Twenthy-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

There is no doubt that one of the most beautiful and touching musicals which endures through the years is The Wizard of Oz[1]. Every age group loves the story of Dorothy and her spunky dog, Toto. We cheer as the Wicked Witch of the West melts away, and love to watch Glinda The Good Witch wave her wand, as Dorothy discovers “there’s no place like home”[2].

But a few years ago, a new musical called Wicked burst upon the scene. Like a supermarket tabloid, Wicked tells us the “backstory” of the Wicked Witch of the West: her illegitimate birth, abusive father, and life of rejection, because she had been born green from a potion her mother drank! The question is posed, “Are people born wicked, or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”.

Jesus answers that it is from within people, from our hearts, that the intention to do wicked things comes. No, we are not born wicked; God has created us and sees us as good. But we live in an incomplete world where evil is permitted to exist, for reasons we do not understand. So it is a hard, cold reality that, as good as we are, we are capable of doing wickedness, when we decide to act, or fail to act, in certain ways.

Lately, however, popular culture seems to have taken this to an extreme. When someone, our child especially, has done something wrong, psychologists (and talk show hosts) advise us to correct them by saying, “You’re a good person, Jack, but it’s just what you did by stealing your mother’s car, driving drunk, and mowing down those nuns in the crosswalk that was bad.”

We are told, for all the best reasons, to start building up self-esteem in childhood by continually praising a child’s every action and quality, including their failures. Their angry outbursts and refusal to obey are called “healthy independence”, and when they are jealous and tell lies about others to escape their own responsibility, “it’s just their way of creative problem-solving.”

But children are not fools. They usually have a very keen sense of right and wrong. Kids know what guilt feels like, and they don’t like that feeling. So, just like the adults they will become, they are tempted never to admit what they do wrong. Yet the very thing every child, teen-ager, and adult needs most is to be held to the standard of real truth.

The Pharisees, too, do not want to face the truth about their wrongdoing. If only they had the humility to admit they are jealous, angry, and power-hungry. But instead, they say yes to the temptation of keeping the letter of the law, while taking money from the poor instead of feeding them.

Like the Pharisees, we, too, often hide from the truth instead of coming to Jesus, who feels every beat of our hearts, and sees every thought clear through to our souls. Jesus knows intimately that no one is “born wicked.” And temptations are not sins, but they always encourage us to choose the wicked.

Jesus, too, had to pray to resist the devil’s temptation to take control, to change things for the better. Jesus was even tempted to despair, and on the cross cried out, My God, why have you abandoned me?[3] So “God knows” how hard we struggle with all the temptations in our own lives; Jesus knows all of our choices, and either cries or rejoices with us at the results.

But if wickedness was not planted in us at birth, something else was. St. James says, Humbly welcome the word which has been planted in you, and is able to save your souls. Humility is the key. And love is the word that was planted in us.

Temptations are laughed about in our culture: “boys will be boys,” “girls just want to have fun,” as if it’s “only human” to sin, and sin often. It isn’t sin which is human—sin is inhuman, because it comes from the Evil One, the devil. And think how un-funny the effects of sin are—it causes addiction and death, wrecks many lives, destroys us and every beautiful thing we hold dear.

But Jesus says to us, “I came so you would know your human identity is sacred. My Father loved you into life, and you are God’s own beloved daughters and sons. Don’t trash your bodies or your spirits!” When we welcome temptations and play around with them, we do trash our origin, and our true identity.

Gianna Jessen is a young woman whose mother tried to abort her, but failed. A nurse decided to save the burnt and dying fetus. Gianna could spend her life bitterly angry, scarred by rejection, hating everyone. She rejects that temptation, and instead encourages women and men to choose life for their babies. “You are made for greatness,” she says[4].

Choose greatness: Humbly welcome the love Jesus has planted in you, and make choices every day that lead to a fully human life! ■

[1] The Wizard of Oz is a 1939 American musical-fantasy film mainly directed by Victor Fleming and based on the 1900 children’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
[2] Sunday 30th August, 2009, 22ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8. The just will live in the presence of the Lord—Ps 14(15):2-5. James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27. Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.
[3] Psalm 22.
[4] Jessen's biological mother was 17 years old when she sought an instillation abortion at 30 weeks of pregnancy. The abortion procedure failed, and Jessen was born alive and premature, with severe injury that resulted in physical atrophy and cerebral palsy. Subsequently, Jessen's biological parents, each aged 17, put Jessen up for adoption. Cfr http://www.giannajessen.com

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris