St. Mary of the Angels Lenten Prayer Service I 3/6/13
Back in 1516, St. Thomas More wrote his famous book, Utopia. In it he described a beautiful city surrounded by fields,
where the air is clean and the water pure, where houses are weatherproof and fireproof, where streets are neither curvy nor
crooked, where all people are equal, and no one carries luggage on a journey because everyone is at home everywhere. St. Thomas was dreaming of a place so very, very different from the dirt, poverty,
disease and dangers of the London he lived in.
Of course, his “utopia,” as its name suggests, does not exist. “Utopia” is made up of the Greek words for “no” and “place.” No place! All the utopias ever dreamed of (and many authors have written about utopias) simply do not and
will not exist. Interestingly, all these Utopia books, from Plato to the present,
share three elements in common: 1) they all place their utopia at some far distant time or in some far distant place, 2) they
strongly criticize their present reality, and 3) they describe in great detail the physical and social aspects of their utopia.
When Jesus proclaimed the reign of God, was he promising us a utopia at some future time and in some
distant place? No, not at all! Jesus
did not locate the reign of God in some future time or place, (though many of us were taught to believe so)! Nor did He criticize the cruel Roman rule of his day. Nor did He provide a detailed blueprint of the reign
of God. Rather, for Jesus the reign of God was beginning right then with Him
and was beginning right there in Israel. True, He did picture the fullness of God’s reign as a wedding banquet at the
end of time, but his example for the reign of God right now was the common table and the shared meal. To this table and meal He welcomed all: disciples and toll collectors, Pharisees and prostitutes, Scribes
and sinners. At his tables there was an abundance of bread and fish and wine,
and probably, laughter! (How could there not be with all that wine!) At his table
He taught important manners of the reign of God: i.e.,, willing to be last, loving your enemies, forgiving 70 times 7, taking
the beam out of one’s own eye first, washing feet, serving others, showing compassion, losing one’s life.
The parables Jesus told concerning this reign of God keep pointing to the smallness of the beginning
(mustard seed, yeast), the hidden-ness of the growth process (night and day), the amazing fruitfulness at the end (30, 60,
100 fold). We are part of that growing process whenever we reach out, welcome,
work at relationships, forgive, support the weak, and pass on the good news. The
table is any place where two or three are gathered. The meal is any time we offer
our faith in God/Jesus and our love for each and everyone.
Questions for our reflection and sharing:
1) How or where has God been present at a
“table” I sat at recently?
2) Is there someone whom I want to reach out
to and invite to my/our “table” this Lent?