So a Pharisee invites Jesus over to his house for dinner. Check out what transpires, from today’s Gospel:
The Pharisee was amazed to see
that he did not observe the prescribed washing before the meal.
The Lord said to him, “Oh you Pharisees!
Although you cleanse the outside of the cup and the dish,
inside you are filled with plunder and evil.
Damn. Move over, Kobe Bryant: Jesus is the real OG — Original Gangsta.
Jesus was crazy.
In many ways, I think he was crazier than his cousin, John the Baptist. When someone dresses crazy and lives a wild, secluded life, there is no surprise in their madness. These people are supposed to be crazy. The only question is how much.
I doubt John the Baptist would’ve ever been invited to a dinner party. (Unless you count the time he made his appearance as a head on a platter.)
But Jesus was different. He showed up the learned in the Temple as a boy, people called him “Rabbi,” he gave public sermons and got invited to an uptight, classy person’s house for supper. The kind of person it’s considered an honor to dine with. People like this are, by strict definition, not supposed to be crazy.
You don’t act out at dinner parties, but especially not these ones. You just don’t. No matter what.
Jesus did. He told off the host, the owner of the house and founder of the feast. Jesus called him a fool. There is some thing rude about that, but there is also something supremely honest, authentic, and real about it too. Jesus called out the Pharisee for being shallow, superficial, and using his external piety to hide a deeper lie and infidelity.
Church folks often seem to think that kindness and being nice and piety and good manners will restore the Church. They’re dead wrong. We need rude people. People like Jesus. People who treat Pharisees with contempt and prostitutes with generosity.
As I’ve said before: the New Evangelization needs profanity.
This is not an excuse for being off-putting for no good reason. God knows, we have plenty of that already. The profane rejection of the shallow surface of things, cuts and exposes the heart of the matter. Once you get there, everything changes. “Behold, I make all things new.” Those who can’t take the heat, go elsewhere. Those who are unsure whether they can or not, but understand that there is something important and real going on, they stay.
The remnant is serious. Insert the Early Church here. Gangstas, all of them.
I witnessed this growing up in the Church, on all sides. Take priests as an example: I’ve known priests who were rude like Jesus, too shallow and nice and forgettable, and monstrous, tyrannical assholes projecting tremendous pain and insecurity. Some of the rude ones were quiet men, soft-spoken and devout; but they didn’t have a dishonest or inauthentic bone in their body. When they spotted nonsense or triviality, they called it that.
Paul was no Jesus. He said it himself. But the tone and demeanor of his ministry emulated this aspect of Christ. In the today’s first reading, from his letter to the Galatians, Paul strikes to the heart of the matter at hand: “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.”
Love. The New Evangelization is all about a recovery of real love. Love that we can see and smell and feel in and out of the Sanctuary. Love that isn’t always clean and tidy. A kind of screwed-up sort of love. A love that tells someone to stop being shallow and stupid. A love that tells the downtrodden that things will probably not get much better on the surface, but there is reason for hope nonetheless.
The Gospel is not that if you buy this spiritual life insurance policy you will find peace and wealth on Earth and be assured a great afterlife. No. The good news is that there is hope in faith that works through love. Things may not change on the surface. In fact they may get much, much worse. But, underneath it all, beneath the pain and suffering, there lies a deeper magic, a deeper reality, a beauty ever ancient and ever new, a love Divine whom we can cling to, in hope.
To minister in times like these, we have to show that this is not a joke. Not a mere formality. And it is surely not participatory democracy. The theodrama of salvation history is tragic and profane, leading to redemption and the sacred. When heaven and earth meet, sparks fly.
Jesus had the presence of heart and mind to treat his host with a seriousness that was urgent and honest and jarring. Paul stood down the same prudish sentiments during his time.
Today the prudes are, by and large, the ones who seem least prudish of all on the surface. They project excess to cover insufficiency, abundance and riches to hide a tremendous poverty. All this excess and sexuality is deeply prudish. There’s no sex in sex, it’s just a projection of the lack of real sex and sensual love. A loving embrace between friends is more sensual than any pornographic scene in most of today’s sad excuses for cinema.
The recent flurry of debate about Andy Warhol’s gayness and Catholicism at Patheos Catholic this week bespeaks some of this prudishness to me. Warhol’s great mistake was not moral. It was aesthetic. He assumed that the everyday and the mundane needed sanctification through tortured, stylized human efforts. The great, humanist sin of modernity. He should have just left it all alone. His art protesteth too much. St. Francis is light years ahead of Warhol in this regard.
There is nothing edgy about being edgy anymore.The edge that cuts nowadays is actually a form of life that has its feet on the ground, in the shit and the mud, with it’s soul swinging for the heavens with reckless, crazy abandon.
Go to daily mass. Talk about it. That is VERY profane these days. Light up a cigarette and tell someone the story of how Jesus told off the Pharisee, and how crazy that was.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be painted as Pharisees and there is no reason to deny the truth: we are Pharisees. Read our blogs. Pharisees, everywhere. Read this post, for God’s sake! I’m a total fraud. “Kyrie eleison” But the present situation still remains: some people cannot evangelize because they lack the religious testicular fortitude to read Rolling Stone, without fear. Other cannot evangelize because they only read that and it’s cheap equivalents.
Our example is Jesus. A very rude houseguest sometimes. The Rabbi who humiliates you in front of friends and company, then dies for you afterwards. This is love. Total madness. Christ.
(Read the follow-up: More Stuff on Gangstas)