13th June, 2010 11th Sunday Ordinary time C
The beautiful image in today's Gospel of the woman anointing Jesus with her tears, and with perfumed oil…… it must have been an extraordinary sight… It is such a powerful incident that it is one of the very few events that are recounted, (in one form or another), in every one of the Gospels.
So much is happening in this incident…. But not in words…… but in actions and gestures……
The woman, who is apparently known as a sinful person, does this wonderful act of love and repentance and gratefulness… with no words…. But it is clear that she knows that God loves her, she knows that she has been forgiven, and also that Jesus, who shows the love and forgiveness and welcome of God, will not turn her away…. But accepts this moving and humble act of reverence………. She 'gets it' when others who are expert in the law, miss the point….
In the silence… her actions speak so much louder than words…… the lady Knows and understands Jesus message better than she can explain it in words…….. because Jesus' message has inspired her to action.
Jesus, seems perfectly comfortable with this stillness and relative silence… broken only by the sobs of the woman…. Others watching it were clearly very uncomfortable and wondering what would happen and what Jesus' reaction would be… but Jesus calmly, silently accepts this act of devotion in the spirit it was intended….
Jesus also invites the Pharisee to think about what he was doing… why did he invite Jesus to this meal…. Why was he hosting a meal at all… was it just a meaningless activity? Was it just another excuse for a party?.... or was the meal what it always should be and what other things always could be… a chance to engage with our fellow brothers and sisters and show real love and kindness and graciousness in practical hospitality and sharing of a meal….. To Jesus, meals represented inclusion, love, kindness, reconciliation and forgiveness and so much more….
Our faith calls us to create times and places of stillness and silence….. We live in a world…. In a society that is filled with noise and busyness…… there is hardly a time or a place when people stop and have silence and stillness…. And yet it is something we need more than ever…. You don't have to look far (or listen far off) to hear a continuous stream of noise and music… hustle and bustle….. constant movement…. Mobile phones, internet… // The party never seems to stop…. And I say that not as a party pooper… not wanting to rain on anyone's parade… but just to say… it's always good for us all to just weigh up what is going on and what is being created…….. and whether the balance is being struck……//…. In a way, our world is at risk of being overstimulated…. And of course.. there would be some people whose lives are continually filled up with background music… and noise…. But there is a risk that God's voice… found in the 'sounds of silence' and the 'still small breeze' could be effectively drowned out…. //….I can't help but think of King David… in today's first reading… He went off the rails…. He let his own personal desires and 'wants' to get the better of him….. he pursued pleasure and self interest in such a horrible way that he deliberately put one of his soldiers in the thick of a battle (whilst staying home when he should have been out there with his troops)…. And the solider was killed, just so David could marry his wife… it's an horrific incident… totally self-centred… and God is shown as absolutely disgusted by this act of complete malice and selfishness…. But David repents.. and God forgives him.. not because David deserves it, not because he could ever make amends…. And not because David has earned his forgiveness… but simply by the nature of GOD'S love.. David must continue to face the consequences of his actions… but God chooses not to abandon him… because of God's goodness, not David's. David will spend the rest of his life facing the inner sinfulness that he can see in his heart….. the huge gaps in his soul that have led to his terrible actions and lapses of judgement.
It is so important that our church and our faith provides us, and the wider community, with an oasis of stillness, prayer and silence….. In fact, I wonder if it could be said… that our prayer life must also include regular (integral) space for silent and still meditation, lest we fail to leave room for the action and voice and surprising re-directions that God can be creating in our lives…… the precondition and essential element of a holistic prayer life must be not only classic prayers and words but silence and deep contemplation on the nature and person of God… and God's values and priorities.
There is a time for everything, says the bible….. so there is a time for busyness… laughter… light-heartedness and celebration……… it's the spice of life……but we have to be careful not to 'over-season'….. // And at times, one wonders if we as a society are stuck in hyper-drive….// rolling from one good time to the next with almost a desperation… like people who are playing musical chairs.. frantic not to miss out if the music stops……… rambling in an aimless kind of fashion…. With parties for little or no reason but just to fill the gap……. Disconnected from the integrated pattern of life and discipleship that we are presented with by Jesus…. Unaware of our absolute need for God, and for forgiveness and for God's love…….. and replacing it with self-actualisation…. Jesus reminds us that there are parts of his message and God's will for us that are not all "good times"….. and none of us have it all together.. so there is a need to, (with God's loving/ guiding hand to reassure us, heal us, encourage and forgive us)….face the wounded areas, the gaps and the unpleasant parts of our lives…. with courage….
As parts of our modern society roll from one party to the next, one busy thing to the next, never daring to pause, lest it sense a gap, something missing…. A void…….. Jesus invites his disciples to be present in life, anchored to the values and actions that are substantial… and can stand up in the still, quiet, calm light of day.
Please see below a great article on slowing down:
· FR. PAUL W. KELLY
· Phil Fox Rose
Haste is our enemy. It puts us under stress, raises our blood pressure, makes us impatient, renders us more vulnerable to accidents and, most seriously of all, blinds us to the needs of others. Haste is normally not a virtue, irrespective of the goodness of the thing towards which we are hurrying.
In 1970, Princeton University did some research with seminary students to determine whether being committed to helping others in fact made a real difference in a practical situation. They set up this scenario: They would interview a seminarian in an office and, as the interview was ending, ask that seminarian to immediately walk over to a designated classroom across the campus to give a talk. But they always put a tight timeline between when the interview ended and when the seminarian was supposed to appear in the classroom, forcing the seminarian to hurry. On the way to the talk, each seminarian encountered an actor playing a distressed person (akin to the Good Samaritan scene in the gospels). The test was to see whether or not the seminarian would stop and help. What was the result?
One would guess that, being seminarians committed to service, these individuals might be more likely to stop than most other people. But that wasn't the case. Being seminarians seemed to have no effect on their behavior in this situation. Only one thing did: They were prone to stop and help or to not stop and help mostly on the basis of whether they were in a hurry or not. If they were pressured for time, they didn't stop; if they were not pressured for time, they were more likely to stop.
From this experiment its authors drew several conclusions: First, that morality becomes a luxury as the speed of our daily lives increases; and, second, that because of time pressures we tend not to see a given situation as a moral one. In essence, the more in a hurry we are, the less likely we are to stop and help someone else in need. Haste and hurry, perhaps more than anything else, prevent us from being good Samaritans.
We know this from our own experience. Our struggle to give proper time to family, prayer, and helping others has mainly to do with time. We're invariably too busy, too pressured, too hurried, too-driven, to stop and help. A writer that I know confesses that when she comes to die what she will regret most about her life is not the times she broke a commandment, but the many times she stepped over her own children on her way to her den to write. Along similar lines, we tend to blame secular ideology for so much of the breakdown of the family in our society today when, in fact, perhaps the biggest strain of all on the family is the pressure that comes from the workplace that has us under constant pressure, forever in a hurry, and daily stepping over our children because of the pressures of work.
I know this all too well, of course, from my own experience. I am forever pressured, forever in a hurry, forever over-extended, and forever stepping over all kinds of things that call for my attention on my way to work. As a priest, I can rationalize this by pointing to the importance of the ministry. Ministry is meant to conscript us beyond our own agenda, but deeper down, I know that much of this is a rationalization. Sometimes too I rationalize my busyness and hurry by taking consolation in the fact that I came to be this way legitimately. It's in my genes. Both my father and my mother exhibited a similar struggle. They were wonderful, moral, and loving parents, but they were often over-extended. Responding to too many demands is a mixed virtue.
It's no accident that virtually all of the classical spiritual writers, writing without the benefit of the Princeton study, warn about the dangers of overwork. Indeed, the dangers of haste and hurry are already written into the very first page of scripture where God invites us to make sure to keep proper Sabbath. When we are in a hurry we see little beyond our own agenda.
The positive side to haste and hurry is that they are, perhaps, the opposite of acedia. The driven-person who is always in a hurry at least isn't constantly struggling to get through the morning to the lunch hour. She always has a purpose. As well, haste and hurry can help make for a productive individual who is affirmed and admired for what he does, even as he is stepping over his own children to get to his workplace. I know this too: I get a lot of affirmation for my work, even as I have to admit that pressure and hurry prevent me much of the time from being a Good Samaritan.
Haste makes waste, so goes the saying. It also makes for a spiritual and a human blindness that can severely limit our compassion