Gospel Thoughts, 8 January 2012, Epiphany

January 7, 2012 at 10:10 Leave a comment

In today’s Gospel Story for the Feast of Epiphany (Matthew 2:1-12) the Magi get sidetracked on their journey to find Jesus when they wander into Jerusalem and ask King Herod for help. When they finally leave him and start following their star again, their journey comes to a successful conclusion. At the end of their time with Jesus, having become aware of what Herod is really doing, they departed for their country by another way. Herod tried to co-opt the Magi and the object of their journey for his own purposes and to shore up his own power and maintain his illusion of control. He told them to find the newborn child and come back to him with the information how he also could find the child. According to the legend, when they did not cooperate, he massacred children.

On our journey we might fear the experience of being led by the Spirit because we are not sure of the unknown, or what the Spirit might be calling us to. It is easier to retreat into a structure or institution than to set out on our own, to let others tell us what our journey is rather than making our journey ourselves. But no one can make our journey for us. We have to do it ourselves. The nature of a structure or institution is to protect and perpetuate itself. Structures are important and necessary, but they are not necessarily eternal. The folks in charge of the structure fear loss of control and power, and the chaos that they believe will surely come.

At times structures must be reformed or confronted, but often folks who would suggest reforms or confront the structure are seen as threats and made to suffer. This was true for the Old Testament Prophets, and it is true now. Independent thought is not safe, and having an opinion is dangerous. While a stated value is that the ultimate norm of morality is a person’s conscience properly formed, the operational value is the institution will determine what properly formed means, and any thought that deviates from an established position is deemed to be wrong, and the threats of “loss of one’s immortal soul” and “disobedience” begin to happen.  Also, while a stated value is that the Gospel is to be proposed and not imposed, the operational value is something quite different, as is obvious in attempts by institutions to have their beliefs and policies imposed on the general population through enactment of civil laws.

A special category in all this seems to involve the “professionals” of a given institution. There are a number of occasions where threats have been hurled, and disciplinary actions imposed, on these folks who had the audacity to follow their conscience, think in ways that are not in accord with an institution’s thinking, or act in ways perceived as threatening, and therefore wrong, by an institution. These threats may include, but are not limited to, being called disobedient, losing their position and livelihood, excommunication, etc.

People in charge of structures do not know what to do with prophets, so they try to silence them. And, as we have seen so recently, these attempts to silence folks makes whatever they have written a best-seller, and ensures that their ideas will become even more popular. It appears that freedom of speech, guaranteed by civil Constitution is not applicable in some institutions. But prophets cannot be silenced. Their ideas grow and become stronger. Who is to say they are not guided by the Spirit? Nevertheless, they will always be seen by the institution as a threat to be dealt with harshly.

In the Old Testament prophets generally did not come from the established elite, but from ordinary people. Perhaps this hints that in our day prophets do not come from the institution itself, but from folks who realize its faults and limitations and are actually responding out of a great love for the institution what it purports to stand for.

At this time of the year when we commemorate the coming of the Prince of Peace, God With Us, it seems worthwhile to question what all this really has to do with trying to be open to Christ. Jesus spent time with his Father, and then reached out to all folks, meeting them where they were, and inviting them to come with him. He did not hurl penalties or throw them out. It might be that some institutions are actually barriers between the folks and Christ. The question might be, therefore, what are folks to do? Spending time with Jesus and our Father seems like a good place to start.


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Gospel thoughts, Priest. Tags: , , , , , .

Gospel Thoughts 1 January 2012 Gospel Thoughts 22 January 2012

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