Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday of Holy Week (A message for the Falling Away)

I normally spend time reflecting on the Gospels but I thought that, for this reflection, I might make use of the Psalm. Here it is:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
When evildoers come at me
to devour my flesh,
My foes and my enemies
themselves stumble and fall.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart will not fear;
Though war be waged upon me,
even then will I trust. 
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

I do not entertain any delusion that very many fallen-away Catholics read my blog. Nevertheless, I do know that some Falling Away Catholics I write this for them.

Today's Psalm recognizes that, very often in life, we are beset on all sides by dark forces. The second verse certainly sounds more like something out of an George Romero "Night of the Living Dead" film than it does something lifted from Holy Writ! We see in the papers the absolutely idiotic ramblings of a Belgian Bishop or the continuing reports of mendacious activity on the part of the Church's hierarchy, we know of priest scandals and myopia in regard to theologians with Elizabeth Johnson, and we grow frustrated and disgruntled and say: the Hell with it. 

And I agree with you: The Hell with it all.

When we talk about hell, which I do believe exists, we are stating that we believe humans can choose through theirs lives - deeds and words - to render themselves enemies of God. That is to say nothing more than that God offers us an entire lifetime to sing on key with His creative melody and, if we don't get on board, we don't have to join in with the eternal symphony. We are not annihilated, we are not tortured, we are simply given in Hell what we want: eternal isolation to sing the melody the way we want to sing it. 

For the Falling Away, I encourage you to say "The Hell with the nonsense, the Hell with with corruption." To recall a line from Network, it's time to go to the windows and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!" But I ask that you do not vote with your feet. That you are hurt, and angry, and disgusted means that you are very much concerned with preserving the 'light and salvation' that your heart yearns for. Sometimes it feels like it'd be better if we ran and kept ourselves pure, or unscathed, rather than risk engaging any longer with an organization that has such a manifestly crummy track record. 

I ask that you stay because we need you. We need people who have walked through the grief and anger of disenchantment but who cling resolutely to the belief that this is Christ's Church and that, damnit, we can see it through. Our enemies may be tearing at our flesh, but we keep walking because we believe we have been baptized to walk as we walk, that we have been fed by the Body and Blood of Christ Jesus who gives us the strength and the hope that we can, and will, make it to the Eternal Banquet.

"The Hell with it all." But not with each other. All of the corruption and silliness and pettiness, the prejudice and discrimination you rightly bristle at: the Hell with it. Because that is where it belongs: Hell. Isolated from God, set apart from the Creator. These are things that we need to fight against as sisters and brothers so that we can, some day, gather around the Lord's Table and feast with one another. If you leave, if you abandon now, who will fight? Who will remain? If not you, then who?

My word for those who feel themselves in a Free Fall from the Church...please, hang on. I'm not concerned with numbers. I'm not concerned with full churches. I am concerned that the love you have for the Church, the love that is being tested severely, not be lost and re-directed when the Church needs all the love she can get right now. I ask you to stay because there is hope, even though it is dark right now, and I believe in the Resurrection and that life will conquer death, that goodness will triumph over evil. What is good and holy will endure and what is not will, eventually, pass away. I encourage you to endure.

My falling friends, I ask that you bring your voices to this Holy Week. Take courage and know that you are not alone. Bring your voices, tired though they may be, and sing out. Bring your hunger for justice and for the Eucharist and approach the Lord's Table. Do not forget your hurt, your pain, or your scars...bring them, for that is what makes you who you are. Yet do not let your hurt define you. Do not become so closed-off due to anger that you fail to see the light of hope and salvation that dances and plays at the horizon. Walk with us this Holy Week, through Christ's Passion and Death, so that we may all together rejoice in the Resurrection when God's promise to each of us is revealed fully in the broken and scarred yet glorified body of Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Powerful words - and not just for the Falling Away. Yet another reason why you have had such a profound influence on so many of your students.