Monday, July 23, 2012

Trying God

I'm in a bad mood this morning.  Why?  Because it's Monday?  Because I'm crabby?  Because I got out of bed?

It's because my wife had me read the daily Mass readings to her.

***

Let me explain, first by talking about the future - next weekend.

At the American Chesterton Society Conference in Reno, Nevada next week I will be talking about Chesterton and Shakespeare, and at one point I will say ...

Whether you like Shakespeare or not (a lot of people don't); whether you like Chesterton or not (all of us, I presume, do); whether you'd rather read a book or watch a movie or just have dinner with your friends, you cannot begin to understand life - you cannot begin to be grateful for life - you cannot begin to approach life - until you learn how to read - how to read a book, how to read a play, how to read a movie, how to read your friends, how to read the Great Book of Being written by and filled by the Incarnate Word of God.

One of the ways religion has become a parody of itself in the modern world is because of a basic and simple illiteracy - an inability to read Scripture and understand the very first thing it's saying.

***

So today's first reading is from Micah 6:1-8.  Now normal people are about as fond of the Old Testament as they are of Shakespeare.  So I'll help.  I'll paraphrase what God is saying through the prophet Micah.  You can read Micah 6:1-8 yourself  (please do), and you'll see that my paraphrase is pretty accurate.  God is saying this ...
OK, if you want to fight, let's fight.  You have a beef against me?  Fine, let's air it.  Let's have a trial - a trial before God and everybody.  I'll present my case against you, and you'll present your case against me, and we'll let the hills and valleys listen in. 

Here come da judge!  The trial begins. 
Present your case - what have I done to you?  How have I victimized you?  Come on, what's your evidence?  ANSWER ME!
Oh, I know.  I remember what I've done to you.  I saved your sorry butt.  I dragged you up out of Egypt and freed you from slavery, I gave you leaders, I gave you saviors, I blessed you, I led you, I gave you the land you now possess.
So how do you plan on thanking me?  With empty sacrifices, rituals of blood that you can check off a list and walk away from?
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you - only to do right and love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.

That, pretty much, is what God is saying.

***

But how does The Word Among Us comment on this reading?  What is the "Meditation" presented by them on page 43 of their July / August 2012 publication?

This time I won't paraphrase.   I quote verbatim.

When we picture the Last Judg­ment, we often see a stern-faced God in regal robes. Trembling in ter­ror, each of us is dragged into the courtroom in chains to face the pun­ishment we deserve for all the sins we have committed in our lifetime. We despair of ever scraping together enough to pay whatever fine we feel we must owe.

Suddenly the scene shifts! The stern judge smiles softly and removes his robe. He asks you to step up to the bench, put on the robe, and take the gavel. Then the judge steps down and sits in the docket. “What is your accusation against me?” he asks. “How have I disappointed you?”

You, the former prisoner, are speechless. You dimly remem­ber times you have blamed God for things in your life that didn’t go quite the way you expected, but at the moment, you can’t come up with a single convincing complaint. You are in awe over the fact that God would humble himself so deeply.

“No,” you insist, “I’m the guilty one. Any sentence you impose is more than just. In fact, I can’t think of any punishment that could possi­bly make up for all my wrongdoing.”

The judge takes up the papers containing the charges against you and stamps them Paid in Full. Despite your objections, he takes out another stamp. Case Dismissed. Then he puts his arm around your shoul­ders. “Enough of this courtroom drama,” he says. “It wasn’t my idea in the first place. Let’s have a party instead so that we can celebrate your homecoming.”
Gag me with a spoon!

Was this written by Stanford Nutting?

This is about as far away from a legitimate reading of Micah 6:1-6 as you can get.

***

My friends, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.  We are the most literate culture in history, and thousands of volumes of the greatest works of literature can be carried in a cell phone in your pocket.  The Bible has never been more accessible to more people at any time ever.

And yet we are stunningly illiterate.

For if you read Micah 6:1-8 and get the drivel that the editors of The Word Among Us get out of it, you simply don't know how to read. 

Are we even trying? 

Yes, we're trying.  Very trying.



4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the authors need to go back and read the Divine Reproaches from the 1962 version of the Good Friday Liturgy.

"My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me!
For I led you out of Egypt: you led your Savior to the Cross.

For forty years I led you safely through the desert;
I fed you with manna from heaven, and brought you to an excellent land;
And you led your Savior to the Cross.

What more ought I to do for you that I have not done?
I planted you as my most special vineyard,
And you have become exceedingly bitter to Me,
For in My thirst you gave Me vinegar to drink
And with a spear you have pierced the side of your Savior.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
For your sake I scourged Egypt and killed its first-born,
And you have delivered Me to be scourged.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I brought you out of Egypt and drowned the Pharaoh in the Red Sea,
And you have delivered Me to the chief priests.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I opened the sea for you,
And you have opened my side with a spear.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I went before you in a pillar of clouds,
And you have brought Me to the Pretorium of Pilate

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I fed you with manna in the desert,
And you have beaten Me with blows and scourges.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I gave you the water of salvation from the rock to drink,
And you have given Me gall and vinegar.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
For you I struck down the kings of the Chananites,
And you have struck My head with a reed

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I gave you a royal scepter,
And you have given to My Head a crown of thorns.

My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me.
I have exalted you to a great power,
And you raised Me on the scaffold of the Cross."

I remember the first time I heard this 3 years ago at St. Francis de Sales. The loss of our Tradition and Scripture is appalling. I'm glad that at least in the Mass of Paul VI we in the United States have a better translation. This may help biblical literacy.

-Dr. Eric

Sherry said...

How very sad that thousands of people will read the Word Among Us meditation today and walk away with a sense of satisfaction with themselves. Their "feel good" God has just been reinforced. No need for confession again this week!

Tom Leith said...

Oh come on, Kevin. You know the script is not the play. A text can be read however we like -- the author's intent doesn't matter at all. Shoot, the author probably doesn't know what he "intended" anyway; and further there is no such thing as intent really, just neurons firing as neurons do. My neurons fire this way, your neurons fire that way, and all the universe's neurons are OK. Nothing to fuss about...

Ink said...

Save yourself some heartache and learn stuff... read them in Spanish! =D