Monday, February 18, 2008
Monday in the 2nd Week of Lent
Emptying Our Cups
Readings: Daniel 9:4b-10; Psalm 79:8, 9, 11 and 13; Luke 6:36-38
Our readings bring to mind that well-known story of the person who visits a famous monk to learn the ways of enlightenment. The monk welcomes him warmly and pours him a cup of tea. But even when the cup is already full, the monk continues pouring, such that the tea overflows the cup and spills all over the table. In response to the visitor’s puzzlement, the monk explains: you’ve come seeking to be filled with the wisdom that leads to enlightenment. But how can I fill you when you are already full of so many other things?
Every one of us, whether we’re aware of it or not, is born with a hole in the heart. We’re like an empty cup that has a very distinctive shape. We’re all designed to be filled with the presence of God. And the good news that we find in the gospel today is that God wants to fill us even more than we want to be filled. God’s generosity is likened to that of someone pouring a container of grain in another’s lap, who goes to the extent not only of filling the container, but also of shaking it and pressing down its contents, so that it can be filled to its absolute capacity.
But there is a problem. We each have a tendency to fill the hole in our hearts with many different things. Sometimes these can be bad or immoral activities. But they can just as easily be things that are, in themselves, wholesome – good activities and relationships. The trouble is that we try to fill our cups with things that are of the wrong shape. And, often, these misguided attempts at self-satisfaction give rise to the undesirable results: self-righteousness and judgment instead of mercy and compassion, self-centered competition instead of selfless service…
Which is why we need to learn from Daniel. In the first reading, we hear the saintly prophet offering a heartfelt prayer of contrition on behalf of his people who are living in exile. He attributes the people’s troubles to their own waywardness. We have sinned, been wicked and done evil… Yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command… What is Daniel doing if not engaging in a process of personal and corporate self-emptying? He is acknowledging guilt, his own and that of his people, so that all can receive the mercy of God. He is emptying the cup, so that it can be filled with the divine brew of God’s forgiveness and love. And, for us too, isn’t this what these Forty Days of Lent are all about?
Sisters and brothers, I am only an ignorant foreigner. But as I witness the hearings and debates, the investigations and rallies, that are filling the local news, I wonder to myself what it is that attracts so many people to the person at the center of this media storm. And I suspect that it is perhaps the perception that here, at last, is someone who is doing what many people wish they had the courage to do themselves. This is a person who is not just pointing fingers at others. Here is a person who is willing first to empty himself, who first acknowledges that he is part of a corrupt system, but who has also decided to stand up and say, enough is enough. It is time to speak the truth…
As we continue to make our way through these days of Lent, how are we being invited to empty ourselves so that we can be filled with the gifts of God?
Posted by Fr Chris at 9:54 am