LITURGY AND LIFE
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Genesis 2:7, 15, 18-24
I long to sit at the kitchen table with Jesus sipping wine (if Jesus preferred, he could sip beer or a cup of tea). I’d like to ask questions, express my fears and doubts. I realize I can offer countless prayers — oblations complete with incense, ornate chalices and flowery (translate: “confusing”) language. However, as a small child once exclaimed, “sometimes I need skin!”
For instance, Jesus’ words regarding divorce can seem harsh. Even
the disciples take him aside to question him again about it, but he repeats
his assertion: “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits
adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another,
she commits adultery.” Indeed, a disturbing aspect of our modern
culture is the casual shedding of relationships like so much lint. Jesus
challenges us when he deems life and its complex relationships to be
deep and abiding rather than something to discard when the going gets
And yet, people and relationships aren’t always healthy. Abuse,
addiction and plain selfishness can abound within the sacrament of marriage
as well as in other callings. Whether we’re married, divorced or
happen to be the most outwardly pious pontiff, the fact remains: we’re
flawed human beings. But even as we must recognize the sin, do we nonetheless
welcome those who have suffered broken relationships into our lives and
church communities? Or do we judge them?
Some people, on the surface at least, seem to “have it all together.”
perfectionist in their piety, following rules perfectly; but are they
really so very holy? Do they truly welcome those who experience the anguish
of a life in turmoil? The psalm says: “Your wife will be like a
fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.” We long for such a grace-filled existence.
For many, however, this isn’t reality. Divided and traumatized
families abound — and again, doesn’t that include all of
us on some level? We’re all journeying through an ongoing cycle
of sin, hurt, forgiveness and healing in our relationships. Each moment
of every day, we rely on God’s love and mercy.
Recently I witnessed a moving and thought-provoking scene:
An adult with Down syndrome — manifesting the openness of a little child — shared
a heartfelt hug with a dear friend who also happens to be a monk. It
was one moment in time; an opportunity to ponder the reality of our current
culture, and how it’s widely accepted — even routine — to
simply abort a fetus that might have this condition.
In Mark’s Gospel it says: “People were bringing little children
to him (perhaps a couple even had Down syndrome) in order that Jesus
might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. But when Jesus
saw this, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children
come to me; do not stop them: for it is to such as these that the kingdom
of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom
of God as a little child will never enter it.’ ”
And so, as St. Benedict says, we might “begin again” to “listen
with the ear of the heart” to the cries of the broken, fragile
people in our midst — and this includes ourselves. As we dig down
through inevitable mistakes, fears and doubts, it is precisely in this
messy ground that we can glimpse an essence of fertility: the transcendent
love and abundant mercy of our God.
In Transfiguring Prairie Skies — Stained Glass at Cathedral of
the Holy Family, Donald Bolen, bishop of the Diocese of Saskatoon, writes: “.
. . Fidelity to our baptism, and the Triune God, does not pull us away
from our lives in all their complexity and messiness, does not pull us
away from our world in all its brokenness and ragged edges. We needn’t
flee the human condition in order to find Christ . . . God knows what
it is to be human, and meets us there; faithfulness happens in living
deeply as and where we are.”
As we visit and sip wine, beer or tea; as we receive a heartfelt hug from a child-like adult with Down syndrome and a beautiful smile, we might consciously listen and seek God — and God’s son, Jesus — in those persons around us. We might show respect and hospitality to those who are most wounded, just as Jesus did.
Strachan is married with three children and lives in Nakusp, BC. She is a Benedictine Oblate with St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK., and a member of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild.