The Humility Of Mixed Motives
Thoughts on the First Readings The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Joe Frankenfield
A story on the CNN website recently told of evangelical churches banding together to resist recent anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona and to work against other states adopting similar laws. Cynics may say that such a move is designed purely to increase Hispanics’ likelihood of joining an evangelical church.
Cynics could also say that U.S. bishops’ activity to encourage immigration reform is designed purely to keep Hispanics Catholic. Both the evangelicals and the Catholic bishops maintain that their motivation arises from a biblically rooted concern for justice. It’s not unlikely that both groups have mixed motives.
In times of uncertainty folks are want to seek out purity – in motives, in beliefs, in commitment, in every aspect of life. We Catholics, as a whole and in our particular subgroups, aren’t feeling all that secure these days. Dip one’s toes in the water of Catholic opinion and it doesn’t take long before the heated rhetoric of purity begins to scald. Catholic liberals look askance at any social justice work of conservatives and Catholic conservatives cast similar glances at liberals expressing doubt that Vatican II was God’s final word on how the Church should work.
It irritates one’s irony-bone to hear a group of Catholics complain bitterly about liberals and conservatives in government refusing to cooperate on obviously good legislation. The same folks can be clueless about the anger of poor folks watching Catholic liturgy warriors squander ecclesiastical time and energy that could put food on their plates and roofs over their kids.
Genesis tells of Abraham, the Hebrew forefather, defending the Canaanite king Melchizedek against outside aggression after which Melchizedek called on his Canaanite gods to bless Abraham in gratitude. Everyone went home happy.
Was there complete agreement between the two men about how kingdoms should be run, about how land should be divided, about whose God was supreme? Not ever. But one king had been saved from defeat and another king had been blessed by a rival. Thousands of ordinary citizens slept more soundly that night. There were mixed motives lying everywhere that evening but peace had been strengthened.