The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Numbers 11:25-29 (Moses: "Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets")
Psalm 19:8-14 (Lord, cleanse me from my unknown faults)
James 5:1-6 (Come, you rich, and mourn over your ultimate losses)
Mark 9:38-48 ("If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off!")
Both of the priests whom I had the pleasure of hearing today were quick to comment that this difficult quote of Jesus in Mark's Gospel is not meant to be taken literally. But is it really? What else could explain the number of deliberate maimings and mutilations that have occurred since Mark put this one down in the books? Hey, folks, nobody can deny this sort of thing doesn't happen, even in this day and age. When we hear of such in the present, our first thoughts are that the person really needs psychiatric help (and prayer).
I got to thinking along a somewhat related tangent while singing with the choir today.
For the first time in God knows how long, the men outnumber the women this season. (The reason: the three top women in the choir have secular job in semi-pro show biz; their schedules, along with another couple of working women, suddenly rule out their general availability for Sundays.) Among my God-given gifts as a musician are the ability to sight read fairly well, a slightly better than average vocal range, and the ability to adapt on the fly - so our director this morning asked me to become a "bargain" counter-tenor (inside joke) and sing the alto part. This reminded me of the stories of the castrati in the boys' choirs of antiquity. Makes you really wonder just how seriously people took Mark's text. (For the curious, I'll explain it at another time. For now, console yourself with the belief that we've managed to get smarter since those days.)
I am generally convinced that God has a sense of humor. The first person I heard say this was the comedian/actor Robin Williams, who then offered as proof the evolution of the platypus. I don't have to go that far. Father Damien, in his take on Mark's text, took a "what you don't know can hurt you" bent - mentioning that in our (generic) attempts to have personal space, many a child has a TV set and/or computer in their bedroom; thus introducing the concept that lack of a modest degree of vigilance may lead our kids into temptation with the plethora of who-knows-what that's part of cyberspace and mainstream home entertainment today. Then he went on to say that at 70, he doesn't even know how to turn the thing on.
Sounds like my Mom.
On that subject, Mom made it to my niece's wedding last weekend. It was great to have her there; it was her first activity anywhere since the end of July when she was hospitalized briefly. Since then, due to her condition aggravated by Parkinson's Disease, she's been in a convalescent care center. She was given the green light to go home this past Wednesday...but at the last minute both she and Dad agreed that it would be best if she remained in the nursing home for a bit longer. How long, nobody's saying yet. This is a very big decision that they agreed to, since the costs aren't minor and Medicare won't cover them. However, I can't argue against the decision. To go home at this point would put my parents back in the position of having to fend a bit more for themselves. Among other things, this means they'd go back to eating mainly microwaved meals - something not really healthy for anyone, let alone the two septuagenarians I know and love most.
My dearest wife Diane, who has been plowing through meal plans, calorie counts, and nutritional information for a good chunk of her life, told me that she would really like to be able to help them. I, too, feel it's important to honor my mother and father by helping them in their old age. The logistics are difficult but not insurmountable - but they'd be easier to manage if we lived a little closer to them than we do presently. Other opportunities, cut off by time, distance, and the lack of public transit, could become available - and will be needed to help Nick make the jump into the bigger world.
So...the big decision we've made here is to move closer to where clearly two-thirds of where/how we interact takes place. By the end of next spring we hope to have found a new place to live - a place closer to where we conduct most of our business, where we're better able to care for each other as well as my parents. It's a tall order, but not doing so seems wrong on so many levels. May we be blessed with the resources we will need to get there.
Move it...or lose it. It's that important, and that serious.