Happy Easter! Let Us Stop Throwing Each Other Away

Happy Easter. Christ is risen, and all things are made new!

It’s a time to break the chains of old habits, old thoughts; time to unwind and finally toss old tapes; he is risen: “I am doing something new…”

On Wednesday, traipsing through my archives, I came upon this post from last year — the image of a full-term baby tossed into the trash, and my thoughts about it.

Upon re-reading it, I thought about how easily we throw people away, everyday, in less dramatic fashion. We throw people away when we sneer at them or about them; we throw them away when we dismiss their concerns, or decide they are not worth our consideration. We throw them away when we laugh about the “thems” while we’re among those who make up “us”. We throw people away every time we stop seeing others as beings made in God’s image and perhaps put before our eyes so that we may see Christ in “them” — or (even worse) sent our way to teach us something about ourselves. On Holy Thursday, Ed Morrissey wrote of Pope Francis’ visit to a youth detention facility, and a commenter said, “Forget it! People are in prisons for a reason.”

As though they deserve no chance at mercy, and can simply be thrown away! But if we can administer justice without mercy, what keeps Justice from becoming too rigid, cold and dehumanizing? Likewise, if we offer mercy without justice, what prevents mercy from becoming mushily self-indulgent until it is equally dehumanizing?

God can be tricky like that. The God who, when invited to condemn a sinful woman, instead chose to write something in the earth until the demands to demean were ceased, is the same God who, when telling the woman her sins were forgiven did not extend her license to continue on her path but said, “and sin no more…”

He is a God of things less obvious. When occasions for “justice” seem so clear to us, he reminds us that Justice (or vengeance) belongs to him and says of us, to us: “I desire mercy”. Yet when his own mercy is offered, it comes with a reminder, that justice still matters — that our entire life in Christ will require a balancing of his bestowal of mercy upon us, as we try to acquiesce to justice, via his commands which are all Just.

It’s a circle. A tricky, often paradoxical one, full of subtlety and nuance, overlaid with the word mystery. No matter how much we know, we do not begin to plumb its depths; we cannot possibly hang our faith upon what seems “right” or “reasonable” to us. Our own judgement falls so far short that we ought not trust it, and yet we constantly reference our own reason and in doing so find everyone and everything to be lacking, when out of alignment with us. The church is the bride, endowed by her faithful bridegroom with certain gifts of wisdom, in particular in understanding the truths that are eternal within his creation, but she is broken in precisely the same spots we are: within the realm of the human and the natural.

Our natural human being-ness instinctively seeks the supernatural; we know it is there. But our brokenness, which partially informs our reason, compels us to try to tailor what is supernatural to our nature. Urged by Saint Paul and others to “put on Christ” as a garment, we too often try to remodel and update that garment with a nip here, a tuck there, a dart, a hemline, a cuff. We want to wear Christ, but we want to be fashionable as we do it. We want to follow the Zeitgeist and bring Christ along into it, and we don’t want to hear that Christ is a sign of contradiction, not meant to be fitted to an age.

There are no nips and tucks to Christ. We wear the supernatural as it is given to us — with certain rules that we might find a bit of a drag to our fun, and with adjurations to mercy and openness when we would rather pull the garment closer, and allow nothing in that we don’t like.

If we take Christ on, we take him in wholeness — the whole garment of Christ; like a shroud around us; dead to the worldly reason that tells us to cast it off; dead to our own tastes as to how it should look and fit upon us. We must be willing to be tripped up by it, in order to see that we have mis-stepped, even if it seems just a little thing to us, like mindlessly snarking amongst our friends about some “other” which is, in the end, like throwing a person away.

This makes everything we do harder. It means, for instance, that my gratuitous jibes at Maureen Dowd have to stop, if I am throwing away her personhood for the sake of a joke about her uterus. Dammit.

It has profound implications for how we blog, how we exist on Twitter and Facebook, which are places where the humanity of the “other” are easily tossed aside and forgotten, as I have certainly (to my shame) demonstrated in my turn. It means that the polarizing mindsets that are formed on talk radio and MSNBC (where those who think differently are characterized as not simply wrong but evil, and always motivated by the worst instincts) and then fleshed out in social media, cannot serve us if we are Christians — not if it has us sneering and jeering and throwing each other away.

We might be stuck having to talk about and write about ideas, only, and not the people who are putting them forward; we might have to put away the idols that we make of our ideas — which are born from us and thus part of our endless self-worship, as begun in Eden — in order to instead submit all of our thoughts and words to the filter of Christ, so that what emerges is simple Truth, shorn of the hate, the denigration, the polite fiction.

Don’t just take my word for it. The very same day I had my little revelation — on “Spy Wednesday” — Pope Francis presented us with a similar message:

Speaking poorly of someone else is equivalent to selling them. Like Judas, who sold Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. And it was precisely by drawing inspiration from the Gospel passage from Matthew which foretells the betrayal of Judas Iscariot that Pope Francis…put people on guard against gossip with an explicit invitation: “Never speak poorly of other people”.
[...]
“Jesus was like a commodity; he was sold. He was sold at that moment”, the Pope emphasized, “and also very frequently sold in the market of history, in the market of life, in the market of our lives. When we opt for thirty pieces of silver, we set Jesus aside. . .there is some arcane pleasure in scandalmongering. . .we begin to tear the other person to pieces”[it is then that we must remember that every time we behave like this[ “we are doing what Judas did”.

What we do to the “other” we do to Jesus, “Because Jesus is in this friend”. Indeed. On Spy Wednesday, the message that we’re not meant to be spies and jesters about each “other”. It hit me hard.

I got a rant this morning from a woman suggesting to me that Pope Francis is an “anti-pope” because he’s putting the gospel before the rubrics, and because he does not explicitly talk about abortion and the unborn when he talks about tenderness. Shortly after reading that, I received one of those adolescent, missives denigrating Pope Benedict because — to this person’s mind — a difference in style is some sort of victory of substance.

I love Pope Benedict and have no patience for that sort of weird spite; I love Pope Francis and am increasingly troubled by the sort of hysteria being indulged in by some who think a simple chasuble signals a break with the previous 2,000 years. It is beyond astonishing to me that people who are praising Pope Francis and his exhortations to love and tenderness are managing in their very next breath, to sneer at his predecessors and particular “sets” of Catholics. On the other hand, I cannot fathom how those who championed Benedict’s hermeneutic of continuity do not see the continuity between him and Francis (see items 4 and 3 in particular). In style, yes, very different. In theological substance (and commitment to Near East Christians and Orthodoxy reunification) not much difference at all, except as one finds a difference between theoretical (Benedict) and applied (Francis) theologies.

Theory instructs and inspires; application builds on it. An engineer studies theoretical physics and then applies it and comes to terms with what cannot be dispensed with because of reality and nature, and what may be tweeked, for functionality.

With Moses, you might say we got a kind of theoretical understanding of blood both as a maker of wedding covenants and for the exculpation of human sins. With Christ Jesus, we got the application.

Application is hard; it’s messy; it sometimes leads us where we would rather not go; and if it is going to build something that stands, forever, it demands an awful lot of us: the foundational stuff is non-negotiable, because of realities natural and supernatural; some of it may be tweeked, where necessary — but with an awful lot of prayer and forethought, because we’re building on a mystery, and we do not wholly understand.

But I’m afraid this not throwing people away, not selling people business is part of that non-negotiable area. Quite a challenge to me as a blogger — where tossing snark is all-too-easy, gratuitous and often gratifying, in terms of traffic — and as a human person who wants to hold on to Easter, and all I have learned from the days leading up to it, for as long as I can.

I will have to pray for grace and mercy, and to be able to find that middle point between not throwing people away, while not submitting to a silencing tyranny, either.

(Baseball Jeering image courtesy of Shutterstock.com. In honor of Opening Day!)

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Fr. Allen

    You’re e-mails sound like conversations around the parish coffee pots! One thing which is new (amongst many,) in this Papal Election is the internet.

    We had John Paul II for some 27 or so years, and when Benedict XVI came along we knew what we were getting, more or less. So, to have such uncertainty, so suddenly, with everyone having an opportunity to voice their opinions so blatantly, is a new thing. For many there’s simply a long learning curve with airing their opinions in public without coming across as vitriolic and mean. One can only imagine what the world would have been like had we had the internet when the Mass of Paul VI was introduced, with no preparation whatsoever. Nothing has shocked me since then.

    Public meanness is growing by leaps and bounds, especially in online venues. Thank you for your lovely post addressing the issue head on. Where sin is found, grace abides all the more.

    Happy Easter!

  • Signe

    What bugs me about reporting on Pope Francis by the MSM is the breathlessness with which they report on his mentions of the poor, peace and charity as if he’s the first Pope to ever do so! Not only that but the implication in his humility and mingling with “the people”, is that Benedict and John Paul II were a couple of stiffs with no “people skills”. Now from what I’ve read, Pope Benedict was never really comfortable with the “glad-handing” aspects of being pope but his interactions with people always struck me as warm and genuine, even in his shyness. He always seemed a bit surprised at the outpouring of affection from the crowds, even as he must been at least somewhat pleased. For someone like Benedict with the instincts of solitary scholar, to be forced to belong to everyone in the world must have been one of the heavier aspects of his papacy.

    [Yes. Also, many don't know it but in 2007, Benedict went to the same prison Francis went to, albeit not on Holy Thursday, and had mass with the detainees, and he visited other prisons, did Q&A's there, etc. Some like to pretend that the church has only just started noticing the poor and the marginalized. It's sad that they need that pretense -admin]

  • Victor

    (((On Wednesday, traipsing through my archives, I came upon this post from last year)))

    Forgive me Anchoress but “ME”, “ME” and “ME” had to stop reading after I saw that picture and me, myself and i must say, HOW DARE YA?

    Don’t pay him any attention Anchores cause he’s nothing butt a cry baby and that’s why we had to go hulk on some of his flesh cells in reality and take over but being the gods that we are, we left him with 2% of his spiritual cells NOW! Let me tell you a story that this little retardo human who probably won’t believe but maybe some of your readers are strong enough to put UP with “IT” NOW!?

    Anchoress because of the prayers YA sent our WAY, “I” listened in to what a couple of these twin clustered cells had to say while they were in their mother’s womb and by the way, there’s no truth that just because Victor’s mother in-law had three sets of twin, “IT” doesn’t mean that “I” heard “IT” from any of them NOW!

    Anyway! MOM! “I” mean MUMS The Word NOW cause we alien gods don’t want to get in trouble with The Hulk so, “I” will simply call them, him and/or her and hopefully, “IT” will be OK with most of your readers NOW.

    Her says! There’s no life out there!

    Him says! Yes there is sister, please believe “IT”!

    Her…. You’re just saying that brother so “I” won’t be so frightened when “I” get out there cause you know as well as “I” do that there’s no life out there NOW!

    Him…. Hey sister! “IT” is a beautiful place out there and just imagined the love that you feel here but multiply “IT” by an Unknown Angel Number NOW!

    Her! … You mean brother that when “I” get out there, I’ll still be able to gently kick my mother like “I” do NOW and she’ll talk to me just like she does NOW?

    Him… Of course sister! Don’t YA believe in GOD (Good Old Dad) NOW?

    Her… “I” think “I” do brother but “I’M” really scared NOW!

    Him… Don’t be scared sister! Tell YA what! “I” will go first just to show YA that there’s nothing, really nothing to be scared about cause my heart has heard that “IT” is a brand new world out there NOW!

    Her…. OK brother but here they come cause I can see something moving and “IT” has you brother and I guess “IT” must be pulling you out so you must have been right cause brother, you’re gone NOW!

    Her…. I miss YA brother so “I’M” coming too….

    Her…..Those instruments are cold but “I” trust my brother and “I” trust GOD that “I’M” going to be OK NOW!

    APRIL FOOLS Anchoress!

    I hear YA in a song folks!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DO51AThtPzc

    What’s that Victor?

    I’ll get YA someday sinner vic!

    Go Figure NOW! :)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1xJwZYVgj8

    Peace

  • Yae

    I love and pray for both Papa Francis and Papa Benedict. Both brought me closer to my desire to walk more faithfully with our Lord Jesus Christ by their examples. Both have inspired me to pray for all and to love all and that is the biggest challenge for me. Elizabeth! Your post is an excellent one and I agree as I struggle too in the temptation of wanting to “set folks right.”

    I still hold fast to the belief that while Papa Benedict laid down the solid foundation in terms of his scholarly theological works, now, Papa Francis, carrying all of us on his shoulders, will work that theology even moreso while in the trenches, trodding in the mud, the marble, the floors of the world bringing all of us closer to the Risen Lord! Amen!

    Long live Papa Francis and Papa Benedict!

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    I really loved this piece Anchoress. I probably nodded in agreement in several places. Let me address a couple.

    (1) I typically agree with Ed Morrisey, but that was a very uncharitable thing he said. Yes, there is justice, and no one that I’m aware is advocating the loosening of societal demands toward that justice. But we have an obligation toward those in prison serving out the demands of justice to making sure they will no longer seek the ways of life that caused them to go into prison. We all have an interest in getting them the skills that will preclude anti social behavior. Now it’s possible that no skill will prevent most from setting their lives straight, but if society tries and the person still commits crimes, then shame on him; if we don’t try at all and he commits future crimes, then shame on us. Among the skills prisoners need is a healing of the soul. Our Holy father is quite right in trying to heal their souls. Plus as you say, it’s the merciful thing to do.

    (2) This Pope Francis versus Pope B16 is an immense disgrace on all those partaking. I’ve said Pope Francis is better suited for the times and a shot in the arm to the Church, but in no way was I disparaging B16, who is a giant of a thinker, and possibly the leading theologian of our day. They both have their individual styles and strengths. There is no point in disparaging either. We should love them both.

    (3) This anger about Pope Francis washing the feet of women is idiotic. Christ never stipulated a gender, though of course he only washed the feet of his male apostles. If they fear that this is an opening of the door to female priests, forget the fear. The argument of male priesthood is built on more than just male apostles. These Trads who are so up in arms have become Pharisees, the white sepulchers of Christ’s charge in Matthew 23:27.

    [Manny, it was a Hot Air commenter, not Ed, who said the uncharitable thing. -admin]

  • Victor

    (((we do cling to our comfortable little sins of pride and selfishness.)))

    Anchoress! After having read about 98% of this post and without having clicked on all the links that YA provided I must say that you’re a much better writer than http://www.patheos.com/blogs/standingonmyhead/2013/03/why-i-am-a-catholic.html#comment-51747

    sinner vic! YA still don’t understand do YA NOW?

    What? What! Victor! We alien gods are trying to prime her “UP” so that she might give U>S (usual sinners) a job as “ONE” of her writers and we might even get paid for “IT” so wouldn’t that be great NOW!?

    I hear YA Anchoress! Give “IT” UP Victor and tell sinner vic that there won’t be any history in the making this time around butt “I” will talk to Joe about “IT”! NOT! :)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ga005q-6WK4

    April Fool? :(

    Peace

  • Win Nelson

    I love both Popes Benedict and Francis, especially as they each bring gifts that bring out the best in each other.

    Benedict had the message; Francis delivers it well.

    They are a team, and so are we; we just may need a bit more reminding that we are to find God’s Grace, and cooperate with it. :D

  • Adam

    We do throw people away, don’t we? I’m reading up on the parable of the lost sheep right now. We traditionally think of Jesus as the “good shepherd” who leaves the flock to go find the lost lamb. However, on rereading the passage, it seems that Jesus isn’t talking about sending himself to find the lost sheep–he wants US to go. The parable is smack in the middle of a larger diatribe about how communal members of the church are supposed to treat each other. Jesus expects that WE will go find the lost sheep on his behalf.

    It makes me think of how scandalized we feel every time a reputable Catholic politician takes communion when we know that he/she supports abortion or gay marriage, and how we always get up in arms that the church hasn’t publicly excommunicated them. True enough, I don’t want someone not in the state of grace to be furthering their sin by going to communion. However, we SHOULD want that person, however sinful, to be going to Mass and receiving at least some graces in the hope that the message will sink in and they’ll come back to the church. Public excommunication is an extreme measure, and I do wonder if the church is reluctant to take that step because of the risk of losing that soul even further.

    [And of losing other souls who will not understand or be persuaded that the excommunication is unjust, and then lose even more. People cry "excommunication!" pretty easily, but it must be weighed against the harm it could do. When we err, we're to err on the side of mercy. -admin]

  • Scott Hebert

    Adam: They should attend Mass. They should not present themselves from Communion. I can tell you from personal experience that non-Catholic Christians take our Sacraments less seriously because, in their eyes, we don’t. That is a huge issue.

    Anchoress: I wrote this in response to a Latin chant about the Cross. I thought it apropos to post here.

    This is so beautiful, and yet so very true.

    Consider, for a moment, what it would mean to be the Cross. There are very few means of execution by which a body can be _broken_ so thoroughly as a Cross breaks a body in crucifixion. By this, Jesus prophesying that He is the Bread of Life, the Bread _broken during Passover for the forgiveness of sins_, he prefigured his death. As most know, the body rips _itself_ apart during crucifixion, and in almost the exact manner of someone taking bread and tearing it apart in the traditional breaking of bread before a meal.

    The physical similarities are astounding.

    Consider, also, that we are called to carry crosses, and not BE crosses. We venerate the cross as something Jesus chose to use for our salvation, but then think of the introduction of Free Will into this. We venerate the cross, but vilify Judas Iscariot for his role in the Passion. And that is because Judas had the Free Will to choose his fate, unlike the Cross.

    Do not break others, like a cross. Carry those who are broken. After all, a cross is a broken tree, is it not?

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    “Manny, it was a Hot Air commenter, not Ed, who said the uncharitable thing. -admin”

    Oh my apologies to Mr. Morrissey. I missed read that. Thank you for the correction.


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