Thursday, September 21, 2006

Why don't sharks eat tax collectors?

Today is the feast of St. Matthew, aka Levi, son of Alphaeus, TAX COLLECTOR (doom music).

It was bad luck not to say "tax collectors" whenever you said "prostitutes" in the culture of Jesus' time. Like peas and carrots.

Today's Gospel:

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew
sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners
came and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said, “Those who are well
do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Do you think tax collectors were the lawyers of that day? Admired but envied, resented, mocked, stereotyped. Surely there were honest and merciful ones, but they were lost in a sea of criticism.

There's a certain dramatic courtroom flourish in Matthew's actions: he just upped and walked away from his customs post. Picture it: no explanations, no final tallying, presumably mid-customer, jaws dropping as he walked away, silently, following Jesus. And then a big dinner with all his flashy friends....

The Donald would do it this way; Gotti would have done it this way. Their motives and impetus would be different, but from the outside, it would look the same. When I try and picture Gospel scenes in meditation, maybe I'll give Matthew a big glossy combover and a Versace suit in the "before" scenes.

St. Matthew, pray for all those who have unpopular jobs!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Erste heute

I grew up hearing adults on the grumpy blond side of my family say this when they lifted a drink (or even a cup of coffee). In German, it means "first one today" and is a pleasant, low-key toast. I did have several relatives who would say it and you knew it wasn't, but that's another grief for another day...

I was pleased anew this morning that my first audible words of the day were "In the Name of the Father, and of the Son... at morning Mass. What a great privilege!

On the days that I go early to work, or sleep in, my first words are often directed at the Starbucks drive-through speaker, or at an errant driver. I've become really aware of when I first hear my own voice every day. What are your first words every day? I hope they are loving, or pleasant, or grace-filled.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The important words

Peggy Noonan wrote an essay on the sounds of 9/11 -- the roar, the crashing, the sirens, yet more the words that the people in peril chose to speak. They didn't call the press to make a statement; they didn't call people to finish an argument. They called the people they loved:

I don't know if we'll make it out. I want to tell you that I love you and I love the kids.

Hopefully I'll talk to you again, but if not, have a good life. I know I'll see you again some day.

Tell mommy I love her. No matter what happens, I love her.

We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something. I love you, honey.

Ms Noonan says it well:
This is what I get from the last messages. People are often stronger than they know, bigger, more gallant than they'd guess. And this: We're all lucky to be here today and able to say what deserves saying, and if you say it a lot, it won't make it common and so unheard, but known and absorbed.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A striving after wind

You really should read Ecclesiastes all the way through and soon. That "to everything turn turn" part will settle down into its proper place.

Here's a prophet who is viewing the world and its relationship to its Creator coming from the Jewish understanding that there is no afterlife to speak of. As my Jewish friend described his understanding, they will go to "the bosom of Abraham" and they have no special knowledge of what awaits them there.

So "the Preacher" as he calls himself is trying to puzzle out the reasons and results of living. The result is what I think is the most "sophisticated" book of the Bible - he's world-weary, wise and has it all figured out.

This statement originally caught my eye
Every man also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and find enjoyment in his toil -- this is the gift of God. For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart. (Eccl 5:19-20)

I took it out of context first, seeing the second line as a nice motto for a rich interior life, but I think instead that it means the contentment that comes with the "wealth and possessions and power to enjoy" will make his life smooth. We all live awfully smooth lives, when you think about it.

Read it in its KJV language or in the Revised Standard Version.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

More food-related revelation

Never underestimate the kitchen as a chapel....

I was fixing up a little lunch for an old friend who was coming to spend the afternoon and listening to a wonderful CD, Taken By Love, by the musicians of Christ The King parish, a charismatic Catholic parish in Ann Arbor (my pilgrimage destination - who needs Assisi or Compostela?). The title song contains these lyrics:

Eye has not seen, no ear has heard,
No heart conceived the hope prepared for us.
Now we see dimly, but one day clearly.
Face to face we shall behold our God....

And in that city there is no temple;
There is no grieving and there is no night.
But there is Jesus before the Father.
And by the Spirit we will wake to light.

Jesus before the Father..... I don't know the CD well enough to sing along except at the la-la-single-word-la-la stage, which was good, because I had to listen intently instead of giving forth with my own suburban song stylings. And I was rewarded in my unknowingly prayerful listening: I suddenly saw it. I saw Jesus before the Father as the only light needed for that city, and all of us joined with Him as His Body, until only He was visible, distinct but also part of the inexpressible light coming forth from the Father of light.

So now I'm teary-eyed, smiling and praying, hunched over a pot of Sloppy Joes, in my dirty housecleaning shorts and T-shirt.

There's very little point to this, except to kind of ease back into blogging and to thank the Lord for His revelation even to grubby crabby me. Why is God so good to us and why did I ever wonder if He was accessible?

The severe normalcy of the rest of the afternoon made me question a little what I experienced. I suppose that's important, though; it means that you're not in control, God is.

Sloppy Joes, homemade applesauce, shoestring potatoes, brownies, lemonade, the Lamb standing as though slain, the Holy Spirit: what a good life!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Careless soup

I am so sorry that I have been gone so long. I saw Roz and Henry get married, went on vacation (Graceland was GREAT even in 107 degree weather) and came back to busy season at work. A few weeks of not blogging got to be a few more weeks and so on...and I have so much to say and ask you all about my surprising new role as office evangelist!

But here's the tiny idea that inspired me to come back:

I was on the phone all this evening, arranging weekend happenings and catching up with friends who have complicated lives. I crouched the phone on my shoulder and got around finally to making soup with the fridge full of veggies that have been peering out reproachfully at me every time I looked in there.

I talked and chopped and laughed and sauteed and interrupted and didn't measure anything and threw all sorts of things in there. Tossed in some herbs, don't know which ones, I was listening to someone just then.

The soup is phenomenal, among the best I've ever made. And I didn't make my usual 400 gallons because I don't know when to stop fussing with it; it made about a half-potful, three portions to freeze, one to eat for dinner.

Perfection with about one-fourth of my mind on the effort. Why is this? Is this a good model, or just dumb luck?


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"There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know."

Pres. Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2009