Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday in the 13th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Disruptions and Disordered Attachments

Readings: Amos 2:6-10, 13-16; Psalms 50:16bc-17, 18-19, 20-21, 22-23; Matthew 8:18-22
Picture: CC Qole Pejorian

Nobody likes disruptions. Just imagine the last time your water or electrical supply was cut, or your bus or car broke down, or your broadband line was disconnected. Just try to recall what it felt like when that happened, especially if you were in the middle of something important (and don’t we always seem to be in the midst of something important?). Even if we may sometimes (often?) complain about how boringly routine our lives are, we don’t spontaneously jump for joy when business-as-usual is interrupted. There seems to be something within us that tends to cling to the routine and the familiar, the smooth and the convenient, the tried and the true.

And yet, if there’s one thing that our Mass readings have in common today, it’s disruption. Consider what we find in the first reading. Into the people’s regular routine of buying and selling, eating and drinking, the prophet descends like an unwelcome power outage. And his words point to an even more terrifying disruption. God intends to shatter the distracted concentration of their busy lives. See then how I am going to crush you into the ground… In the gospel too, Jesus seems to delight in disrupting the lives of would-be disciples, even to the extent of tearing them away from fulfilling important filial obligations. Leave the dead to bury their dead. Not only that, Jesus’ own life is filled with disruptions: foxes have holes… but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head… What’s going on?

Deeper reflection leads us to see that the disruptions are there for a purpose. Whether they come in the form of the prophet’s disturbing words, or Jesus’ apparently unreasonable demands, the disruptions serve to reveal something hidden. To better appreciate what’s going on, we might consider for a moment how, for example, someone first comes to realize that s/he is addicted to caffeine. Such a person will not know this as long as s/he continues to enjoy an uninterrupted supply of the stuff. But once the flow is stopped for some reason, the effects become apparent. The hidden addiction is revealed.

The same goes for disordered attachments, whether these are to business and trade (as in the first reading), or to familial responsibilities (as in the second). It’s not easy to realize our addictions and obsessions. Not even when they begin to take priority over God, and not even when they cause harm to others. We don’t ask, for example, if the subsidies that might render goods cheap in one country, might not somehow be hurting the poor elsewhere. It’s all too easy simply to remain focused on business-as-usual. Until, that is, God mercifully allows a disruption into our routine. We don’t realize we have been working too hard until we suddenly fall ill. We don’t realize we haven’t been paying enough attention to our spouse, until we return one day to find an empty house, a cleared-out closet and a goodbye-note taped to the mirror. Disruptions are there for a purpose. They show us when we’re neglecting the more essential things.

Seen in this context, Jesus’ apparently bohemian lifestyle seems more understandable, if not appealing. What we find here is a single-minded focus on what’s truly important, such that one is willing to live a life that engages without clinging, and that enjoys without claiming. This willingness to be continually disrupted is born of the consciousness that our one true home is in the Father’s house, and our one dearest attachment should be to rest in His embrace.

What is the place of disruption in our lives today?

Note: Breaking the Word will be disrupted for the next couple of weeks for a retreat. Blessings to all...

1 comment:

  1. Somehow the title of this post reminds me of a movie called "Girl, Interrupted" which is based on a true story written by Susanna Kaysen of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. Maybe it's the words "disruptions" and "disordered".

    Since you'll be going for your own disruption, Fr Chris, hope you'll tolerate a little disruption (side-tracking) here.

    Susanna was depressed and directionless after finishing high school. A suicide attempt landed her in Claymore, a mental institution where she befriended a band of troubled women in her ward.

    Some interesting quotes in the movie: "Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy... The crazy thing is, you're not crazy... Maybe I really was crazy. Maybe it was the 60's. Or maybe I was just a girl... interrupted."

    So, have a great disruption (retreat), Fr Chris! Just don't come back disordered or attached... unless it's the will of God... which surely can't be so! :-p