Saturday, 30 May 2015

Trinity Sunday - Year B

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God (Rms 8:14).

The Irish vote on gay 'marriage' was a tragedy for Ireland and for the world. 62.1% of the Irish population were in favour. What happened? Were they swayed by a strongly biased press and the silencing of opposition? Or by the arguments of politicians and movie stars? Were they trying to claim a voice on the world stage out of all proportion to their size? Or, as many say, were they expressing their anger at a Church hierarchy which had failed them so badly over the preceding decades?

Whatever the reason I cannot make myself believe the absurd proposition that they were expressing a sincere belief that a relationship between two men or two women could be elevated to the same dignity as that of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

At any rate, I doubt that too many would say the people of Ireland were ‘moved by the Spirit’. So what was it that moved them?

What moved Eve to take from the forbidden tree and eat? What moved Cain to slay his brother? What moved Saul to seek David’s death? What moved David to spare Saul’s life? What moved Judas to betray Jesus? What moved Peter to deny him three times? What moved the Pharisees and Sadducees to hand Jesus over? What moved Pilate to have him killed?  What moved Saul to arrest every Christian he found? On and on we could go.

Sometimes it is easy to read the heart and to discern what moves people. Pilate, for example, could easily see that it was jealousy that made the Jews want to kill Jesus. Herodias sought John the Baptist’s head out of pride and guilt. The Apostles, after the resurrection, hid in the upper room because they were afraid.

Sometimes it is not so easy to read the hearts and minds of people. What moves them remains a mystery. Sometimes the reasons might be somewhat complex and so we just have to wait and discern and let history uncover motives and causes, as in the present case with the Irish debacle.

There is, however, one aspect of the Irish vote which I would like to emphasise. It frightened me. It gave concreteness to that strange anxiety I have been feeling for a number of years; that apprehension about the way things are moving in the world. I mention this disquiet, this dis-ease, with political, religious and moral developments in the western world because I know many of you share it with me.

I ask myself, what’s wrong with me? Why don’t I just go and join the party? Everyone else is. Why can’t I just say contraception and abortion is OK – and homosexual practice and gay marriage and euthanasia – and missing Mass on Sundays and still going to Holy Communion whenever I want? Why can’t I just go with the flow? What’s stopping me?

And what’s stopping the Catholic Church? The Anglicans and the Uniting and a whole range of other Christian communities are having no trouble whatsoever.

Have you ever read the three act play called Rhinoceros written in 1960 by Eugene Ionesco? It is a study of a single man's transformation, from apathy to responsibility, as the world around him descends into violence and greater and greater levels of absurdity. The play demonstrates how anyone can fall victim to collective, unconscious thought by allowing their wills to be manipulated by others.

One day a rhinoceros runs through the square and shocks all the bystanders. Soon a number of rhinos appear. The people vow to stop them but even as they try they, too, turn into the beasts. Soon there are rhinoceros everywhere.

The main character Berenger vows he will never become a rhino. Some people say the best thing to do is ignore them; others say they will just have to get used to them. However, the rhinos become so numerous and so violent that this becomes harder and harder.

Do you agree with me that somehow this absurd process is in full swing at the moment throughout the western world? Who would have believed that the majority of the Irish nation would one day seriously propose, and even enshrine in their constitution, that two men could marry? The proposal is psychologically, sociologically, biologically and morally absurd.

Those who oppose the rhinoceroses are told that they have no right to interfere in other people’s lives. Even more bizarrely, more and more people begin to find the power of the rhino’s seductive and even their trumpeting becomes appealing.

The "epidemic" of the rhinoceroses serves as a convenient allegory for the mass uprising of Nazism and fascism before and during World War II. Ionesco's tries to explore the mentality of those who so easily succumbed to these ways of thinking. Berenger does not succumb even though all around him seem to be doing so. He feels lonely and out of place and guilty because he has been so apathetic to this point. Now he does not seem to belong anymore – and would you believe – I am beginning to feel the same way. Are you?

The first rhino causes no apparent damage; the second one tramples a cat; later ones destroy more property and finally end up attacking non-rhinos. Christians all over the world are being harassed, mocked, sidelined, beaten and even killed. Are you ready? Or is your nose turning into a horn?

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