Sunday, January 26, 2014

On "Taking the Soup"

Maidan Radicals in Kyiv?

Some years ago an elderly Irish priest explained to me the expression they had at home when he was a child for Irish Protestants, people whose forebears had knuckled under to British oppression and abandoned their Catholic faith: "His father took the soup". It is a quaint Irish way of applying the Old Testament lesson about Esau who sold his birthright as the first born son to his younger twin Jacob for a plate of lentils. More than anything, I guess, as was the case with Esau, it bespeaks an unworthy choice. Throwing something of the sort in the face of another is hard and it is not the side of the coin I'd like to share some thoughts on this morning. We'll let the dead rest in peace and hope for God's mercy.

The other side of the coin has to do with an existential (survival, maybe) choice in the face of peril. It also has to do with facing temptation. This year in Ukraine people were forced by circumstance to move quickly from celebrating the glorious mystery of the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan by John, Theophany - the God-Man revealed in the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, to "page two" of Jesus alone in the desert, tempted by Satan. Violence got the upper hand in what had been a peaceful demonstration.

Jesus' three temptations in the desert (bread, power, subservience to the evil one) are really of epic dimensions, with implications for the Son of Man far exceeding the challenges you and I must face in life. Maybe that is why saying "he took the soup" is so telling for us ordinary folk when we fail to resist temptation. In Ukraine's case, the refusal to take this unsatisfying broth any more and saying so in the public square provoked a crisis, as certain forces could wait no longer and started beating people back for peacefully demanding right rule under law and equality before the law, among other things, in their country. I am talking about countless people like my friends in the picture up top. The matter is not easily understood in Western society where "taking the soup" in one form or another is not uncommon. I will mention only the most timely example from my homeland.

The governor of the State of New York lost it entirely this week in the face of the annual Walk for Life, with its central celebration in Washington, DC, meant to mourn the countless millions of babies in the US killed since the infamous supreme court decision Rowe vs. Wade legalized abortion. With no good sense, Gov. Cuomo ordered people who love and defend life out of "his" state. To understand how he dares spout such folly, it must be recalled that generations of Americans "have taken the soup", trading dignity, their birthright as created in the image and likeness of God, for the passing pleasures of sex without responsibility and killing fellow human beings in the process. Pope Paul VI, in his landmark encyclical "Humanae vitae" in 1968, prophesied that the contraceptive mentality would ultimately be death-dealing and only serve to corrupt human beings and society in most profound fashion. The sad state of our world only serves to underlie the fact that there is a natural law and a proper order of things to be respected even within marriage, read: openness to life.

How can we not pray for and support those who refuse "to take the soup"? Our birthright at the summit of God's creation! Our birthright, born again as we are through water and the Holy Spirit, in the eternal life-giving font of Baptism! 

On this Sunday which Roman Catholics in Ukraine have dedicated to prayer for peace, let this supplication also be in the words of today's Gospel a fervent call to turn away from the death-dealing soup which holds so many bound:

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali! Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan, Galilee of the nations! The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.’
From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’” [Matthew 4:12-17] 

Pray for the watchmen on the ramparts!


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