“早春賦” by Akira Nakada, performed by William W. Spearman IV and Tomoko Okada, from the album “Beautiful Japanese Songs”, (2006)
A beautiful sunny Sunday morning in the Shire. -15 Celsius and a gentle breeze, everything pristine and muted under a soft blanket of new fallen snow so white it seems almost blue in the brilliant sun.
Time change today, spring ahead, Mass was an hour earlier today and my voice even less warmed up than usual. We got through with only minor imperfections however, God be praised.
Father Chris built his homily around the rather trenchant observation that we are all great orators, teachers and preachers but rather poor students and showing singular lack of inclination and ability in the listening department.
Like Zechariah, we lack trust, we want assurances, and are more concerned with expressing our own plans and opinions than worrying about listening to others, even when that other is God himself. In Luke 1:57-80 we find Zechariah finding his voice again after nine months of silence imposed by the Lord.
“Meanwhile the time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up, ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But, no one in your family has that name,’ and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ and they were all astonished.
At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All the neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel for He has visited His people, He has come to their rescue and He has raised up for us a power for salvation in the House of his servant David, even as He proclaimed, by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient times, that He would save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us.
Thus He shows mercy to our ancestors, thus He remembers His holy covenant, the oath He swore to our father Abraham that He would grant us, free from fear, to be delivered from the hands of our enemies, to serve him in holiness and virtue in His presence, all our days.
And you, little child, you shall be called Prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him. To give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins; this by the tender mercy of our God Who from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet in the way of peace.’
“Yamanakabushi” performed by Jean-Pierre Rampal & Yuzuko Horigome, from the album “Yamanakabushi: Japanese Melodies”, Vol. 3, (1982)
So, where to go from here. How about trying to spend more time contemplating and less time opinionating (is that even a word?).
Examining one’s conscience, thinking and listening, and trying to find what is wrong with me and not confirming it by expounding at length on what is wrong with others.
Thinking about anger and humility, thinking about meekness, cultivating detachment from the perceived “rightness” of my own opinion and the turmoil generated by defending that “rightness”.
If I was not so attached to my superior position and the need for validation I would feel less anger and resentment (maybe none at all?) when not accorded the adulation I feel I deserve.
“… to save us from our enemies and from the hands of all who hate us …” Israel mistook the enemies and those who hate us for our human enemies and those who hate us in this world. Understandable perhaps, given the centuries of a tradition which had come to expect a worldly king and the restoration of Israel to the worldly power and prestige it has once enjoyed.
But in the light of Christian teaching it is clear that the enemies of which scripture speaks are Satan and his demons and all the varieties and vagaries of sin which our concupiscence leads us into in all its deviant manifestations.
Those who hate us are the same as us, are the same as those who hated Christ. Hating because they have fully embraced worldly values and rejected the notion that the wages of sin are death. Anyone who disagrees is anathema. As are those who disagree with us? Being judgemental again, Joe?
The establishment and culture of the day, the de-sacrementalized progressive society worshiping at the pool of Narcissus are bound to hate and resist and persecute anyone, and any belief system, holding up an un-distorted mirror to their tightly embraced and thoroughly rationalized perversions. After all, they are the “normal” people, right?
St. John called for repentance and the culture be-headed him. Christ offered salvation and eternal joy and the culture crucified Him. Why should we expect anything different. The culture hates, and kills anyone who holds up a true mirror. Only the pool matters and woe to anyone who ripples the pool.
Those who hate us are not our enemies, but only, in the inimitable words of Uncle Joe Stalin, “useful idiots” chanting on the path to perdition.
The detour to repentance and forgiveness is always available to all regardless of how they have sinned and how they have lived. Imagine the shock of meeting Uncle Joe in the reception area of heaven! What a thought!
The detours from the broad highway of death are clearly marked in many places along the “Highway to Hell” by large green highway signs saying “Repentance” and, if one decides to make the detour, a little further on “Purgatory – 10 Km, All Are Welcome” available services, reconciliation, forgiveness, penance, atonement, mortification, detachment, peace. Please make yourselves at home.
Am I not just playing the blame game to serve my own interests? Letting myself off the hook of responsibility by attributing causality to others, as if I have no control over my own actions and inclinations. Can’t fool God with all my sophistry. Can’t fool God.
Do I actually believe that “if only they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have done this”. “If they didn’t act like that I wouldn’t think like this”. And while I am at it, since I have already sinned, lets do a good job of it and sin again, and again, while there is still time on the clock.
Pride clinging to self exculpation with the tenacity of a limpet at low tide.
Hmmmm … running out the clock … except when the final siren goes in this game there will be no more chances to detour, no more chances to make up for lost time, no more chances to be sorry and make amends, no more chances … when the tide of life finally goes out there is no return this side of hell.
I think Confession is perhaps the greatest Catholic Sacrament.
What a tragedy that Luther did away with most of the sacraments, discarding in the process, most of Christ’s invitations to the fountain of grace available to all, but rejected by most. The greatest tragedy of our civilization, perhaps, is the loss of of the sacrament of confession.