
But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.
If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven .Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.
Where do we begin with this Gospel?
I don’t know about you, but I find myself directly confronted with a lot of straight talk from Jesus that I am ill prepared to follow. Oh, trust me – I want to follow it, but that is no easy task, or single destination journey. It is exhausting and daunting to even think about all of this.
We are in the midst of a particularly ugly-and-getting-uglier political season, filled with more toxic doses of vitriol and lies than I have ever seen before. And yet, what candidate does not profess his or her love of Jesus? Can we assess either one of them then, with these standards?
Let’s forget the politics though, and go back to our own journeys? How do we do this? How can we ever do these things? This example of Bl. John Paul II with the man who tried to assassinate him is always moving to me, and a real image of love in action.
Trust me, I want to do them. But most of the time… I simply cannot. For the moment, and forever I hope, I will not stop trying. For me, that is the deep listening of obedience, one tiny step at a time.
How about you?
The feelings took me completely by surprise… I got the email, saw that there was a photo attachment, so I opened it. The photo is of a tree. Our pastor, Father Jerry, had gone to New York City for the day, and he took this picture, and sent it to me.
Waves of sadness washed over me, causing me to close my eyes; I felt like the floor might rush up to meet me. As if in a movie, this took place in what must have been a millisecond. As my eyes fluttered open, they shut again. A dark cloth had been draped over me, or at least over my heart.
It has been over 10 years now, will these feelings ever go away?
No, I was not anywhere near Ground Zero; I was five miles north, in midtown Manhattan. People who were there know feelings of a different sort – memories that must be more challenging than my own. It makes me wonder, why do I continue to feel so sad and overwhelmed?
Suddenly, Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah rises up in my heart:
Thus says the LORD:
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
This past Sunday we were told to “be opened.” We were also told not to show partiality. Why does it seem that in so many ways, that we are more closed as a society and culture? And we are prone to such severe judgments of others.
One of the hallmarks of 9/11 was that everyone who was there set out to help everyone else. Without judgment or partiality. There are so many amazing stories of people helping one another.
Be strong, fear not!
Today, 11 years on, many are in a different place. We demonize the “other,” we do not welcome the stranger, we are at constant war, and it seems that fear has grown deep roots.
Be strong, fear not!
That tree has deep roots and continues to grow without fear, just as we are called to do the same by God. We are called by name by our God, who is loving us always. He has come to save us. That is something that is available to all of us, without partiality. We are ever invited into God’s love, asked to fear not and to love always.
Photos such as that one might always take me by surprise, but what I feel doesn’t not have to remain, it, like a cloud, can pass, allowing the light of the Son to come into my heart. Into all of our hearts.
Recently I read an excellent book by Catholic bioethicist and moral theologian, Charles C. Camosy. His book is entitled Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization. I think that this is an important book for any Catholic person who is concerned about ethical issues, but who feels put off by the constant vilification of the other.
If you would like to read my review of the book, and learn more about Camosy’s work, please visit my personal blog at the Times Union. Leave any comments over there!