Leaving The Game of Favorites
Thoughts on the First Readings -by Joe Frankenfield
Feast of the Epiphany
Isaiah 60:1-6

“Am I still your best little boy,” I once asked my mother? Everyone has embarrassing childhood memories: this incident, though not the only or worst, is one of mine. My parents had recently brought my second brother home from the hospital and my relatives were making the usual fuss. Alone in the kitchen with my mother I blurted out my sad question. Her exact answer escapes me, probably the standard you boys are all my favorites but I knew I was never getting back my three-year role of best boy. One brother could have been a fluke but two made a pattern. I was definitely demoted.

Reading Hebrew Bible stories, listening to the carefully pruned narrative of Catholic history, the claims of unique gospel faithfulness from various protestant churches and even Islam’s assertion that it alone carries out true worship of the One God; I can’t help wonder if it’s endemic to religion that each spends immense energy clinging to its most-favored-son status.

When a counselor is trying to understand a seemingly ineffective behavior, she looks for the unexpected benefit it brings to her client. One result of a religion’s preoccupation with being larger, more powerful, more honored than others is that it diverts attention and energy from supporting its adherents in being more just and loving. The hard crux of faith is that in our world, as Jesus observed, God’s vision of life can’t come to pass unless we who believe in that vision are willing to accept sacrifice and suffering to further it.

Maybe that’s precisely the reason for all the discussion about the most respected, the fastest growing, the most influential, the most successful event-organizing religion – it deafens us to the real question: does our religion support us in being the most God-like, the most loving we can be?

It’s time we asked adult questions of our religion.