To be second born… it’s something I know as the second of two. I’ve worked and lived with the first born and their sense of rule (and rules), their sense of “getting it”, their sense of entitlement. More power to them… truth be told in our hearts, we know we all want the same in our unrepented lives – for it’s there we all feel our ways toward claiming our rights as first born. After all, we are each unique and there will never be a repetition… and we each sense this in ourselves as well. But second born… it’s a birth into a society not of one, but one of many… and perhaps a little less singularity is or should be refreshingly somewhat more humble. Face it… our friends are already there… they may not know us, or like us, or even accept us as more than usurpers, rivals and “competition”, but it’s ours to turn that greeting into a welcome, into friendship, and love.
Through the course of Lent and especially through Holy Week, we’ve heard the stories of Christ’s first born, and we gentiles are the second born. According to the Fathers, we’re the foals of an ass… which explains a lot if you know what I mean. And maybe if the first born were stiff necked, this self-appellation is somehow more acceptable to those with whom we were meant to be kin. Yeah… they get the attribution… and it fits. Only we seemed to have failed at rising to demonstrate lives that might dispell their distrust. Perhaps they measured our shoes right at the first after all. And no question now that our family’s going on near two thousand years, we’ve sort of blown our opportunity for a fresh start, and real invitation. So what do we do now… other than fast, pray, give alms… and do the work we’re given.
And so it’s this we do… for days, seasons and years. Perhaps it might fashion us as a people… who become not just another close crowd, but truly an open people of God worthy of restoring the comity in this family. But mostly for now …we seem to struggle just where we are. Maybe that’s the era… these last days where we claim a humble out rather than think more widely… and if our hearts are truly as hard as some say, perhaps that’s not so bad. And yet so long as we’re open to grafting in more wannabes like ourselves our false divisions focusing more on our starts than our work… maybe we’ll make progress in spite of ourselves. For if “cradle”, “revert” and “convert” (even Christian, Jew, etc) were descriptions that mattered, then maybe our Gospels might have had more to say about Jesus’s youth. Yeah… they actually do say something, but they don’t stop there as if birth is the be-all and end-all. For the truth is that for every St. Basil born into a pious family… for every two there may be an “in” and an “out”, or more harshly, for every Cain an Abel.
The burden of birth… as somehow explaining all does violence to God’s love shown over and over in the changes wrought in the Prodigal, the Harlot, the Tax Collector and the Thief and so many others… and violence as well to his astonishment and commending of the faith of the Centurion, the Samaritan and so many others. And yet this joy and reality of the second born cannot erase the joy of the love in one’s first born… and those of no relation at all who drop in and stay in our hearts – those much further and wider from the center of the circles in our lives and who nevertheless express their kinship with us and become our brothers and sisters in Christ. Consider that for all our handwringing over our fallen churches and vacated faith, God is working great wonders farther beyond… in the mission fields of China, Africa and more. Let us lift our gaze from the navel of our own misfortunes and celebrate our bretheren’s with a welcome that offers our friendship in hopes of renewing our own spirits. And look more closely to see the miracles God works here… in spite of our blindness to that which He chooses over our often misguided preferences.
And so Christ’s mystical body… whether in the Eucharist or the Resurrection… is light and sweet, unrecognizable and challengingly incomprehensible. And yet in this challenge, the greatest seems to be whether we will elect to allow a few things to clarify in our communication to ourselves and those about us. For indeed there is little that we say or think we understand in looking back, and yet when we express our love in Christ, in His people, we find things simpler. And maybe this is enough: to love and glorify God… His people and His Creation… all that which we have been given in this Garden… and to see it so. Maybe now after all this prep… we can lift ourselves to the liturgy after the liturgy… this true work of the people. And so after these Forty plus days of worship in the first, let us attend …to it.
Christ is Risen!