As some of you know, I'm a big fan of Sr. Joan Chittister. In her small book on the liturgical year, she writes:
The world around us tells us that life is about money, security, power and success. Yet the Gospels tell us that is about something completely other... real life is about doing the will of God, speaking for the poor, changing the lives of widows and orphans, exalting the status of women, refusing to make war, laying down our lives for the other, the invisible and even the enemy. It is about taking everyone in instead of leaving anyone out...
It was good for me to re-read this today. After visiting with our daughter and her loved one for lunch and some browsing through a wonderful old mill turned into a used bookstore, I met a colleague in ministry at the grocery store. We were talking about all the hype over the Super Bowl ~ something I continue to ponder ~ when he said, "I think part of the hype is that it is the last winter holiday feast of the secular culture... things kick off with Thanksgiving, proceed through Christmas/New Year's and wrap up with the Super Bowl which is always more about getting together and feasting than the actual sport."
So I guess my beef is not really with the Super Bowl ~ which is so many things all taking place at the same time ~ but rather with some of the values embedded in the hype. It is the same problem some have with the commodification of Christmas ~ which used to upset me, too ~ but now I see as a yearning for beauty and connection with truths greater than self. Maybe that's part of what's going on here, too and I was just too blind to see. Maybe, too, I've been so immersed in the spirituality of "Ordinary Time" ~ a totally counter-cultural journey that "refuses to overwhelm us with distractions, even religious or liturgical distractions" ~ that I was stunned to find out that Super Bowl Sunday has become my country's second most celebrated holiday ~ and aspects of that fact worry me (both being so focused and some of the cultural obsessions around this feast!)
Chittister concludes her chapter on Ordinary Time like this: "Once we understand the impact of the birth of Jesus on our own lives, we come to realize the efforts demanded of us in our ordinary lives. Then we are ready to begin the spiritual disciplines designed to strengthen us for the passions, deaths and resurrections of our own lives... (and so) we are asked to live the life of Jesus day after day until finally one day it becomes our own."
Lots of people were at the store buying lots of stuff to get ready for the their feasts. That made me smile, so in light of the feasting and all the rest, too, the words of Mary Oliver come back to me and invite me to take it all in with compassion not judgment. There is a place for critique and challenge, but mostly compassion. She writes:
To live in this world
You must be able to do three things:
To love what is mortal;
To hold it against your bones knowing
Your own life depends upon it;
And, when the time comes, to let it go,
To let it go.