Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tuesday in the 7th Week of Easter
Murtabak Man

Readings: Acts 20:17-27; Psalm 68:10-11, 20-21; John 17:1-11
Picture: CC Kervinchong

Have you ever seen a murtabak man at work? You know, the guy who makes those Indian pancakes. Don’t you find the process fascinating? First the dough needs to be prepared and molded into the right shape. Then each ball of dough is carefully kneaded and stretched. The different ingredients are added: oil, meat, eggs, onions... whatever the customer orders. The whole thing is then carefully folded up, thrown onto the frying pan, drenched with copious amounts of oil, and left to brown to a crisp. And there you have it, a delicious piece of murtabak served with the curry of your choice.

This is the image that comes to mind even as we continue to prepare our hearts for Pentecost, by pondering the power of the Holy Spirit. As bizarre as it may sound, the murtabak man is what we are reminded of as we listen to the two farewell speeches in our readings today. These are speeches delivered by two very different people, addressing different audiences, in separate locations. In the first reading, Paul finds himself at the port city of Miletus, speaking to the elders of the Ephesian church. In the gospel, Jesus is at table with his disciples at the Last Supper, where he offers a prayer to his heavenly Father. But, in spite of these differences, the background and the gist of what is said are actually very similar. Both Paul and Jesus are at crucial milestones on their respective journeys. Each of them will soon embark on a journey that will bring them into the fiery furnace of suffering and death. From Miletus, Paul will go to Jerusalem and then on to Rome, where he will be tried and beheaded. From the supper room, Jesus will depart to walk the lonely way of the Cross.

These are horrifying prospects. These are itineraries that would make people run away, or paralyze them with fear. And yet, what is so amazing is the way in which both Paul and Jesus face their approaching end. Each one first looks back on all the different things that he has done and finds in them a unity of purpose. Life to me is not a thing to waste words on, says Paul, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me… Jesus says something similar to his Father: I have glorified you on earth and finished the work that you gave me to do… And this sense of a unity of purpose in their past is also what gives each one the courage to face what is to come. What seems so terrifying from a worldly perspective is viewed as glorious from the vantage point of eternity. But this is not the fanatical zeal that drives suicide bombers to their deaths. For both Paul and Jesus give their lives not to maim and to kill, but so that others might be led into the fullness of life.

It is as though, even as each one prepares to be thrown onto the fire, he looks back and sees the different threads of his life being pulled together, as one might assemble the ingredients for an Indian pancake. In this light, the approaching flames are viewed as the climax of a life spent heeding the call of the God who wants only to feed his people. And this whole process, as well as the perspective from which it can be appreciated, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit for whom we are praying in these days. This is the divine Murtabak Man by whose power our disparate lives can be drawn into a unity and then thrown into the fire of God’s service, but only so that others might be fed. This is the same One whom we will invoke at this Mass, so that the bread that is offered might also be broken for the life of the world.

How might we experience the power of the Murtabak Man today?

1 comment:

  1. I'm continually amazed by your creativity, Fr Chris, in conjuring up a coherent image or symbol for the reflection of the day. The way you managed to pull the threads from different readings into a unified whole - you must be a Murtabak man too!

    Of course, the ultimate Murtabak Man is the Holy Spirit. As for how we might experience the Power of the Murtabak Man today, so that we'd be ready to be thrown into the fire of God's service (scary yet thrilling prospect!), a traditional answer is almost at the tip of my tongue, "Make a 9-day novena to the Holy Spirit"!

    Maybe we basically need Pauses, Prayer and Presence (paying attention to the Holy in our everyday lives)?