Sunday, March 02, 2008
I used to be blind, but now I see. But through a glass, darkly.
The story of Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus, is my story. And the story of the blind man from today's Gospel, also one of my stories. Truth be told...doesn't this gospel speak to most of us?
I have written of the story in which I was miraculously cured of a major problem with my sight as a little girl. Although I still have major problems, they are not nearly as profound as they would be had Jesus not laid his hands on me, touching me in that profound moment. And as He touched me, He touched others, as witnesses.
It is Jesus who has made me see again, and yet, I still lament my blindness as I seek to understand where and how I have offended Him.
Because blindness isn't just a physical problem, but more importantly, a spiritual one, as highlighted in today's Gospel. There is not a single one of us without sin. Not a single one.
We also hear today of a parish local to me that has been practicing a Gospel not according to Christ....for 20 years. A local columnist, himself claiming to be "Catholic" attends this parish and laments the fact that the Mean Ol' Church has demanded that his parish come under the GIRM before the assignment of their new Pastor who will be there on Divine Mercy Sunday.
I am not going to name the parish, or the city, or the columnist, or the priests involved. I will only say that the priest who has been there has suffered terribly and has BEGGED for help which has finally been heard. And his tears surely have born fruit. And the new priest hasn't even started, some of his flock has not even made his acquaintance, yet in a show of defiance, they are planning to defect in a procession down to their own "church". Let them go and be dramatic about it if they wish.
The parish in question is one that almost had me as a member.
Many years ago, I was living in Minneapolis, and I was not a practicing Catholic. Yet I sought a home. Something was calling me back...perhaps I should say someONE was calling me home. I went to Mass infrequently, and really, was looking for a place I would recognize as "home." A friend of my cousin had told me that this parish was a "good one" and so finally, one Sunday morning I headed over to it and found my way to a pew. I still remember the rainbow flag present in the sanctuary, although I don't think I paid it much attention. The Mass was actually not too bad, just a regular Mass, and that day happened to be Ministry Day. And I was excited because they had a Spanish Mass there. As I had spent a semester in Mexico, and had minored in Spanish, I hoped that maybe this was my home.
So I went into the room with all the ministries and looked around. I remember speaking with a man who was excited at the prospect of a new parishioner, who welcomed me, and encouraged me to find something to sign up for. And truly, I did want to get involved. I truly had a heart to offer...but nothing seemed right.
I couldn't put my finger on it...I could see nothing outright wrong, but I couldn't place my name on anything they had there. And in fact, I left that church in tears, once again feeling homeless. And I didn't understand it. I thought it was me.
It's only been in recent years that I've been able to identify the problem that the Holy Spirit knew at the time. I had a heart willing to learn about Christ and see Him purely, even though my life was far from pure. I had a heart that wanted to serve in truth, even though I didn't know what Truth was.
I had a soul thirsty for sight, even though I thought I knew what sight was.
But the Holy Spirit knew. The Holy Spirit had His hand on me, and directed me away from a source of destruction of my soul. After all, I didn't need any help in that regard...I was doing just fine destroying my soul all on my own. (I still don't need any help with that.)
A friend of mine happened to be present at that parish one day recently and witnessed what it had fallen into: the priest was cast aside like an unnecessary piece of staging equipment. A laywoman handled parts of this endeavor that should only have been prayed by the priest. They read a poem along with a reading, and the entire congregation prayed the prayer of consecration. The wine, to be the Precious Blood of Christ, was served in Kool Aid pitchers, and the Body of Christ...pita bread. Invalid. It was all invalid.
How many people were sincerely seeking Christ, and were given a stone and hyssop in place of the Sacrament of Eternity?
With my roommate at the time, I also visited another nationally-known place of destruction, and was served pita bread. Although I am grateful that Communion was likely invalid...because I was not living in a state of grace, and for once, did not bring destruction upon myself. And in leaving that travesty of "worship", my friend, a radical left-wing liberal pro-choice social worker (who had NOT gone up for communion), said to me, "I guess I'm not as liberal as I thought!"
Even SHE knew that what we had witnessed was not of God. And she was raised without faith, and lived without faith. And complained and ridiculed the faith of others. Yet even she, in all her blindness, saw what was wrong.
We live in a culture of blindness, and if we are not careful, if we do not follow the prompts of the Holy Spirit, we, too, will be drawn into the lies. Yet we should take faith; if even the uninitiated can discern the lies, how much more should we, those who have experienced Christ profoundly, be able to see the light and avoid the darkness?
When my friend spoke, I am ashamed to say that in my heart, I was questioning whether we were there on a bad day, if maybe I should return to see if they did something different. It was my unbelieving friend who called me into reality, who exposed me to the light.
I have no excuse for my blindness; my mother is a Saint on earth, God has touched me and has healed me directly both with regard to my physical sight and in stopping my intended suicide when I was a teenager. I deserve to perish for my disobedience, yet, I have been shown mercy.
We should all remember God's mercy when confronted by the blindness of the world. In many cases, they don't know they are blind. They don't know they have been misled. They don't know that what they do truly hurts the Christ they proclaim.
Would that these dissidents experience the crucifixion of Christ...the good works they do would have that much more meaning and power, and conversions would happen.
We must weep over these separated souls. We must pray for their conversion, for they are part of the mystical Body of Christ, a necessary part fully in the tradition of our Church...yet they choose to focus on the unholy and call it "good". They really are but baby souls, in need of the nourishment they have been denied. Pray for them. Love them. Help them come Home. For we are missing limbs without them, and they are missing souls without us. We cannot exist apart from each other.
It is often lamented that the parishes that are orthodox in spirituality are devoid in social justice. And those parishes devoid in orthodoxy are often bastions of outreach. Why can't both be joined? Why does this separation happen?
The devil rejoices over our internal battles, and the only way to fight this interior blindness of our church is to pray, fast, and remember charity.
The next time you criticize a dissident, remember me. Because I was once one of them, only because I didn't know any better. They are children; and the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Pray them back into the Church, for one day, these dissidents will be the ones caring for you when society casts you aside.