Thursday, November 21, 2013

Be More with Less

"The more empty we are the fuller we can become," writes the Catholic Times columnist, in the View from the Ark, as he reflects on what can be learned when having less of something often means having more of something more valuable.  The Church during this last month of the liturgical year focuses on those who have died, and all of nature, the columnist says, seemingly directs our thoughts in the same direction: trees shed their leaves, the harvest is over, the fields are  bare, and yet, he wonders, why do we humans continue to hold on to what must in the nature of things be relinquished.

No matter how good the food is, for instance, eating too much of it will give us health problems.
Thoughts that we will have more strength or that we will be able to do more with a fuller stomach is not a concern is it?

We are all familiar with the Aesop's  fable in which the North Wind and the Sun have a contest on who will be able to have a pilgrim remove his clothes. It wasn't the cold strong wind but the soft warm sun rays that won. The manifestation of strength, of successfully achieving a worthy goal, in such fable stories frequently comes from where we least expect it.

In front of an infant no one clenches their fists. They smile and bend down toward the infant and want to embrace the child. Isn't this the strength that disarms and changes a person? Doesn't this strength come with seeming weakness? he asks.

"You know that the men who are considered rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete  authority. This, however, is not the way it is among you. If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, he must be the servant of all" (Mark 10:42-44).

"All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. Humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them"  (Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching  #66).

God's kingdom is like a mustard seed, small and weak, but it becomes big so that the birds can come and nest in the branches.  Strength comes from God to  the lowly and weak and empty. It is when we are empty that we can be filled with what God gives. Jesus emptied himself. (Phil. 2:7).

Why do people climb mountains? the columnist asks. Isn't it to empty ourselves of what is inside.  We sweat and pant to get to the top of the mountain. We are out of breath, our legs are sore, there is little strength left, and inside there's a feeling of emptiness. But suddenly, from the outside, comes a fresh feeling of energy.  A new feeling of strength, replacing a seeming weakness.

Why do people go to the ocean?  Perhaps many do to see the expansiveness of the view, no obstacles, as far as the eye can see, spoiling what can be seen. Our spirit feels this openness  and becomes larger and more embracing.

Humans during the winter months put on more clothes; the trees shed their leaves and become bare. In the world of humans, the strong are not those who gather the most material things or have the most armaments, the columnist says, but those who seemingly have little and yet  possess God.Keeping this in mind, he would like us to meditate on death, and on the lessons to be learned from nature, during this last month of the liturgical year.

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