My fancy new dual-body tumbling composter, I notice, is constructed primarily of plastic. This is, in a sense, a vinyl-clad irony: In an attempt to reduce my environmental footprint, my go-to tool has created demand for yet more plastic.
Which is to say, life is complicated.
At times, it can also be filled with an unexpected, exquisite beauty – as was the case last evening, when #1 Grandson proudly presented an intricate sculpture he’d just crafted with Brain Flakes.
I’m not sure exactly what the sculpture represents, but I was impressed by both its vibrance and its scale – so much so that I declared it an official addition to our dinner table: “Centerpiece for a Dinner in Ordinary Time.”
And as I ponder its splendor and complexity, I am moved to contemplate the tensions we often encounter in the spiritual life. That’s partly due to the guy we hear from in today’s first reading – the disobedient prophet Jonah.
His story (just two or three pages long) is among the shortest told in the Bible, and yet we learn that Jonah hears not one but two distinct call from the Lord. The first, he rejects – to his own peril, and to the peril of all around him. The second, he answers – but ends up resenting when God shows mercy to a people Jonah deems undeserving.
The second reading (in its own way) is no less unsettling. Paul tells the Corinthians that the end is near:
[T]ime is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them…those buying [act] as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
Yet here we are – 2000 years later – and still the world turns on its wobbly axis. What’s more, we’re now being told by reliable sources that the parts of our world built of plastic may never pass away.
So what are we to make of all this?
For starters, it says to me that we’d do well to look beyond human wisdom for many of the answers we seek. While giving the Pauls and Jonahs of the current day their due, it could be there are topics they don’t quite have all figured out.
Humility can indeed be a virtue. I wonder: How might our discourse change if we each nurtured a deep and honest humility in our hearts? Then, taking a cue from the Psalmist, we could begin each task by praying:
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.