Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Here, Hold my coat.

When I was a kid there was this one girl on the bus who always poked fun at me.  I put up with it for a long time.  She was one of the cool kids and when she'd make fun of me everyone would laugh.  One day something snapped and I began to use my brain to twist everything she said and throw it back at her.  It wasn't long till I got good at it.  Instead of me being laughed at, it was her.  I threw my barbs with wit and hatred.  Eventually, she stopped riding the bus.   I found out years later that she would cry on her walk home from the bus stop to the house.  I never got to apologize to her.   She never talked to me or came around me after that.

In a situation such as that it's easy to place blame, isn't it?  At first, it was her fault, then it was mine.   She was insulting, then I was.  Neither of us was doing what we should be doing.  The problem is there were many other people involved.  The other kids first off, who laughed and encouraged it.  They were obviously ok with it.  What about the ones who were silent?   The bus driver who never said a word?  Our parents who, though they had probably tried, hadn't succeeded in teaching us to be better.  The society that encouraged us to be silly and irreverent with our television shows and games. The list could go on and on.

In today's first reading we see Saul of Tarsus standing idly by watching the cloaks.  The crowd has turned into a mob and they are rushing off to stone Stephen for speaking the truth.  Saul is apparently pretty influential and trustworthy.   The crowd sees him as not only a man they can leave their cloaks with and know they will get them back, but by his silence, he is approving of the situation.  He stands there and says not a word, but no one would doubt that he believes they are doing the correct thing.  That's something we as Catholic Christians should be very aware of.  Silence is often seen as approval.

When someone is gossiping about someone else your silence is approval. "Here hold my coat."

That girl who is about to have an abortion and you never speak to her about it.  "Here hold my coat."

The man who has been beating his wife and you neither hinder him or help her.  "Here hold my coat."

The starving child that has no food or drink and we have a larder full. "Here hold my coat."

That person who is Catholic except for..... (fill in the blank) and you never stop to help them understand, "Here hold my coat."

The person who no longer comes to Mass, and never hears the words "We miss you."   "Here hold my coat."

How many coats have we stood and watched over as others did something we both knew to be wrong?  As a man who is a pastoral minister and discerning a call to the diaconate, I am painfully aware that my silent presence can be seen as tacit approval.   We have to be careful or we'll find ourselves being lumped into this side or that side, us vs them.  "Ann was at the meeting!  She's on our side."   "Bob knew we were going to do this, we thought he was ok with it?"    "Deacon was there when we talked about that, it must be ok."   Jesus reminds us of that every time we come forward to communion.   When we are about to receive that host, the bread of life come down from heaven for us, the minister says "The body of Christ."  The recipient responds, "Amen."   That Amen is full of depth, full of meaning.  It is not a silence that could be misinterpreted.   It is a pronouncement that I believe.   Yes, I believe that this is the Body of Christ.  I believe that He is present and that His Holy Spirit guides this Church.  I believe in everything she teaches and I am a Catholic.  That's why we don't have an open communion table... because as St. Paul says it's dangerous to come to the Eucharist without being aware of what you are doing... that He who receives unworthily is guilty of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

It's important for us as Christians to be less like those who gambled for the cloak of Christ at the foot of the cross, and more like the centurion who exclaimed, "Truly this man is the Son of God!"   Saul of Tarsus once stood at the stoning of Stephen, listening to the Gospel proclaimed.  That planted a seed in his heart.  One that grew and blossomed, eventually leading to a conversion experience that transformed him from the cloak holder to the martyr himself.   That's our hope.   To grow continually until we too stand up for our faith, proclaiming it with every breath of our being.

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"He must increase, I must decrease."

A reflection on the readings for Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter: May 2nd, 2017.