Claim Your Own Holy Grail

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Zen masters, philosophers and even clergy compare their search for wisdom to a desire for “The Holy Grail.” In fact Parsifal may be one of their heroes. This is the naive boy from King Arthur’s legend whose mother tried keeping him safe by isolating him from the world.  He eventually escapes her “protection,” and on his journey to achieving knighthood must learn empathy for others. He and we learn that such wisdom is the REAL Holy Grail, and that winning it requires a maturity that only a life of service can bestow.

Parsifal’s journey is not unlike King David’s, whose psalms have spoken wisdom to succeeding generations of descendants—including Jesus. But unlike David and others in his bloodline, Jesus didn’t need the seasoning of sinning and repentance to achieve the grail of wisdom to serve others. David committed every sin defined by that word before living up to the grail for which he was chosen. So did most of Christ’s apostles, who abandoned him when he needed them most during his passion. Peter even denied knowing him. Nevertheless, modeling their Master, they all ended up joining a mission to save other lost sheep crying from their own private abyss.

In Sunday’s psalms (Ps 34:2-3, 17-18, 19, 23), David tells us the Lord hears the cry of the poor and gives us the power to save them—thereby serving Him.

The LORD is the redeemer of the souls of his servants; and none are condemned who take refuge in him.

In Sunday’s first reading (Sir 35:12-14, 16-18), Sirach teaches us to model the very nature of divinity—to answer prayers. And by praying for the power to do so, we are heard.

The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint. The one who serves God willingly is heard; his petition reaches the heavens.

Paul’s was among the cries God heard and made of him, from his weakness, a powerful carrier of humanity’s Holy Grail—service to one another. (2 Tm 4:6-8, 16-18).

The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed… And I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

But Paul also taught us to leave any resulting pride with the lions. He could have easily been like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable whose prayer of pride actually put distance between him and God—the intended object of his prayer (Lk 18:9-14). In fact, as Jesus tells us, this Pharisee’s prayer was to himself:

‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous — or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Humbling oneself requires stepping outside the comfort zone protecting us from the outside world and courageously reaching out and asking someone “How are you doing?”—and waiting for an answer. That’s how God answers prayers–through our quest for a grail we can only own by living it.

–Tom Andel

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