Dear Friends,

The Greek word “hubris” in a modern dictionary is defined as, “excessive pride or self-confidence,” in its origin in ancient Greece it meant, “defiance of the gods,” I use it here to mean, “the refusal to recognize the sacred.”

I use the term “sacred” to mean whatever or whoever causes our egos to surrender our self-conscious importance and inspire in us humility and reverence as our posture and interaction with one another and the Mystery of the world we live in together.

Please note that my own ego does not easily surrender to anything or anyone without some motivating factor or condition like an impending biopsy or other medical test result or passing a concealed police vehicle well above the speed limit.

I know that I am not alone in my hubris.

Additionally, institutions and traditions in organized religion which in many ways have assumed the role of identifying what is “sacred” or who “the gods” are, quite often, have used the notion of the sacred to manipulate and suppress people in the interest of promoting, enriching, or advancing self-serving agendas. This self-serving use of the concept of the “sacred” has confused at best and abused at the worse common experiences as to what indeed is truly “sacred” and what in fact is actually quite unsacred and profane.

For instance, many folks in Whiting, and I am sure elsewhere, were taught that if they said or thought anything bad about a priest their arms would not relax at their deaths but would stick straight up and need to be broken when they died in order to fit in a coffin.

That sounds ridiculous to us, but it was just one rather mild example of misnaming who and what is sacred. There were and are worse examples, for sure.

As ancient Greek dramas and literature make explicit, hubris accompanies the human adventure often to its own peril with self-inflicted wounds.

What is truly sacred and “of the gods” has not always been difficult to discern but, I propose in our times, is almost impossible as we are very unskilled in recognizing authenticity in our experiences and we rush to name what is essentially un-nameable.

The association of athletics with the sacred or “god” as we see and experience so often is not without merit, as organized athletics offers a framework for ritual actions. Games often involve balls, and a ball is essentially a solid circle and deep in the collective unconscious of humankind circles carried the idea of perfection as opposed to angular imperfection of straight lines. Specifically, golf had its origin in ancient Celtic spirituality as did soccer in ancient Mesoamerican spirituality.

On the other hand, sexuality had the misfortune in Christianity of being introduced to people as a certain pathway to evil, rather than an experience of the sacred. The sacredness of sexuality was enshrined in ancient spiritualities with rituals and taboos that had developed over many, many generations to guide people into the joy of physical intimacy and the responsibility for procreation, especially, at the time of

adolescence where elders mentored the young with the wisdom of the past that did not associate sexuality with moral peril as is often the case today among Christians.

Jesus being an astute observer of the biological workings of nature as we see repeatedly in his parabolic use of the works of nature, offers us two stories for us to ponder this week both about the natural harmonies of flora and fauna.

I believe that Jesus wants to confront us with the question, why isn’t the harmony we find in natural forms a more powerful factor in how we treat those natural forms and most importantly, why is it painfully absent in our interactions as persons, communities, and nations.

The absence of harmony which has become for many of us a chronic condition has far ranging consequences that are yet to be identified but surely create difficulties that cause us to undertake blind actions without any conscious reflection and our hubris, our lack of limits, causes a kind of mania that surely will return as a depression leading to alienation from our inner selves, nature, and ways of being together that highly competitive avoiding a commitment to the common good with kindness, respect, and, even, love for ourselves, but especially, others.

Eventually, I suspect, we will find the absence of a curiosity and quest for ultimate meaning to be a paralyzing reality as it seems to be today for many as they desire to throw the baby out with the bath, in a manner of speaking in conventional social relationships.

Already, we live in a world where many, many folks commit themselves to suicidal missions of death to self and death to others as a preference over life and living. Many seek to identify their “nation” as sacred endowing nationality with god-like sacredness, but “nations” come and go, and always will.

In our own country according to a 2022 report in Psychology Today, suicide was the leading cause of death, increasing among Americans under 20 with alarming rates.

In my observation, many drivers display death wishes in the reckless manner in which they operate their vehicles on our streets and highways.

In a recent conversation with a thoughtful person, it was pointed out that Vladimir Putin has no plan for succession. That is an ominous condition for a man with apparently no sense of limits to his power, a condition that is not unique to Putin, I am afraid, as many folks my age, have never considered diminishment and death as a part of the plan, much less accepted that reality with humility and hope.

As Jesus did to the people of his time in the parables in this week’s Gospel text tell, he does in our time and summons us to a conscious reflection on what we do and why we do it.

Peace,

Father Niblick

 

SUMMER MOVIES

I will be hosting a showing of some movies that in my thinking deal with hubris as it looks in actual human relationships. All movies will be in the church and will be on DVD so technical issues should not arise but say a prayer anyway as I can screw up simple things, as you know.

JULY 9 1:30

Kidnapped: The Abduction of Edgardo Mortara, a 2023 film, is based on the true story of a young Jewish boy living in Bologna, Italy, who had been secretly baptized Catholic by a zealous nanny in the late 19th century. The film was directed by the 84-year-old Italian, Marco Bellocchio. It was released in Italy before last October 7, and I saw it as a part of the New York Film Festival on October 8, at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The audience was largely Jewish, and the tension was palpable as was the audience reaction. Recent events have led to questions about the origin of antisemitism. You will come to see that it came from the Roman Catholic Church.

JULY 23 1:30

Life is Beautiful is a 1997 film, again, produced and directed in Italy with the renowned Italian director/comedian, Roberto Benigni who even made Pope John Paul II laugh. The story told is not true but a story that many, many of us would have wanted to be true. The movie is set during the Nazi occupation of Italy, and it tells of the possibility of dignity, imagination, and love in the face of unbelievable hubris.

AUGUST 6 1:30

La La Land is a film that I have not seen but has been recommended to me by many of my young friends, some considering it the “best” film that they have ever seen. It takes a bit of humility and a mature and humble ego to identify something outside of oneself as “the best” at any age.

CWN

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