Monday, September 21, 2009

Christ was cleaning the bathrooms...

Another retreat come and gone and I do not feel renewed, just tired and depressed. At the end, everyone packed up and left as quickly as possible, including the preacher who didn't even wait for the closing announcements but peremptorily asked that we conclude the Mass and then bolted out of the auditorium like a bat out of hell.

And it felt like hell, sitting there listening to a concoction of sexist marital recommendations, conservative political pronouncements, and extremely traditional and rigid church teachings. Many of those who were free not to have to sit through two days of this, chose not to come back on Sunday.

If our marriages are failing and our husbands are unfaithful, the preacher said, it's our fault because we spend too much time and attention on the children and not enough stroking our husbands' egos and buying sexy lingerie. But if our children are antisocial video game addicts and dress like sluts, it's also our fault because we don't spend enough time with them. We can't win.

And we are also spiritually anemic because we don't go to daily Mass and if we go to the Saturday night vigil Mass, well, we're not really committed Catholics. Oh, and chronic anemia leads to leukemia, said the preacher, so when he asked if we agreed with him, I could not raise my hand because I was too busy rolling my eyes.

He doesn't want us to support health care reform either, the preacher said. Doesn't matter if it will insure millions of people who previously had no access to medical care and he doesn't even care if it insures undocumented immigrants or not. If the bill does not contain airtight anti-abortion language, he's against it.

It must be nice to be a celibate male with a cushy diocesan health care policy and no dependents. What a luxury not to have to lie awake at night worrying about how you're going to buy medicine for your asthmatic child when you have to choose between paying an additional premium for dependent care coverage or paying the electric bill. To be able to go around speaking against health care reform because you don't have to work two jobs to pay for your wife's cancer treatments because she can't get any insurance due to her condition. New research has come out showing that 45,000 Americans die every year due to lack of health insurance, but I guess since they aren't fetuses, they don't count...

The preacher goes on to tell a story about a woman who had seven abortions and now that she wants to have a child, she cannot conceive. I wait for some words of compassion, something about hope, miracles, another chance. Nothing. "God gave her seven children and she killed them all." Punto final. No forgiveness. The door to redemption firmly shut in her face.

The preacher is the great avenger of Christian morality. He "knows" when there is brujería in a home and he's proud that he walked out of that house after having been invited to dinner by the family. He's pleased to report that he ordered a catechist to wipe the makeup off the faces of the girls in a First Communion class.

We are supposed to be impressed by this, but I'm left wondering what happened to Jesus, the Son of God who loved all of us, including His enemies, to His death. What happened to the Christ who forgives 70 x 7? But what do I know? According to the preacher, I'm just a "wordly" member of the media.

We were told we should be taking communion every day but by the time we got the lecture on Eucharistic prayer protocol (we were ordered to either kneel on the concrete floor or sit on the edge of our seats; standing was not an option even though many of us come from countries where standing throughout the Eucharistic prayer is both accepted and considered to be respectful), and another lecture on who may or may not take communion, many of us decided to sit this one out. I stayed in my seat, wishing fervently that I had chosen to skip this event and gone to my parish where I always feel welcome, loved and accepted.

Looking up at the Crucifix above the stage, I took the time to reflect on some information I was given before the Mass that almost made me change my mind about a job I had previously decided not to apply for. I looked at Jesus and remembered about the temptation to power, to selling out for the sake of a false sense of inclusion. Jesus said: "Nothing has really changed. People like us are still on the margin and that's where we belong."

Christ did not wear a Roman collar or clerical vestments that day. Christ was outside the auditorium, cleaning bathrooms, guarding fire alarms, directing traffic, and serving food. He was selling coffee and donuts and driving people to the Metro. He was picking up trash and mopping floors. Christ is my brothers and sisters in the Renovación who don't know and don't care about my past, who don't stop speaking to me because I miss a photo-op, and who always welcome me back with a loving abrazo, no matter how many times I walk away.

1 comment:

  1. Jopestes! (Is not a curse, is a Forges thing), this priest seemed to have a lot of opinions about many things, but wasn’t spiritually strong enough, as to withstand a little bit of brujeria in someone’s house, after all, Jesus rebuked the devil himself.
    I’m all with you R.G. about the need of H.Care reform; this is undoubtedly a pressing issue, well, perhaps not for those that have job and benefits security “toute la vie “.
    About the husband thing, perhaps he’s got a point there; most of us don’t need to see any Victoria’s Secret, but a little bit more attention from Victoria. (If this happens to be the wife name) would be always welcomed.
    This is a danger for us all, when ideologies and believes harden and become too judgmental and self righteous, they harden our personality around us, as a calcareous crust, that ends up impeding and hindering the sensibility to feel and to see others hearts and feelings. Then, we are what we know, not what we perceive or should perceive.

    Rebel Boy…if I may.