Thursday, January 07, 2010

Death of a feminist

I put in a search for catholic news and heard of the death of Mary Daly. I've never heard of her before this obituary. Her story makes her seem like she could be among a list of catholic theologians who decided the church needed to be more of a theological buffet: choose what you want to believe. It made me think about the fact that the immediate post Vatican II generation really are dying. It will be interesting to see what it means as this dissident generation begins to die off. What will happen to the church? As long time readers know, I think we're set to get a little smaller. We're going to have to shed the dissident element in order to live.

There's two persistent issues that come about because of this. The first is that we need to remain a church of the academy. Even as we rebuild respect for tradition, we have to keep listening to the signs of the times and responding. And we can't just be pejorative. We must be respectful and incorporate what's good.

Secondly, we have to figure out how to be charitable. Many of these people have spent a lifetime getting rid of the very traditions we are bringing back (adoration, "smells and bells", clerical dress, etc.). We have to treat them charitably even as we celebrate finally being able to take Vatican II seriously and not just its spirit.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The way we blow God’s millions is by NOT using them.

My Dear brothers and sisters in Christ

Grace and Peace to you in God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as we continue to celebrate this great Christmas season. Have you ever heard of the film Brewster’s Millions? It’s a few years old by now but I really like it even though I’ve never actually been able to sit through the entire film before because I’m so fascinated by the idea of it. The premise of the movie is that a rich millionaire wants to leave his fortune to his only surviving relative, played by Richard Pryor. But, in order to earn the $300 million dollars the relative is offering, he has to conspicuously waste $30 million dollars in the course of a month. So, for instance, at one point in the film Pryor buys a rare stamp worth several hundred dollars. But, in order for him to waste his investment, he uses the rare stamp to mail a letter. My problem with watching this film is that I start to think about what I would do to waste the money. There were restrictions on how much charitable income that he could give away so I couldn’t just give it all to the Love Your Neighbor Fund that we have established here in the parish or Catholic Charities, for instance. It’s kind of a difficult prospect when you really think about it.

Epiphany Sunday is a time when we remember a unique visitation in the life of Jesus. While still laying in the manger, the gospel writer Matthew tells us that some astrologers from the east came to him with gifts and laid them at the feet of the Lord, gold, frankincense, and myhrr. Several traditions surrounding the story have developed that kind of distract us from the real message of the story. The real point the gospel writer is driving at is not the number or names of the magi or what each gift symbolizes. The Gospel writer is giving us a two fold message. Firstly, this was prophesied in the first reading. We heard in the first reading…

Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.

But, the Gospel writer immediately realizes the problem. According to the Prophet, this was to take place in Jersusalem. But, it didn’t take place there, instead it took place ten miles away, in Bethlehem. That’d be like someone telling the people of Ames to prepare for something great and it taking place in Nevada instead. That’s why the gospel writer makes it seem like all of Jerusalem are just as angry with the Magi as Herod is with them. It’s only after they look into a different prophet, Baruch, that they realize that the birth was to take place in Bethlehem and that it would benefit Jerusalem. But, for the gospel writer, this is the ultimate statement that God is not just going to work in Jerusalem but is starting to let his light shine in other places as well.

The other message the gospel writer is driving home is that the world’s riches will be at the service of God. The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh symbolize this. The gospel writer was not trying to say in any way that, by believing in Jesus, we will become rich. It merely means that we will have gifts to share with others, spiritual gifts. That’s also what Paul was talking about in the second reading when he used that often abused term stewardship. We have been given a great treasure in Jesus Christ who has made the possibility of salvation open to the whole world. And, like Brewster’s millions, the more we use them, the more we will get. In this parish, we have a program that we affectionally call DOG. It’s an acronym for Discerning Our Giftedness. This program is a process of prayerfully and analytically discerning what you like to do and what you do well and then figuring out how you can use those gifts to build up society and our church. We’ll start a new session soon and I encourage anyone who wants to be able to be of more service or anyone who feels like they’re too involved and need to figure out what they need to give up to join.

The three magi were willing to put their gifts at the feet of the Lord. I’m not sure they could have known that, in so doing, they were fulfilling decade’s old prophecy. We also need to put out gifts in service of the church. What gifts is God calling you to lay at his son’s feet.