Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Throwing Prophets Down a Well

The gospel this morning tells of the coming of John the Baptist with his strident message of repentance. He is a very uncomfortable figure for most of us because no one likes to be reminded that they are a sinner. The homily this morning seemed to soft peddle this harsh prophetic figure calling him a perfectionist. I found myself getting angry and I will tell you why.

Last night I watched a movie called The Rape of Nanking. It tells the story of the capture of the city of Nanking by the Japanese in 1937. The Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek had just evacuated to a safer location and most of the army went with them. In the weeks following the fall of Nanking, the populace was subjected to a horrendous time of rape, pillage and murder. The story is told through the investigations and interviews of Iris Chang, a young Chinese-American author. Having been deeply moved by a photographic exhibition showing many images of the slaughter, she decided to write a book because there were no books in English on the subject. Indeed, she called it the forgotten holocaust. The movie is told from her perspective as she interviews surviving victims and Japanese soldiers. Her investigations led her to the diaries and papers of several western observers caught in the city at the time of the massacre.

To this day, there are those who categorically deny that these events even happened. Many Japanese politicians have spoken out, saying that these events were grossly exaggerated or had not happened at all. According to some sources all that occurred was a search for Chinese soldiers who had shed their uniforms and were hiding in the city. Iris Chang came away from this experience with a profound conviction that any of us are quite capable of perpetrating these sorts of horrors.

People do not like to be reminded that they are sinners. Evil, after all, is something that happens out there perpetrated by psychopathic monsters. It can't happen here, to us? We're better than that, aren't we? There are people around us who remind us that we really are capable of some pretty nasty things. Last night I found watching The Rape of Nanking  a profoundly uncomfortable experience but I forced myself to watch anyway. Iris Chang deserves to be listened to, as does John the Baptist from this morning's gospel. They do not deserve to be thrust down a well like Jeremiah, whose only crime was that he upset people.

1 comment:

Barona said...

Just caught the end of a Fulton Sheen programme on EWTN. The archbishop castigated himself in his autobiography for lukewarmness; his pride, his half-hearted fleeing from the admiring crowds...

Pride is an occupational hazard of being human. It may well be pride in a form of denial that we can be so rotten, so sinful. So, we either hide from it, or deny it. Priests must, more than anyone, admit the reality of sin and preach on it. I detect your sadness that the priest in question failed to stress the importance of John the Baptist. Indeed, like the post-war Germans it is incumbent on priests to call a spade a spade. The extermination of Jews and others was a horrible crime (and SIN- ah, the world would forger that!); indeed, it was NOT a crime, having been legalized by the band of thugs that had hijacked germany in 1933. Its central abomination was that it was SIN. The preaching against SIN is incumbent upon every priest. It was the late Pope John Paul II who exhorted American bishops and priests to preach against sin... well, where are they?

It is this "niceness" that perhaps caused Fr. Rosica to fall into the trap of not being able to evangelize when he conducted his catastrophic interview with ex-Fr. Baum. I say this not out of indulgence in some sort of morbid semantic athleticism, but to stress the reality that each and every moment of life is a "teaching moment".

The lesson of this excellent post is the need to admit the reality of evil, and that souls need salvation.