Sunday, February 24, 2008
How fortunate it is to be able to find all that it needs, as it were, at home, especially when it has a Host Who will put all good things into its possession, unless, like the Prodigal Son, it desires to go astray and eat the food of the swine!
It is reflections of this kind which vanquish devils. But, oh, my God and Lord, how everything is ruined by the vain habits we fall into and the way everyone else follows them! So dead is our faith that we desire what we see more than what faith tells us about -- though what we actually see is that people who pursue these visible things meet with nothing but ill fortune. All this is the work of these poisonous creatures which we have been describing. For, if a man is bitten by a viper, his whole body is poisoned and swells up; and so it is in this case, and yet we take no care of ourselves. Obviously a great deal of attention will be necessary if we are to be cured and only the great mercy of God will preserve us from death. The soul will certainly suffer great trials at this time, especially if the devil sees that its character and habits are such that it is ready to make further progress: all the powers of hell will combine to drive it back again.
Ah, my Lord! It is here that we have need of Thine aid, without which we can do nothing. Of Thy mercy, allow not this soul to be deluded and led astray when its journey is but begun. Give it light so that it may see how all its welfare consists in this and may flee from evil companionship. It is a very great thing for a person to associate with others who are walking in the right way: to mix, not only with those whom he sees in the rooms where he himself is, but with those whom he knows to have entered the rooms nearer the centre, for they will be of great help to him and he can get into such close touch with them that they will take him with them. Let him have a fixed determination not to allow himself to be beaten, for, if the devil sees that he has firmly resolved to lose his life and his peace and everything that he can offer him rather than to return to the first room, he will very soon cease troubling him. Let him play the man and not be like those who went down on their knees in order to drink when they went to battle -- I forget with whom -- but let him be resolute, for he is going forth to fight with all the devils and there are no better weapons than the Cross.
(St. Teresa Avila, Interior Castle)
There are parts of the gospel talking about the controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees. People often think that the Pharisees had a lot of problems, and so do the Jews now. Actually, by telling this controversy, the author of the gospel wants to teach us about our own conducts, not of the Jews.
In the Gospel of Luke 11:37-42, the Pharisees strongly criticize Jesus, because Jesus doesn’t wash his hands before eating. The Pharisees criticize Jesus not about hygienic matters, but more about ritual matters. This ritual is called haburot. It is a ritual purity, especially after performing exorcism and after being in contact with people. Remember the gospel readings of last week: Jesus performed exorcism and taught the crowds. The Pharisees criticize him as unclean, since he is eating without washing his hands. Here, the Pharisees are bewildered by something that is really unnecessary. They turn the ritual matters to the moral matters. As if they say, “You, Jesus, are morally unclean, since you don’t wash your hands before eating as the rituals said!”
However, Jesus’ reaction is amazing and surprising, the NIV’s translation writes, “But give what is inside the dish (what you have) to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.” Jesus is so clever. If the Pharisees twist the ritual law to the moral law, Jesus twists it back by emphasizing the importance of giving the food within the dish as alms, as the sign of ritual purity. Jesus doesn’t to be bothered by unnecessary ritual matters just for the sake of the ritual itself. Instead, he really emphasizes the social aspect of the ritual. That’s why he easily changes the debate from just the ritualistic view to the social view. By saying this, Jesus also justifies what he just did, that is, exorcism and teaching the crowds, are not something that make him or people unclean ritually, but make them clean ritually instead.
Many people think that the ritual purity is above all things, and this ritual makes people holy. Jesus doesn’t think so. The ritual can make people holy, but not automatically makes people holy. The ritual for the sake of the ritual is useless. And Jesus is always bothered with it. There is a story from the Eastern tradition.
There were a master and his disciples who sat down to worship in their Buddhist temple. Each evening the monastery cat would get in the way, this black cat also always meowed terribly. It really distracted the worshipers. So the master ordered that the cat be tied during evening worship.
After the master died the cat continued to be tied during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the monastery so that it could be duly tied during evening worship.
Centuries later, the master’s scholarly disciples wrote academic book on the liturgical significance of tying up a cat while worship is performed. The title of the book was “THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ROPE AND BLACK CAT IN THE LITURGICAL CEREMONY IN WORSHIPING GOD THE ALMIGHTY.” Impressed by this highly academic work, that community made this argument as an eternally unchanged dogma.
What a silly liturgical tradition and regulation!
Don’t be surprised that there are many modern Pharisees who do not know the life of the people in grass root promulgate unimportant liturgical regulation. These regulations, for example, forbid priest to give signs of peace, forbid cultural dances, clapping hands, altar girls in the mass. Perhaps those people consider shaking hands, dances, clapping hands, or women/girls as ritually unclean. Isn’t it a new kind of haburot / ritual cleanness, which really bothers Jesus?
Eucharist is a celebration of our faith on the death and resurrection of Christ. A celebration should have a social aspect. If a celebration really touch the very heart of the people, people can be moved to giving alms, or in other sense, people are moved to do many necessary social works. Eucharist can be a power that moves the society, as it was in the life of the early Church, if only there was no haburot.
We’d better listen to Jesus!