Columnists Mark my words

Column: Do you invite or indict?

by Father Mark Goldasich 

It’s amazing how something so small can have such a big impact.

The “something” is a brass bowl, about two inches in diameter, that I received this year as a Christmas gift. In its center, two items are stamped: a tiny cross and, underneath it, the word “blessed”. It sits on my kitchen table, where I spend a lot of time (go figure!) and can’t help but notice it.

For me, it’s both a reminder and a challenge. I like that the word “blessed” is not stamped in a straight line, but is crooked. It makes me aware that, even in the midst of a hectic, chaotic or “disastrous” day, there are many blessings .
. . if only I take the time to notice them.

The challenge of the little bowl, though, is to make sure that I share the blessings I’ve so generously received and to help others to see blessings in their lives. I think that’s hard for many of us to do.

The other day I came across this story that continues to haunt me:

A man named Matt Friedeman appeared on a TV show to discuss with other panel members some problems plaguing their Jackson, Miss., community. The city council was in disarray because the council president and another councilman were headed off to jail, due to their making shady deals. The panel moderator looked at Friedeman and said, “Matt, whose fault is all of this?”

Friedeman never got the chance to respond. That’s because one of the panelists sitting next to him, John Perkins — an author, teacher, community developer and national evangelical leader — answered, “It’s my fault.”

All heads snapped his way.

He elaborated, saying, “I have lived in this community for decades as a Bible teacher. I should have been able to create an environment where what our council president did would have been unthinkable because of my efforts. You want someone to blame? I’ll take the blame. All of it.” (adapted from “More Perfect illustrations for every topic and occasion,” by Craig Brian Larson and drew Zahn.)

The story ends there, but I’d bet there was dead silence in that TV studio after Perkins’ comment. “I’ll take the blame” is not something that you hear very often, not even from devout Christians. When seeing sin in the world, people’s default setting seems to be “pass the buck,” or play the “blame game.” It’s so easy to rail against something — the government, our upbringing, the culture, the media, the enemy, you name it — than to take personal responsibility for the way things are.

Particularly as Christians, our primary focus is to be witnesses in the world to the resurrection, to Christ living within us. In his parish mission in Tonganoxie last November, Father David Knight said that the key to evangelization is witness. As followers of Jesus, we are called to raise questions in the minds of people that we live and work with. We do this by challenging ourselves throughout our day with a question: How does this action of mine bear witness to the values of Christ?

For example, how would you categorize screaming at another driver for a minor infraction, like changing lanes without signaling? Or how would gossiping about a neighbor fit in? Or what witness to Christ is seen in forwarding a racist joke in an email or typing a snarky comment on Facebook?

This issue of the paper comes out on the feast day of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of journalists. He received that honor due to his inspirational writings, which encouraged everyone — not just a select few — to believe that “saintliness is desirable and possible.” His example of clarity, gentleness, meekness and charity models how Christians should approach the world. as saints-in-process, we are called to invite others, not indict them.

Let’s remember in our haste to point the finger of blame at others, that there are always three fingers pointing back at us!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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