Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Sackcloth and Ashes
One of the nice things about having a blog is that you get to stand on a soap box any time you get an urge to string more than 140 characters together. So, I’d like to take a moment to pretend all the network and cable media are out there listening so that I may educate them about what they either do not know, don’t care to know, or pretend not to know: the Catholic Church is not a political entity or a democracy. It is neither a denomination nor a bunch of sinless saints either, though that last one is something it really ought to be.
No, the Church, most closely, is a family, a big one. The members, past, present, and future are in various stages of sanctity from the most depraved sinner who refuses to step foot in the door, to the grossest hypocrite enthroned in the pew front and center, to the saintly old lady offering her sufferings unnoticed from the back pew.
Like any large family we squabble. This one with the beam blinding him wants to take the mote out of that one's eye. You know how it goes. Some of us are best buddies, some of us best enemies, and some of us just can't stand sitting in the same car with others of us, much less the same pew. "His politics are touching me!"
The only thing we have in common is Christ, the Eucharist. Well, Him and sin. We all fall short in some way and we all need Him. I guess that makes three things we have in common. But that's it.
I forgot the other Sacraments. We have Baptism in common and Marriage, Confirmation, Last Rites, Holy Orders, and Confession. Some of us really need to make that list way more common, but I digress.
We don't even speak the same language, aside from Latin, so it really is hard for us to have a decent conversation across the dinner table or the Altar. Who needs it anyway? We go to Mass to hear, not to be heard, so really, that's not as big a problem as it could be.
Our biggest problem is ourselves, that "falling short” business. Our second biggest problem is that whole “bear wrongs patiently” injunction. Nobody but a saint could manage that with people like *insert name here* around.
Oh. Right. Sainthood. Holiness. That’s what we’re supposed to be shooting for. That’s that mark we keep on missing.
Which brings us to today. It’s that time again, time for repentance. It’s time to fast, rend our garments, get all ashy and penitent. Yes, my sweet Evangelical friends, of course we could do this any time and on our own initiative just like David did. We can also do it when the Powers That Be call us to do it just like Nineveh did. Or we could do it this way, too, the way most of us are much more likely to do it, just like our elder brothers and sisters, the Jewish faithful, do each year, we can be called to a scheduled and seasonal ritual of repentance.
Which brings us to Mass and Ashes today and you, my usual audience of people who read to the last paragraph or so. You’re used to endurance, so this season may just be your kind of thing. This year it you may be called to offer up your regular seat and parking space to someone new showing up for their Ashes. You may be called to offer up the knee jerk response of jerks just because our faith happens to be in the news. And hardest of all you may even be called to give up a gentle and faithful Papa to ill health and old age long before you are ready.
It’s going to be a long haul this year. We’ve got a lot to offer this year. Might as well get to it because it seems that now is a very acceptable time, like it or not.