A time of grace

A time of grace

Just thinking out aloud: something has shifted, I think, in the past few weeks. At a purely anecdotal level, I have encountered hostility where before there was indifference.

But I have also encountered a deeper yearning for Christ, sometimes from unexpected quarters. This is a time of grace.

The gospel reading in today’s Mass is fast becoming a critical gospel for our time.

Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death.

The idea that Jesus and his teachings are divisive is surprisingly remote from the popular view. Surprising to me, anyway.

Call me naive — I guess I am — but I have in the last few weeks been astonished by the number of Mass-going Catholics who have told me, in good faith, that the hierarchy is out of step with Christian teaching.

‘What would Jesus do?’, they ask. In answer to their own question, they sincerely reply that Jesus would celebrate gay marriage and congratulate Caitlyn Jenner. He may not agree with them, but still he would support and affirm them.

What on earth is going on here? In the first place, I’m guessing (?) that many Catholics, still, after all those Vatican II reforms, don’t read the Scriptures much, which means they don’t have a fully-fleshed view of Jesus. The Gospels present him as someone who is in fact quite provocative.

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What wisdom isn’t reducible to memes?

In the second place, I’m guessing that in the absence of personal scriptural reading, the vacuum is filled by decades of Sunday Mass homilies which focus on niceness and tolerance while avoiding controversy and division. If I’m honest, I must confess I have contributed to this. It’s easy to affirm and comfort. It’s much harder to challenge in a way that is serene and encouraging. But that’s what the times call for.

Even more important, though, is that every disciple fosters their personal relationship with Jesus, nourished by frequent reading of the Gospels. As St Jerome so famously remarked, “ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

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