Friday, May 05, 2006

About Matthew 24 - the End Times

A co-worker asked me what I thought of Matthew 24. I came up with this response.

Typically, it seems that Matthew 24 is interpreted to discuss the end of the world, or the apocalypse.

To me, there are a couple of things going on in this reading. The first is a warning of the end times; the second is to live a righteous life because you never know when the end times will come.

The thing I find interesting in the Gospels is Jesus often refers back to the old testament as a way to provide validity and weight to his own words at the time. He is reminding the apostles of the teachings they would have already encountered, reinforcing what they already understood from the old testament. Examples of references to the OT are in verse 15 and verse 29.

My own interpretation of this is that there might be a time when people have so ruined the world that it will come to an end, i.e. through nuclear destruction or perhaps environmental devastation. Or, one could interpret this to mean that no one knows when death will arrive. I think the Catholic recitation of "Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead" refers to this Gospel (and other places), but to me, I see that the apocalypse could also be interpreted as our own individual apocalypses we experience at death, which is inevitable for each of us.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Take me to the river

"Elizabeth Ann," I hear Father Ron say as he begins to pour a half-gallon pitcher of holy water over my head, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

My eyes are closed. I am bent at the waist over a large font, full of freshly-blessed holy water. Fr. Ron speaks clearly and loudly so the whole congregation can hear. First he says my name, "Elizabeth Ann," which resonates through the hushed church and makes me realize in a surreal moment that this is actually happening -- at age 35, I am actually being baptized!

On the Bridge in my tranquil spot in the woods, I listen to the peaceful sound of water trickling from the creek below. I carefully pick my way through the tangle of weeds and sapling trees, to the edge of the creek's channel, then step-slip-slide my way down the steep sides until I reach the pebbly, coarse sand. I take off my shoes and, at the water's edge, squish my toes into the cool and slippery mud. I watch the minnows and craw-dads scurry about in the water, careful not to step on any as I wade in ankle-deep.

I open my eyes. The water feels cool and soothing on the back of my head. It runs in rivulets through my hair and lightly splashes down in the pool of holy water into which I am gazing. I can hear just two things: Father's words as he says "I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" and the soft babbling of the water gently trickling into the font below me. I watch the several streams of water join together, then part again in a watery choreography.

The water is tantalizingly cool on this hot and muggy summer day. I stand as still as possible, trying not to stir the silty bottom. The water is so clear! In the deepest part of the creek, at its center, I can see through several feet to the bottom.

For a time, I enjoy the solitude of this spot. I am tickled by the minnows as they dart between and around my ankles. The heat has silenced the birds and animals of the woods so that the only thing I hear is the sound of the water bubbling between my ankles and over nearby rocks and pebbles.

I am still bent at the waist as Father finishes pouring the full pitcher of holy water over my head.

I bend over and splash handfulls of soothing water on my legs and arms, cooling myself.

The whole church is silent. Someone puts a warm towel on the back of my head and I stand straight, a little dazed.

I am content here, in the creek, with the water dancing by, around, through me.

I fully realize it is done; I am baptized! I am at peace.