Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Body of Christ, save me

I RECENTLY ASKED A PSYCHOLOGIST WHY the Roman Catholic Church is so often portrayed by the media in a negative light?  She thought it's because the Catholic Church makes claims that the world considers to be outlandish and beyond the possibility of belief. There is  in particular the claim that at the Catholic Mass bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. It's just too much, many claim.

Most of the Catholics I know believe in what's called, The Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist simply because Jesus said it is so (Matthew 26: 20ff). Friends believe each other. This post isn't concerned with making believers out of those who reject the teaching, but more to consider the second part of the line: save me.

Save me is the cry of the desperate person - the one who's going under, who's losing strength, losing consciousness, running out of time. The poor author of Psalm 69 understands and gives poetic expression:

Save me, O God,
for the water mounts to my chin,
I am sunk in deep mire,
where there is no foothold.
I have got into deep water,
and the flood overwhelms me.

It seems that no one is spared this kind of experience. The Dali Lama tells of being invited to a penthouse dinner with people who were extraordinarily wealthy: more than one boat, several high-end residences in first class cities, a fleet of cars, servants. He writes that when he visited the bathroom the medicine cabinet was left open, and the shelves revealed all kinds of medications used to counter depression and anxiety. You would think....

It's not easy living on this bloody, dangerous, often frivolous, disintegrating planet. People smile or laugh with understanding when I tell them Beetle George Harrison wrote:
Sometimes I feel like I'm actually on the wrong planet; and it's great when I'm in my garden, but the minute I go out the gate I think,"What the hell am I doing here?"
But we might also understand the cry, save me, as a personal plea: that I would  be spared or saved from my own inner undoing, from my own inner worst possibilities. After her husband's funeral, an older woman, perhaps doing some self-reflection, asked her brother-in-law, "Why am I so mean?" Many people never come to this woman's kind of self awareness or at least give no indication they have any knowledge of their shadowy or down side. The sad thing would be for the woman to have simply asked the question rhetorically - never stepping up to that personal investigation by which she  might answer her own question.

In Eastern Christianity there is a little prayer to the Mother of God which seems to get at it:
"O our Lady, grant me compunction and contrition of heart, humility in my thoughts, and a release from the slavery of my own reasonings."
Can I name the slavery of my own reasonings? When was the last time I heard someone (including myself) say, "You know, I never thought of that before." or "You know, I was really wrong about that (or him/her/them); thanks for setting me straight."

There's also another sense of save me - not just saved from - whether it's sin and death, but also saved for. We say things like: I'll save this for dessert or I'll save this money for a rainy day. More importantly I might consider how God might be saving me for: the poem that I'll write, the garden I'll plant, the children I'll raise, the poor I'll serve, the painting I'll paint, the friendships I'll make, the sick person I'll tend, the insights I'll come to, the love I'll know, the personal life I'll evolve. Saved FOR!

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