Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Devil's Best Weapon

With Fr. Rutler's assessment of the two types of anger on my mind this morning (see previous post) I couldn't help but read the readings for Mass today and not think of two types of "wisdom" - good wisdom and its imposter.

God mocks the Prince of Tyre, which, as I've noted before, because people always tell me I'm going to Hell every time I use sarcasm...so my response is "but God does it too!"  Anyway, here is God speaking to the Prince of Tyre in today's first reading:

"You may think yourself like a god.  Oh yes, you are wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that is beyond you."

This imposter sort of wisdom, the delusion that "no secret is beyond me - I see the whole picture" was sharply contrasted with the opening prayer from Mass today - "O God, who to safeguard the Catholic Faith and to restore all things in Christ, filled Pope Saint Pius the Tenth with heavenly wisdom..." 

This false wisdom, the belief that a person knows both sides of a story is absolutely the Devil's best weapon. 

An example from my own priesthood: I have vestments made of nice material.  I've heard through the grapevine, throughout my priesthood, that some people say things like "oh, he has nice vestments because he thinks it is all about him, and he's better than Fr. so and so and he is pretentious and doesn't care for the poor and probably sits around drinking expensive scotch and eating ribeye all day."

If someone came and actually asked me why I have nice vestments I could say
1) did you know that my vestments are no more expensive than most of the vestments made out of burlap with polyester hand prints and all the other crazy vestments out there?  Did you know that mine are actually just as cheap?

2) did you know that my windshield in my car is cracked and my shocks are going bad and that I'm not really into material possessions?

3) did you know that my whole reasoning is that I think it is important to surround the Mass with beautiful things, and the easiest thing for me to start with is what I wear to Mass?

If someone asked me, I could tell them the other side of the story...but they didn't ask.

I used to think that gossip and rumor-spreading was only an activity that was pervasive among high school girls.  I played football in high school, football in college, and then coached football and taught for two years after that.  For about ten years of my young adult life, I lived in an environment where everything was out in the open, and if you had a problem with a guy, you talked it out, and maybe you got in a fight, but you talked it out and moved on.

Entering the seminary, and now being in parish life for the past four years, I realized that in fact gossip and rumor-spreading is not something that is an epidemic solely on high school cheerleading squads.  It is also very much a problem among adults.

The biggest problem is that often in a rumor's infancy, people will say things like
"I wonder if the reason for (the thing I'm spreading a rumor about)  is ________" quickly turns into "I KNOW the reason for the thing I'm spreading a rumor about is _________"

And that is the Devil's best weapon, because once a person is convinced they know the big picture, there is no changing that person's mind, which is why I think God just opts for sarcasm in the reading today:

"You may think yourself like a god.  Oh yes, you are wiser than Daniel, there is no secret that is beyond you."

It is a dangerous business thinking that we see all things, it is a dangerous business thinking we are gods, which is precisely why the Devil encourages such behavior among us.