Saturday, November 05, 2011

Retreat update

It's rather refreshing to be here in the New England countryside in late autumn. (I had forgotten what the autumn trees smelled like!) The retreat house only got power restored the day before yesterday (power outages being a big part of the snowstorm), and the elevator was only repaired an hour or so before we arrived with an elderly retreatant who never would have managed the stairs. Talk about Providence!
The first conference today was on the theme of gratitude as an essential characteristic of ongoing conversion. The reading from Romans today offered such a fitting picture of Paul's grateful heart: at the close of that massive missive, he begins sending personal greetings to people he has met and worked with, beginning with the power couple, Prisca (Priscilla) and Aquila. Not only does he express his personal thanks to them for risking their necks (that's what the Greek really says!) for him; Paul says that "all the churches of the Gentiles owe them thanks." He goes down the long list, acknowledging various people and their contributions to the spread of the Gospel. Paul didn't take people for granted.
Then others in the room get in on the act, starting with Tertius, the scribe. You can almost hear them pipe in: the voice of the wealthy Gaius, whose house was large enough to host the community when it gathered to celebrate "the Lord's Supper"; Erastus, the aedile (treasurer)--who may have been at that very time involved in creating a public monument that archaeologists would dig up millennia later (finding his name and title inscribed on one of the stones); a man named "Quartus" (fourth), who--at least by Roman naming conventions--may very well have been Tertius' own brother (a firstborn Roman son receiving his father's formal name, and the subsequent sons simply being given numbers: Secundus, Tertius, Quartus, Quintus, Sixtus...).
Aren't they doing what Jesus urges in this morning's Gospel? Making friends by their use of this world's goods of skill (Tertius) or treasure (Gaius) or influence (Erastus) so that when they leave this world's goods, they won't be homeless, but welcomed "into eternal dwellings"?

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