Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Because he wished to justify himself...
Pictured, "The Good Samaritan" - Hungarian artist, Henrik Stefan. (The painting reminds me of St. Martin of Tours clothing the beggar.)
Yesterday's Gospel continues to resonate within me. The most disturbing line at the outset was concerning the scholar continuing to press Jesus; the Gospel says, "But because he wished to justify himself" he asked Jesus "Who is my neighbor." And of course, Jesus goes on to relate the parable of the Good Samaritan.
The priests and teachers of the law always were testing Jesus, looking for a way to catch him, while seeking to justify themselves. It seems everyone one in the world today is eager to justify himself as well - gosh, I always do it in my examination of conscience - until I'm convicted by the Holy Spirit otherwise.
We today are perhaps the most educated people to have walked the face of the earth. Many people in the pew may even be more highly educated than the priest who is giving the homily. Reading our blogs, one might get the impression that bloggers are the new scholars of the law and the prophets, looking for the chinks in the Church and her ministers, and ready to criticize, if not condemn whenever we uncover something.
It makes me wonder if many bloggers pray. I hear it is a maxim at the Angelicum in Rome that to study is to pray. Which reminds me of the maxim dubiously attributed to Augustine, to sing is to pray twice. Many people may be substituting knowledge and study, or, God forbid, blogging, for prayer. Having the form of religion, yet without an interior life.
"Wishing to justify himself..." We all do it. The conflict between Catholic progressives and traditionalists has many scholarly spokesman seeking to justify their positions; along with the less broadly educated who seem to know a lot about a little; as well as the not so highly educated, yet intelligent, passionately speaking their convictions. (I obviously fall into the last category.)
The story of the Good Samaritan reminds me of what some of the opponents of Megjugorje (An apparition I have little affinity for) who insist the Virgin cannot be appearing there because of the way she answered a question once. She was asked who the holiest person was in the vicinity, and to the scandal of some, she cited a Muslim woman nearby. I expect the Muslim woman was devout as well as being humble, kind and charitable. Every uber-Catholic I know brings this up as proof that Our Lady could not possibly say such a thing. Really?
Yet her Son, when asked who one's neighbor was, illustrated his point by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. As everyone knows, Samaritans were outcasts, little better than pagans. Not unlike our idea of Islam today. Yet Jesus held this man up as an example of holiness. What was our Lord saying?
There really are people outside the Church who are holy and will be saved, and have been saved. I think of Betsy Ten-boom, who in the Nazi death camp was a source of light and spirituality to women of mixed races and religions. In death her face radiated a mystical light, such as witnessed in the deaths of many Catholic saints. I also think of the girl from Columbine who died for the faith. And more recently, the little Amish girls who were shot to death, laying down their lives in the hope to save the others, while forgiving their executioner. Afterwards, the entire Amish community quietly and peacefully forgave the murderer, while consoling his family.
What did St. Paul write? "If any man thinks he is wise, let him become ignorant." Or something like that.
(Thanks to The Penitent Blogger, who always writes well, with his recent post on the same subject. His commentary reminded me to post my own thoughts on yesterday's Gospel. The Penitent obviously prays; his commentary never fails to be rich, insightful, and full of wisdom. I recommend that you read his posts everyday - especially if you can't get to daily Mass - he normally has a fine lectio on the daily readings.)