Memorial of Saint Benedict, Abbot

Lectionary: 389


When you come in to visit me,
who asks these things of you?
Trample my courts no more!
Bring no more worthless offerings;
your incense is loathsome to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling of assemblies, octaves with wickedness: these I cannot bear.
Your new moons and festivals I detest;
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.




There is key moment in Meryl Streep's Music of the Heart. Based on a true story, Roberta Guaspari teaches violin to poor children in an inner city school. She habitually and loudly screams at her students as they screel and scratch on the instruments until the principal, with the backing of parents and teachers, warns her to tone it down. Lots of people think her manner is abusive. 
Fearing she may lose her job, she does her best. She really works at it and the effort shows on her face. Finally one of the children says, in effect, "Why are you acting so weird? You're not screaming at us! Our parents scream at us; our neighbors scream at us; we scream at each other. You think it bothers us? Go ahead and scream!" 
I think of that when I read today's passage from Isaiah. Through the prophet God is shouting loudly at his people in a voice that has to be familiar to anyone who grew up in a normal house or studied in an ordinary school.  
Lots of people think screaming is abusive. Parents and teachers and coaches and police and hospital chaplains should MAKE NICE all the time. We should be professional, dispassionate, patient and polite. The hospital chaplain who sees the alcoholic returning to the Emergency Room for the fifteenth time and ICU for fifth or sixth time, should still be confident and hopeful and encouraging, "You can do it!" 
Don't get emotional. Don't get emotionally involved. 
It's true -- getting emotional probably won't change anything. The alcoholic is going to do what he's got to do. The heedless child will still be a child. 
But when they see frustration and disappointment on the faces of those who care about them, and on the faces of honorable people whose respect they desire, they might -- just might -- know their behavior affects other people; that they are not entirely alone in their foolishness. 
Does anyone care that you cheat your neighbors? Ignore the poor? Isolate the lonely? Starve the hungry? 
Yes, God cares very much and not only for them. 
Is anyone disappointed that the sick and imprisoned are not visited? That the naked have no clothing? That pariahs are treated with contempt? 
Yes, God is disappointed, and not only for them. He is disappointed in you. 
The ideal god of the 19th and 20th centuries had no emotion. He was pure thought; benevolent but cool, distant Thought. That unfeeling, uncaring god led us into two world wars and the prospect of nuclear annihilation. That god pretended not to see what we were doing to each other and our planet; nor would he punish our killing of the unborn, neglect of the dying, or polluting of the earth.  
That's not the God who comes to us in our scriptures or the Mass. Our God pleads with us, even from the cross: My people, my people, what have I done to you. Or in what have I offended you. Answer me! 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.