November 23rd, 2008

Generic Meditation Issues: Satanic Verses?

Two weeks ago, at Mass, the gospet was the "parable of the talents."  The homily was about what one would expect: Father Ben, even after going into great detail about how this parable is different from any of Jesus' other stories, nevertheless took it at its traditional value.  The servant who turned the five talents into ten is held up as a model, while the servant who hid his one talent is criticized.  And then there is the punchline, not referred to in the sermon, but the preantepentultimate  phrase in the Gospel reading: "from him who hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath."  But I was able to sit placidly through the ordeal, even grinning from time to time at the priest's statements.

Four years ago (was it that long ago, I guess the gospel cycle is four years) I sat in the same place listening to the same gospel with a sense of trepidation.  But then the priest, Father Joe (now Monsignor Joe) began the sermon by saying he was going to take the "Mennonite" approach to this gospel.  In this interpretation,"the :man who is about to travel to another country" is not a metaphor for God, but for the devil.  Then the rest of the parable has to do with doing the devil's work, well, poorly, or not at all.  Unfortunately the homily, as well as I can remember, focused on the "Lord", i.e. devil, not on the unproductive servant, whom I find more interesting,

The gospel reading begins: "For the kingdom of God is as a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods."  But from there the parable goes down hill with the "Lord" looking less and less like God and more and more like the devil until the culminating verses which are contrary to almost everything else Jesus taught.  To me the "Mennonite" version makes perfect sense.

This raises for me the question of who is the unproductive servant, the one who does the devil's work so poorly that even the devil can;t stand him and "cast him into outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

If we take seriously the notion that satan is the "lord of this world" and that this world is a "type A" world full of activity, productivity, drive, success, restlessness, etc. then the devil's most unproductive servant might be the contemplative person, the hermit who prays constantly; the person who, by turning things on their head, ("the last shall be first?") may be considered God's most "productive" servant.  Reading about Mother Theresa's spiritual darkness, or the description of the Taoist sage in chapter 20 of the Tao te Ching convinces me that satan's unproductive servant might be a contemplative;

 For an interesting interpretation of Chapter 20, google Stan Rosenthal + taoism and click on 20 Being Different from Ordinary Men.   

Solitarybird's journal entry for May 10, 2007 has a quote from Eve Baker that reminds me of the sage and the "unproductive" servant:

The path of the solitary is silent and hidden,
The solitary has no use and no ministry
no visible sign;
not even a vision of herself as a solitary,
no quiet self satisfaction at one's position.

We remain always imperfect;
failures by the world's standards,
cast upon divine mercy,
Thirsting for God's grace,
simply waiting with empty hands.