Monday, May 30, 2016

When did piety become a bad word?

Today we begin our reading of the Second Letter of St. Peter. Again it is classified as a catholic letter not because it belongs exclusively to the Catholic Church but because it is not addressed to a specific community but to all.

He opens much like St. Paul wishing us grace and peace in abundance. These are obtained by 

Through knowledge of God [the Father] and of Jesus our Lord

He also associates two other things with this knowledge, life and piety

I have written often about the word life, Zoe, the eternal life we receive from God. But the other word, piety seems to have fallen on hard times. 

All too often in our modern culture when we hear piety or the word pious, it conjures up negative stereotypes of a dower, puritanical religiosity. The pious never seem happy. 

The true meaning of the word is something much simpler. Eusebia literally means good worship.  Of course, if there is such a thing as good worship then there must be such a thing as bad worship. If prayer at its most basic is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, then bad worship may well be those times when we lift up only one, or neither. How often can any of us recite our prayers and yet our mind is somewhere else? Or perhaps we turn our mind to God, but without truly lifting up our heart, opening our heart to hear God's will. 

The dialogue before the Eucharistic Prayer
Left up your hearts
We lift them up to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right and just

Openness and gratitude would seem to be th basic attitudes of good worship, eusebia, piety. The truly pious people should be the happiest people in the world. I think of Pope Francis, you can see the grace and peace that radiates from his smile. Those are the fruits of true piety. 

Perhaps it is time for us to sweep away the stereotype and reclaim being pious and somethings all of us should strive for.