When I made profession in the Order of Preachers back in 1992, I was fortunate to have a classmate in the novitiate who was a classical guitarist and song writer. With his training in music, Marty Gleeson, OP joined with two other Dominican friars to write and perform religious songs. One of the songs Marty wrote and sang is called “DON’T PUT GOD IN A BOX.” Here are the lyrics:
Is your God a HE?
Does his beard flow full and free?
Does he have a big ole scepter in his hand?
Does he help you win your war?
Help Notre Dame run up the score?
Do you swear he votes the same as you and me?
Don’t put God in a box.
Release those rusty locks.
Let God be what only God can be.
Just open up your mind.
Stretch those images inside.
And let God be what only God can be.
Is your Jesus lily white?
Are his clothes all clean and dry?
Are his eyes as pretty blue as the sea?
Does his hair have golden curls?
Are his teeth like shiny pearls?
Is his little nose as cute as it can be?
Is the Spirit a bird?
A white dove is preferred.
Does it only come on Confirmation day?
Do you put it in a space
that keeps it narrowly in place
’cause those tongues and healing gifts are just too much?
So your bearded God’s a he
And his son looks just like me
And the Holy Spirit is a tame white bird,
So he helps you win your war
And he said, “Notre Dame will score,”
And you swear he votes the same as you and me.
In the gospel reading for the 10th Sunday in Ordinary, the scribes accuse Jesus of using the power of Satan to cast out demons. They had made up their minds about Jesus. His good works, his life-giving message, his hope-filled attitude could not open their minds, expand their understanding, and change their attitude about him. The scribes knew sinful behavior when they saw it and no one but no one would convince them otherwise.
Jesus calls this stubborn attitude blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is a sin of both conservatives and liberals who make their own beliefs an idol. They refuse to allow God or anyone else to break through and broaden their narrow vision. Jesus calls this blasphemy “unforgiveable” because people who imprison themselves by locking God in a box close themselves off from the inspiration, creativity, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It is a chronic affliction because it causes people to interpret any possibility for increasing their freedom and flourishing as a temptation to be avoided. Jesus’ condemnation of this close-minded attitude was the harshest criticism he makes in any of the four gospels. He directed it at people who were so chained by their own beliefs that God had no effect in their lives. Their stone hearted stubbornness and attitude of “this is always the way it has always been” would lead to his crucifixion.
The family of Jesus who stood at the door of the house instead of going inside sent the same message but in another way. They weren’t looking for Jesus so much as looking for a way to convince him to get back to normal to their way of doing things. They had their ideas about who he should be as a member of the family and he was not cooperating. The problem they were grappling with is key to the Gospel passage: Do we only accept Jesus as our messiah because he fulfills our expectations or do we see him as our messiah who, through the power of the Holy Spirit, constantly encourages us to flourish?
Fr. Bob Kelly