Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
July 9, 2022
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our Alleluia Verse captures the mixed and even contradictory conditions awaiting a dedicated disciple of Christ:
If you are insulted for the name of Christ,
blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
This brief verse immediately brought to my mind the image of Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof. He had wonderful, faith-filled dialogues with God about his seemingly contradictory “blessings”.
So here’s a snapshot of how I prayed with our verse today:
God: You’re going to be insulted for your faith, but consider it a blessing.
Me: What! Wait a minute! Maybe I’d prefer some more obvious blessings!
God: No, you’re going to be insulted for your faith, but it’s a sign that my Spirit rests upon you.
Me: ….. Crickets
I have been insulted and harassed for my faith, but not too often. Usually that occasional insult has come from a sad or dysfunctional source who caused more harm to themselves than to me.
The greatest insult to my faith has come from within the Church itself. The clerical sex abuse scandals and cover-ups of recent years deeply shook the investment I had made in service of the Church. The revelations mocked the innocent trust I had unquestioningly placed in the institutional Church. They invited public insult toward me and toward all of us associated with that now exposed institution.
Although my pain cannot be compared to the trauma of survivors of abuse, it has been a seismic insult and has forced me to a deeper discernment of my faith. While profoundly painful, this “insult” has, indeed, been a blessing which has helped me to separate my true Catholic faith from any misplaced institutional devotion.
The closing verses of today’s Gospel are both a warning and a pledge for those who commit themselves to Christ:
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.
Poetry: The Break of Faith – Renee Yann, RSM
My father walked with me each day in Lent past neighbors’ homes with names and histories like mine, to church, where laborers in solid faith, received a Host before the Mass began and left to be at work on time. Some days, my father left but I remained secure among the faithful whose religion was a sure as rock. I trusted and believed their saying salvation was reserved for those within the Church, praying at ten or twelve to be like the elite who held the ancient definitions of the God I longed to know. Those devoted people were the heroes of my youth. I beat my breast with secret joy and knelt beside them in the unexamined truth. Some were robed in black and wafted scents of incense and of candle wax that were to me like fine, intoxicant perfume. Through them, I chose the worship of a God who was the slim abstraction of my mind the mute extension of my whim. But my mind is not the tender thing it was. The years have passed and I have hardened to them, like a lone, maturing tree. The deeply venerated guides I loved have journeyed with my father to the pale, expanded universe of memory. That I stand questioning them now is jeopardy against the very pegs that ground my life. I am outside the Church they held for me because it seems a box remote from God, who, with the years, assumed Creation’s face, became a fire in my heart, consuming those securities I designated once as faith. The theologian says we walk in footsteps of a God who comes to us from futures we cannot define. That God of paradox is breaking in my mind like lava breaks from stolid earth to recreate the world. But, with an utterly profound regret, I leave the heroes and the saints of youth behind.
Music: Renouncement – Michael Hoppé