Children have it easy when it comes to obeying authority. They know the drill: Adults are in charge, do what they tell you. When adults collide, what Mom and Dad say trumps the older sibling, the neighbor, the teacher, and the stranger.
Exploring the Word
More theology wars are likely to be fought over the meaning of Christmas than the substance of Lent. While many Christians gear up to do battle every December against an interesting assortment of enemies—Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty, the retail industry, and the term “X-mas,” just for starters—nobody seems to have energy left over to take on the secular foes of the Lenten season.
The man was serious: “I carry the memory of that night in me like a sickness,” he told me, shuddering. He was talking about a terrible choice he’d made long ago: what he’d done, what he’d failed to do—and how it affected people he loved, his career, his sense of himself.
So here you are, moving through life cheerfully in the midst of family, community, career. And one day you wake up with a mark on your skin. It itches. Maybe in a day or two it starts to peel, crack, bleed, or ooze.
We see a lot of things advertised with that four-letter word these days: “Free!” And we’ve grown wisely skeptical of such claims. We’ve all learned by now, sometimes bitterly, that there’s no free lunch, no free subscriptions, and no free merchandise. (And nobody in Nigeria wants to wire a lot of money to your bank account, you internet users!)
One of my favorite teachings from the epistles is almost a throwaway line from Colossians 3:21: “Fathers, do not nag your children, lest they lose heart.” That’s the old ICEL translation from the breviary, anyway.
I’m not going to pretend that I know a thing about fishing. But I do know a thing or two about casting nets and being caught in them. And isn’t being caught how each of us discovers our vocation?
The young boy sleeps in the shrine, curled up in the most sacred spot in Israel, though he can scarcely appreciate it. Dedicated to God in his mother’s womb, Samuel was delivered into the service of religion without ever being asked what he wanted.
January’s probably not the month most of us like to go swimming. I’ve heard of groups that take a swim in the ocean every January 1, but that sort of chilling experience is not how I personally want to dive into 2009.
That introduces the problem in the eternal story of powers and principalities. So doggone many earthly authorities vie for our allegiance. We try to juggle our obedience to laws both mortal and divine, splayed between church and state or personal profit and love of neighbor.