23 Jul 2008
“‘What were you arguing about on the way?’ [Jesus asked]. But [the disciples] remained silent.” (Mark 9:33-34) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
A couple of weeks back on the night of the Fourth of July, my family and I hiked up Mount Sugarloaf. From there we watched the fireworks display of a nearby town. We climb up there in the fading light of dusk, and then by the time of the fireworks it is just plain-ol’ dark. There were maybe 20 people up there that night. One family who had been there before we arrived, for some unknown reason, decided to hike back down the mountain before the fireworks even began. We kept hearing the brother say the sister’s name in a rather loud, upset voice as they were packing-up their stuff. My daughter Amanda heard the name. She thought she recognized the girl, but it was pretty dark by then. So Amanda text-messages the girl who she thinks it is and asks if she’s up on Mount Sugarloaf. The girl responds quickly enough to ask Amanda how she knew that, but by this time she and her family are already walking back down the mountain. My daughter lets her know that she was sitting on the grass only a couple of feet away from them as they were packing-up. These two girls, who were literally a few feet apart, never spoke a word to each other, but they used some cell-phone tower who-knows-where, and maybe even a satellite up in space, to say “Hi” to each other.
For your generation, text-messaging has become a universal tool. I ask kids your age a question and a lot of the time the answer I get back is “IDK.” What the heck is an IDK? Your language is seeping into my world. Without even thinking about it, you’re forcing me to change my world. OMG! I’m old. I look at your text-messaging and all I see is a glorified telegraph. The telegraph basically died when the telephone was invented. People talking to each other killed people texting each other. Now you’ve returned the favour. There are abbreviations you all use for “talk to you:” Talk to you soon, talk to you later, talk to you tomorrow, talk to you after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner, even talk to you after going to the bathroom, tty-this and tty-that, but nobody’s talking anymore. Everybody’s texting in this language that you’re inventing as you go along. And the only reason I know these things is because I’m a POS. [Not parent-over-shoulder, but priest-over-shoulder. Example of Anna O’Connell at RWU library yesterday] Your world is changing my world.
I can’t text, but I can read. And I was reading an article a little while back about mice. It seems that old mice who live in cages with young mice live longer than old mice who live with other old mice. Not a good thought if you’re about to go into a nursing home. On the other hand, I had a parishioner who worked at the University of Massachusetts. She was not young, but she loved being around young people because it invigorated her, she said. Your energy, your excitement, your pace changed her. Teachers and professors have told me the same thing. As long as you don’t have a class full of hooligans, I love that word hooligans, students can actually be exciting. After Convos, priests will go back to parishes and give a Sunday sermon, the Prime Bishop will write a God’s Field article, and we’ll all talk about how refreshing it was to be among all of you young people. You have the ability to change us. Your world changes us. You change us. STG.
In today’s Gospel selection, the disciples are caught in the act. They’re bragging about themselves. When Jesus confronts them, their only response is silence. When even you know that you’re in the wrong and that you’ve been caught, you know you can’t defend yourself, all you can do is stand there in silence. That kind of silence is self-condemning. As young people, you’re not just the church of today or the church of tomorrow, you can also be the church that never-is. IF you remain silent, we as church lose the power of who you are and what you do that will change us. If you give-up, if you don’t speak your minds as part of this democratic church that we profess to be, this progressive church that Bp. Mikovsky spoke to us about, this church that Bp. Kopka talked about this morning in comparison with our American democracy that honours and protects freedom of speech and thought, then your silence is that of the disciples in today’s Gospel. It is the acknowledgement that you have not done right by Jesus. It is self-condemning.
I had a young girl up in South Deerfield as a parishioner, a very intelligent person. She was upset about our church’s teaching on a particular moral issue. It made no difference that I agreed with her personally. She was upset that the church as a body held a position she could not accept, nor tolerate. She wouldn’t, however, speak-up to try and change the church; she instead walked away from church. Her voice was silent. She changed nothing. If your position is strong, so will be your arguments. Your voice can convince others. If it can’t then you either have to give up on democracy in favour of dictatorship, or you need to think about whether your position is as strong as you imagine. Surveys show that many of the moral and theological issues that bother my generation are insignificant to yours. That doesn’t mean that sin is creeping in. It means that people are changing. The church once accepted conversions by torture, the persecution of Jews, the tolerance of slavery, the subjugation of women, the absolute right of kings and on and on. We are not that church any longer. Just look at our Convo schedule. Look at our Mock Synod that we will hold tomorrow, and its theme of giving you practice so that you can participate in our church democracy in the future. A thousand years ago that session would be defined as heresy. Heck, before 1897 and this church of ours it would have been defined as heresy. Now it’s part of our path to Christ. Look at this Convo site. Roger Williams was expelled by the Puritan church in Massachusetts for his views on religious liberty and the separation of church and state. This heretic came to inspire Jefferson’s writings, and have now become part of our American religious culture, a culture that allowed for the emergence and development of our own church.
We are not the same as we have always been, and we will hopefully continue to change, but that won’t happen if you young people are silent. You have the amazing power to change us. Silence is the enemy of our Catholic democracy. Cherish your voice and your views. Be patient but persistent. Respect those who have come before you, and also expect them to respect you in return. We always need to look behind the faith at where we have come from, but we also must look forward in the faith to where we’re going, and that’s where you become absolutely indispensible. So may God inspire all of your youthful voices so that you may avoid a self-condemning silence. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)