Saturday, February 4, 2017

A shining light is always better than darkness

The 'Thinking Anew' column in today's Irish Times.

Michael Commane
One of the buzz words of our time is 'transparency'. It's almost spoken of as some sort of sacred cow. I heard a colleague comment that the more the word is used you can be assured that there is no transparency in the person or organisation using it. 

I'm not sure about that but certainly everyone and every organisation has to be seen to be transparent. Whether they are or not  is another question.

There is a philosophical saying that good of its nature diffuses itself. We all like to tell good stories. Yet on the other hand one might well argue that it's much easier to sell newspapers when there are bad stories to tell, the more horrible the story the more readers there are to buy the paper.

Still, at a personal and human level the individual is always more interested in telling a good story about themselves than a bad story.

We all like to stick out our chest and tell people, especially those close to us, that we have done a good job.

What child does not want to rush home to tell their parents they got all their spellings correct at school or that they won the 100 metres race at sports day?

There is a line in tomorrow's Gospel that is well worth repeating over and over:
"No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on a lamp stand where it shines for everyone in the house". (Matthew 5: 15)

A powerful sentiment and one that should be a strong mission statement for anyone who is attempting to live and preach the Word of God.

Interesting to see how 'transparency' is nothing new. It has indeed a long history. The antithesis to letting our light shine is secrecy, anonymity, all that cloak-and-dagger behaviour that makes some sort of god out of secrecy.

In this newspaper last Saturday Patsy McGarry described how the Redemptorist priest Tony Flannery “was charged, tried, and sentenced in his absence without being allowed a defence, or knowledge of his accusers.” If that is true it is shocking and if it's not true, then why have church authorities not denied it.

I was ordained a priest the day the Germans beat the Dutch in the World Cup in Munich. It was July 7, 1974. And in all the intervening years one of the things that has always greatly annoyed me is how the institutional Catholic Church is forever trying to be secretive and not tell people what is happening. And that seam of thinking goes right across the church in which I am a member. There seems to be some sort of rule, the more secretive a person is, the better the chance he has of preferment.

Churches should be an example of shining their lights, telling the world how they think and work. Instead for far too long is has been obsessed with 'causing scandal'. That means you can't tell people 'things' that they may not understand or might 'upset their faith'. Can you get further from the sentiment of tomorrow's Gospel?

One simple and most annoying example of this is how bishops are and have been appointed in the Irish Catholic Church. If you wanted an example of how not to live by today's Gospel, then just take a leaf out of how Irish bishops are appointed. It appears that Pope Francis is trying to change things. He has much work ahead of him.

Of course, we all talk about being 'transparent' but living it is a different story. If we keep repeating that sentence about not putting a light under a tub, which is in tomorrow's Gospel, you never know, conversion might be a reality for all of us.

Might it be that many Irish people have 'walked away' from the church of their childhood because they have been scandalised by that horrid secrecy that pervades the organisation?

Goodness of its nature diffuses itself. Churches have  to be more open. It's the story of the Gospel.

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