"It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument." 1 Timothy 2:8
This morning at Mass I stood at the ambo proclaiming the first reading from 1 Timothy 2:1-8, and I was distracted and dismayed by the fact that someone had rebelliously taken a pencil and crossed out some of the words in the very last line of the scripture and wrote politically correct terminology above them. Had I followed the suggested change, I would have read "all" instead of "the men." I stuck to the original text, a bit disturbed that the lectionary of holy words had been tampered with. Maybe to some, I would have been seen as the rebellious one for following the words as they originally appeared.
It got me thinking, though, about the nature of rebellion and how we all go through it at one point or another, don't we? At some point, we believe that we are indisputably right and justified in our behavior, in turning our backs against tradition and the status quo, against rules and regulations, in favor of going our own way, however misguided that way may be.
I was recently approached by a young man who called me by name and began to visit with me. I had no idea who he was. Too embarrassed to admit the fact that I didn't know him, I tried to tease his identity out of him with various statements and questions such as:
"Wow! You look great! I wouldn't have recognized you!"
"Where are you going to school now?"
"Do you play football? Basketball?"
No luck. I still couldn't place him. To my great fortune he asked me about one of my sons. Finally, a clue!!! And then I remembered seeing his mother a bit earlier and realized that his was her son and I was able to converse easily with him.
Later that night at the dinner table, I shared this story with my family and mentioned what a fine young man this boy appeared to be. My sons just shook their heads in dismay at my words and they conveyed to me that this "fine young man" was well known these days for his use of drugs.
It's so sad to me that more and more often our dinner table discussions revolve around my son's former grade school friends who have succumbed to a life of partying which includes drugs, alcohol and sex, and stories of violent fighting in the high school where rarely a day goes by that they don't witness someone throwing punches and profanities as if it were candy being tossed from a float in a parade.
All of this rebellion causes so much pain and although I don't have any answers, I know that there is much good hidden beneath the struggling facade of teenage life, and I clearly believe that the young man with whom I recently spoke is a good boy and God will bring him around to sanctity once he gets past the rebellion. But I am also deeply struck by how blessed I am that the tragedies caused by teenage rebellion have escaped my family so far and I am determined to hold my children closely in gratitude for their goodness and pray that it will continue.
And for the rest of us, let's join the men of whom St. Paul speaks by lifting our hands in prayer until we can get past the anger and the arguments of rebellion and can finally live in peace with one another and with ourselves.
"Be at peace with your own soul, then heaven and earth will be at peace with you."