The student is ready


I have often wondered why it took me 70 years to understand some of Your simplest spiritual insights when they were there all the time and I just passed them by, ignored them, glazed over or was baffled or bored by them.

You made me, so You know my faults and foibles inside and out. Like a child, You know that I cannot understand You, who You are, what You are, why You are, even what is this thing called the Kingdom of God. Like a child, You needed to feed me pabulum, stories, mysteries, each with a not-so-hidden meaning, like searching for treasure…wow…or a bad man who was in debt up to his eye-balls, get let off the hook and then goes and yanks the chain of a friend who owes him a couple of bucks…yikes…or a dad whose son blows his inheritance and yet the dad welcomes him back…amazing!

The disciples approached him and said, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” [1] He said to them in reply, “Because knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted. To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. [Mt 13:10-12]

This may seem a bit brutal…what’s this “not granted?” It seems to have two components: (a) God’s plan for me and my need to know and (b) my seeking and knocking.

God has an idiosyncratic plan, an approach that He uses just for me, that is specific to me, to my unique temperament, my intelligence, my sensitivities, my weltanschauung. If I’m not ready, I just don’t get it. I don’t pay attention to it or even hear it. I think this is why I had such a problem with John’s Gospel[2] in the past. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? [Jn 3:12] I needed to be fed the pabulum of parables until I could digest the solid food of Jesus’ straight talk. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. [1 Cor 13:11-12] 

But understanding heavenly things does not depend on You, God, alone. I needed to be receptive to their revelation. And sinfulness is not a very conducive state of receptivity; when I concentrate on myself to the exclusion of You, God, choose my way rather than Yours, become addicted to me, me, me rather than denying myself, taking up my cross and following You [Mt 16:24], if, in short, I just don’t have time for You, put You on the back burner, forget about You and just concentrate on myself, I have no interest in understanding heavenly things. Jesus, You understood where I was, where I came from; You nailed it even then: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. [Mt 7:6]

This is why You spoke to me… in parables, because ‘I look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.’ Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in me, which says: ‘You shall indeed hear but not understand you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and be converted, and I heal them.’ [Mt 13:13-15] 

Fortunately for me, You did not give up that easily. “I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from Him, and under running laughter.”[3] You left Your hundred sheep and…came after the lost one until…You found me. [Lk 15:4] 

Once You found me, You said: I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours. [Mk 11:24] Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Mt 7:7-8] Did I ask for understanding, insight, inspiration…No, though now I was “back in the fold,” I lacked faith, I was afraid of being disappointed, of being told “No, not now…No, I have something better,…No, that is an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and will cause your death, my beloved child.” I took the cowards, the lukewarm, the tepid way out and followed Ahaz when the Lord said to him: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as Sheol, or high as the sky! [Is 7:11] The LORD was trying to get Ahaz to trust Him, promising him His own sign of trust, just like God tells me “Ask,…seek,…knock!” But Ahaz blows it, just like I usually blow it. Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” [Is 7:12] “Ahaz prefers to depend upon the might of Assyria rather than the might of God.”[4] I search Google instead, but the principle is the same; we both preferred to depend on our feeble selves, our miniscule minds, our cowardly choices rather than putting our hand “in the hand of the man who stilled the sea…the man from Galilee.”[5]

I don’t blame God for getting angry at Ahaz or with me. Listen, house of David! Is it not enough that you weary human beings? Must you also weary your…God? [Is 7:13] The LORD offers me signs and wonders on a plate, carte blanche, no charge, my choice, just ask, seek, know, all this in order that I will trust Him enough to believe that He cares about me, He wants to take care of me, He wants to love me and to have me love and trust [have faith in] Him…and I have the gall, the chutzpah, the cowardly inanity to say “No, thanks,” to turn my back on Him, to ignore His offers, His gifts, His pleas, His warnings, His own Son and instead scream “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” And with His death, I think its over and I can get on with my life as I want!

But God’s not done by a long shot! To Ahaz who didn’t have the guts to ask, He gave the ultimate sign: the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel. [Is 7:14] The most indelible, lasting, unmistakable sign of His love which He would ever give…His own only begotten Son, born of a virgin, for Ahaz, for Israel, for you, for me. Incredible, Yes. Unbelievable, totally. Unreal, hardly.

You do the same for me today. You lay out the entire revelation of Yourself to me through Scriptures, how You are the Father we all want and need, loving but firm, educating my ignorance, encouraging by faltering steps, laying out the rules, chastising me when I break them, showing by example the way I should live, allowing me to make mistakes, correcting me, forgiving me, but holding me responsible for the results, even respecting my decisions when they are directly contrary to what You know is best for me, for my happiness. And You give us constant signs, new and glorious mornings, life itself, the indestructibility of the Church, Your Son not only portrayed in Scripture, but present right here, right now, live, up close and personal in the Mass, in the tabernacle, in my heart. How’s that for a sign??!! You can’t get better than that!!!

I give up. I’m here. The memory card’s in, the tablet ready. The student is finally ready and raring to go!

Indeed, blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” [Mt 13:16-17]

Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] John reports a lot more of the “heavenly things” than the other Evangelists. While Mark is the Daily News with “just the facts” including the juicy tidbit about the kid who ran away naked, Matthew The New York Times with five sections on morals, mission, media, mores, and end game, and Luke National Geographic narration of Jesus’ one long journey from Nazareth and Bethlehem to Jerusalem and beyond with Paul to Rome, John is the Atlantic Monthly, with Jesus’ interviews and statements of Divine analysis Jewish opinion, and the Spirit’s commentary. For instance, John never uses parables; he uses παροιμία to describe his extended and elaborate metaphors. The Sheep Gate and the Good Shepherd is the context for an “I am” statement [Jn 10:1-16] as is The Vine and the Branches [Jn 15:1-8]. The other allusions are usually only one sentence metaphors: Blowing Wind 3.8; Bridegroom’s Attendant 3.29; Fields Ripe for Harvest 4.35-38; The Slave and the Son 8.35; Twelve Hours of Daylight 11.9-10; Kernel of Wheat 12.24; Walking in the Light 12.35; Preparing a Place 14.2-4; Women in Travail 16.20-24. While during the ministry with his brother and through his mom, he attempted to force the hand of Jesus into giving him a prime place in the Kingdom, John was was the one whom Jesus loved,…reclining at Jesus’ side at the Last Supper [Jn 13:23]; is the only one who stays with Jesus throughout the crucifixion [Jn 18:15; 19:26]; is the one who first believes in the Resurrection [20:8]; and recognizes Jesus through the post-resurrection miracle of the enormous catch of fish [21:7]. He also seemed to understand Jesus by simply loving Him more during His lifetime, and was given the time to reflect on Jesus teaching after His Ascension and Pentecost which he passed on through his writings of the Gospel, the Letters and Revelation.

[3] The Hound of Heaven By Francis Thompson (1859–1907)

[4] NABRE footnote to Is 7:12.

[5] Pop song by Gene MacLellan

Advertisements

You are “THE MAN”!

There are three major events in Scripture where the phrase: “The Man” is critical to the scene.

In Genesis, Lord, in the beginning, You created me, the Man; In Genesis, Lord, in the beginning, You created me, the Man: the LORD God formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.[1] Out of the earth You created me. Only after You create man do you create the animals in an attempt to find a suitable companion for man. When this “proved” to be a proper helper, in this Priestly version of creation, You create woman out of his rib. You settle us in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. [Gen 2:15] We were both naked, yet…[we] felt no shame [Gen 2:25], totally innocent. And Your directive is that we are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. [Gen 2:16-17]

In this story, You call me “man” before I am even created. You are the main actor and also the one who judges Your creation to be man. What is “sacrificed,” i.e. “made holy,” is creation. At that time, I am totally innocent, without the blemish of any sin. You give me the responsibility to rule over creation and the outcome for me is perpetual stewardship.

I wander far from this innocence, however as is evident the next time The LORD addresses “the Man” when he sends Nathan to David [2 Sam 12:1]. Nathan has told David the parable about the poor man’s single lamb and how the rich man, who had flocks of sheep, took the poor man’s only lamb and slaughtered it to serve it to his guest. Nathan has told David: “Tell me how you judge this case.” [2 Sam 12:1]… David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves death! He shall make fourfold restitution for the lamb because he has done this and was unsparing.” Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man! [2 Sam 12:5-7]

Here You use a parable to have David condemn his sin and realize his guilt. While Nathan is the prophet, Your voice in this drama, it is actually David who pronounces his own judgment. You chastise him, pronounce a condemnation: now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, [2 Samuel 12:10] which, centuries later, will even cause the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under [Mt 2:16] and later the death of his most holy and blessed heir.

Though David is spared, the lamb, both in the parable and in the birth child, is sacrificed. For his part, the LORD has removed your sin. You shall not die, but since you have utterly spurned the LORD by this deed, the child born to you will surely die. [2 Sam 12:13-14][2] The Man is here judged and punishment meted out.

God, You have built up to this moment, this redefinition of Man and innocence, and it tragically occurs when Your only begotten Son is being displayed for acceptance or condemnation: So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” [Jn 19:5] In contrast to the story of creation and the parable of David, You give me the chillingly graphic reality narrative of Jesus’ persecution. Unlike the bliss of Eden or the grandeur of the palace, I stand in Pilate’s praetorium. Unlike the innocent nakedness of Adam or the kingly robes of David, Jesus wears a crown out of thorns and…a purple cloak and is mocked as King of the Jews! [Jn 19:2-3] Instead of being in the prime of health, newly created, or in kingly fighting trim, Jesus’s body was torn, gashed, bloody from scourging. As if to exonerate himself and distance him from the mockery of justice, Pilate tells the crowd: “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” [Jn 19:4]

In contrast to Adam, whose creation God judged very good [Gen 1:31], in contrast to David whom Nathan condemns by David’s own admission, Jesus is condemned by his own people: When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” [Jn 19:6]

After creating Adam and condemning David, Jesus is “the Man” who takes their place, steps into their shoes, stands in for them and redeems them both. The poor man’s lamb slain by the rich man is the Lamb of God, slain for poor men by us who have received the riches of the universe from His Father. The new Adam’s innocence is to be hung on the cross to save us, the David’s of this world. The judged and condemned like David is the new judge of all creation. The One who takes David’s and our punishment upon Himself is the one who, by this very action, gives me instead mercy and redemption, a new beginning, a new creation.

Now behold the fourth man, this man, me, who was created very good like Adam, who with David must admit, I have sinned against the LORD [2 Sam 12: 13], and who therefore should be the one standing before the crowd, scourged and worthy of condemnation, for even frightened and cowardly traitor to the Truth Pilate could not say of me: I find no guilt in him. This is “the Man,” created, sinful and, by the grace and through the mercy of God, redeemed. This is cross that I must bear, this guilt that I must acknowledge, yet also this great gift, unearned, undeserved, unforeseen and unprecedented, to which I must cling. May I accept my place with You, Jesus, as I accepted my place with Adam and David, that I might carry my cross daily and die to my self for my sins with You, that I might be with You forever in heaven. Amen. Alleluia!!!

 

The Man the LORD God formed the man… You are the man! Behold the Man!
Scripture Source Genesis [Gen 2:7] Samuel [2 Sam 12:7] John [Jn 19:15]
Type of Literature Creation Story Parable Narrative
Timing Before the fact of Man After the fact of Man’s sin The fact: the God/Man
Actor God Nathan Pilate
Judge God David/Nathan The Jews
God’s action God makes man God condemns man God redeems man
Sacrifice Creation Lamb/infant Lamb of God
Condition of Man Innocent Fallen Innocent
Result Rule over creation Judge Judged/Judge
Outcome Stewardship Punishment Punishment/Redemption

 

Addendum:

While one the one hand Jesus is included with other “the Man” statements and confirms his humanity, I must always be aware of the “both/and.” God is inclusive, not exclusive. So too is Jesus inclusive, both God and Man. Thus, when Pilate brings him out a second time, having been informed that Jesus made himself the Son of God and been told by Jesus You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above, he attempts to reinstate Jesus, reinstate God as the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King, [Is 43:15], seating him on the judge’s bench…and saying to the Jews, Behold, your king! [Jn 19:7,11,13,14][3]

This reference to His divinity may be supported in the fact that, in addition, though the NABRE links “Behold the man.” to Is 52:14-15: Even as many were amazed at him— so marred were his features, beyond that of mortals his appearance, beyond that of human beings — So shall he startle many nations, kings shall stand speechless; For those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it, this appearance, beyond that of human beings may also refer to another Isaiah reference: Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of good news! Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Cry out, do not fear! Say to the cities of Judah: Behold your God! [Is 40:9]

When Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar,” with one stoke, the chief priests, speaking for the people of God, severe ties with all three: Jesus, their King and their God.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.  “The Hebrew word ’adam is a generic term meaning “human being.” In chaps. 2–3, however, the archetypal human being is understood to be male (Adam), so the word ’adam is translated “man” here.” NABRE Note on Gen 2:5.

[2] Only later will David produce an heir who will save even himself from His sin. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. [Lk 2:11] For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. [Is 9:6]

[3] Jesus had claimed His kingship of Israel in his design and execution of his entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as fulfillment of the prophecy: Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. [Zech 9:9] The crowds have wondered Who is this King of glory? and receive the answer in the fulfillment: The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory…[Ps 24:10] Israel’s king, its redeemer, the LORD of hosts. [Is 44:6]

 

Why Work?

Jn 6:27a Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.[1]

The motivation for work. When I think of work, I think of employment, a job that earns money, food that perishes. But You tell me to work for the food that endures for eternal life. Does this mean I stop earning money to feed my family?

This is another both/and. “Work” is the focus of both phrases; work remains, but the motive is different, the focus is changed; the goal becomes eternal life. “Food that perishes” is left in the dust, that same dust to which I will return [Gen 3:19] but which now is the dust which I will shake from my shoes if others don’t accept Your teaching. [Mt 10:14] Physical food is no longer an end, but a means to enable me to take in the Food, the Word in Scripture and in His Body and Blood, which endures for eternal life. This is what the Son of Man will give, all I need to enable me to work for the Kingdom, to go and bring peace [Mt 10:12] and make disciples, baptize and teach all to observe all that You have commanded me. [Mt 28:20]

Again, it’s the will of God in the here and now, in the workplace of the world, in the corner office, the coffee boutique, the assembly line, the milking barn, the halls of congress, the courtroom, the 16-wheeler, a humvee, a cockpit, the subway station, the classroom, the kitchen, the computer lab, the repair shop. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, God’s will rises in front of me, a great banner in the sky, a Divine ad trying to get my attention, leading me on, encouraging me to choose His Way in this decision, this choice, this moment, this meeting, this memo, this email, this tweet, this conversation, this confrontation, this research, this brief, this contract, this burger, this glance, this judgment, this thought, this action. Do I further the Kingdom or pound a nail into a God I reject? God help me!..the choice is mine.

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The Will of God

In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.[1] [1 Thes 5:18]

What has bewildered me for years…decades…is what the will of God is for me right here, right now.[2]

For years I wondered why God hadn’t revealed His will for me, knocking-off-my horse revelations, big, huge life-long challenges, monumental tasks of self-sacrifice and dedication, missions worthy of a “S”aint [the big “S” of which I “aint”].

But St. Paul [a very big “S”], who was knocked off his horse, summarized the secret very nicely in this succinct Rule for Life: In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. [1 Thes 5:18]

In all circumstances give thanks…not just in happy, wonderful times when remembering God and giving thanks is natural, easy to do,…not even in just in the painful, trying circumstances in which being reminded to give thanks may seem counterintuitive but it serves to remind me that God is with me, no matter what,….but even, and perhaps especially, in ordinary, hum-drum, everyday circumstances in which it may be most difficult to discern the hand of God, in which it is hard to find a reason to give thanks just because it is ordinary, hum-drum, everyday. Then its easy to take God for granted, like many persons I live with day in and day out, even my wife, my children; He is overlooked, forgotten, ignored. I guess my awareness quotient needs boosting, my appreciation factor a major overhaul, my humility a better work-out. “Ya guess?” Duh!!!

Scripture can tell me how to recognize the joyous, the exuberant occasions. The Annunciation’s be it done unto me according to your word [Lk 1:38], an acceptance of God’s will in humility, trust and wonder. Again, Mary’s My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior [Lk 1:46-47], the working of God’s will in her. Peter’s stammered Master, it is good that we are here [Lk 9:33], a humorous but oh, so human understatement of the glory of the Transfiguration. The first converts, so overjoyed that they even ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. [Acts 2:46-47]

There are poignant examples of obviously painful acceptance of God’s will, My Father, if it is not possible that this cup pass without my drinking it, your will be done! [Mt 26:42], the most obvious, the terrifyingly magnificent paradigm of obedience. Abraham’s “God will provide the sheep for the burnt offering.” Then the two walked on together [Gen 22:8], true, unflinching faith with fear and trembling. [Phil 2:12] Remorse for sinful failures: Peter remembered the word that Jesus had spoken: “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly, [Mt 26:75] followed days later by the humbling interrogation by Jesus: Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jn 21:17]

How about the hum-drum, the ordinary, the mundane. I can’t look to the miracles…too miraculous…or can I. Granted, raising Lazarus and walking on the water, even calming the storm is a little beyond the norm…but how about eating? The way it was done was miraculous, Jesus knew the crowds followed him because you ate the loaves and were filled. [Jn 6:26] Ok, so that’s still a bit out there.

How about the eighteen years between His being found in the temple at age twelve and his baptism by John at about age thirty. All we know about those years are summed up in two verses in Luke: He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. [Lk 2:51-52] That must have been rather an ordinary, hum-drum existence. Even his neighbors didn’t see him as a stand-out: Where did this man get all this?…Is he not the carpenter? [Mk 6:2-3] Throughout His life, He only did what the Father told him: a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also. For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does. [Jn 5:19-20][3] Does this mean that carpentry, that being subject to his parents, that growing up and doing the normal things in this out-of-the-way one horse town is doing what He sees His Father doing? It seems as though it does…

The corollary to Jesus stating that He cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing [Jn 5:19] is that I, in turn, are totally dependent on Jesus to do anything good, i.e. God’s will. He explicitly states this at the Last Supper: whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. [Jn 15:5] If I take this literally, and I see no reason why I should not, then everything else that He said is subsumed in this: everything from “follow me” to all of the Sermon on the Mount or Plain to carrying my cross daily to doing to the least of these must be done, can only be done, will not be able to be done, without remaining in Jesus and, through Him in me, being His hands, His eyes, His mind, His feet, here and now, in this moment in time and this small place in the universe. Of course, any pretensions of my being Him totally are ridiculous hubristic inanity; He must function on earth through me and you…and you…and you, through each of us in our own sphere of activity, of interaction, of grace, to reach the whole world and…every creature. [Mk 16:15]

Perhaps the most cogent argument for the ever present revelation of Your will is the prayer You taught us which reflects the perfect way, His Way, of relating to You. In it, You coupled two significant calls to action on my part: Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as in heaven. [Mt 6:10] The Kingdom is what I am called upon to preach by word and action in season and out of season…seems to me that that should cover a whole bunch of moments right there.

But then He added: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let me think about this for a second; how is God’s will done in heaven? (a) Heaven is where God is; (b) God’s will cannot be thwarted, is not unfulfilled, creates not just automatically, as if there is a time lapse between the willing and the accomplishment, but simultaneously; what is willed is; (c) and the prerequisite for remaining in heaven is the compliance and carrying out of God’s will, as was evident in the presumed test of the angels, would they obey God, even when He became man, as well as the continual praising and serving of God by the heavenly host. Now, if this alacrity, this absolute unquestioning immediate accelerated performance of God’s will in heaven is the criterion by which my performance of God’s will on earth is judged, the standard is extremely high. Obedience, the listening and carrying out of His will, is to be immediate, here, now, always and ongoing forever…

Besides those considerations, how about:

  • There is the constant and omnipresent awareness by God of everything that goes on in the universe: Yet not one…[sparrow] falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. [Mt 10:29] This “hands-on” management style of creation should give me pause, if He’s on top of every tiny bird falling to the ruling of nations: You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. [Jn 19:11]
  • How about the fact that He not only watches over me but provides my every need: No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. [Jn 3:27] Do I really not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wearYour heavenly Father knows that you need them allBut seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness,[4] and all these things will be given you besides. [Mt 6:25,32-33] Do I have the faith He requires: For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Mt 7:8]
  • How about the implications of…If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. [1 Jn 4:20]
    • And Jesus is very explicit about His total identification with each and every person we meet: As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.[5] [Jn 13:34] both during his life and after his resurrection: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? [Acts 9:4]
    • He was also explicit about how I am to treat them: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ [Mt 25:35-36]
    • And my reward: And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward. [Mt 10:42]
  • In case I plead prejudice and exclude someone from my love, Jesus teaches me (a) in parable a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. [Lk 10:33] and (b) in action: How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink? [Jn 4:9] that my neighbor [Lk 10:29] includes everyone.
  • And what is God’s will: Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.[Lk 10:8-9] (a) welcome; (b) making friends; (b) show them tangible evidence of God’s Kingdom; and (c) welcome them into God’s Kingdom.
  • Come, we have work to do: You will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [Mt 10:23]

But external work is not the only thing to which God calls me. He first calls me to discipleship, to listening, to learning, to prayer. Jesus cautions me about being anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her. [Lk 10:41-42] “Pray as if [since] everything depends on God; work as if everything depends on you.” [Augustine] For me, this is a particularly important point. I tend to focus on doing, on accomplishing, on finishing. I tend to forget that in everything, especially in the Kingdom, depends on God…I am simply a servant and not a very obedient one at that…Jesus warns me against pride and hubris in action: When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do. [Lk 17:10] The only way I can stay focused and humble is prayer, relying on God, understanding that all I have in resources comes from God, realizing that I can jump up and down until the cows come home, but without His grace, without His help, without His being there before me, being there from the beginning, being there knocking at the door, I might as well be blowing against the wind.

Another obvious clue of God’s will, but one I have overlooked is that it comes packaged with every temptation; it is constant, ongoing, always before me. With every temptation comes an equal grace in the form of an invitation to choose to do His will. If I consider how may of these zing by me every hour, I should have no problem seeing God’s graces swirling in multitudes around my head.

There is also a correlation of the will of God with the experience of consolations and desolations in my life. These are also constantly present, though some, if not much of life, takes place in the middle of this spectrum where neither is consolation or desolation is obvious. On the other hand, as Ignatius points out, if I am trying to follow the will of God, around me is peaceful and serene and temptations are fraught with anxiety and frustration. Such peace and serenity is indeed consolation, though unfortunately often so prevalent as to be unnoticed and “expected” rather than a gift to which I have no entitlement and which is worthy of awe and thanksgiving.

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Lk 9:23] The interesting twist to this doing God’s will is that by denying myself and taking up my cross daily, hourly, minute by minute, second by second, and following Him, I find that my yolk is easy, since it is shared by Jesus, and my burden is light, since He has borne the weight of my sins, and I will rest in green pastures and find eternal happiness in heaven.

Do this…and this…and this…and this in memory of me.[1 Cor 11:24; Lk 22:19]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] This is the question Ignatius sought to address through the discernment of spirits, both in discerning the major decisions in Your life and in determining which way you are being tempted in consolation and desolation.

[3] Even what Jesus says, He attributes to His Father: I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak.[Jn 12:49] Indeed, at the Last Supper, He tells his Apostles who have been with Him three years: If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him…[Jn 14:7] and He goes on to repeat what He had told them earlier: The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. [Jn 14:10]

[4] To fulfill all righteousness: in this gospel to fulfill usually refers to fulfillment of prophecy, and righteous-ness to moral conduct in conformity with God’s will. Here, however, as in Mt 5:6; 6:33, righteousness seems to mean the saving activity of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the plan of God for the salvation of the human race. [NABRE Note on Mt 3:14-15] This is in keeping with Paul’s interpretation of salvation as faith in Jesus Christ, God’s plan for salvation, rather than judgment on adherence to the Law or moral conduct in conformity with God’s will.

 

Why and how I write these mediations

Brief excursus on why I write these mediations:

  1. I mediate because I want to talk to God, to discuss with God what He has revealed to me, to us.
  2. I mediate on these particular topics because they are what are effecting my relationship with God at the present moment.
  3. I write these meditations because (a) I have difficulty focusing without writing, and (b) I am able to express myself better in writing than in speaking or simply thinking.

How I write these meditations:

  • The initial impetus is usually either (a) an insight that the Holy Spirit has given me concerning a particular verse in Scripture; (b) the next verse in the chapter on which I was meditating; or (c) an event or reaction to an event which needs sorting out.
  • While I usually start with the literal meaning, context, etc., the Holy Spirit usually has other ideas about what the import of this verse is in my life right now and we go spiraling off in that direction.
  • Based on the twelve step program’s theory that what is most personal is most generally applicable, I try to keep the focus on my relationship to God, using first person pronouns. As I am given to holding forth on what “we” all should do, I frequently fail in this. My apologies. I at least try to catch this the second time through before posting anything.

I give you a new commandment

I have always wondered what is “new” about this commandment: I give you a new commandment: love one another. [1] [Jn 13:34] Even the note in the NABRE states: “The commandment itself is not new,” and goes on to cite: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.[Lev 19:18]

I wonder whether the “new” aspect of this is two-fold: (a) by stating it is new, Jesus iterates his identification with the God of Sinai; and (b) by paralleling I am the LORD and As I have loved you, Jesus takes the focus off the solely peer criterion of human to human and raises the stakes by expanding our model to include the implicit criterion of God’s love for each of us to my love for each person I meet. This takes the rather dicey touchstone of how I love myself, which can vary from total affection to total disgust, and stabilizes that mercurial standard of self by adding the unwavering, unchanging, ever present love of God. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Rom 8:38-39]

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.