Friday, June 19, 2015

Stormy Weather: Fear and Trembling on Land and Sea

Don't know why
There's no sun up in the sky
Stormy Weather

Rossini's William Tell, Beethoven's 6th Symphony, The Pastorale, Strauss' Alpine Symphony, Shakespeare's The TempestArabian Nights, all contain storms to beat the band. As a metaphor, the storm is as old as the species homo sapiens sapiens itself. Storms are everywhere throughout time.

This Sunday, the lectionary presents Mark's version of a storm at sea.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” [Mark 4:37-8, NIV]

Fr. Barron has composed a comforting homily on the biblical passages for this Sunday. He presents as poetic a reading of the pericope as one is likely to find. I think he errs, though, when he presents the Church's sexual abuse scandal as a storm that challenges the pilgrim's course of the barque of Peter.

Though he has it right that the scandal is a great storm, a faith shaking moment in the life of the Church, he runs a great risk of offending the sensibilities of the victims when he externalizes the moment. As I have commented on the Word on Fire website, this storm is not something violent from without being visited upon the Church, but it is rather something violent from within the Church being visited upon the world.

The 'furious squall' results from the disease of pedophilia being visited upon the most vulnerable members of the Church, and from the cover-up of those criminal visitations by the power players, the leaders of the Church, whose short-sighted goal was to protect the integrity of the Church. These are the boat-rockers threatening the barque with drowning. The waves generated by the barque against the sea send repercussions to invade the shores and harbors within the Church's reach.

To the extent that the moral evil in the scandal in not intrinsic to the Church as the Mystical Body, Fr. Barron might still be grounded in a reality worth noting. The pericope, though, is about other business. The sleeping Jesus is one locked away from viewing the idle hands of the princes of the Church. It is a Jesus momentarily bound, closeted, in a futile effort to contain such a saturated phenomenon. When he awakes, he arises as the indefectability of the Church, as the renewing Holy Spirit that quells the storm.

The scandal is a powerful lens through which to read this Markan pericope, but it opens on a logic that inverts the loci of the storm metaphor. Taken as an element of a thorough allegoresis, the storm locates its source from an indefectable but corruptible boat whose rockers will either receive the Spirit or drown. The disciples, whose progeny sit at the table of the greatest challenge to our Church, could hardly have known how their ecclesial descendents would put Jesus to sleep while they convulse the sea of faith. They feared drowning, but could not imagine that their counterparts of today would hold children's heads under water.

No comments:

Post a Comment