Saturday, February 11, 2012

Past the Breaking Point

I don't know about you, but I complain a lot.

I complain about the persecutions involved in writing a stupid blog. I complain about dealing with difficult clients or nutty actors. I complain about that awful guitar music at Mass.

I complain about a lot of things, especially when I'm called to give of myself.

And then along comes St. Paul writing to the Corinthians (and us), saying, "God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor. 9:7) And if that phrase isn't annoying enough, he's saying it in the middle of a fund raising appeal! Much of the point of Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians is to encourage the Corinthians to follow through on a pledge they made a year prior (2 Cor. 8:10-11) and pony up the money for churches in need - because Paul is now sending out folks to collect it and pass it on (2 Cor. 8:16-24).

Well, just let me throw in my five bucks and be done with it. Just let me put in my hour at Mass on Sunday cringing at the bad pop music and go back home to take a nap. Just let me take the only talent I have left and bury it in the sand.

Jesus marvels at the widow who gives what little she has into the temple treasury, for though she gives little, she gives all of what she has. "For they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all that she had, her whole livelihood." (Mark 12:44)

By contrast, the followers of Jesus complain and carp about the woman with the alabaster box, who breaks it and pours the precious ointment over Our Lord's head. He rebukes them: "Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for me ... Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her." (Mark 14:6 & 8)

In both cases, the giving involved a breaking.

The widow gives everything and is broke.

The woman with the alabaster box breaks the box. It is in the breaking of this treasure that her love is expressed.

Both women are examples of what true love is. True love takes us past the breaking point.

One of the errors of our day is the mistaken belief that we can have our cake and eat it too, that we can give a gift and retain the gift we give, that we can break a treasure chest and yet keep it whole.

This is because there is a pain involved in love, even if love is expressed by opening a banana stand. To avoid that pain and that defeat, to avoid going broke, to avoid breaking the box we cherish, we compromise ourselves. We praise lying (to keep our politics from breaking), bad theology (to keep our lust from breaking), false idols (to keep our personal world from breaking), and in doing so we may indeed avoid the breaking, but in that breaking is the breaking of the bread, in that breaking is the fragmentation of the host which can not be shared and eaten unless broken, in that breaking is the sword which pierces a crucified heart and in that breaking is the blood and water which is poured out to save us.

1 comment:

Kevin F said...

Kevin you are a poet and a philosopher.

And I am so SICK of my complaining!