Thursday, March 19, 2009

Placing the Christian scandal before the world

With his letter, A Mercy Challenging Us, Fr. Julián Carrón has, indeed, challenged me, that is, my hard-heartedness, my desire to be right and my zealotry for justice. This is just one event in an entire Lent that has become for me, even if reluctantly and unexpectedly, a springtime. It is a time of new, if painful, growth and, God-willing, maturity. I have been challenged by these simple and direct words of this man, this priest, who I both love and follow. I have been challenged by the Christian scandal both with regard to the Holy Father's merciful gesture towards the Society of Saint Pius X and by the stance in favor of life taken by the His Excellency, Archbishop José Cardoso Sobrinho, O. Carm., of the Archdiocese of Olinda e Recife, in the heart-breaking case of the 9 year-old rape victim. The stances necessitated by Love in both of these instances place, as Fr. Carrón writes, "the Christian scandal before the world". Referring to the letter written by the Holy Father to the world's bishops in the wake of the uproar caused by his merciful act, Carrón says that when you read it "it is difficult for the words of Jesus not to come to mind: 'Blessed is he who does not take scandal at me,' addressed to those who were angered because he ate with tax-collectors and sinners." I have been guilty of taking scandal as to the response to these cases. I am grateful to those few whose patience and kind corrections have not only challenged me, but who have been witnesses of the One I seek to follow. Indeed, as Fr. Carrón writes:

"Only mercy challenges our hard-headedness like no other reprimand. Jesus said that he who is forgiven much, loves much. Man is sensitive to no other gesture as he is to mercy. After all, it was the method Jesus used, as St. Paul recalls, 'When we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' The Pope’s letter affirms that 'the overriding priority is to make God present in this world,' an incarnate God whose name is 'mercy,' who shows himself by means of the 'unity of the believers.'"

The hardened crust that encased my heart was cracked last night when I read the first and last items published in the current issue of Traces. This monthly publication of CL seems to arrive at the moment I need clarification. The editorial on page one begins, "There are moments when the impact of reality becomes more violent. Think of the barbarities surrounding the case of Eluana Englaro, the thunder of war in the Middle East, the grip of the economic crisis. They seem to be placed there on purpose, all together, to shake us with their reverberations. In these cases, the normal effect is a reaction and, in many ways, this is rightly so." The editorial goes on to say that our reactions are good signs that we have not grown numb. Nonetheless, a reaction is not "enough fill the heart". These events issue us a "deeper challenge". While we must stand-up, using all the methods and tools and at our disposal, this is still not enough. "We need Christ, and witnesses who make Him present." This is not "just a spiritual discourse". It is "exactly the opposite". It is the opposite of empty, pious, pie-in-the-sky "spiritualism" because "it doesn't make you abandon the battle, but rather, it makes you enter the field with even more will to fight. It makes you enter into the heart of problems with more acumen, taking into account all the factors. Even more important, it frees you from fear, making you certain and thus free, because hope, the one hope, is only born from the certainty that He exists".

Then, at the very back of this issue, page 52 to be exact, in his Inside America column, Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete writes that "it is clear that, without faith in Christ, violence is done to reality, to our humanity, even when pursuing the most noble ideas. Without Christ, human life is cruel.

"But why don't we say this publicly? Why are we afraid to say these things publicly?

It makes me think of Fr. Giussani's answer to T.S. Eliot's question about whether man has abandoned the Church or whether it is the Church that has abandoned man. Both are true, Giussani said. And when asked when the Church abandoned man, he replied: 'When it became afraid to proclaim Christ.'

"Today, we are living the consequences of this fear of proclaiming the fact of Christ. At the same time, the painful circumstances through which our society is living now represent a wonderful opportunity to proclaim Christ, this time without the fear of saying that without Christ human life is cruel. In the name of Man, let us proclaim Christ. Only He is."
May we, like the first Christians living in Rome, who Albacete points to as our example, "not seek protection from [our] culture." Rather, let's engage "with it at all of its levels," thus humanizing it by "inserting into it [our] experience of the dignity of the person, the greatness of reason, and the possibility of mercy and forgiveness." This does not happen, as the editorial points out, "as the result of political strategies, but as a fruit of [our] efforts to respond to [our] encounter with Christ- that is, as the fruit of [our] faith."

With all that, I want to draw attention to Marie's lovely post Love bids us, give it up.

3 comments:

  1. This is beautiful. I appreciate the way you struggle and don't hold back until you get the answer that satisfies.

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  2. I am blessed and grateful to have so many companions, like you, Fred, Suzanne, Alex, and my little SofC, and many others who witness to me, making known to me again and again the only answer that satisfies. Anyone who knows me is aware that I require a lot of patience.

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  3. What Sharon said. Her comment says everything I was thinking when I clicked on this comment. Thank you both for plunging into this matter!

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