Sunday, June 20, 2010


I'm not sure I do 'niceness' very well. It's one of those genes, of which, I didn't seem to  get a full allocation. In my own churlish way I've come to think of 'niceness' as being rather over emphasised. Traddies generally have to do 'niceness'. After all if you get three traddies in a room there's likely to be five seriously held, and mutually exclusive, opinions on any given topic. It's part of the oil which keeps us running as a reasonably identifiable group without to much blood on the carpet- which wouldn't be nice.

Yesterday's Gospel (from the Common of Virgins in this part of the world)  retold the story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins. (S. Matthew 25). It occurred to me, that if the story was read with eyes of much modern theological method, the Wise Virgins were not playing 'nice'. Surely they should have shared their lamp oil with those disadvantaged, sorry- differently abled, virgins so they could avoid embarrassment when the Master arrived knocking on the door. Perhaps they should have decided to collectively give up on oil and send the saved proceeds to the collective for whatever. Then would be the dilemma. Was the oil ethically sourced? If not, would it be right for the disadvantaged to derive benefit from it? No doubt they would have sat down, over a cup of Fairtrade coffee, and had a community meeting. Meanwhile that patriarchal figure, perhaps a symbol of all oppression, waits at the door knocking. There is a technical name for this type of exposition which escapes me at the moment but it may be isogesis not to be confused with exegesis.

The witness of Sacred Scripture needs to be taken as an entirety and read as such. There's no use in accepting only the nice bits and either rewriting the awkward bits or discounting them all together as some sort of cultural baggage. They are in the Bible for a purpose. All scripture,  inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work. (2 Timothy 3.16). There are aspects of the faith that are harsh, that seem to be 'not nice' and for this reason, in this world, Catholics will often be at odds- if they are holding to the faith we have received. It doesn't matter how much 'spin' you can try to weave with glossy brochures.

It's the same faith however, in it's entirety, which saves us. It's the belief that things can be better than what the world offers, and that we are grown ups who coping with such a notion realise that sometimes, 'hard love' needs to be applied. Embarassment, in the case of the Foolish Virgins, was potentially curative. There's a story that Nancy Mitford had once asked Evelyn Waugh how he could behave so abominably and yet still consider himself a practicing Catholic. "You have no idea," Waugh replied, "how much nastier I would be if I was not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being."


  1. But where would we be without the wonders of isogesis? Hmmmm,
    1) jehovah's witnesses
    2) Creationism
    3) Mormons
    4) etc

    I am just so happy that I am very nice because I just read a "New Age" book about self-affirmation.

  2. hehehe, nice one Father, Seriously though isn't oil supposed to be a metaphor for Faith? if so then the foolish virgins had only themselves to blame if they let their faith run dry.

    RE: Waugh - soo true!!

  3. I think Our Lord did some interesting takes on niceness. He called the moneychangers in the Temple "thieves", Herod "that fox", the Pharisees "whited sepulchres", the Samaritan woman- by implication- a dog and He can hardly be said to have been affirming towards Pilate when He told him that he would have had no power had it not been given from above. I mean can you not imagine how this must have cut at the poor fellow's self esteem?


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