Daily Reflection
March 17th, 2004
Mike Lawler
Theology and Center for Marriage & Family
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It must be Saint Patrick’s Day, for Guinness, that quintessentially Irish institution by the Liffey, has been busily running ads.  “Make Saint Patrick’s Day a real holiday,” one instructs, “give gifts,” predictably twelve-packs of Guinness.  Political correctness controls yet another ad.  One man says to another “ye know, it might not be a good idea to drink a six-pack of Guinness at one time,” and the other responds in that typically Dublin idiom, probably lost on American audiences, “brilliant!”  Brilliant indeed, both to make Saint Patrick’s Day a real holy day and not to despoil it by drinking a six-pack of Guinness.  For too long Patrick’s children have been tarred with that black brush.
How then to make the day a real holy day?  That is where the readings for the feast come in.  They suggest that the way to celebrate the feast rightly is by listening to the message of Christ seeded in Ireland by the saint from Wales or Scotland (depending on which legend you follow).  Give heed to the statutes and ordinances which I have taught you, keep them and do them, and the nations will say “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”  It is the standard Christian message which the missionary Patrick brought to Ireland.  Not only hear the message, but also do it.  It is a message that comes straight from the Christ himself whose almost-identical words Matthew reports shortly after the gospel piece chosen for today’s reading.  “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”  Not everyone who says what Jesus or Patrick said, but everyone who does what Jesus or Patrick did: active love of neighbors, active love even of enemies, active love of those who are hungry or naked or addicted to whatever, understanding love of those who think that making Saint Patrick’s Day a real holiday begins and ends with green beer or black stout.  

I have never been, nor am I in my old age, averse to a pint of good Guinness; what Dubliner could be (though I do draw the line at taste-destroying green beer.)  I am averse only to the suggestion that the way to make Patrick’s feast day a real holiday is to drink Guinness or anything else until it becomes a sick-pack.  I choose rather to believe that a better way is to join Patrick on the Hill of Slane, at least in imagination, as he kindles the Light of Christ among my druidic ancestors, and to mark the day and every day with the same loving care that Patrick showered on those druids.  I invite you, your imagination, and your commitment to join Patrick and me in that way to make his day both a real holy day and a real holiday.  Your cooperation would be brilliant indeed.

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