Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Stone Removed

“Present yourselves before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.”  Exodus 16:9B

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.”  John 20:15

Chapter 43: On Those Who Come Late to the Work of God or to Table
At the hour for the Divine Office,
as soon as the signal is heard,
let them abandon whatever they may have in hand
and hasten with the greatest speed,
yet with seriousness, so that there is no excuse for levity.
Let nothing, therefore, be put before the Work of God.  (Rule of Saint Benedict)

The Lord is present to us more in our distress. Whether grumbling about travelling across the desert or holding onto something or someone whom we should release, the Lord knows our suffering and will fill in what is empty in our lives.  Empty tombs.  Empty emotions.  Empty lives.

However, the Lord fills up what is empty.  Bread in the desert. Fine wine in the water jugs of Cana.  Resurrected Life after death.  Jesus is constantly turning the tables and showing up where people of little faith least expect to find him.  However, when they open their hearts, the Lord opens their eyes.

Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we shall sing with joy.  (Psalm 90:14)

After his visit to South America, Pope Francis was asked to address the grumbling of the middle class that he will face on his September visit to the United States.  To some, the Pope’s advocacy for the poor overlooks the plight of those caught in the middle but who also are not in the upper class. 

We need both personal conversion and a public reckoning. The personal conversion to which we are called is not only to do more for the poor and to take steps to reduce our exploitation of the environment, it is to embrace a more simple lifestyle. This is not easy, but it is imperative. The way to resist the influence of stuff in our life is to resist the influence of stuff in our life. All the government or faith-based programs in the world cannot achieve that. We must do it for ourselves.

The way to resist the influence of stuff in our life is to resist the influence of stuff in our life. Easier written than lived in our Amazon Prime Day-WalMart-eBay existence when we are grumbling about the woeful battery life of our smart phone that puts more information at our disposal than our grandparents encountered in a lifetime of learning.  We are grumbling about car payments for a chariot that costs more than our parents paid for a house. 

Our “stuff” are the stones which get in the way of an open relationship with Jesus.  Just like an angel rolled that stone away so Mary Magdalene could encounter Jesus, we need to roll our stuff away and do the same.

The Winters’ column in NCROnline appeared just days after Amazon Prime Day when they sold more “stuff” than on Black Friday 2014 – that day after Thanksgiving when the holiday shopping season kicks off a December to remember.  Why not think about spending a few hours serving lunch as a volunteer in a food program than surfing eBay for the latest deal of the day? 

The parallels between the underlying message in the daily reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict and daily reading from sacred scriptures never ceases to amaze me.  Let nothing come before the work of God, not even our own grumbling.  Let nothing come before the work of God, especially not the influence of stuff in our lives. Rather than presenting ourselves before the latest sale at WalMart or Target, we should not forget to present ourselves before the Lord.

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