Tuesday, January 06, 2009

'The Gift' of Father Suarez


From the Ottawa Citizen, 2008

'The doors opened at noon for the 2:30 p.m. mass, and by 12:15, the pews were jammed. People kept pouring in anyway, filling the aisles. In the church basement, several hundred more sat before a television screen, awaiting the mass. Ushers tried to turn people away, despite the pleas: "My mother is in a wheelchair, please let us in." Father Suarez promised to bless them all, but they would have to wait six more hours.

Inside the church, the pastor, Father Bill Halbing, shouted like a DJ: "Let's get rockin' in the Spirit, because this is a day of healing! You will see signs and wonders today!"

After mass, people scrambled forward to have Father Suarez lay his hands on them, pushing and stumbling so much that his assistant, Father Jeff Shannon, had to appeal for good manners and forgiveness for queue-jumpers. Silently, Father Suarez put his hand on each forehead, shoulder, or neck, sometimes even tweaking a nose while Father Shannon kept up an encouraging patter: "Love, love, love! Happy, happy, happy!"

Some were so overcome they swooned to the floor. Others came forward to attest to their newfound health. Arthritis vanished, headaches eased, hearing suddenly became clear, no questions asked. Only the worst killjoy would douse with doubt the sense of joy and celebration.'


I was thinking the other day about tensions in relationships. One of the things that one professional Christian psychologist said was that we need to let our masks down. I began to think about what leads us to put the masks in the first place.

I suspect of images that are sold to us of happiness. Along with Father Shannon saying "Love, love, love! Happy, happy, happy!", there are many ads and tv shows repeating the mantra. Who doesn't want more happiness and love? Still, we shouldn't be naïve, living in la la land.

It appears that some of the happiest people on earth live in countries of Buddhist majority. Ok, Buddhism, as I was told, encourages people to change the reality in their minds, that is, their perception of reality. They find happiness in some other realm. People who became Christians in the pursuit of happiness may consider changing their religion.

And what to say of Nordic countries? Apparently, a larger percentage of the population there enjoy life better than in the US. The Nordic countries, as I was told, have some of the highest percentages of atheists too. Does that mean that to find contentment in life, Christians should consider becoming atheists?

Christians should be well equipped to perceive reality. And let them (/us) not foul themselves that the purpose of this religion is happiness or self-contentment. Perhaps it's time for them (/us) to read the Gospels.

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