Wednesday, October 18, 2006

mediocrity vs. sainthood

Mother Teresa on the Christian life:

"This imposes a great responsibility on us to fight against our own ego and love of comfort that would lead us to choose a comfortable and insignificant mediocrity. We are called upon to make our lives a rivalry with Christ; we are called upon to be warriors in saris, for the church needs fighters today. Our war cry has to be 'Fight not flight.'

The church of God needs saints today. We shall go freely in the name of Jesus, to towns and villages all over the world, even amid squalid and dangerous surroundings, with Mary the Immaculate Mother of Jesus, seeking of the spiritually poorest of the poor with God's own tender affection and proclaiming to them the Good News of salvation and hope, singing with them His songs, bringing to them His love, peace, and joy. In spirit, to every part of the vast creation of God, from the furthest planet to the depths of the sea, from one abandoned convent chapel to another abandoned church, from an abortion clinic in one city to a prison cell in another, from the source of the river in one continent to a lonely mountain cave in another, and even into heaven and the gates of hell, praying with and for each of God's creation to save and sanctify each one for whom the blood of the Son of God has been shed."

Quoted from No Greater Love

Friday, October 13, 2006

in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti

From Isaiah ch. 59:

19: So they shall fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun; for he will come like a rushing stream, which the wind of the LORD drives.
20: "And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the LORD.
21: "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children's children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore."

Apart from revving up the base, these verses relate to what Jesus says to Nicodemus in John 3.5. In talking to Israel about the triumph of the new covenant, Isaiah compares the coming of the Lord to water driven by Spirit. The "rushing stream" is living, not inert and the same wind that blew across creation in Genesis and spoke to Samuel and Elijah forces that water to prepare the way of the Lord. Not only does this tie in with the prescription for being "born anew", it also is connected with the imagery of Psalm 42:

1: As a hart longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.
2: My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?
3: My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me continually, "Where is your God?"
(skipping ahead...)
7: Deep calls to deep at the thunder of thy cataracts; all thy waves and thy billows have gone over me.

The author of the psalm calls to life the imagery of our unconscious need, and unceasing search for water by comparing it to the deer chasing after flowing streams. Again, this is living water, and the living seek it. But water is also deeply connected with sorrow, suffering, and the feeling of abandonment. Tears are swallowed by the man who is mocked for his faith in a God that abandoned him. When this experience (the door between hope and despair) is endured with humility and patience, it is glorified by God who answers a simple need for "water" within the human heart by sending a flood of mercy. Deep calls to deep. IT swallows US. The flood of retribution has become, through Christ, the tide of salvation.

This is the same water that flowed from Christ's side, and it calls us to be formed anew in the womb of His heart. Our subconscious associates security with the intimate warmth of our initial environment of liquid darkness. The Gospel is an invitation to envelop ourselves in this new womb of Christ's love.

Edith Stein argued that the primary function of the created world was to serve as symbolic expression of that which is higher. Night, light, darkness, water, life and death - all things are mere shadows of what they are meant to describe. If we accept that this world will one day fall off us like a cocoon, this is a logical way to see things. In light of this, the imagery and characteristics of water first and foremost provide insight into the failure of man, and the redemption offered by God. This new covenant incorporates water and spirit as specific signs of God's offer and our act of acceptance.

Isaiah talks about the words of the new covenant being placed in the mouths of all who receive the spirit.

21: "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children's children, says the LORD, from this time forth and for evermore."

They came from the Word, with the water and we have them forever. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Blood of Christ

When Jesus talks to Nicodemus, he hammers home the concept of being born anew (as opposed to "again")

John 3
1: Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews.
2: This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him."
3: Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
4: Nicode'mus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"
5: Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
6: That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7: Do not marvel that I said to you, `You must be born anew.'
8: The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit."

Water and Spirit. Those are the two requisites, and those coincide with Baptism easy enough. But Nico is stuck in the imagery and concept of physical birth. He has every reason to be stuck there because that's the only "birth" he's familiar with. It's the only one I'm familiar with! Why does Christ present birth as the process for entering the kingdom of God, and yet associate birth with tangible images that are abstract and confusing?

Like with everything old, Jesus brings the new not to replace but to fulfill. And now, thanks to JPII, we should learn to look carefully at scripture when imagery and activity of the human body are present.

Human birth involves:
a. Time: human sexual impluse > conception > 40 weeks gestation > labor > birth
b. Pain: see Genesis Three Sixteen (big coincidence there) or ask your mother.
c. Water: the amniotic fluid literally floods out at some point prior to delivery
d. Blood: a birth is a messy affair

Three of these things are missing from the recipe for rebirth Jesus gave to Nico. Water is the one thing in common - Oh, and the part about a mother's womb! So what are we to think? Is it that being born anew does not require time, pain, blood and a mother? These questions are answered for Nicodemus - and the rest of us - by John later in the story.

Time - John 17
1: When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee,

A Mother - John 19
26: When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 27: Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Pain - All of John 19

Blood (and water) - John 19
34: But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.

Jesus is taking on the Pain of the woman giving birth, he is delivering the new creation at the fullness of our collective 40 weeks, and what's more it is blood and water coming from his side! We are born from our mother's womb - only Eve was born from the flesh of a man. Birth into the Kingdom of God has been accomplished through Christ's Passion and the profound image of his side being pierced in the presence of John and Mary is the answer to the confusion expressed by Nico and shared by me.

Being born anew, is being born from the new Adam. Christ took care of the labor and delivery, and he left us the Spirit for everyone to reap the eternal reward of life through Him, with Him and in Him.

There is some crazy stuff in the Bible.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

True dat

From Fr. Stan's Oct. 5 message:

St. Faustina is right-in-there in the “big leagues” with little t and francesco. In the amazing #303 of her diary she says:

Great love can change small things into great ones, and it is only love, which lends value to our actions. And the purer our love becomes, the less there will be within us for the flames of suffering to feed upon, and the suffering will become a delight! By the grace of God I have received such a disposition of heart that I am never so happy as when I suffer for Jesus, whom I love with every beat of my heart.

The source of this unfathomable abyss is the God of mercy who is rich in mercy, who “out of the great love with which he loved us, even when were dead in our sins, made us alive together with Christ (Ephesians 2:4-5). I pray that Francesco, little t, faustina and jp will pray for us that as they did their part, Christ will teach us ours.
Blessed Mother Theresa certainly did her part and advised us along the same lines: “Do not seek great things, but do everything with great love.”

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Not as the world gives...

I was reading the beginning of Job, ch. 40 the other day and it struck me how God is describing to Job what humanity will eventually do to his Son.

And the LORD said to Job:

2: "Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it."

3: Then Job answered the LORD:

4: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer thee? I lay my hand on my mouth.

5: I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."

6: Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

7: "Gird up your loins like a man; I will question you, and you declare to me.

8: Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be justified?

Job had asked in Ch. 31 for just this type of judgment on himself - so that he could see if there were indeed reasons for his suffering.

33: if I have concealed my transgressions from men, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom,

34: because I stood in great fear of the multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, so that I kept silence, and did not go out of doors --

35: Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! let the Almighty answer me!) Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!

36: Surely I would carry it on my shoulder; I would bind it on me as a crown;

37: I would give him an account of all my steps; like a prince I would approach him.

38: "If my land has cried out against me, and its furrows have wept together;

39: if I have eaten its yield without payment, and caused the death of its owners;

40: let thorns grow instead of wheat, and foul weeds instead of barley." The words of Job are ended.

And we are told that when it says the words of Job are ended in Hebrew it simply reads:

Tav in Hebrew - the last letter of the alphabet. The origins and functions of this letter are quite interesting when considered in the light of this passage from Job.

Tav was translated into Greek as Tau. This is a letter whose imagery and meaning we are all familiar with.

Peace of Christ,