Friday, February 22, 2013

Snow Blankets Mount Michael-- Abbot Michael's Second Lenten Conference

Tuesday's (Febr.19th) first's reading at the Eucfharist will be forever cemented in my mind in a musical way. Abbot Gregory Polan of Conception Abbey put Isaiah 55: 10-11 to a beautiful musical setting. Snow and Rain Blanket the Earth. Isn't that an a wonderful image: the earth being gently blanketed-- blanket used as a verb.

Below are some images of this blanket of snow when I walked to the abbey after today's Eucharist-- the Feast of the Chair of Peter! Enjoy the beauty-- the clamness-- the quiet-- the peace!!

Blessings on your day!!!

The birds had to dig for food this morning!!

Below is a photo my sister, Judy Hoppe, sent me this morning. She lives in Albion, Ne. and is a RN at the Boone County Hospital. She works night shifts and the photo was probably taken early morning after work. The view is outside the Hoppe home overlooking the Albion Golf Course , the town and Ethanol Plant in the backgroound. Looks as if they have much more snow than we do!!

Below is Abbot Michael's Second Lenten Conference.

Let us return again to the parable of wedding feast. Allow me to read that parable once again.

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

22 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen."

In the parable, the king sends out three waves of servants desperately trying to get people to come to the wedding banquet. The first wave of servants is met with simple rejection. They refused to come. The reaction to Jesus' invitation is too often rejection. You do not believe in the one he has sent. You do not want to come to me to have life. Jesus asks that we rejoice over the same things over which he himself rejoices. After the king hears from his first wave of servants that the guests will not come, the king sends out a second set of servants to find some guests. There is no word of reproach by the king. Christ does not vent his frustration with an expression of fury. There is only this burning desire to have people come to celebrate his joy. . The king does not respond with condemnation. The king responds with more pleading. In the Greek church during the triduum, Christ is pictured as the suffering bridegroom. When the second wave servants is sent out, they are met with excuses. I have my business to tend to. I have my fields that I have to take care of. We used to sing that song in this chapel. “I cannot come to the banquet don’t bother me now. I have married a wife. I have bought me a cow. I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum, pray hold me excused I cannot come.” People seize on any excuse they can think of to avoid having to attend the wedding feast. Another group of those invited is even worse. They seized the servants, mistreated them and even killed them. To be invited by a king to a royal banquet had to rank as the greatest privilege in the ancient world. But the people in the parable would not come. Not only is there a rejection of love and joy out of disinterest. Not only is there an exaggerated immersion of each person in his own affairs. There is even such hostility to the invitation that the messengers are siezed and killed.

The parable of the wedding banquet comes in chapter 22 of the gospel of Matthew. In chapter 21 we have just had the account of Jesus entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The chief priests and the pharisees are plotting against Jesus and questioning his authority and authenticity. Jesus replies with the parable of the two sons, and the parable of the wicked servants in the vinyard. Both parables imply that those caretakers of the promise have failed in their responsibility. The scribes and pharisees realize that he is speaking about them and it only reinforces their resolve to do away with Jesus. There is a Greek word used in these parables and in the parable of the wedding banquet which is kratesei - which means to grab hold of, but also to exert power over.

The chief priests and scribes want to exert authority over Jesus. There is a clash between Jesus who is a well spring of life and joy and the Jewish leaders who want to contain him, who do not wish to have their order disrupted. They want to silence him so as to maintain the status quo. The text says Jesus replies to their hostility by telling them another parable. This manner of reply is a commentary on the sort of person Jesus is. Jesus never retaliates in kind. This is a living out of the beatitudes. Every new insult and rejection seems only to stimulate another reply from Jesus - an appeal to their instinct for happiness and joy. Jesus responds to the implicit threats of the scribes and the pharisees with the parable of the banquet, an image of the new kingdom of God.

It is almost painful to hear the portrait of human perversity represented by the invited guests who refuse to accept from God what they most desperately need and want. I cannot come to this celebration. I have my personal set of priorities. I do not have time to be bothered with your priorities. "...they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business..." What in effect we are saying to the king is that I will not come because I refuse to relinquish control of my destiny. I believe that I know better than anyone else what brings joy and satisfaction to my life. I refuse to consider other option. I cannot come to your banquet. I have work to do. I have a business to take care. I have a field to tend to. As if slaving at a job for an entire week and then collapsing into mind numbing oblivion over a weekend is any kind of representation of a joyful, satisfying life. Autonomy, achievement and control are truly the enemies of joy. There could not be a clearer refusal of joy by modern man. Your work should not define you. Your business should not control you. Your fields will remain long after you have gone. Really - you have no time to come to a banquet, a celebration of riches which is freely offered by the one who can give you happiness. Human arrogance could hardly be more painful. An exaggerated immersion of each in his own affairs led to a rejection of love and joy. Unfortunately, it likely safe to say that this self centered focus, the emphasis on individualism is one of the great blights of modern monasticism. I am more interested in what I am doing than in thinking about, considering or even enjoying the larger picture. In our Lenten reflections, we might think if we have been guilty of this kind of refusal of joy.

What Jesus offers this parable to us as a close image of the kingdom of God is the wedding feast. God fosters the deepest potential for creativity and joy. Absolutely no one who toils or works any harder to share his joy than the king in the parable. He works in overdrive to make sure everyone is invited, that no one feels left out, that there is no reason that everyone cannot come to partake of his joy. And it is not just an ordinary banquet. It is the wedding feast of the king's son. He offers and freely gives away what is most his own. I have slaughtered my calves, and my lambs so that the food will be magnificent. I have not withheld any of my riches so that the feast will be royal not only in name but in fact. He has personally and carefully overseen every stage of the preparation for the feast. With this parable Jesus is struggling mightily to present the least inadequate picture of what God has prepared for us. Jesus is striving to paint for us a portrait of God's everlasting love. A sad lack of imagination and yearning is one of the causes of our refusal of joy. We can't believe that this wonderful offer is truly for real and that it is offered to us for free, at absolutely no cost to us at all. Come eat and drink, why do you spend your money and your effort for that which does not satisfy. We don't trust our own yearning. Jesus already possesses the sublime glory of which he speaks. In his writing Pope Benedict XVI sees Jesus as making himself into the living Torah, he is the living embodiment of the new covenant God makes with man. Jesus speaks with authority because he is the living law. This law requires nothing more from us than a response. In this parable, Jesus is telling the story of his own hoped for banquet with human beings.

Men's order to God is disorder. For God order is the integration of many disparate parts which all somehow fit together and work together. Divine order is the communion of difference among many disparate organims for the benefit of the entire organim. For God order is diversity serving the common good. For human beings order effectively translates into no diversity. For human beings, order is mindless uniformity. For human beings order is lockdown. In the parable of the good Good Samaritan, a man has been attacked and has been hurt. People walk by because they are afraid that if they get involved, somehow harm will come to them also. Sometimes people won't respond to those in need because they are afraid of being wounded again. The temptation is to never trust again. It is as if we prefer to be a walking dead person rather than opening up to love. Jesus' desire is to give life abundantly and effectively and efficiently. It is interesting that God in his love nevertheless remains just. God does not merely ignore or overlook the evil human beings wreak. Those who seize and kill the servants are punished. But the just punishment of God is not for vengeance. God’s activity is always for the purpose of transformation. To take us away from ourselves into himself. The love of God is never merely simply tolerant nor unmindful of faults. The love of God is intended to bring us into his joy. Those invited to the banquet will be changed by God's love. But we have to respond in the first place if we wish to be transformed.

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