30 October 2006

Blogs, Devils, and Jesus

30th Week OT: Ephesians 4.32-5.8 and Luke 13.10-17
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

When I should be doing just about anything useful and good, I can usually be found reading blogs. Worse still, I can be found carrying on long, tedious debates in the comboxes of blogs! Recently, I got tangled up in a debate that is just beyond stupid. I won’t go into detail; let it suffice to say that it was about the regulation of the liturgy. We weren’t arguing over the nature of God or the best means of achieving holiness. We were fussing about a tiny little point of liturgical etiquette. The equivalent of arguing about whether it is more sinful to steal one dime or two nickels. Sad, I know, but the smaller the stakes the more vicious the game.

Jesus goes to the synagogue and finds there a woman who has been crippled by a dark spirit for eighteen years. He heals her. The synagogue’s leader is outraged, so runs to his blogsite and posts a long, detailed flame on Jesus, quoting scripture, obscure scholars of the Law, popular itinerant prophets, arguing vehemently that Jesus has desecrated the Sabbath by performing an exorcism. The comboxes fill up with “Preach it, brother!” and “The rabbis have spoken and that’s good enough for me” and “We can’t take scripture literally…” and “A recent document from Jerusalem, Keeping the Sabbath Holy, says in chapter nine, paragraph twelve, sentence seven, third dependent clause from the end beginning after the second semicolon…”

Etcetera and ad nauseum until the blogsite crashes and the leader is forced back outside. Jesus looks him in the eye and yells, “Hypocrite!” The leader faints b/c he’s spent the whole weekend on the internet, eating nothing but Nacho Cheese Doodles and drinking low-fat iced mocha frappacinnos. Jesus soldiers on, asking the leader and the crowd: “What better day to free this woman from the bondage of Satan than the Sabbath?” Jesus’ opponents were humbled and the crowd rejoices. His point? Paul says it better than I can: “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving of one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God…” He says to live in love, to love as Christ loves, to avoid obscenity and silly talk, rather give thanksgiving, live as a breathing testament of gratitude to the Father. We are children of the light not of the darkness. He says to get off the blogsite comboxes and stop arguing about how to fold the altar linens and get out there and do something holy and grateful and kind and forgiving for someone!

I have to remind myself constantly that Jesus didn’t suffer bloody beatings and an ignoble execution so that I can continue to labor under the Law. Of course rules and regulations are an essential part of our human community, but like the sacraments, they are not binding on God. God is not limited to dispensing his grace through the sacraments. Nor is He limited to specific days for healing. Jesus argues that the Sabbath is the perfect day to work a healing miracle. What better way to honor God, seek out rest, and witness to the Father’s power and mercy than to free someone from an oppressive demon? Again and again Jesus has taught us that we aren’t freed from the Law but freed within the Law to love God and love one another. And what can be more perverse than for us to take the greatest commandment, written on the flesh our hearts, and shrink it back into a legal proposition written on stone? A truly sad idolatry.

If you find yourself greedy for the Law, for a regulation or rubric to worship, remember Paul’s words: no idolater has an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. Hell is for Pharisaical nitpickers and combox devils.


  1. Anonymous8:55 AM

    Well played, Padre.

    Many of late - Deacon Dan Wright in Austin, for example - have noted the vicious nature of armchair theologians on some comboxes or blogs. When discussion out of love for the Church and her task on Earth turns to such nastiness, something has crept in, like the smoke Paul VI said to have emerged from some mysterious crack.

    Would that all the closed-minded cafeterias, shout-filled piazzas and other sources of online contention had at the top of their comboxes that very Catholic phrase which ends, "and in all things, charity."

  2. Anonymous8:17 PM

    wooHOOO! Thank you Jesus! The liturgy police give me a headache.

  3. Helen,

    You'll be sorry to hear this, I'm afraid! I'm a liturgy policeman...if by "liturgy policeman" you mean someone who follows the rules and insists that others do as well. My theory is that rules keep us from abusing our power--as priests or bishops, etc. Now, I don'[t get all twisted out of shape if someone fudges soemtimes, but I don't like deliberate violations of the liturgical law or texts for political or ideological purposes, e.g. changing "He" to "God" or changing the Trinitarian blessing to a gnostic job description in order to avoid male imagery. This is an abuse of power and a sure sign of clericalism at its worst.

    Fr. Philip

  4. FR. P: "changing the Trinitarian blessing to a gnostic job description"

    Love it! I guess that makes the DVC Jesus' latest résumé? Keep up the good work

  5. The leader faints b/c he’s spent the whole weekend on the internet, eating nothing but Nacho Cheese Doodles and drinking low-fat iced mocha frappacinnos.

    Hahaha, Father!!! That was great. I often Doritos chips two bags at a time while I am blogging....

    Thanks for your comment at Bettnett about the girl who espoused her pro-abortion views.