Friday, March 29, 2013

TableTalk, Good Friday 2013

There’s been a death in the family.  We just got word and it was not from natural causes.  It was a homicide.  We’re in shock.  Someone murdered him.  It was violent.  He did not die right away.  He was in excruciating pain.  We can hardly believe it.  His mother was there and watched it all.  A couple of his friends stood by helpless.  But they are OK.  The funeral was private.

It’s good for us to get together before deciding anything further.  It was so senseless.  I know some of us did not always agree with him on everything, but at least we respected him.  Funny how he rubbed all of us the wrong way sometimes.  But we all feel this as a terrible loss.  Do you remember the first wedding he went to, how he took over when the wine ran out?  People danced for hours after that.  But I remember his mother.  There was a far away look in his eyes and it frightened her. 

What a loss!  I hope there were no children around when it happened.  His beloved friend was there.  If only he could have been spared the sight!  But some people are really celebrating now.   They did not like him at all.  I wonder if there was a conspiracy.  He was so good.  Do you remember the widow lady whose only son died?  I wonder how she is taking this.

Should we pray together?  Our Father . . .

We’ve got to pull ourselves together.  He always told us something like this might happen.  Somehow I think he even wanted it to happen.  I know that sounds stupid.  But he didn’t want something worse to happen to us.  I don’t know.  Anyway, there was no property, so we don’t have to worry about that.

We should get some word to his mother, say something to her.  Let’s do it now:  Hail Mary . . .

Maybe we shouldn’t do anything until his close associates get back.  I wonder where they are.  They were inseparable from him.  A couple of them knew everything he knew.  Where were they when it happened?  He chuckled once in a while about how a couple of them always thought they were the ones in charge.  One of them he never really trusted:  a little too “business-minded.”  Where is he?

What a shock this all is.  But one thing we shouldn’t do is point fingers.  You know that he wouldn’t like that.  He was so good.  I’ll bet he even forgave the ones who did it to him.  I hope he forgives us.

But what about us now?  One thing for sure:  we can’t let his ideals die.  All those suppers and reunions we had with him.  We sure have a lot to think about.  We have to stay together no matter what.  Come to think about it, he always talked about that. 

Funny how things come to mind at times like this.  Remember the stories he used to tell?  Remember the one about the lady who stayed up all night looking for a silly dime.  She swept and sweated and finally found it.  You know, suddenly I know what a lost dime feels like.

Well, we’re going to make it together and we’ll do it his way.  Maybe he didn’t have a written will, but we sure know what his spoken will is.

I think we should start right now.  Whatever differences there are between us aren’t important any more.  We’ve all been a little catty with one another at times.  We’ve hurt one another’s feelings.  We’ve walked away from one another and one another’s problems.  But that is all in the past now.  I’m willing to wipe the slate clean.  At the times we were all together with him, we knew the better thing to do.  Let’s determine to his Spirit alive.

This has been some day!  We need to keep quiet for a while to let it sink in.  We need time. 

Oh, maybe we could suggest the epitaph for the stone over his grave, something like:  “We adore you, O Christ and we bless you, because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world!”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

TableTalk, Sunday 4, Lent C

The word that caught my eye in the first reading of today´s liturgy was “reproach.”  “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.”  What was the “reproach” of Israel that the Word refers to?  It was that Israel from the beginning was a “privileged” people, but a people that had “forgotten.”  This people, who were the descendants of Abraham and the Promise, eventually got down to Egypt because of a famine in their land.  There they met Joseph, the brother they had tried to kill.  A “privileged” people does not act this way.  They had forgotten the God of their ancestors.  Moses had to remind them that the one who was to liberate them from Egypt was indeed the God they had forgotten.

And the “reproach” of the youngster in the Gospel reading, what was it?  Here was a young man who was a “son” but became extremely “disrespectful” to his loving father.  It was this disrespect for which he was reproached.  He dared to ask his father for what he planned to will him after his death.  He then proceeded to squander his inheritance, living a life-style that was disgraceful to his father.  In the end, he could see himself only a hired hand on the farm.

And me, what is the reproach against me and perhaps you as well?  I am a “baptized” person but now a “back-slider.”  I was once touched by the glory of Jesus’ Cross and Resurrection and made a new creature, as St. Paul speaks about today in the Second Letter to the Corinthians.  I am someone who once knew the gift of God’s forgiving love, someone called to be ambassador of that love in the world.  And now I have sinned and am a “back-slider.”

How are these reproaches removed?  God removed Israel’s reproach of being a privileged people who had forgotten by revealing Himself to the people and rescuing them from their servitude in Egypt.  God gave them the produce of a new land to eat.  The reproach was taken away.

The reproach of the youngster in the Gospel reading was taken away by his father, who symbolizes God.  The father ran to the son, embrace him, kissed him, dressed him up, wined and dined him and finally even defended him.  His reproach was removed.

And how shall my—and your—reproach be taken away?  That is yet a story to unfold.  It would require of me the willingness to allow myself to be convicted of my backsliding.  It would mean making the effort to do the turn around toward the baptismal identity that I have abandoned.  It would mean, finally, deciding to live differently, faithful to what I was called to.  That is the story of Lent, the journey from backsliding to faithfulness.  If I can let God inspire this work in me, the reproach will be lifted.

The lifting of my reproach will follow the same pattern as that of forgetful Israel and the disrespectful youngster in the Gospel.  It will be done by God, even though I am undeserving.  And God will remove my reproach with prodigality, with a superabundance of grace and gifts.  Finally, I will be able to get on with the life I am meant to live.  That is the meaning of Easter.  From the Lent of my reproach, I am lead to the renewal of Easter. 

Easter opens the way for me to live anew more abundantly.  It regenerates the sense of gratitude in my heart, allowing my life to become celebration rather than regret.  And Easter allows me to assume the role of being the “ambassador” for Christ in our world, to take up once again the mission that was first entrusted to me and that I turned my back on because of my sin.

Today’s celebration of the Eucharist is a pledge of having the reproach removed.  It is here that we remember the Death and Resurrection of Jesus that lifted our shame.  It is here that we can be empowered again to a new life.