The grammar school held its annual "Invention Convention" also known as the science fair last week. Inventions and science are filled with imagination. Inventions begin with: "Let's see if this works." "Can this garment support and protect my arm while I play sports?" Try it and make a conclusion. Great if it does, if not - back to the drawing board. "What if" is the beginning of science. As in: "What if the Earth revolves around the Sun?" - the picture does not change - but the truth certainly does! A lot of our students began the project with: "I had a hard time imagining what to do." I'm sure that is the truth. Imagination is difficult. The struggle with faith is linked to our imagination or lack of it.
Here we live in the shadows of Hollywood and close proximity to Disneyland - temples of imagination. Yet human imaginative powers suffer atrophy. Each student begins school with imagination highly charged. By the second grade that imagination is taken away and students are ordered to memorize lists to pass tests. The higher the grade level the longer and more difficult the list. Answers to questions not even thought of must be memorized. Memorization to pass exams, not imagination is a pre-requisite to a lot of education.
We begin life imagining we will be princesses, princes, kings, and queens living in palaces, castles, and mansions. In our imagination we believe all sorts of things, that we will live happily ever after, free from worry, want, or sickness. Recall this gem from literature: "Alice laughed: 'There's no use trying,' she said; 'one can't believe impossible things.' 'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' " (A lice in W onderland)
"Father," the student asked me, "do you believe impossible things before breakfast?" "Why yes," I responded, "before breakfast each day I pray the Divine Office and celebrate Mass."
Faith inspires imagination. Faith believes "impossible" things. Doesn't it?
Monday, March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord. Imagine the Blessed Virgin being visited by the Angel Gabriel. Sit with the scene (Luke 1:26-38) - don't say "I know it" - read it. Now, in your imagination sit with it as the queen above might have, for half an hour. What is more impossible, sitting with the Gospel for half an hour or the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary? Is the Annunciation impossible? "Nothing is impossible with God." How do you imagine the Annunciation? Meditate on the Annunciation as a truth of our faith, without the Catechism of the Catholic Church or any document. See it as the artist/painter does. Hear the voices. Why isn't March 25th celebrated like New Year's Day is celebrated? How is your life changed or challenged by this "Good News"? Psst: If it ain't, you are doing something wrong! The question is not IS your life changed/challenged but HOW IS your life changed/challenged!
From St. Peter's experience, imagine last Sunday's Gospel, the Transfiguration.Impossible? Only if you lack imagination! How did the Transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of the three disciples change their experience of Jesus? How does it change YOURS?
Meditate on the barren fig tree from today's Gospel. Perhaps you have an avocado tree in your yard. During several years of drought local avocado trees have suffered, they've become "stressed." Arborists give this advice: "Don't remove the tree, water it deeply and fertilize around it. If it doesn't revive then cut it down." What's the lesson? The path to holiness includes years of patient endurance. If you practice patient endurance on fruit trees, wouldn't you do the same with fellow human beings?
How are we to be holy as God is holy? Reform lives, don't end them. As the man before the creditor said: "Be patient with me and I will repay my accuser in full."
Read the Gospels with imagination. Sit with what you have read, neither commentary nor catechism is necessary. God gave us imaginations long before we reasoned with biblical commentary and the Church catechism.
The grammar school students know what adults need to rekindle. The school with its students is a pleasure. Thanks; students you keep the parish faithful and young. Imagine! Give it a try!