It’s the feast of St Joseph today, patron saint of workers because he was (apparently) a carpenter and one of the great supporting actor roles in history. In the glitter world the ego likes to inhabit or (if it is not strong enough to inhabit) to fantasize about inhabiting, all that matters is the Oscar for the main role.
Less confident egos may still be controlled by delusions of control and superiority without having the means or daring to show it. What matters is not so much the degree of fame or approval, which every ego, weak or strong, feeds on, but the work actually being done.
God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that through him the world might be saved. (Jn3:15)
It is (for many of us anyway) a sad thing that these words rankle with so many people who hear in them the very thing they are not saying. For those on the path of Christain discipleship (one day we might feel we can be called Christians, other Christs, but probably not today) these words have a different impact.
Energy. It comes in an infinite variety. Most of its forms, like the dark energy of the cosmos, we cannot even imagine. We recharge batteries, we sleep at night, we have good days and low days. Organisations go into the doldrums or buzz with life. It can be low key, like the rumination of cows in a time-space all their own, or the wired, impatient tension of an athlete in last-minute training. There is physical energy and the energy of a remembered word, cruel or loving, that lingers in the mind and shapes the electro-chemistry of our whole being for days.
I remember as a novice singing the words of the morning hymn every day : ‘the day is filled with splendour...” They rattled around I my memory like a jingle. One day it struck me that perhaps they actually meant something. They were not just a pious phrase repeated for centuries to keep the mind half-comatose, like spiritual koala bears munching on eucalyptus leaves.
Maybe the someone who wrote those words really felt that there was splendour filling each day whatever the emotional or geometric weather reading.
Jesus was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed. But some of them said, ‘"It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils"
There’s always someone to spoil the fun or to think, as in so much of our media, that cynicism is the right, response to enthusiasm. Somewhere lurking in the ego there is a little mechanism that is triggered whenever it senses expansion of spirit. It tries to pull down, draw back and control.
This is the subtext of all the practices of Lent which are designed to remind us how easily we forget this and how simply we can remember it.
Etty Hillesum was a young vivacious Jewish woman who perished in Auschwitz in 1943. In the midst of the horror of the deportation of the Jews from her native Holland she underwent a personal spiritual awakening that has resonated down the decades.
The Christian message, born of an insight deeper than words and transmitted through the full silence of the Spirit, is embarrassing. “God became human so that human beings might be come God.”
This refrain of the early theologians sounds more daring than many theologians would risk today and it strongly resisted the attempts of gnostical dualism to dilute it. What it means, of course, can only be understood through the experience of our lives when we try, weakly most of the time, to live as if it were the central truth, the real thing in all circumstances.
In the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market. Jn 2:13
He was certainly not a politician and did not mince his words. He acted in accordance with his higher feelings and paid the price of alienating those who held power.
What do a lost sheep, a lost silver coin and a lost son all have in common? They are all lost, of course; but also, in the parables of Jesus, they are all found. Their re-discovery triggers joyful celebrations. The people who lost and found want and need to share their relief and happiness and call their friends and neighbours together.
Happiness, like fear, anger and sadness, is infectious and, though for different reasons, calls out to be shared.