The late Jean Vanier, the founder of l’Arche communities, used to tell the story of giving a retreat to the bishops of New Zealand. He spoke about his community of people living with intellectual disabilities and described how sometimes the joy bubbled over.
They once had a meal and there were oranges. After devouring the oranges, the people with disabilities started throwing the peal at one another. The bishops laughed but then at supper that day in the retreat there were oranges! Need I go on?
I heard that the incident was re-enacted at Jean’s funeral in May in France! Oranges need their peel up to the time when they are eaten but then the peel is discarded as waste. The peel starts green but then ripens to gold. It is the protective covering of the fruit which has to mature until one day it gives us the vitamins of life. If the peel is pierced by an insect or other ‘enemy’ it rots.
Jesus didn’t often explain his parables. He wanted people to tease them out themselves. But I cannot resist saying a word about this one. In our youth, hopefully, we live in a secure environment and we have our precious beliefs and view of the world. If someone comes and punctures that view we can begin to ‘rot’ inside. We need our ‘peel’ for a long time – even a life time.
But there comes a time when that peel has to be torn off and we are exposed in our nakedness and vulnerability. This can be a frightening time but it is also a time of enjoying the fruit. Luke is the only one who tells us about when Jesus visited the house of Martha and Mary. Martha clings to her peel and cannot understand why Mary is content to let hers go.
Often our Church does not give a good witness in discarding its peel. We cling to it – structure, ritual, rules, tradition – and the world does not see the fruit of the gospel. It is hidden behind the peel. Perhaps it is time to rejoice and start throwing the peel around! With all our low self-image as a Church these days, with scandals galore, there is a silent hidden growth in maturity deep down in the lives of many people – not necessarily all baptised Christians, for the leaven of the gospel reaches beyond the confines of baptism.
In a few weeks the cause of John Bradburne of Mutemwa, will be formally launched in Zimbabwe and England. John once finished a letter to his great friend, John Dove:
Pray on for my sanctification because it would encourage so many souls if such a wreckage might come to canonisation…
None of us discards our peel easily. We are caught between a desire for self-preservation and the desire to be courageous and generous. We may indeed see ourselves as ‘wreckage’. We live a precarious and provisional existence until eventually all is peeled away. That will be the moment to really throw the peel around.
21 July 2019 Sunday16 C
Genesis 18:1-10 Colossians 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42
Matthew quotes Isaiah in chapter 12 about the crushed reed and the smouldering wick