When I was in college, one of my professors told a story of these crabs in a box at the Fisherman’s Wharf in Seattle. He said that these crabs are alive and all just piled in this box, and every once in a while a rebel crab will try to break free and almost get out of the box, but the other crabs will pull him down. In their chaos and confusion of trying to all climb over each other to get out, none of them get out because they keep each other down. And they all die. Steamed or boiled, dipped in butter. It is the inevitable fate of each crab all because they cannot stand to see another doing something different or better.
Several months back, when Papa Francisco was visiting the States, my old Sunday School teacher (from my Baptist days) said some very false and mean things about the Pope and Catholics in general on Facebook. It was not pleasant and I was very hurt, and, truthfully, quite furious. I wasn’t actually surprised and was sorta expecting someone from my past to pipe up over the course of that week with something, but when it actually happened my anger was stronger than I anticipated. At first, I was a lone Catholic in a sea of Fundamentalists defending the Faith and Church teachings with Scripture and Tradition. I attempted to be outwardly patient and dignified as I was inwardly seething at the barrage of insults. I was seriously about to run out of grace and snap as the arguments on the opposing side got personal: someone said how “sorry they were that I had lost my way so badly in my sin” and that they “always remembered me as a very intelligent girl and who used to have a real heart for Jesus and whose dad sometimes wouldn’t let her come to church” (um… first: my dad is a Catholic who took me to a Baptist church at my request four times a week, and second: NO ONE says mean things about my daddy to this daddy’s girl). I felt like the rebel crab being dragged down, my joy being sapped from me, when suddenly…
The Calvary (Marine-life activists?) came to the rescue! Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, Non-denominationalists, back-sliders, front-pew-sitters, and even an atheist reached out their hands to pull me out of that box of snapping, fear-mongering, chaos. I was reminded again and in many ways how ignorance and fear mostly lead to tragic consequences, but kindness and love can help in every situation. I was also reminded that stooping to meanness only sucks you back into that damn box of crabs.
This past weekend was one of my favorite sets of Bible readings. Each reading really spoke to me and entered the very cockels of my heart, which was still bruised and as yet a little resentful still of the attack.
Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 17-19 The word Yahweh came to me, saying:
5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I appointed you as prophet to the nations.’
17 ‘As for you, prepare yourself for action. Stand up and tell them all I command you. Have no fear of them and in their presence I will make you fearless.
18 For look, today I have made you into a fortified city, a pillar of iron, a wall of bronze to stand against the whole country: the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests and the people of the country.
19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you, Yahweh declares, to rescue you.’
As the priest said during his homily, God made me a prophet. He made us all prophets, to proclaim His word and truth. He made me strong, and with faith in His grace, no one can tear me down because He is with me. I need constant reminding of this because I am wont to make excuses…
First Corinthians (or One Corinthians, as Trump would say, lol) 12:31—13:13
Set your mind on the higher gifts. And now I am going to put before you the best way of all.
1 Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.
2 And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains — if I am without love, I am nothing.
3 Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good whatever.
4 Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,
5 it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances.
6 Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.
7 It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.
8 Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will be done away with.
9 For we know only imperfectly, and we prophesy imperfectly;
10 but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will be done away with.
11 When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and see things as a child does, and think like a child; but now that I have become an adult, I have finished with all childish ways.
12 Now we see only reflections in a mirror, mere riddles, but then we shall be seeing face to face. Now I can know only imperfectly; but then I shall know just as fully as I am myself known.
13 As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.
Isn’t this just one of the greatest passages in the Bible????? It just sums pretty much everything up, to me. As Jeff Cavins pointed out in the fantastic Bible study I have been doing at my parish, I cannot have one hand raised for Jesus and praising God and the other around the throat of someone that hurt me, because forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a will…Jesus didn’t “feel” like dying for us, he chose to because he loves us. God forgives me over and over again, and I owe my fellow humans this same forgiveness if I expect God to forgive me. Tearing someone else down for any reason does not build you up and it certainly does not make you holy. I am called—no, COMMANDED—to love…holding on to resentments, thinking ill thoughts, and spreading meanness is certainly not loving.
The funny thing is, the more you love, the easier it is. That channel of grace gets wider and stronger. I used to hold grudges ’til kingdom come, but lately my flashes of anger tend to cool quite quickly. I still have an Irish temper and a smart mouth that gets me into plenty of trouble, but I am becoming more understanding, apologetic, and forgiving than I was before. Though I have so much more room for improvement, I sure hope it counts for something, anyway, and I know I didn’t come that way, so it MUST be grace…
Finally, the Gospel: Luke 4: 21-30
21 Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.’
22 And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips. They said, ‘This is Joseph’s son, surely?’
23 But he replied, ‘No doubt you will quote me the saying, “Physician, heal yourself,” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own country.” ‘
24 And he went on, ‘In truth I tell you, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.
25 ‘There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land,
26 but Elijah was not sent to any one of these: he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a town in Sidonia.
27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many suffering from virulent skin-diseases in Israel, but none of these was cured — only Naaman the Syrian.’
28 When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.
29 They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of the town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him off the cliff,
30 but he passed straight through the crowd and walked away.
So, God made me (and all of us Christians) to be a prophet and promises He will be with me; He commands me to love, which is the greatest of all things; and He reminds me that a prophet is rarely accepted in his own country (though His reward for us is greater than the suffering). I am not going to convince everyone I meet, especially in my former church, of the truth I have found, but I can live it…and I can show and tell others of the love and truth…especially those others who have felt the “bad side” of so-called Christians and have the scars to show for it. Refusing to give in and spread negativity is the only way to fight your way out of a box of crabs. More than that, by building each other up and loving each other past our faults, showing mercy, and rejoicing in our faith, we can all get out of the box.