The No-Trick Surplus Brought on by Balance

Mary Magdala Community

“The No-Trick Surplus Brought on by Balance”

Thoughts on the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 1, 2018

by Rev. Jim Ryan,

St. Paul has recently been quoted by the Attorney General to justify the obscene policy of separating children, including infants, from their parents.  It is unlikely that today’s passage from St. Paul will get quoted anytime soon by that same person.  We hear in today’s selection from 2 Corinthians, as St. Paul advises the community on how to treat those in need, “(I)t is a question of balancing what happens to be your surplus now against their present need, and one day they may have something to spare that will supply your own need.  That is how to strike a balance.”  Without putting too much of a stretch to it one could apply this sense of balance to immigrants in need in the present yet who, given the experience of our country and all of us who are descendants of immigrants, will realize in the future a surplus of talent for the common good in their own descendants.  That’s just how the idea of America works, or at least it did until recently.

The lesson we get from Paul’s advice is that the purpose of surplus is to fulfill need.  And abundance exists because of the success of balance.  This is the “trick,” you see, that believers know all about, but the same can’t be said of those who thrive on imbalance.  For many these days surplus is about “getting mine” and the rest be damned.  This so-called trick seems to be hidden these days in this era of greed which makes the Robber Barons of old seem like pikers.

When you know where to look you can see this balance which creates abundance.  For example, consider the Golden Rule.  How familiar is this, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  The balance that is built into the Rule creates an infectious sense of enjoying the good so much that even more good gets created.  We know this is not cornered by Christians.  When I taught Ethics one of the textbooks took two full pages to list all the religious/spiritual traditions all over the world that contain some form of the Golden Rule.  It is a universal belief.

Secondly, the balance which Paul writes of in 2 Corinthians 8 also creates a greater surplus.  Need balances abundance thereby creating an even greater abundance.  A few days ago I saw a TV report from Tennessee on the puppy who fell into a deep chasm.  Immediately, neighbors, friends, and first responders came to the aid of the distressed woman who had only recently adopted the puppy.  After hours of attempts the puppy was saved.  A reporter interviewed the woman who was standing alongside one of the first responders.  The woman said to the reporter, “I don’t even know his name but he’s my new best friend!”  From need that is fulfilled a greater surplus results.

A third example of balance occurred to me as I attended a conference this week at Marquette University on Aristotle.  Think of it, a group of folks who read, study, and discuss Aristotle for a living.  Talk about your niche market!  I go for the entertainment value, keep my mouth shut and just enjoy the discussion.  Whether you also enjoy the study of the “dead white guys” otherwise referred to as ancient Greek philosophers, I believe it is important to acknowledge that the pursuit of the experience of knowing, the experience of living, and how these experiences happen is the thread that binds all who devote themselves to make real the abundance of these experiences.

The fact is that we do not know because we have mastered procedures of clarity such that we absolutely know the truth.  No, we know because we apply ourselves to learning and marry this up with good old intuition.  The truth, when in balance, must be true because it feels true.  Don’t take my word for it.  Since this is Aristotle we’re taking a look at, and since this conference was at a Catholic institution of higher learning it will come as no surprise that Aristotle’s buddy, Thomas Aquinas, was referred to as well.  In the matter of intuition Aquinas has this great phrase that I think doesn’t get quoted enough.  And yep, here it comes in Latin.  When coming to a conclusion about clear knowledge of a subject matter the Angelic Doctor says, “dicunt omnia” which means, “all people say.”  In other words, the balance of being clear about how we know the truth includes our intuition – what everyone knows –  about what it is that we know.  So, for those who thought that Aristotle and Aquinas, and all the rest had a secret at their command, isn’t it great to know there’s no secret.  But there is a trick.  It’s the trick that says balance creates abundance.  Just as in the other two examples, on caring and on sharing, this third example of the trick of balance which creates abundance is about knowing.

So, who knew that balance is the source of surplus?  Well, we all knew it all along.  Unfortunately, we live in a sinful age of imbalance.  It is an age that glories in stepping on others, depriving others, marginalizing others, sidelining others, and developing that special sense of simply not seeing others.  It’s motto, “I’ve got mine and I’ll do whatever I can to deprive you from getting all the rest that’s mine too!”

What a blessing we have to gather in this circle of worship.  In this circle we celebrate those balances that create abundance.  In this circle we come to the complete clarity that compels us to act.  In this circle love lives!

    A Prayer  (JR)

Our presence here is your gift, Holy One.

Our sharing is your insight.

Our care is your healing.

The balance of knowing and believing which we celebrate reveals the surplus which is your creation.

We pray for that someday when the purpose of abundance will be to fill up every need. May that day be now!  Amen.



Leader:   You are present among us as One Who Heals.

All:          Restore our sagging spirits.


Leader:   You are present among us as Abundant Gift.

All:         Assure us of your mercy and forgiveness.


Leader:   You are present among us as Eternal Caregiver.

All:         Be our truth that speaks justice.



Presider:  Your leadership is to serve.  Your presence is

to give life.  Your guidance is the source of our confidence.

All:  Jesus, Beloved One, be with us here and now.





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