Archive for November, 2001

Monday Last Week of Year I

I must admit that once we’ve had Christ the King I want Advent to start right away. I need that change of gear, particularly after all the nastiness with the Maccabees last week. But as far as the lectionary is concerned, though we are in the final act, the opera isn’t over yet, the fat lady hasn’t sung, and the crescendo is still building.
And that’s important to remember when we hear the story of the widow today. It’s not just another sound bite, another nice saying, another wise word. Though Luke tells it swiftly and smoothly we have to remember where we’ve been and where we are going. Or else we’ll let the widow pass unnoticed and not notice ourselves the one who claims her as kin.
Remember, as Luke tells it, Jesus has already made his entry into Jerusalem on his donkey. He arrived with a bang and ran around causing trouble. In the last few days he’s taught in the Temple and threatened its destruction, he’s taken on Caesar and dethroned him from godhood, he’s taken on the scribes and disinherited them, taken on the Sadducees and dissed their theology. Now here he is watching the crowds pour into the Temple, watching the well-to-do pour out their easy riches into the treasury. And I see him near breaking point. Has no one listened to him? What about the eye of that needle? Has his message been a waste of time? What about Zacchaeus up his tree? Has he wandered these last years, left home and work and respect, for this? For business as usual? The rich as rich as ever, the poor ever poorer. Does nothing change? What more can he give? What more can he say? What does he have left?
Then she comes along and stretches out her almost empty hand and pours out the last dregs of all she has—her livelihood, her living, her life. And he sees and he knows and he feels. He sees her heart. He knows neither of them is likely to make it through the weekend. And he feels his burden shared. There might not be much left to say. There might only be dregs to give. There might only be failure and dishonour and doubt ahead. But you give what you have. You do what you must. You take the risk. You trust the God who gave you birth, the God who touched your heart, and you let it go, you pour it out, your very life, and let God take care of whatever comes.

November 26th, 2001

Wednesday Week 33 Year I (Thanksgiving Eve)

What do we give thanks for and what do we take for granted?
I found myself this morning shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner getting caught up with a sense of loss way beyond the simple experience of not finding charcoal or canned pumpkin. It was probably my first real pang of homesickness for the states. Some of my warmest memories of the US are set in kitchens with the smell of spice and the scent of smoke wafting in from a charcoal fire, drinking trinities and chopping vegetables and laughing and crying with people I love. I didn’t know I was trying to recapture that until I checked my email just now and found a half-dozen thanksgiving messages from the people who are missing me.
This gospel was the one I preached on for my last mass in my parish in Oakland. I guess, like the fool, I’m trying to build the barns to preserve the blessings God has given me. The kind of gifts that have changed me and sent my life along a different path. I guess I don’t trust God to do right now what he has done before—or do even more in a different place.
I wonder what it is like to live thanksgiving this year, at war, under threat. You’ll pick it up in the prayers for the mass today—this feast is always a looking back and a checking up. A looking back at blessings given—land, freedom, riches, and mission (how America feels its god-given mission)—and a checking up. “Are we still the ones given the gift? Are we still worthy of purpose? Or have we built up barns and defended them and tried to preserve our blessings by the work of our hands?”
Probably as a nation it is many years since we have asked ourselves such questions. On the downward slope of our worldly influence an easy cynicism feels more comfortable. But maybe we can ask our own selves those thanksgiving questions, looking back and checking up: remembering the blessings that set us on our life’s path and giving ourselves afresh to the purpose and the call.

November 21st, 2001


November 2001
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