The Divorce Party

Once there was a happily married man and woman who lived in a small village. For years they prayed to God to provide them a child and, try as they might, it never happened for them. This made the man very sad. So sad, that he went one day to the Rabbi and asked for a certificate of divorce so that he could marry a woman who would be able to bear him children.

The Rabbi was a wise man and he knew that this request, if granted, would only lead to further unhappiness but custom dictated that the man’s request shouldn’t be denied. The Rabbi thought for a second and then said, “I will grant you your request but under one condition. You and your wife have spent 10 years together and that is something to be celebrated. Please, go celebrate your divorce as you would a wedding. Throw a party in honor of the time you two have spent together and the next day, I will grant you your certificate of divorce.”

The man actually thought this sounded like a wonderful idea so he set to work at once making the preparations. He invited all of their friends and family, got the finest wine, and the best food then, a few nights later, the celebration was had!

It was a splendid party. There was music and lively company, and the man’s wife was as beautiful as he had ever seen her in a brand new gown. Towards the end of the evening, the man, full of wine, was so favorably disposed that he announced to the woman in front of everybody, “My darling wife of ten years, though we part I do not want you to think I am not still fond of you. Ask for anything in this home and it shall be yours. Choose whichever of my possessions is most precious to you and take it home with you to your father’s house!”

The man’s wife smiled and accepted the offer. That was the last thing the man clearly remembered before passing out. When he awoke, he was lying in a strange bed. Startled, he ran down the stairs and there at a table sat his wife and her parents eating breakfast.

The man suddenly recognized where he was. Confused, he asked, “Did I get so drunk last night that I staggered to your former home?”

The man’s wife laughed. “No dear, last night at the party you invited me to take home the thing in the house that was most precious to me. So I had your friends carry you and put you in my bed.”

Suddenly the man came to his senses and realized how deep his wife’s love was for him and he could feel his own love deepening for her in his heart. He resolved not to go see the Rabbi for the certificate of divorce after all. And it was just as well because the Rabbi wasn’t really expecting him.

It’s been said that marriage is a union between two forgivers. In any relationship, we can make rash decisions and it is a true loving partner that reminds us of what is really precious. Love is based on honoring and cherishing the other person no matter whether they can provide you with what you think will make you happy or not. For those who walk in the way of Jesus, there may be another message in this parable as well. It is people, not goals, that are precious. The mission of the Church should never reduce beloved children of God to mere means to meet an end. We are called to focus our love and attention to human beings regardless of their imperfections or what they can or cannot provide, simply because they are made in the image of God. In life as in marriage, the secret to happiness is forgiveness and grace

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Velocity


VELOCITY

In the club car that morning I had my notebook
open on my lap and my pen uncapped,
looking every inch the writer
right down to the little writer’s frown on my face,

but there was nothing to write
about except life and death
and the low warning sound of the train whistle.

I did not want to write about the scenery
that was flashing past, cows spread over a pasture,
hay rolled up meticulously—
things you see once and will never see again.

But I kept my pen moving by drawing
over and over again
the face of a motorcyclist in profile—

for no reason I can think of—
a biker with sunglasses and a weak chin,
leaning forward, helmetless,
his long thin hair trailing behind him in the wind.

I also drew many lines to indicate speed,
to show the air becoming visible
as it broke over the biker’s face

the way it was breaking over the face
of the locomotive that was pulling me
toward Omaha and whatever lay beyond Omaha
for me and all the other stops to make

before the time would arrive to stop for good.
We must always look at things
from the point of view of eternity,

the college theologians used to insist,
from which, I imagine, we would all
appear to have speed lines trailing behind us
as we rush along the road of the world,

as we rush down the long tunnel of time—
the biker, of course, drunk on the wind,
but also the man reading by a fire,

speed lines coming off his shoulders and his book,
and the woman standing on a beach
studying the curve of horizon,
even the child asleep on a summer night,

speed lines flying from the posters of her bed,
from the white tips of the pillowcases,
and from the edges of her perfectly motionless body.

-Billy Collins

Billy Collins is, without a doubt, my favorite living poet. His poems are simple and imaginative. VELOCITY, reminds us that life is short and fleeting, that from the perspective of eternity we are all moving quickly towards our inevitable destination. Even in the stillest moments, time passes too quickly. As a father of three, I can attest to this. My oldest daughter has gone from being a baby to a teenager in a matter of weeks it seems. Some times I look at her and I swear I can see the speed lines coming off of her. If it is true that a thousand years is like a day from the point of view of God and that we are like grass that grows today and withers tomorrow, then we must make the most of the time we have on this earth. When I read the Gospel of Mark, I can’t help but see the speed lines flying off of Jesus as he packs more life into a year than most of us pack into our lifetime. Jesus gets such a head of steam that the grave doesn’t even stop him. We too, according to the Apostle Paul, are called to run the race. So as a disciple running in the way of Jesus, may you have speed lines coming off of you in every direction and in the words of the old Irish blessing: “may you get to Heaven half an hour before the Devil knows you’re dead.”

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

The Raft


There once was a man on a long journey. He had been traveling several days when he came to a river. After studying it, the man realized the river was treacherous and he would not be able to cross it without being swept away by the currents. So he built himself a large raft from bamboo and vines. Once he had crossed safely to the other side, he was pleased with his cleverness. He thought to himself, “I worked hard on this great raft. It’d be a shame to just leave it here. I’ll carry it with me on the rest of my journey.” Here, student, is the question:

Can this man be called wise?

This seemingly simple Buddhist parable rewards continued contemplation. What does it mean to be wise? Often, we don’t know when to abandon an idea or a pattern of thinking. Like the man in the story, we fail to realize that what helps us through one stage of the journey can be a burden in the next. As a youth pastor, I have the sacred task of shepherding teens from the concrete faith of their childhoods to the more abstract faith of adulthood. Sometimes this process involves abandoning ways of thinking about God that used to bring security and comfort but are no longer as useful. While some truths are meant to be carried through life, other ideas are better left beside the river. Wisdom is found in a willingness to be challenged and grow. As disciples walking in the way of Jesus, we are called to have enough humility to accept that we may not have everything figured out and that where we are today is not necessarily where we may be tomorrow. Faithfulness is not stubbornly refusing to let go of our raft but, rather, following Christ wherever he leads.

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…

Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…