Romantics take a beating in this cold cruel world for their stubborn and dreamy insistence that “all you need is love.” Realists view such a wide-eyed allegiance to love harshly. The young dreamers in an old Sonny and Cher song lament the skepticism of their elders: “They say our love won’t pay the rent.”
Exploring the Word
Perhaps the most relevant issue of the 21st century is also curiously an ancient one: What is the proper relationship between church and state? At least most nations of the world don’t have to face the old problem of kings who ruled by divine right, much less emperors and pharaohs who identified themselves as the divinity personified.
It is tempting to think of the trilogy of Matthean judgment parables as short stories from a book called Stupid People, Stupid Choices. Two weeks ago, for example, we heard about a son who promises to help his father in the field on a particular day and then never shows up.
Who among us has never yearned for a get-rich-quick scheme that really works? Many of us confine our longing to our daydreams. But some buy lottery tickets and hope against the odds. Others may gamble in casinos on holidays. Still others invest in stocks that promise to yield astronomical profits.
You’ll generally get no argument in insisting that actions speak louder than words. Despite the apparent consensus on this folk wisdom, most of us catch ourselves from time to time saying things we frankly will not do.
I think the unfairness of the world was evident to me before I was out of grade school. Being confronted with great American ideals like “All men are created equal” made me want to punch John Locke’s lights out. You only had to glance around the recess yard to see all the folks who were clearly at a disadvantage for which time, wealth, and status would never compensate them.
Years ago I wrote a little book on forgiveness. It was supposed to be a quick read, something you could absorb in one sitting. But the longer I spent at the task, the more I realized that forgiveness is not a short subject. I tried to contain it in four easy chapters like the publisher asked.
Most of us have a friend who is determined to tell the truth at any cost. Or perhaps we should say that the truth comes at everyone’s cost. No sooner does the next victim of this relentless honesty leave the room when the “truth” descends in the form of gossip, criticism, a rehashing of the person’s past actions or present motives, even a forecast of future probabilities.
Often I see retreat house brochures advertising wonderful weekend getaways that promise to revive my flagging spiritual life. Sometimes I take them up on the offer, whether or not I perceive an appreciable fall-off in fervor. But once I was asked to lead such a weekend myself and proposed the topic “Spiritual Obstacles.”
Peter gets chosen as many as 28 times in a century (from the years 867 to 965), although we’ve only had 10 popes in the past 100 years. A pope may govern as long as Pius IX (31 years) or Urban VII (12 days). Nobody includes the original Peter in the longevity ranking, because we don’t really know when to start the clock on his rule, and only vaguely can we pinpoint its end.