Tag Archives: 2 Corinthians

November 15: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xv – ‘What now?’

fallsupward

What has happened thus far is following the maxim: the whole equals the sum total of the parts – whereas the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The implications: the fixed character of reality gives way to a fluid flowing, driven by energies of which we know nothing, which we cannot control. Rational argument doesn’t work anymore – cause and effect do not work as we presumed they did. Creation is relationally friendly. Quantum vision can be summarised: Creation manifests itself; energy exists; time begins; space expands; events are uncertain; only probabilities can be measured; cause and effect are fluid; birth and death happen at the speed of light; information is to be found in energy.

No room here for power-over, only power with. Power games are alien to life. Thirst for control makes no sense, where everything exercises its own sense of control – everything is out of our control. We live in a self-organising universe, which calls for humility on our part, to submit our plans to the greater wisdom of Creation.

How do we see Jesus in this context? Maybe Saint Paul can help: So, from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone the new is here… 2Corinthians 5.16.

Paul is inviting us to regard Jesus differently from the prevailing norms. Christ’s coming has changed all this. All the great religions grapple with our relationship with the divine – but the desire for power gets in the way. The understanding of God as relationship is the oldest humanity has ever known – and from this issue notions of Trinity. Christian history has seen Trinity from a mathematical angle in which the individuality of the persons became more significant than their relatedness. Jesus seen as closer to the Father than to the Spirit – though New Testament has nothing of this.

Jesus belongs to the realm where the whole is greater than the sum total of the parts; he belongs to the whole Creation – he is the primary expression of divine creativity. How Jesus differs from Father and Spirit could well be a meaningless question. The need for a difference is a human patriarchal need, which gets in the way of our befriending God in a Creation-wide way.

AMcC

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

September 11. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, 9: Resurrection and Eucharist

cross.cave1

As we have seen, to try to understand the Resurrection we have to start with the reality of death. Created for intimacy with God we lost this, turned away from communion with God, towards whatever we create as our own gods, or deny any need for God – if we turn away from life all that awaits us is death. Jesus, truly human, born, lived and died and in rising from death swept away forever the dominance of death. The most visible sign of death is the corpse; the most visible sign of Jesus’ Resurrection was the empty tomb – there was no corpse.

The Resurrection remains mystery, no one saw it happen. The crucial evidence for it comes from his few followers. Not just telling something; but first experiencing something, literally life-changing themselves. They were given a totally new way of seeing God, and an understanding what it really means to be genuinely human. This was far more important than any attempts at rational explanations of what happened. In a very real sense they found themselves taken-up, included, in Jesus’ new bodily presence.

This highlights the Eucharistic reality of Jesus. Debates and discussions have taken place about bread becoming the body of Jesus – issuing in the somewhat awkward neologism [a new word because we can’t find an existing word] Transubstantiation. Before we attach any importance to what we have to say about this mystery we must heed what Jesus says: this is my body for you – his body becomes bread, food for us to eat. It is important to stress this today because the history of the celebration of the Mass shows it being separated into two parts, with the emphasis clearly on part one: the consecration, bread and wine becoming Jesus’ real presence; the second part, the ritual meal of Jesus’ as food seems to be a kind of afterthought.

RoodEngMartyrsCamb2

Eucharistic Rood of the risen yet dead Jesus, OLEM, Cambridge.

According to tradition, the human being, designed and destined for intimacy with God, has fallen out of knowing God in this way, and settled for simply knowing good and evil, a knowledge of which God is not the source. Fallen away from God [life] we are on our own with death on the horizon, compelling us to struggle for survival for as long as possible – so much so that we even justify war and violence in our pursuit. Death in place of God is how we chose to live our three score and ten. Death is that terrifying nothing that draws us to selfishness and sin, the ultimate black hole.

Jesus is human as originally intended by God; yet totally part of our history – even under the reign of death. Death swallowed him up, intending to thrust him into the negativity into which we have fallen – it has been called his descent into hell, where death is king with oblivion its promise. Highlighting how death is the controlling factor of all our thinking.

However, there is a difference – in Jesus’ case death is for unfallen man, and so marks the removal of the final obstacle to union with God – the transforming of the finite and limited. Everything that death means for fallen humankind – the horrors, the abuses, the murders – nature’s cynical reply to any claims to be God-like – all this changed with the death of Jesus from the highway-to-nothing to the gateway into intimacy with God – forever.

His death is real, he endured the death of fallen man though sinless – was made sin for us – 2Corinthians 5.21. It is this darkness of our fallen state that the Easter Candle illumines with new hope. Darkness is swallowed up in God; a darkness felt in moments of despair, in the hopelessness of teenage suicide, in those long and interminable bouts of loneliness. But how can the divine removal of all this be brought home to us?

It is dramatic – the drama of the empty tomb. The absence of the body is the sign of something that cannot be seen or imagined, only available through life-changing faith – the coming of Jesus through death, when through the death of the god of fallen humanity, there is the fullness of God. The trophy of our own god – is not there, there is no corpse. But if we fail to understand, forgetting to be human as we face the Easter mystery, then the empty tomb fails to speak to us; and leaves us with the Sanhedrin trying to work-out how it happened – who stole the body.

The empty tomb is a fact – the resurrection is a mystery that cannot be witnessed or imagined. There is no way of combining the two other than to say the empty tomb is beyond what history can say, leading us to the reality of something transcendent. That is the realising of God’s original plan for us mortal beings to be drawn into complete intimacy with God, through the removal of what was impeding this, our tendency to the nothing of oblivion we were inevitably facing.

We enter next into an interim period, a time when the risen Jesus was visibly with them, the time before the Ascension. It was a time when the new way had the chance to take hold – the fact that it did take hold is seen from the Easter texts. After the Ascension, when the disciples were sharing their experiences, there is no hint of nostalgia. Nowhere does it say if only you were there! He had not gone away – he is till with them and them with him through the dynamic faith he brought to them.

The new life he has introduced is not what we commonly call life after death. He is alive among the disciples, and they are aware of it. He is still here but otherwise. They enjoy a new togetherness of love binding them together, from which he is never absent. The Apostles were telling us what it is like to have Jesus with them in this new way.

If we are to hear the Easter message as it is – we need to hear the question: Why are you looking for the living among the dead? If we remain locked-into our way of understanding, Easter has not yet happened. As a new community the disciples experienced the real now of Jesus – the new way of living was so overpowering that things could not remain the same. The lesson here: their experience of the now of Jesus brought them together as a community. If we are not experiencing community – dare we look at the now of Jesus in our own lives?

We have him under the appearances of bread and wine, he came to them through hands and feet. Reflect on: He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit – 1Peter.3.19. The move from the body dead to the body alive was experienced by the disciples as from the body we killed to the body we are in. We are all too familiar with put to death in the world – but he comes alive in an entirely new way – not back from the dead. He would not walk the earth again, but showing himself in moments of real community, it was through this that they recognised him when they saw him – incarnate in a Church of joy and welcome, as a community, not a man alone.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

8 June, Year of Mercy: Compassion has everything to do with God.

The compassion of Francis: he prays for water for his thirsty guide and a spring wells up.

mercylogoReligion and mercy have often spearheaded protests against injustice and violence as well as providing the impetus for social action. Seeking to get rid of misfortune and innocent suffering by force [as Marxism] did not just fail but caused intense suffering and persecution for millions, it became Lenin’s world, with the death of God paving the way for superman. It is reported that on his deathbed Lenin regretted the cruelty and bloodshed of his well-intentioned revolution: I have deluded myself. Without doubt, it was necessary to free the oppressed masses. However, our methods resulted in other oppressions and gruesome massacres. You know I am deathly ill; I feel lost in an ocean of blood formed by countless victims. This was necessary to save our Russia, but it is too late to turn back. We would need ten Francis of Assisi.”

Germany’s National Socialism praised whatever made you strong; lauding I did it my way! The impact of this was self-centred living, marginalising and excluding. Words like mercy and pity were no longer fashionable. Pity took on a negative connotation – and yet, experiences of compassion and pity remained strong and evident; with many choosing to follow such ways.

The cries for sympathy are by no means always unheard – even though the actual words mercy and pity are not much used. We are disturbed and alarmed by so much inhumanity and cruelty; natural disasters like earthquakes and floods evoke a response, when charity giving is most generous. Compassion, entering by choice into the sufferings of others, is doing well and temporarily, brings us more together – compassion is still around, though under new names.

There is much more than sentiment here; we are moved by the passion in compassion; hearing the cry of the poor enough to be determined to respond. Perfeopen handct [universal] justice is not achievable in this world, which is why Genesis tells us that it is not for us to decide what is good – not a prohibition, but we are not big enough to do it. When we decide what is good for us, there will always be exceptions, whereas God’s justice is universal mercy: The father of mercy… 2 Corinthians 1.3.

There are numerous victims of natural disasters where support depends entirely on compassion – thankfully such compassion is not in short supply. The presence of God, the father of mercy, is readily detected here.
pain and innocent suffering are as old as humankind, and all religions ask why and try to answer; asking for deliverance from pain and the strength to endure. How can we believe in a merciful God in the heart of this? Can suffering and mercy live together in a positive way? What does the sermon on the Mount mean by blessed are the merciful?

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

10th February, Ash Wednesday: A Change of Heart

heart

(Image from www.franciscanalliance.org )

Joel 2:12-18, Psalm 50; 2 Corinthians. 5:10, 6:2: Matthew.6:1-8,16-18

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, marked by services of penitence.

The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, alms giving atonement and self-denial.

Literally, it means a change of mind and heart and attitudes.  This point is vividly illustrated by the first reading when the prophet Joel tells us, ‘let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn’ (Joel 2:13).

What does change of mind and heart mean, and how can we do it?  There is a sense in which we cannot effect it – all that we can do is to be attentive to God and let him do the transforming. A real change of mind and heart means an inner surrendering of my own life to God, so that whatever I do, I do in his Spirit: with him, for him and through him.

Alms-giving is a generic term which expresses the practical nature of our love for others.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against play-acting good deeds in order to be seen.

Fasting from wrong doing is more important than from food. There is inner fasting of the mind, which is letting go of past resentment, breaking down the barriers which separate us from God.  Like fasting, alms-giving is both a means which helps us to pray, and also the result of prayer. If our prayer is genuine, then the spirit of God takes hold of us and we shall begin to feel more at one with him and with creation.  We do not just fast and pray for people but give them a practical proof of our love which makes us ambassadors for Christ, as St Paul tells us in the second reading. Our hearts, like Christ’s will be moved with pity, and we shall begin to feel for our neighbours as we feel for ourselves. May God help us in conversion of heart this Lenten season Amen.

 

FMSL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Playing on the Emotions

It’s a Carmelite week. We entertained a Tertiary and his wife last night; a wide-ranging conversation. We didn’t say much about Thérèse but I found another passage about her as a toddler:

I’ll go back to Maman’s letters where she wrote about Céline and me; it’s the best way to help you understand my character. Here’s a passage where my faults shine out: ‘Céline is playing at building blocks with the little one, they quarrel from time to time. Céline gives in to earn a pearl in her crown. I have to correct the poor baby who throws herself into almighty tantrums; when things don’t go her way she rolls on the ground like one in despair, believing all is lost. Sometimes it is too much for her, it suffocates her.

She’s a nervous child, but cute and very intelligent, she remembers everything.’

I’m not convinced that tantrums need be more than a stage we go through. I’ve watched them in my own children and in teenagers I’ve worked with. Thérèse is hard on her infant self, but her tantrums are one with the stubbornness that opened the door of Carmel to her when she was officially under age, the determination that saw her live the cloistered life to the end. Some fault, Thérèse! Or an echo of Paul (2Cor 12:9)

‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections