Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28
Hated by all because of my name…
A psychologist I know recently spoke of the majority of his patients, saying, "Most really don’t want to be healed, they just want me to take away the pain." By that he meant that most of us don’t want to invest in the hard work of human growth or spiritual development… so, instead, we choose to over-indulge in a variety of self-satisfying ways.
Our temptation is to condemn Belshazzar for irreverence, desecration, or blasphemy. By profaning the sacred vessels that his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had taken from the Jerusalem temple, Belshazzar reveals how more broadly despicable he had become. And then he expects religion to enable him to feel better, asking Daniel to interpret his inner voice.
Today’s readings remind me of how often lately I’m embroiled in the discussion about spirituality and religion; you know, the folks who assert, "I’m very spiritual, I’m just not religious." I don’t think organized religion is the problem. The problem is that most of us don’t want to hear about the requirement (not a suggestion or an option!) to love one another – as God loves us. That’s religion. That’s the stuff of washing other’s smelly feet, embracing the leprous, loving enemies, forgiving others seventy-time-seven, and so on.
Yes, the end of the liturgical year upon us, and Jesus tells us we’ll be hated by many, but not a hair of our heads will be harmed. The readings around the destruction of the Temple are not about the cessation of this planet, however, or the end of THE world. Rather, we are hearing about the end of MY world, MY ego, MY narrow mind. And that’s the Good News, the Gospel! And that’s when, as St. Paul says, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.