Monday, August 31, 2009
Reading Christ's Words
Continuing from my previous post, I was reflecting on how yesterday's Gospel reading appeared to be speaking to me directly. Now, this does not mean that my own interpretation of that particular passage is within the consensus patruum but, after I wrote that, I remembered something I saw on TV years ago. On occasion, I go over to EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network, which is, for those of you who don't know, is a Catholic media outlet. They rebroadcast masses from their headquarters in Alabama, also bring news from the Vatican and have any number of shows dedicated to the Catholic Faith. There are some real gems there, especially when they go into the history of the Church (which, of course, is told from a Catholic viewpoint) and when they have concerts.
One day, I was watching the rebroadcast of the daily mass. It takes place in a small church and the priests rotate in and out. I usually stay tuned in to see the sermon. However, most of the priests there are uninspiring and not very gifted speakers. Now, that shouldn't disqualify a person to be a priest, though having that gift helps. But one of the priests that occasionally officiates is Fr. Angelus Shaughnessy. I really like him. I find him to be a very gifted priest as well as an excellent teacher. If I were Catholic, I would be very comfortable having him as my priest. At the very beginning of one of his sermons, he taught a good way of how to read Christ's words when he is talking to Pharisees, hypocrites, or any other member of society who was considered to be in low repute: Rather than read Pharisee, etc. read your name in its place. And the Gospel will come alive in you in ways that you have never realized before. And he was right. I tried that with any number of stories, even with yesterday's Gospel lesson of the rich man who wished to inherit eternal life but was unwilling to sell his possessions to gain it. I put my name in place of the rich man and that Gospel lesson made so much more sense.
Christ knows us each by name. But, as Ecclesiastes tell us, there's nothing new under the sun and thus, our humanity is as predictable as the sun rising in the east. Though Christ is directly addressing the Pharisees and scribes and hypocrites, etc., he is really addressing us. We are Pharisees, we are scribes, we are hypocrites, we are the faithless thief! It's very easy to read those passages with those condemnations in the Gospel or even the Prophets of the OT and think that Christ and the Prophets are talking about every other person except for us! "I'm not that bad a person." "I don't sin that much." "I am pretty good." We all use these excuses which only confirm our hypocrisy. Christ was definitely including us in those condemnations.
Try reading the Prophets and the Gospels with this trick. I honestly believe that you will find so much more meaning than you ever did before. And maybe, when next year comes around and that same old Gospel story is read which you have heard so many times, Christ will be speaking directly to you. Just a thought.