While channel surfing early on a Saturday morning, I came across an infomercial for "MyPillow." As the camera panned the enraptured audience, I wondered how much these people are paid to sit through, and act interested in the presentation. Do they get cash? A free pillow? Then I thought about how much I was being paid to watch this, and over my lifetime, thousands of additional hours of worthless programming. Time lost to me forever. This brought to mind my favorite saying of rabbi Abraham Heschel: "Living is not a private affair of the individual. Living is what man does with God's time..."
These thoughts resonated with me when I read this Sunday's letter from Paul to the Corinthian's. He writes:
"Brothers and sisters: There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another, the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another, faith by the same Spirit; to another, gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another, mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another, discernment of spirits; to another, variety of tongues; to another, interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes." (1Corinthians 12:4-11)
In author J.K. Rowling's magical world of Harry Potter, "muggles" were those people unaware of the power and the gifts within them. Like the Corinthian's, and, too often, myself, muggles are preoccupied with the mundane and profane, the hustle and bustle, buying and selling, work and play of their everyday lives.
Dave Pruitt, in his book, "Reason and Wonder", tells of an awkward teenage girl named Jeanne, who used to walk with her dog around Central Park in New York. On two occasions, she nearly knocked over an elderly gentleman. The old man offered to walk with her. So, for more than a year, Jeanne and the old gentleman met several times a week in the park. Jeanne called him "Mr. Tayer" because she could not get the first part of his long French name.
Jeanne felt Mr Tayer's unpretentiousness and childlike wonder transformed the most ordinary experience-like stumbling upon a caterpillar-into a moment of enchantment, as she recounts:
"Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?"
"Oh yes," I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly pimply faced teenager.
"Then think of your own metamorphosis," he suggested. "What will you be when you become a butterfly, une papillon, eh? What's the butterfly of Jeanne"?...
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about Mr. Tayer was the way he would suddenly look at you. He looked at you with wonder and astonishment regarding you as the cluttered house that hides the holy one. I would tell my mother, "Mother, I was with my old man again, and when I am with him, I leave my littleness behind."
Years later, Jeanne was given a copy of the book, "The Phenomenon of Man." And she discovered that "Mr. Tayer" was Jesuit priest, paleontologist, author and mystic, Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Jeanne of this story is Dr. Jean Houston, world renowned protege of Margaret Meade, and a founder of the human potential movement. Houston's chance encounter and subsequent meetings with "old Mr. Tayer" changed her life as no other event ever did. "I leave my littleness behind," she remarked, "because he saw God in me and I had to rise."
I need to remind myself that the Divine Presence within Dr. Houston, and the first century Corinthians Paul is addressing, is also within me and all of us. In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke10: 38-42), Jesus tells us the way to Himself. Martha, who is burdened by doing all the housework while her sister Mary sits at Jesus's feet, complains to our Lord:
"Do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me." The Lord said to her in reply, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her."
The "one thing" was simply this: Mary was, in love and humility, present to Him. She was open, receptive ,in the moment, in a state of complete silent surrender to Our Lord. When Paul writes that "the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit" I think he means not only for the good of the community, but for the development and manifestation of my very being, my very soul. I am created in God's image and likeness, a Temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, I am responsible for seeking the Divine, hidden in plain sight within me. And I must use "God's time" wisely, awaken my caterpillar self, and be a living, breathing icon, witnessing to God's immeasurable love and kindness.
Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.