Saturday, October 14, 2006

27th Saturday in Ordinary Time (II)
Traversing the Untraversable?

Readings: Galatians 3:22-29; Psalm 105:2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Luke 11:27-28

I’m reading a novel by Marilynne Robinson entitled Gilead. She writes so beautifully and so insightfully. Today I was especially struck by this nugget:

Every single one of us is a little civilization built on the ruins of any number of preceding civilizations, but with our own variant notions of what is beautiful and what is acceptable – which, I hasten to add, we generally do not satisfy and by which we struggle to live. We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us (p. 224f.).

To coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us… Not an easy thing to do if the state of the world, our families and our communities is anything to go by. And yet, we do desire to traverse the untraversable. Perhaps we desire it too deeply, even inordinately. So much so that, in desperation, we resort to violence of one form or another. The wars and armed conflicts between and within nations come quickly to mind. But aren’t there also the petty disagreements, and the more subtle forms of violence and passive aggression by which we try forcefully to bridge the spaces between us and our parents and children, our neighbors and friends?

For Christians there is but one Way through this morass. Neither national nor ethnic ties, neither religious nor familial bonds, are sufficient to bring us what we seek. Not even the womb that bore, nor the breasts that suckled are privileged in this way. Only by hearing the word of God and keeping it – only in Christ Jesus – can we fruitfully negotiate the distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. And in seeking to do this might we not be led first to pay careful, respectful, even reverential attention to the vast spaces between us before we seek to bridge them? For is it not likely that it is precisely here, in the inviolable and untraversable, that we might glimpse a new vision of the Christ in whom we are all made one?

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