Resolutions, resolutely ordinary

I have listened to this gospel reading countless times. It is simple and easy to remember. And it is read in churches that are usually quiet, since many of the New Year revelers are still asleep after a long night of celebration. I like that. My life is busy enough and any bit of quiet and calm is welcomed without hesitation. The appointed reading of the Luke gospel closes as follows:

 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

The Reading

This pithy statement comes at the end of Old and New Testament readings with talk of holy mountains, thundering voices from the heavens, grand appointments to apostleship and singing angels. We are now left with some mundane things: a common Jewish practice, a common Jewish name, a common family affair.

A deeper, practical significance of the text never dawned on to me until this year. I had kept the Christmastide decidedly low-key. No big travel plans, no huge expenses, no big feasts or meals to attend and no elaborate decorations. At this time of year when some very firm resolutions tend to be on the minds and lips of many, I found it a most happy opportunity to sit in peace and ponder.

It turns out my thoughts needed some major reorganization. Some needed to be tossed out, others needed to be sharpened and still others needed to steep a bit more in a brew of reason and heart to produce something of worth later on.

The Practice

Barbara Mahany, author of Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door encourages us to “live sacramentally; lift even the most ordinary moments into holiness. Weave the liturgical into the everyday.” Mary, precious and highly favored as she is, I think, would agree. And so, when she and her husband Joseph have to comply with a steadfast Jewish tradition, there are no bells and smells. There are more likely cries and screams, and efforts to keep a little boy as steady as possible during a most painful procedure. But Mary “treasured them all and pondered them in her heart”

My Christmastide was filled with conversations – long as well as short—with a variety of people. Connecting, reconnecting, and deepening. Armed with a bag of scrumptious cookies one of my (many) cousins had baked I sat on porches, on the side of streets and in messy homes with all kinds of people. Someone celebrating a birthday, a chat with someone who’s had a rough year and a candid sit-down with an old friend whose religious life seems to be in turmoil.

The Reflection

It may seem like it was burdensome, but it was intensely liberating. With no pressure and rush to fill up my space with accoutrements of the season, I used my time to fill up the space of others; and found, quite unexpectedly, the adornments of the season in self-giving, in scaling back on expenses and food to have a feast of relationships and thoughts. Mahany explains: “[…] find that holy poetry in life, […] realize that it’s right here in the words our children whisper to us as we’re tucking them in, in what we see outside our kitchen door,”

So, there I was in Mass during the Feast of the Circumcision of the Lord; in the sanctuary of a quaint dimly lit building, pondering the things I had experienced in a short season. I made no great resolutions, just a commitment to sifting joy and peace out of simple events. One ordinary day at a time.

 

Handling a case of (far- from-) collegial one-upmanship

I work with some very complicated individuals. It’s a about the nicest thing I can say under the circumstances described hereafter.

The account is not to elevate myself over others or be haughty; it is simply a practical way to wisely apply the dictum “But speak with a fool according to your wisdom lest he think in his soul that he is wise” from the Hebrew scripture in its book of Proverbs in the Aramaic Bible in Plain English . It is imperative to address such matters effectively as it tells of an unhealthy work environment that destroys collegiality and undermines the purported positive goals of any organization; in particular, schools

Upon returning to work after a bout with a nasty case of sinusitis, and, still recuperating, I was asked why I knew so much about two different topics and if that was the result of having to stay up late to study matters. I started laughing uncontrollably, forgetting for a moment about my headache and cough. First, it was an admission by this colleague that while, I may seem quiet, I am a keen observer. The colleague in question tried to one-up me for what is likely insecurity or unfounded competitiveness. As a result, I deemed it necessary to usher myself into an impromptu history class ; one my colleague thought was a mastered domain, but in which there were very obvious gaps. Also, it concerned the history of my birth land Aruba of which I had to know a lot for my history classes  and which was part of my final thesis in high school ( yes, I had to hand over 15 pages *and* defend them at the age of 18) Second, the laughter came about as a reminder that I do not “make extra time” for learning , questioning and discovering; instead I breathe, eat and drink education — in the fullest sense of the word– as a way of life. My background and some really dedicated teachers are responsible for this product and shows that things can be different. My thanks to them is eternal.

Swords into Ploughshares

A piece that encourages pause, reflection and perspective in light of the recent tumult in the world. Thanks to Wesley Hill for the post (http://bit.ly/1oyZJS9)

Swords into plowshares, literally

Continue reading Swords into Ploughshares