Thursday, September 13, 2018

Daily Mass musings

It's been three years since I stopped going to daily Mass, almost to the week. But I'm back! And nearly every day so far this week, something in the first reading has struck me as worthy of further reflection. And hey! I have a defunct blog I can resurrect, no strings attached, wooo!
Monday, from 1 Cor 5:
Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough,
inasmuch as you are unleavened.
For our Paschal Lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast,
not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
A friend pointed out recently that one problem with the "all the US bishops resign collectively" plan is that, whoever's resignations are accepted, they'll just be replaced with somebody else cut from the same cloth. No, we need a breath of fresh air. I would like for us to have new yeast, but until that's available, we'll have to make do with (we'll have to get to a place where we can manage with) unleavened bread. Healing/changing the underlying culture of secrecy and cover-up is the priority.
Tuesday, from 1 Cor 6:
Brothers and sisters:
How can any one of you with a case against another
dare to bring it to the unjust for judgment
instead of to the holy ones?
Heh, that's a dream! St Paul goes on to say about how "we will judge angels," so "why not everyday matters?" and like, yeah, that's a great ideal, Pauley, except that circumstances have shown us wildly unable to police ourselves, especially when it's those doing the judging who are the worse offenders.
(Yes, I find the cover-ups of the abuses to be a more heinous crime than the abuses themselves. Not more acutely painful to individual victims, but more problematic, more systemic, more broadly harmful, harder to fix.)
He goes on:
Why not rather put up with injustice?
Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?
Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the Kingdom of God?
Oh, St Paul! Did you have any idea how many generations of people would use these words to spiritually abuse God's children? I mean, Scripture itself witnesses that its own words can be twisted (see Satan tempting Jesus in the desert), but how heartbreaking it is to hear these words and remember how many friends I've had to talk into recognizing their own dignity, their own worth in God's eyes!
Humility is a tricky virtue. "Seeing yourself as God sees you" is the definition that has always stuck in my memory—that means both the good and the bad, folks! But that's just the first problem. I've long favored a distinction between supernatural humility and natural (or ordinary) humility, which I think I keyed into after hearing one too many talks on St Louis de Montfort's 10 Virtues of Mary.
Supernatural humility is like when St Thérèse was washing dishes, and the sister washing with her had a knack for splashing the dirty water on Thérèse. Thérèse happily accepted this mortification—not because she was a horrible sinner and she deserved it (although yes, we all are, though it's important to simultaneously remember our  infinite worth as Children of God), but because this was a terrible annoyance that she could quietly offer up to her Beloved.
Ok, that's all well and good, but it never teaches Sister Splashy to be more considerate of others, which is a good and normal thing that we're all in a position to do, and that we're all rather called to do. Ordinary humility would, in that circumstance, kindly ask the other sister the be more careful—ideally, not out of one's own annoyance but out of a desire to help the other sister to be better, and even out of an understanding that one does not deserve to be so degraded.
Ok, I'm back, getting off the soapbox now. On to Wednesday, from 1 Cor 7:
In regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord,
but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy....
Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation.
Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife.
Ah, this passage! The place I have most frequently heard people disagree with Scripture! "Well, we're allowed to, St Paul says so right there; it's his own personal opinion." As someone who's been looking for a husband for over ten years now, I obviously disagree with Paul's prudential judgment here, think he was a bit too wrapped up in the apocalypticism that expected the second coming within months or decades, not centuries or millennia.
But this "permitted disagreement" just puts me in mind of the previous day's passage, which has so often been used to bully others in Jesus' name. "Why not rather put up with injustice?" Because it depends on your motivation. Are you doing so because you feel stuck, worthless, like a doormat? Because someone else is telling you have to (even if getting out of a bad situation is within reach)? That's not the way the saints suffered. The saints willingly accepted above-and-beyond torment (often because no alternative was available), knowing that they deserved more, deserved better. Accepting the lies of your abuser is NOT the same as enduring suffering for the Kingdom. Even if your abuser is "only" gaslighting you; that's still toxic, and you still deserve better.
Today's passage, from 1 Cor 8, doesn't have an easy clip to quote, but it's talking about scruples (the plague of our era, although clearly not our era alone).
Paul is saying: No, obviously there's nothing objectively wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols; idols are dumb and honestly not all that important. Buuuut some of your brethren really aren't strong enough yet to see that. Give them time, help them get there. But also, don't scandalize them by eating idol-meat in front of them. Be patient with their scruples.
This is fascinating to me, esp as I've grown less and less patient with scrupulosity and its causes. It makes sense, as patience and repeated gentle pushing of boundaries that one knows to be ridiculous even though they feel perfectly reasonable are the only methods I've really seen to be helpful in the fight against scruples (along with the support of loved ones, of course). But it just never clicked until today, not reeeeally, that St Paul is here both railing against scruples and giving a moral injunction to be kind to those suffering from them. How very gentle yet firm; how lovely.
Anyhow! Those are my two cents. (That's way more than two. My seventeen cents, perhaps?) Who knows? Maybe I'll blog again tomorrow; maybe I'll blog again in two more years. Proooobably it'll be somewhere in between, but I hold myself to absolutely no standard here. (Very freeing.)
PS – If I do come back to this any time soon, I'll have to update that header. It's not quiiiite right any longer...

1 comment:

  1. A couple of comments:

    1) re: the bishops all resigning -- it would be overall and above a good thing for many reasons you and I both likely agree with. The practical matter, however, is they won't all resign, and the ones that don't are likely to be the worst offenders.

    2) Re: Paul's directive to tolerate injustice I think was more of a personal decree, i.e., we should tolerate injustice unto ourselves individually. I've never read this to mean we should tolerate injustice towards others. I've never personally been affected by the abuse scandals, and I've been serving mass on and off for 30 years. Nor are any such abuses to friends and family known to me (not saying it didn't happen, just no one has told me). But the correct response to the widespread problem is anger towards the perpetrator, and as you point out, those in power that allowed it to happen, happen again, and keep happening with nary a concern about the faithful.

    But maybe my reading of 1 Cor is wrong.


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