6th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
The other night I went out to dinner with two friends. They mentioned that they went out all the time which surprised me because they are very fit. Then they asked me if I liked leftovers. I said I do and love to eat anything. It was a great meal because it was Ferrari’s and I devoured everything before me. Then I noticed they each took a small, reasonable and satisfying portion and kept the rest for leftovers they would eat for the rest of the weekend. This I promise you, is a thought that has never, ever, occurred to me. The leftover conversation made more sense now but I realized that while I am a consumer of leftovers, I am not a creator of leftovers.
This applies to the Gospel where we hear, “Blessed are you who are now hungry, for you will be satisfied.” And sure enough, those who were not filled had food aplenty and I came home with nothing. I only thought of now as opposed to thinking of a wider time span. “Now” is a key, subtle word in the Gospel. Those who are poor now will be rich, the hungry now will be satisfied, the weeping now will laugh and those who are hated, excluded and bullied should leap for joy. Things not only can change, they will change. And changes come for those who are currently fortunate – the rich become poor, the filled go hungry, the laughing will weep and those who are well thought of turn out to be frauds.
We forget things like change and growth and only emphasize the now. If you see someone you know, what do you say to them? (How are you?) They are asking for our status now. And we want an answer that reflects positively on ourselves. It is the question we are obsessing about when no one asks it. We want to feel that we are in a successful place in the moment as if that is the only moment that will ever be. As if “now” defines your success, your beauty and your being. There is no space to grow into something; something that God has planned for you.
The tyranny of now leads to sin. In our effort to win “now,” we take before things are due to us; we seek satisfaction without sacrifice; we put ourselves before others. That is the reason Jesus so sharply contrasts the blessings with the woes. For the rich of his time gained their position often through exploitation, the well fed had to answer for all the hungry around them and the self-satisfied ignore the injustice faced by so many.
Thank God we have the Smith Defensive Driving System to answer all our problems. If you have not heard of it, it was a big deal in driver’s education on Long Island in the early 1980s. The first rule is to aim high in steering. The world of driving does not end at the end of your hood. It recommends you look fifteen seconds down the road. To do so you must lift your chin a little higher. We can look beyond today and embrace our becoming. The song in Rent claims, “There is no day but today.” But there are other days, like tomorrow. We are not only a point on a line. We are pilgrims on a journey growing into the grace God has prepared for you. Unless there is more than just the now, we cannot live in hope.
The second rule is also helpful. See the big picture. We are not the only car on the road. This is not just about me, but about we. We live among others and we must account for their welfare. Another common question shows us our failure to see the big picture. When asked, “What do you do?,” we always respond with our occupation. Have you ever considered answering “I am a merciful person?” Or “I am compassionate friend?” or “a great mother?” We need to operate in a bigger field. No story is complete unless the whole picture is in view.
This is simply seeing things the way God sees them. God knows we are on a journey and allows it to develop. Last week, we heard that love is patient. Therefore, God is patient too. Look at evolution. Can you imagine a more patient way to create the world than allowing it to grow in relationship and in harmony? Think of the redemption of Jesus. He did not fly on to the scene the moment that Adam and Eve ate of the fruit. Instead he came in the fullness of time when his message could be heard and absorbed. Pope Francis has a lovely image. He describes space as the now, cramped and fixed. But time flows over space, offering new vistas and hopes. We are not imprisoned by the now, but we are filled with the potential of the Spirit that burns within us. Our “now” is a precursor to the glory God intends. Let us allow ourselves to grow into God’s peace.