I was recently in Rome for a class in education. It is not possible to be in Rome and to walk even a few steps without coming across something ancient, old, something dating back hundreds or even thousands of years.
The purpose of the class was to help the educators who were taking it come to realize that there is a tremendous connection between the new and the old. It can be quite the temptation, particularly in a young country like the United States, to believe that we have made such tremendous progress in everything. A visit to a place like Rome can remind us that we have much to learn.
For, as is often the case, what we consider to be new, is often times something that is really old. As the Old Testament says, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Today’s readings remind us that the old and the new are often a mix of the same things.
I have tried my hand at pottery, though never on a spinning wheel. It is not easy, and I admire those who can make it look easy. But Jeremiah reminds us that often those things that look so awesome when they are finished are often the result of a lot of hard work. They are often the result of trying something new over and over again.
In our modern age, it is not really simple to get the mix of old and new right. As we look at the modern age in which we live, we can both be amazed and repulsed at what we can do. As we look back at the ancient world, be can both be amazed and repulsed by what they did.
So how do we find the wisdom mentioned in the gospel? We know our storehouse has both good and bad. How do we keep the good and throw away the bad? This is not easy. As I was in Rome I read a suggestion that if the Church simply sold all of the stuff it had, it could end world hunger. But as I experienced my own emotions in these settings, and saw the tremendous impact such buildings, art work and monuments had on so many who visit them every year, I came to appreciate more fully the foolishness of this suggestion.
Our faith reflects this same struggle. There are those who want to “turn back the clock”, believing that by embracing a Church they believed existed before the Second Vatican Council, we will be able to turn back the complexities of our age to a more simple time. There are others who believe the Church must move forward to “adapt with the times.” Indeed, both have had there time and place in the history of the Church.
But the Church is not a political party, where we align with a set of political ideals. Rather, it is the Kingdom of God, whereby we evaluate the new and the old, the good and the bad, through the best and only standard: God himself.