Friday in the Fifteenth Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: Ex 11:10-12:14; Mt. 12:1-8
In the Henry James novel, “The American”, Christopher Newman, (who may represent Christ), is a good-natured, frank, very likeable, guy on vacation in Paris. Not a particularly cultured person, and cheerfully oblivious of any need to be, Christopher is quite ignorant of the “Parisian” way of doing things, in particular, the whole business of leaving “tips”. Booking a room in a nice hotel, the house keeper, having provided some paltry little service, stands there – she’s just standing there for like a minute, until Christopher finally says to her: “Excuse me miss – can I get you a chair?” At which point she turns beet red and quickly leaves the room. I love this scene. Why did the housekeeper run out of the room? Because she was embarrassed; embarrassed that an obligation she was certain must be binding on the man in front of her, was suddenly exposed as bogus and as such dispensed with effortlessly and even with a little wry humor.
“Look”, the Pharisees say to Jesus in this morning’s gospel: “Your disciples are picking grain on the Sabbath. This is not permitted.” And again: “Look, you have healed a man on the Sabbath. This is not permitted.” How awkward for these housekeepers of religious observance to discover that Jesus’ ignoring a prescription of the law did not arise from ignorance of the law, but from his more elevated understanding that “there is a greater than the temple here.” Empowered by this superior moral vision, obligations imposed on him by confused men were no more binding on Jesus than the Parisian way of doing things was on Christopher Newman.
Brothers and sisters, “Paris” is where you and I live. You and I live in a world filled with morally confused people who, having invented certain social obligations, believe these are binding on everyone, including you and I. So what do you do when in Paris? Imagine for a moment Planned Parenthood as a confused housekeeper standing there in her little apron, waiting for you and I to fulfill what she believes is a clear obligation to affirm abortion as securing a woman’s dignity as a person. Our little housekeeper, convinced that Roe v Wade obliges you and I to pay this tribute money, is standing there, has been standing there for sixty years waiting for you and I to pay up, only to discover in 2019, that about half the people in the United States recognize no obligation to affirm abortion, and have no intention of paying her that tribute. Let her wait. Just let her wait. Let a minute go by, even if this minute takes sixty years, just let her stand there for a minute, and then offer her a chair. I bet you a nickel she runs away.