Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Clothes of Glory

As I waited in the back of church with the pastor and deacon for the Vigil Mass to begin yesterday, the commentator announced that we were celebrating the Fifth Sunday of Easter.  The pastor leaned over and murmured, "that can't be right, is it the 6th?"  "It's the 7th," I assured him.  It's easy to lose count as our memories of the celebration of Easter shift into the "more than a month ago" bin of our memories.  I was sure, because I am 'preaching' this weekend - having written a homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter in Naked and You Clothed Me.

As I rode my bike to run errands yesterday, I was aware of all the people out and about on a gloriously exquisite summer day.  Children, babies in strollers, my almost 80 year-old neighbor walking the dog. It's easier to notice them when I'm moving slower.  And I'm more alert to my surroundings overall when I ride.  Bikes are a vulnerable method of transportation, as I share the road with cars operated by drivers who are not all as attuned as I am to the surroundings.  I cried, "no..." as two cars (neither of whom stopped at the stop sign) came within a foot of colliding.  Tight inside their bubbles, no one heard me yell — or my sigh of relief.

I saw too, the people who the people in their automotive bubbles are well buffered against.  The elderly African-American man struggling with his scooter in the parking lot of the dialysis center, trying to maneuver around potholes and curbs to get to the bus stop on Lancaster Ave.  The exhausted nursing aids walking an extra half mile along a road with no sidewalks, because the trolley fare drops at the station one before the hospital. The clerk from the 24 hour convenience store at the gas station, his bright orange smock rumpled, sagging against the rough hewn electric pole, waiting for the bus.  Bike riding is kenotic.

The rides and this Sunday's reading have me pondering C.S. Lewis' essay The Weight of Glory again. We are to be clothed in glory, we are cherished children of God.  Each of us. Yet somehow we chose to clothe ourselves in hard shells, insulating us from the noise and sounds and smells of our brothers and sisters. We think, as do the people in this video, that the clothes that matter, the clothes that draw us to be attentive, are the clothes of respectability.  Not the cloak we all wear, the glory we are clothed in by Christ's death and resurrection.
"We hear over and over again in the scriptures the promise that we shall be clothed in glory. In his essay The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis tries to help us imagine what glory might look like on us, as if it were a cloak we are trying on now to see how it might fit on us in eternity. What might it be like, Lewis asks, to stand before God and have God appreciate us for who we are, what we have accomplished—to see in God’s face how we are cherished, to know in our depths that God rejoices in what He has made? 
It’s an overwhelming thought. Even so, Lewis proposes flipping the contemplation around to ponder what is, at least to me, an even more oversetting reality: none of us are ordinary, that “[n]ext to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Imagine the driver that just cut you off, the neighbor whose political stance you find untenable, or the homeless woman foraging just after dawn in the dumpster behind the grocery store standing before God wrapped—as are you—in a garment of glory and light. Would you still blast your horn, tell them off, or walk past? Or would you be drawn to see them as they are, images of the glorified Christ, cherished creations of the God of glory?" — from a homily for the 7th Sunday of Easter, cycle A

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