KEEP ON TAKING THE TABLETS
If you’ve visited Godzdogz in the last few days, you will probably have seen their collection of truly, splendidly, appalling biblical jokes (some of which, I suspect, have been around since Moses). I notice, though, that one famous chestnut has been missed out : ‘What is the first mention of constipation in the Bible ?’ . . . ‘And Moses took the tablets, and went into the wilderness’ !
I’m probably not alone in having a small selection of tablets which I have to take daily; nothing monstrous, you understand, just the usual things which help us fend off deterioration a little longer.
However, as I was taking my tablets this morning, that old joke came into my mind; and it seemed to fit rather well with what I’ve already written about quite a lot in the last twenty-four hours – penitence and forgiveness.
Pace Fr Tim– for whom the word ‘Tablet’ has a whole different meaning ! – the meaning in the joke is, of course, the Tablets of the Law which Moses brought down from the mountain. In other words, the first definitive expression of God’s Law which His Jewish people were called to obey.
I realise that for Catholic Christians today there are also the Commandments of our Lord, and the Commandments of the Church : but I don’t think that’s it’s stretching matters too far to include them in the same description, so that I can use the phrase ‘keep on taking the tablets’ to include all of it.
If you have to keep on taking the tablets in the medical sense, it means that you have to arrange your life around ensuring that they are not forgotten; if you go away, for example, you have to plan ahead so that you have enough with you – and if you travel abroad, you may (for some countries) even have to take written proof from your doctor that these medicines are prescribed for you, in order to be able to take them into the country.
In other words, although the actual act of taking the tablets is almost certainly an entirely trivial part of your daily life, on another level it is not just something which you can forget about except for those few seconds : it has to inform the whole of your life, even if more at some times than at others.
It seems to me that the Tablets of God’s Law are like that.
At home, obeying the Divine Law is probably not too difficult; at other times, especially when we're out and about, it needs preparation and forethought so that we don’t forget about it. For example, one has to consider the possibility of forgetting to take one’s medicine at the right time next morning if one drinks too much on New Year’s Eve : and I’ve no doubt that there will be many people tonight who will, under the influence of too much drink, end up doing something which – tomorrow – they’ll wish they hadn’t, by ‘forgetting the Tablets’ in some way; and some of them will, no doubt, end up doing something else they’d rather not, by going to a pharmacist for the ‘morning-after Pill’ to try and save them (in one way, at least) from the results of their thoughtlessness.
Of course, the effect of forgetting to take one’s medication varies depending on what it is, and how long one forgets for : and the same is true, to some extent, with ‘God’s Tablets’. At the same time, it is always better for us to take our medication regularly and reliably; and the same is true of obeying God’s commandments. I‘m no pharmacist, but I’m sure that there is medication which, if missed, could lead to an unpleasant death; and the same goes for certain types of sin – which is ultimately due to ‘not taking the Tablets’.
One of the dangers of being Catholic, though, is that we can start to think that it doesn’t matter what we do, because we can always go to confession to sort things out; and on one level, that is true.
At the same time, our ultimate aim should not be to make a good confession when we have done something wrong; it should be not to make a good confession, simply because we haven’t done anything that we need to confess.
And the best way of achieving that ? Well, to ‘keep on taking the Tablets’, reliably, regularly, and conscientiously (and think what that word really means !) : by planning ahead to ensure that we can and do keep God’s Law at all times, so that we don‘t need to use the ‘morning-after Pill’ of the Confessional.
NEW YEAR CHALLENGE !
You are invited to let me know what medication you feel is closest in effect / character to ‘The Tablet’ !
No prizes, though, except notoriety.