Ok, so I wore lots of green today, including a green sweater, green shamrock earrings, and my emerald ring my parents gave me when I graduated from Divinity School. I used the expression, "Top o' the Morning to you!" I considered eating corned beef and cabbage, but decided not to over do. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
I was intrigued when my son posted a status message on his Facebook page. He was disappointed that no one was remembering St. Patrick on his day, everyone was just looking for someone to pinch for not wearing green. (Ah, middle school - aren't you glad to be out?!) I too was wanting to remember Patrick, and missing that element in the festive attitudes around me.
Tonight I read through several articles about Patrick, and refreshed my memory of him. We don't know a great deal about him, but what we do know is striking. Patrick came from a wealthy family, was kidnapped at a young age and spirited away to Ireland where he was made a slave. He managed a daring escape several years later and returned to England and his family. But instead of putting his suffering behind him, he spent years preparing for the priesthood, then returned to Ireland to serve the Irish for the rest of his life.
I read another article today, courtesy of my friend Dan Sloan, "Why Conservative Christians So Often Fail the Common Good", by Richard Hughes. Written by a professor at an evangelical college, the article was an exerpt from his book which asks why so many evangelicals and fundamentalists fail to hear and respond to God's call to work for justice and to minister to the poor. To put a fairly long and intricate article in a nutshell, the reason is because so many American Christians read the Bible through an American perspective, and have taken radical individualism and a vision of God's kingdom as political power for the Bible's central themes.
I wish I could speak as clearly and convincingly as the author did (it's on www.huffingtonpost.com). But the thought that kept running through my head was, here we are, two thousand years later, and Christ's disciples STILL don't get it! We still think the way to enter the kingdom of God is through power and might. And we still prefer to ignore or blame those less fortunate than ourselves, and to discount and denigrate those whose perspectives, beliefs, or opinions differ from our own. We want the kingdom of God to be our own little club, and you can't join unless you do what we say!
How vastly different is that sort of belief from the vision of Patrick, who dedicated himself and poured out his life serving those who had kidnapped and enslaved him. What would it mean to really love my enemy, to pray for the ones who pick on me, to do my best to make the world a better place by trying to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked or cold, heal those who are sick, visit those in prison....?
Today I heard about something someone said about me a while ago, and I was angry. I felt I was being unfairly judged, and my efforts to be helpful placed in a negative light. I confess I brooded a little, muttered something along the lines of "this always happens to me", and felt rather sorry for myself. Other than that, I had a delightful day - a lovely breakfast, good conversations, a busy day of work that I enjoy, a chance to see my husband before he left for his night's work, and the pleasure of picking up my car freshly repaired with new brakes and a fan that now works. In other words, no one kidnapped or enslaved me. And while I did nobly resist the urge to curl up on my bed with a good book when I finally got home this evening, and marched to the kitchen to prepare the yummy macaroni and cheese dish my children requested (check out 21st Century Mac and Cheese on www.splendidtable.org ). I can't exactly say I poured out my life for the wellbeing of others.
Actually, looking back on the day, I feel rather abashed. Despite my determination to be more cheerful and less grumpy, I don't think I managed to maintain a spirit of true Christian charity towards all. Sigh. On the other hand, I could have done a lot worse. And would have, in my younger days. Perhaps I should take some comfort that progress is being made. God isn't finished with me yet, thankfully. So once again I am praying for God to help me grow into my highest ideals so that I become who God intends me to be. I hope God can soften my heart and make me more attentive to the needs of those around me. As well, perhaps, make my skin a little tougher?! And tomorrow being another day, I will try again. St. Patrick and all the saints preserve us!
A prayer from St. Patrick:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all who love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger......