Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Adele Lerner

Understanding is a gift that most of us probably take for granted. We make use of it all the time – it functions quite automatically without our having to think much about it. There are some scholars who have made a lifetime study of human understanding, most notably in our own tradition Bernard Lonergan. To plumb the depths of his writing is difficult. It is also ironical because you use the very gift he is writing about when you try to understand what he is suggesting about your ability to see, grasp, come to terms with and know.

For most of us, we get through our days using understanding without thinking about it. But when you do think about it, two things, among others, can be said. Understanding takes time. And understanding is a collaborative effort. We need time to let things sink in. And no one comes to understanding anything alone. We need others.

Mrs. Adele Lerner is one-hundred and one years old and she lives in New York City. She recently had her first exhibit of her oil paintings. She did not pick up a brush until her sixtieth birthday, when her husband gave her a painting set as a gift. She calls herself a late-bloomer and that the gift wound up sustaining her through the loneliness after her husband’s death, thirty years ago. “I am a very slow learner,” she said. “ I learn at my own pace. I feel that it is never too late. If you don’t know something, go and try and learn it every day until it comes to you.”

In a sense, Manhattan and all its beauty came to her through the years. She saw things, many things, and painted them. One of her paintings shows a former synagogue converted to a church.. In the painting, its Star of David peeks out behind a cross and the words “Jesus saves.” It strikes me as an image as to how God sees us and how he would like us to see each other. A beautiful blend of color, traditions and ways to God. Perhaps it is easier to do on canvas than in and through human life. But I feel that some artists paint what we may someday be.

We have a gospel this morning, a story about Mary as she wept, and then took a second look into the tomb. The story unfolds and she is moved by Jesus from pain to recognition and then joy. A few sentences in which she moves to a new way of seeing, loving, hoping. Jesus spoke her name, and she saw who he really was. We can assume, I think, that it would take more time for her to understand, at least in part, what had been given to her by Jesus.

It takes us time, too, to see, to hear, to look at life and each other with the sight afforded by faith and love. We need each other for that in this community of faith. And we need to give each other the time to come closer to the Lord who stands in our midst and calls us by name to see life in a new, loving way.

The responsorial psalm this morning is “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” It is that fullness that we are asked to see and believe and love. I like to think that everyone has a gift that can help us see the meaning of that psalm bloom in life. An old woman’s slow moving hand across a canvas, a kind word to lift one’s spirits, a visit to a sick monk, these and more – bits of living color to the as yet unfinished canvas of God.

No comments: