Monday, June 02, 2008

Monday in the 9th Week of Ordinary Time (II)
Furniture Assembly

Readings: 2 Peter 1:2-7; Psalms 91:1-2, 14-15b, 15c-16; Mark 12:1-12
Picture: CC Patrick Haney

Don’t you sometimes think that life is a little like buying furniture from Ikea? Unlike other stores that sell you stuff that’s fully assembled, Ikea only provides you with the parts. You need to put them together yourself. And, of course, if you’ve bought a particularly complicated piece, or if, like me, you were born with two left thumbs, then the assembly process can be quite a challenge. There sometimes comes a time when, frustrated that some parts don’t seem to fit, or something seems to be missing, one gets tempted to call it quits, send everything back and demand a refund. But while that might still be a possibility with Ikea, it’s not really an option with life. In life, we have to make do with what we’ve got.

Which is why the first reading today is such a consolation (and a challenge). Especially at times when we’re ready to throw up our hands in despair, times when we’re tempted to curse the divine manufacturer for giving us the wrong or insufficient parts, the reading reminds us that by his divine power, (God) has given us all the things that we need for life and for true devotion… What we need to do is to ask for the grace to say what we proclaimed in the response to the psalm: My God, in you I trust. And how we express that trust is to keep on struggling to put together the different pieces of our lives. In particular, as the first reading challenges us, to add goodness to faith, understanding to goodness, self-control to understanding, patience to self-control, true devotion to patience, kindness to true devotion, and to kindness, love.

But despair is only one of the difficulties faced by furniture assemblers. Another applies specifically to the furniture of life. The details and consequences of this difficulty are vividly illustrated in the parable that Jesus tells in today’s gospel. The problem arises when, having expended so much effort in putting the different aspects of our life together, we begin to think that the furniture actually belongs to us. But this is where our metaphor breaks down. Although it is usually the case that, having put in so much effort to assemble whatever we bought from Ikea, we’re now free to fully enjoy all the fruits of our labors, the same is not exactly true of life, especially spiritual life. For, as is plain from the parable, our life – in all its many and various aspects – does not really belong to us. In the kingdom of God, we are not landowners but only tenants and stewards. The gifts that we receive and the products of our efforts on the assembly line of life are not meant solely for our own benefit. We are blessed to be blessings to others. The day will come, when we will be called to let go of our careers, our property, our children... to leave them in the hands of the only Lord of the harvest.

What then is our reward? Are we doomed to slave desperately all for nothing? Again, the first reading offers us profound consolation. Our reward lies not in the furniture that we labor to assemble, but in the kinds of people we become through the efforts we expend. For God has given us the guarantee of something very great and wonderful to come: through (God’s gifts) we will be able to share the divine nature and to escape corruption in a world that is sunk in vice. Our reward is nothing less than a share in the very life of God. We look forward to being divinized. This is the awesome glory to which we are called.

Today, how are we being invited with trusting hearts to continue diligently assembling our lives in the sight of God?


  1. Although I don't have two left thumbs like Fr Chris, I'm still not good at DIY because patience is not my greatest virtue. And how true when he surmises that life is what we make of it from the myriad parts Almighty God gives us, often without assembly instructions save His re-assurance and comfort.

    Allow me to expand on the furniture assembly metaphor.

    1. We make do with what we've got. No one knows for sure that the pieces life deals out are the right ones, or whether they are sufficient to build the furniture.

    2. If things don't fit together,it is not unusual for me to force them together. The job appears to get done but the poor workmanship shows up very soon. We force fit events, people, things in our everyday lives.

    3. In extreme difficulty, when our backs are to the wall, divine grace (assembly instructions)gushes forth. We just have to tune our hearts and minds to recognize that grace.

    4. We know deep down if the furniture is taking shape and this alone is often enough reward.

    Indeed, "We are blessed to be blessings to others" . Fr Chris, your blogsite has been and will continue to be a magnificent piece of divine furniture for all to admire and use. Deo gracias.

  2. I also would like to expand on the furniture assembly metaphor. ;-)

    As St Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 12: "To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues.

    "The eye cannot say to the hand, "I do not need you," nor again the head to the feet, "I do not need you."... If (one) part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy.

    So each of us is holding on to one or more furniture pieces. We need to stay and work closely with one another to complete the furniture assembly - the body of Christ.

    Finally, the work that we do belongs to God and not to us. We need to listen to God and do His will, not ours.

  3. By the way, my "one furniture/body many parts" extension is not the same as relativism: i.e. I'm not suggesting that every viewpoint is valid. No, truth may be beyond logic (contrary), but it cannot be illogical (contradictory).

    Rather, what I'm suggesting is that various viewpoints held by different people are like circles in a Venn diagram. Only the areas of intersection correspond to a multi-dimensional truth. And this truth could be constructed only by integrating the inputs of people with various gifts.


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