Sunday September 3rd - Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Blogs are a great place to confess. I realize there is no chance for absolution here but it feels good to get things "off the chest" as they say. I have what some may consider a bad habit. I like to smoke. Actually, I like to smoke a pipe. In fact I have two pipes and a couple different types of pipe tobacco. I have a short pipe like the ones you see in old movies or perhaps your uncle or grandfather had. I also have a "churchwarden". A churchwarden is a long pipe anywhere from 10"-19". My churchwarden, a wizard, is 15" long and a pleasure to smoke.
Depending on where you stand you may see my "confession" as a horrible revelation of a man who lives in the bowels of society or you may see it as no big deal. Today smoking of any sort is looked upon in the same way in which one might look upon a confessed serial murderer. Smoking has become the 8th capital sin (Pride, Smoking, Lust, Sloth, Gluttony, Anger, Envy, Covetousness). Huge organizations have been formed to "snuff out" smoking. Television commercials, ad campaigns, celebrities, and other famous people are employed in an all out attack on the nasty habit of smoking. In fact, Tom & Jerry (cat and mouse cartoon characters) recently came under fire for smoking in a couple of their cartoons. The assault is relentless and will stop at nothing.
I have a pipe dream. My dream is that one day all the energy spent to combat smoking would be turned to more pressing needs. My dream also goes so far as to point to moral needs. For instance, why is okay bring about "public awareness" through ads with body bags representing those who have died from smoking yet it is offensive to place ads in major newspapers with the signatures of those who are opposed to abortion? How can we have an all out war on second hand smoke yet accept the use of over-the-counter "plan-B birth control" drugs? The moral weight of the first case is not near the weight of the second.
I may be way off base today but this is how I understand Jesus' admonition in today's Gospel. These men are so concerned with the ritual cleanliness that they completely miss the focus of the law. Today, men are so concerned with the smoking crusade that they have completely forgotten human life in its most innocent form. They say it is okay to take a pill that damages a woman's reproductive system and possibly destroys a human life but something like smoking should be forbidden. They say it is okay to "choose" to take a life through abortion, but one should be locked away for ever if a chicken is treated without respect. Smoking doesn't' make me immoral, it may make me unhealthy but it won't sever my relationship with God. Nothing can separate me from God except me. "From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,adultery, greed, malice, deceit,licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."
By the way, this is not a blanket endorsement of smoking but a call to wake up and see what is truly important. Like anything else, I think smoking is okay if done with temperance. Isn't that the Catholic way of looking at most things - Temperance in Every Thing. Wait, shouldn't it be Temperance in Most Things. You'll get it in a minute.
Lord Jesus, give me the grace to live a life of charity. Help me to remember that charity is the measure by which I should measure all things. Rules are good in sofar as they keep me focused on the main point. Help me never to forget the focuse because I am blinded by the rules. Help me to never be blind to charity.
FROM THE SAINTS
-"By our little acts of charity practiced in the shade we convert souls far away, we help missionaries, we win for them abundant alms; and by that means build actual dwellings spiritual and material for our Eucharistic Lord. It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes down each day from Heaven, but to find another Heaven, the Heaven of our soul in which He takes delight. You must open a little, or rather raise on high your corolla so that the Bread of Angels may come as divine dew to strengthen you, and to give you all that is wanting to you."
- St. Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church