4 Nov 2012
“The scribe said to [Jesus], ‘Well said, teacher.’” (Mark 12:32) In the name …
We’re now in Standard Time. We gained an hour last night. I went to bed at 11PM, but I got to turn the clock back to 10PM anyway. That’s a great feeling. In a world where most everyone feels the stress of having too much to do in too little time, that simple move of the clock back one hour is wonderful. I bet everyone wishes we could have that one extra hour a day every day rather than just once a year. And we can. And no, it doesn’t entail skipping church on Sunday morning and doing something else with that one hour. Rather, psychologists have actual, verifiable evidence that we have the ability to control time. We can’t add hours to the day, but psychologically we can affect how time-rich we feel. (Boston Globe, 9/9/2012, K1-2)
You would think intuitively that feeling you have more time in the day would center on having more time to do things you want for yourself. But psychologists, not priests, psychologists have discovered that people feel more time-rich for two distinct reasons. One is when we do tasks for someone else, when we essentially are giving our time away to someone else we feel more time-rich. Psychologists already knew from earlier research that people who donated money felt wealthier than those who didn’t. It wasn’t a matter of how much money a person had in their bank account. It was their own sense of being wealthy, and the generous felt more wealthy than the stingy. When it came to time, the studies revealed that when a person did some task for someone else, when they gave away some of their own time, they felt like they had more time than the person who only ran around from one task for themselves to another.
The second way that psychologists found we can feel more time-rich is by feeling awe. Awe has the ability to captivate people’s attention on their present moment. The studies found that when people felt even brief moments of awe, the effects lasted. Now this is the priest talking, not the psychologists: religion is about awe. I know a lot of people are bored by church, but for me religion has always awed me. I feel the nearness of God in worship, in this place, in this community. The ancient Jews spoke of the Jerusalem Temple as the place where God touched the earth. There’s something special about church that gives me the same feeling. I’m awed by being able to come this close to God. I know that’s not a universal feeling. I wish I could somehow share this feeling with others, convince them of the power and presence that is our worship. But even a little appreciation of awe once a week, now say the psychologists not me the priest, can make us feel time-rich for the rest of the week.
What we have here are two ways to expand that wonderful feeling of being granted the extra hour on that one particular day each year when we move to Standard Time. They are awe and generosity. And lo and behold what does Jesus say to us today about the essence of our Christian faith. He repeats the marvelous revelation of His Jewish faith, that God is one, that there is no other, that we should be so awed by the holiness of the one God that we love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Then without a pause, without a chance to make a distinction between one and two, Jesus immediately adds a second statement of faith: the Golden Rule, that we should love our neighbour as ourselves. If we feel stressed by the pressures of modern life, that we don’t have enough time in the day, then listen to the psychologists and their studies or listen to Jesus and His revelation. They’re saying the same thing. Listen to the wisdom, the counter-intuitive wisdom, that when we reach out beyond ourselves, whether it be reaching out in awe to God or in compassion to a neighbour, we feel liberated from the constraints of time.
And there’s another important lesson for us in today’s Gospel, and it comes from the example of the interaction between Jesus and the scribe. Unlike a lot of the other recorded dialogues between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day, I do not get the feeling that this encounter was confrontational. The scribe, Mark tells us, heard Jesus talking, and the scribe thought that Jesus answered the questions well. So the scribe wants to continue the conversation. He asks Jesus a question, and I don’t think it was to put Jesus on the spot. I think it was to listen to what He would say. And at the end of their conversation something special happens, something we don’t often hear about in the pages of the New Testament. Jesus and the Jewish scribe came to a meeting of the minds. “‘Well said, teacher,’” says the scribe to Jesus, and says Jesus to the scribe, “‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” They could have focuses on what separated them, but instead they sought common ground.
We’re two days away from the election: Thank God! I’m tired of all the childish name calling and the sad truth that we need fact-checkers to tell us how often our politicians are lying about each other. Look at the last frame of the cartoon on the hymn sheet: “I keep forgetting that being loud equals being right in human society.” How sad it is that this rings true. Look at the front page of today’s Boston Globe: “The Great Divide – As the barnstorming, speechifying and broadcast barrage blessedly near an end, the candidates face the reality of a nation so riven that progress seems an inevitable casualty.” What this says is that someone is going to win, but the nation is going to lose because we see looking for the common ground, the common good, as opposed to our goals. We want to stay polarized, it seems. And from the example of Jesus in today’s Gospel, as opposed to this example, we need to try to be better people than this. And with that said, I’d like to close with a “Prayer for the election” that I found on the website Election Day Commnion.org. It goes like this: “God of justice and compassion, God of Republicans and Democrats and Independents, God of the poor and the 1% and the middle class, in the heat of this election we pray for our nation, our churches and ourselves. In the midst of meanness and deception, may our words be kind and true. In the midst of loud speeches and harsh accusations, may we listen well and try to understand. May those who follow Jesus do the work of Jesus – breaking down the dividing walls, speaking the truth in love, and meeting together in the face of disagreements.” May this be our prayer too, in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo