Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Monday in the 24th Week of Ordinary Time
Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows
Beyond the Eating Contest
Readings: 1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33; Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 17; John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35
Picture: CC Daniel Leininger
Some of us may know people whose eating habits attract nicknames like garbage bin or vacuum cleaner. Whenever they come near food of any sort, all of their attention is immediately focused on consuming it. It’s as though they are participating in an eating contest. Nothing can distract them from their purpose. They seem intent on disposing of everything in sight in the shortest time possible. We’re not saying, of course, that there is anything morally wrong with such a habit. Not necessarily. What we’re more concerned with is to consider how such an approach to eating sometimes seems quite similar to the way in which some of us approach the spiritual life.
Isn’t it true that some of us do sometimes approach religious rituals and devotions as a glutton would a buffet table? At the sight of the rich spiritual food laid out before us, our eyes widen, our mouths water, and we immediately set out to polish off as much of the delicacies, and as quickly, as we can. Sometimes, this tendency is quite understandable. Perhaps we may be suffering in some way, or facing a crisis of some sort. We may be crying out most pitiably to God for help. Can we not be forgiven – especially when we find ourselves in such dire straits – if our attention becomes focused solely on our own needs? Can someone with a bad toothache, for example, really be expected to think of anything, or anyone, else other than relief from his/ her own pain?
And yet, our readings and the feast that we celebrate today invite us to consider the possibility – indeed, even the necessity – of another approach. In the first reading, Paul reminds the Corinthians that when they come together for the Eucharistic meal, and think only about filling their own stomachs, they show contempt for the Church of God. It is not the Lord’s Supper that they are eating. In other words, in their urgency to satisfy their own hunger, they defeat the whole purpose of the celebration. They eat judgment rather than redemption upon themselves.
In contrast, the gospel presents us with a strikingly different image. Here, even as he struggles to breathe his final painful breaths, the crucified Christ’s attention stretches far beyond his own pain. Not only is he providing a place for his mother, but he is also inaugurating a new context of relationships for us all. He shows us that the ties that bind unto eternity will be those that go beyond the blood ties of familial kinship. Instead they will be rooted in the blood that he is shedding on the Cross – the blood of the New Covenant, the blood of the meek Lamb of God, obediently led to the slaughter. Woman behold your son… behold your mother…
Here then is the sorrow that we dare to celebrate today. Here is the sorrow in which Mary shared so fully, the sorrow that leads our hungry hearts to the eternal joy, the final satisfaction, of the Kingdom. It is a sorrow that is shared rather than selfish. It is a sorrow that is compassionate rather than insensitive. It is a sorrow that knows how to be patient even when satisfaction seems late in coming. In the words of Paul, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…
Today, how are we being invited to share more fully in this sorrow of Mary, and even to partake of it unto eternal joy?
Posted by Fr Chris at 2:29 am