Sin and Grace; Commentary on some verses of  St Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Sin and Grace;

Commentary on some verses of                                                St Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Year 1, Week 28, Monday                              Glenroy 1977

He took on human nature and enhanced it.

“… according to the flesh.”        Romans 1:3

Such was the excellence of his authority that we cannot say human nature produced him, but that he took on human nature. His command of his own nature and of his environment showed that he was a higher principle than they. This sway was of a special kind, not the harsh control arising from a constraining idea, but the impetus that enabled his human nature and the whole of nature to achieve its perfection, indeed to achieve a perfection unavailable before. It was beneficent mastery. He took human nature, he did not destroy it. He took it and enhanced it, giving it a grace hitherto unimagined. This mastery and excellence of control, this gracefulness show that he was not primarily of human origin. He must have had an origin greater than anything earthly, so excellent indeed that we must proclaim he was of divine origin.

                                                                                East Doncaster, 1989

Paul’s creed.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”Romans 1:1-7

Paul begins his great treatise on the Christian faith with a proclamation of faith. He starts with a reference to the prophets of the Old Testament and concludes with a reference to the on-going mission of the Church.

Between these two, he places  the story of Christ. At the outset Jesus is acknowledged as Son of God, an acknowledgment made without reference to time or change. That is, he is Son of God in his very being. Paul then goes on to refer to the two major steps that Jesus has taken in time: his incarnation and resurrection. Jesus “became a descendant of David”; he is a Jew and of the royal line of Judah. But he is now risen from the dead. Jesus is therefore proclaimed for what he is most importantly;  he is the Christ.

After having referred to the three major aspects of Jesus, namely “Son of God”, “descendant of David” and  “Christ”,  Paul refers to the on-going effect: the mission of the Church. Therefore, he greets the people of Rome, offering them grace and peace.

This opening paragraph is brilliantly and tightly constructed, cut like a diamond. Every word is in its right place. It constitutes Paul’s creed.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Tuesday                              Burwood 1983

They go beyond limited forms and perceive the infinite Former.

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”   Romans1:20

Reason is able to sense what is reasonable; energy perceives energy. Indeed, since human beings are naturally creative, they are predisposed to detect whatever is creative; they even go beyond limited forms and perceive the infinite Former.

But this will actually happen only if human beings seek more than this finite creation. And again, it is one thing to perceive divine power, it is quite another to sense a personal Deity. Yet, if humans become fearful of the moral consequences of the existence of a free and personal Deity, they may be reluctant to acknowledge him. For those who seek their own untrammeled power, the acknowledgement of powerlessness becomes excruciating. They  are  led to  deny rather than  to  assent. However, if they are concerned about more than power they will acknowledge the Lover, and humbly bow before him.

These things are resolved by the coming of Christ who has the fullness of divinity and empowers humans to make a new heavens and a new earth in their own image.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Wednesday                          East Doncaster 1989

The universal need for salvation.

There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.       Romans 2:9-11

Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, speaks of the universal need for salvation. In yesterday’s reading he showed that the pagans had turned from knowledge of the true God and as a result became inhuman. In this morning’s reading, Paul turns his attention to his fellow Jews some of whom presumed that just because they were from the Chosen People they were guaranteed divine favour.

Paul teaches that what counts is a person’s form of life.  Even Jews must repent  if their lives are false. John the Baptist had already warned the Pharisees not to say ‘We are sons of Abraham’. Pedigree does not count; individual morality does.

Paul concludes by speaking more plainly: “ … suffering will come to every human being who employs himself in evil – Jews first, but Greeks as well; …. honour and peace will come to everyone who does good – Jews first, but Greeks as well. God has no favourites”.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Thursday                             East Doncaster, 1989

Christ brings freedom.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”     Romans 3:23-25

In yesterday’s reading, Paul established a contrast. On the one hand, there is sin that came into the world at the beginning; and on the other there is grace brought into the world by Christ. So, there are two forces at work in the world, in society and in the individual person; two opposing forces which seek to dominate: in one case, cravings and law, slavery and death; in the other, grace and holiness, life and righteousness.

This intolerable situation, Paul teaches is resolved by submission to the Gospel with its shift from the condition of sin to the condition of grace. Christ brings freedom.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Friday                                 Glenroy 1977

Faith and works are one.

For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”      Romans 4:3

Abraham has known God and placed his trust in him. Therefore, God blesses him. The emphasis is taken away from customs to attitude, from rituals to the heart.

That demeanor is true worship; that way of life is true religion. Once Abraham has come to his truth, God can bring him to other truths and other blessings. Abraham is justified. That is, he is authentic, truly himself; he has attained his purpose, he is real; he is in relationship with God. The moment of faith is the basic and essential step on the path of holiness.

Abraham is the Christians’ ‘father in faith’. But they must live accordingly. Those who are justified seek to express their being . They take care that waters flow from them and give life to all in need.  Faith and works are one.

 

Year 1, Week 29, Monday                              Glenroy 1977

What is beyond their reach, what supremacy is denied them?

Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”       Romans 4:23-25

God promised Abraham a mighty succession, involving kings and kingdoms. Yet he was childless and his wife was beyond the age. Nevertheless, against all appearances, he put his faith in God and his promise.

That trust, despite its seeming absurdity, pleases God and reveals Abraham’s essential character.

God, in Christ Jesus,  has promised the disciples  a kingdom. They too, despite all delays, put their faith in God and in his guarantee. They know he is able to do what he has pledged because, despite all obstacles, he has raised Jesus from the dead.

Therefore, Christians trust in God. They acknowledge his supremacy and await, with persistency and patience, the coming kingdom.

What is beyond their reach, what supremacy is denied them?

 

Year 1, Week 29, Thursday                             Glenroy 1975

All elements of our being are at the disposal of the Spirit.

No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”                   Romans 6:13-14

Paul presents us with two kingdoms, the kingdom of sin and the kingdom of God. If sin is the master, the faculties and organs will advance the reign of sin.  If the Spirit is master, the whole body in all its aspects will bring justice to be bear in the world.

All elements of our being, trained and brought to a pitch of fitness, are at the disposal of the Spirit, and, more effectively than any exponent of martial arts, we eliminate injustice and establish the kingdom of God. But for those who obey sin, the fruits are bitterness, fury, disquiet and turmoil.

 

                                                                               Glenroy 1977

What powers God has given to humans!

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”     Romans 6:19

What powers God has given to humans! Sin dissipates these powers but when they are purified and concentrated by the Spirit, what a force for good! Indeed, nothing is impossible for them. Mountains and universes will move at their behest. Even  the dead will be raised to life, because the powers, once united and brought into harmony with the Holy Spirit, issue forth to create a new heavens and a new earth.

That is the service of righteousness; that is the work of holiness.

 

                                                                               East Doncaster, 1989

The Holy Spirit is this grace, this gift, indeed the apogee of all God’s gifts.

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”     Romans 6:19

Sin is a power which touches every level of the person; it affects our world, our society. Sin is whatever is at variance with God and his purposes. It gives rise to actions or events that are sinful. The major result from sin, according to Paul, is death

Grace is a power, indeed is a Person. The Holy Spirit is this grace, this gift, indeed the apogee of all God’s gifts. Grace touches every aspect: spirit, soul, body, world, environment, society. The result is life and liveliness, confidence and peace, security and joy.

 

Year 1, Week 29, Friday                                 Glenroy 1977

The turmoil of the sinful state.

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”    Romans 7:22-25

Paul describes, succinctly and magnificently, the turmoil of the sinful state.

Paul loves the law of God. In his most authentic self he seeks the good revealed to him by Torah and reason. He disagrees with those who see the human state as basically wretched and darkened, for he knows he is essentially orientated to what is good. The problem comes when he, Paul, wants to the good but suddenly finds himself doing evil. He realises that there is another force at work in him, a hidden force which from its effects is called ‘sin’.

Paul does not explain the meaning of this term nor its mode of operation, but he knows it vitiates his whole life. It makes a mockery of all his good intentions. It holds him prisoner, unable to act properly. It destines him to death, for all sin leads to death.

So, he cries out in his confusion: “What a wretched man I am.”

But then, through the grace of Christ, he is endowed with a new force, a force able to  move mountains, a force that replaces the power of sin and allows his good intentions to operate, namely the Spirit of God.

 

Year 1, Week 31 Thursday                              Glenroy 1917

What I am, in the Spirit, makes others be.

“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.”  Romans 14:7

Every person lives in connection with all others. This has been said for a long time. Truth is a force shaping things. Reality forms reality. Each person, in their own way, re-defines mankind. In their sin they distort mankind, but in their virtue  they confirm all people. The pattern of their choices tells others what life is. Therefore, each person’s life is of concern to each other. They are changed and affected and formed by the choice of others, however distant they may be, for “ the life and death of each of us has its influence on others”.

The most human of human beings, namely Jesus of Nazareth, most fully defines mankind. Such is the Christian faith, which is forever new and always surprising. Christ lived most humanly and died most humanly. Therefore, he establishes and rules both the living and the dead.

If Christ is heir, each Christian is heir with him. If Christ is first-born, so too is every citizen of heaven. If Jesus is Lord, so too is every one raised in the Spirit. Each Christian’s life, when led by the Spirit, enhances the lives of others. The course of their life, when done under the Spirit, shapes the course of history. What I am, in the Spirit, makes others be, even if they are as yet unaware of it.

 

                                                                                East Doncaster 1989

The task of Christians is to live life to the fullest and to die to the fullest.

“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” Romans 4:7-12

Jesus was most alive, being alive with the fullness of divine life, being first God and then, by choice, man. His dying was the most complete because, being most alive, his death was the greatest reversal. He chose to die. He died in sacrifice. No one has died as much as he has died. His living and dying have supreme influence. All our living and all our dying is done in relation to his living and dying. St Paul says, “if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord”.

The task of Christians is to live life to the fullest and to die to the fullest. They will live to the fullest if they allow Christ’s life to enter them. They need to prepare for death and to make their death worthwhile, indeed a sacrifice. Then they will be able to give an account to God of existence.

 

Year 1, Week 31, Friday                                 Glenroy 1971

The work of the priest is to make offerings acceptable to God.

Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”     Romans 15:15-16

The work of the priest is to make offerings acceptable to God. His work is successful when God sends down his Holy Spirit: for the Holy Spirit is the ratification, the blessing, the approval of God.

Paul sees his own work as priestly because it brings down the Holy Spirit. Although he is concerned with preaching and not with rituals, the gift of the Holy Spirit is proof that those to whom he has preached are offerings acceptable to God. Paul is not concerned with objects but with the very people themselves, and his word spoken to them, over them, with their assent, brings down the gift of the Spirit.

Paul rejoices to see this success. It means that what was unclean is now made holy; what was foreign to God is now acceptable: the Gentiles are God’s people.

It is the gift of the Spirit that proves the rightness of Paul’s work, that Spirit who urges the people to faith in Jesus and love of their brethren.

Now a new work begins. For if love is the highest gift, then faith and hope are subsumed into it. They last, of course, but are secondary. Not a love that is sentimental and introverted, but a love which is blessing, ratification and approval. Faith in Jesus remains but changes. Faith is now in the Man who fills all the universe. That Man is named, for he is real, but his reality exceeds his earthly name. For the risen Christ is greater than the earthly Jesus.

And we have faith in the Man; we have faith in all that are of him. To all of these, we say: You are Lord. And as their power begins to move in us, we now begin to bless, for we, worshippers of the Lord, become Lord with power in our hands. And we too bless in return.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments

FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH,  Commentary on some verses from The Books of Maccabees

FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH                                                                                Commentary on some verses from The Books of Maccabees

 

Year 1,  Week  33, Monday                            East Doncaster,  1989 

Cultural imperialism

“Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion.”                                    1 Maccabees 1: 41-43

Throughout their history, the Jewish people had adopted customs from the countries in which they had lived. From the Bedouins of the Sinai they had adopted the Passover rites. From the Canaanites in the Holy Land they had adopted the forms of temple worship. From the Babylonians they had understood that YHVH was the creator of the universe. At the same time, throughout their history, they had also refused to adopt customs which were foreign to their faith. So, in Egypt they refused to make images of God in the likeness of animals. In Canaan they had rejected fertility rites and the eating of pig’s flesh. In Mesopotamia they refused the pantheons of gods and goddesses. During their long travels, the pilgrim people took on various customs or refused them according as they were acceptable to the wisdom that came from above.

During  this  second last  week  of the  liturgical  year we  read  from the  last historical books of the Bible written before the coming of Christ: The Books of the Maccabees.

Antiochus Epiphanes,  an ardent admirer of Greek culture, wished to impose it upon his subjects, and therefore on the Jews. He does not allow them to select according to the divine wisdom that is theirs. He imposes another religion and culture on them. The last and greatest drama of the Jewish people before the coming of Christ is ‘cultural imperialism’.

Christians, from the cultures and countries in which they find themselves, are free to adopt what is good and to refuse what is contrary to their faith, led by the Holy Spirit that is in them.

 

Year 1,  Week  33, Wednesday                       Glenroy 1977

If anger is dreadful, oblivion is worse.

But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God”                2 Maccabees 7:31

The force of good cannot but sweep away whatever is evil. Like the power of a broken dam, the power of good sweeps all wickedness before it.    In the ardor of his blessing, the pure God relegates evil to oblivion. This ignoring is terrible. This silence is horrible. To be forgotten by God! Nothing is more abominable when one’s nature is wholly directed to God. If anger is dreadful, oblivion is worse. In fury there is some recognition of one’s existence, but  in ignoring there is complete withdrawal of attention. No more just judgment could be directed against them.

Therefore, God’s terrible judgment comes from the purity of his intention, which is to bless all that is good.

 

Year  1, Week  33,  Wednesday                       East Doncaster, 1989

God cannot but be faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Therefore, the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. … Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.”                  2 Maccabees 7:23, 29

In the Book of Judges, when misfortune falls on the People it is  is interpreted as punishment for sin. Later, when the Kingdom of Israel is destroyed and Chosen People are sent into exile to Babylon, the disaster is attributed to their rejection of the covenant. However, with the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, as recounted in the Books of the Maccabees, the interpretation is quite the reverse. If the people are afflicted, it is  precisely because of their  fidelity.

Today’s episode, recounts the martyrdom of the seven brothers. They will not eat pig’s flesh. They are being faithful to the point of death, for to eat pork was synonymous with infidelity to  God.

The mother, so blessed as  to have born seven sons, now sees them put to death, one by one. She encourages them and proclaims a faith not heard before so clearly in Israel: “…… the creator of the world, …. in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.” To the youngest of her sons she says: “Do not fear this executioner …. make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brother’s company.”

The experience of innocent suffering has thrown resurrection into sharp focus. God cannot but be faithful to those who are faithful to him. Thus, by the time of Christ, many pious Jews come to have faith in in the resurrection.

This will be fully shown in the case of Christ Jesus who must rise from the dead since he has been most truly faithful to the faithful God.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Thursday                             East Doncaster, 1989

Jesus will come to reconcile Jew and pagan.

Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”                   1 Maccabees 2:21-22

We have seen the attempt by the pagan king, Antiochus, to impose Greek culture on the Jewish people. We have seen the heroism of the mother and her seven sons. They, like so many of the people, have refused to comply. They are put to death for refusing to eat pig’s flesh. These are the first martyrs. In this context, we have seen the first inklings of the resurrection.

This morning’s reading shows the king’s officers attempting to enforce pagan worship. “The king’s officers …. came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice” to false gods. The reaction is different. Mattathias and his sons slaughter the king’s commissioner and escape to the hills. They begin the revolt and the whole nation will rally around him. The stage is being set for the entry of Jesus onto the scene.

Jesus will come to reconcile Jew and pagan. He will come to give a new Law, to do away with sacrifice and with prohibitions about food. He will make armed revolt unnecessary. He will enjoy a martyr’s death and reveal the resurrection.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1989

Jesus himself will replace the Temple

Then Judas and his brothers said, “See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.”   1 Maccabees 4:36

The revolt of the Maccabees has been successful. Surpassingly, the small number of Jews has been able to defeat the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes. The Temple is cleansed and re-dedicated; it becomes the centre of Jewish life.

A number of issues – food laws, the sabbath, contact with the pagans, observance of the Torah, the use of armed revolt – become identified with the faith of Israel. As a result, the very success of the Maccabean revolt becomes a problem, for the people become hardened in self-defense.

When Jesus comes he will find himself pitted against this hardness of the people who are now under pressure from the Romans. In softening the attitude to the prescriptions and in introducing a new way of thinking, he will be judged a threat to his people and will be put to death as someone unfaithful to God.

However, in rising from the dead he himself will replace the Temple and will be declared Lord and Christ.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Saturday                              East Doncaster, 1989

This intense reverence for the Temple prepares the way for the coming of Jesus in the flesh.

But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem. I seized all its vessels of silver and gold, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason. I know that it is because of this that these misfortunes have come upon me; here I am, perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land.”        1 Maccabees 6:12-13

The king, Antiochus, who had seemed so powerful and had even erected his own statue over the altar in Jerusalem, now lies dying from acute disappointment. He is far from home and his people; he has failed in his Persian campaign; his army in Judah has been defeated and his statue pulled down. He lies on his sick-bed and now admits that he dies because he has profaned the Temple.

This is Jewish propaganda. History would not support every detail of the story. The revelation is not in the historicity of the account. The interest lies in the enormous importance attached to the Temple. To profane the Temple in any way is to sin most profoundly. It has become the centre of Jewish life. The possession of the Temple has become, and still is today, of utmost importance.

This intense reverence for the Temple prepares the way for the coming of Jesus in the flesh. Christians have placed their trust not in a Temple made of stone and mortar but in the Temple made of flesh and blood:  in the Lord who is their foundation.

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM,   commentary on some verses from the Book of Daniel

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM,                                                                            commentary on some verses from the Book of Daniel

Year 1, Week 34, Monday                              Glenroy 1975

Food laws

At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.”  Daniel 1:15-17

The Book of Daniel was written at the time of the Maccabees, a time of cultural imperialism when the Syrian king sought to impose Greek culture on all his subjects, including the Jews.

In today’s colourful reading the contrast is set between the sumptuous and elegant food from the king’s table and the ordinary vegetables that Daniel and his companions choose to eat. Far from being harmed by their simple nourishment the boys are much fitter and brighter in every way than their peers who eat the finest food of the kingdom. The teaching conveyed by this contrast is clear. The Law of Moses is superior to all other ways of life, even to Greek culture; the food laws of the Old Testament are more effective that the products of refined living; obedience to God is more productive than political power. In the context of the Maccabean struggle, this doctrine was essential for the survival of Jewish religion.

Christians are not bound by the food laws of the Old Testament, a point made spectacularly and scandalously in Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles (10:9-16) and in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:11-14). They look beyond the such laws to the will of God, and draw a deeper lesson. The will of God is more life-giving than the spectacular forms of power. The will of God, obscure, sometimes even as ordinary as vegetables and water, is more significant. Those who have the mind of God find a source of strength and courage, a resilience, a freshness of outlook, a keenness of mind that surpasses anything this world can give.

 

Year 1, Week 34, Wednesday                          Glenroy 1975

Sacrilege

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.”         Daniel 5:2

This famous scene, Belshazzar’s feast, is a case of sacrilege. The drunken king with his noblemen, wives and concubines, have the sacred vessels brought in to the banquet where they are profaned. Immediately the forecast of doom comes; the mysterious writing on the wall announces the judgement: Babylon is to be handed over to the Persians.

It is rare for chalices to be taken from a church and used sacrilegiously. But human beings are more sacred than chalices, more precious than sacred vessels. A chalice contains the Blood of Christ, but only or a moment, where the Christian is part of the Body of Christ for all eternity; in the chalice the sacrifice of Calvary is renewed at each Mass, but the Christian is alive with Christ in eternity. Yet Christians, along with many other human beings, are persecuted, used and abused in blatant and subtle ways.

Let the perpetrators beware of such sacrilege, for the writing will appear on the wall for them too and their inheritance will be handed over to those that respect their fellows.

 

Year 1, Week 34,  Thursday                                   East Doncaster, 1989

Idolatry.

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.”     Daniel 6:26

The king has signed an edict forbidding his subjects  to pray to anyone, god or man, except himself. The punishment is to be thrown to the lions.

Throughout human history governments have tried to prevent worship, for it is seen by them to be a political act, showing that the ruler has only limited power, that there is a superior power which he must obey. For such rulers the act of worship as an act of subversion.

Daniel, who will worship only the God of his ancestors, is therefore thrown into the lions’ den. When he is saved from that impossible situation the king comes to faith in the one true God. “I decree: in every kingdom of my empire let all tremble with fear before the God of Daniel: he is the living God, he endures forever.”

The Father must have complete sway in the empire of human thought. He is to be the origin and purpose of every act.

 

Year 1, Week 34, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1989

The triumphant Son of Man

“I saw one like a human beingcoming with the clouds of heaven.And he came to the Ancient Oneand was presented before him.To him was given dominionand glory and kingship,that all peoples, nations, and languagesshould serve him.His dominion is an everlasting dominionthat shall not pass away,and his kingship is onethat shall never be destroyed.”     Daniel 7:13-14

Various issues concerning the traditions of the Jews  have been dealt with. The scene now shifts to the future and onto a universal scale. Various kingdoms, symbolized by the various beasts, are disappearing for the Son of Man is about to come, he who will rule the people with justice and forever.

The Jewish writer realizes that the Son of David must rule more than the People of God. Indeed, he must rule all nations and forever. Just as the exiles learnt in Babylon that YHVH was Lord of all creation, so at the time of the Maccabees the sacred author realizes that the Messiah must rule all mankind. He must receive his appointment from before all time and reign for all time.

Thus, the stage is set for the appearance of Jesus. In his teaching he will refer frequently to the Son of Man and applies the term to himself. He is the Son of Man come from out of eternity to be Lord of all and forever.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teachings on love; commentaries on some verses from the First Letter of St John

TEACHINGS ON LOVE                 

commentaries on some verses from the First Letter of St John

 

30 December                                                       Glenroy 1975

We live already in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity.

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” 1 John 2:12-17

John compares the fathers with “the one who has existed from the beginning”; with regard to the young men, he refers to their strength, their natural desire for victory and for taking up challenges; he refers to the children as “those who know the Father”. He is connecting each different age – childhood, youth and maturity – with the different elements of the spiritual life. At the same time, he warns them not to love the “passing world” and the limits of human existence. In direct contrast John proclaims the will of God: “anyone who does the will of God remains forever”. That is, if we live according to the mind of God and if we have his Spirit in us, his mentality, his hope and his wishes, then we live already in eternity, outside of time, in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity, taking part in God’s own being, his own eternity, embracing all times, and every age.

 

31 December                                                        Glenroy 1975

‘Antiworlds’

“Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.”               1 John 2:18-19

In the early Church as a whole and in the local Church to which John belonged, a number of Christians had rejected the faith, left the community and fought against it. John states concerning them, “several antichrists have already appeared”, “Those rivals of Christ came out of your own number”. John also quotes the general doctrine, “the antichrist must come”.

This is a firm belief of the early Church which we maintain today. The passion and resurrection of Christ are the mystery and essential meaning of all creation. They need be repeated in every individual and in the whole human race. Just as Christ had his opponents – his antichrists – who finally put him to death, so too the whole world must experience its passion. ‘Antiworlds’ will arise in the world, affect the world and bring it to its agony. And again, just as Christ came to his resurrection so too the world, despite its antichrists, will come to its completion and fulfilment  through the passion it must endure. In short, the antichrist – the anti-Church – whatever it may be, whether it is an individual or a group, must come into the world before the world can come to its resurrection.

 

                                                                                 Glenroy 1976

The whole Christ too must have its antichrist.

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.”                     1 John 2:18

The essential plan of history, dimly perceived in all ages and clearly revealed in Christ, is that the human must enter into suffering before the Man can emerge. For this reason, Christ, though perfectly human and perfectly divine, had to undergo the depth of suffering before reaching the height of glory. His passion was his antichrist.

The whole Christ too must have its antichrist. The consummation of history will not occur until the Church is oppressed on every level, until the whole panoply of evil and treachery is set against the Church, until the sum of evil is made apparent in its minions and in its own self. Once the fullness of evil is unleashed, then the hour has come. The fullness of good flowers in the Church and, through evil, despite evil, the Man is.

In each Christian, the same law prevails; in each individual Church, the same event occurs, but on a smaller scale. The sphere of evil touches us at a point and gives an intimation of its extent. Our heart is struck cold, for we know what we hesitate to imagine; and we dread already what others will one day fully endure. To each his own evil is symbolic of the whole evil. Yet this is the prelude to the last hour, the great day, the Day of YHVH, the fulfilment of the promise. When evil strikes, it means that the day is at hand. To every evil there is God’s return of good. Therefore, though we suffer, we are not afraid. Though we tremble, we do not dread. Though in terror, we do not despair, for the bright day is coming which will dispel every darkness.

 

2nd of January                                                  Glenroy 1976

By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.”                  1 John 2:22, 27

The first letter of John deals with a group of Christians who have lost faith in Christ, who have left the Church, who have denied that Jesus was the Christ and have asserted that all the believers are lying. John the Apostle, in writing to the different communities where these things were happening, is trying to strengthen them. He says: “the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ – they are the liar”. In other words, it is not the Christians who are liars but the apostates. He goes on to say: “you have not lost the anointing that he gave you and you do not need anyone to teach you”. John is reassuring the Christians who have lost self-confidence as a result of the scandal that they still possess the Holy Spirit and do not need anyone to teach them. The Holy Spirit is active in them, illuminating them and teaching them the truth about Jesus Christ.

Those who have come to faith in Christ, and who are moved by the Holy Spirit, have an interior source of truth that  always abides with them. Those who have the Holy Spirit do not – speaking at the deepest level – need anyone to teach them. By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.

 

Tuesday after Epiphany                                  Glenroy 1976

We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”            1 John 4:7-8

John is quite apodictic: everyone who loves, whether Christian, pagan or atheist, everyone who truly loves, seeking not his own satisfaction or likings, everyone who loves is begotten by God, is of his nature, has his Spirit, is redeemed and has entered the divine sphere of eternity. Again; those who do not love, even though they may appear to love, with many works of charity to their credit, even though they may say they love the whole world, yet actually love no one real person – they do not know God, have no experience of him, has no connection with him, nor have his Spirit. Even though they may say the word ‘God’ and may  have read all the books, they do not know God.

This is because love can have no other cause than God. It can be nothing else than a share in his own nature. Just as the existence of this creation does not make sense – for its being is feeble and insufficient to itself – unless we acknowledge some far greater source of existence, the First Cause – so too love in this world cannot be explained – for we cannot love unless we have first been loved, unless we see some Lover as the source of all, the First Lover.

Created beings exist, not independently of God, but separately from him. Yet in love, there is neither independence nor separation. When we love, we love with God’s love; we are applying his love to the one we love; we are buoyed up by his power to love, we are united with him in the closest of bonds, namely that of sharing his own nature. For as John goes on to explain, nothing is so characteristic of God as love. God is far greater than anything we can understand or experience and so no human word – even ‘love’ – can encompass him. Yet if we are to search out from our experience the feeble word that comes closest to a description of his attitudes and nature, we find it is love.

We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’. When we love, it is because we have already become children of God. We could not, otherwise, have the strength to love. And as we proceed on our work of love, as we grow in love, it is because we are continually being born, in further and further depths of our being. Those who are  engaged in love are being renewed by God more and more, until we make our supreme act of love, in sacrifice. Then God will apply to us, once and for all and most fully, the words said of Jesus, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten you’.

 

Wednesday after Epiphany                              Glenroy 1976

This creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’.

So, we have known and believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”               1 John 4:16

God’s most characteristic quality is love, the love which creates and ratifies, which purifies and restores, which is forgiving and constant. This love alters the world, so that it is transformed; its very substance is changed so as to become love. So great is the reality of that love, so slight the reality of the world, that this creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’. Every stone is a memory, every plant is a lesson, every living creature speaks the same message: the love of God.

Those who have known this love copy it. If they have had the real experience of love, touching their conviction and their freedom, then they too love. They have that same love of God working in them and they too are transformed. Therefore, they live in love: their world is a world of love; their life is a work of love. Now, not only the stones and the plants are love, but their every action too is love, so that they live in love. They live therefore in God, who is love, from whom all ability  to love derives.

No need to seek the sanctuary of temples nor the mansions of heaven, for they are already in the presence of God. No need to long for the after-life: already they enjoy the beatific vision. No need to look for the coming of Christ: for already they are with Christ before God. Yes, let them hope for an ever-deepening love, an ever more violent passion of love; let them long for the transforming power of love from Christ and the saints; let them look for the perfection of love which is the last Day and the Coming of Christ – yet already they are in the presence of God at the essential heart of their being: for their being is in love, their being is in God.

 

Thursday after Epiphany                                Glenroy 1976

We have to experience love before we are able to love.

“We are to love because God loves us first.”      1 John 4:19-21

We have to experience love before we are able to love. This is true in human psychology; a person who has not been loved by parents or elders is unable to love others. It is doubly true in the religious sphere; we are unable to love until we have first experienced God’s love for us. Once we know we have been chosen by God, then we can begin to love our neighbour.

John goes on to say: “if we have no love of neighbour, we are liars if we say we love God”; and again, “if we have no love of neighbour we are incapable of loving God”. For the love God communicates to us is generous and without bounds, universal and wide-reaching. If we limit it in some way, what we have in fact is not love but some pretense of love. Our love is to be catholic.

 

  Glenroy 1976

We who empower him in the world are empowered by him.

 Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”               1 John 5:4

The Christian faith proclaims, “Jesus is Lord”. It is not a bland statement of fact or an item of information. Faith places Jesus in a position of influence and authority. It establishes Jesus in power; it confers upon him Lordship of the living and the dead.

Christians do not give him that authority, for he receives it from the One, but they do accord him its exercise. They accept, acknowledge and proclaim his authority; they open the floodgates of his power over the world; they place themselves and all things ‘under his feet’, so that his grace becomes active in this world.

The world of dissolution, and hate, the areas of distrust and sin, are subjected to the influence of love, to the simplicity of sheer strength which shines with the directness and calm of pure light. What is good it confirms; what is evil it discards. Evil has its own seeds of destruction, and it collapses under its own weakness.

Our power to enthrone him is reciprocated by his ability to empower us. We make him king, which he already is. His kingship spreads throughout the Body, so that we now have his power. We who empower him in the world are empowered by him. We who allow his reign are empowered by his reign. His power is our power. We too share that calm strength of light, we too reconcile and choose, make peace and confirm. We too establish the blessed of the earth and leave evil to its eternal darkness.

The world is won and heaven is won by our faith.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

‘The Spreading Fragrance’ A commentary on some verses from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

‘The Spreading Fragrance’

A commentary on some verses from                                     St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

 

Year 2, Week 28, Thursday                             Glenroy 1976

They too are beloved

“He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.         Ephesians 1:5-7

The scene at Jordan is archetypal. Jesus is blessed with the gift of the Spirit and proclaimed ‘Well-Beloved’. St Paul explains that this event is significant not only for Christ. Christians, who have faith in this Beloved, are also recipients of his grace. They are joined to the ‘Beloved’, so that they too are beloved. He goes on to say that the salvific event is the death of Christ. It is in his blood that they are redeemed.

St Paul says more. The experience of the Spirit is an experience of inner freedom. By faith in the Beloved, Christians are beloved. They acquire freedom, and their sins are forgiven. It is in Christ, whether glorious at the Jordan or glorious on Calvary, that they gain inner freedom and strength. It is in the Man that they become human. Faith is not in someone who is limited by  time or circumstance. Faith is in a Reality which transcends all its manifestations. Faith is in this Glorious One who is, and whom Christians shall be and already are.

 

Year 2, Week 28, Friday                                 Glenroy 1976

Gifted with the Holy Spirit

“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”       Ephesians 1:13-14

Moses had prayed that his spirit be given to seventy men, for them to help him as leader. He wished, indeed, that the whole camp might receive his spirit.

It was therefore understood, at the time of Jesus, that the Messiah would bestow the Spirit and that  the whole people would receive this divine power.

When, therefore, the Christian community, at Pentecost, began to show the power of the Spirit, it became clear that the reign of the God had begun. Yet some said that these Christians were merely drunk on new wine or, even worse, that their Spirit was evil. No, they were gifted with the Holy Spirit. It was a seal against the destruction and a guarantee of redemption, like the blood of the paschal lamb that had sealed  the doorposts against the Avenging Angel in Egypt.

The pouring out of the Spirit is the pledge of an eternal future.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Monday                              Glenroy 1976

The one Man

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved.”             Ephesians 2:4-5

Nature, of itself, is full of grace and, buoyed up by the Spirit, has produced its infinite variety. Creation is good and holy, with the seed of life in it, full of hope.

The thrust of life, vested in animals, is further vested in human beings. At the same time, life is involved with death. Death is disintegration. Death is corruption. Death is putrefaction.

God intervenes in this picture and re-asserts himself. He makes the Spirit move again across the face of creation and moves humans to seek, from their inmost depths, the Man. The Human seeks the Man, the wonderful, the glorious, the ideal.

The Ultimate goes further. Through the preaching of the Church, Christ is presented as the crucified, the Man. “Ecce Homo”.

God goes further. He gives humans the ability to understand the mystery, namely that Christ is the Man precisely because of the way he died. “Truly this man was Son of God”, says the centurion upon seeing how Jesus died.

God foes further. He leads humans to faith in the Man, the crucified, the glorious, so that the Human becomes the Man. The two are one, with the result that the Man is now active in the Human. As God has made Jesus the Man, so he makes those who have faith in him Man also.

Therefore, we are Man. Our power is real because the Man is real. We have been made alive with Christ, in Christ. Creation has regained its thrust and its vitality.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Tuesday                              Glenroy 1976

The New Adam

“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 1and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”       Ephesians 2:15-16

At the time of St Paul, it was understood that God would restore all things, re-creating the innocence of Eden. All mankind, issued from Adam and involved in sin, would return, through innocence, to the original unity in the New Man. The ‘sin of Adam’ had set the human race on the road of hostility and hatred. The restoration would retrace the steps to the New Adam.

For Paul, the hostility between Jew and Gentile was symbolic of the hatred between all humans. This hatred was contrasted, during in his missionary journeys, with the sight of both Jews and Gentiles coming to one faith in the one glorious Lord dead and risen. The ancient enemies had undergone the same religious experience that touched their inmost being. So, in their faith in the one Christ they had become one being with each other. They were not a multiplicity of humans but one Man.

This was nothing less than the restoration of Eden, the recall of Adam’s sin, the formation of a New Man of peace to replace the Old Adam of sin and division. It was a new creation and the end of time.

This unity in faith meant relativizing rules and laws, attitudes and customs. It meant going beyond particular manifestations in time and space, culture and era, and going to the essential which was faith in the glorious Lord, the essential Man. The many are one.

 

                                                                                    East Doncaster, 1992

One Body

“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”       Ephesians 2:15-16

The  shock of  the  crucifixion is  so  great, its stupidity and wickedness so horrible that the whole fabric of creation, the whole rhythm and reason of the world collapse. Nothing has consistency. Nothing makes sense. Even revelation is shown to be darksome.

The One who is beyond all created things and beyond knowledge: He alone is left. He alone is consistent. He is evident, not in ideas but in his Person. Thus, he has come close, heart to heart, person to person.

Therefore, Jesus is raised, not as an object but as subject, not measurable but knowable. He is fully present and with the power of his presence we become present to each other. We allow ourselves to be dismayed, puzzled, confused, by the terror of the cross. We become present to the Presence and to each other, heart to heart.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Wednesday                          East Doncaster, 1992

The mystery

 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”    Ephesians 3:5

For my holidays I went to outback New South Wales and South East Queensland. I had always wanted just to leave everything and head north into the sun. The desert holds a great fascination for me. It is a place of mystery, a region of light. In the silence of the desert there is music and speech beyond words. So, I went to the desert to see and hear.

Paul speaks of mystery and revelation, namely the mystery of Christ hidden before all ages and now revealed to him and through him to all the pagans.

In each of us there is mystery. Let us enter into the desert of our soul and contemplate its mystery, and by the light of the Spirit read its revelation. Then we can communicate to teach other the Presence of God who enlightens each of us secretly.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Thursday                             Glenroy 1976

The hidden self

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”     Ephesians 3:16

Paul’s prayer is concerned with growth of the most subtle and most fundamental human dimension.

A plant grows by absorbing its surroundings and transforming them into itself, changing in the process, so that its hidden potentialities become real and known. ‘Ah, this is a tree; in fact it is a eucalypt’. Those who live by the truth grow through absorbing knowledge and entering into relationships, by having insights and experiencing challenges.  Their hidden character becomes manifest. What was dim becomes clear, what was uncertain becomes definite. The inner self is strengthened and manifested.

Those who have come to faith in Christ are transformed most mysteriously into a new self. Their self and the self of Christ become one. They act and Christ acts; they live and Christ lives; they grow and Christ grows. As their hidden potentialities become manifest, so Christ becomes manifest. As they arrive at fullness in this world, Christ arrives at his fulness in this world. It is the return of Christ.

All this is the work of the Spirit. No human wisdom and forethought can achieve it. The Spirit moves in directions that escape the human grasp. The Spirit covers them as he will and they grow by feeling their way. All Paul can do is call on the Spirit to act powerfully, with no restraint or holding back, so that he, Paul, might be powerfully strengthened and come to share in the glory of Christ, being fully grown and fully known.

 

                                                                                  East Doncaster, 1992

The hidden self

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”     Ephesians 3:16

Paul prays that our hidden self may grow strong.

Humans have a public image and a hidden self. The public image is the way they have learned to behave in public, the way that is safe and acceptable. For the Ephesians, the hidden self is the aspect of character that has been touched by grace, by the fire which Christ wished to cast upon the earth.

There can be a fear to reveal the true self because it may be challenging or unsettling to others. Paul’s prayer is that the hidden self of the Ephesians might grow strong, that they might be aware of God’s work in them and become confident of its truth. Thus, they transform their hidden self into their public image and reveal to the world the face of the Christ who they have become.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1992

The sevenfold unity

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”         Ephesians 4:4-6

How  much we  appreciate  the unity  of  the family,  where husband and wife live in harmony! By contrast, how distressed we are when there are disputes and resentments!

St Paul calls the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit. He speaks of the sevenfold unity they share: one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.

There are no limits to unity they shall one day enjoy. They shall become spirit so that they might enjoy the perfect unity which is available only in the Spirit. They shall become each other. The one body will be transfigured into the one spirit. 

 

Year 2, Week 30 Monday                               Glenroy 1976

The spreading perfume

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”       Ephesians 5:1-2

In the Old Testament, plants and animals were brought to the altar and consumed in fire. According as they were acceptable or not, the odour of their burning was pleasing or displeasing to God. Thus, the smell of Noah’s sacrifice after the flood is deemed to be fragrant, such that God pledges not to destroy the earth again.

Love, born of the Spirit, must become spirit.  Love, seizing hold of people, transforms them into itself. Human love reaches out to all in their joys and deepest griefs. Love wishes to undergo the death of deaths in order to be nothing but love.

For this reason, Christ, willingly and freely, of his own initiative, hands himself over, in the garden and before Pilate. His love is revealed by his giving; it is realized in his surrender.

Paul immediately makes the connection between this surrender and the temple cult. One event explains the other.

Jesus’ sacrifice, proceeding from the necessity of love, is pleasing to God. But there is more. The offering, as it is burnt, becomes something new. Previously it could be seen and touched;  but on being consumed it can only be sensed.  It used to be located in one spot, but now it fills space. It used to be material, but now it is born on the wind. It still exists, but it has been changed. So too with Christ. Once located within the bounds of time and space, culture and history, he has gone into a new dimension. He still exists, but he has been changed.

This change we all wish to undergo. We want the essence of our bodies to be distilled and set free, so that we can escape the limitations of history and reach an eternal expansiveness. Yet there is only one way. It is through sacrifice. We too, moved by the Spirit, must strip and strip, die and die, not through sin, but through grace.

  

                                                                                  East Doncaster, 1992

The fragrance

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”       Ephesians 5:1-2

Jesus holds all things together in his own being. There had to be someone who could be the heart of this world. In him all things are found: holiness and sin, heaven and earth, time and eternity. He came from above and entered completely into this world; he left this world to enter the highest heaven, offering himself on behalf of all. He takes all with him. Despite sin there is one who is pleasing. Jesus is pleasing to God. Jesus is with humanity.

There is not only the obscure and distant sin of Adam. The sins of the future will be even more terrible than those of the past. The sin of the future will reflect the sin of Calvary.

Paul goes on to speak of the image humans should project. They have been made holy by Jesus’ fragrant offering. The human project is to be transfigured, and made fragrant.

 

 

Posted in Biblical commentaries, John Dupuche | Leave a comment

Flesh and spirit, commentary on some texts of St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

‘Flesh and spirit’,                                                         commentary on some texts of St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Year 2, Week 27, Monday                  Glenroy 1976

the knowledge of the mystery is always a revelation”

“For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal 1:11-12

Paul defends his Gospel. ‘I declare and state: my Gospel is not a human fabrication.’ He teaches that what makes a person acceptable to God is faith in Christ crucified. This Gospel, Paul declares, is not a catering to human weakness. He goes on: ‘Nor did he receive it from others’.  He is proclaiming his independence. Many traditions he did indeed receive from the Jerusalem Church, but his essential Gospel did not come from them. He goes on: ‘He learnt his message through revelation’. That is, it was on the road to Damascus that he received his overpowering insight into the meaning of Christ. Of course, he knew beforehand many things about Christ and the Church, which is why he persecuted of the followers of the Way. Paul has seen the core of Christianity. The rest he strips away.

As with Paul, so with all Christians. They may have heard the gospel and learnt the doctrines from others, but the knowledge of the mystery is always a revelation. Their insight may repeat that of countless millions before them, but it is always new. Their witness may seem like the witness of many others, but it is original for they have become Christ and reveal the Christ. They have become the Man and proclaim the Man in a way that has never been done before. What counts is not the originality of the doctrine but the originality of the attestation. The newness is not the what but the who. Those who have come to know the Christ provide a new dimension of power and salvation, of encouragement and companionship.

  

Year 2, Week 27, Tuesday                    Glenroy 1976

“We are in the age of the Spirit.”

“But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.”              Gal 1:15-17

Jesus is the eternal Son of God and Paul’s vocation began before his conception. Jesus is acknowledged at the waters of Jordan but Paul receives his calI on the road to Damascus. Jesus immediately goes to the desert to absorb and reflect upon his call; Paul goes off to the region of Arabia for the same purpose. Jesus returns to Galilee and takes up his ministry; Paul goes to Damascus and begins to preach the Christ. There are many parallels between the experience of the Christ and the experience of the Christian Paul.

Many things prepare for the moment of grace. The construction of our bodies, the formation of our character, the upbringing and the society in which we live: these are the predispositions. The moment of grace is dependent on them, and also independent. It is dependent on them because they form the tissue and the colour, the occasion and the circumstance. It is independent from them because they do not explain it. God’s freedom is shown in this independence. His call is proved by his freedom. He decides, here and now, in these circumstances, to call the person of such and such a character. It is the moment of human freedom also, an inspired moment.

We are in the age of the Spirit. Grace will be experienced as a free choice. Human beings will choose independently and freely, because it seems just and good to them and to the Spirit in them. Father and Son will be known and revered, but the first impulse of choice will be the divine Spirit and the human spirit acting as one.

 

 Year 2, Week 27,   Wednesday                   Glenroy 1976

“the balance between equality and authority”

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”               Gal. 2.11-14

Ever since his experience upon the rooftop at Joppa when Peter had seen the vision concerning the Gentiles and eating with the unclean, his custom had been to share common table with them. After overcoming the opposition from some in Jerusalem, he had maintained his custom. Barnabas too and Paul especially had taken up the same custom. To eat with the Gentiles was to accept them into fellowship.

Peter had eventually to flee Jerusalem in the wake of Herod’s attack and took the road to Antioch where he continued his custom of eating with the Gentiles. As long as they had faith in the Lord Jesus, he could share the common table with them. Barnabas was there and Paul too. However, from Jerusalem there came those who belonged to the party of James. They claimed that, as the Promises had been made to the Jews, and as Jesus himself had been an ardent upholder of the Law, it was necessary for Gentiles to accept the whole framework of the Law. Their arguments were convincing and still bear weight: for we can only understand the New Law from within the context of the Old Law.

Peter and Barnabas began to avoid eating with the Gentiles. At this, Paul explodes. He publicly upbraids Peter for his inconsistency. Had he not long been eating with Gentiles, leaving them free of the rules of the Law? Must the Gentiles now become Jews?

If there were no equality, Paul could not raise his voice; if there were no authority, Paul would not need to. This situation characterizes the relationship between Christians: the balance between equality and authority. If equality is lacking there is no community; if authority is lacking there is no assembly.

In a healthy Church there will be disputes and reconciliation. Where they are lacking, the Church is dead.

 

 Year 2, Week 27, Thursday                 Glenroy 1976

“The Spirit  is the test of everything.”

“The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?”        Gal 3:2

The Spirit  is the test of everything. Did the Law give the Spirit? No! Therefore, it was waiting for someone who could. Did Jesus give the Spirit? Yes! Therefore, he is the one who was to come into the world. Does the practice of the Law impart the Spirit? No! Therefore, it is useless or at best a predisposition. Does the hearing of the Word impart the Spirit? Yes! Therefore, it is the gift of God. The Spirit is the test of every action, thought and emotion. If the Spirit grows as a result it is true. If the Spirit does not increase, it is idle.

Growth can occur through other means – and all growth is an indication of the Spirit – but full growth in the Spirit is only through the Gospel. There are many ways of hearing the Gospel, not only with the ears but also with the skin, between the lines, in history. All growth in the Spirit is due to entering, in some way, into  the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul realizes that this is the essential religious fact of history. There are also many ways of experiencing Christ’s the death and resurrection. Not his death alone; not his resurrection alone; not side by side, but as one.

Jesus is then known as the centre of history, the Lord of time who leads into eternity.

  

Year 2, Week 27, Friday                    Glenroy 1976

“When we have become spirit …”

 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”      Gal 3:8,14

God is first known, in the religious history of Israel, as One who promises. He promises to give Abraham a land, a son, a countless progeny, and to bless all mankind through him. Yet, how vastly different is the fulfilment from the understanding! Abraham was promised land, but he receives the Word in whom all is created. He was promised a son, yet he receives the Man. He was to be a blessing for all mankind, but this is the gift of God’s own Spirit.

The fulfilment seems almost contrary to the promise, for it is those not of his flesh who become his sons; the land becomes irrelevant; it is not in success but in the Crucified that the promise is fulfilled.

We too live in promise: the return of Christ. Yet the fulfilment will surpass the hope. Indeed, it will seemingly contradict the hope. Who would have dared tell Abraham that the sons as numerous as the stars would not be of his body? Who will dare say there is no heaven, ‘up there’, no Second Coming on clouds? Yet, in both cases the fulfilment is the same: the superabundant outpouring of the Spirit. When we have become spirit, then will be Christ be returned, more powerfully than we can imagine.

  

Year 2, Week 28, Monday                  Glenroy 1976

“an upwelling of the Spirit”

“So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.”            Gal 4:31

Faith in Christ crucified leads to an upwelling of the Spirit, to a religious experience that occurs at the root of the heart and therefore constitutes the central event for every human being.

For that reason, Paul can plunge back into the Old Testament and find allegories. He could equally have plunged into the Vedas and the Tao-The Ching or into the writings of Aeschylus and Camus and there find other foreshadowings, for all of them communicate, to some extent, the experience of Christ crucified and risen. The.

The Old Testament foreshadows the Christ-event which is normative. It is the paradigm. The greatest religious writings of the greatest religions, and the greatest literary works of mankind disguise the truth even as they reveal it. The Light of Christ reveals the genius of mankind which in turn casts light upon the Light.

  

Year 2, Week 28, Tuesday                Glenroy 1976

“identity with Jesus Christ glorious”

“Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.              Gal  5:2-6

The context of the phrase is the fear of judgment. How could one be saved on that dreadful day? The answer of the Church was belief in Jesus. Those who joined themselves to Christ, the Just One, would be freed from condemnation.

Paul takes this basic teaching and applies it to the Galatians. They had first acknowledged that by placing their faith in Jesus they would be saved.  If now they weaken in faith to the extent of feeling the need to take on circumcision and the whole Law of Moses, they are effectively saying that Jesus is not enough. He will be insufficient for them on the day of judgment; they cannot look to him alone for salvation. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham; for the Jews it was the guarantee  of divine favour. It was a challenge to the all-encompassing  faith in Jesus.

Paul is adamant on this point. For him, circumcision after faith is equivalent to apostasy; but apostasy is unforgivable; therefore, circumcision brings condemnation. He is not mincing his words.

Faith in Christ is the basis of salvation, faith not so much in Jesus the Jew, not just in Christ the crucified, but identity with Jesus Christ glorious.

 

 Year 2, Week 28, Wednesday            Glenroy 1976

“harmony and strength, peace and power”

“Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” Gal 5:16-17

For Paul, those upon whom the Spirit has come are ‘body’, but those whom the Spirit does not inhabit are ‘flesh’. Without Spirit they feel debilitation in every respect, physical, psychological, relational, but those inspired from above experience harmony and strength, peace and power. Their ‘flesh’ has become ‘body’. Indeed, they have become ‘spirit’.

Those who are ‘body’ acquire the solidity of rock and the lightness of wind. But the ‘flesh’, if allowed to run its course, ends up in decomposition of every sort: social, intellectual, volitional, psychological, and spiritual.

For this reason, Paul urges the Galatians to walk by the Spirit. There is no need to do anything different. To live in the Spirit, to be oneself, that is his urging. But not any self: his exhortation is to be ‘body’

 

 

 

Posted in Biblical commentaries, John Dupuche | Leave a comment

Love never ends, commentaries on 1 Corinthians

Love never ends, commentaries on 1 Corinthians

Year 2, Week 21, Thursday                                           Glenroy 1976

Fellowship

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”    1 Cor 1:9

From the beginning God had intended to bring mankind to its fulness. To his people he had sworn possession of the Promised Land. He is faithful to his intentions, for his purposes share the steadiness of his eternal nature. He is essentially faithful.

As he used the politics of Egypt and the surprises of nature to bring his people to freedom through the Red Sea so, whenever he brings a person to freedom, he operates on the scale of human and cosmic history. The whole world conspires. The whole world utters God’s call.

This freedom to which we are called is nothing less than a share in the state of Christ. He was called Son of God at the moment of his baptism in Jordan. He was proclaimed Lord and Christ at the moment of his resurrection. But he is the Word from all eternity. To this same condition we too are called. Every step towards freedom, every increase in spiritual being, every growth in faith and love, every acquisition of truth, is an equivalence to Christ. We mirror each other.

Our growth is the work of God. As the Father has the initiative within the Trinity, so he has the initiative in all things. Christ seconds the Father’s will; the Father does nothing in opposition to Christ. Even so, Christ is not principally the source of our growth. It is the Father who primarily draws us to our full stature, which is no less than Christ’s, but it is God who makes us grow. We are brought, then, by the Father’s work, into the same condition as Christ – who is our leader and our Lord.

 

Year 2, Week 21, Friday                                        Glenroy 1976

Christ crucified

“Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  1 Cor 1:22-23

Paul’s practice was to go first to the synagogue in whatever town he visited. Generally, however, his preaching met with little success because the Jews looked for signs. The marvelous crossing of the Red Sea had brought their ancestors to faith in God, so now they wanted wonderful events before they could believe in Jesus. They failed to see that the greatest event was Jesus’ own person. Paul had preached at Athens to the philosophers of the Areopagus. They listened with indulgence until he mentioned the resurrection. Then they laughed at him. They sought wisdom and eternal principles, but failed to seek the ground and base of the highest wisdom.

Paul proclaims the basis of all wonders, the source of all wisdom, namely the Christ. He announces, not an impersonal event or an abstraction, but the individual man, Jesus of Nazareth who is what all people seek in their quests. Paul announces, not a good deed nor a beautiful event, but the horror of a  death transformed into glory, the greatest deed, the most breathtaking act.

We can understand Christ crucified only if we have already travelled the same road. We can accept Christ crucified only when we accept ourselves in our weakness. Christ reveals man to man, and his justification by God is a confirmation of ourselves. Those who can say yes to Paul’s preaching, find in Christ the truth that is valid for all times. 

 

Year  2, Week 21,  Saturday                                   Glenroy  1976 

Preludes to  grace 

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”        1 Cor  1:26-27

Paul had success in Corinth, but mainly with the common people, the artisans, dockers and servants. These are the ones who have been given the gift of faith. Paul sees in this fact the eternal truth of the cross. Jesus was reduced below every human station, desolate in mind, weakened in body and humiliated as a criminal. Yet this very lowliness is the prelude to his becoming Lord and Christ. The Corinthians too have been called and at their baptism were acclaimed with the title of ‘sons of God’. Their ordinariness was the first step to receiving the gift of faith. Their lowliness was the occasion of being filled with the Spirit.

This principle is true of all times. The fullness of God can be attained only with simplicity of heart. If trust is placed in power or background, it is not placed in their source – the Spirit of God. Trust is placed not in what is already possessed but in what can be attained, not the lesser but the higher gift. God calls those who have simplicity of life, openness of mind and a readiness for the unknown, and grants them wisdom and power and independence, making them masters and sanctifiers of all things.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Monday                                    Glenroy 1976

Paul’s weakness and fear

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”    1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul had deep insight into the mystery of God, yet was not a gifted speaker. He did not have the turn of phrase and the logical method that delighted the Greek mind. Yet he is glad about this, for it means that his preaching is conformed to the message it conveys. Paul comes preaching only one thing: Christ, not the magnificent Christ of the public life, with his miracles and his riveting words; not the glorious Christ of the resurrection appearances, but the crucified Christ in whom there is no beauty, nothing to attract human eyes. Paul’s lack of style is comparable to Christ’s disfigured body. His inability to display logic is like Christ’s stunning silence. Paul preaches, by his life and his handicaps, nothing but a crucified Christ. His preaching is most convincing in its lack of oratory, for he depends only on the power of the Spirit.

If we can appreciate this paradox, as Paul did, then we have already experienced it; if we have felt it in our lives, then we are already citizens of heaven; if we are eternal, then we are ‘sons of God’ upon earth; if we are in time, we are called to the cross, so that the mystery of Christ might be re-enacted and fulfilled in a thousand other Christs, till the world is saved though every member.

  

Year  2, Week 22,  Tuesday                                    Glenroy 1976

The Spirit

“These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”          1 Cor 2:10-12

Paul is speaking of the cross and its wisdom.

The cross is the most puzzling and also the most characteristic action of God, the most revealing aspect of his nature. It can be understood only by those who have the spirit and the mind of God. Christians do not have the character of the world but the character of God. They are divine as God is divine and so they can understand the cross. Without that interior light, the workings of God would remain a puzzle for them

The word ‘cross’ does not refer to pain and ignominy alone. It also means the glory that is inseparable from it. It is that complex of humiliation and glorification, that risen body which still bears the imprint of the nails and the lance.

As Christians experience Christ’s glory in themselves, they also know his cross. The cross is the gift of God, and all other gifts are expressions of it. It is their Christian life and its marvel.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Thursday                                   Glenroy 1976

The supremacy of love

“Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”                1 Cor 3:22-23

All things are brought into one under God. His choice goes out to all things. He joins them to himself, harmonizes them, and unifies them in the ardour of his love. For this reason, divisions are impossible for someone who has the Spirit of God.

Christ, being filled with the Spirit performs the same action of unity. Being First-Born, he does this among humans in an altogether unique way, by the cross. Christ joins human beings to himself, they do not join him to their selves, for he is the First-Born. Christ joins them to himself and God in turn joins Christ to his self. Thus, God has the primacy of love.

And each Christian is called to do this for others. The same thirst of unity moves in their hearts as they stretch out and call all into being, seconding God’s choice, imitating Christ’s seconding. In that work of union, they find their greatest joy, for all things become one Body, one Spirit in them. The disparate can become one only if they become spiritual; the diverse things can achieve unity only if they become loving and godlike; the multiplicity of passing things achieves eternity only if they choose each other.

Here, at last, is the oneness sought by the philosophers.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Friday                                      Glenroy 1976

The judge

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.”         1 Cor 4:3-5

Paul is under attack from his own people in Corinth. He has defended himself against their criticism, but in any case he does not attach importance to their opinion, for their judgment is purely human. In place of the Day of the Lord, they have invented the Day of Man. For this reason, they have no authority. Therefore, Paul tells them to wait for the coming of Christ, when they will indeed truly know and so their opinion will have authority.

Christ comes when a person is inspired. Christ is fully come when a person has become spirit. Inspiration takes us out of time to the Last Day; inspiration gives us the energy of God and of the universe, of mankind and all history. Only those who are inspired can utter true judgment. When they speak, Christ speaks. When Christ speaks, they speak, for they and Christ are one.

Their judgment does involves punishing, but the damnation is found above all silence, for silence creates confusion more than wrath. They do indeed expel the evil person, for they accept only goodness. They do not recognise those who are evil. “I do not know you”. Their condemnation consists above all in an omission of blessing. It is the darkness – an absence of light. Not to have a blessing is to have a curse.

 

Year  2, Week 23,  Wednesday                                Glenroy 1976

The true centre

“I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”      1 Cor 7:29-31

Paul is aware both of the coming kingdom and of the passing nature of the present. He preaches detachment from the concerns of this life and its constant changes. It is unnecessary, he says, to live on that level.

It may be said that Paul is inhuman because he refuses to share in the joys and sorrows of mankind. Yet he is not inhuman, he is future-human. He knows in anticipation what future humans will be and need not take part in their ups and downs. Paul is not stoic. He is not refusing the turmoil of history just because it is painful. His reason is that a new history is about to occur, a new definitive history, not the eternal return of the Stoics. A new humanity is about to appear. Paul already lives in the aura and ambit of this new humanity. It has already come to birth in Paul himself, and he looks forward to its birth throughout the world.

The new humanity is the Christ,  who is the Man beyond history because he touches all history; the Man now untroubled by pain because he has endured all pain; the Man above changing joys because he knows perfect joy; the Man who feels all, wants all, governs all. He is the Man who has achieved the Manhood of which we are all sorry imitations.

Paul is not tied to history, not because he despises it but because he touches all history through knowing the Lord of history. How can he find himself involved in trade or commerce when he is already the lord of the divine economy? How can he be sorry or glad at one moment or another, when he embraces every emotion? How can he be concerned about possessions since the whole world is his? Paul’s seeming indifference is not a weakness but a strength. Others may feel the turmoil of history because of their limitations. History engulfs them, but Paul embraces history because he is already the Man.

The lesson today is this: he who experiences the Man, is the Man, lives beyond the constraints experienced by human beings and draws them all into the unity of the Perfect Man.

  

Year  2, Week 23,  Thursday                                   Glenroy 1976

God and the gods

“Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”        1 Cor 8:5-6

In Paul’s day the forces of nature were called ‘gods’. In our own day people find meaning in other forces. These are their gods, in fact if not in name.

Christians say there is only one God from whom all things come. Greater than Baal, he produces all things. Greater than cosmic forces, he directs all things. Wiser than all the philosophers, he gives meaning to life and draws human beings to himself, for he is their meaning and their goal.

There is only one God. If there were several, humans would disintegrate, not knowing to which they should give themselves. There is only one Lord. If there were several, humans would fragment in mind and body, torn apart by divided loyalties.

The Lord Christ seconds his Father’s will. He is the model on which all is built and it is out of love for him that the Father creates a kingdom. Christ Jesus gives consistency to things since they are, in intention, his body. It is he who redeems; it is he who makes it possible to know God.

The Church, visible and invisible, is the sign of his success. Its vocation is to be as Christ, giving consistency to things,  seconding the Father’s will, being models, of justice, receiving the elect, material and human, as their body, so that through them grace might come to mankind and mankind come to God.

 

Year  2, Week 24,  Wednesday                                Glenroy 1976

Ending and lasting

“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. … When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”              1 Cor 13:8, 11.

Mary stood by the cross of Jesus, and witnessed the passing of a Son whom she had born and nurtured, loved and respected. Yet she knew, however obscurely, that only in this way could he achieve that fullness of glory which made him Lord and Christ and Man. Her child was becoming the Man; his flesh was becoming immortal, incorruptible, invisible.

The Spirit has inspired the Church to develop many glorious things: sacraments, hierarchy, institutions, laws. These, in their limited aspects, will be destroyed. Just as prophecies, tongues and knowledge pass away, so too will all other temporary things pass. These are good and necessary for as long as the Church is a ‘child’, but when the Church becomes a Man, these will go. When the Man comes on the clouds of heaven, and when the Man becomes fully formed in the heart of the Church, all these will go. The passing is painful. The passing is necessary.

Yet the passing can be only at God’s hour. Mary conceived only when the Spirit came. Christ was killed only when his hour had come. No one can take it upon their self to effect the passing. Only the Man can do this. Only he can put away the things of a child and destroy them. They will have served their purpose and borne their fruit.

 

Posted in Biblical commentaries, John Dupuche | Leave a comment