Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Lenten Mercy-Meditation: Monkeying Around With Religion

Here's a well-used and open bible. And that's what we're doing here every few days, moving together through the Gospel of Mark. There's lots of voices out there: alluring, contentious, blaming, threatening. I want to stay on my feet, listening to the Word of Jesus. And here in these few verses Jesus continues speaking to the Pharisees and the doctors of the law. But of course, these high level religious guys are images of what's potentially to be found in any of us:

He also said to them, 'How well you set aside the commandment of God in order to maintain your tradition! Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother", and, "The man who curses his father or other must suffer death." But you hold that if a man says to his father or mother, "Anything of mine which might have been used for your benefit is Corban"' (meaning, set apart for God), he is no longer permitted to do anything for his father or mother. Thus by your own tradition, handed down among you, you make God's word null and void. And many other things that you do are just like that.'  Mark 7: 9-13

In the ancient world there were no nursing homes, no home health aids, no social security, no pensions. And so an elderly parent very much depended upon his/her child (especially the son) to take care in advancing years. This requirement was encoded in religion. 

But Jesus knows how we are, and so he offers this image of a fellow who doesn't want to spend a penny on his aging folks and claims that the money which would have been used for his parents in their old age has instead been given to God. It's a sad scene - not only for the parental neglect but also that religion has been exploited as a pretext for failing in such an important obligation. Jesus detests that we invalidate the things of God, playing around and twisting up the things of authentic religion.

And while this may not be news to any of us, what's got my attention this time in reading these verses is the last line where an annoyed Jesus says: "And many other things that you do are just like that." We shouldn't think for a moment that he doesn't have us in mind today. It's fair to ask: "What would Jesus dislike about our religion today?" Maybe:

rigid religion
suspicious religion
excluding religion
use-to-get-elected religion

we've got all the truth religion
argumentative religion
wear-it-on-your-sleeve religion
hate-bearing religion
theatrical, crush spontaneity religion

self-satisfied, just-give-me-that-old-time religion
cheap-grace religion
self-righteous, demonizing religion
life-disconnect religion
quietist (do nothing/just pray) religion

hate-the-evil-culture religion
business as usual religion
twenty minute Mass religion
I'm not into that justice stuff religion
answer for everything religion

no questions allowed religion
no heart, conveyor belt religion
quote the bible condemning religion
money religion
single issue religion

Oh Jesus, 
these little insecure and
and power-crazed Pharisee guys
are lurking inside and all around us. 
Send them packing, please, 
that our hearts and minds
would be fixed on you alone
and that we would be free
to love other people well.

Physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking said, "In the future science will be mysticism and scientists will be mystics." Then the interviewer asked, "Why aren't you religious?" And Mr. Hawkings answered, "Your god is too small." 

Religion has humble work to do, so to free up the God we keep too small. And for Christians that means a serious, non-moralistic, embrace of the Gospels as a transformative spiritual way.


  1. I love your little prayer Father. It says what comes from the heart.

  2. I like what you are saying here, about embracing the Gospels in a tranformative way, but what about our Catholic religion and other Christian denominations? Are they all corrupt of heart? I don't like to think of religion as all these negative things. I go to Mass and listen to the Gospels and I try to be a good Catholic in my thoughts and in my words. Are we to give up on following the disciplines of the Church and just follow where our hearts lead us? The Church is flawed in many ways, but has it so fallen apart that it cannot be repaired?

    1. Oh, I know enough about other religions to say these unholy aspects exist everywhere. Is it too flawed? Can it be repaired? Well, there's an old expression: "The fish stinks from the head," which I'd suggest means that a renewal of the clergy is much needed but where YOU'RE renewed and I'M renewed the Church is renewed. We all need more than just a little "tune up" - we're supposed to be a new kind of human person. At Baptism the priest said to each of us, "You have become a NEW creation..." WOW! What might THAT mean?

  3. This bible is well worn. How many of us out there have read the Gospels on our own? I dare say that many of us have not and if we have, the connection is not there. You explain the passages much better and in a helpful way that puts it all together for us. I really appreciate that for it brings Jesus' words and actions to life for me.

    1. Understanding the gospel in their freshness is our first spiritual responsibility. I asked a Catholic man to read a certain chapter in the gospels once and he looked at me with a blank look. I then asked, "Do you have a bible?" and he said, "Yeah....around somewhere." A Catholic should be embarrassed to say that.

  4. Today I saw a meme that said to thank a priest today. Thank you Father Stephen Morris for all that you do here to inspire us spiritually and to teach us what no one else does about our faith.

  5. I feel the pleasure is all mine. Thank you!