Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—October 2, 2005
These bi-weekly thoughts, Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo, are a year old this week. Here is a quote from the very first issue (10/3/04):
"I feel I have lost my family."…"I come to Mass on Sunday and the spirit that was once there is gone, and I feel that something very valuable has been taken away"… "It feels as if we are being told that our experience of Church at Holy Spirit has been inauthentic and wrong, and so must be changed."
Those are examples of sentiments expressed a week or so ago in a meeting of some parishioners with the Pastor. We do not want to lose that special character that has made Holy Spirit such a strong and powerful experience in our lives.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Take Care, T-C-B
The Aretha Franklin song (we all know it was really Otis Redding’s, but let’s not quibble) has nothing to do with last weekend’s Respect Life Sunday, but then again the ideas put forth for consideration by the Pastor had only a glancing resemblance to the full teachings of the Church about what it means to respect life “from conception to natural death.”
Not one word from the Pastor’s mouth about the vast array of “life issues” that Pope John Paul II and the US Catholic Bishops have presented to us time and time again: war (in particular the Iraq war), capital punishment, poverty, racism, etc. There is a “consistent ethic of life” that derives from the heart of Catholic social teaching and forms the foundation of the “seamless garment of life” image that the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Bernadin, presented to us a decade or more ago. It was stunning that the Pastor could invoke Cardinal Bernadin in Sunday’s sermon but completely miss the Cardinal’s point.
The Pastor even struck from the prayers of the faithful a specific reference to the “life issue” of capital punishment—a practice of our government specifically condemned by Pope John Paul II and eloquently commented on by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver (hardly a darling of progressive/liberal Catholics) in Justice, Mercy, and Capital Punishment: “As citizens, our choices and our actions matter, because they create the kind of future our families and our nation will inhabit. What we choose, what we do, becomes who we are. In God’s own words in Deuteronomy: I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live (30:19). Choosing against the death penalty is choosing in favor of life. We need to end the death penalty now.” (see the entire article at http://www.usccb.org/prolife/programs/rlp/Chaput05web.pdf)
Aretha (and Otis) tell us to “Take Care, T-C-B,” meaning “Take Care of Business.” The business of respecting life cannot stop at the delivery room and pick up again at the hospice—it is the business of all of us, for all of us, all of the time. Our country has the highest infant mortality rate of any industrialized nation—that’s a life issue, isn’t it? Our nation stands virtually alone in the world in carrying out capital punishment—that’s a life issue, isn’t it? Let’s take care of business, let’s give some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
The Personal God in the Public Arena
In his recent book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis makes an important point:
“God is personal, but never private. If God is not personal, there is little meaning to faith. It becomes merely a philosophy or a set of teachings from religious figures who died long ago.
Without a personal God, there is no personal dimension to belief. There is no relationship to God, no redemption, salvation, grace, or forgiveness. There is no spiritual transformation without a personal God, and no power that can really change our lives beyond mere self-improvement. … However, that personal God is never private.
Restricting God to private space was the great heresy of the twentieth-century American evangelicalism. Denying the public God is a denial of biblical faith itself, a rejection of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself. Exclusively private faith degenerates into a narrow religion, excessively preoccupied with individual and sexual morality while almost oblivious to the biblical demands for public justice.
In the end, private faith becomes a merely cultural religion providing the assurances of righteousness for people just like us. … Our private religions have failed, but we must not lose a personal God. Instead of trying to strike an elusive ‘balance’ between private piety and the social gospel, we must go to the heart of prophetic religion itself in which a personal God demands public justice as an act of worship.
We meet the personal God in the public arena and are invited to take our relationship to that God right into the struggle for justice. Indeed, without that personal relationship we will lose the political struggle. That shift—bringing the personal God into the public arena—is at the heart of the prophet’s message and will transform both our religion and our politics.” From a fellow parishioner, Mark Peña
Only a Pawn in Their Game
The genesis of the crisis in our parish was a labor dispute and that labor dispute arose because the Diocesan administration saw the unionization of workers as an erosion of its power over people. Also, this parish was singled out amongst the unionized ones because its strong, prophetic voice in the public arena had irritated some Catholics of power and influence who felt that their actions and interests were being criticized and threatened.
Those who view the divisions in the parish to be about liturgy, doctrinal interpretations, Vatican II, devotional practices, or the culture wars between liberal and conservative are allowing themselves to be drawn into proxy battles that generate a lot of emotion, diatribe and very unpleasant name-calling, while the master manipulators at the Diocesan level go about their cynical game of solidifying power. There is no Gospel being preached here; there is only a no-holds-barred, take no prisoners, naked exercise of power for its own sake. Again, “Servant Leadership, indeed!”
What’s It All About?
We were reminded again on Sunday from the pulpit that “It’s not about me and it’s not about you, but it is about Him. And the Eucharist is the center of our lives.”
The thought came to me this morning that it really is about me and about you AND about Him. The Eucharist is the center of our lives only in the sense that it provides us with nourishment to go and carry out His gospel. It is not enough to think of Jesus being only the Savior of our lives. To be truly Christian we must allow Him to also be the Lord of our lives as well. Therefore it is about me and about you and how we work as a family and minister to each other and to the world around us.
From Pearl Brazier, a parishioner
Prepared by RGV Parishioners for Progress and edited by Jerry Brazier. Copy this, and pass it on to fellow parishioners, either by e-mail or paper. If you want an opportunity for prayerful discussion of these and other issues about the parish or have any other comments, please contact us at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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