Our gaze upon the city

Jerusalem’s Old City is seen May 24, just prior to Pope Francis’ visit. — Credit: LAUREN CATER/CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY

Jesus, it seems, had mixed feelings towards the world. He loved the world, laid down his life for it, and challenged us to love the world, even as he criticized it harshly and stated clearly that it was opposed to him.

So what's to be our attitude? How are we to see the world?

Is our gaze to be one of judgment or sympathy? Do we weep over the world in sympathy as Jesus wept over Jerusalem or do we strive to keep ourselves separate from a world that habitually scapegoats its God and crucifies its Christ? Are we too soft or too hard on our world? 

Maybe we need first to ask: What exactly constitutes the world? Is it that part of the world which opposes the churches — strident secularism, militant atheism and the mass exodus in some parts of the world of people from the churches? Or, is it that part of our world which seems indifferent to the churches — pop culture, the entertainment industry, the sports industry, mainstream academia, the editorials in most of our major newspapers?

Or, given the fact that it was religiously-minded people who orchestrated the Crucifixion, might the world that opposes Christ be huge parts of religion itself — Christian fundamentalism, Extreme Islam, misguided faith of all kinds?

The question isn't easy. The world that opposes Christ, I suspect, is made up of all of these, the strident, the indifferent and the misguided. All are interwoven in our present world and help constitute a darkness that the Word is trying to penetrate.

But that darkness has its own ambivalence. Inside that stridency, seeming indifference and misguided religion, we see all kinds of light as well. Darkness, itself, is not pure, and this can leave us in a quandary as to how we should, ideally, gaze upon our world.

Scripture assures us that God is the author of all that is good. Everything in our world that radiates life, goodness, health, generosity, faith, intelligence, color and wit comes from God, irrespective of where it is embedded.

Hence, when we look at our world, we may not superficially and easily divide it into two parts, one good and the other bad. When we do that, we end up often putting God in opposition to God and creating the very thing off of which atheism can feed. Atheism, as Michael Buckley so astutely asserts, is always a parasite that feeds off bad religion. Seeing God's presence in the world as either black or white is bad religion.

So how should we view our world, how might we gaze upon the city within which we live? We need to gaze upon our city in the same way as Jesus gazed upon his city, Jerusalem, when he wept over it with equal parts of sympathy and judgment.

What do I see when I look upon the city I presently live in and upon the different cities within which I have lived? First of all, I see everyone I have ever loved living there. Neither the city nor the world is an abstract concept. To speak of either is to speak of our loved ones, and that healthily complicates both our sympathy and our judgment. If I believe the world to be a bad place, what am I saying about my loved ones? And what sets me apart?

Still, a certain judgment still needs to be made. Is our world good or bad?

On the one hand, when I look at our world today, I see, in many places, a lot of good, a world bursting with energy, color, zest and with a healthy thirst for life and the transcendent. I see that the majority of people are good-hearted, honest, generous and desirous of peace. I see wonderful intelligence and wit.

On the other hand, I also see a world that is often shallow, self-absorbed and not given over much to sacrifice. I see a world within which the rich do not care enough about the poor. I see a world that is far too irresponsible in its sexual ethos. I see a world that is becoming addicted to information technology without any critical reaction.

I see a world that is unhealthily prone to ideology, hype and fad, that lives too much in the moment rather than in hope, that finds it difficult to grow up, that finds it difficult to accept aging and death, and that has not moved beyond an adolescent grandiosity in terms of appropriating its own faith heritage.

So what do our cities look like? Are they good or bad? Our own cities, I suspect, look a lot like Jerusalem looked to Jesus as he gazed upon it — mostly good, honest folk, struggling because we won't let God help us.

 

Oblate of Mary Immaculate Father Ronald Rolheiser is a specialist in the field of spirituality and systematic theology. His website is www.ronrolheiser.com.


Voices

Easter and beyond

Anne Hansen

We move quickly from our major religious holidays each year. It’s not intentional. Life hurries along and as soon as the sun sets on one holiday the next is being touted by merchants looking to sell us whatever the next big day brings. To remain in the spirit of the religious holiday — in this case Easter — takes deliberate intention.

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April 26, 2015

  • Sunday, April 26

    Special Needs Mass, 10 a.m., Father Maguire Council Hall, 4315 N. Vincent Ave, Covina.Mass for persons with physical and intellectual disabilities, their families and caregivers. For more information, contact Elizabeth, (909) 599-9833, ebinerfamily@gmail.com.

    Reconsecration Mass with Archbishop Gomez, 12 p.m., Our Lady of the Bright Mount Polish Church, 3424 W Adams Blvd., Los Angeles.

    90th Anniversary Celebration with Mass and Reception, 2 p.m., Our Mother of Good Counsel Catholic Community, 2060 N Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 664-2111. www.omogc.org.

    Wine Tasting for a Song, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Salt Creek Grille Restaurant, Monarch Bay Plaza, 32801 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point. $35/person. $25/person for subscribers. Sponsored by the de Angelis Vocal Ensemble Board of Directors. Featuring hors d’oeuvres, wine from Dragonette Cellars in Santa Barbara and a wine auction.

     

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