Wednesday, July 9, 2014

7:11 Wednesday, July 9. 2014 What is it?

How wonderfully timely! Here is a recent post by Msgr Charles Pope:

Hear ya'll tonight at 7:11!

Here is a copy and paste of the article by Msgr Charles Pope:
Last week we read from the book of the prophet Amos. And something profound yet rather subtle was taught by Amos in the selection from Friday’s Mass. After warning of many sins such as the trampling the needy, putting profit over Sabbath observances, cheating by altering scales and so forth; after also warning of sexual and many other sins, Amos says this:
Days are coming when the Lord God will send a famine upon the land: not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and  from the north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it (Amos 8:11–12).
Thus, among the ills of a society or culture mired in injustice, sexual confusion, and misplaced priorities is an absence of the Word of God. How does this happen? It happens on several different levels, one of them rather subtle.
I. First of all, when many people insist on sinful, unjust, and evil practices, the Word of the Lord begins to sound obnoxious and they refuse to read or hear it. No one likes to be convicted for their sinfulness or to be confronted with the fact that they are wrong, and the Word of the Lord has a way of calling us to account. Many resist this, and such a problem is epidemic in our current culture.
People do not like to be reminded that they have no business defrauding the poor, lying and cheating, engaging in greedy or covetous practices, indulging in illicit sexual union, or cultivating lust. In avoidance and anger they set aside the Word of God, and when they cannot reasonably do so, they attack those who still speak of it. They issue condemnations that those who do so are judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, unenlightened, homophobic, etc.
But of course the problem isn’t the Word of God or those who announce it. The problem is sin. And thus we see a kind of self-induced famine of the Word of God. Many starve themselves from the Word because it is no longer a food that is palatable to them. They would rather dine on the strong wine of this world that numbs them from the pangs of their own consciences. Or perhaps they would rather eat the Twinkies and other junk food of pop culture, which excuses and even celebrates bad behavior.
Here is a famine—of the Word of God.
II. Second, we see a kind of induced famine caused by those who collectively work to eliminate the Word of God from the public square. Perhaps it is those who seek to banish any form of prayer or reference to Scripture in public schools, public gatherings, school graduations, or any other gathering outside the walls of the church.
We live in a culture in which the First Amendment’s promise of freedom of religion has become freedom from religion. And thus there is a kind of famine of the Word of God imposed by a small number of people who dislike religious influence, who seek to eliminate any religious expression in the public square. Almost anything can be taught, celebrated, and advanced in public schools—anything except Jesus Christ and His gospel.
It is a strange, highly selective, and intense famine of the Word of God.
III. The third form of famine, though, is more subtle and it occurs even in the Church. Indeed, many who write in the combox of this blog complain of it quite frequently. This is the famine of the Word of God that occurs on account of silence from the pulpits.
The one place where one would think that the Word of God would be clearly and even boldly proclaimed would be in the pulpit of the Catholic Church or any Christian denomination. And yet even here, there is a strange famine.
But why is this? The mechanisms here are a bit more subtle, but  come down essentially to one word: fear. The subtlety comes from the fact that while it is clear that many clergy fear to speak the truth boldly from their pulpits, there is another side to the equation.
Many clergy know instinctively that even in the theoretically safer environment of the Church, if one speaks boldly on moral issues, one can often expect backlash and letters of protest, whether delivered directly or to the bishop. There are dissenters who do this, and even some of the faithful.
One might wish the clergy were brave enough and bold enough to be unconcerned and still speak unambiguously to moral issues of the day. But the reality is that clergy are drawn from the stock of human beings. Some are brave, but many are not. Some are willing to endure trouble, pushback, criticism, and being misunderstood, but some are not. Some clergy today are willing to accept that many modern listeners cannot distinguish between hyperbole, analogy, and straightforward discourse, let alone make subtle distinctions, but many clergy are not willing to accept this.
Yes, a poisonous climate exists even in many parishes. Surely there are dissenters, but even among the faithful there are those who would criticize a priest who tries to speak the truth but does not say it exactly the way that they want him to say it. Perhaps he should have quoted St. Thomas Aquinas rather than Thomas Merton. Perhaps he should have made more distinctions, but given the insistence that homilies last little more than ten minutes, was unable to do so.
Some priests are able to navigate the complexities of the modern parish setting creatively and courageously. But many cannot and draw back to uttering safe bromides, contenting themselves with abstractions and generalities. They play it safe in what is often a hostile environment. Dissenters with poisonous looks are lurking in the pews. But even among the hard-core faithful there is sometimes a “particularism” that renders bold prophecy a very dangerous thing.
Parents, too, struggle in preaching boldly to their kids, who are not taught by this culture to respect their parents or to revere sacred tradition and teaching. Thus parents, too, often exhibit the “silent pulpit syndrome,” and teaching in the domestic church of the home is often silent, uncertain, and compromised.
A hostile environment does lead to silence. Perhaps it should not, but in the aggregate it does. And therefore there is a famine of the Word of God that Amos addresses. Hostility tends to breed silence and conformity. Maybe it shouldn’t, but overall it does. At some level when a culture turns hostile, stubborn, hypersensitive, and just plain mean there sets up a famine of the Word of God. While there will always be the courageous, like Amos, in the big picture, the Word of God will suffer famine when the soil resists or even refuses the seed of the Word.
St Gregory once reproached silent clergy, but he also warned the faithful that they too have a role in ensuring the proper climate for the Word of God to flourish:
 The Lord reproaches (silent pastors) through the prophet: They are dumb dogs that cannot bark (Is 56:10). On another occasion he complains: You did not advance against the foe or set up a wall in front of the house of Israel, so that you might stand fast in battle on the day of the Lord (Ez 13:15). To advance against the foe involves a bold resistance to the powers of this world in defense of the flock. To stand fast in battle on the day of the Lord means to oppose the wicked enemy out of love for what is right. When a pastor has been afraid to assert what is right, has he not turned his back and fled by remaining silent? Whereas if he intervenes on behalf of the flock, he sets up a wall against the enemy in front of the house of Israel … Paul says of the bishop: He must be able to encourage men in sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it (Titus 1:9). For the same reason God tells us through Malachi: The lips of the priest are to preserve knowledge, and men shall look to him for the law, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts (Mal 2:7).
Anyone ordained a priest undertakes the task of preaching, so that with a loud cry he may go on ahead of the terrible judge who follows … Beloved brothers, consider what has been said: Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest (Matt 9:38). Pray for us so that we may have the strength to work on your behalf, that our tongue may not grow weary of exhortation, and that after we have accepted the office of preaching, our silence may not condemn us before the just judge.
For frequently the preacher’s tongue is bound fast on account of his own wickedness; while on the other hand it sometimes happens that because of the people’s sins, the word of preaching is withdrawn from those who preside over the assembly. With reference to the wickedness of the preacher, the psalmist says: But God asks the sinner: Why do you recite my commandments? (Psalm 50:16) And with reference to the latter, the Lord tells Ezekiel: I will make your tongue cleave to the roof of your mouth, so that you shall be dumb and unable to reprove them, for they are a rebellious house (Ez 3:26). He clearly means this: the word of preaching will be taken away from you because as long as this people irritates me by their deeds, they are unworthy to hear the exhortation of truth.
And thus today Amos’ warning of a famine of the Word of God extends even to the Church. As clergy and laity, we have every reason to encourage bold preaching and to preserve a climate in which God’s Word is still revered and respected. We ought to work to surround clergy and parents with support and a hedge of protection from dissenters even as we also work to avoid the hypercriticism and “particularism” that can discourage priests, deacons, and parents who are trying to make a good effort to reach the lost and confused. Otherwise the famine of the Word of God of which Amos warns will surely exist even in our parishes and homes. A proper harvest of the Word requires the support and action of all.

7 Responses

  1. Peter Wolczuk says:
    “They issue condemnations that those who do so are judgmental, intolerant, bigoted, unenlightened, homophobic, etc.”
    These condemnations seem to usually be based on lop sided judgements. Declaring guilt or innocence without hearing the side of the accused, comparable to a court which hears that the prosecutor has alleged guilt and; without hearing the prosecutor’s evidence or the accused one’s defense; declares the (erstwhile) defendant to be guilty because they are charged.
    For instance, when Christians disagree but, tolerate, we are called intolerant. Such absurd statements can only be propagated with the lynch mob approach that is increasingly supported by a, seemingly growing, segment of the media.
    In the last few decades there have been complaints of “media convictions” prejudicing an upcoming court case. Have the media and popular lobby groups, now, effectively replaced the courts in matters of deciding who’s guilty of religious persecution – all based on lop sided judgements?
    The sad part of this hypothetical question of mine is; if it be true; then the media groups (and those who accept the falsly alleged “proofs” that they purvey) which have participated in this have cut themselves off from a set of information which is needed to find freedom through truth. Chaining themselves to the obsessive/compulsive behaviour (which is necessary for, & inevitable to, living in un-truth) that’s a manifestation of the inevitable self destruction of all positive feedback (like holding a microphone in front of a connected speaker until something explodes)?

  2. Maria says:
    Excellent and comprehensive !
    God bless and The Word of God , our Lord , have mercy on all !
  3. David F says:
    Awesome post, I especially like the reminder of our duty as laity to respect the priest. I know I can be put off by the choice of Merton over Aquinas, to use your example. I sometimes have to consciously and actively suppress my reactions and deliberately choose charitable interpretations of a priest’s homily, especially if it touches on the political. It’s a good exercise in self discipline and helps me recognize my worldly/ideological attachments. If I can’t manage to be charitable towards a priest, then I’m really in trouble. I only walked out once, more than 10 years ago, when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and the priest went too overtly left for me. I’m more tolerant today than I was then, but then I’ve never heard as wayward a homily since.
    • Thanks for understanding that. I too prefer Aquinas over Merton. We priests SHOULD avoid the political but I also know that sometimes people presume I am being political when I speak of abortion etc. And even though I tell them it is a moral issue they still don’t buy it. There is also some cynicism I get from the right when I preach on caring for the poor, or preach against greed. That does not mean I am calling for more Govt programs, but many have consigned the issue of “the poor” to the left and hear biblical denunciations of greed or injustice as left wing propaganda, even though I am preaching directly from a biblical text. So its complicated today and I am grateful that you acknowledge the complexity and the need for all of us to get to the message of the basic Gospel wherever the political lines (which are often shifting) may fall.
      • David F says:
        So the other day when the Pope spoke of how Communism stole the Christian flag I understood that to mean that they have warped what was once Christian and used it towards it political ends (power). Of course he’s absolutely correct: all that is, all that exists originally was good as it was from God. Satan produces nothing: he only distorts the good toward his own perverse ends. Another good example is the hijacking of the term “social justice”. When applied on the personal scale it’s charity in action, but when used as a political device it’s an excuse for a governmental payout masquerading as charity.
  4. Repent and Believe the Gospel! says:
    Thank God for Jesus picking the twelve Apostles. Jesus knew His Apostles (even though at times they were weak and very afraid). That is sad and a strange irony that a priest is so afraid of the dissenters in his parish that he can’t preach on morality. Perhaps Bishops should back orthodox priests but they don’t. So we truly have a problem with the leaders of the Church. I don’t know if the Bishops are unorthodox or they are just plain afraid. But with many churches closing down the “politically correct” homilies are not getting the people in. Perhaps we need to start over. Perhaps a story is in order. Perhaps the story of the Holy Eucharist is in order. Perhaps we need to go back to the very beginning — all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Then we will understand the connection between the Holy Eucharist and the Tree of Life.
    Because without the Tree of the Cross, there is no redemption, the gates of Heaven will not open and there is no resurrection. The Tree of the Cross is the Tree of Life!
  5. MitisVis says:
    There are three areas that must be dealt with or it will proceed to the point we as Catholics will be forced to take a hard stand.
    First is confusion, the enemy’s prime weapon. One cannot say anything these days without some or all assuming you mean something other than what you said plainly. This can demoralize a priest as he will spend as much or more time trying to clarify “his position” when in fact it could be a simple truth of the Church.
    Second is a love for the truth and beauty of the Church. Why do we take such joy and why is it worth it to be upright and honest with ourselves and others? Why struggle to be better with such opposition all around us? Most priests spend all their time dealing with the confusion to ever be able to include a love of the Church and how she uplifts us.
    Third, every successful squad or action has a leader. Respect is built and a comradery gained by interaction and trust. Soldiers know they will be backed up, team members know that area is covered. A mission or game plan is laid out by the leader, all know the role they will play and all know they have support. We have not been too keen on this in the church, mainly relying on “you know your job, go do it”. With that however, we have lost support so many priests feel like they are somewhere close to a minefield and not quite sure which direction it will come from.
    My hat’s off to all you good priests. I don’t think much of the laity understand all you deal with.