David McKee’s Homily, September 6, 2015

Holy Wisdom Monastery Homilies Leave a Comment

The Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 6, 2015

Wisdom 10:15-18, 20-21; 11:1-5

James 2:1-10, 14-17

Mark 7:24-37


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.  When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”


These words of the 13th. century Persian poet, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rūmī, have continued to run through my mind over the last month as I have meditated on today’s scripture readings.  Let me read it again…


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”


As so often happens with scripture, we are presented today with difficult sayings and events which don’t fit into our conventional ways of thinking about our day-to-day lives…How are we to deal with people who aren’t in our group or our tribe or our religion, like the Gentile woman and her daughter who Mark has Jesus visit and heal?…How are we to understand the mysterious workings of Wisdom, the feminine spirit of God, who brings benefit to us through the very things by which our enemies, and perhaps ourselves, have been punished?…How are we to resolve the apparently contradictory relationship between faith and works:  the twin poles of Christian belief, the arguments over which have been the cause of so much bloody strife among the Christian churches?  I wonder if there is a way out beyond these conflicting dualities; a way to that field of grass where the soul sinks into the fullness of the world.


I want to find a way to that field.  I want to lie down in that grass and allow all the talk that fills our daily lives, and particularly all the talk that fills my head…I want all that talk to dissolve into the fullness of the world.  It is the image of Holy Wisdom as the source of all things that is a guide for me to that field.  As our reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us, it is Wisdom that accomplishes all things.  It is through Wisdom, through our opening to Wisdom, that we can meet ourselves and one another intimately, boundlessly…meet in a way to that is, finally, too full to talk about.


Wisdom is the divine truth at the center of our being.  She is the creative mystery continually working in us, usually without our knowing it.  She is not somewhere else, separate from us.  Wisdom is here, within us and all around us, waiting to be uncovered, waiting to be realized, waiting to be entered into and allowed to do Her mysterious work.  Wisdom patiently waits for us to open to Her.  We can’t make this happen.  Wisdom makes it happen.  The practice of our Christian life consists in getting ourselves out of the way and allowing Wisdom to do Her work. The point of our life of prayer and ritual practice is to support and deepen the attitude of faith, such that we offer the least resistance to the action of Divine Wisdom.  This is the real work that underlies all our other faithful works.


This attitude of faith is very different from how we typically approach our lives.  We tend to think about wisdom as something we need to obtain:  a quality, a virtue, a skill, a power that we need to add to ourselves; and by doing so, we will “be wise.”  We think we need to be different than what and who we are.  We commit ourselves to courses of action, programs of self-improvement, practices of prayer and meditation, all driven by the desire to be different, to be better…to get this or get rid of that.  The strange thing about this attitude is that we are, in fact, continually different, from one moment to the next.  In our created life, there is nothing that is fixed.  As Gerard Manley Hopkins tells us, “Nature is a Heraclitean fire.”  We are continually being created; each moment a new creation.  There’s nothing we can do about this.  Our problem is that we want to control the fire.  We cling to and try to make permanent, the self that we want, the self that we deem good…holding on to our “rightdoing,” to use Rumi’s phrase.  Conversely, we reject the self that we don’t want, the self that we deem bad…our “wrongdoing.” And the more we put our effort into this clinging and rejecting, the more our desirable and undesirable selves clamor for our attention.


Opening to Wisdom is a radical change from this ceaseless round of getting and getting rid of.  As we worship here in this Benedictine monastery, we do well to remember the very first word of Benedict’s rule:  LISTEN…LISTEN.  Opening to Wisdom is listening to our experience as it is; listening to how we are being created in each moment…not trying to guide and control the unfolding of our life in God…but, instead, listening to and entering into the movement of Wisdom’s creating.  We are called to be like the knight in the Grail stories who lets go of the reins and allows his horse to the lead the way through the dark wood that surrounds the Grail king’s castle. Or, as the American haiku poet, Randy Brooks, puts it, in wonderfully concrete, everyday terms:


school’s out
the boy follows his dog
into the woods


Our ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing have us in a tight grip.  Opening to Wisdom means releasing that grip.  It means opening our palms and receiving our lives; journeying open-handed through uninhabited, untrodden places…guided by nothing more, and nothing less, than a mystery–the mystery of the Holy Wisdom of God.  I imagine that this mystery is what drew Jesus to the home of the Gentile woman and that guided him to heal her daughter…their souls laid down together in that field beyond the divisions of culture and religious belief…beyond our ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing…a place of healing…a place beyond our control…a place where our inner ears are opened and we listen…just listen to the heartbeat of the world.

Let us turn to God in prayer…


For the people of all the religions of the world, that they may meet and share with one another with an attitude of deep faith and openness to the gifts that each has to offer, we pray…


That we may listen deeply to ourselves and to others, bearing with humility both the joyful and the painful truths that we might hear, we pray…


For all those who actively work for social and political change, that they may be guided by a faithful openness to the guidance of the Divine Spirit of Wisdom, we pray…


For what else shall we pray?


Together let us quietly name those for whom we wish to pray this morning.


And for all those intentions which we hold silently in our hearts, we pray…


O God of love and wisdom, with open hands we offer you these prayers and the needs and yearnings of our hearts.  Reveal to us your saving grace, through Jesus the Christ…..AMEN


Let us offer one another a sign of peace.


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