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O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, what you open, no-one else can close again. What you close no-one can open.
O Come, to free the captive from prison.
Free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Fine reflection here that shows how despite David's many flaws and the complexities of human life, God still is able to work through our humanity.
The O antiphon today also prompted me to recall this story
"Weeping with a Walleyed Pike," by Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI.
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"Some years ago an American research centre conducted an experiment with a walleyed pike.
They placed the fish in an aquarium and fed it regularly.
Then, after a time, they inserted an invisible glass plate into the aquarium, sealing off part of it.
They began to put the walleye’s food on the other side of that plate.
Every time the fish tried to take some food, it would bump against the glass plate and come away empty.
For quite a while the fish kept swimming up, attempting to take food. Each time, it bumped its mouth and came away empty.
Eventually the walleyed pike stopped trying.
It would swim towards the food but, just before striking the glass plate, it would turn and swim slowly away.
At this point the researchers removed the glass plate.
But the damage had been done. The fish never ate again. No amount of hunger could drive it to attempt again to eat.
It would swim up to the food and, at the last second, turn away, not knowing that the glass plate was now gone and that it could eat freely.
The walleye eventually died of malnutrition, surrounded by food.
This is not meant as a sentimental anecdote designed to make us feel sorry for a poor fish that had the misfortune of falling victim to the cruelties of human experiment. Hearing it does give the heart a sad wrench, but the sorrow it triggers goes much deeper.
All of us know exactly what happened to this walleyed pike and why it eventually stopped eating ; and many of us are in danger of dying from a similar malnutrition.
We are dying from a lack of love in a world where everyone wants to love, and we are unable to pour out love upon people who are starving for it.
There are no glass plates between ourselves and others, and yet we cannot or do not reach out to each other.
Something is deeply wrong and we are, all of us, deeply sad.
The value of this story is that it speaks to the soul gently, directly, deeply. It is something not so much to be explained as to be felt.
The story of the walleyed pike helps us name our sorrow."
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When I first read this story I realised that there are many aspects within it that are rich to reflect on.
When we use the analogy of a key and a door to describe our own human life situation, the Antiphon names the situation clearly ; that it is not by our own efforts that we can free ourselves.
Who erected the barriers in the first place is a constant question - Is God carrying out some sort of vast cosmic experiment with our human nature ? I doubt it.
Or is it ourselves, mankind who erects the barriers ?
Who erects barriers between God and ourselves in our lives ?
Sometimes it is by the actions of someone else, sometimes it is ourselves, whether as victims of circumstance or through our own self will.
Image by Foxtongue via Flickr
Is there something inherently flawed that we seem as a species so perversely capable of finding devious ways to reinforce the glass barriers between ourselves and the true eternal source of God's food, that will nourish our souls ?
When Jesus said I am the bread of life- whoever comes to me will never be hungry He was saying that there are no longer any barriers between God and Mankind.
I think the Walleye story adds another perspective to that : that when we are constantly putting up barriers, (invisible as glass, seen through at times, but solid nevertheless !), to others, who come to us looking "to be fed", it comes as no surprise that eventually some people will turn away, even when those barriers are removed.
That is the sad situation and reality of life.
No amount of telling people that the church is open to all works, if for a large amount of their lives they have been rebuffed by glass barriers that discriminate against their gender or their social position or their sexuality.
The glass barriers that have been erected by the church due to clerical abuse are real and it will take a huge effort and a lot of work to convince many that it is safe to return.
We all have a huge responsibility not to be the cause of erecting barriers !
That's not always easy to do!
More importantly we have to be with people who are suffering on the other side !!
But the walleyed story has another meaning for me.
We often turn away from God and each other because of a myriad of glass barriers that perceivedly block our lives and our potential for growth. These barriers can be multilayered and cumulative. Some are imposed on us and others are self imposed.
We often are starved and imprisoned in own flawed histories, locked up in resentment, confusion, hurt, anger, disillusion , bafflement and discouragement ; even if, like the walleyed pike, we are floundering and on the point of giving up, God can still break through all of our mess, because God's key is capable of opening up any locked room or shattering any imaginary or real glass prison we are in.
God is right there beside us to rescue all of us walleyed fishes even if it is at that precise moment when we are floundering and starving.
That is what Christ told us in the Sermon on The Mount in the Beatitudes. That is the invitation He gave to the disciples "Come and be fishers of mankind" ( when the church get rounds to being inclusive.)
The powerful message of Advent and the Gospels is right there for us, no matter how dimly our capacity is to see through to its truth.
Throughout Advent I have been preoccupied with the incredulous "Yeses" of Advent and how Mary's Yes, Yes to an open heart and open womb was so profound.
I have been pondering Joseph's Yes, the Shepherd's Yes, the Wise Men's Yes, The disciples Yes, I will give up everything and follow You,
Christ's own Yes in the Garden of Gethsemane before he was crucified,
the despairing grieving disciples Yes that required the appearance of Christ in The Upper Room after the Crucifixion for them to believe, but even then was not enough to sustain them until Pentecost when they were freed from their tongue- tied muted fears by the power of the Holy Spirit and their Yes launched them into living a missionary life.
I think of DoubtingThomas and his" I will not believe until I put my hands into Christ's wounds."
His "I believe, help my unbelief" is perhaps the most human and realistic response I will ever make.
What is so awesome is that the risen Christ had the power, patience and enduring love to come and stand alongsideThomas right there in his darkest doubts.
So at the end of the day we can say what we like.
Invited or Uninvited, God is always present because only God has the key to break through all of our walleyed prisons and the nature of that key is the most subversive thing we still don't understand in this world, and that is the power of Love.
When God became incarnate in the Body of Christ at Christmas, He came to be right there with us on the "other side" of that glass barrier, whether it is visibly there or not.
Christ said I am with you always and He gave us the Eucharist .
God came for all of us- sorry Bishops, not just for the many. See previous related post on this here for DeaconsToday- An Old Man's Dream of Advent
There are no glass barriers between God and us any more, except of our own making and God is ever there beside us if only we would fully believe and act on it.