The Metaphor of the 'Kintsugi tea-cup' (5th Sunday in OT, (Job 7:1-4,6-7; 1Corinthians ).16-19, 22-23; Mk 1:29-39)
I would like us to see our three readings against the image of a beautifully mended broken Japanese tea-cup. In Japan, re-building the broken vessels has developed into on art. It is called ‘Kintsugi’. A Kintsugi master mends the the broken tea ware with Japanese lacquer and then covers the lines of connection with gold. The result is not the old, mended vessel, but a completely new creation, which is even more beautiful than the original. So let us have a look at our readings with the help of this beautiful metaphor.
In our first reading, Job - as always - depicts the broken human condition. ‘Like the slave, sighing for the shade, or the workman with no thought but his wages, months of delusion I have assigned to me, nothing for my own but nights of grief.’ In his book we can recognise our own sufferings, personal and collective. In times of Covid 19, the pain of Job fully resonates with our pains. With him, we cry out, ‘everything is broken.’
Apostle Saint Paul knows well this brokenness. Think of his conversion. His pharisaic Jewish tradition was shattered by the new faith in Jesus Christ. All he saw was that people were leaving their teachers and turned to Christ. Paul was broken. He thought he failed. In his anger, he persecuted the members of the new movement, and agreed with putting them to death. He fell from the horseback, became blind. A broken man. Listening to his words speaks about how he found himself again in Christ. His letters, with honesty, recall his previous life. Or he is always honestly mentioning his struggles and sufferings in declaring the good news. Yet, in every letter of his, what dominates is the radiance of grace. Symbolically, it is what we see in our Japanese tea-cup. The golden lines, connecting and vitalising the previously broken parts.
The Gospel passage, in a close up, shows Jesus ‘mending’ a broken situation. Peter’s mother-in-law is ill. Now he restores the unity of the family. Out of illness and concern, he creates a loving and flourishing community. In it, everyone finds their place immediately. Peter’s mother-in-law ‘serves’, the apostles listen to his teaching. Then we see Jesus healing all who were brought to him. (A good model of the church, how it can suddenly function and flourish again.)
Again, our image of the renewed vessel helps us understand an important feature of Jesus’ teaching and healing ministry. Whatever situations and people he touched, he did more than healing them and giving them the right instructions. He added something previously missing from these people’s life. It is an unspoken beauty, which they could not even name. Think of the ‘golden lines’ in the vessel, the added beauty. Jesus forged a new community. In those, to whom ‘faith in him’ was added, they remained faithful to him. The first Christians came to faith not out of blue, but because they were marked by Jesus’ healing love. This was that added beauty, which remained invisible and unnamed while he was them in his teaching ministry.
Finally, let us think about ourselves, in front of our metaphor. Our parish, our life together, is like a broken and renewed vessel. Regarding our past, our failures, we are a broken vessel. ‘The Christian gospel, [locally, too] begins with the awareness of our brokenness…Christ came not to “fix” us, not just to restore, but to make us a new creation. [Just as the Kintsugi master] does not just “fix” or repair a broken vessel. Rather, he makes the broken pottery even more beautiful than the original.’ (Makoto Fujimura, Art and Faith)
Let us bear in our hearts this image and think of our own community as a new creation, repaired and renewed in Jesus’ hands. What does it entail, how should I see my brothers and sisters, easy and not easy ones, in line with this image? What does it say about us when we are together? Is not this image of the renewed cup with the golden connecting lines between the pieces a good expression of how the Eucharist which we receive unites us?
However, let us return to Saint Paul’s letter. ‘Do you know what my reward is? It is this: in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.’ Let us think about our role. Let us ponder that ‘added beauty’ which only we can offer to our broken world? Paul remains a powerful reminder that we Christians have a unique contribution in this world. What is it which no social action, no technology, no government, no local council, no political movement can not give - only us. Think of the ‘golden line’ in our vessel, which is the image of the Church. It is the living faith, our living worship in trust in God and in one another’s goodness. Let us cherish this beauty in order to connect us, let it shine and grow!
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..