That is the first line of a song that has been running through my mind this morning, the Feast of the Assumption. Especially today it has a whole host of strange and wonderful associations. The line comes to us first from St. Teresa of Avila, I think, who has given us quite a few good things to think about. Anyway, Big Teresa aside, the song’s been going through my head since I listened to the Gospel from yesterday’s Holy Mass. You, remember? That was the one about Jesus curing the Canaanite woman’s daughter, after she had been called a dog by Him. She kept at Him, though. She was out there for one thing, help for her child, and she knew where to go for it, and she wasn’t leaving until she got it.
Now, there’s been a lot of hot air expended over the past several dozen years on the various messes we’ve found ourselves in, economic messes, political messes, diplomatic messes, cultural messes and , well, personal messes. I’ll not go into the details, we all know what they are. Messes are just that, messes. It sometimes seems that there are seven or so billion lazy teenagers in one small room, and no Mom or Dad around to come by and tell us to clean up. And, at other times it seems that Mom and Dad both are downstairs yelling at us and we’re ignoring them while we carry on the largest pillow fight in the universe; only this one kills people. Even if from time to time we show up at the supper table and mind our manners for a little while in the company of the ‘rents still we go back to our room and carry on as if we knew all we need to know and don’t care a thing about anything but us. Naughty is the nicest thing I can call our behavior.
I got myself into a lot of trouble with a friend a few weeks ago for saying that it seemed to me as we have been engaged in a paroxysm of self indulgence since about 1960, and, now, thinking about it, I’m ready to slide the bar back a few more dozen years to the Roaring Twenties. I’m willing to listen to arguments that we should go even further. It wouldn’t take much to convince me, you can bet on that. But, not being that thing called a scholar, I’m only going on personal experience and observation, here, and so confine myself to events and trends of more recent appearance. And, isn’t that sorrow enough to contemplate? Think of the millions who never will be among us for one thing.
Well anyway, some other friends were talking about the latest bunch of messes here and everyhere (nice typo, it lends a sense of affecting us personally to even the most distant mess in type and place) else and assigning blame and responsibility for them to various persons and groups of greater or lesser wrong thinking and stupidity. I exercised my rights, too, and chimed in on the assignment of blame and estimate of incredible stupidity on the part of the other folks in the room with me.
But then, that line from the song came into my head and started to repest (another great typo, repeat in the sense of bother, nag, hector..beg?) itself. I’ve known of it for only a few years, now, but it reminds me of another phrase I’ve often used in arguments of this type: Walt Kelly’s Pogo saying, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
These messes, all of them are, after all, our messes. That means that we are really the problem, bouncing from bed to bed spewing feathers and old clothes all over the place. Mom and Dad may wish us to stop. In fact I know they do if they are anything like the parent I was when my spawn were that age, because they know where all of this stuff leads, and in a hand basket at that. We have met the problem and it is us. Now what do we do? Why, we become the solution.
Yeah, but how one is forced to ask…assuming one is aware enough that a problem exists. And that alone is part of the problem, don’t you know. I have no short answer to the question, but I am double sure that it is involved with that line from the song that won’t leave my head. And, now, I am thinking again about the Canaanite woman, and faith and love.
Could I do the same, I wonder? But, why wonder, anymore I wonder further. Christ is not here, not in Canaan-land, even. He’s “up there”, somewhere, if He “is” anywhere at all as increasing numbers of people aver. And, besides, we’ve got doctors, now; and “agencies”, and tax-deductible contributions. Someone told me yesterday that the Canaanite woman must have had great faith. Well, yeah…DUH! I mean didn’t Christ even say that?? Tell me something I don’t know. But, then someone said that more than faith, she had great love for her daughter. Thinking about that I start hearing the song all over.
Whom do I love enough to endure being called a dog in public…the worst name one could hurl at someone back then…so that I could help them. In whom do I have enough faith that I would risk the same thing to “BEG” Him for the smallest bit of help; not for me, but for someone else. Oh, yeah, I’d do it for me in a second, me of the “fox hole faith”. Oh, yeah, my family. But, my next door neighbor? My friend in Kalamazoo? A dying man in the street (think Mother Teresa)? The grumpy old dope behind me in line?
Walking a mile for a Camel’s easy. I need that thing. Walking a mile to help someone I don’t know and may not like or who may not like me takes a lot of faith, and even more love. Like Tug McGraw said, “You gotta believe.” Then you gotta love, too. And then, you gotta get out and pull the boat through the leech infested water just like Humphrey Bogart did in “The African Queen.” Why? Well, because Christ has no body now but yours.
What a grace…