This morning’s Gospel is the perfect text for conference-retreat I’m co-hosting in a month-and-change from now.
Short version: If you or someone you know is tired of being bitter, obnoxious, and confrontational, but you also recognize that your passion for the truth of the Catholic faith is a gift from God, you aren’t alone. Please pass along the link to the Good Discourse conference-retreat coming up online the weekend January 22-24, 2021.
Now, back to the Word from our Sponsor:
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
I didn’t used to fully understand this text. I took it on faith, but it seemed like an academic question. They’re both disrespectful children, right? What’s the big difference?
Then one day the analogy happened to me: I asked two of my kids do some chores.
Loathesome chores, of course. All chores are loathesome to a child who doesn’t wish to do them. One child protested vigorously; the other made no fuss.
But then, later in the day, the one who had been so obstinate at first had a change of heart and did the thing. The one who had assured me the assigned task would be accomplished, meanwhile, shirked egregiously.
My internal response was exactly like the parable predicted. I was furious at the shirker: How dare you act like the golden child, and then just completely blow off the work that I needed done and you committed to doing?
But me getting mad is hardly news (see: conference topic). The insight that day was just how grateful and pleased I was that the child who had so forcefully resisted my request had a change of heart and did the thing without my needing to even ask a second time.
I felt blessed by that child. I felt reassured: The child has a few faults, but at heart the desire is there to do the right thing. My respect for that child grew, because when you really don’t want to do something and you do it anyway — a task you yourself don’t even consider important — that takes some fortitude.
If those were my feelings, how much greater is God’s joy when we finally come around to wanting to do the right thing?
When being obnoxious feels like your spiritual gift . . . sigh.
So a couple months ago, Sherry Antonetti got to talking about the sorrow we longtime residents of the online Catholic community feel at the growing division and ugliness among faithful Catholics.
Let us not mince words: Catholic bloggers have always been a heap of hotheads. Before there was blogging, there were acerbic apologetics books and feisty radio hosts. At peak Facebook and Twitter, the discourse has moved to short-form. But regardless the genre, the reality is that anyone who commits a lot of time and energy to a topic is someone who feels very strongly about that topic . . . and when you feel very strongly about something, sometimes your words express those feelings not-so-gently.
Well, it’s all fine and good to make your point forthrightly. Far be it from me to co-host an event where I tell people to just not care about the many serious issues facing the Church and our world.
Even if I think your proposed cure for what ails us is misguided at best, I’m still grateful you care enough to make your case persistently and unequivocally.
But maybe eating each other alive is not the best way.
If I can’t have been good, maybe I could at least be good someday soon?
If you’re free the weekend of the 22nd-24th and you have a genuine desire to reconcile with your fellow Catholics you love to hate and chart a new path that involves holding onto your passion but letting go of your venom, request an invitation.
Invitations are open to anyone who wants to take an active part in spending the weekend doing some personal soul-searching as well as getting to know — and likely begin to forgive — others who share the same desire.
You can be famous or not. You can be an established author, speaker or performer, or just someone who hosts intense conversations on social media. There’s no cost, though we will have opportunities for you to donate to our speakers, who are all working pro-bono. We who are hosting are funding this ourselves as a personal ministry, because we recognize the need and have discerned the call to do what we can.
We’re limited to about 100 guests, so if you know you’ll be busy that weekend, please spread the word to others and then get involved in the Good Discourse movement in your own way. We’ll have some opportunities for you to engage in the conference experience even if you can’t attend that exact weekend.
Thank you so much for whatever part you are able to play in this ministry of reconciliation among Catholics of good will. Bless you.
Today’s photo is the picturesque tramway station where you catch the tourist train up the mountain. Chosen because the conference-retreat is like taking that train — it feels like a journey in itself, but actually it’s just a push in the right direction. Up to you to decide whether, at the top of the hill and bottom of the cliff, you wish to keep going when the hard part kicks in at the end of the tram line.
PS: We definitely need prayer warriors, because the spiritual attack has been, well, let’s just say it took some fervent St. Michael to cause even the most basic, kindergarten-level site-building to quit glitching. My most profound thanks to those of you who can contribute to the work of reconciliation through your prayer, fasting, and acts of reparation.