Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do You Understand

Memorial of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Priest

Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased.  Then the word of the LORD came to me: “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?” says the LORD.  Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.  Jeremiah 18:4-6

“Do you understand all these things?”  Matthew 13:51a

“Receive, Lord, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. You have given me all that I have, all that I am, and I surrender all to your divine will, that you dispose of me. Give me only your love and your grace. With this I am rich enough, and I have no more to ask.” (

Ever have one of those nasty verbal jousts with your [fill-in-the-blank].  (parent/teenager/spouse/etc.)?  Probably no reader of Your Daily Tripod falls into this category but you may have seen one on TV.  One party in the spat decides s/he has had enough and starts to walk away.    

Think back to that famous scene in “The Sound of Music” when the Captain returns from a trip and finds his children have been traipsing around Salzburg wearing clothes that were fashioned out of old draperies.  Pardon me for the long quote but it is a fun scene and you will see afterward how I think this relates to the image of the potter.  You can skip over the quoted movie dialogue and watch the classic movie spat here starting at minute 44:00. 

Let’s pick up with Maria defending the children at play:

Maria: Children can't do all the things they're supposed to if they have to worry about spoiling their precious clothes.
Captain von Trapp: They haven't complained yet.
Maria: Well, they wouldn't dare! They love you too much. They *fear* you too much!
Captain von Trapp: I don't wish you to discuss my children in this manner.
Maria: Well, you've got to hear from someone! You're never home long enough to know them.
Captain von Trapp: I said I don't want to hear any more from you about my children!
Maria: I know you don't, but you've got to! Now, take Liesl.
Captain von Trapp: [hesitatingly] You will not say one word about Liesl, Fraulein.
Maria: She's not a child anymore, and one of these days, you're going to wake up and find that she's a woman. You won't even know her. And Friedrich, he's a boy, but he wants to be a man and there's no one to show him how.
Captain von Trapp: Don't you dare tell me about my son.
Maria: Brigitta could tell you about him if you let her get close to you. She notices everything.
Captain von Trapp: Fraulein...
Maria: And Kurt pretends he's tough not to show how hurt he is when you brush him aside,
Captain von Trapp: That will do!
Maria: the way you do all of them. Louisa I don't even know about yet,
Captain von Trapp: I said that will do!
Maria: but somebody has to find out about her, and the little ones just want to be loved. Oh, please, Captain, love them! Love them all!
Captain von Trapp: I don't care to hear anything further from you about my children.
Maria: I am not finished yet, Captain!
Captain von Trapp: Oh, yes, you are, Captain!  [pauses, then corrects himself] Fraulein!

Of course, if you have seen the movie 93 times like me, you remember that the relationship blooming between Maria and the Captain is far from mature at this point.  The relationship between Maria and the convent changes…between Maria and the children…between the Captain and the Baroness. 

Fittingly, we consider the image of the potter and an unfinished masterpiece on the Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, priest and founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).  Ignatius certainly did not set out to start a religious order any more than St. Francis or St. Benedict did.  In fact, Ignatius was on his way to a stellar military career when his leg was shattered by canon fire.  While recuperating, he picked up a copy of the Lives of the Saints and a study of the life of Jesus.  Thus began a reshaping of the clay of his life into one devoted to Christ.  During a pilgrimage inspired by a vision of Mary, he also began to write down the now-classic Spiritual Exercises and started working “for the greater glory of God” and not for the greater glory of the king and queen of Spain or the head if its army. 

“How do you make God laugh?”  A:  “Tell the Lord your plans.” 

Our story line is not complete and the outcome is not solely left to our own devices, either.  As we understand the work of the potter at the wheel, she is not done with her clay until…well, until she is done with her clay and puts it in the oven to bake and set hard.  As long as the potter is working at the wheel, if she does not like how it is turning out, the potter can reshape her clay at any point for a different end result.  Everything is a work-in-progress -- a masterpiece waiting to emerge from the clay.

Our relationships with the Lord and with each other are not over yet either.  Just like the potter does not give up on her clay, the Lord does not give up on shaping our lives. 

Think back to the many twists and turns your story has taken.  Opportunity.  Threat.  Tragedy. Comedy.  Strength.  Weakness.  Where will it go from here?  As you consider how many times your path has changed, contemplate how many more changes you will face today, tomorrow and into the distant future.

We are the clay.  He is the Potter-Father-Abba. 

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