Sunday, May 9, 2010

Notes from a Good Sunday Homily

I'm in Boston this weekend, and yesterday at Mass our presider had two great comments I want to share.

First: it's been very blustery and cold this weekend. In fact I think the temperature today never got above 50 -- and it was windy, too. Hello, winter! And at the top of Mass the presider said, the wind is a good reminder that here in the weeks of Easter we're in the season of the Holy Spirit, which blows strong and as it will.

5 weeks after Easter, it's good to be reminded that oh yes, we're still in the season! And the Spirit is here.

Second: In his homily he reflected on the first reading, in which the Christians decided that you don't have to be circumcised in order to be Christian. That may not sound like a big deal to us today, but that decision was enormous in its significance. Enormous. It meant that people could legitimately come at being Christian out of their context and culture. You didn't have to do it "the Jewish way", the way of the disciples. If you were a non-Jew, you could enter the Church that way no problem.

The presider then turned the conversation to today. According to some studies, by the year 2050 something like 3/4s of Catholics will live in the Southern Hemisphere. The vast, vast majority. And in many of these places, they have different cultural and religious practices than the North. Which is to say, we're in basically the same position as the disciples with the Gentiles. And how will we respond?

Perhaps this reading is an invitation for all of us Northerners to pray for greater openness to that diversity that lies with us and before us.


I spoke to my mom yesterday, too, for Mother's Day. And she told me this joke.

St. Francis, St. Dominic and St. Ignatius are all sent up to the pearly gates after dying, to take their places in the heavenly court (I imagine it like something out of Glee.) And St. Peter is seated up there at the entrance, and St. Francis comes forward and asks, "St. Peter, is there a place for me here? " St. Peter points to a chair and says, "Yes. Come and take this seat." And then St. Dominic steps up and asks St. Peter, "St. Peter, do I have a place in the heavenly court?" And St. Peter points to a different chair and tells him, "Yes my son. Come and sit here."

Then St. Ignatius steps forward. And he says, "I think you're in my seat."

I don't get it.


Kate Marie said...

An interesting point about the Church's move south and an openness to diversity. Would you not agree, though, that there are some practices that could be classified as "cultural" that would per se be unacceptable to the Church? The reductio ad absurdum example would be "suttee." Perhaps a more complicated example would be the practice of plural marriage; what, in your opinion, should the Church do with an African or Muslim man with two or more wives, who wanted, along with his wives, to convert to Catholicism?

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Ah. Yep, I'm with you, Kate Marie. To say that the Church should come to recognize a variety of cultural practices is not to say anything goes.

Your question about the plural marriage is an interesting one. I can't imagine the Church ever condoning such a practice. But at the same time the ramifications for those women and children might cause Church officials to search pastorally for a different kind of solution.

This dilemma highlights the underlying need beyond simple acceptance of other practices, namely ongoing conversation and discernment.

Thanks for it!

Kate Marie said...

Thanks for the response, Jim! I wholeheartedly agree with your call for ongoing conversation and discernment.

Kate Marie said...

Here's an instance of synchronicity. I just read about this book at Alan Jacobs's blog. I've never read it (I'd like to), but it seems germane to your concerns: The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, by Lesslie Newbigin.