Saturday, July 23, 2011

Too ingenious

Sometimes I wonder if perhaps God did not create us a bit too smart. Then I realize that once again it isn't the intelligence that's the problem, it's how we use it.

In today's first reading they people of Israel respond “We will do everything that the LORD has told us.” One has only to visit the country of Israel to see how far they have strayed from that. Judaism there is more ethnicity than religion.

Our Christian countries have done no better. In the latter half of the 20th century the phrase "Cafeteria Catholic" began to be used by some Catholics to beat up on other Catholics. Truth be told we all have the Cafeteria tendency. The left wants to leave behind the rules on worship and sexuality. The right likes to dismiss the social teaching as the fanciful invention of Vatican II.

When I said that I wonder if God didn't make us a bit too smart what I was referring to was our almost infinite capacity to rationalize. Instead of conforming ourselves to Christ and his gospel,we find it easier to conform the gospel to us.

We tend to read what reinforces what we like and avoid what we disagree with. Today's reading reminds us that we need to do precisely the opposite. We need to read and pray with those pieces of the church's teaching that we are least comfortable with. The more strongly we disagree with some part of church teaching, the more we need to immerse ourselves in it, to sink into until we find the heart of it.

As Catholics we do not believe that Holy Spirit dropped dead when the Bible was finished. We believe that the Holy Spirit was sent to teach and to guide the church. Just as the apostles played a unique role in the first generation, so the bishops have a unique role today in the proper interpretation of that faith.

In the Eucharist Jesus does not give us part of himself; he gives his entire self. In return we are asked to do the same thing, to give our entire self, every thought, word, and deed.

We will do everything that the LORD has told us, said the people of Israel.

Perhaps we will never make this statement fully true in this life, but that doesn't mean we should stop trying.