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Thursday, November 27, 2014

The baptism of John and the Baptism of Christ

A thought struck me as I prayed the first Luminous mystery of the holy rosary: the sequence of events, where John was already baptizing for repentance, followed by Jesus' own baptism, reflected the incompleteness of repentance. Anyone can come to a state of contrition, even to a firm commitment to change. But it's not enough. Without Jesus, it doesn't go as far as it can. Jesus makes that conversion incarnate. In him, a transformation into children of the Most High is made flesh. And so we become.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Comedy and Faith

Today my friends and I laughed t up over the videos of three standup comic routines. A couple did poke fun at Noah, Church, the Bible and, yes, Christ. What did I think of all that? I must say I found most of that quite hilarious.

The swearing was unfortunate, though, since they were not necessary. Rowan Atkinson was outrageously funny without any swearing at all. All he had to do was wear a vicar's alb and read from what appeared to be a Bible. He read bits of the gospels heavily rewritten with modern phrases to comic effect -- all while wearing that serious expression that only he seems able to wear that elicits so much laughter (without resorting to toilet humor at that). Danny Bhoy was far more uproarious but with that slightly innocent, whimsical flair. Yes, he swore, and yes, he made fun of Noah's dilemmas and, yes, one bit about Christ on the cross -- "at least he could stretch his legs!" -- compared to the punishingly cramped pews he complained about as a young boy.

On reflection, one might ask if a Christian should have objected to the lack of reverence. My answer would be that it wasn't a battle that needed apologetic fighting. There was nothing theological to respond to, no questions to answer. None of the comedy was malicious. Even the bit about the cross was, at worst, insensitive to a torture victim, but that's it. Sure, there was obviously a bad caricature about hymns that exalt God and supposedly denigrates man -- in fact, the point of the Incarnation was a mission to make man divine, but this was no dialogue on faith matters. There may be an element of trivializing the gospels in Rowan Atkinson's skit, but it is ignorant, not malicious. None of the kids were watching and all who did watch were fairly mature 40-something Christians who were not, I think, scandalized.

At the end of the day, that is the danger, I think. Would we all start becoming irreverent now? Not likely. We can handle a little comedy, I think. It does, perhaps, remind us that there are many out there who see something funny in something they do not understand. But when they do come to understand it, there is plenty of room for comedy -- without going anywhere near blasphemy.

I also have to remember that the spirit of the anti-Christ is in denying the Incarnation and Christ's successful rescue mission. Not in laughing at skits of Noah turning away the vermin among the animals, nor of disciples losing their appetite after being told that one of them was a traitor. There should be a place and time when the caricatures can be resolved though, hopefully if those who trivialize the Way will be intrigued enough by real examples of Christians among them to ask questions. That will be our cue. And then, if they hear and obey, then we can all laugh together at the irony and incongruence of that.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The scroll: sweet and not so sweet

In the readings from the Book of Revelations this week, a vision was recounted, of a scroll that John was told to eat, sweet to the mouth but sour in his belly. After eating, he is told to prophesy. One could receive the sweet promises of heavenly help, grace, mercy and forgiveness, but are nevertheless sobering instructions and warning of a daily cross. I would have thought prophesy, the word of God revealed, to be sour to the taste, from the receiving end of dire warnings, fearful, sobering. But on reflection, the same can be heard as helpful instructions on how to avoid disaster, and promises of reward for the steadfast. Today the Church celebrates the Presentation of Mary, whom St. Augustine extols (in the Office of Readings), as the gospels do, for her primary discipleship. It isn't that her physical motherhood was of little value, although motherhood is, after all, beyond the physical. She heard the word from day one, from the angel Gabriel, believed and lived by that faith. She heard more as the events unfolded, and continued. She pondered in her heart these treasures. She seemed to be a quiet master of discernment. She held on up to the cross and beyond. Her prophesy is her example in simple discipleship, just being there where she was, near her son. Sour during the Passion, the Word which was sweet to begin with -- just an infant -- was glorious in the end! I guess we'll just have to see for ourselves, continuing to consume the sweet Word of God throughout our lives.