We must again see Christ in the poor. Jesus Christ could’ve come as a king or an emperor, but instead he came as a person of little status, of lowly means. Again and again, he commends care for the poor, and damns injustice toward them. None of this is a coincidence. It was, in fact, revolutionary: It overturned an ancient mode of organizing society and introduced as meaningful and urgent the station of the poorest members of our society. It extended dignity and value to people otherwise invisible. It charged generations of Christians, present company not excluded, with the holy task of finding the face of Christ the Lord of all things in the pain and suffering of those with nothing. Christ is with the lonely and hungry people who wander city streets in need of money and medical care. Christ is with the families fleeing ruined, flooded homes in Puerto Rico, who have no recourse, no food, no medicine for their injuries. Christ is with the refugees who find themselves in foreign lands, leaving their lives and families and communities behind in blood-soaked, war-torn places. In our modern world we struggle with faith; we want tangible proof, evidence we can see and touch for ourselves. Here is your chance: Christ comes to us as the poorest of the poor, and in touching them, you touch his wounds like Thomas, and drive away the shadow of doubt.
The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all. So far as the kind of world we have is concerned, the atheist and the theist will expect to see exactly the same features. The only difference is that if the atheist were right the question would not arise—indeed, the atheist would not arise.
—Herbert McCabe (Faith Within Reason, 76)
I talked about this a bit in this post, but McCabe says it better. This point comes up in preaching and popular theology all the time, but its most egregious iteration is in worship music. I would be very happy to never again have to sing that God is better and bigger and stronger. I understand the sentiment, of course, but it begins to sound like a Kanye West song.
I’m ambivalent about Rod Dreher, his ‘Benedict Option,’ and this New Yorker profile, but I can enthusiastically endorse these two bits from the piece:
“Part of the problem with religion is that it can just be an aestheticization of life,” a young Orthodox priest from Yonkers said. “It’s still late-modern capitalism working its insidious tentacles. We need a vocabulary to get outside of that.”
Amen. I think that just about covers what’s missing from many BenOp discussions–and also what a great number of millenials (this one included!) are tempted to. And then there’s this sly repurposing of that MacIntyre quote that won’t go away:
Afterward, Dreher and the other panelists retreated to the club’s library. Bartenders served the Benedict Option (“another—doubtless very different—cocktail,” made with whiskey, amaro, St-Germain, lemon juice, and simple syrup).
So opens Herbert McCabe’s sermon ‘Forgiveness.’ The rest is just as measured and memorable as this first paragraph. It’s the best treatment of the parable of the prodigal son that I have read and, two months into this new year, the piece of writing that’s stuck with me most since reading it last year.
Perhaps I’ll write about it more later but for now an exhortation: Read the rest.