Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday in the 29th Week of Ordinary Time
The Cupboard Was Bare

Readings: Ephesians 2:1-10; Psalm 100:1b-2, 3, 4ab, 4c-5; Luke 12:13-21
Picture: CC frazgo

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard,
To fetch her poor dog a bone.
But when she got there,
The cupboard was bare,
And so the poor dog had none.

Some of us may still remember this nursery rhyme. It expresses the disappointment of having one’s expectations dashed. Both Old Mother Hubbard and her dog were counting on there being something in the cupboard for the eating. But the cupboard was bare… Some of us may have similar experiences of such disappointment and misplaced expectations. We may be cooking, for example, thinking all the while that a particularly crucial ingredient or spice can be found in the cupboard. But just when we reach the stage in the cooking process when the ingredient is needed, we open the cupboard and find it bare… Or think of what’s been happening recently in the world of finance. We invest our hard-earned savings in a particular portfolio, hoping for a return substantial enough to provide for our retirement. And, overnight, what we thought to be a well-stocked cupboard suddenly appears so painfully empty, so tragically bare…

Today’s readings tell us that something similar can happen in the spiritual life too. Here too, it is possible to be deceived by the apparently well-stocked but ultimately empty cupboard. Such is the experience of the rich man in the gospel, who spent so much energy accumulating possessions that he forgot to stock up on the one thing that is truly essential. In his obsession with material things, he had forgotten what Jesus reminds us of today, that one’s life does not consist of possessions. So that when the time came to cash out on his investments, he found the cupboard of his life woefully bare.

In contrast, the first reading invites us to consider well life’s true location. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast… Life is to be found not so much in the various cupboards of our anxious striving for self-preservation, as it is to be received as a precious gift bestowed upon us by a loving God. Even so, to receive this gift, to enjoy the contents of God’s generosity, there is something we need to do, something in which we need to invest. Again, as the first reading reminds us, we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them. We find life by performing the good works inspired by the Spirit of Christ, in whom we have become the possessions of God. In the words of the psalm: the Lord made us, we belong to him…

Especially in this time when the cupboards of many are bare, how might we be called to perform good works in Christ today?


  1. YAY! Finally there's "murtabak" in the cupboard here!

    The question is rather cheem though. I need more time to think about the answer. :-p

  2. The sight of the bare cupboard evokes such desolation and insecurity, yet I couldn't help reflecting how it can be a chance to be open to a different kind of filling...

    I am reminded the poignant opening chapter in "Little Woman" when the March teenage girls, who were bemoaning their lean Christmas as a result of the war, were invited by their big-hearted mother to consider giving up their much-awaited for Christmas breakfast of hotcakes, muffins and cream to a widow and her 6 cold and hungry children and newborn.

    The girls responded heroically and went hungry themselves only to be surprised by a sumptuous evening Christmas buffet gifted by a benevolent, rich but lonely neighbour Mr Lawrence who heard about their generosity through his cook. This gesture sparked a life-long friendship between the March and Lawrence family that went beyond the Christmas act of love.

    The bare cupboard....also a state of infinite creative possibilities....if only we can see it as a chance to be receptive to the Spirit's abundant gifts coming through to fill our poverty in order to touch the lives of others. After all, Old Mother Hubbard's main concern was for her poor dog...

    Investing in the lives of others whose cupboards are barer than ours, we realise that God's loving abundance is inexhaustible, only matched by our generosity to WELCOME and CELEBRATE the barrenness in our lives (be it material or spiritual poverty).....for "when I am weak, He can be strong in me..."

    Blessings :-)

  3. Over the past week in Singapore, the mass media had been really busy reporting about the recent financial tsunami that had emptied the financial cupboards of 10,000 people who invested 500 million in Lehman products. One of the sad things about this is that many of them are retirees. The good thing perhaps is that the government has given some assurance that at least some of the money could be compensated.

    Your question, Fr Chris, seems to be a difficult one though. IF the physical cupboards of others are empty, it's relatively easy to verify (perhaps through some form of means testing) and to help (maybe by giving them some money or food or other things in kind).

    IF the spiritual cupboards of others are empty (like the rich man in the parable), how are we to know, other than the simple fact whether they believe in Christ or not? Who are we to judge that s/he is spiritually poor or rich and so have an empty or full spiritual cupboard? The only thing that we can do seems to be to pray for others and to try to live the gospel in our lives so as to give glory to God, and hopefully inspire others to do likewise. OR maybe WE need to examine our conscience more often to make sure that we remember to fill up OUR spiritual cupboards?

  4. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel of our Lord, in words and actions?


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