My friends, our world these past few weeks has swirled with stories from Church and State about abuses of power, lack of accountability, lives of privilege, and within this milieu, the sense, in both areas that, “We are better than all of humanity beneath us,” whether it be in a Jesuit prep school or within the hierarchy of the Catholic church.
The interesting thing to realize is that this abuse has been with us, in Church and State for many, many years, only now; we are at a pivotal time because of the presence of the #MeToo Movement and the advancement of women in many areas of our world. Through education and the realization, to a certain extent, within our Church and more so in our world at large, that women are equal to men and must be treated with the respect that equality demands; there has been some improvement, but much is yet needed.
And, before I get too far, one further comment on the culture out of which these abuses flow, whether in Church or State, because they work hand in hand. As a country/state, or Church, when all the voices are not heard; there is always danger to become elitist, to feel privileged, to be above others and the longer such systems continue, the effects become insidious.
This condition exists, as we know within our country, our political systems, where women are still trying to break the “glass ceiling” of the presidency, where just the other day a woman’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee was spoken of by one male as “attractive” and “pleasing” and no one but women called attention to it.
This condition exists within our Catholic church and many other denominations as well in the form of patriarchy that clearly names God as male and routinely places women second, certainly not worthy to serve at the altar!
For these reasons and many more, women must be willing to demand that their rights to fair consideration for jobs, for pay, and for respect in this world be uplifted. Men who love women must do the same whether it be in State or Church matters and it must be done now!
The time has come that misogyny must simply not be tolerated wherever it is found, whether that be in Catholic high schools, colleges, Congress, the presidency, the general public, wherever—it must not be tolerated and we all must say so!
Our Scriptures for today are reflective for us in many ways. Beginning in the first reading from Numbers; we heard the clarion call from Moses, “If only all of God’s people were prophets.” When we speak about “prophets” and “being a prophet;” we are talking about proclaiming the truth, given to one, against all odds.
James is speaking to the people that he is called to prophesy to—in his words, “To the twelve tribes of Israel.” He is calling them to equality in their lives—it’s a rich versus poor kind of thing—treating others basically as they themselves would want to be treated. That has always struck me as quite a basic concept, yet hard, it would seem, for some to do. James states rather pointedly, “It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered no resistance.”
The same can be said my friends for those who are victims of any kind of abuse of power—many in these situations often feel there is no one they can turn to. Our nation saw this very thing in the proceedings this past week in Washington—women often have to work very hard to have their stories of abuse first, listened to, and then have any action taken against perpetrators of these crimes.
In the Gospel for today; we hear our brother, Jesus, speak quite inclusively when he answers the apostle John’s question about whether they should allow someone, not of their group, “to expel demons in Jesus’ name. They hadn’t quite got his message yet, it would seem, that his, “way, truth and life” was for everyone. He answers simply, “Anyone who is not against us is with us!”
Jesus goes on to spell out what they and all others (including those not in their group) are called to: giving drink to the thirsty, and we can assume, food and clothing to those in need. He states that the greatest evil would be that we would cause a little one to stumble and the penalty for that minces no words!
So, my friends, how do we talk about our life as we find it today, without seemingly coming down on one side or another, especially when it comes to politics? All I can do is to keep my eyes on Jesus, his actions and his words and act accordingly making it clear that what I will try and do is not about making a political statement, but a heart statement. Misogyny, a basic hatred of women that causes men to disrespect and use them for their own pleasure is wrong no matter who does it, Democrat or Republican. Religious groups that advocate for life in the womb must carry that concern through to care for those children once here and through every aspect of their lives—life is life, birth to death and again, not a political, but a “heart” or moral decision.
Miriam Williams, a Kentucky writer who lives in Philadelphia and writes for the National Catholic Reporter penned a piece recently entitled, A Strong Faith Can Handle the Test of Startling Questions. She is responding primarily to religious evangelicals and other conservatives who want to have their faith all laid out for them—do this, do that and you’re saved! Williams writes that [she] “believes a strong faith can handle the test of ‘tough meat’ when it comes in the form of startling questions. What if God sees nothing wrong with women delivering the Gospel? What if homosexuality isn’t a sin? What if it is, but God has enough grace to cover it? What if the Bible is literary, but not literal?” She goes on, “I chew, I listen for God in the bites. I digest. I am energized and satisfied, even as I wonder how much longer so many people will feel full on theology that starves them.”
So, my friends, this may sound like I am swirling around, not getting to the point, but my intent here was actually not to step on any “political toes” but “to go deeper” as mystic, Hildegard of Bingen is known for encouraging.
We must move beyond the political, the seemingly religious, the pious, the law, in all its coldness and respond from our hearts as Jesus did. We must look for the truth in these troubling times, not in rhetoric, but in actions of goodness, kindness, compassion—devoid of arrogance and self-centeredness—deep enough to realize that when I look into the face of another, suffering due to something that I believe or have done; I can see my own face, and in all of that, the face of God.
Looking this deeply my friends will hopefully assist us to find the most inclusive and heartfelt decision for all of God’s people. Amen? Amen!