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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Where Is the Cross?

Today's readings discuss fraternal correction, and the necessity of it. They bring us a harsh message, for we all are both called to a higher standard, that being Heaven, and we are all called to help others get there, too, maybe even before we do.

Priests, especially, have a responsibility to get us all to Heaven, as Fr. Schnippel points out in his post today. The reading that got his attention is this one:

Ezekiel 33:7-9

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.

Father Schnippel had his own commentary to offer:

As priests, I think we all need to get back to this, the identity that my path to salvation, to heaven, necessarily involves helping others to get there first! If, especially as a diocesan priest, I am just concerned with my own things, I will be held responsible for the waywardness of the souls in my care.

He's right. I wish all priests realized that. Many do, and they're bucking the Machine, the laity that have laid siege to the parish, insisting on a lateral theology that worships one's neighbor and makes one "feel good" as opposed to living out the TRUE message, which is a difficult thing to do.

For example; today at Mass, hearing these readings, knowing that I fall short, knowing how hard it is to correct a friend in such a way that they are not offended, or living my life in such a way that I don't offend those I love, well, sometimes it's impossible. Today's message is about what love is REALLY about. But at my parish, do you know what the recessional hymn was? Some claptrap about "accepting one another as we are".

No WONDER people leave Mass and don't do anything to change themselves or the world. It's no surprise that no one is convicted of their own sin. There's a HUGE disconnect between the lateral-theology "hymns" compared to the readings we hear and the actual SACRIFICE taking place at the altar! The readings today should convict us in some way, but when the hymns a misguided Music Director has chosen instead focus on "loving and accepting others" with no definition other than a feel-good litany that doesn't indicate any kind of change...the point is being missed. Each and every song today was inspired by "the guy next door", but I have to wonder.

Am I missing something? I thought we were at Mass to worship GOD! I thought that GOD was our audience, and we should be singing to HIM, worshiping and adoring HIM, not the person sitting across the aisle!

Some time ago, a wise priest told me that the reception of only ONE Holy Communion should be enough to turn us into Saints. Why doesn't that happen?

People say that they don't "get anything" out of Mass. Maybe because the music has worked to contradict the readings in such a way that they aren't inspired to change. The readings say one thing, the music tells them "I'm OK, You're OK, We're all OK, let's go on a hayride!"

It's that much straw.

I couldn't stop looking at the crucifix today, though. I kept staring at Jesus, the suffering and death He endured for us...and here we are in His actual PRESENCE singing to each other, ignoring Him, not caring enough that His blood is on OUR hands and we're celebrating ourselves and how awesomely we serve each other.

People think fraternal correction is necessarily judgmental. It isn't. And I've lost friends because of living out my convictions, having to make a choice quite literally between what God asks of us out of love, and my signature on a piece of paper that would cause my friend to die like Terri Schaivo.

My decision was very clear. I called my friend, hoping to be able to explain to her why I had to take my name off the form as her primary proxy in the event she was incapacitated. I was hoping to help her see the death she was asking for, and why I couldn't be a party to it because I loved her too much to let her do that to herself. She wasn't a religious person, although she WAS legitimately a caring soul. She had been there for me through some amazing and difficult times in life. For example, when I graduated from Law Enforcement Skills, a true accomplishment indeed, she was the ONLY PERSON there to witness the occasion. She took me in when I would otherwise have been homeless. When I moved to the Cities, she was my ONLY friend up here. And so, having this conversation with her was more difficult than perhaps you could imagine.

I had gone to the priests who were at my parish at the time, hoping for some pastoral advice in how to have this conversation for which I felt very ill-equipped. I KNEW that my friend would take my need to be removed from this very personal document of hers as a direct attack against her, and was hoping for some advice in how to approach her. The best I got from them was, "You wouldn't let your dog starve, would you?" NO! Of COURSE NOT! But that wasn't my question. The question was HOW to explain this, how to to be pastoral about it. Unfortunately, I didn't know that word at the time.

And perhaps it didn't even matter. There was no discussion. I had to tell her, as gently as I could, that because of my beliefs about life and death and medical ethics, I couldn't be a party to what she was asking. I believed it to be murder. There was no discussion; she demanded that I compromise my values on behalf of her lack of value, and when I gently refused and tried to open the topic for further discussion, she hung up on me.

I know that she was very hurt by what I said, taking it as a personal rejection, which it was not. And I can still hear the "click" and the dial tone, feeling powerless, knowing that her own rejection of me was rejection of God, rejection of life. It's STILL painful, and it OUGHT to be, because THAT'S what makes me continue to pray for her.

That's what today's readings were about. Not accepting others in their sin, but loving them enough to call them on to something better. Something that elevates their dignity to GOD'S DEFINITION of dignity, not our own.

Loving others means not just going to the foot of the Cross and celebrating the Resurrection with those who are present. It means climbing that wood and allowing OURSELVES to be nailed, vilified, humiliated, and abandoned.

If we can't find the Cross in the crowd we're's time to get out of the crowd. If they'll come with us...great. And if they don't no matter how hard we try, well, we entrust them to Divine Mercy.

We have a decision to make; go to Hell because we refuse to help another get to Heaven, or lose an earthly friendship by loving them as God intended, and in the same way that Jesus loved us.

When you look at it in those terms, the decision isn't so hard. Just make sure you have a lot of bandages on'll need them.


Cathy_of_Alex said...

YES,YES AND YES!!!! You've just articulated another reason that much of modern liturgical music leaves me cold. What good is it if it just contradicted the Homily and the Readings? D'uh!

When we correct others there is a fine line between sounding like we are doing it because we care versus sounding like a nag or a know it all.

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Adoro, as usual, you are perceptive and understanding of this on so many different levels. We have gotten to the point where we love to worship ourselves and totally leave God out of our lives. In fact, the Fall of Adam and Eve is as much a reality today as it was when Genesis was written 4,000 years ago. We believe we are already like God, since we have tasted of the "tree of knowledge of good and evil". And our society over the last forty years has done a great job of reinforcing our own self esteem and the requirement that it needs constant "feeding", including at church. Just look at all the kids who have parents that believe they will be the next pro athlete and devote their life to the cause, to the exclusion of quality family and "God" time.

The music discussion sets off a lot of anxiety for me. A friend, who is a Lutheran minister, has talked about her church and of "meeting people where they are". I think this translates to dumbed down liturgies, including expansion into entertainment and music that tugs at the emotions.
I guess the theory is that if you can get "them in", they will become loyal, every week attenders, volunteers and financial contributors. I wonder how often that actually happens.

One of the reasons I'm Catholic and proud of it is that Our Church is confident in its foundation on Christ and the Apostles and knows that it speaks the TRUTH to the world. We don't need to dumb ourselves down to make the world "like us". Although, it appears plenty of parishes do take that approach which I interpret as being the "Spirit of Vatican II", by the type of music you describe, the Father McFriendly interactions and in some cases, fomenting active dissidence.

I have been so fortunate over the last 15 years to be a member at St. Louis, King of France and now the Cathedral. I really feel for you and some of your readers from the suburbs and rural areas who clearly are loyal to your parish and have to put up with some of this liturgical nonsense. As you've probably attended Mass at one or both of the churches I've been a member of, there is a major investment in sound, liturgical music, with choirs, organs and even orchestral accompaniment. I don't ever remember singing the Yoohoo song (On Eagle's Wings). Today, we sang "Praise the Lord You Heavens Adore Him", "Draw Us in the Spirit's Tether" and "Now Thank We All Our Good". You and your loyal readers are always welcome to experience the Cathedral (10 AM is the best Mass, of course) when you need a prayerful Liturgy.

Adrienne said...

At least you have a crucifix. We have an ugly risen Christ. At least He's not on a cross.

Solution? We drive down the road to one of our other parish churches (we are a cluster of three) for the 6pm Mass which has NO music at all. It is so blessedly quiet. We sing an entrance and exit song of Father's choosing plus the Lord's Prayer.

Last time at our home church I sang the Beagle Things words to Eagles Wings all the way up to communion at the top of my lungs and no one even noticed. I knew right then I needed to get away from that music......

Walter said...

What a beautiful post. Keep up the good work.