Consecrated to the Heart of the Redeemer under the patronage of the Theotokos and Fr. Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J.

29 August 2015

Who's Got All The Dirt?

The other day I was making coffee when, after a couple of minutes into the brewing cycle, I sensed that something was amiss. Liquid began to drip over the side of the carafe. I opened the lid and spotted the culprit: the basket and hot water spout were out of alignment, which threw off the brew. Fortunately I was able to salvage some of it, much stronger than normal. As I figured, my first cup also revealed grounds at the bottom: good grounds for a homily!

What here we call grounds, in another setting we might call “dirt”—which has been well defined as “matter out of place.” Farmers don’t refer to the earth of their crops as “dirt”; rather, they call it “soil.” But when the kid drags it into the house…then they call it “dirt”! Are we so much concerned with hygiene as with order and propriety--“a place for everything and everything in its place”? That was a charm of Israel’s Law: it gave them order and harmony. On top of that, as we notice in the First Reading, the Israelites imagined that the neighboring nations admired and envied them for possessing that Law—and behind that, they admired their intimate relationship with their God. Obedience to that Law was the way the Israelites maintained union with God in every facet of their lives. Unfortunately the constant temptation was to identify literal obedience with pleasing God. That’s why Jesus so often railed against the Pharisees: many of them followed the literal traditions without necessarily paying attention to the meaning underlying those traditions.

We hear enough in the Gospels about Pharisees who are turned off by Jesus’ stern convictions, but not so often about any who heard His convictions and took them to heart. No doubt there were some who paused long enough to get honest with themselves, to place their lives humbly in the pure light of Incarnate Truth: Jesus, Himself the Law’s Only Perfect Fulfillment. Now as then, the way to fulfillment is found in Him, and not in attempted obedience to Law, in which we cannot help but fall short and reveal our need for Grace.

Can we allow God to see the “dirt” in our lives, so that He can purify us and fill us with His nourishing Word and Sacrament, whereby we can offer Him fitting worship and obedience? Whether or not anyone else takes notice of us, to compliment us on our wisdom and intelligence, can we appreciate what is best for us and seek that with all our hearts? With such a disposition of heart, we may notice the dirt in others’ lives just as much as before, but it won’t bother us so much in light of our own. We may even be inspired to seek conversion together, and therefore more effectively.