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Dear Friends,

 

There is not much joy or happiness expressed in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s Gospel on the surface appears to harbor a lot of anger, even rage, as this weekend’s Gospel story illustrates. John the Baptist is really upset.

 

It is good for many reasons that we have four Gospels and not just Matthew, but even with the four, I think, Matthew’s Gospel has had an inordinate influence in our interpretation of all of the Biblical texts and how we have structured the modus operandi of institutional Church.

 

Judgment, anger, and anxiety have been and, in some quarters, are now the face of the Church. Fortunately, I don’t, but too often when people of my age remember their childhood in Catholic schools, it is a negative memory.

 

Even more troubling to me is that Matthew’s Gospel has provided us with role models for leadership in ministry, displaying defensive certainty and insisting on correct action or form as a reflection of the image for God incarnate in Christ.

 

The images of Christ in the whole context of the Gospels are far more diverse with a very clear option for mercy and forgiveness with anger reserved almost always for the leadership of Jewish worship and zealous enforcers of the Law.

 

Matthew has lots of seemingly black and white situations like the, so called, “last judgment” scene in the 26th chapter with the sheep and goats. We will hear that this year and we will need to remember that the point isn’t so much that judgement which has been seared into the consciousness of so many people, but that Christ is found in the very people that we encounter day and day out.

 

His tantrum with the tree this weekend is a poor example for future apostles and disciples, Isaiah’s serene and confident use of the tree in the first reading is far more like Christ than Matthew’s violent outburst, although we do get a tree cursing Jesus in Chapter 21 of Matthew’s, remember that it is in Matthew’s Gospel.

 

Most all of us are born to be curious creatures filled with healthy libidinal energy, it is our libido that makes us want to hold our heads up, roll over, crawl, and walk and talk.

 

It is the libido driven curiosity that drives us to move out and engage life, make friends, and create our own adventure putting our unique resources into the mix that is reality.

 

Together with eros, libido is that force that makes us want to love, to understand, to act like God, as I believe Jesus reveals God and bring meaning and purpose and joy to the chaos of raw creation not by an act of the will but by with the transformation of our pain into an embrace of life.

 

When people are in touch with a healthy libido and erotic energy is flowing, good happens, when they are not, it is not so good. There can be no permanent and lasting equilibrium maintained or sustained, as humans we are always in relationship with others and with the past as we live in the present and move toward the future and those are always fluid.

 

In contrast with the libido and erotic energy in our consciousness, the ego looks for stability, a kind of permanent place, preferably a pedestal from which to remain aloof and apart from actual tensions, stresses, and agonies and ecstasies of real lives lived.

 

Beginning roughly in the 17th century the western world began a significant shift in self-understanding and “the modern” began to change things, all things.

 

The collective libidinal and erotic energies of humankind exploded with new ideas and discoveries and individuals began to assume individual identities rather than tribal collective identities, to think for themselves and accept responsibility for the world that they co-create.

 

Such as it is, Christianity is all tied up in knots these days, especially in the United States, because of what is called “secularism” but secularism is, in my opinion, one of the great successes of the Gospel, precisely because of the Gospel emphasis on the dignity and agency of the individual human person so often evident in the parables of Jesus.

 

The emerging ideas of human rights and human dignity, with the advent of literacy, at least for men initially, and the development of  scientific methods of analysis and understanding, I believe had their origins in the minds and hearts of the great saints of Catholicism who had taken the New Testament seriously and developed the monasteries and universities and cathedrals of Europe that became living centers of human interaction with the Good News of Christ in the midst of creation.

 

Like every other human endeavor this process was not a single smooth unfolding but the hard work of faith and hope and love of flesh and blood and spirit.

 

The libidinal and erotic energy of much of institutional Christianity, in my manner of thinking, has been woefully limited, feared, and left immature or impotent, and, in my opinion, this has contributed to the carnage of the 20th century and into the 21st century and our glaring and growing inequality and our inability to find others as our neighbor.

 

The Gospels were composed and then written to tell us the content of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God, like all of the books of the Bible, the personalities and strengths and weaknesses of the human “authors” are not erased or negated in the telling, and while we refer to the Gospels with the title of one person’s name, we should remember that these were communities of persons, ecclesial communities, that created these texts.

 

It was ecclesial communities that received these texts, like us today, and our response is very much dependent on the health of our libidinal and erotic sensitivity and maturity. Libido and eros lead us to intimacy with the “other” and knowledge of the self in relationship with the “other”.

 

I think we find ourselves in troubled circumstances of denied or extremely diminished capacity for intimacy and a loss of energy to make self-knowledge a life-long quest.

 

In my opinion, while 500 years in the making, this loss of a drive to intimacy and self-knowledge is largely the result, at least in the west, of the Christian Churches adopting, as I characterized the appearance of the Gospel of Matthew, “defensive certainty” and obsessive concerns with “correct action” and “correct form” of personal behavior, often related almost exclusively to the mechanics of sexual behavior with virtually no connection to the mandate of Christ “to love your neighbor as yourself”.

 

Among other things, this has allowed us to see trees as made for the purposes of serving our egos rather than inspirations for growing intimacy in lateral symbiotic relationships with all creatures and in a horizontal manner between Heaven and Earth.

 

 

Peace,

Father Niblick