Tag Archives: Moses

September 4. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, 2: Living God

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Jesus saves each one from Hell.

According to the Parable of the lost sheep – Luke.15.3 – mercy is not shown to the group but to the lost member, the excluded. Mercy is changed from our ways – covering up violence, to something that exposes it. In God there are no outsiders, and any mechanism that would create outsiders is shown to be purely human, having nothing of God in it.

This is the new perception. When Jesus debated with the Sadducees – who deny the resurrection – Mark.12.18; Matthew22.23; Luke.20.27 – we discover how Jesus sees God. They hold that if there was resurrection God would have told Moses and it would have been written into the Pentateuch. It isn’t there, so it didn’t happen. Deuteronomy speaks of the obligation of a brother to marry his dead brother’s widow – if he died childless – and have children to ensure posterity, the only way of getting round death.

Jesus turns to their ignorance of the power of God. At first glance his answer seems to have no reference to the Resurrection: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – Lk.20.37 quoting Exodus.3.6. He is saying who God is – God is totally alive, has nothing to do with death and seems to be saying to Moses he is the God of three dead men. Jesus isn’t speaking of a special power to do something miraculous, like raising from the dead. Living is who God is – completely and eternally alive without any reference to death. What seems obvious to us – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are a long time dead – cannot be so for God in whom there is no death. For us, being alive means not being dead – for God death is not, and nothing can be contrasted with it, as it can for us.

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For Jesus God is alive always – I am does not mean I exist, but I am fully alive and ever present. His adversaries did not share this awareness. When he said you are very much mistaken, he wasn’t saying you have made a mistake – but your whole perception is wrong because it is influenced by death, and this is part of the human condition.

Paul was heavily involved in persecuting Christians and would have sided readily with the Sadducees. He came to know that being mistaken is not the lot of the few, but of all of us. Being mistaken in this way led him – and us too – into finger-pointing, blaming and even killing through ill-formed rivalries, simply to keep the system clean: It is good that one should die for the sake of the nation – Caiaphas John.18.14. In Chapter One of Romans – we have become futile in our thinking with darkened hearts; and in Chapter Two he says whoever dares judge others judge themselves. Excluding, eliminating is the action of futile minds and senseless hearts.

We are all greatly mistaken – Jesus came to tell us, and help us believe that God is entirely different from what we imagine. The Good News is not just about Jesus; not even about the Resurrection, nor how we should behave – it is about the nearness of God who is I am here for you. No matter whether I am there for God or not, God is always there for me: God loves me; will never stop loving me; and loves me exactly as I am! No conditions apply – never I will love you if you turn away from sin, or if you keep and commandments, or if you go to Church… no preconditions. Once I am able to be still and know this – all the rest will happen – or not; that depends on me.

We can’t see who God is, not because we are stupid, but because our minds and imagining are darkened – never is it change your behaviour and see God – rather, see God and all else follows. Jesus was able to say all this to the Sadducees because his mind and imagining was free and crystal clear, he did not share that condition we all share which Paul referred to: how is it I cannot do what I would like to do, and always do what I would prefer not to do – Romans.7.15. Paul also tells us how to get there – who will rescue me from this wretched condition, thanks be to God Christ Jesus – Romans.7.24. When this happens we will know what he meant by: I live now not I, but Christ lives in me­ – Gal.2.20. Jesus said what he said not because he is divine, but because he is fully human – made to receive the presence of God as God is.

Jesus possessed this imagination before he suffered and died – and the disciples had difficulty in following his teaching, as he said they would: this you cannot understand now, but later you will – John.13.7; 1Corinthians 2.16. It was through his imagination being fixed on God that he could move towards death without being moved by death: For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God – Hebrews 12.2.

Not so the disciples who, like us see death as the stumbling block. If life is to be eternal, something has to happen to death. If Jesus was killed, he must have done something against the Law. We are very much Job’s comforters.

But if God has nothing to do with death, then death is merely a cultural reality with no reflection on what I’ve done or who I am. Goodness cannot be defined by death. See what has happened when someone executed by the death system, apparently punished by God, appears alive beyond death. This is what the disciples were facing. God’s plan for the undoing of death in Jesus happened because his imagination is untarnished by death and so could extend through it and beyond it.

This is the new perception of God they were receiving – one which Jesus always had, even before his death. Human attempts to define God are wrong as also any attempt to shape moral life by those hemmed-in by death. Jesus began teaching this to them, but at the time it was beyond their understanding and would be until confronted by the Resurrection.

He spoke about the sun shining on the good and the bad, as also the rainfall. God is beyond the sphere of human morality – no judging or condemning. Look at the instinctive reaction to the Parable of the workers, when the latecomers receive the same wage as those who have borne the day’s heat – who has not felt sympathy with them? We are not to separate wheat and weeds – Matthew13.24 because we do not know how to judge. God can never give less than all, and give to all, irrespective.

Paul had persecuted someone he saw to be leading people astray from the God revealed to Moses. Now he sees God has raised this man up, and that he was persecuting him in the name of God. Jesus had been right in what he did and said about God.

As Paul saw it God is known and served through observing the Law, and killing transgressors was doing God’s will; since God is kind to the insiders and vengeful in punishment of the others. The Law had become simply a way of separating people – an instrument of death. Paul’s conversion happened through his being enabled to see Jesus, not as a vengeful God but as the Good Shepherd.

The fully alive presence of the executed victim shows that there is no violence in God, as well as uncovering the violence in all of us. Genesis shows us being expelled from the garden for eating when we were told not to. S John answers this: it is not God who expelled us, we expelled God – He came to his own, and his own gave him no welcome – John.1.11.

AMcC

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11 May: Getting in the Way

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There are times when life doesn’t go our way. We make plans, and unanticipated events unmake them. It can be as simple as a delayed train, or as devastating as sudden ill health. We are going along, with some idea at least of what shape our day might take, or what form our life might take, but then everything unravels in the face of something we didn’t expect. We are left asking, ‘Where am I? Where do I go now?’

The unexpected happening gets in the way. If it’s a pleasant surprise we’re happy to be diverted, but even then we might feel a little thrown. But when something painful, difficult or threatening crashes in, we can be shaken to the core, bewildered by the turn of events and left with no clear sense of our bearings. I remember sitting down on a London bus and looking up to see the notice by the door: ‘NO WAY OUT’…not the sort of message you hope to receive when life feels uncertain!

There is another sense in which we sense something or someone stands in our way. We have a good intention, even one we sense comes as gift of the Spirit; but we also see an obstacle and it seems formidable. Perhaps it’s about finding work that is meaningful and makes a difference but the jobs don’t seem to be there. Or perhaps we sense we have something to give but doubt that it will be valued by others. Or perhaps it is a persistent call we sense to place our daily life more deeply in God, but we can’t seem to find the time or the means to pray.

Seeing the barrier on our mental map we might not even begin the journey. Or when we walk right up to it and see its size and hear its noise we might give up the task for hopeless. But what if the pull to make the journey continues to be strong? And what if this desire seems to come not just from our self-will but from some inner place where God’s Spirit dwells? Then we might be willing to go on walking trusting that in time we will arrive. But where will this arrival point be? It might be the place we imagined or somewhere entirely different and surprising. God knows.

I recently went for a walk, having planned my route on a map showing all the footpaths, I knew where I wanted to get to. But what stood in the way was a busy dual carriageway. The map showed a footpath running up to its edge and another starting on the other side immediately opposite. There had to be an underpass or a bridge… There wasn’t…

I understood how Moses and the Egyptians must have felt when faced by the waters of the Red Sea. There are no zebra crossings on motorways…

I might have turned back, but the lure of the destination was strong, and so I trudged along the road’s noisy edge for a long mile, searching for a crossing point and finally – when almost at the point of giving up – reached a turning that took me to the other side. I wasn’t on the path I first thought of but now new possibilities for the journey opened up for me. This, rather than the route I had imagined in the beginning, was now my path.

Jesus says, ‘I am the Way’. The Way moves on from where we are, and not from some other place. We don’t know where in detail it will lead us, but it will lead us somewhere. The obstacles we perceive are not barriers to this way; in Jesus they become the Way. All that has happened to us is part of the Way. All that might happen in the future – wanted or not – will also takes its place within the Way. Our part is to pluck up our courage and take hold of our desire and walk: a Way has to be travelled.

This Way might not after all, follow the path we envisaged and may not lead to the destination we imagined. But a Way that can lead someone through the dead ends of betrayal, ridicule and death on a cross, and yet lead to unbounded risen life, is always to be trusted.

CC.

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April 18, Jerusalem II: No Tame God.

The prophets insisted that the Temple was the place of God’s presence, not just the national shrine of Israel or Judah. Before a stone could be laid upon a stone, Nathan was sent to forbid David from building a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7). God wanted it clear that he was the one God, and not to be tamed like a Canaanite god by offering sacrifices to force blessings from his hand; nor was he open to trickery like Zeus, who was taken in by Prometheus’ theft of fire;[1] no, he was:

‘Exodus’ terrifying concept of unbearable beauty and power, God known in the thunderstorm on Mount Sinai, God who warns Aaron not to come within the Holy of Holies improperly dressed, lest he die.’[2]

 

            This God sustained a Covenant relationship with Israel. He it was who took the initiative and sent down fire upon the landmark sacrifices of Abraham’s vigil or Elijah’s watch on Mount Carmel (Genesis 15; 1Kings 18). He would do the same for his fledgling Church at Pentecost, when the disciples were transformed, not destroyed, by fire (Acts 2:3); a few years later the fire of the Spirit was passed to Paul’s ordinand, Timothy, bringing him into the eternal life of the Trinity (2Timothy 1:6–11) .

May our light burn brightly so that our lives may point those we love and those we meet to that eternal life.

           MMB.

[1]    Paul Cartledge: ‘Olympic Self-Sacrifice’, in  ‘History Today’, 50, 10; October 2000,
Paul Cartledge, Olympic Self Sacrifice .
[2]    Mary Douglas: ‘Leviticus as Literature’, Oxford University Press, 1999; p 34.

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April 7: Station IV – The Stranger Takes Over.

Was it not necessary…? [25-27]

The stranger now ‘takes over’. His listening has played an important part in ‘opening them up’, and making it clear just how badly shaken they are, especially in ‘their faith’, their confidence and trust in God and in Jesus as the Promised One, the Messiah. It is now time to call them back to the truth, and to the hope, that they had believed in when Jesus was with them, but which they clearly had never understood or accepted. But notice he does not tell them who he is—how could they have made sense of that? What he does is what he must have done many times before, while he was with them. Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in the scriptures, showing how it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory.

They must have had strange and wonderful feelings of having heard all this before. It was all coming back to them, and it was almost too much to take in. As they realised afterwards: Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us? He is revealing himself to them ‘through the Word’, even though their eyes are still ‘held’ and they do not recognise him. And an even more important point to make, perhaps, is that he is not revealing himself so much as re-awakening the faith they had previously had in him, and bringing them to see in a totally new way—God’s way—the true meaning of what has happened.

What is this like for us today?

Where might we have experienced something like this? Or where might we expect to experience it?

An experience of hearing/seeing in a completely new way something that we thought we could never understand or accept.

If, like these two disciples, we have tried to be honest about how we feel and what we struggle to accept in the Gospel message [or in the Church’s teaching/practice], how do we hear the stranger/ Jesus when he questions/challenges us: Was it not necessary…?

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Rood, Our Lady and English Martyrs, Cambridge.

  • Are we also ‘slow to believe’?
  • How do we hear him telling us that ‘the Way of the Cross’ is necessary—not just for him, but for anyone who accepts to follow him?
  • St Paul [1 Cor 1:18ff] spells out what it means to follow Jesus on the way of the cross: ‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’. Do we accept that? How do we understand it?
  • We want to respond, but we need to hear how we are being called, and how we are to act—following the Way of the Cross, seeking always to choose/decide and act according to what God values: ‘what is foolish in the world…what is weak…low and despised…’ [1 Cor 1:27ff].
  • And here we can surely hear the clear call of the Gospel as Pope Francis is proclaiming it: The Church of the poor, for the poor…

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Wednesday 30 March: Seeing that Consists in Not Seeing

 

For Gregory of Nyssa, the cloud into which God calls Moses on Mount Sinai symbolises the unknown and unknowable place in which we meet God:

‘Leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, Moses keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding he gains access to the invisible and incomprehensible, and there he sees God.’

In today’s Gospel, (Luke 24: 13-33) the women tell the apostles about the empty tomb and the angels they encountered there, but the men dismiss their testimony. Peter goes and checks the tomb for himself, but what he finds still does not persuade him of the women’s veracity.

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The disciples set off for Emmaus. As they walk, Jesus joins them. When they fail to recognise him, he chides them for their folly. ‘Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.’ Still they do not recognise him. It is only he when breaks bread with them that they finally see. As soon as they do so he vanishes from their sight.

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Gregory’s description of the ascent continues,

‘This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness.’

Stiperstones, Shropshire: MMB; FMSL; 

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March 9: Gregory of Nyssa

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Today the Roman Martyrology commemorates Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Basil the Great and Macrina (see blog entries for 2-9 January 2016). Among Gregory’s most influential works are his Life of Moses and homilies on the Song of Songs. The latter were composed at the behest of a wealthy young Christian woman named Olympias who lived in Constantinople, and were delivered in the church at Nyssa during Lent, most likely in 394 or 395.

In his preface Gregory explains that although he wrote them in response to Olympias’ requests, he did so not for her benefit, since he is sure she has no need of them, but so that ‘some direction may be given to more fleshly folk for the sake of the spiritual and immaterial welfare of their souls.’

In addressing them to a congregation of ordinary churchgoers Gregory shows a confidence in the spiritual maturity of ordinary laypeople which contrasts strikingly with the reservations of his mentor Origen, who in the prologue to his own commentary on the Song ‘[advises and counsels] everyone who is not yet rid of the vexations of the flesh and blood and has not ceased to feel the passion of his bodily nature, to refrain completely from reading this little book and the things that will be said about it. For they say that with the Hebrews also care is taken to allow no one even to hold this book in his hands, who has not reached a full and ripe age.’

MLT.

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March 2nd: Called by Love, for Love

Picture Wed 2nd March

(Image from quotesgram.com)

 

(Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9), (Matthew 5:17-23)
With the journey from Egypt completed, Moses makes his farewell speech. Forbidden to enter Caanan himself, he encourages the people to occupy the land God had promised long before and prepares them for their new life by reminding them of God’s laws and renewing the covenant.  Moses urges Israel to obey God’s law.(Deuteronomy 4:1-14). The law is God’s regulation of the life of God’s people, affecting their relationship with Him and with each other.The book of Deuteronomy (meaning ”second law”) is all about the people’s relationship with God. God and His people are bound together not just by a treaty but by love.

Love led God to choose the children of Israel, rescue them and bring them to the Promised Land.  The people of Israel are called to love God in return and to show their love for one another through obedience to the detailed laws governing every aspect of life.
Love led God to give His only begotten Son to save the world.(John 3:16). God calls us again through Jesus, Who is the fulfilment of all the laws and prophecies, to be in loving relationship with Him: ‘

“As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Now remain in my love (John 15:9). If you love me you will obey what I command. (John 14:15). My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”’ (John 15:12)

Love and obedience are inseparable, like two faces of a coin. ”LOVE” is the deepest expression of God’s nature.  God’s love is fully revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the face of the Father’s merciful love, breaks Himself on the altar at each Holy Eucharist.  The All-powerful God becomes vulnerable out of love for us. Because of this, at each Holy Communion we can experience God’s presence in our hearts.

How can we better care for Him in our hearts during this holy season?

FMSL

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28th February: A God of Second Chances

 

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(Image from noxuzeta.jimdo.com)

(Exodus 3:1-8,13-15    Psalm 102:1-4,6-8,11. Corinthians 10:1-6,10-12 Luke13:1-9)

 

As we enter the third of week of Lent, the theme of repentance comes out strongly.  In the Gospel reading, Jesus warns us that if we do not repent, we will perish.  He gives a parable about the fig tree. What does this tell us? God is not interested in punishing you and me.  The will of God is for us to be saved. We may be like that fig tree which has come to maturity without producing any fruits. The owner of the garden wants to cut it and burn it so nothing of it remains but the gardener (God) says give me one more year to dig around it, manure it, water it and just to take care of it. After that, if it does not bear fruit, you can cut it down. A God of Second Chances……..

We are celebrating the Year of Mercy.  The Lord in his goodness has opened the floodgates of his mercy. He does not care about how we have lived in the past, his desire is for us to humble ourselves and repent.

In the first reading, God sees the misery of people of Israel and chooses to free them through Moses. In the same way, God sees our wretchedness and wants to free us from our sins. He is running to meet us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We should never despair but persevere in conversion until the end in order to be saved. Sometimes we look at our deeds and think we are irredeemable but God sees something different and wants to give us a second chance to love him.

As Pope Francis wrote in his book The Name of God is Mercy:

‘Mercy will always be greater than any sin; no one can put a limit on the love of the all-forgiving God.’

 

FMSL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11th February: Choose Life!

 

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Picture: FMSL Canterbury

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

 

Deuteronomy 30:15:20    Luke 9:22:25

Moses gave this message to the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness. The message is being given to us on our journey:

Choose life not death.

It is good for us to reflect on this because we are created to praise, reverence and serve God.

Does everything deaden me which is not promoting my praise, my self-importance, my comfort and security? This self centredness is the way of death. God centredness is the way of life. That is what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine let them renounce themselves, and take up their cross every day and follow me.”

Lent is thought of as the time for giving up more things than usual, God is seen as being most pleased  with us when we are giving ourselves a hard time, and holiness is measured by our ability to endure suffering.

This is a total distortion of Jesus’ message.  The renunciation which God asks is the renunciation of all things which is deaden us, so that we may live more fully, and to live more fully is to be freed from self-preoccupation so that we can delight in his creation, know ourselves and see our lives as a gift given to us so that others may live fully.

May God help us this Lent and always, Amen.

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O, that you would tear the heavens open and come down

 

 

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From where we stand, the Cave is dark.

We wait in this valley of darkness; this night

of shadows and echoes from the past.

 

The Father is aware, but silent;

the Watchers are there, mute and still;

the Holy Ghost broods with quiet joy.

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Moses is there in a cleft of the rock;

 Plato observes the images thrown on the wall

by the fire outside, near the sheep-fold.

 

In this silence and darkness is no threat,

for waiting there is right; without signs.

Mary has said her Fiat and it shall be.

 

 The door pushed open by the shepherds,

casts another shadow on the wall;

image of a cross, for pain is there before birth.

 

Then, at the breath of a new Creation

uttered by the Father, the Holy Ghost stirs;

 Jesus slips into the waiting world.

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The Father tears open the curtains of heaven,

 beside Himself with the weight of joy

at this first glimpse of His only Son,

 

Child, you shine at your birth, translucent

   with love of the Father, who sees even now, how

 the veil of the temple will be rent at your death.

 

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