Showing posts from August, 2013

A feast of the poor and the lame

Jesus' parable this Sunday (Luke 14.7014) is about seating plans. One could, I suppose, take his command quite literally and throw parties at your house for the very poor, though to do so might seem rather Victorian, in the 'let them have soap' sort of sense, and I doubt whether many would want to come along. But this is, after all, a parable: so perhaps we can find a wider meaning.

First, it obviously says something about the pecking order, and our own perceptions of where we belong in it. Put yourself at the bottom so you won't be embarrassed when someone else puts you where you belong - sound advice, no doubt. But I think we need to go deeper, and question the whole nature of this order. What does it mean, and frankly, what does it matter where I belong in it?

Secondly, it says something about choice. A good host spends time deciding who should sit where: who will get on with whom, who really won't, who shall we land with the notorious bore? Such considerations …

"I came not to bring peace, but a sword"

The peace of God which passeth all understanding. So begins the traditional blessing. But what is this peace of Christ? 

From Jesus' words today, it seems a rather strange sort of peace: the peace that is born of fire and the sword, distress, division of families and communities. Is that what I am wishing on you when I bless you at the end of Mass?If that is indeed the peace of Christ, then no one can say that Jesus did not practice what he preached. Look at his own family. His mother was promised, earlier on in Luke's infancy narrative, that her heart would be pierced by the sword. And so it surely would be, when she stood and watched only son die on the cross. 

This, I think, is part of the rationale of the great Christian feast celebrated last Thursday, of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Very ancient tradition has said that Our Lady did not die, but rather passed without death straight into heaven. The idea is, I think, that as a mother watching her own child's…

Avarice and attachment

Have you heard the one about why don't Buddhists don't hoover under their sofas? It's because they've got rid of all their attachments.

Of course, in Buddhism, 'attachments' doesn't really refer to a vacuum cleaner's nozzles. According to the Buddha, we exist in a state of suffering, and this is because we crave things, because we are always wanting. The remedy he taught is to get rid of those cravings, to sever all attachments. "He who has a thousand loves has a thousand sufferings," as one Buddhist saying goes.

Jesus sounds quite Buddhist today when he warns us about our tendency to get attached to things we shouldn't. Things of the world. In the parable, it's a bigger storeroom, to stock up more and more food the rich man will never eat. I suppose a modern analogue would be a bigger garage or a house with a bigger attic to store up all the stuff we want to keep but never use. But there's far more to it than that, of course. Jes…