Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The Temptation to Turn Inward
Yes, the Church is beset by enemies, some discreet, some not so discreet (to say the least). But, as the Pope recently said, our most dangerous enemies are the temptations within us. One temptation that I see today is a desire by some to turn inward, to cling to ornate ritual or even clericalism as a lifesaver in a tumultuous and confusing world. It is a temptation similar to that of excessive nationalism. When nations are unnerved by events, they turn to nationalistic fanaticism (Germany between the world wars). We see the same phenomenon in the turn toward Islamic extremism. We Catholics must resist the temptation to retreat to some kind of neo-Baroque traditionalism. The practical reason to resist that temptation to excessive ritualism and triumphalism is that it will not work: neither we nor others will be transformed by such ritualism any more than the hostile Pharisees of Jesus' day. But there is an even more important reason: the Jesus of the Gospels is not an inward-turning traditionalist or ritualist, but rather a dynamic presence subversive of our human obsessions with security, ego, and winning and the crutches we reach for in our insecurity. The freedom of the Gospel calls us to a radical daring in agape, not to the transient security of traditional pomp and high fences.