The Holy Father has given us another wonderful catechesis in his Sunday Angelus talk at Castel Gandolfo a couple of days ago. He reminded us that Jesus was not seeking popularity, he just wanted to preach the truth, and as we saw in last Sunday's Gospel, taken from chapter six of St John's Gospel, some people cannot handle the truth and so walked away.
I am reminded of a conversation that took place in a presbytery some time ago. A lay member of staff was complaining to a priest about another priest's sermon which he thought too direct - "He's too controversial", he said. "Well", responded the priest, "the Gospel is controversial."
And it is. Jesus was unapologetic about what he taught, he did not subject his teachings to the opinions of his followers, nor take a poll to see what the reaction might be. It was a simple case of "take them or leave them" - stay or go. Now I know many bishops and priests would not agree with that approach to preaching the Gospel, they would say it lacks pastoral sensitivity, well then we'll just have to say that Jesus was not a very pastoral person and, judged by the standards of some of those who teach pastoral ministry skills today, Jesus would flunk the course and would not be allowed go forward to ordination. Funny that, and him being God. It is a pity that God tends not to conform to our standards, isn't it? I suppose that is the reason so many Christians today feel the need to reinvent God.
As we continue our novena to St Genesius, we have to bear in mind that one of the main reasons why we are persecuted is because our Church teaches the Gospel of Christ without diluting it. She is committing to transmitting what Christ taught on his term. Now she doesn't always live up to it, and for that she must repent and those sins bring misfortunes on her head too. But even though our members are sinful, the Church never lets go of the ideal. In the modern world there is a pessimistic approach to ideals - if they are hard to reach, then they are scrapped. If we follow that way of life we will end up with little or no ideals, and then we find ourselves back in the caves, beating our heads with bones and enslaved to every passion. The Gospel will keep us human, it will enhance our dignity and remind us that we are destined for a greater life - life with God in whose image and likeness we are made.
I see Amnesty International are fighting hard on behalf of the jailed Pussy Riot members. Listening to the news this morning on my way to a funeral I heard the newscasters say that AI acknowledged that the protest may have been offensive to some, but that was not a good enough reason to jail them. Interesting, ironic. I wonder if AI realises that death is not a good enough reason for an innocent child just because its conception is inconvenient for the mother. When AI stands up again for the innocent victims of abortion, then I'll take them seriously.
We knew it was only a matter of time: Catholic priests officiating and assisting at "gay marriages". It has happened in New York. Say a prayer for Cardinal Dolan, he'll have to deal with it. And say a prayer people will lay off him re the Obama invitation. I was not too pleased to hear the President was invited to the dinner, but I trust the Cardinal and I think Obama is in for a very hot evening - I doubt if he wants to go because he'll be literally surrounded and pestered. Let's just hope the place is full of zealous pro-life pensioners - they have a wonderful way of breaking a man with fatal persistence! I can see the Cardinal telling them "He's all yours!" and the Secret Service will be powerless to stop them.