Reflecting on today’s passages, I was drawn to the question
that begins today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, “The
disciples of John approached Jesus and said, ‘Why do we and
the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?”
While reflecting, I remembered a trip that I took in the middle
of this past May. The program I direct for Creighton is funded by
a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc., the philanthropic foundation
that is funded by Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals. Annually, I am asked
by Lilly Endowment Inc. to attend a conference regarding our grant
program. Historically, these meetings take place in Indianapolis
in the fall. But, this spring, I was asked to fly to a luxurious
resort and spa in Scottsdale, Arizona. When I arrived at the resort,
I was overwhelmed by its opulence. This was definitely a resort
and spa that matched all the stereotypes I had heard about gorgeous
Arizona spas. The atrium was amazing, the buildings that housed
guests were sprinkled throughout a small campus that was incredibly
landscaped, and immense water fountains, pools, and sitting areas
sloped all through the exterior of the campus. Even though I have
stayed at nice hotels before, I was again overwhelmed with the luxury
of my actual room. This was the first time I have stayed somewhere
that provided my room with a large flat panel, LCD, high definition
TV. And the bathroom truly looked like ones I have only seen in
housekeeping magazines. (Hopefully you have the image now of the
luxury I felt enveloping me.)
Given this wonderful environment, I was surprised by my reaction.
When I first walked into the atrium at the resort, my heart sank.
Although tastefully decorated, the resort seemed exorbitant to me.
When I saw the fountains and pools as I walked to my room, my heart
saddened more. I felt like I could not possibly enjoy myself there.
By the time I got to my room, my stomach literally was tight, tied
I called a dear relative and started telling her about my feelings.
While talking with her, I realized that I was like a disciple of
John the Baptist or a Pharisee from this gospel. I was feeling like
I could not let myself enjoy this extravagance, this gift of a resort
that was being given to me. I felt angry that the foundation was
spending its money so frivolously on me when it could spend it instead
on their wonderful religious initiatives. I felt like I could not
open up and enjoy myself unless I had more modest accommodations.
The rest of the gospel passage offers us all the grace that my relative
was able to offer me that day. Jesus points out in response to this
question of fasting that there is a time for everything. When at
a wedding, it is time to celebrate (and, beyond that, to celebrate
with gusto!) When encountering something new, like a luxurious resort
or a fresh wine, it needs to be treated with respect to its newness
and freshness. It needs to be experienced in its own right, and
not filtered through another, older experience. And, when encountering
something that is not new and may even be in poor shape (something
like a torn cloak) we need to be respectful of the history and life
that ultimately led to its current state. And, if we decide to try
to repair what we see as broken, we must do so by working with the
brokenness in its own right (repairing a piece of cloth with matching
cloth). Jesus teaches us to live life with joy and gratitude and
to use things as they are given to us – celebrating what should
be celebrated, creating new-ness when we experience something new,
and treading lightly and respectfully when we deem something in
need of repair.
Oh yes, there is a moral to my story as well: as my time wore on,
I enjoyed the spa more and more. The last night I was there, I learned
that because we were staying at this resort in May, we were actually
staying there during the off-season. I learned that the cost for
the “luxury” resort was actually LESS than the Midwestern
accommodations I am used to. Thank goodness that God helped me enjoy
what was given me…..or I would have not enjoyed a resort that
was actually CHEAPER than any other conference I have attended with
this program! God often finds me in humorous ironies – this
one was no different – ha!!