A guy in my parish was talking to me after Mass on Sunday. Not his usual pleasant and upbeat self. Instead just a little embarrassed. A bundle of awkward silences. So, I thought, do I take the hint and go or do I make myself a nuisance? I wanted to know what was going on… Or thought I did … It turns out he’s angry.
Just a simple story: he and his partner—he’s gay—will have been together for nine years next week. Their anniversary is next Tuesday—the day California goes to the polls—and he sees the irony of that because he expects that at the same time he and his partner are celebrating their life together Prop 22 will be getting passed, reminding them both that whatever they have together it mustn’t be compared to marriage. But that’s not what makes him angry. He doesn’t expect any better from the population at large. He’s more realistic than that.
But what does makes him angry is that the Church—the diocese—has paid good money—his money he reckons—to support a proposition that hurts him in the heart. Can’t he expect, he asks me, that the church will be on his side or at least not against him? He doesn’t come to church expecting to be hurt but he is and he’s angry. He’s angry.
Now I don’t like anger. I don’t like it when it’s pointing my way and I don’t do it well myself. But his anger has been dogging me all week and now with today’s readings has gotten me backed in a corner.
Here’s Jesus angry and he’s angry over what’s going on in his church and the anger seems to take away his good judgement. I would prefer he send a courteous letter to the bishop through the proper channels and not go in for such a shameful display of passion. His behaviour disturbs me but, OK, maybe some things are worth getting angry over. Maybe not getting angry is the shameful course. But what disturbs me most isn’t the scuffle in the Temple at all. What gets to the root of my unease is the cursing of that poor fig tree. And not because I’m starting a committee for fig-tree rights but because of a nagging uncertainty: why does Jesus expect fruit when it’s not the season for it? Isn’t it futile? Isn’t it stupid? But, stupid or not, his anger burns and the tree is withered to the root. Withered into a parable that leaves me … wondering. Wondering about the guy at church … is his expectation of welcome among us as stupid as looking for figs at the wrong time of year? Is that the parable of the fig tree? That the last place you should expect justice is in the church, among your own? That’s what’s got me backed into a corner. And here I am … waiting to hear a word from Jesus and praying that when it comes it will be a word of blessing and not a curse. Praying that he’ll forgive me for not being angry enough, praying he’ll hold back his withering anger for just a while longer.
Add comment March 3rd, 2000