27 Sunday A – When Things Fall Apart
The gospel parables give us hints as to who Jesus is and the hope his mission offers. The parable of the rebellious tenants this Sunday is especially hard to understand. It’s a metaphor about the mission of Christ and it doesn’t have a happy ending. It looks at his life from the perspective of the victim, Jesus being killed and rejected by all. Like it or not, but that’s how the gospel writers portrayed him writes theologian and scripture scholar Rowan Williams – MEETING GOD IN MARK, pp. 53 ff.
Too many Christians carry an image of God as an all-powerful individual who can do mighty things from ‘up there.’ Many wonder today why God isn’t stopping the pandemic and restoring things to normal. There’s nothing wrong with praying for this. We pray daily for the victims of the pandemic, for the bereaved, health workers, governments, and indeed for an end to it. Our prayers don’t change God; God changes us. By our prayers we invite God to be and to act in our lives ‘down here.’
In the parable, God is compared to a winery owner. The picture Isaiah draws of winemaking (first reading) suggests much thankless toil. Job 14,1 didn’t have to remind us that life is full of trouble, nor did the author of Ecclesiastes have to tell us that life can be unfair, even meaningless at times… Eccl 8, 9ff. We all have had our moments, and we will have more. At such times, we look to Jesus who has been there before us and knows how to deal with life’s worst vagaries. He is the great compassionate one who walked to his own rejection and death so we would have hope.
The 29-yr-old Jewish martyr Etty Hillesum wrote this on her way to Auschwitz in 1943: “There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells G-d. Sometimes I am there, too. And that is all we can manage these days and also all that really matters: that we safeguard that little piece of You, G-d, in ourselves.” Note her second-person usage, talking to “You, G-d” quite directly and personally. There is a Presence with her, even as she is surrounded by so much suffering. And notice the respect she shows the divine name: G-tt (German) the unmentionable “I am who am.” Cf. Etty Hillesum, DIARIES AND LETTERS FROM WESTERBORK, 1941-43.
Somehow, as believers, our vocation in this pandemic must be first to restore what Richard Rohr calls “the Divine Center,” by holding it and fully occupying it ourselves. It’s a contemplative activity if you don’t mind the paradox! It means we can “safeguard that little piece of You, God,” as Etty Hillesum describes it. What other power do we have? Jesus hung to that Divine Center on the cross as he saw “the annihilation of the fullness of life he had hoped to bring slipping away” – Timothy Radcliffe, ALIVE IN GOD, p. 141. And he prayed in complete trust, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” And what happened? “The stone rejected by the builders became the corner stone.” There’s always hope, even when “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Fr. QQ – 09/30/2020