Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Redeem the Age

The Bread come down from Heaven

The Second Reading for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Ephesians 5:15-20 as rendered by the Jerusalem Bible and so presented in the Lectionary approved for use in England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland, caught my attention this morning because it represents a bit of a departure from the text in the New American or Catholic Revised Standard translations. For that matter, the Spanish text approved for Mexico doesn’t take that path either.

“This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.”

The reading in all of its various renditions is an exhortation to live morally, uprightly. None of the other lectionaries seem to put forward such a clear challenge or motivation to live uprightly, however. My life or better our lives should redeem this wicked age, by always and everywhere giving thanks to God who is our Father!

Fairy tales and comic book heroes don’t prepare us for this. The closest they come is to proffer something like the old Greek business about Prometheus (read in IRON MAN or whomever you favor). Even the great arc of the adventure in Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings tends to distract from the all important denouement at the end of volume three where the Hobbits take back their home country, casting out evil through concerted action.

“This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.”

As clearly stated as it is and as worthy of trust or confidence as the words of St. Paul, being God’s Word, should be for us, resignation and less than sober living may be the out we gravitate toward because of either self-doubt or lack of confidence in the Lord’s promised power to save. The costumed super hero is an alternative not without attraction for otherwise sane and serious adults. Empowerment would seem to have to be lacquered and shiny… bulletproof?

In conversation recently with a gentleman who has dedicated his life to sports promotion especially for the sake of character-building among our youth, he factored out as very small (by his calculation not even a tenth of 1%) the minority of corrupt individuals responsible for the woes of our present world financial crisis and more. Though not a Catholic himself, he was evidently ready to attribute to a much larger percentage of any given population (namely those who profess to be Catholic) the potential for healing or redeeming an age. He asked very simply and, I think, rightly what was wrong with the Catholic Church at this point in time that that job wasn’t getting done. In other words, from outside the Church and on the basis of his life experience this good man would certainly subscribe personally to St. Paul’s words and urge us on, the children of the Kingdom, to do the same:

“This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.”

I keep coming back to the figure of St. Jean Marie Vianney and the earthshaking impact he had on post-revolutionary France, starting from the long hours he spent in the confessional and himself giving catechism classes to the people of his tiny rural parish in Ars. LE MONDE just ran a commentary on trends over the last decades in the Catholic population of France toward non-practice of the faith and concluded that the Church in France again today is in a bad way. This time however the Catholic Church seems to be the only religious group in France losing ground to the “wickedness” of total secularization. France’s serious newspaper has us on the way out.

The lesson of St. Jean Marie Vianney holds hope not only for the Church in France. Join me in begging God for abundant fruits from this Year of the Priest! For changes of heart and lives in those all-important men who are the only ones capable of bringing us Jesus in the Eucharist! Would that our parish priests in particular would take on the age and lovingly call it to repentance through the regular practice of the sacrament of penance! Would that our parish priests would see to it that all the baptized receive the instruction in the faith which would empower us always and everywhere to give thanks to God who is our Father!

The bottom line is vitality or resilience. It’s as close and accessible as the wisdom which comes to us from on high. Feed us, Lord, with that Bread, that we might live forever! To live life to the full in Christ, not just to survive or languish for lack of a better idea, this we seek and for this we pray!

“This may be a wicked age, but your lives should redeem it.”

1 comment:

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