FROZEN II Review

FROZEN II

Review by Father James DiLuzio

Elsa and Anna, Olaf, Kristoff and Sven are off on a new adventure and the Disney animators have outdone themselves in visuals. I saw Frozen II in IMAX and the vistas and panoramas of Arendelle, Forests, Glaziers and Canyons are stunning, and the characterizations, especially emotive eyes of the protagonists prove totally captivating.  The story (credited to five writers, including the sole screenwriter Jennifer Lee who is also co-director with Christ Buck, another story contributor) offer solid psychological, emotional and spiritual growth drama for Elsa and Anna. Each woman is voiced by Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell, respectively in top form.  This new script gives Anna a little more depth and develops Elsa more readily courageous then before. The animation matches their voice portrayals perfectly and both voice portrayals are first-rate.  In their supporting comic roles, Josh Gad and Jonathan Groff returning as Olaf and Kristoff are equally enjoyable.  The script gives Olaf a dandy new twist spouting “fun-facts” and philosophical maxims.   Most are clever and amusing and worth more than a few chuckles, although a couple notes about death seem surprisingly beyond Disney’s purview. Evidently, the screenwriters overly indulged their inner adult!

Overall, FROZEN II offers a satisfying movie experience, although the songs by husband and wife team Kristen Anderson Lopez Robert Lopez (who also contributed to the story) don’t reach the heights of their work in the original FROZEN.  Perhaps they needed more fallow time before returning to these characters and situations. Elsa’s big ballads INTO THE UNKOWN and SHOW YOURSELF miss the magnetism of LET IT GO even as the orchestral arrangements build to climactic proportions. The most memorable and effective songs were the quieter ones, especially a folk-like ballad ALL IS FOUND sweetly sung by Evan Rachel Wood in a flashback voicing Queen Iduna, the princesses’ mother. (The song is repeated in the credits by Kacey Musgraves.)  Notwithstanding their appropriate character revelations and plot advancements, several songs don’t seem to flow organically from the dialogue and situations the way they do in other Anderson/Lopez scores. Olaf’s WHEN I’M OLDER and Kristoff’s LOST IN THE WOODS, fine but not remarkable as stand-alone numbers, seem to pop into the script at not quite the right moments.  This is the biggest surprise and a rare flaw in a Disney animated musical feature. The orchestrated musical score, however, by Christopher Beck is excellent.

I would recommend the film for families with kids 10 and older due to some of the darker elements in the script.  The story team has provided well-developed themes of sisterhood, friendship, maturation and best of all: the importance of discovering and confronting the ill effects of the past on both the human psyche and the natural world.  A nice surprise and an essential timely lesson for us all.

Christ Now!

Homily for Thirty-Third Sunday In Ordinary Time November 2019

6 AM New York City. Wednesday November 13th. Twenty-three degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill well below that found a hundred or more  young women and teens lining along Avenue of the Americas at 48th Street in Manhattan.  Back packs stuffed and overflowing; sleeping bags and suitcases at their feet, these adventurous folks were forming a queue for standby tickets for Saturday Night Live at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. It was only Wednesday morning, but unreserved tickets and cancellations won’t be available until 7 AM Saturday November 16th.  The queue gets longer as the day wears on. Temperature rises to 36 degrees, but nighttime drops to 23. Thursday’s temperatures: 28 low; 45 high but nighttime drops to 37; Friday warmed up to 50 at noon; 36 at night. Saturday at 6 AM: 34.

Great Expectations. Awe inspired Anticipation. Why?  Harry Styles, British pop star will be the host.  He looks a little bit like a young, vibrant, drug-free Mick Jagger. Neither wind, nor chill, nor sleeping bags on frigid sidewalk concrete deterred the anxious throng. 

How prepared are we–how undeterred– to keep our sights on Jesus not only through the vagaries of weather, but sickness and health, good news and bad news?

A glance at the news evokes images not unlike those Jesus offers in Luke’s Gospel:  wars and insurrections, famines —starving children and families still cry out in Yemen due to Saudi Arabia and Syria’s political interventions, and the  protests in Hong Kong may have abetted a bit, but there’s no true reconciliation in sight.   And then, of course, there are our contemporary tragedies analogous to earthquakes:  Fires and school shooting in California and melting glaciers on the poles.

All these things require people of faith to center ourselves more fully in Christ.  When fundamentalist Christians challenge us by asking “Have you accepted Jesus as your Personal Lord and Savior?” it’s time we, too, shout “YES!” And , insist that we are striving to develop the relationship every day. 

Every age has its challenges and every age requires Christians to understand Jesus as Sacrament –the Sacred Manifested in the world and in us.  Our sacraments cultivate the relationship but are not ends in themselves –never were, nor were they intended to be but confirmation of a 24/7 relationship. 

Without Jesus and our attentiveness to prayer to and through Him and with and through His Very Own Communion with His Saints –expressions of Jesus Himself in different epochs, different situations—each offering some inspiration of cooperation with grace—without these, how can we possibly navigate the challenges of our times?

 False prophets are everywhere–asserting prosperity beyond our imagining, “consequence-free” gratification of all kinds or, conversely,  cataclysmic doom.  How easy it is, at times, to give into these fears or try to escape from realities and abandon Jesus because we think He asks much of us!  But what he asks of us, is what he freely gives: the grace to cultivate  honesty, truth, forbearance, hope, trust.  And more than that, He is ever ready to heal and support us when we fail.

It is time that we let Jesus be enough for us –allow Jesus to be all in all in us. Seeing Him as our friend, our patron, our mentor, linking the events of our lives with the events of His life and that of the Saints. As Saint Paul wrote “imitate me” because he imitates Christ. May the Anima Christi prayer be our mantra, today, tomorrow and all the days of our lives.  Then we have nothing to fear. Moreover, we have the courage to engage one another in making this a better world, all in Christ’s name.   And so we pray:

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from thee.
From the malignant enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come unto Thee,
That with all Thy saints,
I may praise thee
Forever and ever.
Amen.

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 that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.

Fr. Richard Rohr on Scripture — Indispensable!

Practice: Midrash

The best way in which a Christian can interpret Scripture is to do so as Jesus did! It almost sounds too simple, doesn’t it? Yet, ironically, this has not been the norm for most of Christianity. So, what does it mean to read the Bible as Jesus did?

Jesus approached the Hebrew Scriptures with the assumption that God had been dialoging with humanity since the beginning. He used the Jewish practice of midrash as a way of participating in this dialogue. Midrash is a method of interpreting Scripture that fills in the gaps, by questioning and imagining a multitude of possible interpretations. Midrash allows the text and the Spirit of God to open up the reader to transformation, instead of resisting change by latching onto one final, closed, and certain interpretation. This open-horizon approach was common for most of the first 1300 years of Christianity, where as many as six levels of interpretation and numerous levels of truth were perceived in any one Scripture text.

The traditional forms of midrash demand both a prayerful approach and scholarly familiarity with the Bible and commentaries which have formed the tradition over the centuries. However, it is possible for someone who is not a biblical scholar or theologian to get a sense of the practice of midrash.

The following practice, drawn from Teresa Blythe’s book 50 Ways to Pray, offers an interactive experience with the Bible through openness, contemplative attitude, and critical thinking.This practice invites us to trust that God will meet us where we are and will take us where we need to go as we consider the meaning of the text. We could engage in this dialogue often, even with the same text, since there will always be more discoveries about the meaning(s) of sacred texts.

Dialoguing with Scripture:

Choose one of the following Scriptures for reflection:

  • Exodus 1:8-22 — The Hebrew midwives fear God
  • Exodus 18:13-27 — Jethro’s advice to Moses
  • 1 Samuel 3 — The call of Samuel
  • Mark 9:14-29 — Jesus heals the afflicted boy
  • Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calms a storm
  • Luke 10:29-37 — The good Samaritan

Read (or listen to) your selected Scripture passage slowly. You may want to read (or hear) it more than once.

Consider which character in the story you would like to interact with. It could be a person you find agreeable, or a person with whom you want to question or debate. Who are you drawn to? When you decide on a character, write the name at the top [of a piece of] paper.

Hold an imaginary conversation—on paper—with the character in the story. You may want to stick with the theme of the Scripture and talk about that, or you may want to discuss other topics. It is completely up to you. Let your imagination roll free and see what transpires. (20 minutes)

When you are finished, read your dialogue out loud.

What is it like to have a conversation with a biblical figure? Why did you choose the character you chose? Did anything in the conversation surprise you? Did anything in the conversation move you? Did you feel any inner blocks to doing this sort of exercise? Did you feel the presence and guidance of God in the dialogue? What did you learn about yourself as you engaged this biblical figure? How easy or difficult is it for you to have these kinds of imaginary conversations? How useful would you say such conversations are for you?

End your reflection time with a prayer of gratitude for what you experienced.

Tip—You don’t have to be an excellent writer to enjoy this exercise. No one but you has to read what you’ve written. Just write from the heart and imagination. [1]

[1] Teresa A. Blythe, 50 Ways to Pray: Practices from Many Traditions and Times (Abingdon Press: 2006), 17-18.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Hierarchy of Truths: Jesus’ Use of Scripture (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2013), CDMP3 download.

Image credit: Palm Sunday (detail), Sinkiang, 683-770 CE, Nestorian Temple, Qocho (Xinjiang), China.

For Further Study:

“The Future of Christianity,” Oneing, vol. 7, no. 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2019)

Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Alexie Torres-Fleming, Shane Claiborne, Emerging Church: Christians Creating a New World Together (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2009), MP3 download

Sebastian Moore, The Contagion of Jesus: Doing Theology as If It Mattered (Orbis Books: 2008)

Richard Rohr, What Is the Emerging Church? (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), MP3 downloadCD

C. S. Song, Jesus, the Crucified People (Fortress Press: 1996)

Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why (Baker Books: 2008)

Freedom of the Children of God – the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Writer Bianca Vivion Brooks posted an Op-Ed in the NYTIMES on Friday.  Titled I USED TO FEAR BEING A NOBODY, THEN I LEFT SOCIAL MEDIA.  In it, she shared how her identity and wellbeing were tied up in the world wide web.  She wrote:

 “For years I poured my opinions, musings and outrage onto my timeline, believing I held an indispensable place in a vital sociopolitical experiment.

But these passionate, public observations were born of more than just a desire to speak my mind — I was measuring my individual worth in constant visibility.

 “After all, a private life boasts no location markers or story updates. The idea that the happenings of our lives would be constrained to our immediate families, friends and real-life communities is akin to social death in a world measured by followers, views, likes and shares.

“I grow weary when I think of this as the new normal for what is considered to be a fruitful personal life. Social media is no longer a mere public extension of our private socialization; it has become a replacement for it. What happens to our humanity when we relegate our real lives to props for the performance of our virtual ones?”


Ms. Brooks was right.  That is the message we get from our culture because culture often addressed our most basic human instincts: it is so very human to crave affirmation from strangers, to desire blessed assurances of our worth.  Everyone wants to feel valued by others beyond our immediate circle of family and friends, certainly everyone needs to feel that we certainly are more valuable than our bank accounts. Still, to live with constant expectation that somehow, somewhere we will be acknowledged, that we will be awarded, we will achieve recognition—these are the burdens society thrusts upon us.  We must remember these do not comprise the yoke of Christ, the blessed burdens of Christianity.

Sure, it is disappointing to write a book that nobody reads or organize community outreach on important issues –spiritual or social– and nobody shows up.  But that’s not the same things as centering our lives on social acceptance, praise and success. 

Jesus walked the way of the humble, rejected by his hometown natives, he made the Lord God his foundation–nurturing disciples to be sure–but not dependent on their adulation or even their solidarity,  Indeed, they often misunderstood him, they could not comprehend all that he taught. nor did they exquisitely follow his example.  What kept him going?  His honesty, his willingness to sigh, trusting  that all will come to pass in God’s time. Jesus was content to plant seeds, finding comfort in life’s basic pleasures while offering hope, insisting on a better future but not manipulating people into it.  Critical of all established institutions –He called the tetrarch Herod “that fox” and many religious leaders “you hypocrites!” –all the while witnessing to the Great Commandments and not despairing when his followers didn’t or couldn’t live up to them.  

When disappointments plague us, we may recall the prophet Habakkuk as Jesus must have recalled him:

For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.
 The rash one has no integrity;
 but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.

Meanwhile, Jesus was content to praise God for life’s little pleasures, close friends and family, however imperfect, yet still sharing meals with disciples and strangers alike, engaging with people of wealth and of little or no means, always seeing the inner soul of whoever sat beside him; observing nature’s beauty and challenges –the lilies of the field, the birds of the air, pastures of sheep and farms cultivating wheat, and, like Abraham before him, the stars of the skies, the sands on the shores of the ocean.  

Simplicity doesn’t mean not to try writing the great American novel — if that is your ambition.  It doesn’t mean not bringing your ideas to your boss or high school principal or your local Congress person.  In fact, we are obliged to live, to be engaged, to share insights and experiences with those who make decisions for us and for others.  And, should we be the ones who are making the decisions, it is vitally important that after expressing our ideas, our preferences, we listen to others who think differently, live differently without needing their adulation –or even their votes! 

In all this, Jesus insists we keep the bigger picture whether we are heard or not, our ideas are accepted or not, whether our dignity is acknowledged or not.  Truth, Goodness, Justice, Mercy are not rooted in imperfect society, or culture of meritocracy but in Faith, Hope and Love.  There is no better foundation, no great truth.  

Emily Dickenson grounded herself in spiritual realities and knew the distinction between integrity and popularity when she wrote: 

I’m Nobody!  Who are you?

Are you – Nobody – too?

Then there’s a pair of us?

Don’t tell!  they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog –

To tell one’s name – the livelong June –

To an admiring Bog!

But today is SUNDAY and we must let Jesus have the last words: Are we feeling dejected, bereft of camaraderie, devoid of success and affirmation?  Recall Jesus speaking from his own experience:  “No prophet is ever accepted in his own native place. ” And, like Jesus, we must move on.   Yes, we can dream, yes, we still can share. We can give and forgive.  We must do all these things FREED from our drives for self-importance so we may give thanks to God and say: ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

Re; HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM – a book by NYTIMES Staff Writer Bari Weiss

As a Catholic priest committed to fighting anti-semitism, I attended Bari Weiss’ NY Times Talk on Thursday evening, Sept. 5, promoting her book (2019, New York: Crown) which I just finished. There’s also a NYTIMES magazine piece 9/8.  I think this very short book (206 of 7” x 4 ½ “pages) is best in its definition of Anti-semitism and its overview of its history (the “HOW TO segment is shorter and addressed primarily to the Jewish community itself),  I want to share some of Bari Weiss’insights (and mine–IN PARENTHESIS) with you:

  • Judaism is not only a religion, it is an ethnicity, a people and a nation.  Not acknowledging all three opens critics to contributing to antisemitism .
  • Anti-Semitism comprises a goal of eliminating Judaism and the Jewish people.  (In that sense, I believe Christian supersessionism is Anti-Semitic)
  • Anti-Semitism includes superstitions, lies and falsehoods about Jews and Judaism’s but can include misunderstandings that are not fact checked.  There is also a strong illogic– Jews and Judaism are blamed for whatever! –with no basis on reality. E.g., ” controlling the planet, controlling banks/ Wall Street/ education / Hollywood/ government policy / responsible for the spread of communism/ engineering wars for profit.”
  • (Anti-semitism is in evidence whenever inquiry into the standard ” who, what, when, where, how?” questions go unanswered.)
  • Anti-Semitism includes Denial of, and/or refutation of, the distinct ethic, moral, faith, social and literary contributions of the Hebrew Bible and the major contribution of Jews to Western Civilization. 
  • The FAR-LEFT ideologies contribute to Anti-Semitism:
  • “The Politically Correct”  dynamic makes adherents  of left-leaning ideas disproportionately fearful of offending Islam (Islamophobia), thus they downplay the acts and rhetoric of  Radical Fundamentalist Islam ignoring its extreme hatred of Jews.
  • There is  disproportionate blame and outright scapegoating of Israel as a nation that is essentially anti-semitism.  In contrast, holding American and Israel to their highest ideals and constitutional directives is not Anti-Semitism. E.g., one may fairly state that “the current policies of the Jewish state betray Jewish (and American constitutional) values.

The FAR-RIGHT: White Supremacy ideology forms hatred of Jews because of its biblical ethics, sensitivities to immigrants, minorities; hated for its internationalist character. It is threatened by Jewish civilization

HOW TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMTISM:

Weiss offers this:

  • Follow Abraham’s example: refuse to worship false idols (incl. lies, biased reporting) and nurture courage to keep out-of-step with the status quo;  risk acting on behalf of deeper, biblical values; don’t be afraid to stand alone, even while cultivating community within and beyond Judaism
  • Remind people that the American values of liberty, freedom of thought and worship, the notion that all people are created equal—are Jewish values coded in Genesis 1 and throughout the Hebrew Bible.  So, too, the very notions of Hope and a present that nurtures a more positive future for humanity are specific Jewish contributions to Western Civilization. 

I offer this:

  • Hold all comments made in conversation about “The Jews” (or any group) to the “Who, What, When, Where, Why, How” standard
  • A foundational aspect of the Bible’s inspiration is the way the Jewish community writes of its great accomplishments and its failures, often with more accounts of the failures and the sufferings it endures.  All peoples would do well to do the same, holding accomplishments –positive contributions to wisdom, world values and cultures while remaining humble of all the failures.  I think one aspect of antisemitism is that others are not secure about their own ethnicity, heritage, strengths and failures and so let themselves become envious and resentful of the Jewish identity and its outstanding contributions.  More HUMBLE pride all around could help!

See: See:  https://www.bariweiss.com/                                           Twitter:  @bariweiss

See: https://forward.com/culture/books/431220/bari-weiss-anti-semitism-how-to-fight-review/

Homily for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time –Invest in Faith: There’s a Great Pay-Off!

Reading 1:   Wis 9:13-18b     Responsorial Psalm   Ps 90:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14 and 17  

Reading 2     Phmn 9-10, 12-17    Gospel    Lk 14:25-33

By this time in our history, what Catholic doesn’t know when Jesus states “You must hate your father, mother, wife, children, brother, sister if you are to follow me”  he used hyperbole / exaggeration to express that we must love God first above all others.  If not, we tend to love family and friends selfishly, manipulatively, with jealousy or envy or with inflated pride or too much criticism.  Following Jesus first, we see our loved ones as Jesus sees them, love them as Jesus loves them, support them as much as we can mirror Jesus’  support—i.e., loving them while insisting on the Two Great Commandments which foster honesty, humility, forgiveness, and courage to repair any damage that we’ve done.   As for “hating even our lives,” of course, we must always be GRATEFUL for our lives, for being invited to share in Jesus’ life, his mission, cultivating his perspectives in how we interact with the world.  What we need “to hate”  is our tendency to default to society’s ways of valuing us – our looks, our possessions, our neighborhoods, our needs for other’s approval.  Grateful that we may have these things but not resentful that we may not.

In the NYTIMES Sunday Arts section today, there’s an insightful interview with Linda Ronstadt, a very popular recording artist of the 1970 and 80’s , now retired and, it seems, living gracefully with Parkinson’s disease.  Regarding her unique recordings of Mexican songs when bringing Spanish into mainstream pop was extremely rare, her interviewer asked her:  ““When critics talk about the pop artists who brought music from outside the U.S. or U.K. to the pop mainstream, they mention Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel, not you. Is that frustrating?  HER RESPONSE:  Who cares? My music is not curing cancer. It will be gone soon enough.

That, my friends is a shining example of being thankful for our lives and talents while being humble and keeping the big picture –whether we ever get our name in a newspaper or our YouTube posts go viral. 

Following Jesus, picking up our cross—i.e. accepting trials and conflicts and difficulties as challenges, opportunities for grace, and being “ever-ready,” “prepared,” “prudent,” eager to learn is the theme for our Eucharist today.  And, I know, how often we may not feel any of that.  Remember, each Mass is here to return us to hope, to courage—to trust in Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  I know that not all family, friends and co-workers support us in these beliefs and endeavors.   Many chide, or ridicule us for going to Mass, or for remaining Catholic, or for believing in God.  Others are quick to lord it over us when we do something harmful or indulge our tempers or hurt ourselves or another human being. It is then that we must humbly acknowledge how dependent we are on Christ and His Story of forgiveness, for reconciliation, for courage to admit our wrongs and make amends.  Today’s Eucharist offers us that, too.  Thank God!

And yes, the Church as institution has given us plenty of reasons to judge it, to even hate it.  Yet today and everyday Jesus gives us the grace to hold it accountable with faith and hope, loving it back to its true self and reinstating it to its primordial purpose. Hey, if not  you and me, who?

So, may we not despair that only some of us among family, friends and neighbors have chosen to celebrate Jesus in us and for us today. We never know when the deposit of Grace bestowed on in any given Eucharist will bear fruit  — even when we may not be conscious of it.  I’ll close with what I hope is for you a shining example –an inspiration—as to the possibilities, the grace in store for us precisely because we’re here, cultivating our friendship with God and all that entails.

One day, a certain dad indulged his dark side in ways that were deeply demeaning to his adult daughter.  She found herself brimming with rage.  But a voice within, however, pleaded with her: “Postpone your wrath!”  “Postpone your wrath!” What Eucharist do you think that came from?  “Anyway,” she pacified herself with this thought, “I’ll plot my revenge at a later date.“

As the days went by, the incident replayed repeatedly in her mind, evoking the worst of all her childhood and adult memories.  She’d see her father’s face before her and cringe and craze.  And then it happened!  A realization that she didn’t have to live this way.  She had a choice.  Yes, she could indulge these thoughts and feelings, or she could release herself from unending trauma. She must recall the good times, the pleasant moments with her dad or she’d make herself sick and kill her kinship with her father forever. 

She decided to throw him a party. She hadn’t prayed to Jesus for deliverance, but faith is active even when we’re unconscious of it. Her preparations brought good memories forward to balance the bad ones. Her dad was not a determinedly daily tyrant. No, not at all.  She recalled moments of kindness, patience and generosity. Grace happened!  The party was a singular success and none of those who attended, especially dear dad, would ever know all that transpired in her heart.  She was free, her heart restored, and she thought, “Thank God!” Remember, friends, Eucharist means “Thanksgiving.”

Jesus’ Take on “The Grasshopper and The Ants”

HOMILY FOR 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 2019

Gospel: Lk 12:32-48

Five Hundred or so years before Jesus, Aesop recorded a Fable entitled “The Grasshopper and The Ants.”  It went like this:

One bright day in late autumn a family of Ants were bustling about in the warm sunshine, drying out the grain they had stored up during the summer, when a starving Grasshopper, his fiddle under his arm, came up and humbly begged for a bite to eat.

“What!” cried the Ants in surprise, “haven’t you stored anything away for the winter? What in the world were you doing all last summer?”

“I didn’t have time to store up any food,” whined the Grasshopper; “I was so busy making music that before I knew it the summer was gone.”

The Ants shrugged their shoulders in disgust.

“Making music, were you?” they cried. “Very well; now dance!” And they turned their backs on the Grasshopper and went on with their work.

Moral:  There’s a time for work and a time for play.

Sound a little bit like Jesus’ parable, doesn’t it?  BE PREPARED! Folk wisdom can be found throughout the ages in Ancient and Biblical literature alike.  WISDOM is a gift from the Holy Spirit, guaranteed in the Church and Synagogue but never limited to it. And we well know how wisdom builds on wisdom from one age to the next. So, what did Jesus add to the sagacity of his time for our time?  He says,  “You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”  His listeners knew full well He was speaking about the End Times—the End of All Things.  But they also knew that Promise of the Ages could be experienced in aspects of their lives in their day.  In our day, we know that Christ attends to us, is with us, guides us through Sacraments and all acts of faith, hope and love.

Jesus also says, those who are “prepared”– those who live open to Christ and His Spirit–will have great rewards in the here and now and future.  He also says those who are not prepared will be “beaten” – an image not to be taken literally but understood as “beaten down,” discouraged, despaired, debilitated by doubts, fears, vengeance, greed—the results of a faithless life.  

In the ensuing years, the fable of “The Grasshopper and the Ants” has evolved into one with more Christian aesthetics in the just the same way we have come to interpret what sounds like Jesus’ harsh sayings in newly inspired ways.  In the more recent rendition, the Ants have compassion on the Grasshopper, invite him into their colony for the winter to entertain them with his fiddle. Everybody eats to the sound of music, and afterward, dancing ensues, celebrating a kind of heavenly banquet!  The implication here is that with compassion comes a new consciousness that there’s a unique work for everyone to do –many gifts but one Spirit.

This vision of all working, living and playing together, adds much to how we read Jesus’ parable of the Faithful and Prudent Steward.  To get right down to it:  Why put us through the suffering of being without Christ, living in despair, hurt, anger, begrudging what we have or envying what we don’t have–when Jesus offers abundant hope, solace, energy and grace-filled resources as needed.  The Gospel reminds us that although Jesus is ever-present at our door, we are tempted not to open it, or we can’t or won’t because we’re more focused on our fiddling than on God who gave us the ability to fiddle in the first place!   On the surface Jesus’ parable threatens us with punishments for failing to live the Gospel.  More importantly, Providence inspires us to acknowledge our weakness and fallibilities not to cultivate guilt but to strengthen our resolve–if we let it–to hear Jesus knocking at our door and let him in!

HOW shall we keep the LIGHT of faith burning in our hearts and homes to let Jesus in?   We may do so by cultivating an ever enthusiastic “Yes”  to living with integrity, honesty, fairness in our work and leisure. We can cultivate a deeper Christ Awareness in what we choose to read, how we speak, engage in dialogue regarding family matters, news, politics or local community matters.  We do these things not to “please Jesus” who loves us unconditionally but to grow in solidarity with Him, to allow ourselves to experience His friendship more fully, conscious He is HERE and Comes to Us Continually.

Furthermore, we may live faith, hope and  love daily by saying “No” to lies, by refusing to ignore the deep realities of issues, people, places and things; by saying “No” to blaming others and saying “Yes” to exploring and sharing in solutions to daily dilemmas and wider woes of city, state and world. 

In Christ, and through Communion with Him, we allow ourselves to be Enlivened, energized by the Holy Spirit for all the work at hand, balanced by proper “sabbath” rest and leisure – all in a proper balance of time and place exemplified by the Change of Seasons, themes and ideas supported by fable and parable alike.    Humility offers Heaven on Earth as we affirm and live-out Jesus’ words: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”