Do you get tired of hearing about certain issues? Pope Francis made the observation that he thought the Church could run the danger of assessing over a few moral issues. But we know the difference between obsessing over a few moral issues, and reminding people about the moral importance of particular issues? After all, isn’t it true that each one of us has our favorite issues, that we believe are most critically important for the world to address? Is it not possible, that each one of us simply focuses upon those issues with which we agree with the position of the church, and minimizes those areas where perhaps we might seek a position different than the church has articulated?
There is a word, or perhaps better spoken, a phrase that describes such a reality: cafeteria Catholics. This word is often used by those who believe that a critically important issue in the church is not being fully accepted by Catholics. Catholics believe in some things, but not in other things. In this phrase is normally used because of the perceived rejection of the central tenet of the Catholic faith.
This may be an overstatement, but I believe every Catholic runs the risk of becoming a cafeteria Catholic. Each of us may find ourselves at one time or another challenge by a particular article of our faith, or the demands of living a sincere and authentic Christian life. But what if those issues that most annoy us, are being spoken by prophets chosen by God?
The reality is that oftentimes prophets are just simply very annoying people. They placed before us again and again those critical issues that demand our attention, even when we may find ourselves tired of them. Not only can prophets annoy us, but prophets can also anoint one another. Those who rightly speak about the evil of abortion, can become quite angry and frustrated with the principle of life changes from abortion to capital punishment. We can find ourselves quite angry the countries are not really willing to accept Christian refugees from Iraq, but angry when it is suggested that we’re taking the same attitude with unaccompanied minors from Central America.
So much of the Christian life requires us to spend time in prayer and contemplation to seek out the presence of God, and what that presence is asking of us. In the Benedictine rule, strangers who come to the monastery are first viewed as prophets who may have something important to say to the monks. Do we take statements that we find troubling and difficult to hear, and at least entertain the possibility that these statements are being given to us by God?
Herod, was mentioned in today’s gospel, found the words of St. John the Baptist to be attractive, but too difficult to live. His desire to save face among his guests enabled him to commit tremendous evil action and having John the Baptist beheaded. Well we too may be tempted to kill the messenger we don’t like the message, the reality is that each of us must open our hearts to leave room for those challenges which God places before us.