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Evansville, Indiana
November 6, 1987     The Message
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November 6, 1987
 

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2 Faith Today Supplement, The Message, Catholic Diocese of Evansville, November 6, 1987  ..... Page 2 Faith Today A religious Pied Piper... in Zen Buddhist robes? By Father David K. O'Rourke, OP NC News Service S everal years ago I was working on the staff of a human relations pro- gram for high school students. The local school district wished to familiarize their student leaders with the different social, religious and ethnic backgrounds represented in Southern California. So we took groups of more than 100 older student leaders away for a week at a time. There were several religious leaders on the staff, and I was the priest. The rabbi, whom I shall call Jesse, and I had a lot in common. We were both good teachers, in- volved in community affairs and leaders in our own religious com- munities. We had helped design the program for high school students and also were good friends. We could not have ob- jected if someone had pinned an activist label on us. By contrast, there was a Bud- dhist monk who used to come to our camp in the mountains for one day out of the week. He was friendly but restrained. He never took part in any discussions of social issues. He sat smiling softly as our debates roared on. Then he would unpack a portable shrine, put on his robes and demonstrate Bud- dhist ritual with great artistry. And the youngsters absolutely flocked to him. He was a religious Pied Piper in a Zen Buddhist robe. Jesse and I would grump as we watched our Jewish and Catholic youngsters offer incense and ring bells, fascinated by the ritual. "Here I am," Jesse would grouse, "trying to teach my kids about creating a just society, and they'd rather burn incense." "Maybe I should forget about the bishops' teachings on peace and war," I would respond, "and focus on celebrating Mass in Latin." Our comments about the "com- petition" were good-natured, but the youngsters were pointing out one of the realities of American religion. Both the rabbi and I, like many of our colleagues, are involved in major social issues. The quality of life for all people in Americii is im- portant to us. But the quest for justice, vitally important as it is, represents only one dimension of our traditions. There is also the meditative and contemplative dimension of our lives. There is the human need for the quiet in which stress can drift away; for religious rituals that can calm our unruly side. It was this need, I believe, that Jesse and I watched, surface in our youngsters. Religions that emphasize quiet and ritual, including ones with their roots in the Orient, can exer- cise an appeal for Americans who live under such great pressure. In- terestingly, the Catholic tradition also is very rich in this area. It is a dimension of the tradition that has perhaps been underemphasized of late. But as Jesse and I continually learned, the need is there and the thirst seems real. We saw firsthand that an encounter with another religion may cause us to take a dimension of our own faith more seriously. (Father O'Rourke is on the staff of the Family Life Office in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif.) Inseparable traditions By Father John Castelot NC News Service he firs.t place St. Paul headed when he entered a town to preach the good news was the synagogue. And he was arrested at the end of his last missionary journey when he went to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill a vow he had made. The first generation of disciples were all full-fledged members of the synagogue. They even modeled their worship on that of the synagogue; in that regard their legacy persists to this day in the church's Liturgy of the Word, the part Of the Mass containing the readings and the homily. After Paul's conversion he still worshiped the same God as ever. It was just that he came to realize that God's saving plan had been 'broUght to a climax in his Son ..... Jesus, True, Paul's attitude toward the Law became rather liberal, but he still considered himself a Jew. In Romans 9-11, Paul agonized over the fact that his co-religionists by and large did not accept Christ. But in doing so, he showed how close he felt to them, crying out in an eloquent overstatement: "I have great sorrow and con- stant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were ac- cursed and separated from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kin according to the flesh" (Romans 9:1-4). We often divide the early Chris- tians into. Jewish Christians and gentile Christians. This is misleading. All the first Christians, whatever their ethnic background, were Jewish Christians in varying degrees. They came into the Chris- tian community by way of Judaism, at least to the extent of being given a thorough grounding in the Old Testament. Some gentiles converted to Judaism before Christian mis- sionaries addressed their synagogue congregations. In any event, all the first missionaries were Jewish and they instructed their converts in God's saving plan, beginning with :Abraham's call and continuing through the whole Old Testament period. One of Luke's purposes in writing his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles was to convince his gentile readers of their roots in Judaism. By giving so much atten- tion to the missionary journeys of Paul, the founder of their corn- munitieS, Luke was getting across the point that they went back through Paul to the Twleve, to Jesus, to Israel. All the figures in Luke's gospel story of Jesus' birth are devout Jews, like the aged Simeon, who "was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel" (2:25). Mary and Joseph are a devout Jewish couple, who have the baby circumcised on the eighth day (2:21) and bring the boy on pilgrimage to the temple (2:41-50). And look at the opening sentence of Matthew's Gospel: "The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." This is followed by a family tree of Jesus that traces his origins back to Abraham, father of the chosen people. If we speak today of a Judeo- Christian ethic, it is because the two traditions, Jewish and Chris- tian, are inseparable. Christians never can forget their ties, their debt, to Judaism. They never can forget their roots without losing their true sense of identity. (Father Castelot is a Professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich.)