Niches

Last Sunday after touring Mammoth Cave we were watching a documentary about Christ.  The host was the actor David Suchet who played Hercule Poirot in the mystery series of the same name.  He was standing in front of a cliff-face wall of empty carved pagan idol niches near Caesarea Philippi (the same place that Fr. Barron used in His Catholicism Series) where it is said Jesus asked His disciples the question ‘But who do you say that I am?[1] There in front of a pantheistic worship place Jesus poses a fundamental question to His closest followers ‘But who do you say that I am?[2]

Earlier, I had read two articles; one was a news article on the quiet tsunami of changing moral values over the past 20-30 years in the United States. The other was from Rome about a group of Catholic Bishops and other ‘intelligencia’ meeting at a private seminar headed by Reinhard Cardinal Marx, president of the German Bishop’s conference, to discuss ‘developing the Church’s teaching on human sexuality based on a ‘theology of love’’[3] as an alternative to Pope St. John Paul the Great’s ‘theology of the body’. These were very worrisome articles to me.

As David Suchet was discussing the events that happened there in front of those pagan idol niches something of an awakening came to me.  These changes of moral acceptance and the organized discussions to create within the church a new point of view towards some of them, that I read about earlier, forces each of us (those reading about them and those participating) to answer the same question that Christ asked His disciples in Caesarea Philippi – ‘But who do you say that I am?[4]

Standing near the pagan idols in Caesarea Philippi Peter spoke with clarity and chose Christ.  That is what each of us is called to do. That is what those attendees in Rome are called to do, and that is what I think they are trying to do.

But what really hit me watching the documentary was the realization that I needed to review my own actions and thoughts. That before I try to remove the splinter from their eyes I have to take the plank out of mine – by understanding how I am answering Christ’s question ‘But who do you say that I am?[5] I am nervous about the reports that have surfaced from last year’s extraordinary synod on the family. I am really nervous about the statements from the German Bishops Conference this year.  I am very nervous about this meeting of progressive intellectual elites.  And I have every right to be nervous.  But I should be most nervous about how I answer Christ. Do my words match my actions?  Do I look straight into Christ’s eyes and answer as Peter did; or do I look past Christ as I answer and stare at those idols sitting the niches behind Him?

Do I rest my eyes on a cross or a niche?

————————————————————————————————————

[1] Mt 16:15 (RSV)
[2] ibid
[3] http://www.churchmilitant and other reports
[4] Mt 16:15 (RSV)
[5] ibid

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