2 Timothy 2:8-15 & Luke 17:11-19
The patterns of life help us predict and control the chaos of creaturely existence. But there arises inevitably the unforeseen variable. The variable may visit in the form of a disruption in a system; as a tipping point or breaking point. Or a sudden reversal or unexpected contradiction can interrupt the flow of a familiar pattern. We witness this in all fields of human experience, from economics to meteorology to evolutionary biology to poetry. The loss of control that accompanies such variables can be truly terrifying. But there is another law of creaturely existence to bear in mind: without the unforeseen variable, genuine change cannot emerge. Without the couplet at the end of the sonnet that unlocks the poem’s meaning, the reader will remain unmoved by the galloping rhyme and meter that brought her there. For us, the Holy Spirit is this change agent. The Holy Spirit is made known within us as what theologian Karl Rahner called “an interior pressure by which we become more.” Such moments are usually the cumulative effect in our praying consciousness of many seeds of grace planted and forgotten, tended in the nourishing darkness of God. Moments of becoming unfold in real time as the fruition of a pattern, but what they point to is something altogether unpredictable. We can witness them if we have eyes to see. They break upon our hearing if we are attentive to how we listen.
The authors of scripture were well-attuned to the basic momentum of the Holy Spirit, that “interior pressure to become more” pulsing within the collective life of Christ’s new Body. They interiorized and recorded the testimony of those who had witnessed, at firsthand, the great unforeseen variable of The Resurrection. The cross and empty tomb together represented the sudden reversal by which God’s wisdom and power shone forth in the least likely, promising, or predictable ways. I want to explore the ways our Epistle and our gospel text show us this relationship between the pattern and the unforeseen variable in the shape of Christian life.
Read by Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
I Thessalonians 5:18
I have a memory of my 5th-grade teacher asking us to write a short paragraph describing the things in our lives for which we were thankful. I don’t recall any of the specifics of that assignment, but I do recall having a terrible case of “writer’s block.” I sat for the longest time just staring at that piece of paper. I couldn’t think of a thing for which I was thankful.
Recalling it now, it seems shocking to me that a 5th-grade boy growing up in suburban America, with plenty of food and warm clothes and a comfortable home and a loving family, couldn’t think of anything for which he was thankful. I was surrounded by gifts, but I didn’t recognize them as gifts, and so I couldn’t begin to express my gratitude for them. I suppose I naively assumed that everyone had food and clothing, a loving family and a comfortable home. I was unaware of how privileged I was to enjoy these things on a daily basis, and simply took them for granted.
When I was home last week to visit family and friends I witnessed a scenario that I think most of us have seen many times throughout our lives. A mother, picking up some items in the grocery store on her way home, her small boy sitting in the grocery cart, runs into a friend of hers. For a moment the boy is lavished with attention and the lady gives him a piece of candy. At once the mother asks the boy, “Now, what do you say?” The question is followed by a suspenseful moment where the mother hopes her son will take the bait and recall a scene which naturally has been rehearsed many times up to this point. I am happy to report that the boy smiled and in broken English said “thank you,” the friend doted more on the boy, and the mother stood there beaming with pride and probably a little relief.
The gospel writer of Luke tells the story of ten lepers who encounter Jesus travelling between Galilee and Samaria. Because of their illness, they were social outcasts, forbidden to associate with those who were considered ritually clean. But Jesus’ fame was spreading throughout the region and they had most likely heard stories of his healing. So they approach him carefully, keeping their distance, and they beg him for mercy. Jesus then says something curious: ‘go and show yourselves to the priests.’
Deuteronomy 8:-1; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Luke 17:11-19
Among the many things which I like about living in America is this day – Thanksgiving. My family and friends in England don’t know quite what it is. They sort of combine it with the 4th of July and think it’s a kind of thanksgiving for having got rid of the British! But I’ve explained it to them now, and they even phone and wish me Happy Thanksgiving. So, what is Thanksgiving about? If it’s not thanks for getting rid of the British, what is it about? It’s got to be more than just the prelude to the biggest shopping spree of the year!
Thanksgiving’s got something to do with this story of a woman out shopping on Black Friday. She was in the middle of the packed mall, and felt the need of a coffee break, So she bought herself a little bag of cookies, put them in her shopping bag, and got in line for a coffee. She found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, took the lid off her coffee, and taking out a magazine she relaxed and began to sip her coffee and read. Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper.