It’s getting close now, the bottom of the jar. ‘Peter Pan Creamy’ peanut butter, to be precise. And I won’t mind polishing it off…getting that jar out of the pantry once and for all…so that I can return to my much-preferred variety of the bread spread: ‘Extra Crunchy.’
So how did ‘Creamy’ get into our pantry in the first place? That’s one of life’s little mysteries.
Actually, it’s no mystery at all: My beloved wife bought it a month or two ago, when I put ‘peanut butter’ on the grocery list. She pretty much bought it for me. She never touches the stuff herself—either variety, Creamy or Extra Crunchy.
What is a mystery is this: How can the love of my life…the woman to whom I’ve been married for 38 years…not know this about me? How can she not know that ‘Crunchy’ is absolutely, positively, irredeemably, inalterably the peanut-butter-way-to-go?
Remarkable, isn’t it – how we can be mysteries to each other…even to those to whom we are intimately close?
Heck, we are often mysteries to ourselves.
And, I suppose, rather mundane mysteries, too: Like, ‘why in tarnation can’t I stop eating so much peanut butter…when I know darn good and well I’m trying to lose a little weight?’
The prophet Isaiah seems to be wrestling with this sort of human dynamic in the passage we hear at Mass on Sunday (Is 5: 1-7). He tells of his friend, who poured hours and hours of tender loving care into his vineyard, only to be disappointed at harvest time:
Why, when I looked for the crop of grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?
It’s a mystery, isn’t it? We try to be good stewards of our spiritual lives. We say our prayers. We spend our daily quiet time with the Lord. And still, the weeds pop up…the brambles and rootworms appear.
I wonder if part of the issue might revolve around self-reliance. We tend to take great confidence in our strengths as individuals…in our ability – with a little effort and discipline – to lick this thing. But perhaps our confidence is misplaced.
I noticed that Sunday’s gospel reading also offers the story of a vineyard gone to seed. Those who first hear the story are inclined toward reaction and retribution as a remedy for the vinegrower: ‘He will put those wretched men to a wretched death.’ But the Master seems to have an entirely different solution in mind:
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…
Christ, the Cornerstone, offers an alternative to self-reliance. Christ invites us to go deep into Him – and there, perhaps, to gain insight into the profound mystery of self.
When we pause to hear Christ’s voice, in the depths of our conscience, we find the true source of our power. And by staying connected to that Vine, we are released – ever so gently, ever so gradually – from the grip of evil desires and sin.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.