Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lecher Priest

God save us all, we have a lecher priest
Whose every word and smile is oily sweet,
Whose love denying love is just a cheat,
Whose words and actions show his inner beast.
He did not start thus, no, not in the least.
He once longed with ev’ry trembling heartbeat
To be a star, to be a true athlete,
Presiding at the altar and the feast.
His heart was never silver, only tin,
His feet were partly iron, partly clay
When he began to show the beast within.
Hidden within his heart was sad dismay
And all alone he faced his inner sin.
Where was the Church upon that fateful day?

Relax.  It’s nobody you know! Or is it?  Everybody is going to wonder who I have in mind.  Nobody specific, well at least, nobody in the same time zone.  Be careful before you try to apply this to someone you think you know.  Always remember that for priests, ministry is a contact sport that's not always fair.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Re-examination of Contextualization

If we learn to “read the Bible with the eyes of los pobres”[i] [the poor], as well we ought, there is an inherent danger.  That danger is a backlash effect in which the truth we are attempting to communicate is altered by the very context in which we communicate it.  That dynamic comes into play today as the Church wrestles with the challenges and claims placed against it by alternative sexual life styles.

Now truth is not in fact malleable.  By its very nature truth is stable so that as contextualization attempts to mold it to an acceptable form in the immediate context, the truth itself will resist, even as the truth, as it is in Jesus, resisted the contamination by the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, and even the leaven of the hoi polloi, the common people.  At that point the effort of contextualization will bend, crack, and shatter.  It is the old problem of pouring new wine into old wineskins.  Something has to give, and it won’t be the new wine of truth. 

At the back of my mind are John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius, one emphasizing the sovereignty and keeping power of God, and the other emphasizing the freedom of the will and the responsibility of choice.  There is truth in both, but contextualization creates for both Calvin and Arminius a new problem.  How does the new wine of truth shatter both Calvinism and Arminianism? 

On another level the question has to be asked: was the context of either Calvin or Arminius the only consideration, or even the primary consideration, in their attempts to contextualize the truth in a meaningful way to the children of God?  There is an unspoken problem.  The eyes with which I read the Bible are inevitably my own eyes, my presuppositions and oft un-examined personal context.  The attempt to read the Bible with the eyes of los pobrĂ©s is only one element in the problem of contextualization. 

I am another element, I and my own salvation history, the record of how I personally both found and perceive the truth.  The Lord says to Ezekiel, “Receive in your heart,” your inner man, before he says “See with your eyes”.  Then he says “go and say to the people.”  Initially the order in Ezekiel seemed wrong to me, but the order is a tacit acknowledgment that receiving in the inner man is prior to seeing and/or perceiving with the eyes that which has been received.  Here the truth spoken to my heart in the morning lections comes into play” “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for out of it springs the issues of life (Prov. 4:23).  My encounter with the internalized logos is a formative part of the proclamation. 

In this sense Marshall McCluhan was getting near a truth because the medium has, for good or ill, become part of the message.  We are called not to proclaim paradosis [tradition], but to witness to what we have internalized in our own encounter with the living God.

[i] Obispo Adrian Caceres on contextualizing the Gospel in Latin America, 1988