A priest was getting on a bus. Somehow his shoe came off
and fell into the street. Since he could not retrieve it, he
took off the second one. He threw it out the window in the
direction of the other one. To a puzzled looking passenger,
he said, “The fellow who finds the first shoe now will have
a good pair to walk about in.”
I have just returned from retreat. Hopefully I am filled with grace. But certainly I am filled with gossip from my fellow priests. They were filled with information about new assignments from our bishop. The shocker is that a certified firebrand among the brethern has been sent to a very proper and wealthy parish as pastor. The priest in question has been lining up on the side of the poor, disenfranchised, and the oppressed since he was priested a quarter of a century ago. Wherever he goes, fire follows him. He has all the scars, many of them quite glorious and even enviable, that go with such a career.
Everyone at the retreat had an opinion pro and con on the appointment. Most dared not speak them publicly since the bishop himself was present. But the one point on which all agreed is that the parish will become a different creation. Given his track record, the new man will most assuredly bring fire to the parish in question. The fox-hunting set there will never be the same again. These aristocrats may well come to feel that they are among the hunted.
But today’s Gospel tells us that fire is precisely what the Teacher brought to the earth. Therefore, can we fault a priest if he himself brings that same torch to a small corner of the Teacher’s Church? Do you really think the Christ would fault him especially since he is but following His example? Quite obviously our bishop does not fault him.
Could it be that the bishop is telling his priests, religious, and laity that it is we who are lukewarm Christians? Might he be telegraphing us the signal that what the Church needs is more people like the pastor under discussion? I believe the answer to both questions is a resounding affirmative. And this affirmation would come even though the bishop might not agree with all the tactics of the pastor in the past.
Admittedly this appointment will appear strange to those among us who, in Joseph Donder’s words, “are accustomed to depicting Jesus beautifully, with large eyes, a shapely beard, carefully dressed in soft colors, with a sweet glow all over Him.”
After all, we are living out our lives when we drink our coffee without caffeine, our milk with little or no fat, and our beer with few calories and less taste. No doubt some industrious scientist, tomorrow’s Nobel Prize laureate, is already working to develop a sizzling porterhouse steak without meat. And, if developed, we will eat it.
So, what is more natural to us than to swear allegiance to a counterfeit Jesus! This would be a Christ who gives us comfort but demands little in return. A Teacher who is always sending us pious bromides but never speaks to us about sin. A Master who is always swooping down to pick us up but who never asks His troops to carry Him.
Could it be our watered down Christianity is the very element which is keeping our seminaries and convents empty? Our young people may very well feel that any resemblance between the Christ of today’s Gospel and the Christ their parish is selling is purely coincidental.
Perhaps then it is time for us to cease attempting, as James Carrol puts it so upsettingly, “to get the prophet out of our city so we can honor him. Or onto a cross so we can love him.”
“Words, words, I’m sick of words,” shouted an exasperated Eliza Doolittle of “My Fair Lady” fame about her patronizing Henry Higgins. The time for words were done. So, she sang in a piercing voice, “Show me.” Is this not what Luke’s Christ is saying to each of us in today’s powerful Gospel?
“Christians,” said Albert Camus, “should get away from abstraction and confront the bloodstained face history has taken on today.” When people are troubled, we cry to Christ, “Why aren’t you there?” He angrily replies to us, “Why aren’t you?”
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 18, 2013
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 12: 49-53
In this passage Jesus speaks of the meaning of his life. To fulfill his God-given destiny, he has resolutely set his face toward Jerusalem. There, refusing to be diverted from his mission of love, he will be rejected, suffer greatly and meet a violent death. He says that he is filled with great anguish until the mission he has been given is completed. Sensing a growing hostility, he tells his disciples that his intention is not to establish peace, but rather division–dividing even households and families.
Not Peace but the Sword
One of the themes of Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2013 was to “shake things up.”
This is quite different from the advice I was given as a child: “In polite conversation, never bring up politics or religion.” This is quite good advice, if your aim is to be well-liked. Politics and religion are risky because they involve deeply held convictions, and if you happen to tread on the convictions of others, you get the same reaction that a dentist gets when his probe hits a nerve.
20th Sunday: Fire on Earth–St. Gianna Berretta Molla
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing.” Luke 12:49
The readings today present us with the challenges of our faith and the challenges to our faith. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because he refused to hedge on the faith. He refused to tell the king what the king wanted to hear. He proclaimed the truth that God told him to proclaim, even though it cost him severely. The people to whom the Letters to the Hebrews was addressed were tempted to give up the faith. It seemed too difficult to them, too demanding. Further on in the letter, the author of Hebrews would tell them to lift up their drooping hands, and firm up their shaking knees. In today’s reading they are chided that for all their complaining. They had not yet resisted sin to the point of shedding blood. They should keep their eyes focused on Jesus, and not be so concerned about their present lives. In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus speaks about the cost of discipleship. Families may even be divided over the following of the Lord, but nothing is worth sacrificing the Life of Jesus within us.
Why Faith is Indeed a Light
In “new” atheist and secularist circles today, faith is regularly ridiculed. It is presented as pre-scientific mumbo jumbo, Bronze Age credulity, the surrender of the intellect, unwarranted submission to authority, etc. Time and again, the late Christopher Hitchens, echoing Immanuel Kant, called on people to be intellectually responsible, to think for themselves, to dare to know. This coming of age would be impossible, he insisted, without the abandonment of religious faith. And in standard accounts of cultural history, the “age of faith” is presented as a retrograde and regressive dark age, out of which emerged, only after a long twilight struggle, the modern physical sciences and their attendant technologies. In accord with this cynical reading, the contemporary media almost invariably present people of “faith” as hopelessly unenlightened yahoos or dangerous fanatics. If you want the very best example of this, watch Bill Maher’s film “Religulous.”