Saturday, November 26, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
The title of my homily for this feast of Christ the King is, “Another.”
Let me spell it out to broadcast it clearly: A N O T H E R.
As in, “another person”….
I don’t know if I ever stopped to think and reflect on that word: “another”.
The theme of my homily is to look at how aware are we of another or of others.
A quote to think about is this: “When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.” John Ruskin [1819-1900]
I was wondering: at what age does a person truly know - consciously - with its ramifications - that I’m not the only person there is on this planet? Of course we’re surrounded by others - much of the time. Of course, kids play and bump into - and interact with other kids - but -when does a person really know the impact of another?
I would assume it comes slowly - from parents - from siblings - from classmates - from friends - from losing a game or a spelling bee more than winning a game or spelling bee. I would assume it comes more from not getting my way - than when I get my way.
I would assume that someone who grew up in a house with one bathroom would get this quicker than someone who grew up in a house with several bathrooms. The old saying, “How long a minute takes depends upon which side of the bathroom door you’re on” doesn’t have the same impact in a house with three bathrooms compared to one.
I would assume it blossoms with dating - and falling in love - in discovering that another human being knows I exist - and is interested in me. And then there are the breakups. The petals of the flower come lose and fall to the ground and shrivel. Or the green leaves of a friendship turn to tan brown and red brittle - the step before drying up, dying, and falling from the tree - to the ground - the feelings one has when someone dumps us - or ends a relationship. These things can hurt - if they are not a mutual breakup. It can hurt, what another can do to another. When we’re cut - the result can be tears. The twist of the sword - being stabbed in the back - the sharp pain of being rejected can certainly help us to become very aware of another - much more than trying to get out of a parking lot after Mass - having to deal with all these other cars and drivers.
Then there is the more serious dating - the falling into a deeper love - engagement, marriage - loving and living with another - nature’s big ways when humans grow in dealing and communicating with another.
That’s why I like John Barth’s statement: “Marriage is our last, best, chance to grow up.” I’m not married.
But of course, nature’s big way of teaching this big lesson about another arrives when a baby - enters into one’s life.
Another…. a baby - and unlike another adult - this one is totally dependent - totally leaking - totally unpredictable - totally beautiful - totally life changing. Another….
At a wedding reception yesterday afternoon and into the evening at one point I was almost all alone at a table. It was the ¾ point into a wedding - when things transition - before the big dancing, before the saying, “Good Night.” The cake cutting, the toss of the flowers and then the garter were finished.
It was then I spotted someone sitting directly across from me - in a crowded room - totally spaced out. She was staring into that mysterious nowhere which is about three feet in front of the eyes. Here was someone somewhere else. She was sitting there on that chair at a table - but the real she, the real other was is in that mysterious self place inside one;s mind - behind one's eyes.
If I’m at table with someone who is just staring ahead - sometimes I go like this [wave], but most of the time, I just let people be. They might be simply recalculating - wondering about the babysitter - wondering how their mom is - who was just operated on a week ago. Sometimes it’s good to be waved to - to realize there is another at the table - that there is another in the room. Sometimes it’s good to be alone - even in a crowd.
Another…. Another can get us out of ourselves. Another can get us into ourselves.
Who are the anothers in our life? What’s going on with us and with them?
TODAY IS THE FEAST OF CHRIST THE KING
Today is the feast of Christ the King. As you know the Christian meaning of this feast is that Jesus was not your ordinary kind of king. He was a king who washed feet and gave bread. He was a king who went incognito for 30 years. He was a king who reached out to the disenfranchised - unwashed - unwanted.
He was the other who asked us to be aware of others.
He was a king who was eventually rejected and killed on a cross - with 4 letters above his head: INRI. Jesus of Nazareth, King (Rex) of the Jews.
There is no J in Latin - so we have I for Jesus and I for Jews.
And we know that Jesus did not die alone. There was another on his right and another on his left. We know that Jesus was very aware of the two thieves who were crucified with him that day - as well as his mother and John and some of his friends down below.
It’s good to be with another when we’re dying. We know that and try to be with those we love - especially when they are dying.
It’s the Golden Rule. We would not want to alone when we are dying.
Today’s first reading and today’s gospel have the stark contrast question: Am I a sheep or a goat? It’s basically a good/bad contrast.
I’m a sheep - if I’m other centered and aware of others. That’s heaven.
I’m a goat - if I’m self centered and totally unaware of others. That’s hell.
I’ve always been intrigued by Jean Paul Sartre’s often quoted quote, “Hell is - other people.” It’s from his 1944 play, No Exit.
Did he mean that - or was he simply putting that feeling and those words into the mouth of a character in a play? He certainly had his relationships with friends like Simone de Beauvoir - and he certainly enjoyed his time with others in the coffee shops of Paris.
Then what about another? If the other is a goat - self centered - a royal pain in the butt - then another could be hell.
Jesus says as much in another of his great parables: that of Lazarus at His Gate. The rich man walks by the poor man, Lazarus, laying on the ground outside his gate every day. He never bothers to give him a “hi” or a “hello” a piece of bread, a glass of wine - and when both die - the poor man goes to heaven and the rich man goes to hell. [Cf. Luke 16: 19-31]
Jesus is saying that another can put us in hell - here and hereafter - because of our lack of awareness of another. Jesus is saying just that in today’s gospel - that the great judgment is - whether we were aware and did something for the hungry and the thirsty, whether we ever stopped to visit the sick or those in prison. [Cf. Matthew 25: 31-46]
If we’re aware of and help another, we’re a sheep and get a good judgment; if we are unaware of another and don’t do for another, we are a goat.
Every time the movie, The Fugitive, comes on TV, I watch it. That is, if I have some time and the clicker or remote and if I’m with another who doesn't mind mind if we leave it on.
If has so many scenes I like. The one I remember today is the scene when Harrison Ford, Dr. Richard Kimball, goes to the Chicago Cook County Jail. He has come up with a list of people in and around Chicago who have only have one arm and have a prosthesis. The guy in the jail is there for armed robbery. The Fugitive goes in - asks to see the guy for a visit. It takes time for the guy to be brought down for his visit. Dr. Kimball remembers roughly what the guy looked like - because he fought with him the night his wife Helen was killed in their home. The door opens and the guy heads for the visiting booth - where another can talk to another through the filters. The one armed man with a prosthesis is not the man. He’s African American and Richard Kimball knows it's not he. Kimball says something like, “Sorry, wrong person.” Well the guy says, “Wait. Don’t leave. You got me all the way down here. Talk for a little while.”
In today’s gospel Jesus says, “I was in prison and you did or didn’t visit me.”
I always wish Harrison Ford stopped to talk to the guy. From another angle, it’s a good thing - because he might have been caught that very minute. But I’ve often thought: “How many people are there in this world who are in prison and nobody ever talks to them?”
How many people feel like they are in prison - feel alone - because they have lost loved ones. And it’s hell!
THIS PARISH - OUR NEIGHBORHOODS
One of the things that stand out for me about Annapolis - besides the red bricks in town - is that Annapolis is neighborhoods.
How many people are there in all the homes around each of us - who feel all alone. They don’t have another.
When we read the gospels we sometimes apply the lessons and the message to people in the abstract - or people whom we don’t meet - like all those in state prisons or Somalia or the undocumented. How about those next door? How about those in our families? How about another whom we see and go by every day?
My hope for today: Maybe because of this sermon - someone will stop from being a goat and they become a neat sheep - and another has someone who meets them.
CONCLUSION - GOD: TRINITY
All this leads us to the great Another - God.
If we can’t get out of ourselves to another - people we can see in supermarkets and on lines - and in conversations - how can we see God whom we cannot see?
I don’t know about you, but the more I think about the Christian God, I find myself more grateful.
Another gave me this gift of faith: my parents. And their parents and their parishes gave it to them.
I didn’t choose being a Catholic for starters - but I’m grateful that it was chosen for me.
As kids we make the sign of the cross - an acknowledgment that there are three persons in God.
Amazing - for starters, God is not alone. God is Three. There is Another Who is connected to Another - Who is connected to Another. Father - Son - and Holy Spirit. Amazing.
And even though our God is, was, and ever shall be three - Another, Another and Another, - our God became one of us - another human being - Jesus - and that’s the theme we’ll be starting to look at again next Sunday - the First Sunday of Advent - as we prepare for the great feast of Christmas - the gift of God in another - a baby - then the growing Christ in our world.
Quote for Today - November 20, 2011
"Wisdom comes by disillusionment."
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905-1906
Spell out a wisdom statement that came to you as a result of a disillusionment. For example, "I should have listened to my friends about him [or her]. He [or she] was too good to be true. I guess I refused to look at what was staring me in the face.
Is the following true? There are 6 people in a marriage. The he, he thinks he is, the he, she thinks he is, the he, he really is. The she, she thinks she is. The she, he thinks she is. The she, she really is. Is that true? Or are there more - based on growth or decay?