This Lent: sheep, wolves, serpents

Elizabeth Scalia over at First Things sums up the season now ending, and a church riven by factions, with a meditation on today’s scripture readings:

Our Lenten time in the desert has felt similarly discordant and serpent-struck. Our Christ-loving Pope—I wouldn’t want to be in his place—is beset on all sides; his curia often “helps” him into more difficulties; his faithful priests are besieged and brokenhearted, and the unfaithful ones must still be converted and, like recalcitrant sheep, coaxed back into line. The laity are confused, mostly ill-catechized and grazing farther and farther afield, where they are prey not only to the brazen wolves, but the ones disguised as fluffy lambs, too.

Those who expected a Rottweiler Pontificate are grumbling at the necessary emergence of a steady, sheep-herding Border Collie Pope, one focused on getting us all safely corralled before night falls.

The polarized factions within our Church are, it seems to me, a little viper-bitten, like our Israelite ancestors. There is from the left the constant tug upon this Eternal Body, an attempt to drag the One, Holy and Apostolic Church into the non-absolutes of trends and thin boundaries where—like other churches seeking to conform to the age—she will ultimately cease to be true, and then cease to matter.

From the right there is a resurgent Church Militant, amalgamated with a Tea Partyesque inclination to distrust any authoritative body—the pastors, bishops, indeed the entire Magisterium—they deem too interested in mercy and not keen enough on justice. As Tea Partiers will call John Boehner a Republican in Name Only (RINO) for not getting 100 percent of what they wanted in policy negotiations, these will call a bishop, a cardinal, even a pope, a CINO—Catholic in Name Only—if wayward Church members are not publicly labeled heretics, and excommunicated before the throng.

In his hapless humanity, Moses—and I wouldn’t want his place, either—prays for the very people who are abusing him and tearing the community apart, and the Lord says to him, “Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.” (Num. 21:8)

And those bitten, who looked up on the mounted, “fiery” serpent raised on the pole were healed.

For us, pulled ever leftward, yanked impatiently by the right, it is Christ, raised on the centering vertical beam, upon whom we must gaze in full reliance that where He abides there is no confusion; in his All-Holiness, there can reside no chaos.

Read it all.  And pray for our world, our priests, our Church…

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3 responses to “This Lent: sheep, wolves, serpents”

  1. Please add to your prayer list after “priests” the words “deacons and their families.’
    When our class was going through the seminary diaconate course we were warned that because we would be ordained we–and our families–would be prime targets of The Evil One.
    My son–in the third grade–was picked on by a public school teacher when she found out his father was a Church deacon.

  2. A well-written article.

    There is certainly a need for effective catechesis, and there is a crying need for respect for the bishops God has set in authority over us. May the shepherds lead wisely, and may all the sheep listen and follow with humility and love.

  3. Some years back, the late and great Father John Richard Neuhaus wrote that the antidote to the current scandals is found in three words: “fidelity, fidelity, fidelity.”

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