Sunday, February 3, 2013

Listening to the Scriptures- examining myself

When it comes to the readings from Scripture for Mass on Sunday I am a big advocate of reading them before turning up for Mass and an even bigger advocate of listening to the readings as they are proclaimed from the ambo, that is, not reading along from a missalette, but sitting or standing and just listening. Reading and listening are different ways of perceiving. It seems to me that most of us could stand to improve our listening skills, but maybe I am projecting.

While attending the Vigil Mass for this Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time last evening, as I was listening to the longer version of the second reading from St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, his "hymn to love," I was struck by these words: "Love... is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:5b-6).

Two things stood out in my mind as I pondered these words, one more general and one uncomfortably personal. Generally, what I was struck by is the fact that in many respects we are not that different from people who lived 2,000 years ago. New Testament scholars tell us that the apostle's First Letter to the Corinthians and his First Letter to the Thessalonians were the earliest books of our uniquely Christian Scriptures to be written, both dating from the around AD 50. The fact that I found this somewhat comforting only serves to show the hold these "not love" qualities exert upon me and my willingness to cooperate. This is a nice segue to the more personal point.

Before Mass I went to confession. Without making a public confession of my sins, these words touched on an area that I would be hard-pressed to point out the last time I did not mention them as part of my confession. Especially at home, I am often quick-tempered and prone to brood over injury, especially in my relationship with my wife. Rejoicing over the wrongdoing of others is another place the Holy Spirit prompted me to check myself, especially since I made the determination to weigh in on the events affecting the Church in Los Angeles.

The publican and the Pharisee

Even before Mass yesterday, I was reminded of something put out by Communion & Liberation back around Easter in 2010, when questions kicked up about the Holy Father's handling of an abusive priest when he was the archbishop of Munich and Freising: "Alongside all the limitations and within the Church’s wounded humanity, is there or is there not something greater than sin, something radically greater than sin? Is there something that can shatter the inexorable weight of our evil? Something that, as the Pope writes, 'has the power to forgive even the greatest of sins, and to bring forth good even from the most terrible evil'?"

To my mind and from the depths of my own heart the only possible answer is "Yes. It is Christ Jesus the Lord."

In the words of St. Silouan the Athonite: "The man who cries out against evil men, but does not pray for them will never know the grace of God." There certainly are evil people in the world, but we are all guilty of committing evil acts and letting evil reside in our hearts. As St. Paul pointed out: "For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22b-23). I don't know about you, but I sometimes comfort myself by rejoicing in the wrongdoing of others, thinking like the pompous Pharisee, who, as he looked at the humbled and contrite publican, prayed, saying- "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector" (Luke 18:9-14). From such blindness deliver us good and gracious Lord.

This brings up a matter that I reflect on often, the relationship between truth and love. As I noted recently in a reflection on a verse from Ephesians, while there can be no love without truth, there can be truth without love, which seems to me exactly the pitfall St. Paul urges us to avoid.

2 comments:

  1. When I heard "brood over injury today", that's what I was thinking. The "injury" has been towards the Church through her Priests. Thats's what I was thinking. Doesn't Jesus 'suffer' anew through his Church and her ministers? We shouldn't be bitter about any of this nor rejoice because we "got rid of him." No, no, no, prayer is the answer here, at least it is for me. I would never insult or rejoice over a Priest's sin because I know who he is. The best thing is prayer. Period. The Church needs it more than ever.

    Hah! I'm a huge reader so I follow along in the missalette. It's easy for me to READ along and LISTEN! :)

    God bless, Deacon! :)

    +Hannah

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  2. I have been thinking that brooding over injury is something that most of us, given our fallen humanity, are prone to do. The Church's injury, brought forth by our wounded humanity, is self-inflicted. Hence, there is not much to brood over apart from our own unfaithfulness. I cannot brood in Christ's place. Because He is perfect, Christ certainly doesn't "brood," but sets about to bring life from death, good from bad.

    I think in his "hymn to love," the apostle is writing about those times we are really injured by someone we love and who loves us. In these relationships injury is bound to be inflicted, or at least perceived. We are to forgive, to let go. This is a big challenge.

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