In high school, we had one of those thick literature books with pieces of different stories in them that we would read over the semester. There were lots of different kinds of stories, from Beowulf to Canterbury Tales to The Raven. There was one author that my high school English teacher absolutely loved, however, and that was Flannery O’Connor. O’Connor was a prolific author who wrote sometimes grim stories that explored the less happy side of humanity, but one thing I remembered my teacher saying about her was that, after her death, they found an absolute trove of unpublished works in her house. She had written far more than she made public, and apparently these weren’t throwaway duds because they won O’Connor several posthumous literary awards.
Sometimes I’ve heard advice from well-meaning Christians that the best thing a person with doubt or unbelief can do is open up the Bible and start reading. And while I would never discourage anyone from reading the Bible, it’s passages like today’s Gospel and 1 Corinthians readings that would make me pause before giving that unqualified advice. Imagine never having opened the Bible, and as a modern, secular, critical-thinking person, the first two stories you encounter are a complicated recommendation about not eating meat, and a story about a demon. You’re bound to have some questions at that point, right?
Questions like, “What’s Paul’s deal with eating meat?” “What is a demon anyway?” or “How does any of this have to do with me, today?”
The answers would be, “it’s a long story,” “it’s complicated,” and “this might take a minute.”