SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT–2/28/10
by Msgr. Eric R. Barr, S.T.L.
READINGS: GENESIS 15:5-12, 17-18; PHILIPPIANS 3:17-4:1; LUKE 9:28B-36
THE LADY WHO COULD SEE WHAT WAS REAL--An Ancient Celtic Tale From WalesThere once was a young boy named Rhys who would take his mother’s nine cows up the valley to graze alongside the lake. Each day, his mother would give him a freshly baked loaf of bread. One afternoon, as the young cowherd was resting on the grass and looking at the beauty of the lake, he saw the waters stir as a strong gust blew down from the distant mountain, crossed the water, and blew straight for him. It blew his hat off and, he chased it and caught it. He firmly pulled the cap’s brim over his forehead. When Rhys looked back at the lake, all was calm. The waters were still as a mirror. Floating on the surface was the most beautiful Lady, slowly combing her hair. She seemed to float on the water until she was by the shore. Rhys was taken by her beauty, but being shy and not knowing what to say, he silently offered her the bread. The lady touched it and quickly pulled back her hand. "It is hard-baked, and I will not have you." And with that she was gone.
When the lad returned home, and told his mother everything that happened, she told him to return to the lake the next day. "But this time, she said, I will not bake the bread as long." And so, the next day, he sat by the lake waiting. Again the wind blew, he chased his hat, and when he was done he turned his eyes back toward the lake. And there she was again! But Rhy’s luck was not better, for as soon as she touched the bread she said: "This bread is un-baked, and I will not have you!" And so, he returned on the third day with a loaf that was baked neither too long nor too short. And when the lady touched it she said, "This bread is baked fine, and now you’ll be mine...if you promise that you’ll never strike me three times in our married life." And so Rhys promised.
And with that great herds of animals began to walk from the bottom of the lake and onto the shore. The lady laughed and said, "These are a gift from my father for our wedding day!" And out came fifty goats, and fifty sheep, and fifty pigs, and fifty cows, and fifty horses. And the lad and the lady walked the six miles to the village. And there they were wed by the priest.
The years passed and they prospered. They had a large house, their barns were filled, and they were the parents of three happy boys. Now one day, they were invited to a baptism in a neighboring village. Rhy’s wife was completely silent as other women prophesied the baby’s future with fine and flattering compliments. Rhys pulled one of his gloves off his hand, and slapped her on the shoulder with it. "Can’t you at least say something nice about the child?" And she turned and red anger was across her face. "I am silent so the child will not be burdened with more foolish expectations." And, she added, touching her shoulder, "That’s once!"
All was forgotten, and a year later they went to a wedding. But the lady began sobbing, and her husband (embarrassed by her outburst) grabbed her arm, shook her, and said, "No crying! Not on a happy day like today!" But she spun around and said, "I cried for the sorrows I saw in the future for these newlyweds! And as for what you just did, that’s twice!"
But he was sorry, and another year passed. One evening they were at a wake. The body was neatly laid out and everyone quiet and respectful. Suddenly, the woman burst into laughter. Rhys grabbed her, shook her, and said, "My dear! This is a wake. Have some respect!" The Lady looked straight into his eyes and said, "I laughed for I saw the soul free and dancing with joy in Paradise! And as for you, that’s thrice!"
And the Lady walked back to their home where she called all their livestock. And they all followed her up the hills towards the Lake. Her three sons followed, weeping all the way. And she came to the shore, she stood there, her feet by the edge of the water, and she spoke to them before sending them back home: "My sons, do not weep for I will come from the lake many times to see you. And we will walk through the meadows and the woodlands, and I will teach you the hidden, healing power of herbs, and roots and flowers. And with this knowledge you will have far more wealth than all the herds in this world or the next." She kissed each of them on their foreheads, and then she led her herds back into the waters.
Now the lads visited her often, but she saw them only if they came alone. And she taught them, and gave them wisdom. Once, they brought Rhys with them, and when the Lady came to them over the Lake, they told him she was coming. He looked, and looked and looked, and then said, "I cannot see anything." And he left in sorrow. What happened to him, I do not know, but the three boys grew into three great men, farmers they were but wanderers too, traveling across the hills and valleys to bring healing to the small cottages wherever there was illness or sorrow.
From Robert Bela Wilhelm’s Lectionary Storybook 2001(from an ancient Welsh tale)
I. True Sight
A. Like I said, this is an ancient Celtic tale, and it’s just perfect for making this Gospel clear for us.
B. We’re going to miss the point of this story if we dwell on poor Rhys who lost his wife and never saw her again, just like we’re going to miss the point of the Gospel if we dwell on why Jesus only took Peter, James and John and not the other disciples up that mountain. The important message in the story I told is that that Lady could see what was real, the reality that lies beneath all things, she could see what really was. Her husband never learned what a treasure she was, and how awesomely mysterious she was, and who she really was–the Lady of the Lake, a magical, mysterious and powerful healer. And her 3 sons did not repeat their father’s boorish behavior. Instead, they followed their Mom and allowed her to teach them how to heal, how to see, how to be really alive. And that, my friends, is exactly the meaning of this Gospel. What I told you was just an ancient legend; what you heard in the Scriptures really happened. Jesus could see what was truly real; he knew that what we often see around us is just surface stuff–he knew how to see deep into the heart of persons and things. And Peter, James and John–Jesus’ best friends–were the ones who truly sensed that Jesus was special. They followed him up the mountain and they glimpsed what he truly was–the Son of God. And they allowed him to teach them, and what they learned saw them through some very difficult times. They weren’t perfect, but they too learned to see beneath the surface to what was really real. It’s like that old Shakespearean line in The Merchant of Venice:
All that glitters is not gold, often have you heard that told.
And it’s the wise person that sees past the glitter, past the surface to what is real.
C. Why is this important to our spiritual lives? Well, think about. All those people who followed Christ and yet so few who really knew who he was. Kind of similar to today don’t you think? All these people who call themselves Christian and yet how many really believe? The things he asks of us; the road he makes us walk; the goals he wants us to achieve–so many of us walk away when we realize what he wants from us because all we see is a man who lived 2000 years ago, a carpenter who had a Messiah complex, a man who could talk well and do some pretty cool things, but not a guy we really care about today or who really understands us. We’re like Rhys who got exasperated with his wonderful wife because he couldn’t see who she really was, or we’re like the 9 apostles who stayed at the base of the mountain saying, "Boy, I’m glad I’m not Peter, James or John having to climb this mountain on such a hot day." And never really seeing Christ revealed before his death and resurrection. The practical effect is that if we really do not let Christ teach us to really see, we will continue to see just the surface of life and take pleasure in surface stuff. We’ll become spiritual couch potatoes content to be entertained by other’s lives but afraid to really live ourselves. We’ll watch Survivor, but never try to discover God. We’ll root for winners on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire without ever trying to answer the questions the Game of Life throws our way. We’ll enjoy the rough and tumble of Football or WWF, or other legitimate sports, but we’ll never enter the battle on the side of good and try to defeat evil.
D. Christ offers us the chance to really live. Are we going to take it? Or are we going to be like thick-headed Rhys or the thick-headed fair weather followers of Jesus who found him interesting but not life-changing? How do we let Jesus teach us? How will we see Christ for who he truly is: Lord, Savior, Brother and Friend?