A Morality of Promise – Not Of Threats
Thoughts on the First Readings -Joe Frankenfield
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 22: 19-23

Many Catholics can remember a time when they lived in fear of committing mortal sin with the consequent prospect of an eternity in Hell. Some rejected particulars on the list of mortal offenses but, agree or not, few performed a proscribed action without being aware that it was, indeed, forbidden. No one who lived them would revisit those days. Most found the situation a legalistic morass in which one could become mired in fear and guilt for reasons that made little sense.

There was one plus in the situation, however: few were oblivious to the weight of their moral decisions and actions. If inherent value didn’t determine their importance, eternal sanctions did. Mature or immature, reasonable or unreasonable, a lively, sensitive conscience characterized Catholics.

Setting aside the threat of facile damnation has left some with the impression that moral issues, though interesting, are crucial neither to our relationship with God or the success of life. That’s an expensive mistake.

There is today, and has been for many months, a famine raging through much of sub-Saharan Africa. Thousands die daily from malnutrition. Children are most at risk.

Jesus bluntly taught that those who want to live in harmony with God must respond to his needs by responding to the needs of folks around them. His prime example of a person in harmony with God was a person who feeds the hungry (Mark 25:35). His prime example of a person not in harmony with God was someone who doesn’t feed the hungry.

The issue for Jesus, and for an adult Catholic faith, isn’t a childish cops and robbers game between God and us. The issue is that God is trying to give life to people and we either cooperate with God’s efforts or we don’t. Will we act with or against the Creator of the universe?

Some would return our Church to the middle of the last century because they’re convinced that, like children, we won’t respond to life’s demands and the intent of our Creator without the threat of personal spiritual banishment. That’s a problem. The real issue is much larger, much more important. Just ask the parents of Africa’s children.