By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pope Francis on Closeness and Proximity to Others

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees
Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Notice that the following excerpt from his remarks can apply not only to the Church but to our large secular universities, to any setting in which rules are being enforced in the life of a group of people (e.g., a university residential hall or coop), even to an informal circle of friends. This prophetic critique applies well beyond the boundaries of the Church. Yet, there is also another problem: even when proximity is offered, some people fear it and avoid it. Here are the Pope's words:

“Before so many pastoral needs, before the many demands of men and women, we run the risk of being afraid and of turning inwards in an attitude of fear and defence. Herein there lie the temptations of sufficiency and clericalism, of the codification of faith in rules and instructions, just as the scribes, pharisees and doctors of the law did in Jesus' time. Everything is clear and orderly, but the population of believers and seekers will continue to hunger and thirst for God. I have said many times that the Church seems like a military hospital to me: many injured people who need our closeness, who ask of us what they asked of Jesus: closeness, proximity. And if we assume the attitude of the scribes, the doctors of the law and the pharisees, we will never offer a testimony of closeness”.

----Pope Francis

Source: Vatican Information Service, Sept. 22, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Curse of Ethnocentrism

It will likely come as a surprise to many that a central theme of the New Testament is this: leave behind your ethnocentrism.

The message is clear from the Parable of the Good Samaritan to the letters of Paul which make up the bulk of the N.T. In fact, Paul is beaten and stoned for denying the need for new converts to first be circumcised, as required for the Hebrews.

Yet, we persist in the imbecility of ethnocentrism. Here are some examples:

1. European separatism, from the recently failed Scottish version to the Catalonian historical fantasy in Spain, all with the fervor of religious fundamentalism.

2. The Republican hostility in the U.S. to Hispanic immigration.

3. The murderous Islamist version slaughtering any different Others in Iraq.

What do all of these examples have in common?

Their partisans find their fulfillment in being different from the Other.

Paul had a different message:

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28.

Paul surely assimilated the Parable of the Good Samaritan. So should we.

Where is our identity? There, in the Other, especially in the Other who suffers.

(Image of Cuban schoolchildren under Fair Use)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

They Are All Caskets

I recall when my father passed away having to go to the funeral home to pick a casket. Suspicious of the whole commercial ambience, I insisted on seeing the least expensive model casket first. Astutely, they dragged in something that looked like an ill-cut cardboard box that would have been barely suitable for a dog. I got the message and chose a more expensive model.

But why do we spend so much on expensive caskets or coffins? We realize, after the moment, that it is absurd.

Do we also realize that so many of our other dwellings are also caskets? The big mansion that is obscenely expensive is one gigantic, unnecessary coffin. We won't keep it after we die. It is not even necessary for our happiness while we are alive and creates many headaches. Conspicuous consumption (nod to the great economist Thorstein Veblen) is as foolish in the course of our lives as it is in the funeral home's showcase of coffins.

And dwellings need not be houses. Our excessive attachment to ethnic identity, to our job titles, to our material possessions creates other coffins that we do not need to value so highly. We seem to go out as we have lived: in unnecessary pursuit of what is only superficially impressive and fundamentally unnecessary.

(image under fair use doctrine)

Friday, September 12, 2014

They Would Call Even Jesus "Passive Aggressive"

Tempranillo vines, Clos la Plana vinyard, Pene...
Tempranillo vines, Clos la Plana vinyard, Penedes region, Spain 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It seems that a common put-down today is to tell someone who indirectly criticizes your behavior that he is "passive aggressive," even in the case of a general criticism that is not intentionally aimed at you as an individual. 

Somehow the label is supposed to be pejorative, as if it were wrong to criticize another's behavior without at the same time insulting or attacking them directly and explicitly. If the criticism had been given in a vulgar and insulting way, I guess then it would be considered acceptable. Reductio ad absurdum.

Well, if that is the standard for being passive aggressive (it's just psychobabble nonsense, anyway, when the label is overextended at will), then surely they would also call Jesus "passive aggressive."

Here is the evidence (especially v. 19, with emphasis added). If the following is passive aggressive, then let's applaud and imitate being passive aggressive:

Luke 20:9-19New Living Translation (NLT)

Parable of the Evil Farmers

Now Jesus turned to the people again and told them this story: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and moved to another country to live for several years. 10 At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers attacked the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed. 11 So the owner sent another servant, but they also insulted him, beat him up, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 A third man was sent, and they wounded him and chased him away.
13 “‘What will I do?’ the owner asked himself. ‘I know! I’ll send my cherished son. Surely they will respect him.’
14 “But when the tenant farmers saw his son, they said to each other, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’ 15 So they dragged him out of the vineyard and murdered him.
“What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do to them?” Jesus asked. 16 “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others.”
“How terrible that such a thing should ever happen,” his listeners protested.
17 Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean?
‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.’[a]
18 Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”
19 The teachers of religious law and the leading priests wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the people’s reaction.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Insulting Not Christian

Pope Francis today:

"But it is very bad to a Christian [to be] insulting. It's bad, you know? Do not insult! Understand? Insulting is not a Christian."

But I see it happen often, even by people just coming back from Mass or other religious activities.