Sunday, 22 April 2012

The point of the argument?

Mark 15:40-42

There were women watching from a distance, among them Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women followed and *served him, and had come up with him to Jerusalem.

*in the Greek - diekonoun - to minister; as the angels ministered in the desert.
The root assumed to be from the phrase to be 'covered in dust' as the busy servant, follower or disciple would be; leading to the title of 'deacon'.
The only person named as a deacon in scripture is Phoebe (Romans 16:1) 

Much as I hate to go to the foot of the cross there is something in the air that has brought me back. 

Recent reports regarding the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has created an incredible air of debate, discussion and argument  flying across the airways of social network and blogging sites. 

The rights (and rites) and wrongs of the Catholic hierarchy is a never-ending debacle of trying to impose a institutional rule that seems based on prejudice, discrimination, fear of the modern world and a strangely perceived bias on what the Gospel is all about. 

And there I am going to put my hand over my mouth. 

Because the result of all this furore is often simply not good for me. 

When I first began studying scripture and seriously considering my faith and my adult relationship with God in all His/Her aspects I quickly became guilty of two great shames -

Firstly, the shame of enlightenment - that I, a cradle Catholic, had such a limited view of God that had been handed to me through school and church and that I had never thought to find out about for myself. The reaction to this; to discovering the Gospels; the theologies of liberation, gender and social justice; to the challenges of realising a Kingdom that is 'now here' rather than 'nowhere'  inspired me. Inspired me to start writing as I do now - or rather not as I do now - and to the recognition of the call to minister - which of course has its own limitations in the Catholic Church.

The other shame - and the greater - was the power that I assumed this knowledge gave me. As you can see from the notes on the Gospel above - I can build an argument about anything - from my viewpoint - and I did. And I took on an imagined mantle of opening the eyes of others to the world that God wanted and I did it in the simple belief that I was right.  I imagined that  if I couldn't be a priest then at least I could talk the talk as good as one. 

Even now I am embarrassed by this admission. 

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this came to a head in a protracted on-line discussion with a course colleague in the States. We were as far from each other theologically and faith-fully as it would be possible to be and both just as good at justifying our opinion. It seems, now, as though this discussion went on forever - it was about two weeks - and I brought it, filled with fire, to my meeting with my Spiritual Director. I was asked 'Have either of you mentioned Jesus in what you've been writing?' I had to admit I hadn't; I hadn't even thought about him;  it had all been about Church, doctrine; quotes by theologians; arguments by radicals - oneupmanship vs oneupwomanship over and over again. 

Where was Jesus; where was Love; where was forgiveness; where was compassion; where was reconciliation? It was back in 'nowhere'.

Since then I try, I try, to put those questions against whatever I say and whatever I write. My faith may be considered radical but it cannot be cruel;it cannot belittle others; it cannot be jury and judge; it cannot stand on a pedestal.

The women in the Gospel, the apostles and all those unnamed disciples of no account are the body of the Church; they are the people who sought to built a church 'united in conviction and united in love, with a common purpose and a common mind' (Phillippians 2:2) -  they are my brothers and sisters; the saints that go before me. And we  are, all of us, scrambling to walk in the dust of Jesus' footprints.

And because of this, when I hear with dismay of actions taken within the Church; I will read; I will ask questions; I will listen to what people think; I will try to speak out of love and not division; I will pray for the discernment to understand God's hand in it - and when all I can do is love - then I'll do that - in fact I'll do that first. In Jesus' name.

Prayer of St Francis 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.



claire said...

Good post, Word.
Ah, how I wish I could sit with you, a mug of coffee or tea in hand, and talk at length about these things.
I think you and I see the Catholic world very much from the same angle.
For some strange - and blessed - reason, I have been protected from discussions and disagreements over the state of the Catholic Church...
My mother-in-law used to say that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference. I am not sure whether I feel indifferent toward our hierarchy or just numb...
As far as I know, it is no longer looking to the Beatitudes as its North star. So we no longer look in the same direction, while each calling ourselves Catholic.
C'est la vie. This situation may change. John XXIII may come under another guise, and I will be the first one to rejoice and join the throngs :-)

Blessings, o blessed one :-)

Word in the Hand said...

O blessed one - I am with your mother-in-law on indifference. And with Jesus on the Beatitudes - as difficult as they are to follow. Ron Rolheiser made a comment that an authority that lives by the Ten Commandment cannot easily live by the Beatitudes - they are the 'step too far'.
Who knows what the Holy Spirit has in mind - maybe there are many John XXIII's around the world?
A mug of coffee would be very welcome :)

claire said...

To the day we have a coffee together! :-)

Word in the Hand said...

may take more than one ((claire)) blessed be

log said...

I always pray that the Holy Spirit will fill people with Her gifts and fruits and lead them to the enactment of the Beatitudes. I got this from Rolheiser and Keating et al. The St Francis prayer is a most beautiful expression of this sentiment. As catholics we are sadly lacking in the beatitudes and I believe that Jesus tells us, as in Marks gospel, to just do it and ignore the institution. Sadly when people do the work, the institution tries everything to stop them as in liberation spirituality. We have to walk in faith hope and love with integrity. Gosh that's hard!! Lovely posts. Thank you.+x

Word in the Hand said...

it's all we can pray for- we can change ourselves (and maybe not even that - we offer ourselves to be changed by God) - we can't change others - that is all the workd of the Holy Spirit. Prayers indeed

log said...

God I offer myself to thee to build with me and to do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of thy power thy love and thy way of life. May I do thy will always. (step 3 prayer)

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character that stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength as I go out from here to do thy bidding. Amen. (step 7 prayer)

Word in the Hand said...

Amen to them - maybe I should do the Steps reflections again with the Gospels?

log said...

That would be great. Thank you Mairie.+x