Thursday, May 03, 2007

Taking Heat for the Gospel

Have you ever had an Awkward Catholic Moment (henceforth referred to as an ACM)?

- Maybe you're about to make the sign of the cross in a restaurant or a diner before a meal and there's that brief second of indecision; "Am I being showy or saintly?" (ACM)

- A friend\co-worker says "You're Catholic, right?" (you swallow hard) "So what's the big hang-up with birth control? Are you guys trying to take over the world?!" (quick answer is yes, we are. See Genesis 1:28 and Matthew 28:19)

- Maybe someone at work or school drops a bomb on the table and says "they" should just let priests get married and that would solve the "problem," and in the seconds ticking between talk, you wonder if you should speak a clarifying word from Matthew 19:12 or the Catechism? (ACM)

- or maybe you're actually a little unsure about the meaning of the whole celibacy thing yourself and don't know what to say. (ACM Deluxe Edition)

- You're walking down the aisle of a massive movie theater to grab a seat and you genuflect before you enter your row (ACM Platinum Edition... and yes, I did that once.)

Everyone has a little ribbon on their car bumper or lapel these days: Support Our Troops, Breast Cancer Awareness, Save Darfur. Imagine wearing a little I Love the Priesthood ribbon? Support Our Bishops? In light of the last few years, that ain't easy. In light of some workplace/lunchtime/water cooler gatherings, it's downright embarrassing.

But when was it ever easy to believe in an incarnational Church, a Church that professes that God Himself established and is literally working through this sinful mess of people, promising a grace and mercy that can save us, even though it may sometimes seem to be flowing over dirty hands and through clogged pipes? With the episcopal shipwreck of the last few years, and the laxity in the laity, many of us still feeling "holy stuff" is what Father does, not me, I'm just a pew potato, it can be awkward to be Catholic today. As awkward as it was for a certain crusty fisherman standing outside of a praetorium, warming himself by a charcoal fire, painfully self-conscious as his Master takes a beating behind those walls.

"Aren't you one of his disciples?"
"I've seen you with the Nazarene, aren't you one of them?"

I guess the question in our ACMs these days is the same as it was for Peter.

So what will your answer be? Do you know the Man? Will you claim allegiance to Him, even as He comes to us in the distressing disguise of a sinful Church? Will you have the eyes to see through the humanity and into the divinity, to the spotless Bride of Christ that is forever wedded to the Lamb of God? For that is Her deepest identity and our ultimate end. We will all be one. And He will wipe away every tear, and He will defend us who have been fearless in our defense of Him. And if we have fallen, He will come and seek us out, saying "Do you love me?"

And then, we can enter the unending bliss of that Wedding Feast with a simple... "I do."
And that love will cover a multitude of sins....
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