View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Acting like a scribe or Pharisee

Today's Gospel reading was Luke 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.

But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, "Come up and stand before us.”

And he rose and stood there.

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Looking around at them all, he then said to him, “Stretch out your hand.”

He did so and his hand was restored. But they became enraged and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.

A couple of things struck me as I listened.

Like the scribes and Pharisees, I find myself all too often watching closely to see if I can spot a reason "to accuse" others. I often catch myself doing that when reading the newspaper or watching the news, looking for some moral failing I can point out to others or that I can use to tear down the offending individuals.

And I do it too often when it comes to the Church. Today, for example, the Mass was celebrated by a priest noted for straying from the text when he celebrates Mass. I sometimes find myself watching him to see if he does it again - then saying to myself, "There he goes again."

I have spoken to him in the past about some things, and every time he starts doing things that don't strictly follow the rules, I'm tempted to do so again. Like the scribes and Pharisees, I become"enraged" (more annoyed, really) at even the small things he does "wrong" and wonder what I might do. I find it easier to stick to the "law" rather than the spirit of the law.

I also thought of all the folks who make a habit of watching Bishop Clark, and the priests and personnel of this diocese - or Church personnel in other dioceses - looking for things done incorrectly or in violation of the rules, and then, when they see what they are looking for, get enraged and discuss with like-minded souls personally and on blogs what they can do. (Write to the bishop! Write to Rome!)

Yes, some offenses are major and warrant action and reporting. I know I need to be more courageous about confronting such things.

But some offenses are, well, small.

And some are like curing the man with the withered hand, technically a violation of the laws as we understand them, but the right thing to do.

And, of course, I also get caught up in watching those folks to catch them when they go too far in watching others. I'm being a scribe and a Pharisee of the scribes and Pharisees!

I know I need to learn to be less like the scribes and Pharisees, and to be less caught up in the technicalities. I need to learn to focus on what I do and say rather than on what others do or say. I need to be more forgiving of others, and more compassionate.

Otherwise God might just judge me by the same standards with which I judge others.

That's a frightening thought.


Anonymous Carol said...

Well, don't we all suffer from this same lament --but we didn't always. And now, it is the example of the humility of the saints themselves that can correct us --and almost without the sting of the scalpel. One thinks back to St. Francis' response to how he would receive the Lord from a sin-laden priest. Amen. Me, too.

There is a great deal of humility needed before we can "love one another as [He] has loved us" -- and we find it palatable only in the school of the Beatitudes: His own example of humility (and/or that of His mother's even before His). This is why I don't mind being 57. Sometimes, it takes many decades before one like me gets a clue.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

At 54, I'm still working on getting a clue!

As for humility, sadly, that word is not often one others think of when they think of me.

But you are so right. The saints provide such a wonderful example. I sometimes find myself thinkign of how St. Francis or Mother Teresa or St. Vincent would have acted (usually I don't think to think of them until after I've blundered ahead!).

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There you go again Lee, you're criticizing the orthodox Catholics who want Mass celebrated according to the rubrics, but you say absolutely nothing of the liberal Catholics who tear down bishops who ban dissenters from teaching or running parishes.

You show your true colors once again.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Gee, I thought I spent more of the post criticizing myself.

As for the "orthodox" they tend to be the ones doing the most grousing and posting. Maybe I just don't read enough of the more progressive blogs. Usually, though, what they write about doesn't interest me.

And I am all for banning dissenters from teaching. I guess I just haven't seen too many blogs criticizing the bishops for doing so.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Todd said...

"Gee, I thought I spent more of the post criticizing myself."

Hence, your problem. You didn't criticize the libruls, and thereby lost cred in the Culture of Complaint.

Have a blessed Labor Day, my friend.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Ben Anderson said...

I'd have to say I agree with anon 11:25 AM. Sure, you mention yourself, but clearly your intent is to knock the orthodox. Also, you strayed quite a bit away from the text and applied your own interpretation. Perhaps you were thinking more about Matt. 7:1-5? That passage is often misused to tell people to shut people, but that's really a poor reading of the text.

The Ignatius study Bible says the following:
"Jesus' teachings on judgment is 2-sided. (1) He condemns judging other's faults. We are incapable of judging with fairness and accuracy since God alone commands us to exercise critical discernment. (2) Examination is necessary to avoid profaning what is holy and embracing what is false.

We believe in the authority of the Church, right? Well, I don't know that any of the orthodox around here are saying anything different than what the Church officially teaches. I don't claim on my own authority to tell bishop clark he is wrong, but I do think that when he strays from the universal teaching of the Church that I have the right to speak up.

The orthodox complaints against Bishop Clark are justified. I'm reading an excellent book right now, Mass Confusion. Jimmy Akin offers none of his own opinions, but mainly just brings together lots of different Church documents to tell the story of Post V2 liturgical experimentation. I will be posting about this book at some point because it corrects the attitude that many people hold that the laity have no right to speak out against their bishop. If people speak out that their Lord is being made a mockery of or profaned against, they are accused of being pharisaical? But that's just nonsense. In fact the Church teaching makes it our duty to hold the bishop, priests, or anyone else accountable for liturgical abuses.

1:04 PM  
Blogger Ben Anderson said...

Also I hope you've gotten a chance to try OLV again - Fr A has been on a roll with his homilies. I forgot what it was like to actually have a homilist talk about the scriptures and not some feel good readers digest story.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And I am all for banning dissenters from teaching. I guess I just haven't seen too many blogs criticizing the bishops for doing so."

Clearly you have not. Nor does it appear that you have seen the over 600 comments at the Cincinnati newspaper Web site trashing the Bishop for banning a dissenting nun from teaching. The link is . Had you seen these things, you would realize that the liberals are far worse and much more lacking in charity than the orthodox who you so frequently criticize. Your attacks are as usual directed against the wrong people.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you saying what you did. As you said above, you spoke about yourself.
Yours is the only local blog of the Orthodox persuasion that I still read. I don't need reinforcement for my judgmental attitudes. I am great at that!

1:49 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Ben - I wasn't preaching a homily (not allowed to!), so I wasn't fully exploring the text. I just recorded the throughts that passed through my mind after hearing it.

3:10 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Ben (2) I haven't gotten down to OLV since this summer. I found a closer 7:30 Mass that fit in better with my summer schedule, and then a 6:25 that allows me to get to work on time. I'm sure I'll get down there again at some point. Maybe in connect with 40 Days for Life.

3:13 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

anonymous - No, I don't have a reason to read the Cincinnati newspaper.

I'm sure there was plenty of anti-Catholic venom from former Catholics and no-Catholics. I tend to try to stay away from such things - don't like to get my ire up. There's a number of blogs - conservative and liberal - that I tend to avoid or only take a quick look at these days.

By the way, it would be nice if you included your name.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Susan - "orthodox persuasion"! I suspect there would be some debate about that. I take it as a compliment.

Thank you for reading. Keep stopping by.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

... former Catholics and non-Catholics..." is what I meant to say.

3:21 PM  
Anonymous Mary Kay said...

Lee, it's a good point that we need to look at ourselves before others, but I don't have to "go looking for things done incorrectly" - I can't take a step without tripping over them.

For example, your post on the diocesan program made me curious why it's basically the length of an academic school year, so I looked up the site - and was greatly disappointed, frustrated, and aggravated by a dissident author on the recommended reading list, attendance at Sunday Mass not described as the bare minimum, and overall, no solid foundation in either Scripture or other Catholic topics.

It is not pharasaical to expect those in the role of shepherd to provide for the flock.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Pharisees pushed excessive rules and regulations on people that were completely of their own creation. The orthodox Catholics you criticize are not at all doing this, but rather citing existing Church documents and laws that they wish to see respected in their diocese by a leader who has the job of protecting the teachings of the Church, not bending and manipulating them.

6:01 PM  
Blogger RailRider said...


Really wonderful, introspective post.


6:18 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

anonymous 6:01 - Again, the post was more about me.

As for focusing on excessive rules and regulations, true, but I see that happening today as well.

6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Really wonderful, introspective post. "

Introspective? Did you read the following paragraph:

"I also thought of all the folks who make a habit of watching Bishop Clark, and the priests and personnel of this diocese - or Church personnel in other dioceses - looking for things done incorrectly or in violation of the rules, and then, when they see what they are looking for, get enraged and discuss with like-minded souls personally and on blogs what they can do. (Write to the bishop! Write to Rome!)"

Lee is using this allegedly introspective piece to insert yet another jab at orthodox Catholics. He knows exactly what kind of reaction it is going to provoke, because it happens every time. Why do you continue to do it?

6:43 PM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

anonymous 6:43 - did YOU read the rest of the post?

The purpose was not to get in a jab. I wrote, as I regularly do, about the thoughts that occur to me. The different aspects of my reflections this morning are represented in the piece. That I thought of some folks' critical comments is a reflection of the facts that they do make them, I have encountered them fairly regularly, and the comments are on my mind. I tend to see fewer such comments from the left, though I'm sure they do exist. i just don't see them as regulalry as the kinds of comments I cited.

I was aware that it might provoke a reaction - but then, I get reactions for other pieces as well (including threats for some of my pro-life ones). But the main purpose of it was not to provoke reactions. I try to share what is on my mind, sometimes to work out things through the process of writing - for sometimes things don't become clear to me until I set them down.

And I really would like it if the anonymous people would attach names - and some people do (like Susan). I put my name on what I write.

7:47 PM  
Blogger Ben Anderson said...

Lee, I do appreciate your insight on your blog and respect your thoughts and opinions. However, I disagree with your assertion here and wish to convert you on this position:

9:27 PM  
Blogger Mr. B said...

Lee - great post!

Anon - your pride is showing.
After all, pride is the focal point of the piece. ;-)

Pride has brought many good people down.

Think about it. Pray about it.

God Bless.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all of this is why we suddenly have "A Year For Priests".

Pray for priests, wherever in the hierarchy they are. We laity can actually do no holier thing on earth than to pray for our clergy.

2:30 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Amen to that, Poor Servant.

5:15 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

Ben, there's no need to convert me. As I noted in the orginal post, there are abuses that do need to be confronted. I have no problem with that, especially if done respectfully. I did that when we had a lay preacher at my parish, for example.

But think of how many blog posts involve suggestions - or even plans to go to some event or to hear some speaker to watch and see if there are abuses. Take a camera. Get pictures. That sure reminds me of "watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him."

And as for respectful - I've posted before some of the comments I see that go beyond just criticizing some action. Or take those counters of how many days Bishop Clark has left. I have said I think it is time for a new bishop, but I'm not about to be so disresepctful as to post a counter and gleefully count the days.

Getting back to the point of the original post - I need to be more aware of when I act like a scribe or Pharisee, and I need to be more compassionate and forgiving.

5:49 AM  
Blogger Ben Anderson said...

ok, Lee, fair enough. I think you should distinguish who it is you're talking about then. If you're only talking about comments on blogs then say that. If you're talking about specific blogs, then say that. People tend to get a little touchy when you give a sweeping judgment of a specific type of blog. I know I personally try very hard to keep emotion out of my blog and stick to objective truth. Sure, I've seen some nasty comments out there, but it's nothing compared to what you might see other places (like the D&C). Not that it makes it right, but it doesn't surprise me - people are people.

6:04 AM  

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