dimanche, avril 30, 2006
Entitled to what?
Christians who follow the Common Lectionary heard today a story from Luke's Gospel, in which some disciples encounter Jesus after his Resurrection. In this post resurrection appearance, the Risen Lord eats broiled fish with his followers. There' s something marvelously earthy about Luke's narrative. The voice is in keeping with the tone of the other Gospel resurrection stories about Jesus. Mostly, they are wonderfully free of airy-fairy magical tricks. Can one's faith be buoyed, as it were, by a grilled perch or an attractively presented St. Peter's fish (tilapia)? I, at least, find it reassuring that Jesus continued to take pleasure in food and friends. A lot was revealed around the dinner table, even if the table was a sand dune by a windy lake. That's part of the reason that psychologists keep hammering us parents about the importance of making sure we eat with our kids. It's amazing what you can find out if you only listen to what is being said, or not said, in the middle of the laughter and chatter and insults. But I digress. One of the points made by the Gospel writers is that Jesus meets people in all kinds of unexpected places, and that when He does, very often, their hearts are touched. If they don't know Him at all, they learn things about themselves, and about him, that change their lives forever. If they do know Him already, they are offered the chance to accept his invitation to go deeper with Him, or to go their own way. The RSVP can always be a "no thanks." Often it is something ruder. What perplexed me today was how hard it is to truly come to know the Lord if one is materially comfortable or wealthy. Put another way-it is much easier, at least so I observe, if one is poor. Perhaps the choices are that much starker. I do think affluent people in the West feel entitled to a level of material comfort and convenience that would cause the jaw of an African or many Asians to drop. I become particularly aware of my antipathy towards ostentatious displays of affluence when being pursued on suburban byways by women in huge SUVS with cell phones clenched to their ears because I have the bad taste to only drive 50 miles an hour in a 40 mile an hour zone. What makes them think that they, or anybody else, is entitled to have a car that big? Undoubtedly they are on their way to their equally enormous McMansion, where everyone has separate bathrooms, and the garage has room for four cars. When I get home, my little spell of self righteousness fades, and I ponder the clothes in my closet, the flowers in my garden, and the food in my fridge. I'm not at all sure that capitalism and Christianity are a happy marriage. It is too easy to excuse the excesses of affluence by saying: "well, I've earned this, and I deserve it." On the other hand, there are places where Jesus meets those of us who are wealthy like me (compared to the great majority I am wealthy) and invites us to open our hands and surrender more of what we have. Some of us do it dramatically, leaving our homes and loved ones to serve the poor. Some of us do it slowly. Some of us do it silently. And some say "no thanks" or "I'm busy." I've had friends who have been converted. I know I'm still in process of becoming (I hope) a more generous, loving and open handed person. I just pray that when Jesus meets me at a meal, whether it be a one of tilapia or tofu, I'm smart enough to know Him in the breaking of the bread.