Where do we go when we as a church are caught persecuting ourselves? How do we respond when the aggressor lives within our walls, and when the criticisms of our church are accurate and true? When the enemy of the faith is a hostile outsider, our course seems clear: we fight back, to defend ourselves and our church. But this is a different matter.
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Image: detail from woodblock by Hokusai(?)
You can start over even if you’re not sure God loves you. You can start oven even if you’re not sure He should.
And you don’t have to run. You can shamble over resentfully. You can sidle in doubtfully. You can skulk in with fear, doubt, despair, or even rage. As long as you go because you’re acknowledging that things are not good as they are, then that is good enough. It may not feel like it is enough, but that is what Christ has promised.
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Image: photo credit: trepelu toes (detail) via photopin (license)
Maybe your church is different, but in all my life, I’ve found something to dislike about the music at Mass. When I was little, the freshly post-conciliar church was still struggling in the smothering arms of liturgical silliness, and the music followed suit (a clown suit, to be specific). Then there was the priest who seemed to be trying to swallow the microphone; the warbling cantor who thought she was a soprano despite all evidence; the crazy Poles with their hymns that sounded good, only they didn’t have any vowels in them; and then of course the banjos. Oh, my lord, the banjos.
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Image: An angry woman: 16th C. misericord, the Collegiate Church of Notre-Dame (Collégiale Notre-Dame), Le Puy-Notre-Dame, Anjou, France, photo by Spencer Means via Flickr (Creative Commons)
We have reason to hope that even those little, innocent ones who never had eyes to see the light of day or the waters of baptism will be welcomed into heaven as well, not smuggled in the pockets of a low-ranking god, but recognised and called by name back home by their Father who made them.
Still, we are human. It is not wrong to look for physical reminders of abstract truths.
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Odd for the magi to know enough to prostrate themselves, in their jewels and flowing robes, before the seemingly unremarkable but truly extraordinary son of Mary; odder still, odd times a billion, for that Son to prostrate Himself for us, who are truly unremarkable.
Why? Why would He do this?
Because, to Him, every last one of us is that child who is unlike any other child. Each one of us is cherished like the “little man” who is adorable just because he enjoys eating eggs, or sweet beyond compare just because he has learned to blow kisses, like billions of other babies. To Christ, each of us is that special one, that cherished child, that singularly beloved one who makes his parent’s heart swell with affection.
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Image: detail of photo by Andreĭ Osipovich Karelin, Public Domain
What interests me is how eager so many people were to believe that the sick, twisted, evil of California just got a little sicker, more twisted, and even eviller. There is a very fine line between drawing back in horror and swooping in with glee, and thousands of outraged readers, bloggers, pundits, and shock jocks vaulted right over that line.
Why? Because evil isn’t content with prowling around like a ravening lion, looking to devour this and that. It wants us to sit on the sidelines and cheer it on, munching popcorn as we enjoy the spectacle.
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Trying to tamp down the guilt that rose like a cloud of evil dust, I mentally ran through my week, comparing it to the week that my brothers and sisters have endured in Aleppo. I shouldn’t have bought any presents, I thought. How could I even dare? How can we light our Advent candles and sing “O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel?” We are not captives. We are healthy, wealthy, safe, pampered. Our walls our intact. We are home. Our children are with us, safe and warm in bed. The Syrians, they are the ones who need rescuing, Lord. Lord, isn’t there something I can do?
Read the rest of my latest at The Catholic Weekly here.
Image: By Ahill34 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons