Thursday, September 11, 2014

"Let it go": the Jesus version

Today's Gospel is where Jesus really proves he is out to change the world. Nothing he tells us today comes "naturally." Nothing he calls for is intuitive. It's all evidence that he is introducing a new and unfamiliar world, a greater one, based on foundations that most of us have trouble imagining, never mind ordering our life by.

What struck me today in a new way was the command that we not try to get back stolen goods. In the translation used here in the UK it reads "do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you." (So polite!) My community runs bookstores, and we have had more than a few experiences with theft. We tell grand stories about the few sisters who have gone after a thief and actually gotten the stolen item(s) back: the Infant of Prague statue hidden in a coat, the stack of CDs, things like that. (We never did recover the Stations of the Cross that vanished, one by one, from our downtown Boston bookstore back in the day.) Once I watched a customer chase a thief down Michigan Avenue after she witnessed him shoplifting in our Chicago center. (Her family had worked in retail, so she knew what it was like to suffer from walking inventory.) Then there is the man who comes in, on a regular basis, to slip individual volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours into his open backpack... But, in the words of the song, Jesus says, "Let it go." Why?

I got a hint of where he is coming from (and where he means to take us) from the last sentence in today's passage of Luke: "full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over..." Jesus is testifying to a world of abundance. Who is it who would shrug off a theft? The rich person who knows "there's more where that came from." Yesterday we heard Jesus tell of woes for the rich, but today he is turning that around. He is telling us to have the kind of poverty of spirit that St Paul witnessed to: "We seem to have nothing, but everything is ours!"

It is not enough for us to be created in the image of God like a static portrait; we are meant to make the living God, "kind to the ungrateful and the wicked" (moi?) manifest amid all the "gods and lords" of this earth.


Anonymous said...

It can be dangerous to chase down and confront a shoplifter, but why wouldn't anyone intercept the repeat offender who you recognize who regularly slips items into his backpack? Wouldn't this fall under the category of speaking to a person who sins against you to admonish and correct? Are you not complicit in the sin by silence and inaction? In most retail situations the cost of these losses are passed onto the honest consumer in the form of higher prices, so in this manner don't the ramifications of the sin of theft continue to manifest? I'm not trying to argue with your understanding of the Gospel but I believe we have a responsibility as stewards to do our due diligence. - Jean

Sr Anne Flanagan said...

Oh, believe me, when the regular shoplifter comes (the liturgy of the hours guy), he gets trailed by an attentive mother superior. This does not please him very much! Eventually, he finds the door… but this is clearly a case of mental illness, and not of sinful theft.

Anonymous said...

So sad, the liturgy-of-the-hours-guy. I've witnessed shoplifters being apprehended as they head out of our local grocery store and have wondered whether they'd stolen out of dire need or kleptomania? Reminds me how important donating to our food bank is. - Jean