Saturday, July 19, 2008

A thought for this Sunday's readings

I'd like anyone who stumbles across this post to tell me if they hear(d) anything about the first reading from the "new" lectionary (i.e. for the Novus Ordo Mass). While the Gospel is both pregnant and bursting with topics I was absolutely stunned last night when I read and then re-read the first reading. Maybe it was just me but as soon as I read it I realized that every single line needs to be read both of itself and within the collective whole.

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
First, we are reminded that God cares for all creation, indeed that if He stopped thinking of us for even a second we would cease to exist. And not only that He has responsibility for us, but He also cares for us with a care, a love that only God can have.
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
God not only loves us enough to show us His Mercy, He loves us enough to show us His Justice, even as "mercy triumphs over judgement" (James 2:13). This is a clear reminder that true freedom is, as Pope Benedict has said, the freedom to do the right, not license to do whatever strikes ones fancy.
For your might is the source of justice;
Only God can be truly just and so as its epitome is also its source. Only God can be truly just because only God understands fully all parts of everything we do and has no need or use for ulterior motives. God being Truth is necessarily just.
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
With absolute knowledge and absolute power comes perfect mercy as well. Is this not a contradiction to everything we see around us in our world, where the "wise" and the powerful lord it over others and hold them to a higher measure than they hold themselves? No, God's power and mastery comes from His Love for all creation and that true Love wishes only the best for each and every minute part of that creation.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
Just in case we're tempted to think God is just a big ol' softy who won't do anything to us if we cross Him He provides reminders that He holds all creation in the palm of His hand. Yet we should also be reminded by everything we see around us - the flowing stream cutting through solid granite, the towering trees reaching high into the sky, the wonders our science shows us in the immensity of the tiny. We have no excuse for forgetting His might, for reminders and ever greater reminders always surround us.
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
This line, to me, is an absolute kick in the gut. Are we not reminded immediately of Revelations 3:15-16: "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth." But do we not find ourselves altogether too often lukewarm, comfortable in our beds, our homes, our conveniences and unwilling to become either hot or cold? "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control." (2 Tim 1:7)
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
Again we are reminded of the disparity between the world we see around us and the Truth that is God. In our world all too often there is a no commonality between those who are "master(s) of might" and clemency. This extends from the womb to the tomb and to every point in between and points to each one of us even as we sit here thinking how it applies to someone else. We all, even our children, are a "master of might" in some way over some thing but only when we use that might with clemency - with mercy and love - do we emulate God. In God there is no disparity between power and Mercy.
and with much lenience you govern us;
Yes, indeed, God does govern us and watch over every step and every breath we take. Perhaps my favorite image is of the parent teaching their child to ride a bike without training wheels, only this Parent never really completely lets go. He loves us enough to let us do what we will, but we are never really alone.
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
I find this a most interesting and poignant statement "whenever you will". Jesus did not will to show us His power when He hung upon the Cross - even as the great act of salvation was taking place He willed to keep it hidden; even as great power was being effected He willed to hide it in a mask of futility. And yet, when all seemed lost, that Power was revealed and neither rock nor even the chains of death could not hold Him. Only God could wield a sledgehammer and not break an egg.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
We have been taught, but have we learned? God has given us an example and a way by which to live. Do we follow it - follow Him - or do we make our own way? Do we look for God and His Will not only in the great happenings but in the small things as well or do we shrug our shoulders at a random universe and go on unmoved, untaught? "Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered". (Psalm 105:5) Remember.
that those who are just must be kind;
And now the tables are turned. God has shown us His ways, He has displayed His Mercy and His Justice and we are asked to participate. "God created us without us: but he did not will to save us without us." (St. Augustine, Sermo 169, 11, 13: PL 38,923) Our justice must be formed on His and as such must be formed and tempered by mercy. There is no other choice.
and you gave your children good ground for hope
Hope. Our hope is not unfounded, a grasping at a God we wish were there. "[A]nd hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:5) Many theologians have poured hundreds of letters in proving this or that to be true, but in the end our hope relies on our faith - "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Think back to the recent visit of the Pope to the United States, the theme of which was "Christ our Hope" and you will see over and over again that in which we hope, that in which we believe, that in which we have faith.
that you would permit repentance for their sins.
It is interesting, is it not, that this Old Testament writer would put forth as the greatest hope that which we have all too often taken for granted in this day and age - "repentance for their sins". Yet we have not only repentance but assured forgiveness right there in the confessional in Christ through the ministry of His priest, "I absolve you..." The mere thought of those words would have burst a prophet's heart with joy. Do not avoid them, do not abandon them - allow God to do what He came down, lived and died to do - forgive our sins and give us Himself totally and completely. There is, at the end, nothing - nothing - better than this. It is our faith, it is our hope, it is our Wisdom. It is our God who does it all.