March 31, 2017
Friday, Lent Week Four
Challenge of the Church's Teachings
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” What this Responsorial (Psalm 34) tells us sometimes appears to be contrary to appearances, especially to unbelievers.
Wisdom 2: 1-22 lists some reasons why many nonbelievers, now as well as then, find even those who are authentically religious “obnoxious.”
1. “They reproach us” for going against the law of God. But we should. We can’t judge people’s consciences, but when something is wrong we should say so.
2. “They profess to have knowledge of God.” Of course. Religion is empty without it. But this is not pride; the knowledge is a gift, not an accomplishment.
3. “Their life is not like others’ — they are different.” In a religious culture it is the nonbelievers who would be different — and they would fight for the right to be so! The emotion here is not consistent with logic
4. They “hold aloof from our paths as from things impure.” The question is, “Are they impure?” The unbelievers “hold aloof” from religious services. So?
5. They “call blest the destiny of the just.” Yes. And since believers aren’t always “blest” by this world’s standards, this calls the standards into question: the core values that unbelievers live for. Someone is a fool.
6. They “boast that God is their Father.” Yes, but it isn’t a boast. It is a gift offered to everyone, and its first effect is humility: “O Lord, I am not worthy.”
The unbelievers’ biggest mistake is to assume God will protect the just from being delivered over to their enemies. Jesus’ crucifixion settled that question. But it only makes sense if there is “a recompense of holiness” after death. The bottom line (omitted in the reading) is: “For God created human beings to be immortal; he made them as an image of his own nature.” Our stand on that governs our answer to everything else. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.”
An advantage to reading Scripture is that it raises all sorts of questions that are tossed about but not really confronted elsewhere. It helps to confront them, getting help from the word of God.
John 7: 1-30: When Jesus calls people to confront the question of his origins — “So you know me...?” — all he explains is, “I was sent.” We can like or dislike, understand or misunderstand all sorts of things Jesus teaches. But the only important question is whether God speaks in him. If he does, belief is settled. All that remains is to try to understand, and ask how to put it into practice. That is the work of disciples.
In a theology exam, the first question asked about every Church doctrine and practice is, “Where does it come from?” Scripture? A Church council? The personal viewpoint of a pope, bishop or scholar? The common consensus of the faithful? Or just unexamined conventional hearsay? To give a doctrine more authority than it has is just as bad as giving it less.
In today’s educated Church, every believer is challenged to ask those questions. If we don’t, we will become a community of blind led by the blind.
Initiative: Be a responsible believer. Know the origin of what you believe and do.