Elections produce overwhelming hope or overwhelming disappointment. On the Wednesday morning after a national election, one half of the country wakes up disappointed with the other half. If it’s our candidate who’s won, we celebrate the new day dawning. In defeat we ruminate, despairing for the future and wondering bitterly about fraud.
Did the “worthless slave” know the story of the foolish bridesmaids? When they did not preserve the oil for their lamps, the women were locked out of the party. We could understand why, if the slave knew that story, he would focus on preserving his money. But now he is locked out while the bridesmaids cry until their mascara runs, and all gnash their teeth.
Marriage does not exist only for companionship or procreation or complementarity. It has a cruciform shape, like other ascetical practices, and is a transformative experience for the two individuals. In marriage, God intends not only to alleviate human loneliness but to effect human salvation.
Jesus called the young ruler to a new kind of material life, a life given to serving the poor with the “materials” of tears, blood and sweat. Clearly, this life is not marked by the kinds of happiness used to sell goods. But we do honor Jesus’ call in our culture when we honor volunteers and all those who serve others.
My grandfather was a retired navy officer when he died, so we held his funeral at Arlington National Cemetery. We were greeted at the gates by armed guards. Taps played while my grandfather’s ashes were put into a horse-drawn casket. An American flag was folded and presented to my grandmother. At the funeral we saw how the military gives meaning even to death, shape even to destruction, and an idealistic aura to aggression.
A strange king is likely to have a strange kingdom, and the kingdom of Jesus is no exception. The kingdom of Christ is a multilateral community, marked by a deep mutual love and an ongoing push to ever greater love. Our difficulty is not in envisioning the image of community. Our trouble comes with the necessity of confronting those situations in which community is broken, or worse, in which human beings are attacking other human beings. What are the international implications of these readings?
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