Sunday, February 17, 2008

Truth to Twaddle

In this month's First Things, Fr. Neuhaus writes:

It’s always an encouragement to see a bishop speak truth to twaddle. The National Catholic Council for Hispanic Ministry chose as the theme for its meeting in San Antonio “Paradigmatic Changes in Hispanic Ministry.” The archbishop of that fair city, Jose Gomez, said in his address to the council, “The Scriptures don’t talk much about paradigm change. Instead, the Bible talks about kairos—the time of decision. . . . . The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the only real paradigm that matters. The time is fulfilled. The kingdom is at hand. The decision each of us has to make every day is this: Will we repent and believe? Will we continue our daily conversion to Christ? Will we try every day to more and more conform our lives to Christ and to his –teaching?”

We talk a lot about poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunity for Hispanic people, he said. Those are necessary and urgent concerns. “But we also see many signs of moral and spiritual poverty. We don’t talk about that too much. But we need to start.” There are “darker forces” at work, indicating “something gone wrong in our community.” He then addresses alarming rates of births out of wedlock, abortions, school drop-outs, and defections from the Church. He describes a Bible study for Latinos that the archdiocese is developing. The introduction asks, “Who is Jesus in my life?” and “Who is Jesus for us as a community of disciples?” The text is accompanied by pictures of Jesus as Anglo, black, Chinese, and a Native American –medicine man.

The archbishop says, “I came to the conclusion that it’s hard to picture Jesus. Nobody knows what he looked like. Then I thought: Not one of these pictures even attempted to portray the Jesus we find described in the Gospels. The real Jesus. The Jesus who was a Jew. A son of David and a son of man. The Jesus who at the same time was also the son of God and the man of heaven. The Jesus who took flesh and blood in the womb of Mary and who rose from the tomb by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s the real Jesus. The Jesus who dwelt among us at a concrete time in history and at a concrete place. A Jesus who is with us today in Word and sacrament. All these other Jesuses are just abstractions. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples: ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Mt 16:15). Notice. That’s a very different question than, ‘Who is Jesus in my life and for my community?’ To ask who Jesus is in my life has the danger of turning the question inside out. –Suddenly we’re not talking about Jesus anymore. We’re talking about ourselves. About our expectations, our grievances, our needs. When you ask the question that way, you end up with a Jesus who looks a lot like you. Or like the people in your community."

Well said.

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