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Archive for October 28th, 2019

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The Discipline of Self-Awareness

Every now and again I have the feeling that Jesus must have lost patience with some of his audience, and that shows in a hint of sarcasm about those who purport to know most everything and are experts in all things save self-understanding.

In the passage which we’ve just read from the gospel of Saint Luke Jesus opens with the implication that we sometimes think we possess all the wisdom of the earth.  We know the weather, we can interpret enigmatic signs, and by implication we seem to know what’s best for other people.

DA5E931D-FBA8-4071-9648-5E1253BB3221Given all that abundance of knowledge about everything else, however, we can be surprisingly ill-informed about ourselves.  And the image of the plaintiff going to court is a good one that Jesus uses to make his point.  The plaintiff must have thought he had an air-tight case.  But he was done in by a critical lack of self-awareness.  So he naively but confidently approached the judge, assuming that victory would be his.  By the time it was all over, however, the process had chewed him up and spit him out.  Even a dollop of self-awareness could have saved him a lot of trouble, and it might have suggested that compromise sometimes is the better option, as opposed to risking and losing everything.

In today’s gospel Jesus invites us to to search for the self-awareness that in practice can change the course of our lives.  So important is Jesus’ advice that we even incorporate into the liturgy opportunities to own up to the need for self-awareness.  In the penitential rite that begins the Eucharist we confess our faults, and in the sacrament of reconciliation we confess yet again our sins.  Later this afternoon at our service of reconciliation we will all have the opportunity to confess our sins in conversation with another person — a confessor.  But the important point of all of this is that we approach the altar of the Lord to confess our sins.  So if by chance this afternoon you are coming to confess somebody else’s sins, please don’t.  Much better would be your chances for success if you went to some judge somewhere.

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+Today’s post is a sermon on Luke 12: 54-59 that I delivered on Friday October 25th.  The occasion was a liturgy for members of the Order of Malta, who had gathered at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, CA.  While I did not expect that this sermon would be remembered by the participants, little did I know that it would be eclipsed so quickly by events of the weekend.

Danville is not all that far from the fires that scorched Sonoma County this weekend, and the smoke from those fires drifted our way.  On top of that, the threat of high winds meant that the electric company had to turn off the power for nearly a million people, ourselves included.  So on Saturday evening the power went out, and it was scheduled to remain so until later today, Monday.

The impact was felt by all of us who woke up early on Sunday.  I woke up at 3:00 am, and there was absolutely nothing to do to occupy myself until the sun came up at 7:30.  No reading, no writing, no nothing.  And so for the next four hours I simply enjoyed the darkness and tried to fall back to sleep.  Mass later that morning was in a fairly dark chapel.  A bank of candles and a flashlight pierced the darkness, but it was much like it must have been in the 19th century.  Actually, it was a fascinating experiment on survival without power.

+On my recent visit to Frankfurt I was surprised by the reminders of the medieval city that are sprinkled through the old quarter of the city.  Most of the medieval city was flattened by the bombing of WW II, but the decision to rebuild just a portion of the old city gives a reminder of how interesting it must have been.

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