Father David's Reflection for Friday of Week Twenty-Four (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial (Matthew 5:3 and Psalm 49) gives the key to openness and its fruit: “Blessed the poor in
spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
In 1Timothy 6:2-12 Paul insists that whoever does not hold to “the sound doctrines of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching proper to true religion” should be recognized as “both conceited and ignorant.” And “sick with passion for polemics and controversy.” “From these come... dissension, slander, evil, suspicions.” Who comes to mind?
In the Gospels the group that wins hands down are the Pharisees.
They were the ones who took it on themselves to attack the teaching of those they considered unorthodox. Like Jesus. They took issue with everything he said that was not the viewpoint of the recognized teachers, the “scribes.” They were the most entrenched in their opinions. They were not ignorant of the Law, but they were closed to its spirit. Their counterpart today would be people who can quote all the basic handbooks and lists of rules, but who are all the more adamant in their opinions for not having read any current books on liturgy or theology—except those written to refute them. If they did read any of the sixteen Documents of Vatican Council II, it was not with a sense of discovery, trying to capture the vision and spirit of those who wrote them, but with the critical eye of revisionists seeking proof that they never meant what everyone who was around at the time understood them to mean, especially the bishops who signed them and the commissions appointed by the Vatican to implement them.
“Such people value religion only as a means for personal gain.” We hesitate to say this about anybody. But whenever a person attacks or defends any position or practice in the Church, Paul is saying we have to look at the “side effects” of the position the person is defending.
“Side effects” are things that are not religion as such, but things people derive from it that they see as benefits: things according to their personal taste.
There is usually value in them. For example, both communal enthusiasm and quiet absorption in individual prayer have value in Mass. But in celebrating Eucharist the question is not, “In which do I find more personal gratification?” We need to put that issue aside and ask first, “What is the Mass? What do the Council documents, the bishops, the theologians, and liturgists say the Mass is supposed to be? What do they say we should do there?” What does “full, active, conscious participation” involve? If we seek authenticity instead of “personal gain,” we will find they come together—and the Mass will “come together” for us.
To the extent we “value religion” as a means to “personal gain” from its side effects, we may fight blindly against teaching or practices we perceive as threatening without even inquiring about “the sound doctrines of our Lord... and the teaching proper to true religion.” This is the infidelity of the Pharisees
Initiative: Be poor in spirit. Recognize your void. Be open to all that can fill it