Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Oblivious to the Obvious?

Father John J. Lombardi

I was visiting my aunt recently and she began looking around for something-I wasn't sure-maybe her walker or nurse, or... So I then asked-"What are you looking for?" She said, simply, "My wheelchair." Thing is: she was in it! We both laughed as she felt underneath her it's steel frame upholding her body.

We all can become-esp in the midst of multi-tasking and stressful times-oblivious to the obvious--you know, the answer right under your nose but you don't' realize it. (Full disclosure: I was one time looking for my glasses: they were on my balding head!)

In this Sunday's first reading (Acts 4:8-12) St Peter is making an obvious point: "He (Jesus) is the cornerstone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone." St Peter is saying to some of the Jewish leaders and pilgrims that the Lord is the One Who is most obvious and Whom you can still choose for life and salvation. Just look under your "spiritual nose" and accept Him: there is still time! We all need that reminder.

Oblivious to the obvious: I'm beginning to think this is a "syndrome" today. In other words we complicate things, explain the obvious away, rationalize and over-philosophize common sense truths to the point of confusion (paralysis of analysis). Amidst all this, just remember-you don't have to be a brain surgeon to know Truth or to follow Jesus or become a saint. Peter simply preached Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6). After all he was not a rocket scientist but a lowly fisherman (maybe that's why our Lord chose him and the Apostles!). Regarding evangelization today (a la St Peter's speech), are we oblivious to the obvious? Some may become oblivious to the obvious by thinking they need tons of training to proclaim Jesus as Lord, or thinking one must be a theologian or a trained priest. No: you need the Holy Spirit, common sense and especially love to proclaim Him, for then you will have a gift that will be irrepressible. And some unfortunately imply today that Jewish persons don't need Jesus-after all, the thinking goes, they have a "special covenant." But, think: do you want to keep the Most Precious Gift away from anyone? Don't become oblivious to the obvious. While we're on religious topics, what about obliviousness to the obvious Sacrament of Reconciliation? So many souls stream past Confession to Communion today without receiving the Lord's Divine Mercy-how about you? And: I recently read an op-ed article by an Episcopal priest-chaplain who said doctors shouldn't pray with their patients nor should patients desire doctors to be spiritually active with them. Huh?! The Chaplin also said we shouldn't pray for particular things (what?!) and that petitionary prayer was not part of Jesus' Way of Life. (Excuse me: the Our Father includes many petitions within it to instruct us precisely to ask and beseech our Heavenly Father and trust in Him-for large and small things). This is kinda' like some Catholic officials not wanting prayer in school or public prayer. What should be obvious has become oblivious to some religious.

This chaplain is a big proponent of George Orwell's novel "1984," which basically proposes that totalitarian regimes will take root and be successful when they control language, thereby changing opinion and culture. Ergo: Black becomes white, good becomes bad, up becomes down, etc. People become confused, or, rather, they become oblivious to the obvious.

Some other obvious examples of Oblivious to Obvious:

"Same-sex marriage" is proposed in many states today. Are we becoming oblivious to the obvious-that God instituted marriage between a man and a woman, and we have lived with this for thousands of years and now are being "asked" (cajoled) to change it? Another oblivious-obvious tactic is waged upon the family (by pornography, alternative lifestyles, cohabitation, etc.) and yet, the family is also the obvious answer to drugs, cultural decay, teen violence, divorce and education reform-yet so many today deny this. The obvious has become oblivious. Stem cell research and practice is the using of human beings (however immature, pre-nascent) for research purposes. Therefore some are trying to justify the harvesting of human beings for other human beings' welfare: the end (helping Alzheimer's patients, for instance) is rationalized to use the means (body parts of babies) wrongly. Kinda likewise abortion is justified today, the direct killing of an innocent baby. This is a legal "right" today-much as slavery or "separate-but-equal" racial classifications were at one time. Oblivious to the obvious means that, as in the cases of slavery and separate but equal (wherein black persons were repressed), we must be vigilant, like St Peter, and stick to simplicity and shrewdness-always remembering that absolute truths (i.e., dignity of persons) can never be misused or rationalized away.

The Zacharias Moussaoui trial just concluded last week and showed us a radical Islamicist who still wanted to kill and hurt others. Have we become oblivious to the obvious harms that radical Islamicism is a guiding force behind much of the worldwide terrorism (possibly in Darfur, in the Philippines, in Kabul and Chechnya)?

Another obvious example is drugs in the USA and how they are destroying youth & families today. Thankfully Vincente Fox, President of Mexico, refused to sign a Mexican law which proposed that small portions of heroin and LSD and other drugs, be made legal to have in Mexico. A similar argument is raging in our country by some who want to legalize marijuana and cocaine. This will no doubt breed a corruption of culture and denigration and deviancy of persons: are we becoming oblivious to the obvious? Mr. Fox had the bravado and courage to overturn obliviousness to the obvious; so shouldn't we?

In our spiritual lives we may become oblivious to the obvious by picking and choosing what we want to believe (we cannot be "cafeteria Catholics") by practicing contraception (which literally means against life) while going to Holy Communion (Which and Whom is Life Itself: Jesus in His Real Presence); by embracing a materialist way of life while believing holy doctrinal things (we may call this "discipleship duality"); by going to Church but not practicing charity (a Phariseeism decried by Our Lord so voluminously)-all oblivious to the obvious and consistent path of following Jesus with head and heart, word and deed.

Regarding some controversial immigration issues: in the March on Washington---with all due respect to the intentions of marchers (even Catholics)-May Day (May 1st) was once a communist hey-day of celebration of Soviet power and might and anti-democracy demonstration. Also: shouldn't we help all immigrants to learn our beloved country's language so they can all truly be and feel part of our land and customs? And many (even religious folk) propose inculturation (learning and immersing in the folkways of a foreign culture) as a way of multi-culturalism and broadening one's horizons and society's "flavors." But doesn't this very principle imply that any person inculturate via our ways and language so that we may unite and become e pluribus unum (out of the many: one)?

Some further thoughts on obliviousness to the obvious: some today say the spirit of Vatican II justifies a priest without power, dissing chant and the hierarchy-bishop-leaders of the Church, when, in fact, all three of these sacred items were reaffirmed by that holy Council (i.e., read the actual documents!). Our very President pointed an oblivious-obvious point-our "addiction to oil"-which may be tied to the style of large/luxury vehicles people drive so commonly today. Do you have and practice "Information idolatry" via the computer/Internet wherein you are overly attached to more information and technology which may control your life in adverse ways (and which corrupts or compromises communication with your family or God?). Information and technology are necessary things, even helpful to the Gospel, but in right, ordered ways, not addictive ways. So, ask, regarding these issues: What's wrong with this picture? I was talking with Fr Jim Farmer, a Baltimore pro-life priest who described how three politicians (at least two who are Catholic) who are pro-abortion vied for votes and support from Planned Parenthood that is a transnational industry promoting abortion. And, further, today Religion may sometimes imply "feel good" sentiments and an avid cultivation of happiness (and thereby justify materialism or promiscuity or selfishness, spiritual solo-ism), but: whatever happened to sacrifice and the Cross? In all these, have we become oblivious to the obvious?

Lastly, I was talking to a pilgrim recently and I asked her: "What's the greatest grace you have received from God?" She said, rather immediately, "Knowing and experiencing God's love for me." Now, we may all be oblivious to the obvious-that God actually LOVES us-not just "humanity" or others or the poor. But do you know and experience that He loves you? The pilgrim continued: "Knowing His love helps me in stressful situations to keep cool…Knowing God's love-I think that's what everyone is looking for." Indeed. Many have become oblivious to this obvious fact-God loves us. As Catholics we may try hard to become holy, we may work at our salvation, we may attempt to avoid sin and go to confession, we may try to overcome our faults, we may even try to save souls-all these are, yes, needed. But: are you oblivious to the fact that you cannot earn His love and that He loves you infinitely just the way you are (and, we should add: He loves you too much to leave you that way)? The pilgrim lady was no Pollyanna: she attends Mass frequently, has been in spiritual direction for decades, is in a loving marriage with children-all these point to a serious soul seeking holiness, and yet her gift of knowledge of God's love for her was evident and prevalent. What more precious gift can one have? It was, certainly, a flash of needed enlightenment, a gift to this Chaplin, for sure.

So, like St Peter, wake up, don't be oblivious to God's Love, His Commandments, His call to Mercy, His call to renovation of our culture. Become, like the saints, a channel of the Lord!

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi