Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Plenty of Platitudes and a Paucity of Particulars

Last week I wrote a concession speech for Archbishop Myers of Newark.  He never used it. 

This week I'm re-writing the end of the homily I heard a priest give on Sunday.  Though it's too late for him to use it.

Maybe this is why I don't make much money as a free-lance writer (though one of my blog readers once offered to send me a $20 gift card to the restaurant of my choice - but that was eight months ago and it still hasn't arrived and I'm getting pretty dern hungry).

Still, as a writer, I must write.  So here goes.


First some background:

For starters, he seems to be a pretty good priest.  He's understanding, perceptive and firm in the confessional, orthodox from the pulpit and friendly in the hallways.

And his homily spoke of sweeping things - God's plan for us in creation, His great plan of redemption, and the need for us to conform ourselves to Christ.  That's not exactly the phrase he used, but he did say something like that - though it was more like "conform yourself to the person God wants you to be."

Now there's the rub.

Because I'm quite certain God wants me to be a bisexual gambling addict and part-time meth user who loves him his internet porn and inflatable industrial blow-up sheep. 

That sounds ridiculous - but the state of catechesis is so bad in both Catholic and Protestant circles that this is what people are doing.  Their gods are their bellies - or the area a few inches below their bellies.  And they have no problem worshipping a god who demands for them only precisely and exactly what they want for themselves. 

And if God is so vague and protean, so shifting and accomodating, then hell yes I'll conform myself to him and I'll be glad to become the person he wants me to be - 'cause that's what I am already and I won't even have to get off of the couch!

Thus all Father needed was this addendum ...

... conform yourself to the person God wants you to be.
This means no fornication, no divorce and remarriage, no contraception, no lying, no abortion, no support for "gay marriage", no greed, no cheating, no stealing, no envy, no gossip, no missing Mass, no self-righteousness, no holding grudges or seeking revenge, no racism, no perversion, no pornography, no cheating your workers out of their wages, and no dancing with the devil - which is to say no winking at your own sins and no lusting after sins in your heart.

That's it.

Had Father said that, it would have gone from a good homily to a great homily.

And as he left the pulpit, he would have been stoned.


But my point here is serious, for we hear plenty of platitudes and a paucity of particulars.  If St. Philip were to ask us if we understood our Faith, at one point we all must answer (as did the eunuch in the chariot) ...

"How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me?" So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.  (Acts 8:31)
And how often does anyone really do that?  Come up and sit with us in our chariot and explain it?

Philip and the Eunuch
For example, lately I've been writing about the need to Trust in God and Focus on Love in order to avoid selfishness and sin in our endeavors. 

But Trust in God  is a platitude, and the word "love" has been so drained of specific meaning that such pleasant-sounding phrases might simply get us nowhere.  The chariot remains motionless.  Mired in the muck, even.

And yet today, if only for one brief passing moment, I had a victory, and those big back wheels moved ever so slightly forward.

A difficult client, who has sent me up and down a roller-coaster of worry, started to do it again.  My instinct was for my throat to tighten up and for me to begin fretting about how to work the situation so as to keep this nearly impossible-to-please client happy.  "I can't lose his business!" I thought, as I always do.  "Think of the money!"

But then I said to myself, "Kevin, you ass.  What have you learned these past several months of darkness?  What have you spent the last few days blogging about?  Trust God and love Him and let Him take care of the rest." 

So I simply prayed, "Lord, I am here to do your will in this situation.  If I'm doing good, help me keep this client.  If I'm not, help me move on.  I'll focus on serving You, and You take care of the rest.  I can't make him happy, and he probably won't let You make him happy either, but just give me an environment in which to do good."

Now how deeply did I mean that?  How well will I be able to follow through with that intention?  How certain am I that I can indeed make such an offering - without resorting to my old pattern of panic and anxiety?  I don't know.

But it was one small moment of victory.

And it is an example of the particular thing I'm talking about.  We know the general answer; we always have.  Watch for specific ways of incarnating that answer, little "present moments" in which to live what the Spirit is saying to you.  If we can do that, we may even start to become practicing Christians.


No comments: