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* The gospel in church today started with "Do unto others as you would have them do to you" and then progressed to "Love your enemies." As the priese pointed out, the Golden Rule is hardly new to Jesus, but the second is the surprise. It's part of a whole series, of course: "turn the other cheek", "sell all yu have and follow me", "you commit adultery if you lust after someone in your heart", etc. I think the overarching message is: don't be too complacent in your holiness, because there's always more to be done. Still, it seems that Jesus piles criterion upon criterion on us, leading to one of my favorite passages (Mk 10:25-27):
"'It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, 'Then who can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.'"
It seems that this sums up all of these sayings: you're right, according to my rules it is impossible for you to be saved on your own merits-- you'll never be perfect. But it's not up to you. SO do your best, and We will save you in the end.

The priest brushed by "Do unto others" in the course of his homily-- he did bring up an interesting example of that annoying person you know, whom you might ignore in hopes that he will in turn ignore you! But "Do unto others" is hard enough by itself. Too often, for me, it's become "Do unto others before they do unto you" or "Do unto others what you expect them to do to you." I expect people to look at me with a critical eye, and so I am defensively critical in turn, always ready with a comeback. I expect them to grab that last seat on the bus, to demand their share of personal space, to take take take, so I take first lest I be left with nothing.

An example occurred to me in church: I've been going off an on to a local Byzantine-rite Catholic church, because it's closest to my house, and the liturgy involves a lot of standing, which does a number on my lower back. Towards the end of the service, I sat down a few times to stretch my back and relieve the tension and pain, and I hoped that people would not be offended by my doing so, that they might realize that it was because of discomfort and not disrespect or laziness. But would I do the same? When I'm in my own Roman rite I am Mr. Liturgical Correctness: hey, this prayer should be spoken, not sung! Hey, those are the wrong words! Hey, you're not supposed to be sitting during the consecration! Hey, you're not supposed to be walking around during the Gospel! Etc. Very little compassion. I have a lot of disagreements with the Catholic church, but I have been seriously thinking about leaving it recently, not so much because of politics, but because I am too much in love with the liturgy as I know it, and much too upset when people don't do it the Right Way. It's so distracting that it drains the spirit out of weekly Mass for me. The Byzantine rite might not be the right choice for me, but I do need to spend some more time in a scenario where I don't know what's going on, where I don't have strong emotional opinions about every little detail, and so can learn some humility.

* I've mentioned my wanting to keep pink out of Miriam's wardrobe, and I'm also rather anti-dress as well. I like to frame it in my mind as feminism and equality, but I need to be honest: it's just my own personal bias, maybe because I'm male, or maybe just due to my own personal taste. I like a girl (and I mean a child; I'm not talking romantically or anything) who is active and tough, who eschews the feminine stereotypes of dolls and frilliness and whatnot. Maybe most girls are like that anymore, I don't know. Maybe I'm fighting against stereotypes that aren't so relevant anymore. And of course, once Miriam is a few years older she will have her own ideas about what sort of girl she's going to be, and I hope that when that happens I'll have the grace to let her be herself, albeit with our moral guidance.

* I mentioned earlier that I was in Williamstown to give a talk to the Physics department. It was a very short visit, and because I hadn't finished my slides before I got there, I wasted too much time on Friday morning working on the talk instead of socializing with the faculty. Still, I talked to Bill a while which was good, and I talked to new professor Ward Lopes, whom I knew in graduate school. I have very little to do with the University of Chicago anymore, so it was interesting to chat with someone who had been there and knew everyone. I wanted to enjoy a bit of autumn as an escape from Dallas, but alas it was too early for more than a few leaves to have turned, and it rained all day Friday to boot. Ah well.

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October 2010

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