Last month we looked at Dominican sister, Dr Barbara Reid’s metaphor of preacher as being a waiter at the banquet of Holy Wisdom.
In Wellington in January, Dr Reid shared this metaphor at a seminar in which she invited participants to imagine that they were serving up three courses with God in the kitchen preparing the menu and cooking the food.
The first course served up radical amazement. We dwelt on this course at length last month. Today we are looking at the second and third courses in Dr Reid’s metaphor: Letting go and resisting.
In this second course we learn to let go of false hungers, wishes, needs and desires to overeat, and of the fear that causes us to hoard everything in the pantry for ourselves.
‘We let go of the false notions that there is not enough to go around and we allow Holy Wisdom to teach us her ways of taking a few loaves and fishes and how to end up with leftovers after all have had their fill.’
In a reference to the Christian call to open our doors to other cultures and religions, Dr Reid suggests that we need to let go of the need to always use our own recipes but try tortillas instead of bread, or to let go of our need to use knives and forks in favour of chopsticks.
‘We let (Holy Wisdom) teach us how to go out into the streets and alleys to find those who are starving and invite all into the feast.’
We learn to let go of the sort of fear of the other engendered by the 9/11 attacks in the United States which leads to a shutting down of our capacity to feel and be affected by what is going on around us and a restriction of vision about the world. This makes us less able to engage changed circumstances creatively and inhibits our capacity for radical amazement.
‘Even as Holy Wisdom transforms us into the very image of herself, we let go of any false notions that it is our banquet or that its success depends solely on us.’
The third course involves resisting. This course helps us to identify the poisons that have not come from Sophia’s kitchen and to start healing their victims.
‘The list of attitudes and actions that preachers should resist and heal is endless.’ But Dr Reid focused on just two: sexism and unforgiveness.
‘In a world and church where women are still considered and treated as second-best, preachers and hearers must do all they can to resist patriarchy and sexism.
‘In a world where women still do two-thirds of the world’s work but earn only one-tenth of the world’s income and own only one-hundreth of the world’s property, where 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women … Holy Wisdom reveals the poison of patriarchy.
‘She upholds the equal value of females, revealing that the divine is just as adequately spoken of in female form as in male.’
A second poison to resist in this third course at the banquet of Holy Wisdom is unforgiveness that fuels violent retaliation.
‘In the ideal situation, the wellsprings of compassion are unleashed in those who are deeply aware of how they have undeservedly received lavish compassion and mercy from God, which then enables them to offer forgiveness to another who has hurt them. This ability to forgive springs from the awareness that it is impossible to “repay” God for undeserved compassion; the only response is to “pay it forward” to another.’
Referring to the parable of the servant who does not forgive his underlings in the manner in which he has been forgiven (Mt 18:23-35), Dr Reid suggests that to refuse to forgive another (the rats in life) ‘is like eating rat poison and expecting the rat to die’.
‘Today preachers must be willing to try to forgive the church for the hurts we have suffered: the shattered trust in our priests and bishops in the sex abuse crisis and its cover-up; for the wasted talents of women who have not been allowed to exercise their gifts for preaching and leadership; for the vilification of those who commit themselves to love another of the same sex, to name a few.’
In a world torn by violence and vengeance, Dr Reid says, ‘a preacher who does not devote significant time to learning, practising and teaching spiritualities and practices of forgiveness and nonviolent resistance to evil runs the risk of offering poison instead of nourishing fare to our hungry world.’
Dr Reid suggested that there were times of near despair when Holy Wisdom seemed to have abandoned her kitchen. At these times we must let this impasse drive us to contemplative prayer, ‘to the perspective of the God who loves us, (so) that our society will be freed, healed, changed, brought to paradoxical new visions and freed for nonviolent, selfless, liberating action, freed therefore for the community on this planet earth.
so what has it been about
that sometimes passed us by
at the gate of our possibility
while we hesitated
on the threshold
afraid to venture
along the twisted path
out into the unknown road
that would take us
we know not where
can we endure
to know not where
and set out even so
Mary Horn OP, Dunedin
For the first part of this story: http://www.welcom.org.nz/?sid=1035