NB. If this homily seems like it's somewhat truncated that's b/c it is. When I was assigned last evening's Mass, I naturally starting thinking about it as a vigil Mass. . .thus, a 12 min. homily would be required. Then I learned that the 6.15pm Saturday Mass here is not a vigil Mass, i.e. it is not celebrated using Sunday's readings, etc. So, much slashing and burning had to be done!
23rd Week OT(S)
23rd Week OT(S)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
If asked, could you sum up the basic differences between cultural modernism and cultural postmodernism? The difference between T. S. Eliot and Julia Kristeva? Fredric Jameson argues that postmodernism is the "dominant cultural logic of late capitalism,” meaning that the logic of our current cultural enterprises is motivated by a pernicious ideology that privileges textuality over ontology, difference over unity, skepticism over certainty, and intellectual anarchy over reason's authority. My guess is that most sensible people don't spend a lot of time worrying about the postmodernist deconstruction of modernism's grand-narratives of Self, Law, and Reason. Sensible people, including not a few good Catholics, need to reconsider. . .and worry. Why? Take a simple definition of one of postmodernism's most successful spawn, Jacques Derrida's theory of deconstruction. J. Hillis Miller writes, “Deconstruction is not a dismantling of the structure of a text, but a demonstration that it has already dismantled itself. Its apparently-solid ground is no rock, but thin air." What's so worrying about how a critic chooses to treat a literary text? If we were simply talking about poetics, there might not be a problem. However, the notion that there is no solid ground, no rock upon which we might construct a humane community is the originating principle of the logic that governs many of our contemporary cultural, economic, political endeavors, including efforts among some in the Church. As a culture, what do we inherit and what do we bequeath? Well, all is thin air. But it doesn't have to be.
Jesus says to his disciples, “I will tell you about the person who hears me and acts on my teachings. . .” He then describes two house builders. The one who listens and acts is like a builder who digs a deep foundation for his house and build on solid rock. The one who listens but fails to act is like a builder who builds his house on sand. When the river rises and bears down on each house, guess which one ends up starring in a Youtube video as it slides gracelessly into the flood? The house with no foundation, the one built on sand collapses. Jesus exclaims, “. . .and what a ruin that house became!” The person who hears but does not act will collapse into ruins when a crisis strikes. One person, then the family, then the community, then the nation, then the whole of one's culture. What will we inherit and what will we bequeath? Thin air. All is thin air.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns the Church of Corinth to avoid idolatry not because the idols are real gods but because the idols are not the real God. If we make an idol of the logic of late capitalism, then language is simply arbitrary convention; law is simply violence made legitimate; reason is simply privileged power; and faith, faith is nothing more than a vicious habit, the naive and potentially dangerous habit of believing that there is Something Out There worthy of our trust. It is no accident that the scions of postmodernism target the Church for ridicule and oppression. We are among the last to dig deep and build on a rock-solid foundation.
Our foundation is Christ and him crucified and risen; therefore, we cannot eat and drink with Christ in the Church and at the same time eat and drink with demons. Through the Church, we have inherited the faith of the apostles, and we have been charged with bequeathing this treasure to our children. They are no less endangered by the raging floods than we are. And they are no less entitled to the riches of an authentic faith than we are. After all, Jesus says to his disciples, “There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit. . .we do not pick figs from thorns.” With constant prayer, charitable works, attention to the sacraments, and obedience—listening—to the voice of divine love and acting on His love, we dig deep, rock solid foundations. The thin air of late capitalism's cultural logic is no match for a Church built on the rock of Christ.
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