The Readings for the 15th Saturday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
Memorial of Our Lady of Mt Carmel
On that day a satire shall be sung over you.Micah 2:4a
AT THE END OF the wonderful Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Mr Wonka reads the riot act to Charlie and his Grandfather. “All offers shall become null and void”. Grandpa says, “We’ve not broken any rules” and Wonka screams out “WRONG!” It’s all there in black and white, clear as crystal. In today’s passage from Micah, the prophet makes it clear as crystal that when things go bad (as they are about to do) it’s Israel’s own fault. In fact, to read the Old Testament from the get-go, when things go bad, it’s your own fault.
Today’s reading is another place where the lectionary is actually different from the text they link to. Not sure what’s going on here. I confess I was kind of excited about “a satire shall be sung” because singing satires a part of the Irish Bardic tradition. (And also part of modern politics that I greatly enjoy.) Other translations, though, make the point a bit more literally (“make a proverb of you”, “mock you”, etc). Imagine, “Yeah, the South was like Israel after God got done with ’em.” But it was all Israel’s fault: not God’s. It’s what you might call natural consequences. There actually is a plan for the universe. When you step outside of that plan things fall apart. God needn’t do anything to “punish” you: it just happens. God opens a way through the sea for his beloved, and you chase after his beloved… you drown. Quid pro quo. He didn’t open that pathway for you. If you are God’s beloved (Israel) and you act like any other pagan nation, then you get the same reaction: “you shall have no one to mark out boundaries by lot in the assembly of the LORD.” You erased the boundaries the Lord set so you don’t need them… and they go away and stay away.
Parents do this: you want to go out until 4 PM the next day? OK… but you still need to do your chores, so get up. Is that punishment or natural consequences? You go to work hung over and you can’t do your job so you lose it. Punishment or the natural consequence of not being able to do the job?
I think of this a lot right now. People “sing a satire” at the Church. Are we like the innocent martyrs of the 1st few centuries, or is there something else going on? I think the Church seems more like Charlie at the end of the Chocolate Factory. There’s actually a lot that has gone on. I’m not talking about the politically correct things that people complain about – specific doctrines being out of step with modern times or actions taken 1000 years ago by people in a different culture (also out of step with modern times). Things like abortion and sex are the excuses that people give for disliking the Church, sure, but is it possible that the boundaries are not there because we erased them in other ways? Can we honestly look at our history even in the last 50 years or so and say there’s nothing that might provoke “natural consequences”?
Again, this has nothing to do with what they say about us. This has nothing to do with what they claim to want to change about the Church. It’s uncomfortable. But is it possible there is something to repent of, something to love us through that might make the Church better, more-healed and more-healing in the long run?