Print Version April 8th, 2005
An image from this morning’s papal funeral has been haunting me all day: it’s the small, plain, rather ordinary wooden coffin in the middle of all the splendour and ceremony filling the square. Just a simple box. And around it cardinals and bishops, prime ministers and presidents, and weeping, cheering pilgrims from all over. Just a wooden box.
Gamaliel gives good advice today: wait and see. Here’s the full might of the nation’s priests and scholars, lawmakers and law enforcers—the Sanhedrin—and in their middle just a couple of scruffy Galileans. Are they worth suppressing? Wait and see, he says. Christianity then was a handful of men and women with little going for them but a boldness and a crazy vision. Just a very few, a handful. Will they survive? Wait and see.
Despite the choirs and the cameras aren’t we heading that way ourselves—at least in Europe—dwindling to a handful. Our churches echo to empty words, the culture at large cannot take us seriously, while we argue among ourselves about trivia. Will we survive?
The Jesuits in this country have a single novice. In the six months he’s been with us half a dozen of us have died. Not long before we are just a handful. Will we survive? Will we be enough? Wait and see, says Gamaliel. Not much of an encouragement!
Jesus has encouragement aplenty but the price may not appeal to us. A handful, he says, is all he needs. A couple of fish and few lumps of bread. Will it be enough? He doesn’t wait and see. He wastes it. He takes it, blesses it, breaks it and gives it all away to feed a waiting world.
Not so many months on, he does the same, does it with his own body and blood, wastefully, in an attic room, while the Passover rages all around him. That was enough.
We only need a handful, only need to be a handful, if we are willing to throw it all away and waste it. Take it, bless it, break it, and give it away.