A Remnant For Many

2015. november 10.

Timothy Cardinal Dolan has recently published a blog entry on his website about the “Inclusion of the New Minority”.

When the archbishop defines, as he further specifies, who he thinks are those whom he calls belonging to “a new minority” he says: “those who, relying on God’s grace and mercy, strive for virtue and fidelity”. In other words, those who make up this group of people are different from the majority in the world, and “at times, he says, in the Church”, in this.



What makes me hesitant about all this is not so much their assumed contradistinction to the majority, but rather the implicit idea that they also differ from the other minorities in that they strive for virtue and fidelity, while, it seems to me, the others do not.


Do they not?


And also, and perhaps more importantly, do they not rely on God’s grace and mercy?


How about, then, the tax collector, obviously a minority in the Jewish religious context of the time, in Jesus’ parable? Furthermore, does it make any sense to reverse the roles in the parable and speak about a new minority of the Pharisees, just because they too have a point? I do not think it does.


If you reverse the new order of upside down created by the parable, you destroy the parable.


The idea of a new minority conceived of in this way takes away the point not only of Jesus’ parables but also of his whole teaching. It leaves us with what we have without the good news of redemption: a reality in desperate need of redemption.


When I hear people talking about the crisis of faith today I am always reminded of such an outlook.



What made the word Pharisee—originally referring to a religious minority group with honest intentions, striving for virtue and fidelity—mean what we all understand by it, i.e. a hypocrite, a dishonest person, was exactly their—the Pharisees’—unwillingness to be happy to be at home. In other words, they stayed but did not like it. They stayed but were embittered. They stayed but considered themselves a “minority”. They were, of course, a minority, in the obvious sense of being fewer than the sum of the others, or maybe even in another sense of being the smallest group. But, tragically, they considered themselves a minority to the effect of forgetting their sole duty—their vocation!—of those being at home. They forgot that those who are at home are “always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (cf. Lk 15:31). This is why, at the crucial moments, they were unable to welcome home those who were “lost but have now been found”.


I suggest that if we consider ourselves, while at home, a new minority in need of more attention and more protection, we should perhaps also ask ourselves whether we feel happy to be at home.


The test of our answer will be, always, our capacity to welcome home the other minorities, the “old ones.”



For my part, as a pastor, I see it as my job to nurture those at home especially by telling them that they are capable of welcoming the others, the “minorities”. They are capable of it because this is what being the Church of God means.


We are not our Church; we are not here by our choice; not even by the choice or the power of others, a supposed majority. The power and the capabilities that we have come from God.


This is why we can answer with “Yes!” to the question that Cardinal Marx cited at the Synod from young people: “Will you stay with us when we fail?”


We can say “Yes”, because this yes is the echo of God’s creative “Yes” which was made irrevocable by Jesus, in this absolute “minority”, or to put it better and more Biblically, in this “remnant”. Our yes is always made in Him, and so is inherently “minoritarian”, or to put it better and more Biblically, is always “powerful in weakness”. This yes of the remnant continues to be creative precisely because, at the core, there is the “power which is made perfect in weakness”.



We are never to perceive ourselves in the Church as a minority in need of inclusion. We are invited, rather, to experience our remnant state especially as a power in weakness, a capacity to include.



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