Saturday, April 5, 2014


In the gospel passage for Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent (Jn 7:25-30), certain people in the crowd insist that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because when the Messiah comes "no one will know where he comes from," i.e. he will be a mysterious figure beyond their control. But they told Jesus. "You? We know all about you We know your hometown, your  parents and that you're a carpenter by trade. We know all there is to know about you."


I once read this observation about a certain smug religious person: "He thinks he has God in his pocket." I've blogged about this before, but it seems very apt to bring it up again today. The Pharisees in the Gospels surely think that they have God in their pocket: they have the Almighty captured in their hundreds of commands and prohibitions, in their rituals and traditions. They think they know all they need to know about God. So Jesus comes along and starts to question their self-satisfied attitude and their static teachings and their way of manipulating God through rules and regulations, they of course react violently to preserve their way of dealing with God.

What defines  religious fanatics, it seems to me, is the way they all answer thie question "Where is your God?" They all answer, "In my pocket, of course!" If the Pharisees have Him captured in their rules, then Christian fundamentalists have Him captured between the covers of their Bible with which they gleefully whack all their opponents. Other groups have their Koran or anything else that assures them that they've got God comfortably within their grasp. (As a Catholic priest I want to be careful of accusing anyone of thinking that they have God captured in the tabernacle or in the infallible teachings of the Pope, so I won't go there.)

If you've ever met someone who thinks he or she has God in his or her pocket, or even if you simply follow the daily news, you know that these can be dangerous people. Thank God I'm not one of them.
 ... But wait!


In all honesty I have to admit that the first time I heard that expression about having God in ones pocket it gave me the chills because it hit too close to home. For instance, I know my first reaction when God tries to do something new in my life, something that forces me rudely out of my rut: I resent the intrusion and wonder why God isn't behaving according to my plan. In addition, I know how I respond to pain and struggle: I complain to Jesus that he's not keeping up his end of this nice agreement that I thought we had -- you  know, the one that says if I scratch His back by praying and going to mass and being good to others that He will reward me with a comfortable, nice, predictable life.

Lent is a great time to empty your pockets and see what might be hidden in them. Careful -- you might get a nasty surprise!

No comments:

Post a Comment