2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10
When Nelson Mandela walked out of his prison cell on February 11, 1990, Catholic editors described it as a "Teilhardian" moment. Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., the Jesuit religious thinker and paleontologist, "was convinced that the human family is evolving toward greater unity – its strands converging, not diverging."
When I was a kid, we had a long piece of marked linoleum in the basement – a game called shuffleboard. In this game players use sticks to push metal-and-plastic weighted pucks down the linoleum path into a scoring area at the opposite end of the strip. Today, it’s easy to fall into a different kind of game called "ain’t it awful". We attempt to score points by topping each other with disheartening data, verbalizing how our global society is deteriorating. Ethnic cleansing, unparalleled poverty, and unspeakable violence seem to saturate our social media. But our generation has also been blessed with extraordinary leaders… Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks, Dorothy Day and Oscar Romero, and countless others, fighting for the dignity of all humanity.
Today’s liturgy offers other charismatic leaders, dreamers, if you will. King David, in spite of his limitations, was God’s choice to inspire ancient Israel. Jesus, too, engaged in that struggle, and he, too, was misunderstood. In the verse preceding today’s Gospel, the family of Jesus come to take him home, convinced he is crazy! And St. Angela Merici, who founded the first women’s religious community to educate and catechize poor children.
In Miguel de Cervantes’ play, Don Quixote, our hero is confronted by animosity, others who also misunderstood; holding large mirrors before Quixote, they thunder, "See life as it really is!" And Quixote replies:
I have lived nearly fifty years,
and I have seen life as it is.
Pain, misery, hunger … cruelty beyond belief.
I have heard the singing from taverns
and the moans from bundles of filth on the streets.
I have been a soldier and seen my comrades fall in battle …
or die more slowly under the lash in Africa.
I have held them in my arms at the final moment.
These were men who saw life as it is, yet they died despairing.
No glory, no gallant last words … only their eyes filled with confusion, whimpering the question, "Why?"
I do not think they asked why they were dying,
but why they had lived.
When life itself seems lunatic,
who knows where madness lies?
Perhaps to be too practical is madness.
To surrender dreams – this may be madness.
To seek treasure where there is only trash.
Too much sanity may be madness –
and maddest of all: to see life as it is,
and not as it should be!
Lord, grant us the grace to dream!
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.