Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
Worms, Blood and Friendship

Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; John 15:9-17

Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. I’m gonna eat some worms...

These words from a popular children’s song sound pretty innocuous, if a little ridiculous. Who would go to the extent of eating worms simply because nobody seems to like him/ her. Still, don’t they resonate with things that go on around us? In order to get ahead in this world, one often has to expend much effort. The world doesn’t owe us a living. Even those born with silver spoons in their mouths need to be careful lest the nest egg that is their parents’ legacy end up rotting in their hands. Hard work is the order of the day. But there is a danger here, especially if this diligence is born of anxiety, if it springs from the feeling of being disconnected, of being unaccepted, the feeling that nobody likes me, everybody hates me, and so I need to work hard to prove myself, to carve out my own niche. The danger is that when such anxiety is one’s primary motivation, diligence so easily turns into greed and obsession, and one might well end up eating worms.

The process is vividly illustrated in the critically acclaimed movie There Will Be Blood. The film opens with the main character, played by Daniel Day Lewis, digging alone in a deep tunnel out in the middle of nowhere. He is an oilman. The work is backbreaking and dangerous. He falls and breaks his leg, but finds something valuable. By sheer grit, he somehow manages to drag himself into town with his precious find. Yet, although by the end of the movie the oilman has done so well that he even has a bowling alley in his own home, he remains very much alone and disconnected. His is a pathetic, even repulsive, portrait. Nobody likes me… I’m gonna eat some worms. And it’s important to note too that, in the movie, the oilman’s degeneration finds a parallel in that of the preacher. The former carves out his niche in industry, the latter in religion. But both seem motivated by the same anxiety and greed. Both end up eating (or being eaten by) worms.

In striking contrast, our feast for today, and its prescribed readings, invite us to meditate deeply upon the starting point of Christian effort, the primary motivation of Christian work. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends… It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you… Christian work and effort springs not from anxiety and greed, whether it be of the secular or religious kind, but from a sense of being unconditionally loved and accepted for who one is. It is rooted in an abiding appreciation for the fact that Someone loves me enough to have laid down his life for me, and that this same Someone calls me His friend. The aim then is not so much to carve a niche for myself, as it is to fill the role to which I have been chosen and called, as Matthias and the rest of the apostles were.

The children’s song with which we began actually ends like this: Everybody likes me. Nobody hates me. Why did I eat those worms? This, of course, may not be very realistic. We can’t really expect everybody to like us. But perhaps it’s enough that somebody does, especially if it’s the right Somebody.

Why settle for worms?

Also see Archive


  1. I'm a perfectionist, especially when under stress. Weird huh?

    Not because I need anyone's approval or recognition. And not because "I need to work hard to prove myself, to carve out my own niche". I actually try to make perfect things that are not important in other people's eyes (e.g. they don't contribute to my making more money, getting a promotion or even getting praised) and leave alone things that are important in their eyes.

    It's simply an urge which I can't resist sometimes. Perhaps one day my Maker would help me understand and relax myself better. He'd better do so soon!

  2. We are defined by our circumstances I guess. In some parts of this diverse world that we live in, fried worms are a delicacy and lends not the idea of being disliked. It’s very much a nurtured response how we relate to things. We are given natural attributes to cope with life; we then begin to accumulate distorted worldviews. How and Why we behave in some circumstances, even defy our own comprehension.
    In another movie, Blood Diamond, a social worker rocked me with this remark (not verbatim) – A simple act of kindness, coming even from an evil person, brings meaning to life. So at some inspired moments, lives are touched, often unknowingly when we suck a deep breathe and take in the Spirit.
    I am an incurable optimist and know that there is a purpose in events, despite the inherent boggling contradictions that confound. We are unable to know the total design of His plan.
    Therefore it really depends on where the worms are being eaten – yucky or a delicacy.