The time may be ordinary but the liturgy still packs a punch. These are sturdy messages to hear after the heated rush and joyful babble of Pentecost. A bit like having cold water thrown in your face. Repentance. Burning desire. And bitter disappointment.
Like I said at the beginning these two turnover times—between semester’s end and vacation’s start and between Easter time’s climax and counting time’s tick—these two coming together make me wonder which is more real, which has priority. Maybe I should be content to let them both be and not bother about rank … but I’m not going to do that because the whole thing reminds me of a question we argued about when I was in philosophy: which has precedence—work or leisure? Which is more real? Which is a human being’s proper occupation? Is it work with it’s own blend of nobility and burden, it’s own opportunities for accomplishment and oppression? Or are we more natural when we are at play, at rest, at ease? Which were we born for? What is ordinary for us?
Is leisure what happens when we run out of work? Or do we work only when play is over? What did God have in mind when we were made? And how does that look different in a world where paradise is lost to us and we must survive by the sweat of our brow or, if we’re born in the right time and place, the sweat of someone else’s?
Questions, questions, questions … “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” “Who can be saved?”
What do you give the man who has everything? You give him a shock! Jesus turns upside down the meaning of “lack.” What the rich man has—all his wealth, all his virtue, all his desire for good—turns out to be what he hasn’t. All he thought was positive is negative. All his presence, absence. All his effort, empty. Jesus looks steadily at him and loves him and gives him the one thing he lacks—nothing. He, poor man, cannot hold the gaze and grows sad, because nothing is too much for him.
“It is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the reign of God.” … So why are we trying so hard.
May 24th, 1999