Monday, July 3, 2017

O BEAUTIFUL FOR PILGRIM FEET





 I try to focus on what I love rather than what I hate; on what's to celebrate instead of what's to bemoan; on the positive rather than the negative.

That is not through any native virtue of my own. It's because I am built down to my DNA to pick out what is scary, bad, or substandard in the other, in life. Left to my own devices, I would bitch and moan the whole day through.

This morning--the Feast of St. (Doubting) Thomas,  I was praying the Office and came across Psalm 64:

"Hear my voice, O God, as I complain,
guard my life from dread of the foe.
Hide me from the band of the wicked,
from the throng of those who do evil."

The word "complain" jumped out at me. Com=with. Plain clearly from plant, plea, Maybe complain means to bewail with, lament with.

I've been to three Masses recently at which we sang, without comment, without irony, "America, the Beautiful." Let's wave the flag, in other words, and pretend everything is great. Let's pretend that God actually approves of unbridled greed, unbridled militarism, unbridled narcissism, and willful blindness. That we are doing this before the altar on which Christ was crucified strikes me as close to blasphemy.

In yesterday's Gospel Christ said, "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it...And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because the little one is a disciple--amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward." [Matthew 10:37-42 was the whole reading].

In his homily, the priest at the mega-wealthy suburban parish I happened to be attending said, "I don't need a drop of water from you. I don't have to beg."  Well you are not a person of Christ then, I thought. He went on to speak of his incredibly popularity and how the way actual people in today's world show their love is by giving money, not an unnecessary and really mortifying drop of water. He gave the stats on how financial contributions had risen in the three years since he took over. He spent fifteen minutes describing the newly varnished pews, the lighting in the parking lot, the remote controls for the computers. He did not once mention Christ.

Then we sang "America, the Beautiful."

Driving back home, I thought, "I was thirsting and that priest did not have it in him to give me or any of us a single drop of real, living water."

In general, I subscribe to "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

But Christ himself, when appropriate, called a spade a spade. He called the Pharisees whited sepulchres. He chased the money-changers out of the temple. Cooperating with a lie never leads to "the fullness of charity," one of my favorite phrases in the Eucharistic Prayers.

That I share many of the unsavory character traits of any person whose behavior I abhor doesn't mean I'm not also called to evaluate that behavior. And anyone who truly loves his or her country has to be appalled at the moment beyond measure.

To that end, here's my recommended 4th of July reading: today's piece by NYT columnist Charles Blow entitled "The Hijacked American Presidency,

The good news is I am at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony for the week--and not a moment too soon for some much-needed silence and solitude.


PURPLE MOUNTAIN' MAJESTIES
TEMECULA, CA







5 comments:

  1. Hi, Heather. "America, the Beautiful" was the opening hymn at our (Methodist) church yesterday. I stood, but I didn't sing.
    Cousin Kirk

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  2. Wow - that homily is hard to believe. I think you are right that we should "judge righteous judgment," or at least take note when the well is unrighteously dry, first of all so we don't forget what normal is, and start denying our need for the fountain of living water.

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  3. Sometimes people need a cup of cold water... in the face. The Church is supposed to teach the nations, not the other way around. And I think that means, at the very least, being _prepared_ to give up our tax breaks, our air-conditioning, and our pew varnish to stand up for divine and natural law. A and I are celebrating today by visiting the Spanish Camp and the grave of Dorothy Day. Thinking of you, -Matt

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  4. Thanks, folks. As I replied to a reader who privately emailed this morning:

    America--our landscape, our people--IS beautiful. It wasn't the song in and of itself that bothered me (although as St. Francis of Assissi said, "Do you think God cares only for Italy?"). It was the priest's (and often the Church at large's) failure to distinguish between the "American" values of success, property, money and prestige and the very different values of a follower of Christ. If we have nothing to offer the person who is is hungering and thirsting for righteousness other than the values idolized by secular culture, how are we going to evangelize! And how are we to encourage the very fallen, very weak lost lambs such as myself to live lives of inner poverty, chastity, humility, charity and obedience?"..

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  5. I'm struggling to fit the words "Trump himself (is) the offense"... "everything that springs from him (is) the offense," and now paraphrasing, everyone who supports any part of his agenda, because it's his, is the offense into the fullness of charity.

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