Sunday, September 04, 2005

Devil's Advocate Wonderings

Saturday evening prayer here at the monastery is First Vespers of Sunday, so for the reading we use the Gospel for Sunday followed by a reflection written by one of the sisters.

Tomorrow's Gospel is Matthew 18:15-20; I've excerpted the first part here:
Jesus said to his disciples: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector."

The first reading, Ezekiel 33:7-9 was referenced in the reflection, and also raised my question:
Thus says the LORD: You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me. If I tell the wicked, "O wicked one, you shall surely die," and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself.

The sister's reflection was addressing the whole idea of being a prophet, following up on Jeremiah's "You duped me, Lord" from last week (which I'll comment on later), and how basically the job of prophet is not a happy one. In the Judeo-Christian faith tradition, prophesy has less to do with "telling the future" as much as raising awareness of the things that are not-quite-right.

And so I found myself wondering about my post from a few days ago, wherein I was taking issue with the idea that New Orleans "deserved" the hurricane because of the sinfulness permitted by those who live in the city. But how do I reconcile that with a Gospel passage where Jesus says that we must point out the sins of our brothers, even publicly if that is necessary. And then to see Ezekiel, where we are told that if we do not "speak out to dissuade the wicked" that we are responsible for their sin .....

As I talked to my students the other day about the posting on Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, I pointed out (unfortunately only to some of my classes, because it didn't hit me until later in the day) that, in some respects, I'm no better than Marcavage. After all, I'm standing in front of these kids, judging this guy for the fact that he judged others. Plus, it's not like the Catholic Church necessarily has the best track record for tolerance sometimes. The whole thing of "the one true faith and everyone else is going to hell"? Granted, that's mostly a thing of the past (for many people, anyway), but they're still kinda hedgy about it sometimes. But that people with homosexual tendencies (who we are supposed to love -- it's the action that's supposed to be bad) are potentially not going to be allowed in the seminaries (even though neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals should be having sex as a priest, thus leaving the potentially-problematic behavior thoroughly out of the picture)?

So I'm condemning this guy for condemning others ... because I'm following the teaching of "love" and he's following the teaching of "tell him his fault." But, of course, how well am I following the teaching of love here myself?

But Jesus did hang out with the sinners and women and [GASP] Samaritans. He did like the tax collector in the back of church far more than the self-righteous Pharisee up front (Luke 18:10-14). He did tell us "Judge not, lest ye be judged." But, at the same time, he also overturned the tables at the temple because of what they were doing. He also talked about sorting out the sheep from the goats.

And then I notice the second reading, from Paul's Letter to the Romans: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law ... Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

No, I don't agree in any way with Marcavage, because I don't believe in an angry, vengeful, smiteth-ing God. But at the same time, I wouldn't really complain if God wanted to smiteth those who think we deserve natural disasters.

And so I have to wonder .... am I really any better than him? Any more "Christian"? Quite frankly, I'm not so sure.


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