Memorial of Saint Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor

All these died in faith. They did not receive what had been promised but saw it and greeted it from afar and acknowledged themselves to be strangers and aliens on earth, for those who speak thus show that they are seeking a homeland.



Back in 1970, a futurist, Alvin Toffler, published Future Shock. Borrowing from the then-popular phrase, "culture shock," the book described people who have seen too much change in their lives -- technological, political, cultural -- and have lost their ability to adapt with the changing times. Even if they live close to their place of birth, their once familiar environment has become alien and uncomfortable and promises to become ever more unfamiliar.  

I supposed that I was keeping up with "the changes" 46 years ago, when Toffler's book was published. But I considered myself in the vanguard of liturgical changes in the Roman Catholic Church. Shortly after I was ordained in 1975, assigned to hear confessions in the traditional "box," I hung up a handwritten sign, "I am prepared to use the revised Rite of Penance." That included a reading from scripture at the beginning of the ceremony, and a doxology at the end -- "Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His mercy endures forever." 

In the forty-one years since then I don't remember anyone sharing that new formula with me. Many people seem to agree with the Gospel of Saint Luke, "...no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” 

Since then, I have to admit, my world has become even less familiar. I might blame technology for the changes but they are deeper than that: I prefer participation to spectator sports; handshakes to hand bumps; conversation to violence; coffee to cocaine; and a commonwealth to the third world gap between wealth and poverty. 

The nation that promised equality to men and women of all races has reverted to its original sins of racism, sexism, classism and militarism. When a president loses the popular vote and claims to have won the election by a landslide, I know I am a stranger and alien on earth... seeking a homeland. 

By faith (Abraham) sojourned in the promised land as in a foreign country . He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and maker is God. He saw it and greeted it from afar. 

Christians can never be very comfortable in our world. Our rituals will always be suspect; our values, odd; and our courtesies, disconcerting. We worship a God who preferred poverty to wealth and homelessness to security. But, by faith, we can see where we're going; and our neighbors cannot. For that reason, our hope guides us even in a foreign land. 



PS: Yesterday President Trump "closed the nation’s borders to refugees from around the world, ordering that families fleeing the slaughter in Syria be indefinitely blocked from entering the United States, and temporarily suspending immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries."
If persecuting Muslims appeals to his base, expect him to widen his witch hunt to all who speak the Truth. We should hope that many Catholics will be among them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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.