Friday, September 20, 2013

Wherever Two Or Three Are Gathered

Wherever two or three are gathered, ---- they gossip.
I thought of that on the morning before Sunday mass.  The musicians had finally finished their weekly before-mass practice, and they had gathered together to pray.  They turned off their microphones (yeah!), but as they came together they couldn’t help talking about this and that before they prayed.  They gossiped.  And their words and laughter echoed throughout the church.
Looking around I saw the dozens of early arrivers, like myself, with heads bowed in prayer.  Heads bowed hoping for “silent” prayer, but the church was silent only for short moments between the laughter.  “How could some in that church see the reverence and the holiness of this space?” I wondered, while others saw ….. well, others saw others.
Oh, I’m not implying there were bad or evil persons present, and our church choir and musicians, well, they so often make music and worship that can only be described as heavenly.  They DO bring our church family together as one body, one true family in worship.  Their talents and dedicated time are a true blessing for all of us, us and them.  But what I bring up here is, well, what I am trying to say is, ….. what?
On the way to church that morning I had stopped for a coffee to drink on the 20-minute drive to church.  I recognized the lady at the 7-11 store as the mother of the store owner, and so I asked her: “Did you try the chili I brought for your son the other day?”  She laughed and said, “Oh yeh; I tried it.  And I drank milk the rest of the afternoon to cool off my throat.”  And we both laughed loudly.
I recall how the prior day I had fed Milkbones to my neighbor’s young puppy, Ritzy.  He often waits at the fence line in the yard for me, patiently hoping this man who brings him treats might come out into the yard.  And young Tyler, who turned 5 last week, came over and thanked me again for the small toy I had bought him for his birthday.
I remember the caregiver’s meeting we had last Thursday night.  I marveled at Wally, the 90-year old man (who looked 70) who attended the meeting for the first time, and his description of his loving care for his wife, who could no longer walk, and how he carried her to the toilet and around the house ---- like I had done my mom.  The entire group that night was caught up in Wally’s tale of his love.
--- So many thoughts of people and relationships and caring.  The point I make is that these are good and natural things, --- and that they have their natural time and place.
If Wally had stopped me in the grocery store parking lot to tell me of his difficulties in caring for his wife, I might have quickly excused myself and moved on.  If he had brought it up in a crowded movie theater, I might have “shush-ed” him.  Those aren’t the places for that serious of a discussion.
And neither are churches places for frivolous discussions.  I know that man is basically a sociable animal, but there are times and places for serious matters, like talking with God.
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I can’t help but think today about the front page Wall Street Journal article headlining that the pope said the Church might fall “like a house of cards” if it focuses too much on the abortion, homosexual, etc. issues.  The article implied that the pope was saying American bishops focus too much on these issues.  And I guess I can see this discussion also as a fitting thing, in the right time and right place.
The article implied the pope viewed the Church like a large building --- why focus too much on one small window of it?  And perhaps, if that were the pope’s thinking, it makes sense.  “Let others argue about if the window is open or closed, painted pink or grey; it is not an important issue.  Ignore it,” might summarize those thoughts.  But is that the correct attitude for all “small things?”  What if it is a small crack in the foundation?
For all things, there is a proper time and place --- but not a general rule of “it’s proper to ignore what I don’t like to hear.”  There are some things which are proper to respond to, and others which tear at the foundation and need to be focused on.
I don’t question what Pope Francis said or why.  I do think on the question, however, of if abortion and gay marriage are foundational issues, rather than small irritants.  If they are indeed of great importance, then to ignore them is indeed to risk becoming “a house of cards.”
The book I recently reviewed, How The West Really Lost God, notes the family as being foundational to faith.  Does abortion and homosexual marriage impact the family?  That is a key question.  That is a foundation-breaking issue, IMHO.

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