Monday, September 30, 2013

For or against?

Today's Gospel offers a real challenge in our polarized society. And I suspect that one reason Pope Francis makes some people very nervous is that he is actually demonstrating what that Gospel looks like in practice: "Whoever is not against you is for you."

This is so unlike the typical assumption (which we see in John: "We saw someone casting out demons in your name and we tried to stop him because his is not one of us") that anyone not in our in-group is an outsider at best--but more likely an enemy. Sad but true, I often find a variant of this attitude in myself. It can happen that when some "other" Catholic media enterprise achieves a goal my community has been struggling, perhaps for years, to reach, I may feel more regret (over our failure) than Pauline joy ("that Christ is being proclaimed").

Today's first reading, in its own way, speaks to that incipient depression, offering a vision of a restored and flourishing Jerusalem--an impossibility in the eyes of the prophet's audience, for sure. Because, in the end, isn't the polarizing "us or them" mentality a sign of a fundamental lack of hope? The kind of insecurity that is constantly taking stock of resources, operating on calculations rather than relationships? Francis, like Jesus, challenges that defensive posture--even though it makes his would-be handlers very nervous.

What would be different in your way of reading the news if you were convinced that "whoever is not against you is for you"?

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