Sunday, August 30, 2015

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

We tend to think of corporate religion as the province of traditionalists and conservatives; modern day Pharisees who value rules over love. But it is also the domain of practitioners of the cult of tolerance; modern day Pharisees who value rules ahead of truth. And like their ancient counterparts, both groups are obsessed with avoiding certain external threats that they believe will defile their hearts and souls, while simultaneously ignoring "the things that come out from within" that do the real damage.

I first experienced the latter sort of corporate religion my freshman year at Berkeley. The professor for Introduction to Religious Studies banned the use of the abbreviations BC or AD for dates. Instead, we were expected to use BCE and CE, because the term "Common Era" was more sensitive to diversity than references to Jesus. Of course, the dates themselves did not change. They continued to revolve around the life of Jesus. But as long as we ignored that reality, no one would get offended.

And that is the point of this brand of corporate religion: to avoid offending believers' sensibilities, even at the cost of offending truth. In just a few decades, it has taken us from my rather minor example to the land of microaggressions and trigger warnings. Where will it take us next? Yes, language matters. But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that hashtags and politeness can ever stand in for justice or love. The cult of tolerance honors our family with its lips, but its heart is far, far away.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

We are called to be servants: to our Parent; to the person they created us to be; to our brothers and sisters, especially the ones we find most inconvenient; and to the glorious canvas upon which all this living art is pouring itself out. Yes, this truth is hard. We struggle against it mightily. But the more we chase freedom, the more we find ourselves in conflict with those whom we are meant to serve. Pick a hot-button issue, dig down to its source, and you will likely find someone struggling to rid themselves of the obligations that bind them to some other element of our family. We crave liberty; and yet over and over again, we end up oppressing everyone, even ourselves. Yes, we can taste and see so many exotic things by rebelling against our calling, but grace will not be among them.

So choose grace, right? Except we all know that grace is oftentimes the last thing we want to taste or see, because it can be bitter and humiliating. I recently began my third year of work as a campus aide at a public middle school. One of my duties is lunch supervision, which includes asking the students to clean up after themselves, and then doing it for them after they inevitably leave their trash behind. So there I was on the first day of classes, sweeping up spilled salad, when this new student wonders aloud about what it is like to be a janitor. I bristled. And then I remembered the real janitor: who gives more of himself than anyone else at that school; who remains kind and joyful, no matter how often his generosity is taken advantage of; who shares his friendship abundantly with children and adults alike; who is a servant in the noblest sense of the word. And I was ashamed. Grace shows us the ugly truth when we choose to ignore our calling, and that is always beautiful. So yes, choose grace.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"To the one who lacks understanding, She says, Come, eat of my food, and drink of the wine I have mixed!" Soon, the bishops of the world will assemble once more to discern how the Church can better serve our family. And of the many hot topics on their agenda, the policy on Eucharist for the divorced and remarried will be among the hottest. My hope is that Wisdom's call still rings in our bishops' ears as they enter into their dialogues. Perhaps then, they will realize that we have turned the bread of life into a trophy for those who have already forsaken foolishness and ignorance, when it is really needed as fuel for those who are struggling on the journey to such a destination. They need Eucharist. We all need Eucharist. So let us help one another to the table, that we might taste and see grace.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

How often do we fail to taste and see our Parent's goodness because we expect grace to be bigger or bolder? Bread and water for a weary prophet. The neighbor kid as incarnation. A simple cross. We do not think of God as ordinary, and that is a shame. For such thinking puts the Divine in a box, a pretty one perhaps but a box nonetheless, only to be experienced on special occasions. It leaves us blindly stumbling through life oblivious to the grace surrounding us, oblivious to the grace within us. So taste and see the goodness of your Lord. It is abundant. It is everywhere. And it is enough.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

"Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life." These words should be in the back of our minds every time we seek to do right by our brothers and sisters. Yes, we must eat and drink to stay alive. And yes, we must make our cultures and societies more just and merciful to keep us all well. None of this, however, is what we truly need. We need to experience grace. And we need to recognize one another as family. But this latter need cannot be fulfilled through our default mechanics of law and politics. Family cannot be mandated or regulated. No, we must choose to have empathy for those siblings who have done us wrong. And then we must choose to love them.

I write these words with recent headlines in mind. Abortion videos. Police misconduct. Trophy hunts for lions, tigers, and bears. Children growing up in seedy motels. Oh my indeed. There is no shortage of evil in this world, and we must do our best to fight it. But we must never be under the illusion that we can fix it. We are called to be the kingdom, not to build one. Sometimes, oftentimes, this will not feel like enough, but it is. Faith, hope, and love are always enough, if we choose them.