The E-catechism: January 2000
|Not to be mistaken about the sacred|
Every one gets into life with the help of laws and regulations that mark out the way: the purpose of civil and moral laws, eventually religious laws, is to protect the person and above all to make life in society as safe and harmonious as possible. These laws, as every thing are made by men, are evidently not perfect; it is up to lawmakers to watch for up dating and improvement. In between, laws make up a useful, even essential, setting for a personal and social life.
So careful and respectful for this ensemble of regulations one can be, at certain times, one has to adopt an attitude: the transgression. The word transgression sound bad for some people, because it seems to imply a failure to care for laws, even to contempt them including the most valuable ones. We have always been taught to be in accordance with the law, been stifled and made to feel guilty to undertake any initiative that goes beyond what was prescribed.
However, there are circumstances and stages in life, where we are internally called from the deepest part of our conscience to transgress a law in the very name of values and objectives that law is meant to promote.
Transgress means in real sense "to go beyond the lay out of the way" for caring of life conditions that need a radical change. By struggling against striking injustices, we are acting in a way we believe necessary to improve the established order. In some ways it is preparing a world where people are better taken care of, specially the most under privileged ones.
Wherever he went, Jesus was restoring confidence, helping the paralytic to stand up, curing the sick and going if necessary against existing laws such as the Sabbath. "Sabbath is done for man and not man is done for Sabbath" (Marc, 2, 27). The law, the established order, is always behind life. Transgression, if carefully chosen, prepares the indispensable evolutions. Think of the courage of the first conscience objectors struggling against any war, or to the determination of the militants of equal rights and responsibilities for women, whatever in the city or in the ministry of the Church.
Some transgressions are childish or immature. Others are prophetic in a sense that they pave the way for a society with more justice, with more attention to the situations and to the persons. Such a transgression requires lucidity but also courage because it will be accomplished in some way alone because it is against the still dominant ideas. Transgression requires humility because only future will reveal its positive value. Any way it is now that we have to be aware of the unacceptable conditions and, at the light of what is presently known, to start the necessary changes.
Each community, each society, each Church becomes ossified if there is not some fore runners who prepare a future with more justice and more respect for every body, in spite of the incomprehension, the rejection even the contempt of the self-righteous.
Not to be mistaken about the sacred
Facing suffering and death, facing evil and war, facing natural disasters, the human being is at a loss. He doesn't understand; life has no more meaning; the world is broken. Then he is tempted to rely on a superior power that is able to act on this huge mess. How to obtain his favor and his protection? By giving offerings, by a ritual we ward off the bad spell. We burn a candle in offering; we recite a prayer; we venerate images; we bear medals, we made sacrifice, we make a pilgrimageThis way we can get into contact with the divinity and the places where we can have this contact, the signs and the objects we use for that become themselves sacred. This intuition that man is not the whole world, that some thing or some one is beyond him, is largely shared in various cultures and times. It is at the origin of the religions. For the humans, religion is the link to the sacred.
Often these practices aim to submit the divine wills to our own needs and wishes, these practices are more on the side of trading and bargaining. I give you this and you give me that. Oppositely, if the person is feeling small, overwhelmed by the sacred power and is staying annihilated without hope, waiting an inescapable death, the resulting effect is not better.
Very different is the call of grief done by desperate people, as a last resort they only have a call whatever the manner.
The image of God disclosed by Jesus-Christ is not a deaf, insensitive or mercantile God but instead a God offering for nothing without any counter part. The first one receives as much as the last one (Mt 20, 1-16). The signs of the multiplication of bread (Mc 6, 35-44), the change of water into wine (Jn 2, 1-11) or the miraculous draught of fishes (Le 5, 1-11) show God as the master of abundance and prodigality. His forgiving and salvation are offered to every body, without taking into account of the social, racial, religious or moral status: he comes for sinners and whatever the committed offences (the offences that have been committed?).
More so, Jesus has blurred the frontiers between the sacred and the secular domain. The external and outstanding acts of cult and prayers have no value for him (Mt 6, 1-8). It is what is inside the conscience which counts; it is what is going on in "spirit and verity " (Jn 4, 23). He came to make us free from the "sacred" powers that frighten us and imprison us.
Is there still any thing sacred? There is no more reserved or sacred domain, only God is sacred and all belong to us. How to recognize and celebrate the sacred character of God? By his words and by his actions, Jesus has made clear what is important in the world; it is the human being, man and woman, created in the image of God. He says to us: "What you have done to the smallest of my brothers, indeed you have done it to me" (Mt 25, 40). What is sacred is human being and more so if he is the most insignificant, the most penniless, the most helpless person.