I hear the Grand Slam is good.


JMJ

The Readings for Trinity Sunday (B2)

Et videntes eum adoraverunt : quidam autem dubitaverunt.
And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. 

This is my favourite verse in the New Testament. It’s huge. Because it’s the end of a pure church. The Apostles have been with Jesus for 40 days since Easter, here we are on a distant mountain, the veil between the worlds is so thin that Jesus is about to pass bodily into heaven. They worship… but some doubt. Even now? Really?

The Greek for this doubt is not a simple opposite to “Trust”. It is διστάζω distazo meaning “to waver”.  To be of two minds about something, to stand at a crossroads or a fork and want one or the other choice. It’s to waffle. It’s used one other time in the New Testament, also in Mathew: When Jesus grasps Peter’s hand in the middle of the ocean. “O you of little faith, why did you “distazo”? Then Jesus pulls Peter out of the water and puts him back into the boat (which some read as a symbol for the Church). Here on the mountain, though, Jesus sends those of little faith out into the world as evangelists.

What a risk! What a God who loves us.

When I left the Episcopal Church I went looking for a pure church: one that was free of waffling. This was the wrong thing to go looking for. Father Victor, of blessed memory, warned me, even then, that I was not coming into a perfect church, or a pure church, but rather the True Church. It took me a while to realize the truth of that statement. Protestantism seems to come in two modes: to either fix the wafflers (by suppression or expulsion) or to celebrate them (by changing doctrine at the drop of a hat). What I found in the better places of Orthodoxy, and what I find continually in those same sort of places in Catholicism, is a challenge to waffling. 

Come in. Yes. Hear the fullness of the faith. Yes. Be taught, be formed in it. Yes. Struggle to grasp it, to understand it, to inculcate it into your life. Yes. And be honest about the struggle. The writings of many saints, including journals of St Theresa of Calcutta and Alexander Schmemann and the Dialogues of St Catherine of Sienna, show us that waffling continues.  Although the waffling may, by God’s grace, lessen over time, the only unwaffled Catholic is a dead one. 

And on this mountain, God does what? And he takes this batch of wafflers and sends them out into the world to teach and to make disciples! Glory to God! Jesus says to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” That’s the answer: we don’t have that. Jesus does. The prayer at Mass says, ne respicias peccata nostra Regard not our sins but the faith of your church. Don’t look at the places we each mess up, but rather look together on us all (which includes us, the living, certainly, but the vast majority of the Church is not us…). Look on all of us in your Body.

We have a job to do, despite our troubles grasping the fullness of the faith. When we have trouble, though, ours is not to demand the church change to please us for we are not Protestants. Nor is ours the place to publicly proclaim our waffling as the “real” Catholicism, for that is heresy and schism. Struggle away. As long as the struggle is to the eventual conforming of yourself to Christ (and not the reverse) it is a lifelong struggle and no one expects less. Most of us will need an even longer struggle than that. 

So for this lifetime we are doubting evangelists, wafflers. We are called to proclaim that which, because of our very human frailty, we can only glimpse from time to time, can only manage to live in certain moments. We are called to “taste and see”, but the banquet must wait until heaven.

Meanwhile, there’s a place for us off of nearly every highway exit. You should join me for breakfast there on Sundays and don’t forget to tip your server.