Monday, April 23, 2012

Meditation XVII -- Arrogance

Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus tells us a great deal about the extent and depth of arrogance to be found in the unrighteous. We are told the rich man, after living in comfort and luxury, went to Hell, while the diseased beggar Lazarus at death to Abraham's side. But this is not, for me, a story about the evils of wealth versus the virtues of suffering.

Our Lord told this story not long after rebuffing the Pharisees, who we are told in Luke's gospel, "were lovers of money." Jesus had said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted before men is an abomination in the sight of God." So it is not money itself or wealth that makes one unrighteous, but placing it above God. That seems worse when one has to defend or explain away the skewing of priorities.

What amazes me about the parable is the rich man's gall in asking Abraham to have Lazarus serve him. He knew the name of the beggar with sores, and he could not, even then, could only think of his as a being below him. Further, when Abraham tells the rich man why his request will not be granted, the rich man again asks Abraham to "send him to my father's house" in order to warn his still living brothers. Again, he sees Lazarus as a servant who can be ordered from his comfort to do the bidding of those of higher status.

The rich man did not go to Hell because he was rich, but because he rejected God. The sign of that rejection is that he would not see anything in the world as less important than him, and even death and the torment of flames did not burn such selfishness and arrogance out of him.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Bookmarks -- Little Girls In Church

Like her prose, Norris' poems are well crafted and moving, devoid of maudlin sentimentality, but plenty of honest feeling. These poems address the sort of real life grace Flannery O'Conner brought to life in her stories and wrote about in her essays. I found myself grinning as I read several of these poems, particularly those with children at the center, as I recognized the innocence and earthy faith one sees in kids. 

Norris makes the the Psalms and liturgical offices come alive, not by merely quoting or referring to them in some esoteric manner, but by imbuing them with connections to the world one must accept grace among. An example of this is in "The Ignominy of the Living":

Then a recording of "My Way" came scratching out
on the electric carillion
"Oh, hell," I said,
and prayed for Frank Sinatra, too.

And the longings of a soul in love with God and also with the earth can be seen in poems like "The Monastery Orchard in Early Spring":

I, too, want to be light enough
for this day: throw off impediments,
push like a tulip
through a muddy smear of snow

I felt blessed when I ran across this volume, and I hope for more such blessings to come. I already felt Kathleen Norris was an important writer before having the chance to read her poems. This book only solidifies that opinion for me.