Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Throwing Five Parts of Body to the Ground

'Ochetuji' is a Buddhist type of prostration that some of our Catholic priests with Buddhist monks practiced on long pilgrimages together. One kneels, touches the ground with the elbows and prostrates with the hands out front with the head touching the ground. All done in silence. Distances that one has difficulty imagining are traveled in this way. The Korean translated literally means: throwing five parts of the body to the ground.

These pilgrimages in the eyes of those participating are a matter of prayer, but for many not participating is seen as a means of protest. Catholic Church of Korea, like any other country, has disagreements on the way one should proceed with the mission that Christ has entrusted to the Church. Problems within the Church in the States are serious and not as easily discerned as they are in Korea. In Korea, up until now, it is not difficulty with Catholic teaching but how to deal with the teaching.

Many Korean members of the human rights movement in Korea are doers (activists). "Be a light to the world, be the salt," means for them a mission to change the world for good. The activists see those with a different theology concerned only for their own individual spirituality, asking for blessings-- an individual pursuit.

One group believes by changing the world they will be changed; the other wants to change themselves to change the world. One group maintains that the activists are political and should be more interested in spiritual matters. Activists maintain the other group is blind to what is happening in society, and by doing nothing they are maintaining the present society as is.

A great step forward in Korea would see the differences between the two theologies as one of approach and not dogma. The ones who are active in working with other religions are criticized for it. Why follow a Buddhist custom that is not Catholic? Why do priests leave their communities to participate in pilgrimages when they should be doing their pastoral work? On the other hand you have the criticism of the sacristy priest who is told he is in the world but doesn't see those who are suffering.

It would be a blessing to see the two ways of looking at mission take something from each other's portfolios and see where that would lead. The problem may not be the present position of each, but what each group sees as the ramifications of the position each one is taking.

Is it individual salvation or societal salvation? It is both but we get caught up with words and fight over words when it would be better to do what we are doing and see where we are being led without the criticism of the other.

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