Friday, March 7, 2014

Through Your Sacred Wounds, a Lenten pilgrimage to the Prodigal Feast

The Old Tired Confused Gesture 

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.  Isaiah 58:9-10, Reading for the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday.

The pointing of the finger. I remember as a child hearing, "for every finger you point at someone, three point back at you."  Throughout The Bible the accusatory finger has haunted humanity and has set the distance of space between ourselves and God. In Revelation the evil one is given the name "The Accuser". In the Genesis story, the first sin committed in the garden is when the serpent accuses God, before Eve, of withholding from her and Adam, the full goodness they were due, by forbidding her and Adam from partaking in the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge between good and evil. She and Adam buy into the serpent's seductive words of accusation and eat the fruit. God then comes looking for them and finds them with fruit juice still on their faces, and asks them what happened. What's the first thing they do with the knowledge of good and evil? Adam accuses Eve of leading him astray, while also blaming God because she was given to him from God. Eve then blames the serpent. It is at this point God decides to evict them from the garden, not for eating the forbidden fruit, but for playing the blame game, speaking evil of another. 

Whole Christian theologies have developed which employ the blame game. Crusades, inquisitions, reformations, counter-reformations, witch trials in 17th century Salem, and even still today, as some ministers still teach a message which seeks to hang the blame of our disasters and troubles, on some particular folk, of some particular sin.  

Of course with the theological blame game, there can be found no justification for it in the teachings of Jesus. There is no where to be found in the Gospel where Jesus ultimately gives us permission to accuse one or another as the basis of our holiness, or with who, or who we are not, to be in fellowship with. To accuse someone of being less than worthy of God's love and fellowship, with God and each other, actually defies the teachings of our Lord, "Judge not." The Gospel of John proclaims that Jesus came not into the world to judge it but to be its healing salvation and calls us to follow his lead. To blame another, to speak evil, ultimately is to shirk one's own responsibilities to care for the hungry and afflicted. As with the serpent distracting Eve by his accusation of God, so it remains today as a tool to distract us from serving each other in humility and grace, and with God's compassion, to care for and mend the sufferings of the world. Jesus doesn't call us to blame and speak evil of the poor, sick and suffering for their lot, nor does he call us to speak evil of our "enemies"(!), but to instead discover God's joy in serving them, to testify to Christ's presence in the world, we in him and him in us. By serving Christ in the afflicted we point to Christ in them and each other. By loving those with whom we are in conflict, we point to Christ in them and each other. So when we point fingers at people, instead of it being an expression of accusation, let it be an expression of encouragement pointing to Christ in everyone.


  1. Good morning brother John: I've been committed to following the mission st Clare as you suggested on fb but I got sick for the last three weeks. Would you consider corresponding with me? My email is

    I hope I get to hear from you. Thanks

  2. Sorry brother john... I lost your return email and have continued being sick. Could I ask you to reach out again?