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In the fall of 1988, I was working on my PhD, and I was in love with the Star Trek series called Next Generation, and although Mr. Spock was, (and continues to be) my hero, I found “Data” to be relatable as well. What I didn’t know was that one of my professors, was also a Trekkie. He was guiding a seminar in philosophy of religion and we were trying to discern and assess the difference between the existentialism of Jean Paul Sartre and Soren Kierkegaard.
One day, we came into the seminar room and on the table there was several gallons of water and several containers with other things in them. As he was wont to do, he began to wax on about reality and our perceptions of reality. And then he asked the question, “what is the difference between what you see on the table and me?”
We all thought he was losing it. There was nothing similar in fact, so the differences were profound. He said, “no, you are all wrong.” He went on to tell us of how he had carefully calculated his weight and general physical condition and then, on the basis of sound biological principles, had calculated that he was comprised essentially of the elements we saw on the table. “We were, after all,” he concluded, “just ‘ugly bags of mostly water.”
Aha! He was a trekkie. I quickly looked around the room to see that the others their present were also up to speed.
As we explore this week’s gospel text, and Jesus’ assertion that some of us are “lacking in one thing,” I think this example is helpful. Stuff doesn’t make us authentic, any more than rule-following for the sake of rule-following. Our authentic selves, as God intended us to be, make us more than cookie cutter copies of each other; just, Ugly Bags of Mostly Water. We are called to be much more than that!