It’s winter, and some days are very cold, indeed.
I want to talk, just a little at the top, here, about Doris. As you probably know, we unexpectedly lost our good friend Doris last month. I owe my entire association with the Module to her. Not hyperbole. She came to my eighth grade class to recruit for the Module, as she did with so many classes. To a kid with few friends and little social interaction, she was very convincing. As a kid in the Program, she was one of my Team Members. Those people are still deeply important to me. She brought insight and music to my Days. Module Mass = City of God = Doris. When I think of the Talks she gave, I can still see fire of a true believer in her eyes.
When I was fortunate enough to join the Team, I saw a different side of Doris. She was intense, passionate, often dogged in defense of what she believed the MYP’s values to be. Sometimes too dogged. I think she took the survival of the group on her shoulders. Honestly, it made for some uncomfortable meetings. What I failed to understand at the time was that she had been doing this for a long time. When you care about something that deeply for that long, it can wear on you without you even realizing it. She needed to step away and she did. The times that I saw her in the intervening years, she seemed very happy. I’m glad. She earned that. Doris was not perfect. She was human. Her intentions came from a place of love and she was integral to the success of our group for a long time. I will miss my friend.
I’ve thought a lot about values lately. Practice what you preach, and all that. There are things which I am supposed to value that I can’t reconcile. For instance, we just concluded our February MYP event. It was Lent Day. (Thanks again Doris.) In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus talks about not being ostentatious in your faith and good works. “Make certain you do not perform your religious duties in public so that people will see what you do. If you do these things publicly, you will not have any reward from your Father in heaven.” And yet, I write this on Ash Wednesday, when Catholics walk around all day with a sign on their heads saying “hey, look how Catholic I am! Who has two thumbs and is fasting and abstaining? This guy!” What sense does that make? How is that supposed to track? I don’t know. Maybe I pray on it, or maybe I accept that the best of intentions can turn us into hypocrites. Or maybe one leads to the other. We’ll see.
The other thing that has been chafing at me lately is not taking the time or effort to understand context. I was invited to the Sweetheart Dance at my daughter’s school this past weekend. This is your basic Daddy/Daughter dance. She spent most of the time running around with her friends. One of the few times I did get to dance with her, however, was to Because of You by Kelly Clarkson. This song was specifically announced, as it was last year, as a Father/Daughter dance. It is laughably inappropriate. If you’re not aware, (as the DJ seemingly wasn’t,) the song is a child blaming her parent for scarring her emotionally, ruining her life and her ability to have a healthy relationship. Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to make my daughter’s relationships as difficult as possible. That’s my job as an overprotective father. But it won’t be some kind of saccharine, bonding moment. I think I’ll say something next year.
But this is my point. The DJ didn’t do more than take the briefest glance at the substance of the song – “Earnest, emotional song – Because of you – That’s sweet.” And this is the result. I’ll give you another one. What is a Samaritan? Before you read on, stop and answer the question. What is a Samaritan? Did you say “a good person” or some variation thereof? That has become the connotation, but that isn’t what it means. In the time of Christ, Samaritans were a hated offshoot of Judaism. (Thanks to Megan for the history lesson.) Think Sunni/Shiite in Islam or how many Protestants think of Catholics. These were “bad people” whose beliefs were painted as being completely counter to what a “good Jew” practiced. I suppose the contemporary version would be the “Good Muslim” or the “Good Liberal/Conservative” (depending on how you self-identify).
Even there, I take issue. To categorize someone as a “Good” Samaritan is to imply that this is an aberration, and most Samaritans are bad. (We don’t hear stories about the “fit” athlete or the “smart” doctor, after all.) It’s a bit racist, actually. I think it is important to mention that Jesus didn’t explicitly paint them in this way. He was using existing preconceptions to illustrate a larger point. Still, the fact that we continue to describe this story in these terms is a bit of a concern and, I feel, speaks to a larger issue. But I digress.
The point of the parable, as I’m sure you know, was to highlight the fact that the “evil” Samaritan did God’s work while the supposedly holy people paid lip service to the Lord and did nothing. Words mean jack-all if you don’t back them up with actions. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” And that is why it is vitally important to understand what you claim to believe. Know what you are getting yourself in for. And be willing to challenge those beliefs and the institutions that espouse them. Being Catholic means acting Catholic. Talk is cheap. (And just going to Mass is not nearly enough.)
So that’s my plan for Lent, and beyond. I will learn and live as a Catholic. I’m going to screw up, but I will succeed more than I fail. I’ll do my good works in secret, except when I don’t, and my Father in heaven will be well pleased. I challenge you to do the same. We’re lucky. God has a new recruit who can whisper the music of heaven in our ears and keep us on the right path. With her help, perhaps we can work together and turn the night into day. Day. Day. Day. Day. Day. Day.