Saturday, September 30, 2006

25th Saturday in Ordinary Time (II)
Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest, Doctor
Wet Blankets and Endless Joy

Readings: Ecclesiastes 11:9—12:8; Psalm 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17; Luke 9:43b-45

No one likes a wet blanket. When things are going well and everyone's having a good time, we don't like to be reminded of the darker side of life. And if we do encounter a persistent wet blanket, we might have good reason to think that s/he has some psychological hang-up that makes it difficult for him or her to enjoy life.

And yet, not every apparent instance of wet blanketing is pathological, is it? Consider both the readings today. In the gospel, we are told that Jesus and his disciples are experiencing a kind of spring-time in their ministry -- a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did. And what does Jesus do? He tells his disciples to keep constantly in mind that the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men. Is it any wonder his disciples did not understand?

In the first reading from Ecclesiastes, the writer is also addressing those who are in the spring-time of their life, those who are young. And although he encourages them to enjoy themselves he also reminds them that youth... is vanity... Again, we ask ourselves, what is going on? Are both Jesus and the speaker in Ecclesiastes inveterate wet blankets. Do they need a psychiatrist?

An indication of an answer to this question is found in the crucial admonition that Ecclesiastes gives the reader: remember your creator in the days of your youth. The intention of Jesus and Ecclesiastes is not so much to be wet blankets as to remind us -- precisely at a time when we are most likely to forget -- just what should be the only true foundation of our happiness. Neither in the age of dark hair nor in the time of public admiration, but in our creator alone can we find a safe refuge, both in good times and in bad.

Unlike wet blankets, we Christians are meant to enjoy the good times that come our way. Even so, we must be careful not to lose ourselves in them. We must not forget the passing nature of what we are experiencing. We might heed the advice of St. Ignatius of Loyola to those who are experiencing spiritual consolation: humble yourselves and store up strength for the future. To do this is not to give in to the ramblings of wet blankets or kill-joys, but rather to prepare ourselves for the joy that never ends.

[Note: Breaking-the-Word will be taking a break... Blessings to all! :)]

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