Tomorrow is one of those odd Sundays when feasts collide. Depending on your community, you might be observing the Fifth Sunday of Lent and/or the Annunciation. For folks using the LCC Calendar, the 5th Sunday of Lent is Passion Sunday, which in some other churches (such as the Roman denomination) is combined with Palm Sunday next week. And today is both the Feast of St Gabriel the Archangel and the birthday of James Wedgwood, founder of the Liberal Catholic Church. All that to say that this weekend is the liturgical version of a multi-car smash-up in a Nashville intersection.
One thread running through all these observances is humility. The gospel for the 5th Sunday in Lent (from Luke 18) begins with the parable of the publican and the Pharisee, in which we have the contrast of a hidden, contrite spirit with the pride of a Publically Religious Person. Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. The gospel continues with Jesus telling the disciples to let the little children come to him, making the same point in another way: Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter in.
In the Annunciation, we see Mary humbly consenting to the mysterious message of the Archangel Gabriel: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. One interpretation of Gabriel’s name is “God’s strength,” and we can be humble and little, precisely because of the power of the Highest which overshadows us. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, so we have no need to increase our own government. We don’t have to make our little selves into more than we are, painting over shame and frailty, but rather we can trust in the Mercy and Power which orders all things. James Wedgwood responded to the Spirit’s fresh, springtime wind of renewal in founding the Liberal Catholic Church. He ended his life in physical and mental decline caused by the socially embarassing illness of syphillis. The LCC commmunity at Tekels Park did not hide him away, but gently and lovingly cared for him in his weakness.
I have been reading some of Jeremy Puma’s writings over at Fantastic Planet (www.snant.com/fp) and was struck by a quote from the Secret Book of James, which points to the importance of humility as we head toward Good Friday. Jesus speaks: Do not be proud because of the light that illumines, but be to yourselves as I myself am to you. For your sakes, I have placed myself under the curse, that you may be saved. Are we willing to walk in this path?