C, Advent 1 Freedom
“When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.” Luke 21.28
“Freedom” is the ancient cry of all peoples. Freedom from hunger and pain, from “coarseness of heart” and “the cares of life”; free speech, freedom of religion, freedom from death. It was the cry of the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt. It will be the cry of “nations in agony” and “people dying of fear”.
When freedom comes, barriers fall away and the mind clears. The personality flowers and every capacity functions. Freedom is power and opportunity. Freedom is love without restraint, the good pleasure that is pleasing to all. Freedom is knowing and being known, one knowledge.
The Son of Man is seen coming by those who have become the Son of Man, “confident to stand before him” because he is their very self.
Then the Spirit spontaneously arises, both given and freely arising – for is not the Spirit God? The Spirit freely makes all free. Those “reborn of the Spirit” are free to give the Spirit, free to receive the Spirit; free with the Spirit, free in the Spirit.
Who conquers, who surrenders? All is one in the play of love.
Sun and moon lose their light, and the earth quakes. The powers of heaven and the stability of the world are shaken: all things lose their consistency before the coming Son of Man.
That is both frightening and liberating; it is the moment of ceasing and becoming. For those who cling to the castles of the mind, it is dreadful; for those who seek to go ever onwards, the impulse into the dark leads towards the brilliance which knowledge cannot give.
For God is free, and the purpose of creation is freedom. God is free as regards his own works and is not bound by what he has established. God, who is supremely free, wants to set free. Freedom makes free and does so without constraint. Freedom freely frees.
God is free to make or break. He is the fearsome God. He is free to give grace as he wishes, giving to some more than to others. He is free but not arbitrary, for his freedom and wisdom are one.
The human heart yearns to be free from all hindrances because already a higher freedom has made itself felt. There is an equal attitude to pain and pleasure, to being and non-being. Free from all attachments, the heart stays awake, holding the head high, unhampered by the cares of life and the debauchery of desire. There is no holding back, no holding down; no oppression or suppression.
It is the freedom of the Spirit, like a bird in infinite space, rejoicing to soar or plummet as the play of freedom inspires. The Spirit is inspired by Spirit. Inspiration is inspired.
This is the purpose of God: to suffuse all things with the autonomy of the Spirit. Thus, the Son of Man himself is free as regards his own freedom, and while remaining free surrenders in the incarnation of birth and in the struggle of the cross. Freedom rejoices to surrender and to become subject to those whom he has freed.
In the Godhead there is mutual surrender and mutual taking, all done in freedom. For that reason, freedom is essentially Trinitarian, both omnipotent and vulnerable.
All is surrendered to the Spirit who is the high point and purpose of the Trinity. The Spirit, as the Third Person, is the ultimate Person, the purpose of the Father and the Son.
C, Advent 1 Graciousness
“They will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke 21.27
How can everything come out of nothing? What is this universe, whose cause is hidden? The human mind collapses, for it functions within the laws of cause and effect. But all such theories are abandoned on approaching the infinite.
It is in the relation of Father and Son, as expressor and expression, the Second as perfect image of the First: in this context the Spirit – not as some effect but spontaneously and amazingly – proceeds freely, in context but without cause. For the Spirit is God and is not controlled or determined.
The Spirit arises in the context of the Father and the Son who are inspired to breathe forth the Spirit. The Spirit comes freely, graciously. And we are caught up in incomprehension, for no mind can understand this, no words can express: it is experienced. The Sprit proceeds of her own volition, out of nowhere so to speak, but within the relationship of Father and Son, sealing that relationship. It is the outpouring, binding them together in ways unimaginable, eternal, glorious.
The purpose of creation is that the Spirit might also come surprisingly upon the world. Thus, God prepares the context, this vast world in all its variety and paradox, wherein the Spirit might come and bind all in unity. The purpose of God is the spontaneity of the Spirit. The Spirit comes always as surprise, even to God.
We ‘stay awake’, awaiting what will happen, things that will bewilder and confuse, things startling and exhilarating, as the Spirit, in all glory and incomprehensibility, comes upon us and leads into that domain where joy is complete.
C, Advent 2 Christ in other religions
“The Word of God came to John son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.” Luke 3:2
This Word, the Supreme Word, is present in all eternity. It was pronounced at the beginning of creation when God said “Let there be light”. It came to Abraham telling him to leave his country and his father’s house. It came to Moses at the burning bush. It came to Siddhartha as he sat under the bodhitree and was enlightened as the Buddha. It was spoken to Muhammad and to all the great religious leaders who have in turn spoken, but it was made flesh as Jesus, born of Mary the Virgin. He speaks from himself, about himself. He does not receive the Word; he is the Word. He wishes to the fullness of the Word in the world and is willing, therefore, to be sacrificed.
Christianity does not fear to acknowledge the truth found in other religions; it venerates all the “seeds of the Word” found in them. In venerating their truth, Christianity venerates Jesus himself.
“A voice cries: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord’.” Luke 3.4
John the Baptist, son of Zechariah, has gone into the wilderness. The freedom of the Spirit has freed him from fictions of the mind. He has gone to be pure with the Pure, ignorant with the Incomprehensible, a free spirit awaiting the freedom of the Spirit, listening for the Word.
The Word by-passes emperors and kings, for the Word is not tied or beholden. The Word comes to the solitary who wait only on the Word. God is free, the Word is free, the Spirit is free.
In complete freedom, the Word is addressed to peoples, whether in the oracles of prophets or in the rituals of traditions. The Word comes as the moment of revelation when mind and spirit and all the faculties carefully attend. Thus, peoples of other faiths speak Truth in their own way, sometimes more fully, sometimes less perfectly, sometimes with assurance, sometimes tentatively.
The Word given to some does not contradict the Word given to others, but its expressions may. Their irreconcilable paradox serves only to free the mind from thought and to release the Spirit.
All the revelations of the Word are summed up in the incarnation of the Word, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. They have prepared his way. He does not despise them; he shows how right they are. He does not eliminate them; he saves them. Indeed, they are necessary if he is to be fully understood. He becomes them and they become him, for are they not all manifestations of the Word? Jesus identifies himself with them; they identify themselves with him. In the Word made flesh, all expressions of the Word are made one.
C, Advent 2 Christ in the Old Testament
“In the book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah” Luke 3:4
The Word of God bypasses the Emperor Tiberius and his governors. It bypasses Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, and is addressed to John, son of Zechariah in the desert.
So, John becomes the Voice, calling the people to repentance and the traditions of their ancestors, for the mind and heart of God had been revealed to the Chosen People in the drama of their history and in the resounding words of their prophets. They handed on to humanity this knowledge of the one true God.
But John equally prophesies the future. John is the Voice between the words of the First Testament and the Word of the Last and everlasting Testament, which is Jesus the Word made flesh. He speaks from himself about himself. He is the Word so that each person should be the Word, in freedom and fullness.
Thus, there is a hierarchy of traditions. While the revelation to the Jews is held in high esteem, it is Jesus who fulfils them in himself. He stands at the apex of sacred history.
John the Baptist returns to the origins, to be alone with the Alone. He stands once again in the desert, solitary like the first Adam. He has gone into the wilderness, like the Chosen People escaping slavery in Egypt. Like Moses in the desert of Sinai, he hears the voice of God speaking to him. Like Elijah who walked for forty days and nights to the mountain of God, he has left all. He fulfils the prophecies of Isaiah and of all the prophets. Indeed, he sums up in himself the whole history of the People of God.
‘The Word of God’, ignoring high priests and governors, Pharisees and Zealots, ‘comes to John’ lost in the desert.
Yet he is only a forerunner, a prefigurement, the ‘angel’ leading the people to the Promised Land of flesh and blood, which is Jesus. The end is in the beginning, and the goal determines the direction of very first step. Jesus is found in every aspect of the Old Testament; its every sacred word is directed to him.
Jesus does not eliminate the First Testament but welcomes it since it leads to him. All creation speaks of Jesus from whom it comes and to whom it is destined, but it is the Chosen People who are his best anticipation. He knows that they, more than any other, are prophecies of himself.
But even Jesus, the Word made flesh, is the anticipation of his own fullness. He is the forecast of his own glory. Every act in his first coming is a clue to his last coming. Thus, the First Testament leads to the Final Testament which itself is a sign of the final Christ.
C, Advent 3 John the law-giver
“When all the people asked him, ‘What must we do then?’ he answered …” Luke 3:10-11
John speaks to the tax collectors and offers them the hope of salvation, but Jesus eats with them. John speaks to the soldiers, presumably Roman and pagan, inviting them to share in the Covenant, but Jesus will put himself into their hands for crucifixion. John is powerful, but Jesus is most powerful.
Through his power John knows the really powerful: Jesus who rises above the categories of pure and impure. Jesus is untroubled by such categories because he has the mind of God. He can touch the unclean leper and be touched by the impure woman because is of God. He has no concern for what people call honourable or dishonourable for he is the judge. He is unconcerned with clean and unclean, and mixes freely with every type. He is universal; he is free. He sees the good in every situation; claims it and enjoys it, for it is his. He stores it into his barn, for it is from him and for him.
What is true of the Christ is true also of the Christian
Gentiles who were received into the community of Israel had first to be washed in water. Therefore, John who proclaims a baptism of repentance is announcing that Jews are no better than Gentiles. John alone, not the priests, not the Pharisees or Sadducees or Zealots, John alone is true to the Law. He is the Elijah, the last remaining member of the Chosen People. He alone is capable of bringing the people into covenant with God.
They ask John what they must do. John replies, not that they should pay the tithes, but that they should share with those in need. This foreshadows Jesus command to love one’s neighbour as oneself. He speaks to the tax collectors, outcast and unfaithful though they are. Here too he foreshadows Jesus who will eat with publicans and sinners. John gives commands to Gentile soldiers, who wish to come to the throne of grace. In this way John prepares for Jesus whom the Greeks will seek to meet.
Jesus will say to these Greeks that the time has come for him to shed his blood. John restores the Law but Jesus gives the new Law, which is incomparably more exhilarating and more difficult, more demanding and more wonderful, for it brings us beyond covenant into communion with God himself.
C, Advent 3 John gives way to Jesus
“I baptise you with water, but …. he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 3:16
John the Baptist knows what the Christ must be and therefore knows that he himself is not the Christ. He knows what the Christ will do and knows he himself cannot do it.
Nevertheless, John gives a foretaste of Jesus’ teaching. He calls to repentance but does not mention Sabbath or circumcision or ritual sacrifice. Rather he calls them to show practical love for the neighbour. “Give your spare tunic to the one who has none”. He does not reject the tax collectors, those collaborators with Roman oppression, but offers them hope. Even to the pagan soldiers he has a message, for God takes pity on all his children.
John is filled with the Spirit even from the womb but Jesus has the Spirit from all eternity. He recalls the people through water to the Law of their ancestors, but Jesus brings the fire of the Spirit. John baptises the living but Jesus casts sends his Spirit upon living and dead. Jesus exercises power from himself and for himself, freely and without constraint. He has sown the seed and will reap the harvest. He will thrash the wheat and pile up the grain. He enjoys the work and will enjoy the fruit.
In the Christian the Christ knows himself. In the Christ the Christian discovers the Self. What is true of Christ is true of the Christian and what is known about the Christ is known about the Christian, for they are one body, one reality.
John washes away the sins of a faithless generation and restores them to the Law. But he knows the limitation of his work. Water washes, but fire burns.
So, John gives way to Jesus. John restores the Law; Jesus is the new Law. John points to another; Jesus presents himself. John speaks of someone who is more powerful than he; Jesus announces that all power in heaven and earth is his. John acknowledges Jesus as greater; Jesus acknowledges only the Father as greater. The Word of God comes to John in the wilderness, but Jesus is that Word made flesh. John washes once with water, but Jesus gives the chalice of his blood, again and again. John invites people to enter into the waters of his baptism, but Jesus bids them surrender to the fire of his Spirit.
Jesus’ disciples thus become pure light with no trace of darkness or impurity. They are consumed by the fire. Nothing remains but the fire of love. They become light, taken up into the Light from Light, reborn in the spirit, becoming Spirit.
It is true: John is not worthy to untie the strap of Jesus’ sandals.
C, Advent 4 Christ embodies all that is
“Mary hurried as quickly as she could to the hill country of Judah. She entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elisabeth.” Luke 1:39-40.
The old mother and the young mother meet. The two fetuses, one newly conceived, the other already six months old, come in contact, and the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. It is as though the sound of Mary’s voice carries within it the resonance of the Word made flesh in her. The Word recently made flesh already has the power to bring happiness.
God wishes to speak to humans and therefore the Word must become human. The Word must be both divine and human if there is to be communication between the divine and the human.
The Word becomes flesh so as to transform flesh; takes on mind so as to appeal to the mind; and knows every condition so as to affect every state. The supreme Word becomes insignificant in order to reveal the infinite God. The Word does not fear to lose its glory and to become the inarticulate child in a stable or to cry out incoherently on a cross. The Word must be embodied if the embodied are to come to the Word.
In this way as in no other, the love of God and his saving power are revealed.
“… blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:42
God has spoken to his People, but the words of prophets are only partial. He has spoken to the Chosen in their history, but that history is limited. God speaks fully to human flesh only if he speaks in human flesh. His Word must become incarnate. He will speak to humans in human terms, heart to heart, body to body.
And so, God’s Word is embodied; Jesus is conceived and born. He grows, he works; he does what humans do. He relives the history of his people; he encapsulates every human life. Magi come from the east and Greeks from the west to see him. He becomes sin, he who is pure light and grace. He knows good and evil; he experiences the highest and the lowest, glory and shame. He becomes as nothing so that he might be everything. From him all things come and to him all return.
Jesus embodies all, so that all might see their bodies transfigured and become one body with him in love. All can inherit all through identifying with him who became nothing. He is the still centre of the changing world, where all come to rest and finds their energy.
Why go on pilgrimage, when all is found in the body? All speaks of his body and his body gives access to all. By identifying bodily with him we are in touch with every body. Nothing is foreign to us. We are one.
C, Advent 4 Christ and Israel
“Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45.
Israel continued to hope in the God of the covenant. Despite all its setbacks, Israel had kept faith. The Spirit in Israel had always called upon the Word. Love wishes to hear the Word of love. How could God ignore his People’s cry? Love cannot refuse the hope for love. How could the God of Israel refuse to come to its aid?
The people of Israel are the reason for the incarnation of the Word. God wishes to show his fidelity to his people and the trustworthiness of his covenant. The embodied Word expresses the totality of divine love. The Spirit evokes the Word and the Word arouses the Spirit.
Elizabeth, old, childless and despised, represents Israel waiting for its hope to be fulfilled. So, the Spirit in Elizabeth, expectant and awaiting, listens for this teaching. Elizabeth hears the Word now incarnate in Mary and the Spirit cries out in wonder. The Spirit had overshadowed Mary and now the Spirit is roused in Elizabeth. In hearing the Word, Elizabeth hears on behalf of the whole of Israel. In Mary, God has visited his people and taken them to himself. Mary’s address to Elizabeth is God’s address to his people. This Word of greeting joins the people to their God so that they become one being, one reality. They are one.
The promise was made to Abraham that he would be a blessing. The promise was made to Israel that they would inherit the land of milk and honey. The promise was made to David that his son of his would reign for ever. These promises are fulfilled not in some tract of earth but in the Carpenter, the Word made flesh. He is born for the sake of Abraham and Israel and David and all mankind.
This Mary believed. She had fullness of faith such that the promises made to the People are made truly to her, the perfect representative of her people. For this reason, Elizabeth proclaims that she is blessed ‘for believing that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled’, not just the personal promise about her child, but the promise made to Israel. The child is born above all for her, out of love for her, so that she would be most fruitful in bearing the fairest fruit.
Mary visits Elisabeth. Her visitation is the visitation of God to his people. Her journey to the hill country of Judea is the coming of the Son who is ‘Emmanuel’, ‘God with us’. He had wished to draw all people to himself. This is achieved surprisingly in Mary and above all in Jesus who dies and rises for the sake of Mary above all.
C, Christmas, Midnight “Became man”
“… a saviour has been born to you …” Luke 2:11
God has spoken to many people in many ways. But how can there be intimacy between the finite and the infinite, between wisdom and ignorance?
God is in his Word, God is his Word; he is one with his Word, not apart, not separate, not detached. To hear the Word is to know the speaker of the Word. This communication reaches its fullness when the Word is spoken in flesh. “The Word was made flesh”, so that flesh should speak to flesh, heart to heart, joy to joy, sorrow to sorrow. God addresses human flesh most powerfully through human flesh.
So, Jesus is born in Bethlehem, in a stable. The Word of God takes on the dimensions of humanity, its ignorance and sinfulness, so that the Unlimited might communicate with the limited. The Word is partial and fragile. The Word also has the qualities of the One who speaks and is therefore unbound. The Word made flesh is boundless and bounded, divine and human, the divine in human form. It is the ultimate paradox. Just as the parent abandons the language of adults and uses the language of a child to communicate with the child, so too the infinite God lessens himself in the gesture of the Word made flesh. Only the Infinite is capable of humbling himself as man, for the Infinite has no fear of loss, and in drawing close does not cease to be transcendent. Only the Transcendent can become fully immanent.
This is done through the swelling generosity of the divine. The communication is given out of sheer love. The affirmation strengthens and empowers. The Child lying in the manger enables humans to fulfil their potential. Hidden potentialities are unleashed by the Child whose glory is hidden.
The listener takes on the quality of the Speaker. The human becomes divine in the divine Word who is fleshed. Humans acquire the same heart as the One who approach them. The divinised human heart is then turned towards every human heart. Every sensation and thought, every memory and experience acquire an infinite value. The Child is saviour in a manner we are only beginning to understand.
C, Christmas, Dawn Jesus, the unique Saviour
“… they found … the baby lying in the manger”. Luke 2:16
The shepherds creep into the stable, not knowing what to find, and see a child. Uneducated men, they see an illiterate infant. Powerless they see a vulnerable body. Marginalized from the society they see someone born on a stable floor. Shepherds, they see their shepherd and realise they belong to each other. They are amazed because they recognize in him, dimly, their very own selves.
The child has come to reveal himself to humanity and to reveal humanity to itself. The child begins the story of a life that will become the defining myth of humankind. In him we recognise ourselves. He shows what we are and enables us to become real. We are what he is and he is what we are. Jesus is not out there, separate from us; he is our very self.
And we are filled with wonder and amazement. We accept ourselves at last and are accepted by heaven and earth. We are justified. Our inmost nature has been brought into the light. We are likeminded, one-bodied. Here indeed is the one saviour of all mankind.
He enables us to be in a way that no else could do. He, the God-man makes us man-God, lords of the living and the dead, origin and end of all creation. In this great power we make a new heaven and a new earth in our own image, ultimate artists.
Yet we hardly understand him. It is only when we understand this world, all its history and its mythologies, that we will at last understand him and ourselves. In this recognition, salvation will have come in all fullness. This is recognition is judgment day.
God has spoken in many ways: in myth and word and image. He must also speak in flesh. There must be some way in which he says all things to all people, in a simple way that can overcome the dislocation of the many disparate voices of the past. The Word of God must be found fully in one unique person, for only in this way can there be unity on earth.
Thus, the revelations and rituals of all times and places are anticipations of the one Word, the Child lying in the manger. He is not the enlightened one, he is the Light; he is not divinity revealed in myth but God seen in time and place; he is not called from above, he is sent to earth; he is not just a prophet who speaks the Word of God, he is that very Word; he is not one incarnation among others, he is the incarnation which abides for ever.
Jesus will grow and realise that he is the source and goal. He will become enlightened to the fact that he is the Light. Indeed, he is enlightened by his own light, as his human consciousness becomes attuned to his divine consciousness. He has the divine consciousness from the start but only gradually does he realise his divinity. He will then present himself as the “I am”, the bridegroom of all humanity; and he will give himself as food. No one has ever dared speak this way before.
He saves, he does not eliminate. The gods of the heathen are not despised. On the contrary he purifies them and reveals all their potential. He justifies the teachers of mankind and confirms them. He is the saviour of the deities and the rituals.
Jesus’ supremacy consists not in destroying but in saving. He is the universal Master because he is the universal servant. He is the unique Lord because he shows the lordship of all. He reveals their truth and empowers their power. He acknowledges them and has faith in them. He perceives himself in them and they are perceived in him.
C, Christmas, Day Divinisation
“It is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” John 1:18
Mary took her child into her arms and cradled him, amazed and overjoyed. She becomes tender with the tender child and enters into his simplicity. Did she not marvel at the hands perfectly formed and at his eyes; did she not look with pleasure at his lips and tongue as they began to claim their nourishment? Did she not also wonder what words the mouth would form and what steps those little feet would take? Did she not tremble at blows she knew one day would strike his face; did she not shudder at the thought of blood that would pour from that tender flesh, for she knew he was the saviour?
The Son of God is born fully human because he is fully divine. He becomes human so that inhumanity should cease. He brings a divine strength so that humanity should reach its full capacity, hearts wide as the sea, minds open, sensitive to every emotion and ready for every expression. He has the strength to face the monstrous horror without flinching and to know life and death so as to become the finest teacher of mankind.
Humanity reaches its fullness when it becomes divine. Divinity is the future of mankind. Each person will claim the world as their body. Each will know themselves as God and worship their companions as God. God too will look on his work and worship it.
God is known. Those to whom God is made known become God, for to know God is to become God. God can be fully known only by God. The ones who are addressed become the One by whom they are addressed. To be in the Presence of the One is to become one and whole. To enter into the Presence means becoming the Presence. Only the Presence can be fully present to the Presence, otherwise there is an absence, a lack of communication.
There is in the human heart, and inspired by the divine heart, an immense desire for happiness, a desire so great that it bursts asunder the limitations of the human heart. The experience of pleasure leads to the desire for ever greater pleasure. This ever-increasing desire can be satisfied because God is infinitely pleasurable. There is a constant evolution and progression to divinity.
So, the Child promises eternal happiness and proclaims that endless knowledge is possible, all encompassing.
God speaks the Christ. The spoken Word transforms the listeners into the Speaker, so that in the end there is but God. All is divinised so that God is all in all. There is only God.
To address is to empower and justify, to redeem and save, to elevate and transform. It is God who first speaks and by our hearing we become God.
In acknowledging the works of God, we proclaim God. We are his self-knowledge. We are his self-proclamation. We are the projection of God and the expression of his being. Divinisation is the act not of creating something that is not, but of manifesting fully that which is. We become what we are; we are not made into what we are not. If we state that we are essentially only human, we can never be truly divinised.
Only God can be in the presence of God. This is supremely true of Jesus. It is true in a lesser way of ourselves. He is nearest the Father’s heart, but we are not absent. He is the favoured Son, but we are also sons from the beginning. We are not some dualist reality existing apart from God; we are from God at the start.
Thus, God is known by God; God is proclaimed by God.
C, The Holy Family Son of Mary
“I must be busy with my Father’s affairs.” Luke 2:49.
Mary gave birth to the Child at Bethlehem; she gives birth to the man at Nazareth. She brought the Word to flesh in the stable; she brings the growing child to self-knowledge in a village. She brings him to such knowledge that in Jerusalem, in the Temple, to her surprise, she is told that he “must be about his Father’s business”. Over the twelve years since his birth, perhaps she does not exactly understand how, she has brought him to consciousness. She has not focused simply on his physical growth but, knowing he is the saviour, she projected her knowledge and helped him discover his true nature. She did not hamper or confuse him, for she had had the mind of God since her own conception. She has helped him realise his power and come to know what is needed.
Both Jesus and Mary are teacher and taught, but differently. She forms him but she is also his disciple. Her listening does not finish when the Word was brought to earth. It continued as she helped him grow and she sees him come to know himself. She has done all things so well that he can proclaim his identity and cry out “Father”.
“And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:35
The soldier will pierce the side of Jesus; water and blood will flow out. The same sword must pierce the mother’s heart too, for she must share his fate. He is her son as no other man could ever be. Jesus is son of Mary but not son of Joseph. No one else on earth can claim him as she can. He is fully her son just as he is fully the Son of God in.
Later, in the Temple, Jesus breaks with his family. Although he speaks of “my Father” in the way that no other person can, Mary retains her position unassailably as mother. No one can take this title from her. At Cana in Galilee, she demands from him the best essences, discreetly commanding him to bring the wine of the kingdom to the banquet of God’s marriage with his people. She wants his blood, the finest outpouring of the finest life. She brought him into the world and she sends him on his passion. In this way she mothers him again.
Jesus will go to his passion. She knew the pain of his birth, as she lay in the stable; she will know the pain of human regeneration as she stands by his cross. He is born first and foremost for her; he will die above all for her. He is son of Mary; he is son for Mary above all.
C, The Holy Family The Holy Family
“He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. … And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in favour with God and men.” Luke 2:51-52.
Jesus grew up in an extended family system. He learnt a trade and worked from an early age. He grew up in the company of the other boys and girls of the village where he gave his first sign: his celibacy. This was scandalous: every man was expected to marry and fulfil the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven. Jesus no doubt refused the proposals of the matchmakers and must have endured suspicions about his manhood.
He did not wish to be husband to one since he will be bridegroom to all. He will broadcast the seed of the Word and give his body for all. He will spill his blood so that creation might give birth to the world to come. He renounces all so as to claim all for himself, to be the universal bridegroom and have all as his body, one body.
We celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. But for Jesus his family consisted of uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents, the whole extended family.
Although Mary on finding her child in the Temple had said “See how you father ….” Jesus replied, delicately but clearly, that God alone is “my Father”.
Nevertheless, he accepts the authority of Joseph and Mary and goes back to Nazareth willingly and on his own initiative. He could have continued to stay in Jerusalem, perhaps living with one of the doctors whom he had so astounded, but he prefers to live in the banality of Nazareth.
Jesus seeks the ordinary; he accepts to spend his most of his life in a despised village in a despised province. He does not seek fame or fortune. He loves his family, identifying with them and cherishing them, simple as they are. Despite his intelligence demonstrated in the Temple, he does not boast. Despite his ingenuity in managing for three days in a dangerous environment he accepts integration into a quiet village.
Jesus accepts to be born and formed as a Jew so as to ratify the Chosen People, and also to put an end to the need to be Jewish. He gives value to the family and also puts an end to the primacy of the family. He takes on the limitations of obedience so as to bring freedom to all. He lives an ordinary life so as to bring us to divinity.
C, Mary, Mother of God Mother of the Church
“The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby …” Luke 2:16.
Mary, the young woman of Nazareth, is Mother of God and Mother of the Church. She calls the Word to earth; she calls the Church to heaven. With her immaculate body she transformed the Son into flesh; with her glorious body she leads the Church into transfiguration. With every aspect of her assumed person she gives rise to every faculty of the resurrected Church.
She does this by the power of receptivity. As the perfect disciple filled with the Spirit, indeed, as the icon of the Spirit, she listens and draws the Word to reveal himself, in her, to her, to the world. She wants the best from heaven and she also evokes the best from the Church. Her frown is terrible, as it rejects what does not suit her truth. But she will smile, when the Church turns to her as Love, and her smile will justify all of human history. The Church will become its best, its truest self, when its every aspect becomes the Word of love. This she will treasure, for God as last is shown to be holy.
C, Mary, Mother of God Mary the Virgin
“As for Mary, she treasured these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19
Mary could neither read nor write. She had no social status, no power of any sort. She came from a village of no consequence, from among a people Rome considered bothersome. She is nothing.
Conversely, she is without pretense, open to the movement of grace. She is capacious, receptive, virginal so that the Infinite responds to her. The Void relates to her void, as like to like. The unbounded God cannot resist her spaciousness and will do things impossible and improbable. The Almighty will do wonders in her who sets up no obstacles, for she is free and allows God’s freedom.
Mary is the great canvas that invites the divine Artist to paint his masterpiece. He will draw one Word, for her and for her people and for all humanity: Love.
C, Epiphany Agnosticism
“Where is …?” Matthew 2:2
The wise men had mapped the stars and could foretell their movements, but suddenly a new star appears announcing the birth of the King. They do not know where he lives or who he is, but light has shone in the sky and in their soul.
By contrast, King Herod and the people of Jerusalem possess the Scriptures but know nothing of the birth. They tremble at its announcement, for they have become coarse of heart and do not care for their God or his promise.
The true agnostic does not know whether God exists but is open to its possibility. The spirit is willing even if the mind cannot give assent. The true agnostic is not coarse of heart but humble before the truth. The agnostic knows the limits of the human mind and is not presumptuous.
At the sight of the poor and the oppressed, the agnostic will bring redress. Then a light will shine from within and provide knowledge of God. For light leads to light, and the light of justice leads to the light of faith. If light is followed, whatever light that may be, the agnostic will eventually find the Child and bow down in worship.
The agnostic neither affirms nor denies but remains in uncertainty, open to the possibility but unsure whether God exists or not. No light has shone for them, no star has glimmered, no sign has been given. There is no proof or evidence, only ignorance.
All of us are to some extent agnostic, for how much do we know of the invisible God? Words and thoughts are inadequate, and even evidence can be misinterpreted. Yet when the light of the star has shone – how we do not know – there is a sense of something wonderful, Someone who is the goal of all our journeying. Led by a light we are on a journey to the Light. We know and partly know, like the Magi who know that the King of the Jews has been born but nothing else.
Why do only some Magi see the star and understand it? Why is the evidence not more striking? Why does God not thunder from the heavens, and work wonders that convince everyone doubt? Why this delicacy? Why the selectiveness? To these questions we have no answer. Why are some gifted and others not? Why the variation in perceptions and talents? Is it not that we need each other? The agnostic needs the enlightened; those with sight need those without sight. Each human being has a role, one correcting the other, one enriching the other. Those who do not know put the question to those who do and demand a clearer answer.
The Magi come asking questions and challenging the indifference of Jerusalem. They bring good news; the scribes tell them where the Christ is to be born. They influence each other. But it is the wise men who find the Christ Child and reach their goal. They had seen the star but now they see the Light made flesh. As they offer their gifts, they show they have understood that he is the Priest-King-Victim who alone is the destined goal of all mankind.
C, Epiphany Insight
“We saw his star as it rose …” Matthew 2:2
The Magi looked in the night sky and saw, among the countless stars, one that announced the birth of the King. Others saw stars that night but only the Magi understood and only they had the courage to follow it. They have insight. They see the star above because the light has already shone within. It is the insight of faith which the reveals the Truth.
The question is asked of every person: what is your star, what is the flicker of truth that will lead you in life? Has it been blotted out by coarseness of heart? Have fear, anxiety before the unknown and hesitance before the effort made you doubt?
The glimmer of truth, the star revealed differently in each person, will lead eventually through winding ways, to Bethlehem and to the Christ who is the supreme Word sent to speak in words that lead to the Father of Light.
The star shines vividly in the night sky, but only the wise men understand it. Other astrologers observe an interesting phenomenon, but the wise men have insight. They realise the star is not a divinity but a sign of divinity. It is not an object of worship; it is a revelation. But they understand the star above because the light has already shone within.
The Magi leave and begin their journey to a distant land. As they draw near to Bethlehem they see the star again. Then they see the Child on his mother’s lap and are caught up into the knowledge of the Unseen whom he reveals.
Faith is the knowledge of things unseen. Insight is faith as it comes into conscious perception, when what lies hidden comes into view. The Magi show that by becoming free of distractions and falsehood, ambitions and cravings, the heart can begin to perceive, not by projection but by insight springing from faith.
Every object is indeed a star announcing the birth of the King of the Jews, if only we could see. It becomes precious, significant. It ceases to be opaque, distant and other, and also becomes the manifestation of our very self. And so, we are led to the knowledge of the One from whom all comes, and our journey is complete.
C, Lent 1 Sin
“Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days.” Luke 4:1-2
Faults and ignorance can be explained, but there is no explanation for sin, no excuse. It simply does not make sense. Sin leads to sin, endlessly repeated and intensifying. It is self-deception, the ultimate lie.
Our age cannot admit sin. It cannot even endure the word. Euphemisms are used, ‘wrong-doing’, ‘mistake’, and ‘fault’. Or again, it is made to sound exciting: ‘bad’ means ‘good’ and ‘good’ means ‘bad’. Our age fears sin because it has no mechanism to escape from it.
The suffering of the world and all the tears cry out for diagnosis. What is the problem, what has gone wrong? Christian teaching does not speak so much about the causes as about the solution. Its revelation of sin is good news; it is saving, for it also provides the remedy.
Jesus stands at the Jordan; the Holy Spirit descends and the Voice proclaims him as the Chosen One. He is then led out into the desert, to drive Satan out into the open, for holiness exposes sin. Where there is no light, the darkness of sin can function hiddenly. In the dark all is dark. Even darkness remains unnoticed, but when the Light shines, darkness is revealed. Jesus goes to the desert to drive sin away. Nothing of sin will remain to fester and poison the world.
To admit the sin is to be on the path to healing; to deny the sin is to remain in it. Satan does not admit his sin. He asserts that he is justified and finds endless arguments to prove it. He remains in his sin.
Christians are able to admit their sin because they know how to be free of it. Their confession of sin means that they already know holiness. Sin is made evident by grace and is removed by the same grace.
In this season of Lent the Spirit of holiness shows us Jesus, the Holy One who reveals to us the Holy of Holies, the God of all.
C, Lent 1 Punishment
“Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.” Luke 4:13
Not all misfortune is chastisement; disaster is not a sign of punishment. Cyclones and diseases, natural disasters and epidemics are part of an ever-changing world that is both death-giving and life-giving.
Actions have consequences. Good actions lead to the divine mystery; sinful acts lead to inmost turmoil. There is a configuration to reality. It is folly to disregard it.
There is the disorder of nature and the disorder which comes from sin. Both are intertwined but must not be confused. What is sin, what is punishment? We hardly know. Only on the Last Day will we understand good and evil.
Into this world of suffering Jesus, the Holy One, comes in order to share its pain and to turn its drawbacks into advantage, to turn punishment into blessing, and sin into grace.
On him, the Pure, all blame is laid. People blame God for the disasters of the world and since they cannot attack the Transcendent they vent their anger on the one who comes in his name. People have also sinned against themselves and cannot bear the guilt. They project it onto the one who is innocent and vulnerable, and who they know will not retaliate. The mass of human resentment is laid on him and he is glad to bear it, to relieve the world of its burden. In this experience of evil, which only the perfectly good can bear, he comes to know the extremes, and so comes to fullness of knowledge. And we give thanks, for knowledge has come into this world, and God is fully revealed.
C, Lent 2 Jesus’ exodus
“As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid.” Luke 9:34
Peter, John and James are overcome by fear as soon as Moses and Elijah disappear into the cloud. Their departure prefigures Jesus’ ascension when he rises into heaven beyond human sight.
Every entry into the unknown causes a reaction of fear, not just the escape from the comforts of Egypt but also the abandonment of evil habits. It is frightening also to put aside thoughts and ideas and to enter into ‘the cloud of unknowing’ that surrounded Moses on Mt Sinai when he entered the divine presence.
Jesus left the ‘divine state’ when he emptied himself and became man, when he identified himself with sin, when he felt the abandonment of the cross and entered the silence of the tomb.
All such departures are possible for us because already there is a knowledge of the glory that is to come. Dimly, in faith alone, our destiny is known. We are able to enter into the void, there to find the fullness of life.
“Suddenly there were two men there talking with him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:30-31
Moses and Elijah speak with Jesus about his forthcoming exodus. He is to leave this ‘Egypt’ of sin and go to the Father, the supremely promised land.
All the journeys, from ignorance to knowledge, from selfishness to hate, from time to eternity: all are exodus. The whole world is in transition. Nothing is static. Nothing is stable.
Furthermore, there is the great vibration: the movement from heaven to earth, and from earth to heaven. It is an exodus into love and into deeper love, for the vibration is not repetition but a vortex and a spiralling, both circular and directional. It means leaving the familiar and counting no place as fixed. Every stop is only a pause, a temporary halt. It is a going home, not to a location but a process of the heart entering the heart, more and more deeply, ever upwards.
Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah about these things because he brings to completion all that they have done. He brings them home. He will make it possible, for them as for us, to find the place where we truly live, spiralling into those we love. It is an interplay, a continual thrusting and entering, coming and going.
Nor is God static, in an immovable and monotonous glory. The interplay of the Trinity is a burning furnace. Their relationship to each other is an exodus, Each towards the Other. Their communion is not inert but moving, not a change from less to more but a constant giving and receiving of fullness.
Where is it that you belong? What is your promised land? Where is it that you can continually progress and not remain static as in a prison or a dead-end. Rather, doors open, doors upon doors, in a progression which is inexhaustible since God is unbounded.
C, Lent 2 Jesus’ glory
“Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him.” Luke 9:32
The disciples fall asleep at the sight of the three figures, Jesus, Moses and Elijah. They sleep and yet they see. Their minds stop in dreamless sleep, entranced by the fullness of knowledge presented to them. Passing actions and thoughts become pointless before such glory. Their sleep is not ignorance but knowledge.
Adam fell into a deep sleep as Eve was formed; Abraham fell into torpor as the Covenant was made; Moses entered into darkness of Mt Sinai. The human mind collapses at the coming of every divine manifestation. The mind acts as the way to knowledge but ceases on entry into the Presence.
The disciples rest, for they have attained their purpose. They wonder and marvel at the inexhaustible and tranquil scene which satisfies every sense and fulfils every hope.
They come to the very heart. They also rest in their selves because they know their essence and their destiny. They need to go no further, for the outer and the inner are one.
The disciples are overwhelmed. Jesus’ glory makes them both sleep and see. The disciples abandon ordinary knowledge, and so they sleep; but they are awakened to a higher knowledge, and so they see. They go beyond information to knowledge, from the conscious to the trans-conscious, further and further, and see the Invisible.
Like Adam at the formation of Eve, or Abraham when the land is promised to him, like Solomon as the smoke fills the temple, or Elijah when the small voice is heard: the time of sleep is also the moment of revelation beyond measure. The disciples see Jesus’ glory, of him who is to be sacrificed.
Sin is a sort of knowledge but it is essentially ignorance since it is sundered from the Truth. Sin is the absence of glory, as evil is the absence of good. By letting go – by exodus – the glory appears. By continually letting go we move from glory to glory.
The disciples see the glory of Jesus in the radiance of his body; in the wonder of his converse. The presence of Moses and Elijah indicates just who is he: not some carpenter but the familiar of heaven. He encapsulates the history of the Jewish people. They hear of his divine relationship when the Voice from heaven proclaims him as Son. They see the paradoxical bright cloud of the Spirit who covers them with shadow. They understand the glory of his destiny, for he will take humanity from limitation to illimitation, from earth to heaven; he will bring heaven to earth. He has to come to transfigure all on the model of his own being.
C, Lent 3 Conversion
“…. unless you repent you will all perish …” Luke 13:5
All are in need of conversion. All need a change of heart until the heart of each is the heart of all. The call to conversion comes from outside, but it corresponds to the impetus from within. The call will fall on deaf ears if there is no heart to hear it.
Jesus calls individuals and nations to repentance and change. Those who refuse to admit their need show their ignorance. And those who admit their sinfulness have already been enlightened. They recognise their true self and recoil from their false self. They know their light and their darkness. They become aware of the illusions that had confused them. Those who see their need of conversion do so because they have a first inkling of salvation. Their heart goes out to it and they gladly abandon all that is contrary. They have been awakened to the truth, and the mind of God floods into them.
The experience of conversion is a moment of grace. The admission of sin is not so much exposure to sin but freedom from it. Darkness is noticed once light has shone. When the doors open, we suddenly realize that we were closed in. Our conversion to the living God means that he has first has turned to us. If we seek forgiveness it is because God has first sought us. If we see our sin, it is because we have first seen the Holy One. The Holy Spirit has taught us, and given us strength to admit our weakness.
Who can define the limits of a sin? Who knows the full extent of their sinfulness?
We call on God’s forgiveness not just for our individual sins but also for the sins in which we are involved, I mean the sins of our nation and of the world, sins such as the increasing wealth of the richer nations at the expense of the poorer nations, the mistreatment of minorities, the weaknesses of our nation, the bigotry of denominations, the suppression of speech in our Church. We will ask forgiveness for the sins of which we are not guilty but in which are we are implicated.
We are prophets and on behalf of all mankind we will ask God to have mercy. We will give thanks for the light that has come to us. We will celebrate the moment of grace that works obscurely in us. We will seek the forgiveness of God and of each other. Forgiveness is complete only once we have forgiven each other.
Moses sees the burning bush and bows low, for he is overwhelmed by the knowledge of the living God. The glories Egypt have not moved him thus, nor the brilliant light of the desert sun. He realises he is before Someone who is all-surpassing, and admits his insignificance. He is before the Holy One and so must take off his shoes. It is the moment of fundamental change. He is beginning at last to live; all the years past are as nothing.
Conversion is the moment of realisation. By divine grace, knowledge comes flooding in. It is a conversion not to laws and regulations but to freedom. At last there is a recognition of the true self and an admission of the false. Recognition is conversion.
At that moment we come to know the One Who Is. All else is put into perspective and what seemed important is now shown to be limited and limiting. Conversion is a ‘turning around’, and the world is turned upside down. Conversion is therefore bewildering and discomforting. Yet, it is a sign of illumination, evidence that grace has been given, and that the divine choice has been made. It is a sign of strength. It leads to humility and an awareness of the right order of things.
Moses has been chosen, not his father-in-law, Jethro, or any of the other shepherds. Why Moses? Is there some profound reason that requires some to remain unconverted? Are conversion and lack of conversion both part of the hidden divine plan?
Conversion is for one’s own good and for the benefit of others. Moses begins the great task of leading his compatriots into freedom.
The light of conversion grows every brighter, for there is ever a progress into light as we move further and further into the infinite furnace of love, the burning bush of the Spirit.
C, Lent 3 Contrition
“… unless you repent you will all perish…” Luke 13:3
The Olympic Games in Sydney were outstandingly successful. One of the most surprising moments occurred during the closing ceremony when the members of a rock group showed the words clearly written on their clothing “Sorry”. It was profoundly impressive, for they were expressing the thoughts of great numbers of Australians. It was a moment of courage and honour. To say sorry is honourable; to admit to one’s sin is to start to be free of it.
Thus, our ceremony in Holy Week is a moment of freedom. It is a purifying act like Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when the Jewish people gather to confess their sinfulness in preparation for the celebration of their New Year; or like the month of Ramadan when the Muslim community fasts from dawn to dusk as a sign of repentance.
We say sorry not just for the sins we can remember but for the many sins of which we will never be aware. We are sorry for our sinfulness. We say sorry for the sins of our Church: for the excommunication of the Orthodox, for the excommunication of Martin Luther, for the condemnation of Galileo, for the inaction of the bishops during the Second World War. We sorry to God for the sins of past and future generations. To God and to all who would hear us, we say “Please forgive us”.
Then we will hear the words of the celebrant, which express God’s forgiveness. Listen and believe. Hear them and let them penetrate. Let them heal the spirit and convince the heart. Let them lift the weight of guilt and impart the freshness of new life. Then we will celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection, our minds and hearts renewed.
Only the strong can say sorry, because only the strong can face reality where light and shadow mingle. Only those who know themselves as essentially valuable can acknowledge their imperfection. To apologise is not to diminish oneself but to become worthy. Contrition is regret at the waste, at the opportunities lost, at the burdens heaped upon others. It is the confession of dreadful isolation, of happiness undiscovered, of love unknown. It is a recognition that the whole world stands in need of salvation and an acknowledgement that even the most heinous sin can be forgiven. Contrition is an admission of the need for forgiveness. It is an act of humility and an act of praise. It is regret at confusing the non-self with the true self. Compared to the contrite heart, the well-oiled faces of the rich and famous look ridiculous. Contrition pours out and cleanses the heart but what counts above all is the new-found wisdom that leads to contrition and surpasses it.
The Christian says sorry not only for personal sin but also for the sin of the world so that forgiveness might come to all.
“… dig around and manure it …” Luke 13:8
Tears are shed for lost time and wasted gifts, for lost love and lost opportunities to love. We are sorry for the stubbornness that accompanies ignorance. We are sorry for the sins we know and for the sins we don’t know, for the sins of commission and the sins of omission. We admit our guilt, and apologise, accepting responsibility for our own sins and indeed for the sins of the world. We have preferred ignorance to truth, our own desires to the impetus of the Spirit.
But conversion is the moment of recognition, and coincides with awareness of greater opportunities. Things can now be done that were unimaginable before. New avenues of activity open out before us. Sorrow is life giving, like the manure put around the trees to make them bear fruit at last.
Our contrition pours out of the heart, but was first placed there by the Holy One who is sorry for us as we are sorry for ourselves. His compassion for us makes us compassionate towards ourselves and brings us to our senses. We are truly sorry because God is sorry in us and for us and for all who have been injured by us. He inspires us with his sorrow for all mankind as they cry out to him for salvation.
Our contrition is a sign of divine favour. The moment of contrition is a movement of gladness, since doors open to the truth. Contrition is recognition in the first place of the goodness of God. Therefore, only those who have some knowledge of the living God can be contrite. The knowledge of the living God is empowering, a balm that soothes and restores. Therefore, the penitent has the strength of heart to resolve not to act in the same way again. The words of contrition bring into the open what lay hidden and unadmitted.
As the penitents declare before the priest that they have sinned, they are already being loosed from their sin. The priest is glad to hear the admission because he realises that God has been at work, leading from darkness to light. God is working in them, and it is wonderful.
C, Lent 4 Penance
“… his father came out to plead with him ….” Luke 15:28
Did the older brother go into the feast? Did he have a change of heart and become like his father, rejoicing that his brother had been found? Did he recognise that he too had sinned, not in act but in mind? For both sons had sinned and were unworthy.
The younger son had returned expecting to spend the rest of his life in penance, losing his position and being treated as a mere servant. And this would have been right, for to every sin there is the appropriate reparation. Punishment is cherished, for it redresses the balance. Every crime requires its proper retribution.
The father and all the servants rejoice at the return of the prodigal son. What counts is not the punishment but the return. O happy fault, eclipsed in the feasting and dancing! At last, if only the elder son comes in, will harmony and happiness be restored. Rancour will give way to the unity intended from the beginning.
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” Luke 15:18-19
Sin is the disturbance of the destined order of things. It comes from ignorance and pride. It introduces darkness and inertia, turmoil and sterility. It prevents the world and humanity from radiating the light of truth. It is an offence, therefore, against the Creator and the created.
Only a higher order can correct disorder. Darkness can be overcome only by the enlightenment of grace, that moment when truth and lies are both revealed. Only by the light of the divine Spirit can the human spirit recognise its darkness even as it comes into the light. That restoration is the process of penance.
The young man comes to his senses. His folly had made him worse off than the pigs: he wished to eat their food, but no one gave him anything. He must return home and confess his guilt. He must repair the damage. He will do penance by a life of servitude.
The whole Church is paying for the abuse of children at the hands of some priests and religious. The whole world is doing penance for the crimes against the Jewish people. The colonial powers are doing penance for the sins against their subjugated peoples. Muslims are doing penance for the crimes of a few extremists. If penance is not done, the sin is not resolved. Every wrong requires its proper redress. Reparation must be made.
Jesus did penance for the sins of the world. The Church is able to do penance for the sins of the world, because it has the strength of Christ in it. The Church is always essentially penitential.
C, Lent 4 Reconciliation
“The father said, ‘My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it was only right that we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.’ ” Luke 15:31-32
Both sons have turned against their father: the younger son by his acts of debauchery, the older son by his resentment and jealousy. Both have distanced themselves from their father, both have been lost. The younger son has come to his senses and returned home, but the older stays outside, bitter and accusing.
Reconciliation occurs when antagonists recognise their folly and acquire one heart and mind; when each feels the other’s hurt; when each recognises that the other is their very self; when they draw close and rejoice in each other’s presence.
Only then, as in the parable, do they really become children of God and discover him. They take on his character, and all is one. The whole world is then filled with music and dancing.
Reconciliation between the two brothers has not yet been achieved. The elder son stays outside. Did he ever go into the feast? Did he ever realise that he too was as fully a sinner as his younger brother?
Reconciliation is not a settling of accounts but the act of bringing all things into reason and into that higher order than surpasses reason: the forgiveness that the father shows to both his sons. There must be no rivalry, no jealousy, no competition, no greed, no possessiveness, no uncontrolled desires, no craving, no enmity. Such is the kingdom of heaven when all is brought under the rule of holiness and the bond of charity. When will the older brother enter into the banquet hall and embrace his brother?
Reconciliation is needed between the Christian Churches; between religions; between the warring cultures. Reconciliation is needed between the original inhabitants of this land and the more recent immigrants.
We desire that peace and clarity where we can look at others and see the divine in their humanity, where the fragmentation of time has ceased, and all becomes an eternal present; where there is no dualism, separating heaven and earth, God and man, nature and grace; where there is only one mind and heart in all things; where the bond of charity permeates life.
Only in the overwhelming shock of the crucifixion can this fullness of reconciliation be found.
C, Lent 5 Expiation
“Jesus was left alone with the woman.” John 8:9
They bring the women caught in adultery, and put her in full view of everyone, but it is Jesus they wish to humiliate. They are ready to stone her, but it is Jesus they will have scourged and nailed to a cross.
He is happy to take on himself the blame that attaches to the women. Indeed, he wishes to take on himself the punishment that is due to all mankind. He wants to be with them in their sin and to deflect onto himself the infinite anger of the infinite God.
Isn’t this intolerable? What loving God can require expiation? Yet, justice requires it. Balance must be restored. Even so, something else must take place, something unheard of.
So, Jesus writes on the ground and traces out the new commandment: he must be with the guilty and thus make their guilt irrelevant.
He is not afraid of being considered impure and remaining alone with the women. He is the true lover. He is triumphant, for he shows the extent to which love will go. He reveals how much love can endure, for love is best seen in its ability to love the unlovely.
Did she sin again? If she did, how profoundly wounded she must have been, how weakened. If she did not, her sin was indeed a happy fault, for it provided the opportunity for a remarkable revelation of love. Thus, her sin is turned to good and made worthwhile. From the ugly scene a torrent of grace flows out. Over the closed minds of Jesus’ opponents, the heavens open and the mind of God is made manifest.
Her false lover had fled when they were discovered and once again she is alone with a man who bends over and draws on the ground. The tables of stone on Mt Sinai declared “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. Jesus writes a new commandment “Love one another”.
Jesus brings justice to all mankind. He does so not by retribution but by communion. He grants forgiveness in place of condemnation; he forgets sins past and is present to those who have lost themselves; he perceives their unbounded potential, unlocking the fountains of life that are blocked, finding beauty in the repulsive, trusting the untrustworthy and hoping in the hopeless, being faithful to the unfaithful. In this way the injustices of the past are justified, turned to good and made eternally valuable, becoming the context of divine grace. Out of the wounds the Spirit pours in torrents.
Jesus is the true lover whom she had sought unbeknownst to herself. The false lover had shamed her but Jesus re-establishes her honour. She is the new Eve with the new Adam in the new paradise. Her sin is not just forgiven; it is made valuable.
C, Passion Sunday People of the Passion
Jesus walks the path of the cross. The crowds press around him, the soldiers push him along, but he is alone, terribly alone. He is thrown out, like rubbish, crucified outside the City gate. His own disciples, the leaders of his people, and the Roman governor: all have rejected him. Even God has abandoned him.
They are against him but he is for them. They are unfaithful to him but he is true to them. He will be stripped of any dignity and lifted up into the nowhere between earth and sky, but he gives his life and his blood.
Jesus is able to endure because he is whole and entire, with no trace of selfishness. He does not cry out for mercy, he does not plead or writhe. Perfectly at peace, he is able to spread peace. He can be torn apart because his heart is undivided. He collapses and falls, but can continue because of the strength within. At one with the One, he brings all into unity even as he is destroyed.
Herod the Tetrarch has made fun of him; Pilate has condemned him; the mob has called for his crucifixion. Only the women of Jerusalem weep for him. Rejected by all, he is made available to all. Abandoned by all, he enters the human condition perfectly. Removed from the face of the earth, his love becomes visible to all.
That day of horror is therefore made good. Of all the days in the year, that day is called good. Its terrors have revealed the hidden power that is in him. That day has broken open the reserves of grace in him. He has been brought to his truth; he has revealed the truth about humankind and about the One who sent him. It is the Good Friday.
Jesus accompanies us in our difficulty. He has walked our way and we are not alone. He is the one who brings us to our integrity. He gives value to our suffering. He makes the evil that falls upon us become a greater good. He is the force that conquers all. Here is the power of one.
Who is guilty of the death of Jesus? Is it the Jews, the Romans, or Judas Iscariot? No! It is primarily God. It is God who hands Jesus the cup of suffering. St Peter acknowledges this when he declares: “Neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold (Acts 3.17); [Jesus] was put into your power by the deliberate intention and foreknowledge of God”. (Acts 2.23) The Romans think they are in control but they are mere instruments. They have political and economic power, but the work of redemption is done by the Jewish People, the Holy Nation, the Kingdom of Priests. The drama of salvation had to played out in Jerusalem, the Holy City. The protagonist and the antagonists had to be Jewish, for salvation comes from the Jews. This is their great honour.
Some are for Jesus, others against, most are uncertain or indifferent. They represent the human heart, divided and unreliable. Even among his disciples there is discord. All humanity needs conversion; all need redemption, Jews and Gentiles alike. All need to turn away from the Caiaphas within and towards the Jesus within, Jesus who is the Holy One of God who is supremely holy.
Only God can fully know God, and only God can fully reveal God. God alone can be a sacrifice worthy of God. Again, only a human can speak fully to humans. The Word of God must therefore be both divine and human. Furthermore, Jesus wished to know the height and the depth, the full extent of good and evil, so that there should be on earth one who has the fullness of knowledge, the God-man, the true Teacher of human kind. So, he chooses his death and enters it freely.
Only the torture of God can make us refrain from the maltreatment of fellow human beings. Christians stand amazed at the Passion of the Christ and in their amazement treat all with infinite care, never inflicting pain in word or deed. Christians cannot turn away from the pain of the world but accept a universal responsibility. Christians rejoice with all and suffer with all; rejoicing to know the height and the depth, eating at last from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
C, Holy Thursday Feeding
“… every time you eat this bread and dink this cup …” I Corinthians 11:26
The Spirit has been poured into us in great torrents making us able to make food, to give food and to be food, for the Spirit wants to see the finest food placed on the tables of the world. The Spirit who drove Jesus to fast in the desert also drove him to give himself as food. The same Spirit compels the Church to do the same, century after century, until the world takes part in the eternal banquet.
The Christian community throughout the world gathers this evening to remember that night when Jesus, the Pure One, freely gave himself as food. The Church, the Body of Christ, makes the Body of Christ and eats the Body of Christ and so truly becomes the Body of Christ; for we are what we eat and we eat what we are.
We gather here tonight to feed of each other, so that the mind of each is the mind of all, each seeing with the eyes of the other, one mind, one heart, one body, we the Parish with thousands of eyes, so that we can see from every angle and eventually come to know the mind of God.
For we do not simply commune with Jesus alone. In receiving him we are received by the Father who sent him. In becoming one body with him we become one body with each other. In communion with his body, we commune with each other bodily. This is shocking and satisfying, for only body can be food to body, only blood can quench the thirst. Body needs body, blood seeks blood.
Jesus, the faithful and reliable friend, does not lose sight of his inner nature. While all else comes and goes, he says “I am”. He is present to every situation today and presides in silence over the cycles of history. Because he is the stable centre, the hub, dependable and true, the whole of creation spins in joy around him, creation dances for him, and the Church radiates from him.
“…he then poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet…” John 13.5
Only the holy can make things holy. Only the clean can make things clean. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were unable to purify, for the blood of animals was only partially pure and prefigured the purest blood, the divine human blood.
Out of the purity of his motivation – to live in communion with pure and impure alike – Jesus makes all things pure. So, he washes his disciples’ feet that are gnarled and cut, bruised and soiled. He does not fear to touch them. In associating with the impure, he cleanses them.
This purity is fulfilled in his supreme sacrifice, when all is consumed in the fire of love, leaving no trace. The tomb is empty, for the Christ is the burnt offering wholly consumed.
Christians enter the cleansing waters of baptism. And when human weakness leads them into sin, the tears of sorrow, inspired by the Spirit, are another baptism, cleansing the soul by the sacrament of penance.
Those who are impure fear to touch what is pure because their impurity increases thereby. By contrast, Christians, when inspired by the Spirit, do not fear to come close to what is unclean: to the soiled emotions, the dirty thoughts, the filthy acts. The purity of Christians comes from above and is not impaired by the impurity that comes from below. Christians are present to all, to the pure and impure alike. Washed in the Spirit they wash all things in the Spirit.
C, Good Friday Expiration
“After Jesus had taken the vinegar he said, ‘It is accomplished’, and bowing his head he gave up is spirit.” John 19:30
The soldier offers Jesus the sponge soaked in cheap wine and in return Jesus breathes out the finest Spirit. Every affliction and injustice have been heaped on Jesus and in return he gives the ultimate blessing. Jesus returns blessing in place of the curse. Accounted as a sinner he gives the ultimate benediction. His expiry is not just a cessation of breathing. With his last breath he sends out the Spirit of God onto the earth.
The three women, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala who stand at the cross together with the beloved disciple are the first to receive the Spirit. Of these, Mary who stands nearest the cross is the first to receive, for she had been most intimately associated with him at the beginning and end of his life, with the Word incarnate and crucified.
The same Spirit will be breathed on the disciples on Easter day when they are gathered in fear. The Spirit will be come down on the day of Pentecost when the disciples are gathered in prayer.
Jesus has been stripped of his garments and of every dignity, deprived of every consolation and comfort. He is reduced to the very essence of his being; he is nothing but his very self. The sacrifice of all that he is only serves to reveal who he is. The hour of his death is the moment of his triumph. From the deepest recesses of his being the torrent of the blessing pours out that nothing can hold back.
This intimate connection between sacrifice and blessing is frightening, for it means that all must travel the same path. The moment and the manner of sacrifice are unknown, but the time must come when we accept the call to sacrifice and to blessing. Jesus cries out with a loud voice. It is accomplished and hands over to them the Spirit.
The Passion narrative is extraordinarily rich. Every word and every combination of words give further revelation.
Jesus’ last act, so to speak, is his expiring. Or rather, as the text properly reads, ‘he hands over the spirit’. It is an unusual way of speaking, and it is significant: Jesus is handing over the Spirit to this world.
It is the same Spirit who at the very beginning of creation hovered over the waters of the deep when God said ‘Let there be light’. It is the same Spirit who drove Jesus to confront Satan, who drove Jesus to the cross so that he might breathe the Spirit on the world.
The first to receive this divine Breath is Mary, his mother, who stands nearest the cross. She had received the overshadowing of the Spirit at the annunciation; she now receives the Breath from the mouth she had formed from her own flesh.
Only through the drama of Jesus’ life and death can the Spirit enter this creation. It is in the paradox of being and non-being that the Spirit comes fully upon this world to bring it from death to life.
The Holy Spirit is not just an effect. The Spirit is active and free, the Spirit who is ‘Lord and Giver of Life’, who is the Breath within our deepest breath, the Spirit within our spirit. Indeed, our human breath will become Spirit. And so, we will truly live, with that deep, eternal Breath of life.
By the death of Jesus and his resurrection, a vitality that was unavailable now becomes present in all humanity. The Spirit enters our bodies, and makes them tremble with delight, and rise in ascension. The Spirit shakes our bodies out of their lethargy and makes us move as never before, lifting us ever upwards, taking us into the presence of the One who infinite and inaccessible.
C, Easter Vigil Sanctification
“Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?” Luke 24:5
Jesus is laid in the tomb, inert and lifeless. He had spoken as no one had spoken and died as no one has ever died. He had eaten with sinners and been condemned for blasphemy. He had raised the dead and now joins the dead.
Over this desolation the Spirit hovers, as on the first day of creation when God said ‘Let there be light”. Over the darkness of the tomb the Spirit hovers, and once again the Word stirs, on the first day of the week, on Easter Sunday, the first day of the new creation. The Holy Spirit comes in all fullness to the Holy One of God, invigorating, empowering, and enlivening. The Sprit had overshadowed the empty womb of the Virgin Mary so that the Word became flesh in her. Now again the Spirit overshadows, and the Word becomes present to every time and place, unlimited and unconfined, living and life-giving.
Jesus becomes what he is, invigorated by the approval of the Spirit who comes to him in love, choosing him as the one whom all shall love. He is the Chosen One, the centre of the swirling universe. He is the Holy Place present in every place. Here all authority is present; here every blessing and power are found; here is the place of mystery, opening out onto mystery upon mystery.
Jesus is the place where Christians gasp in wonder at finding the Christ and their very own being. Christians draw close to the Holy One and find their own holiness, so that their every word is the Word of God and their every action is a sacrifice acceptable to God. Here Christians achieve life in eternity even while living in time. In him they find their selves, not separate selves but the one Self.
Jesus is like a casement window opening onto the vast landscape of the infinite God. In Jesus his disciples could see not just virtue but truth, not just the rational but the personal. Here was someone before whom they could bow down in awe, the mysterium tremendum et fascinosum, where all thought ceases to function because it is surpassed. They acclaimed him as ‘the Holy One of God’ because he revealed in his own person, fully and without limit, the Holy of Holies.
And yet Jesus is rejected by all, condemned as a criminal and a blasphemer. How could a man use the divine Name and say “I am”! For this he must be put to death.
How could the Holy God be so cruel to the one who best reveals him? And yet it is in the interplay of life and death, of being and non-being, that God is best seen. The One who transcends all is known in the knowledge of the height and the depth, of good and evil; not just in life, not just in death, but in the contradiction of life and death. And so, Jesus endures this supreme test, and is equal to it for he has the power of God in him; he has the divinity of God. He is able to endure annihilation because he has the fullness of being.
He is, in his human flesh, shown to be both divine and human. In every aspect of his being, in his memory and emotions, in his living and dying, in his intellect and in the sinews of his flesh, he knows the play of life and death and so is transformed utterly. In his whole person he is made holy, because he has been brought to the climax of life and death as only the Holy One can be. Those who are weak and imperfect, who do not have the purity of motivation, cannot endure the pitch of contradiction between good and evil. They are unable to bear the burning fire. Jesus can endure it. And the holiness of the Spirit enters into his whole person, and not only into his person but into the whole of humanity for whose sake he lived and died. All are made holy in the Holy.
Those who can see this world will see Christ present in it, and seeing Christ they will see the Father. They will stand amazed at this world, at every blade of grass. They will experience the fascination and awe that belong to God alone, for all reveals God. Even the killing fields and the gas chambers become revelations of the sanctity of God, for nothing can resist the Holy One.
C, Easter Sunday Glorified
“When Christ is revealed … you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.” Colossians 3:4
God had glorified his name in bringing the Chosen People out of Egypt. He glorifies it again and fully reveals himself by raising Jesus from the dead through the glory of the Spirit.
The Spirit, like the waters of a might flood, comes upon Jesus so he is restored and resurrected. He is now the water-bearer, with streams of blessing pouring out from his heart to slake the thirst of all mankind. The Spirit is like a fire, burning and enlightening, so that Jesus is show to be Light from Light, true God from true God. The Spirit comes upon Jesus bodily so that Jesus body has the dimensions of the Spirit. His body is both physical and glorious, perfectly material because fully spiritual.
Jesus is glorified in the Spirit. The Christian too is glorified. Indeed, the whole of creation is a progression from glory to glory. The planet, floating like an opal in the black sky, was the context where life appeared in plants and vegetation; out of these the moving animals with their faculties of sight and sense developed; out of the animals the human being evolved, endowed with intelligence and heart. It has been a progression from glory to glory, which does not finish with the achievements of art and poetry but evolves further, grace upon grace, so that in the end all is glorified, all is Glory.
C, Easter Sunday The shroud
“Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself.” John 2:6-7
The disciples enter the tomb, Peter first, the Beloved Disciple after him, and they find it empty save for the telling sign of the shroud. Peter, slow to run and slow to understand does not realise what has happened. The Beloved Disciples, nimble of foot and with a mind enlivened by love, understands the teaching of the Scriptures and realises that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The shroud has jolted his mind. It is the sign that points to what cannot be imagined. The power of the Spirit, who comes and goes like the wind no one knows how or where, has rapt Jesus away, bodily and totally.
The emptiness of the shroud shows that Jesus cannot be confined to any time or place, but is universally present. No cloth or tomb of rock can resist the power of his presence. He has gone into the deepest hell and is present in the highest heaven. He is nowhere because he is everywhere.
The Beloved Disciple realises this and knows that he too is now unfettered and unhampered. He experiences the thrill of freedom and universal love.
The Beloved Disciple is the model for Christian who contemplates the puzzling sign of the shroud, empty in an empty tomb. No shroud can bind the Christian. Every truth and every power are given, in heaven and on earth. Nothing can burden the Christian to whom the Spirit has given wings. Sorrow and disappointment have lost their power to weigh down. No shame forces the Christian to put on masks. But all rejoice in their freedom of heart.
The disciples run to the tomb. The beloved disciple sees the shroud but does not go in. Simon Peter, the first of the apostles, is the first to enter. He, the head of the College, is the first to see the cloth that had been placed over the head of his Master, the cloth “rolled up in a place by itself” just as Peter is set apart from the other apostles.
The beloved disciple now enters, sees and believes. What was there about the cloths that bring him to faith? Love sees more easily. Love gives wings to faith. Love could never accept that Jesus was simply gone, dead and finished. Love realises that the love which brought Jesus to the cross must also bring him to resurrection. Love is at the beginning and end.
The beloved disciple realises that Jesus must rise and therefore that the cloths must be left behind. He knows that Jesus was consumed in love and therefore that no remainder, no relic, no visible remnant of his person is left. Love knows that love cannot be held in a tomb, knows that the loving Christ must return to the Love from whom he came. His whole person has been taken into Love, from the visible into the invisible, to the God who is Love.
The empty tomb and the grave clothes are the first of the signs, but the other disciples need more; they must have Jesus appear to them and even eat with them. These sensual men need to be convinced by their senses.
Mary, of course, needs none of this. She needs neither the empty tomb, nor the appearances nor the touch. She knows, for she loves.
C, Easter 2 The Spirit is bestowed
“… he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.” John 20:22
The Spirit is breathed onto the disciples. It is the supreme act of the Risen Lord. Here is the proof that he is alive and active. This is the purpose of his dying and rising, the whole joy of his joy: to emit God himself.
How did it feel to the disciples? A vitality moved in their bodies which no one had experienced before. What tremor of joy passed through them, what thrill of coming to life, what everlasting pleasure? Did they appreciate what was happening in the depths of their being and which continues to vibrate in Church?
The Word breathes forth the Spirit but the Spirit inspires the Word. Inspired by the Spirit the Word took on human flesh. The Spirit drove the Word out into the desert and led the Word to the cross. By the power of the Spirit, Christ was raised to life. The Word grants the Spirit but the Spirit rouses the Word. There is an oscillation, a vibration between Word and Spirit, the one giving rise to the other.
The disciples saw the Lord and his wounds, they saw and they were glad. They heard his greeting of peace and felt the Breath of his mouth. But we are not so privileged. We have not seen and have not felt.
Nevertheless, whenever we feel the Spirit come to us, whenever we feel peace and joy, the thrill of truth, the sense of grace, the empowerment of love and the sense of authority, whatever makes us free with an eternal and transcendent freedom: that is where the Word dwells, for these are the traces of the Spirit and the traces of the Spirit show the footsteps of the Word.
Indeed, this is the intention the Word: that we should find the Word everywhere. He is not jealous or exclusive, for he fills the whole world and everything speaks of him. Some will find their peace and tranquility in the beauty of nature or the inspiring sounds of music. Others will find it in friendship or the intimacy of passion. Wherever inspiration is found there the Word is breathing.
Jesus, the wounded healer, stands before his disciples and greets them, not with blame but with peace. He breathes on them and, as the water and blood had sprung from his side, so now the Holy Spirit comes from his mouth. It is because he embraces the whole world, the living, and the dead, saints and sinners alike, that the Spirit flows from him.
Jesus, who is God, breathes forth the Spirit who is God, for only God can give God. Jesus communicates the Spirit and worships the Spirit whom he emits, for the Spirit is supremely free. He grants the Spirit, but does not control the Spirit for the Spirit is God, and no-one controls God. God does not control God.
So too the Church, which is the Body of Christ, dispenses the Spirit but does not control the Spirit. The Church administers the sacraments but the Spirit freely decides when and where the sacraments will be effective. Just as Jesus and the Spirit work in harmony, so too the Church and the Spirit together bring blessing to the earth.
The First Adam was earthly, the Second Adam is spirit so that the Spirit might come to the earth. Eve was flesh from Adam’s flesh; the Spirit is the Breath from the lips of Jesus.
From his mouth Jesus has spoken words of comfort and condemnation; from his mouth he had cried out in the last stages of dying; from his mouth he breathes the Spirit on the disciples. That Spirit who had descended upon Jesus at the Jordan and had driven him to the cross, now comes upon the disciples. The Spirit had brought Jesus to the fullness of his being, so that the Spirit could come through that mouth into the world. The Spirit forged a path in order to fill the earth in a way never known before. Jesus breathes the Spirit; the Spirit inspires Jesus to breath the Spirit.
Jesus breathes on the disciples and experiences intense joy as vitality issues from his mouth to enliven a waiting humanity. The disciples now have power over heaven and earth, over sin and grace, for they can loose and bind whom they will. They have authority; they have the Spirit who is the author of all things, giving birth to all that is, authoring all that comes into being, from the very first moment of creation to its end. They are to be innovative as the Spirit is initiatory, creative and effective. The disciples have confidence, for the Spirit brings to faith and inspires the confidence of faith. They are calm and quiet and assured, powerful. The Spirit brings them to themselves and enables them to be what they never imagined, the Word in the world.
Jesus, the Holy One of the Most Holy, breathes the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is his great sigh of relief. From out of his expansiveness which death could not hold down, Jesus breathes holiness on the earth.
Jesus who has become the life-giving spirit, makes the disciples spiritual. They do not cease to be physical any more than Jesus ceases to be physical, he who points out the wounds in his hand and his side. The Spirit comes upon the disciples and makes them spirit.
They are fundamentally changed, therefore, at their deepest level, at the seed-bed of their being. The Spirit touches their spirit and makes them spirit. The Spirit touches every faculty and sanctifies it, making it spiritual. Every faculty, even their flesh, is given the quality of the Spirit. They are no longer limited to any time and place but move as the wind moves, filling the whole world, ungovernable. Their body is to reach from end to end and fills every place. They acquire the freedom of the Spirit, no longer constrained by doubts and prejudices, free of addictions and cravings, no longer troubled by concerns of virtue or following prescriptions, free with the freedom of the Spirit of God whom nothing can constrain. They have the freedom of truth, able to know the fullness of revelation, no longer tied to past events or formulations. They become lords in the Spirit who is Lord; they become life-giving in the Giver of Life. They become fire by virtue of the Spirit who is a fire. They burn whatever is not true to the Spirit and warm whatever is true. They are a fire which consumes all that is touched by it, like the sacrificial fire which transforms all into fire, all consumed in love so as to become the Spirit of love.
C, Easter 2 Salvation
“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.” John 20:20
They had loved him as a friend. They had placed their hope in him as the one who would set Israel free. They had lost him and lost faith in him, but now he is found again and they realise they were right beyond their wildest dreams. He is indeed the Messiah who conquers not Romans but every power of evil.
They see the Lord and see themselves. They see him with their eyes and find their own being transformed. They recognise him and they recognise each other. He brings them to their true selves and to himself.
He is the image of God and the image of their future. They now have purpose and meaning. They have motivation and energy, for the Spirit has been unlocked and released. The ultimate power, the Spirit of God, is moving in them. And so, their every word is a blessing and their every act is fruitful.
This is the true nature of salvation.
“Receive the Holy Spirit. … For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, for those whose sins you retain they are retained.” John 20:23
Jesus stands before his disciples and shows them his wounds. It is a dramatic gesture. He shows that he has been put to death but is now alive; that he has been wounded but that his wounds are the source of healing; that has gone through death and that he releases all from death; that he was classed as a blasphemer and the he frees the world from its burden of sin.
He releases us from all our deaths. The loss of employment, the loss of status, the loss of friends and family, the loss of memories, the guilt that weighs so heavily, violence and abuse, the calumnies, the thefts of fortune and reputation: from all these he frees the burdened human race.
But there is more. He breathes on the disciples and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. … For those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, for those whose sins you retain they are retained.” He empowers his disciples. Salvation is not just from sin and death. Salvation is also empowerment. Indeed, Jesus communicates boundless spiritual power, the power to bind and loose, a power not reserved to the leaders of the Church for the work of salvation is entrusted to all Christians.
The disciples see the Lord and are filled with joy. They had lived in fear, but now they are filled with confidence. They believe in themselves because they have received the Spirit. Therefore, Christian is confident, cooperative, energetic, active, peaceful, sure, open. The Christian enjoys a good conscience and feels the effects of the Spirit in peace and joy. The Christian is outgoing and serviceable, forgiving and kindly. The Christian rejoices with an inner security. Humour and the sense of fun are part of the Christian’s attitude to life. Thanksgiving and expansiveness are the hallmarks.
C, Easter 3 Creativity
“Throw the net out to starboard”. John 21:6
Jesus stands on the farther shore but he is still with his disciples. He still leads the Church and makes her fruitful. Indeed, the growth of the Church is the most powerful sign of the resurrection. The Church is alive because he is alive. He is known to exist because the Church continues to exist.
The disciples had worked hard all night and caught nothing. But Jesus says, “Put out to starboard”. ‘Try something new, new directions, something different that has never been thought of before.’ Jesus urges the Church to be innovative and creative. Fruitful change in the Church is due to Jesus who is the creative imagination of God.
There is value in building on the past, but not in just repeating the past. When people come together from different faith traditions, they meet at depth, beyond the images of their faith to the source from which it comes. Going beyond words, they discover the Word, Jesus himself who was made flesh in Bethlehem and risen in Jerusalem. The meeting of different paths does not mean forgetting Jesus, but means discovering him anew.
C, Easter 4 Mission
“The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27
Jesus is sent. He is the Word, and is essentially on mission since every word is directed. From all eternity the Word is on mission, but to whom? He can only be sent to address the Spirit, for the Spirit also is God and God must needs speak to God by means of God. So, the Word reveals to the Spirit the presence and love of the Father.
Likewise, the Word is addressed to all who have been made spirit by the Spirit. The Word becomes flesh so as to speak to flesh. He takes on their nature so as to communicate with them. He takes on their point of view, their words and their customs. The Word is made sin so as to address those who are shackled by sin. The Word must die so as to speak to those caught in death.
Jesus knows the ones who belong to him. He realises they have been given to him because he sees that the Father has already placed his Word in them. He recognises himself in them and they recognise his words because they already know the Word in their heart.
C, Easter 5 Love
“Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified.” John 13:31
Judas takes the piece of bread and quickly leaves the room to go and betray his Master. Jesus then says, “Now has the Sun of Many been glorified”. Why ‘Now’? It is because the process of the passion has begun, the wave has broken, the drama of salvation has begun to unfurl which will lead to Jesus crucifixion where he shows who he really is, for the value of a person’s life is seen in the manner of their death.
In a few sentences Jesus describes his relationship to the Father, the one revealing the other as the disciples look on and try to understand.
Jesus dies out of obedience to his Father and so reveals the One who is beyond all comprehension. In Jesus, God has been revealed as the lover of mankind. God in return will raise up Jesus from the dead and show him to be the Lord and Messiah.
The passion and resurrection of Jesus is the central event of human history, the principal moment, the window onto heaven itself.
Jesus receives the Spirit as his bride, the seal of approval, his crowning glory, the rarest gift. The Father and the Son together love the Spirit, each differently. They conspire to love the Spirit. Out of love for each other they love the Spirit who is the proof of their love. The Spirit in turn loves both Father and Son, for the Spirit is God, and God is love. The very nature of the Godhead unfolds and reveals a Trinity of Persons, each of whom loves and is loved and is love.
Therefore, Jesus turns to his disciples and commands them, “Love one another as I have loved you”. Because God is love, because Jesus reveals that love, love is the ultimate command.
C, Easter 5 Identification
“Love one another as I have loved you.” John 13:34
Judas gets up from the table, leaves the room and goes out into the night. He separates himself from his companions, and rejects his Lord. Jesus immediately gives his new commandment. Betrayal and fidelity stand in contrast.
The ten commandments given to the people at the foot of Mt Sinai are prefaced by the declaration: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. God has the right to command his People because he has saved them. Ten commandments are surpassed by the one command, “Love one another as I have loved you”, which Jesus has a right to give because he has redeemed mankind. In return, God will raise him from the dead as the Lord and Christ.
But notice what Jesus says: “I have loved you”. Yes, he loved his disciples and loves all his disciples. He loves all who belong to him, individually. He loves each of us, not as disembodied persons but our way of thinking and our character as well. He takes delight in our personality and our hopes. He approves of our dreams and our loves. He encourages and supports. He takes into account even our weakness and our sins, and makes use of them, for he is greater than they are. He identifies himself with each of us, because to love someone means becoming that person. With the weak he is weak, with the strong he is strong. He is indigenous among the indigenous, a migrant among migrants.
“Love one another as I have loved you” and still love you each day. When we realise our identity with the Word who is enfleshed in each of us, we will identity with each other, becoming aware of each other, compassionate and sensitive, of one heart with each other, never wishing to break the bonds of union, not fighting or divisive but supporting and encouraging. The more we adopt his character the more we will realise that we are quite simply Christ living again on the face of the earth. He is truly raised when his disciples have become him.
And so, all will know him, all will know that we are his disciples and that he is the life of the world, its origin and end.
C, Easter 6 The Spirit, the Advocate
“I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” John 14.25-26
Jesus had still many things to say but he will fall silent, and once he has cried out on the cross he will not be heard again in public.
New issues cry out for a solution. Who will give us the answer?
The Holy Spirit does not teach as Jesus taught. He spoke in words and in signs; the Spirit teaches by silence and inspiration. He was forthright and public; the Spirit is subtle and secret. He commands and has the right to command; the Spirit gives a freedom and opportunity that are irresistible. He teaches clearly and powerfully; the Spirit offers puzzle and paradox. He is the Truth; the Spirit brings us to the Truth.
Indeed, the Holy Spirit is the messenger who will bring us to the Truth in a way Jesus could not. Jesus teaches us the truth but the Spirit makes us experience the truth. The Spirit does not add to the truth but makes it real.
Under the impact of the Spirit Christians cry out that they now know what Jesus meant because they have experienced it for themselves. Jesus spoke from himself; Christians too know from themselves, having become the Christ.
Careful thought and vigorous debate are necessary but, in the end, good sense, indeed the sensitivity of the Spirit, will lead us to the truth. We need to be informed about the facts, to hear both sides of the argument. Then in freedom of heart and under the impact of the Spirit, we state our point of view. But even then, we ask God to have mercy, for we are weak and ignorant.
The early Christians faced new situations and problems. Under the impact of the Spirit they recalled the words of Jesus and realised that he had given them all that was necessary for human salvation. The Spirit who inhabited them showed them how truly Jesus had spoken.
Christians are reminded by the Spirit, who is the Conscience within their conscience The Spirit makes them see how justified their actions are, how right and true, so that they feel universal and empowered, made strong by the Comforter. The Spirit shows Christians that they not only keep Jesus’ words but are the Word. The Spirit reveals to Christians their inmost self, their true self. They are taken to their very essence. This is the supreme reminding.
The Spirit makes Christians able to emit the Spirit. It is the paradox; by receiving the Spirit Christians emit the Spirit.
C, Easter 6 The Spirit, the Comforter
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” John 15:26
When life ebbs away, who will give reassurance? When doubts assail, who will awaken the truth? Who is it that will seep into the dried and brittle places and soften them? Who will come to strengthen you? Whom do you want to come and never go away? Who will stand by you, and lead you into a land of wonders?
The Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter, the Paraclete will come, sent by the Father.
Today we celebrate the promise of the Spirit’s coming. Jesus was sent and was taken to heaven. The Spirit is sent and remains forever. The Father sends Jesus; the Spirit is sent by the Father in Jesus name, for Jesus’ sake, out of love for Jesus, and at Jesus’ request, to encourage us and lead us to the fullness of truth.
So, the Spirit comes to give new heart to those whose spirits are flagging. The Spirit comes and does not cease to come. When the way ahead is unsure and the past seems to be mistaken, the Spirit unexpectedly shows that all the journeys have been worthwhile. The moments of bleak uncertainty are justified, for God delights in doing what is impossible, and turns sin into grace.
So too, we encourage each other and justify each other; we see the good in the tumult of our lives. We are advocates to each other, not to condemn but to plead each other’s cause. We are paraclete to one another
This is the Sunday on which each year the gospel recounts Jesus’ promise of the Spirit.
Jesus had taught openly in the villages of Galilee and explained things to his disciples privately. He had given signs and shown by example what he was. He spoke with authority from himself and about himself. Now, in Jerusalem, on his last evening, he promises the Spirit whose manner of teaching is different but complementary.
The Spirit rejoices in the disciple who receives Jesus’ words. The Spirit draws close to the one who eats the oblation of Body and Blood. The Spirit delights in him and becomes present to him. The Spirit enables him to become what he most truly is. Every faculty flowers and comes to fruition. The Spirit reveals to him every possibility and inspires every power. His every capacity is enlivened, so that he comes to the fulness of strength and truth. From being a follower of the Word, he becomes the Word. From being a Christian, he becomes the Christ. Becoming his truest self, he holds all things in unity. He comes to the fullness of Truth and is the Truth. He knows everything, having become everything. The Spirit leads him to fullness.
C, Ascension Jesus, the sublime
“a cloud took him from their sight …” Acts 1:9
Jesus is taken beyond sight, and ascends beyond every limitation. There is no longer any distinction in him between thinker and thought. All othernesshas been eliminated. Knower, knowing and known are all one, non-dual.
He rises above all and penetrates into all. He “sits at the right hand of the Father”. It is the ‘supreme penetration’. He is fully present to the Presence and present to every time and place, for there is no separation or absence of any sort.
This is because he has lived as no one has lived and died as no one has died, eliminating the distinction between life and death. Death has brought him to the fullness of life; his life has penetrated beyond death itself.
He does not cease to be physical, but is now spiritual; the divine and human are one. He sees the divine glory with his material eye. All his faculties attain a capacity unimagined. He is alive and life-giving. In his person he holds all in unity and sanctifies all. He is sublime.
“Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.” Luke 24:51
O Lord Jesus, you withdraw because you transcend; you surpass all limitation. You withdraw from our sight, but not from our being, for you remain in your Church. You remain in the company of those for whom you died and rose again.
You are sublime, taken beyond every limitation, every particularity. You fill the whole world; you are not here or there because you are everywhere. Every place is in you and you hold all in your embrace, the good and the bad, the living and the dead. You cease to speak because your word reaches from end to end, resonating throughout the world. You are silent because you are the fullness of speech, not saying just this or that but saying all.
You now withdraw from the human stage in order to be the universal Man. You know the fullness of things; you are sublime, raised to the highest heaven. This entrances us and we cannot but follow you. As you leave we are drawn after you. As you move into the infinite space we wish to fly up with you and to move with complete freedom. We wish to go beyond sound into silence, beyond place into the void, into the no place. We wish to go beyond knowledge into universal consciousness. We wish to go beyond desire into untrammelled love, beyond action into stillness. We want to go beyond me and mine, beyond you and me, where there is only one Self, beyond even oneness, and into Love.
Thus, in the end there is only Love. This is heaven, this is earth; this is neither heaven nor earth. Earth has withdrawn and heaven has disappeared. There is only Love.
C, Ascension Parousia
“Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.” Acts 1:11
The disciple sees his master and discovers his self. He adores his Lord and is absorbed in wonder at his own self. This because the teacher shows himself to his disciple and shows the disciple to himself. The teacher and the disciple are one.
The disciple surrenders to the one who is his true self. He imitates his master and adopts his thoughts and his emotions, for they are the hidden attributes of his own soul. The more the disciple surrenders, the more the image of his teacher becomes apparent to him.
However, the Master leaves the disciple who must now come to maturity and act from his own intuition, becoming master in place of the Master.
The disciple recognises his self and becomes himself. He is true to himself and so can be true to others. God has become present to him and he becomes present to himself, without mask or fear, fully aware and transparent.
Thus, the master has returned, not as an outsider but from within. Who is master, who is disciple? They are one. The one is present in the other, both revealing each other in each other.
The disciple then realises that the Master had never left him.
You have come, come again; come and keep coming. It was wonderful to be in your presence; become present again. Come to us in every way, come to us and transfigure us. Be present to us, your mind to ours, your heart to ours, body to body, life to life.
Make us present to each other because you are present to us. Be present and heal us; bring justice to bear, solving all questions by the answer which you are. Be present to our pain, you who knew pain; come to us and make us able be present to our pain, you who knew pain such as none had known. Be present to our joy and present to our sorrows. Be present and effective, changing things by the power of your presence, so that the whole world joins you in the dance. Project into us the Spirit that is with you and in you.
You have left us, but come again. You who ascended in glory, descend in glory. Incarnate yourself again in our world, immerse yourself again, not into this world of weakness but into the world you have changed by your Spirit, for this world will have been made real by your reality, true by your truth.
You return not to a world that is imperfect but into a world you have made perfect and so we are able to be fully present to you and to each other. In this world we will come to each other and be present to each other, turning to each other because you have returned to us. We will come to each other because you come to us, and you will come to us because we come to each other. You are present, as the conquering hero, the one who holds all things together, the one who gives meaning and shows how this world is to be.
You left by the power of the cross and resurrection. We shall see you again when we have travelled the same road. When we have become like you, when we have become you: you will be present again, not outside us but as us, we as you. You are present to us when we are present to each other without hindrance or ego, without dominance or oppression. We are present to each other because you make yourself present to us.
When we have become the Word, revealing the Word to each other, then you are come again in us who have become the Word.
C, Pentecost Liberty
“… suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven …” Acts 2:2
Freedom is the very foundation of the universe, which exists but is not necessary. Out of his good pleasure God said ‘’Let there be light’’. Out of generosity God said: ‘’Let us make them in our own image’’.
This whole universe could disappear in the twinkling of an eye if God so willed it, for God is free. Nothing governs him. He has no one to answer to. No words can define him. He has no name. He delights in doing what is impossible and probable. Nothing confines him; he knows no restraint. And out of his freedom, he wants to draw us into his freedom.
The sound of a mighty wind enveloped the house; it fills the whole Church and nothing can hold back its power. Thus, the Christian is free of all attachments, without ego, present everywhere, open to all, and without fear. The Christian is adaptable like the waters of a flood that always reaches the sea. The Christian is free in the heart and makes others free. The soul of the Christian is wide as the heavens so that all move without hindrance, like great condors in the sky. Freedom invites to freedom. The Christian smiles because of the inhabiting Spirit. We have an eternally joyful Pentecost.
C, Trinity Sunday ‘And from the Son’
“All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.” John 16:15
The Spirit freely comes upon Jesus as he rises from the muddy waters of the Jordan; for the Spirit loves the Son and comes to him. Jesus in turn loves the Spirit who comes to inspire him. Love arouses love and love responds lovingly to love.
Jesus stood in the Temple and foretold that the Spirit would flow from his heart On Easter Day, as he stood among his disciples, he opened his mouth and breathed the Spirit upon them. Jesus, the Word, breathes forth the Spirit.
What is true of God in time is true eternally. God who is love speaks the Word of love to the Spirit whom he loves. The Father and the Son both love the Spirit who is the Beloved of both, the bond uniting both.
C, Trinity Sunday Indwelling
“Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine.” John 16:15
God looks upon Jesus with love, for he is the Chosen One, not only when he rises from the Jordan or hangs upon the cross, but eternally. God looks upon his eternal Word who so perfectly expresses all that he is. The eternal Son is the perfect image, the perfect reflection as in a perfect mirror so that God cannot but worship him and love him, for God is love.
But love is giving and self-giving. God gives not gifts but the fullness of gift, the one Gift given once and eternally, not some object but the Person. As God brought Eve to the sleeping Adam, so God gives the Spirit to the eternal Word. The First Person’s Gift to the Second Person is the Third Person, who is not some object of exchange but authentic Subject, personal, free, given, and self-giving. The Spirit is given to the Word and is self-giving, for the Spirit too is God.
God is in his gift. The more total the giving, the more totally the Giver is in the gift. Therefore, in giving the Spirit, the Father gives himself to the Son.
Jesus, in receiving the Gift receives the Giver. He delights in the Gift, the perfect Gift that so totally suits, for nothing so suits the Word as the Spirit; nothing so suits the Spirit as the Word. Furthermore, in receiving the Gift the Recipient receives the Giver, acknowledges and praises the Giver. In receiving the Gift, the Recipient gives himself to the Giver who delights in the full obedience.
In receiving the Gift, the Recipient becomes the Gift, just as those who receive Light become Light and those who are in inspired become Spirit. Fire turns all into fire.
Who then is Given, who is Receiver, who is Gift, since all are given and received? If God is love, God is giving, given and receiving, Trinity and One.
What is true eternally is true also in time. The intimacy of the Three is mirrored in the Church. God gives the Spirit to the Church who is Christ’s Body. The Father takes delight in us who are Christ and gives us his Spirit who comes to us freely and with pleasure to give every joy and happiness. As God gave the Spirit to Jesus, so he gives the Spirit to the Church.
We are taken up into the communion of the Three Persons. We live in an intimacy, which is total and complete. If we live in this communion, we can be ourselves and reveal ourselves in all our vulnerability, for there is no judgment or condemnation but mutual acceptance. We have no need for masks and coverings. We receive love and become love. We give love and turn all into love. Loneliness is gone; the intimacy touches the depths of our being so that hollowness and emptiness are gone. We have come to fullness.
The Spirit comes, for the Spirit has the initiative. The Spirit comes and goes as she wills, for she is free. The Spirit comes not empty handed but in fullness, giving all knowledge, bringing to the knowledge of the supreme Christ and the supreme God, bringing us to our supreme truth, our truest self.
The Spirit’s coming is the flowering of our spirit, the upsurging of every delight, the communication of every power, the unfolding of every capacity. When the Spirit comes, we become. The Spirit takes us to herself and leads us to the Christ and so to the Father from whom every good gift comes. Thus, the Spirit and none other leads us to the knowledge of the Triune God.
The Spirit comes and takes us to where we are most truly at home, into communion with the One from whom we have come. We are brought into the Communion, there to commune with the Communion, at home at last, at home with God, at home with oneself, at home with each other, with all those to whom the Spirit has also come. We dwell there, dwelling in them as they dwell in us, present to them who reveal their presence to us. We have come to the complete truth and are silent in the Truth beyond truths, in the Word beyond words, to the Spirit of whom all spirits are the expression, to the God who is all in all. We are completely aware at last, with no shadow of ignorance, nothing unrevealed, in touch with infinity.
The Spirit is able to dwell in us because the Spirit is the most subtle. Nothing can resist the penetration of the Spirit who is completely free and for whom there is no obstacle. She is intimate and receives what is most intimate in us, most vulnerable and fragile, most sensitive and precious. This is because the Spirit is free and does not remove our freedom; she makes us completely free by coming to us, and removing all that weighs us down.
The Spirit dwells in us most intimately because she moves where she wills. This occurs not on the level of understanding but on the level of faith which is the knowledge of things unseen. The Spirit comes in warmth and love, gentleness and irresistible peace, life-giving and exciting, occupying our minds and body, every faculty and organ, inspiring every word and act so that our every word is prophetic, revealing the Spirit and revealing the Word and revealing the Revealer, the One Who Is.
And so, we converse with the Spirit who dwells within, who knows our every thought and who gives us speech. We converse and exchange with the Spirit who comes to us and who proceeds from us, in this vibration of intercourse, being mutually present, mutually exchanging the essence of our inmost being.
C, The Body and Blood of the Lord Epiclesis
“They all ate as much as they wanted.” Luke 9:17
At his last supper, Jesus performed the act that summed up his whole character and purpose. He had already revealed his inmost truth to those who were about to turn on him. Now, to those who are about to deny him he gives his whole self, his body and blood. He is faithful to the unfaithful, true to the untrue, loving to the unlovely. He will go to his cross alone and die, suspended between earth and sky, but at his last supper he shows who he was. It amazes. It reveals the nature of God who is beyond all knowledge.
Christians, therefore, throughout history have wished to recapture this moment as the defining act of their religion. They do so because they are impelled by the Spirit. The priest spreads out his hands over the gifts and invokes the Holy Spirit. He says: ‘And so, Father, … we ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit …’ Without this Spirit words and gesture are useless. And unless they are enlivened by the Spirit vestments and rubrics are just shadow-play.
With a mind that is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Christians are able to pierce beyond appearances. They see Jesus as the True God and the True Man, the village carpenter, the Artificer of the cosmos.
Christians see Jesus and see themselves in Jesus, not as separate but as one being, one reality, one Body. They meet their fellow Christians and realise that they too have come to this knowledge. There is then a movement of intense identification; one becomes the other, merging into each other, being of one mind and heart, of one body and soul. Without losing their diversity, they essentially constitute one Body, one Blood, one life, one hope, one community
Those who constitute one Body wish to commune in one Body. They cannot refrain from taking bread and wine, recalling Jesus and all he stands for, identifying with him intensely, consecrating the bread and wine so that they become essentially who Jesus is.
Only if Christians already have a sense of being the Body of Christ can they sense how the bread and wine cease to be essentially bread and wine and become essentially what they prefigure, the one Christ who is truly the Bread from heaven.
This understanding is not subject to reason; it is knowledge inspired by the Spirit, a secret revealed by the Secret Person who works in the depths of the spirit, the Spirit revealing to the spirit things that only the Spirit can see.
The Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the deep, and creation came into being. The Spirit overshadowed the Virgin, and the Word was made flesh. The same Spirit came upon the apostles at Pentecost, and the Church was born. The Spirit brings to birth and brings all things to fullness of being.
Thus, the Spirit, as the priest holds out his hands over the gifts, brings the bread and wine to their fullness. The bread becomes Bread in the fullest way, becoming Bread from heaven, the Bread of angels, the very body of the Lord who is Bread for the world. The bread attains a state otherwise imaginable. It brings nourishment not only to the body but also to the spirit. It becomes truly bread, fully the Bread, which is the origin of all forms of bread. Ordinary bread, till it is consecrated by the power of the Spirit, remains only a pale reflection. This bread then becomes heavenly Bread, and no longer an echo of itself. The bread unites us to the Bread and we become Bread, life-giving to the world.
The priest holds out his hands but it is the Spirit who raises them and spreads them, for the Spirit freely comes and freely inspires the priest to act freely. He brings about a new creation a new incarnation, a new Pentecost, here in this church building, at this time, bringing the Church into being anew.
By eating this body, we become Body; by eating this Bread, we become Bread for the life of the world. The Spirit comes upon the wafer so that it becomes the Bread. The Spirit comes upon those who receive this Bread so that they too become what they are called to be, the Bread of heaven. Likewise, for the wine. It becomes the life-giving blood and turns those who drink it into Blood-brothers, united with each other in the one Blood.
C, Assumption: Pregnant
“Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke 1:42
Mary travels the length of the Holy Land, from her home in the north to the house of Elisabeth in the south. She identifies with the land of her people and with the whole world. She is of earth and earth is of her. She presents no obstacle to creation, for she is without opposition to heaven.
She is available to all since she is confined to none, virginal in mind and body. She is the fertile field that calls down the divine Seed. Approachable, utterly attractive how could she not be loved? How could heaven resist her? She has the irresistible power, not of coercion but of attraction. Her openness brings heaven to earth and so she becomes pregnant, bearing the Word in her womb, sanctifying the land with her every step, giving birth to eternity in time.
Identified with the earth she brought heaven to earth but now, as Ark of the Covenant, dwelling in the sanctuary of heaven, she draws earth to heaven, pregnant with the world to come. She is the gateway. Her flesh is the portal by which heaven comes to earth and earth reaches to heaven. She is the supreme birth-giver. Her flesh now glorious brings all flesh to its fulfilment. She is universally pregnant.
The woman blessed among all invites the best from each and shuns what is unacceptable. She enchants with her smile and is terrible in her frown. She inspires all to become the Word so that she might receive the Word anew. All wish to be worthy of her and to become themselves. Most beautiful, she brings all to their truth.
C, Assumption: Mary and Ecumenism
“Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” Luke 1:43
Mary declares she is the handmaid of the Lord. Is she therefore subservient? She states that she is virginal. Is she therefore repressed and without character? She is without sin. Is she therefore unreal, unattainable?
The place of May is problematic in the Church today. There is a need to rediscover the real Mary and to abandon the distortions of the past. The Protestants have been right to question the exaggerations of Marian devotion.
The old woman, pregnant with John, hears the voice of the young woman pregnant with Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she speaks the mind of God in prophesy. This is the woman blessed among all women, the Mother of the Lord, the woman who believed.
The Catholic and Orthodox Churches have always celebrated Mary’s primacy: she is blessed among all women, blessed beyond all men. From the first moment of her existence she was free from sin such that her whole life was integral and consistent. Independently of any man she gave birth to the Christ, the Son of God. At the end of her earthy existence she was taken body and soul into the fullness of glory. Thus, at each stage of her life, as a fetus, as a young woman, as a crone, she is venerated in solemn festivals.
However, Mary will regain her place only if she is seen as the symbol of the Spirit and like the Spirit is seen to be free and freedom-giving. She is independent and moves as she will, just as the Spirit comes and goes, no one knows how or where. Just as the Spirit is equally God with the Father and the Son, Mary is not subservient or a mere tool. She takes the initiative, she is inspired and inspiring. Mary’s role in the Church can be appreciated only if the person and role of the Spirit is rediscovered.
She is the prophetess, bringing the Word into the world. She is priestly, standing by the cross as the sacrifice is enacted. She is Queen of apostles and prophets, Queen of heaven and earth.
She is indeed a creature born in time. However, God, in Mary, best shows his divinity, doing things improbable and impossible. What was not becomes Mother of God.
C, Baptism of the Lord Inspiration
“… heaven opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily shape, like a dove.” Luke 3:22
Jesus has gone into the waters of the Jordan and now stands on the bank, water steaming from his head, onto his shoulders and down to his feet. And then the Spirit is seen to descend and hover over him. He had entered into the waters of death and now the Spirit comes to inspire him. The baptism is the moment of inspiration.
Jesus is driven powerfully by the Spirit into the desert and into his ministry, for he cannot resist the Spirit to whom his whole heart is open, the Spirit who moves freely and uncontrollably like wind and fire and water. The Spirit awakens him so that he realises what he has always known: that he is the Chosen One of God. The Spirit descends freely from heaven and enters his mind so that he will proclaim good news to the poor. The Spirit arouses strength and energy and power in him. The Spirit, who descends bodily, inspires him in his body so that he will give his body for the life of the world. The Spirit will call him to the cross so that from his being the best essences might flow, his blood poured out to heal and nourish.
Jesus is at the disposal of the Spirit and disposes of the Spirit. Jesus surrenders to the Spirit at the Jordan and gives the Spirit to whom he will, projecting the Spirit into his disciples so that they can see him in the depths of their being and believe in him and perhaps understand, and receive the power of the Spirit who moves in them with equal freedom.
The heavens open, and the Spirit descends. It is the mark of favour from the One who declares ‘This is my Son, the Beloved.’ The Spirit comes, not as some instrument or tool. The Spirit comes as Person, for what greater gift can there be from one person to another than a person who is given and received in all freedom? The Spirit of God is given, not as an object but as a subject. The Spirit comes, not by coercion but from the Spirit’s initiative as well, for the Spirit is free and moves as the Spirit wills and is given as the Spirit wills.
The freedom of the Spirit and the freedom of the Father coincide: it is the one freedom. The Spirit is freely given and is freely received. Jesus, with the authority of the Son of God, projects the Spirit, for his reception is active, not passive. Thus, the inspiration comes from the Three. The Spirit is given from the Three: from the Father who gives, from the Son who actively receives, and from the Spirit who is self-given.
The Voice from heaven comes to the Word from heaven. The Voice declares what Jesus is. Jesus is the Word; he hears what he knows he is. His hearing is a self-recognition. He is recognised by the Voice and he recognises himself. It is the one recognition. He recognises himself because he is recognised from above.
The Spirit, who comes from the open sky, provides opportunity. The opening of the skies shows the manner of the Spirit’s action, coming down in all freedom, without explanation, without imposition.
The Spirit comes upon him and makes him become what he already is. The Spirit comes down bodily and makes him truly flesh; comes upon him emotionally and enlivens all the faculties that are waiting to come to life. The divine Spirit joins his human spirit. The Spirit comes down in every way and makes Jesus become in every way. The Spirit freely inspires him to be the Messiah he already is. The Spirit does this not by intruding but by awakening the powers hidden in him. The Spirit inspires him to leave all and to give himself in sacrifice.
How could the Spirit not love the one whom she inspires? How could the Spirit not love the one who gives himself in love? At the Jordan Jesus is inspired by love.
C, Baptism of the Lord Sacrament of Baptism
“He will baptize you with holy Spirit and with fire.” Luke 16:16
For some who have received the sacrament of baptism, water has been poured over them but the waters have not flowed in them. For others, the outer flow and the inner flow coincide. The outer act of the Church is ratified by the Spirit when the baptised produce the appropriate fruit. For the Spirit is free and is not subject to control. The Spirit moves freely and spontaneously and motivates now this one, now that one, differently or not at all. The external baptism remains a ‘dead letter’ unless the Spirit inspires.
A person who has come to faith and in whom the waters of the Spirit flow will seek baptism at the hands of the Church and be acknowledge externally. The interior flow is powerfully confirmed. The inside and the outside coincide; each reinforces the other.
We are both private and social; we wish our private conviction to be acknowledged by the community. The external initiation and the internal initiation naturally involve each other. The decision of the Church and the choice of the Spirit are one in saying to the baptised ‘You are beloved of God.’
C, Sunday 2 The Son delivers
“They have no wine. … My hour has not yet come”. John 2:3-4
At Cana, Mary points out to Jesus that the wine is running out. There is water in plenty, but there is nothing to give joy to the heart. The water purifies but the wine binds the people together in festival.
However, she is speaking about another wine; her suggestion is a commanding invitation to provide the best essences, his very blood. By her faith she brought the Word to birth and by the same power she brings him to his cross. She will meet him there again when he pours out the blood she had asked for.
Jesus realises all this and recoils. Addressing her with the greatest of titles, “Woman”, for she is the truest woman among all women, he promises the true wine even as he delays to give it. “My hour has not yet come”. Mary, full of grace, is terrible in her request. She is authoritative. She orders the servants to do as he commands.
Mary, and all women with her, turn to the Church and say, ‘There is no wine’. The present teachings are true, but do not give joy to the heart. The liturgy no longer moves.
It is especially the task of women in the Church to point out what is fruitful. It is for women like Mary to perceive the need and to call on the Church to supply. Women must demand the finest essences and bring the Church to its passion and resurrection.
It is the marriage feast of God with his people. But they have run out of wine. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is there, with authority over heaven and earth. She turns to Jesus and suggests, indeed commands, that he should find a solution. He is to save the marriage feast of God and his people.
Jesus understands the implications of her request and refers to his ‘hour’, his passion. He baulks at her suggestion, just as in the garden of Gethsemane he will ask that the chalice might pass him by.
Mary does not demur and openly commands the servants to do as Jesus tells them. She is masterful. She seeks the finest essences. She wishes to enjoy the blood; not wine but blood. Wine cannot slake the thirst of humankind; only blood can satisfy and give unending life.
Mary brought Jesus to this earth and wants the finest essence to pour from him: the life-giving force, which is of divine origin. She gave flesh to the Word and now she wants blood from the flesh. She wants his hidden reserves to be made available to all. She wants the life-giving force to spring up infinitely and eternally from that flesh she made to stand on the earth. She delivered once, giving him birth; she delivers him a second time, sending him to his death for she has authority over life and death. He is son of Mary a second time.
So, Jesus orders that water be poured into the large stone jars. Water is poured into them but wine is drawn out, the wine which truly purifies, the blood which purifies best since it comes from the highest love.
If the God of Israel is the bridegroom, Jesus is the Word spoken right intothe earth. He is the link between God and his people. He is the visible expression of divine love. He provides the highest essence, not the semen which produces yet another generation and is tied to time, but the blood which leads to unending intercourse.
C, Sunday 2 Mary provides
“They have no wine.” John 2:3
“There was a wedding feast at Cana in Galilee.” Better still, it is the wedding feast of the world, for human history is the story of a wedding. The millennia with all their array constitute a wedding feast where all anticipate the joy of coming to an eternal union. All the events of history are already an anticipation of intercourse. Every event and every experience are a prelude, a rehearsal of the nuptial act.
Mary enables this to take place. She is present at the feast. She is simply there, as by right, and perceives the problem before anyone else. The wine has run out; the feast is about to come to a sorry end. She turns to Jesus and, without appearing to do so, makes it clear that she wishes Jesus, in fact commands him, to resolve the situation. Indeed, she will direct him to bring the finest wine to the feast: the blood of the passion. She intends to secure the happy ending, the ‘last things’ understood not as death, judgment, hell and heaven but as marriage.
Mary wants the highest bliss to occur. What will give the greatest bliss: not purification which only washes away sins; not the pleasures of the earth which fail in the end; but the blood of heaven? To mingle life with life, freedom with freedom: this is the rapture; this is the highest intercourse. It occurs by means of the finest essence, namely the Spirit, where Spirit mingles with spirit, all becoming Spirit.
C, Sunday 2, Jesus, the bridegroom
“They have no wine. … My hour has not yet come”. John 2:3-4
At the wedding feast at Cana, the bride and the groom stay in the background. It is Mary and Jesus who are in centre stage, the new Eve and the new Adam, the one who is the Woman among all women, and the Man, the Son of Man.
She asks him for wine but really, she is asking for his blood. She has decided that the time has come. Although he baulks at her request, he submits. How could he refuse since she and all she stands for are the purpose of his life? So, he provides the best wine for the marriage feast and accepts to shed his blood, for her in the first instance who will stand nearest his cross. He is the universal bridegroom and it is the Woman, Mary, who calls forth the best in him, his life-giving energy. For her he will lie in death and become the perfect Man. Mary, the Woman, beautiful since she is full of grace, terrible since she sends him to the altar of sacrifice, gives him the opportunity to be the perfect embodiment of Love. He is the Bridegroom because Mary is the Woman.
C, Sunday 3 The Word reveals
“Unrolling the scroll, he found the passage where it is written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord had been given to me, … to proclaim liberty to captives … to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour’. He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down …. Then he began to speak to them. … ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ ” Luke 4:17-21
Jesus opens the scroll and finds the text from Isaiah, which says: “The Spirit of the Lord had been given to me, … to proclaim liberty to captives … to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour”. He then closes the scroll, sits down and proclaims ‘this text is being fulfilled even now’. And they marvel at the gracious words that flow from his lips.
This scene is very beautiful. As he opens the scroll he indicates that he will reveal the meaning of the Scriptures; by closing the scroll he indicates that he is now putting aside the written word because he, the living Word, will speak.
He speaks out of the immense silence of his heart, and words flow in abundance. He reveals his heart in words that come from the heart. Without words the heart remains closed. If words do not proceed from the heart, speech is false. Heart speaks best to heart and silence is heard best in silence.
So, Jesus, who is the Word, reveals his heart to his listeners at Nazareth and they hear because the Spirit inhabits them, the Spirit who has prepared their hearts and given them ears to hear, the Spirit who wishes to hear the Word of love. For Jesus is the revelation of the Father’s love for the Spirit. The Father loves the Spirit just as Jesus loves the Spirit. The Spirit is the beloved of both Father and Son.
So, Jesus speaks to his friends at Nazareth just as theWord is addressed to the Spirit. It is not information. Heart speaks to the heart; silence is communicated to silence, and there is astonishment.
But they will turn upon him!
How odd that God should be born in a stable. How odd that the ancient hopes of Israel should be fulfilled in the village of Nazareth.
Isaiah had foretold the coming servant but what would he really be like? The words of the prophet are a beginning of revelation; the scroll is now rolled up and handed back. Jesus speaks and in the very act of speaking, the revelation is made complete. He speaks from himself, about himself, and draws the people of Nazareth to himself. He has come from them, and now he speaks to them. In Nazareth his very first words reveal the essence of what he will expound in sermons and parables.
And the people are astounded, for they perceive the divine Source of the words. They hear the God of their ancestors speaking through their carpenter. They begin to realise that he himself is the Word God speaks to them. He is the supreme Word, existing before all time and now addressed to them.
And their hearts reverberate at Jesus’ words, for over them too the Spirit of the God has long been hovering. By the power of the Spirit they thrill at the words of the one to whom the Sprit has been given. They hear the Word and rejoice to become the Word. Out of love he comes to speak to them and they in return, as they hear him speak, are taken beyond words into the Love from which he came.
Jesus opens the scroll, finds the text, closes the scroll, hands it back to the assistant, sits down and begins to speak. The prophet had spoken about him; now he speaks from himself and about himself. He does not use just words but presents his whole person. He is the Word made flesh.
Jesus opens his mind and his heart; he holds nothing back. There is no fear, no unresolved issues, no doubts, no uncertainties; every faculty in him is alive and awake. Therefore, the listeners are astounded.
There is revelation upon revelation. Jesus shows what Isaiah had intended to reveal. He shows himself to the people and reveals the people to themselves. He reveals himself and reveals the God who sent him.
As he unrolls the scroll of our own lives, which passages will speak most fully about him? Where can he find himself in us; where can we find ourselves in him? What do we reveal to him about himself? There is revelation upon revelation, unending.
As we reveal each other to each other, we move beyond all human knowledge. It is the perception inspired by the Spirit, calm, unbiased, accurate, unique and indescribable, immediate and immediately convincing.
Jesus astounds the people. Who astounds you, what shakes you and makes you tremble to the core of your being, making your heart swell, giving that energy which calls for wholehearted assent? Who reveals you to yourself? Who makes you overcome the doubts; what is it that allows your personality to flower. This is the ‘prophet’ in your life who reveals the Christ to you. Seize hold of this ‘prophet’, without fear or doubt. Then we will see the flowering of all the faculties. Then we will open to each other and become aware of the One who is supremely open, who is the Void.
C, Sunday 3 The Word consoles
“Unrolling the scroll, he found the passage where it is written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord had been given to me, … to proclaim liberty to captives … to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour’. He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down …. Then he began to speak to them. … ‘This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ ” Luke 4:17-21
Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah and applies the text to himself, “God has sent me”. Jesus comes from the glory of heaven into a world of shame. He who is without sin comes into a world of suffering. He knew marginalisation and humiliation. He was tested and troubled. He was not an alcoholic or addicted to gambling, but he knew pain. He was accused of blasphemy and put to death. He knew pain at its worst.
He takes on pain so as to take away all pain, for he is a consoling saviour. He looks for his sheep among those who cry in agony. He looks for the Spirit who touches them within, for the Spirit knows no bounds and can inhabit the strangest of places. He comes to teach that the Spirit of freedom lies deeper than the damaged psyche. He sees the Spirit in them and defines them not in terms of their wound, to reinforce them in their chains, but to define them as possessed of the Spirit. He does not say that the injury does not exist or that the injury does not fester. He says that there is more to them than that. Out of the impairmentcomes power. To them he proclaims the Lord’s year of favour.
This has implications for us. To all who are troubled, whether through no-fault of their own or indeed through their own fault, we extend the hand of friendship. We see beyond the disfigurement and no longer recoil from it. A time will come when those who are hurt will give thanks to God for their condition and when we too will give thanks to God who overcomes every weakness and triumphs in the end.
Even though all has been present since the foundation of the world, it was mostly kept concealed; the love of God was largely unknown. In the prophecies of Isaiah God spoke but did not speak fully. Promises were made but remained unfulfilled. As a result, melancholy spread over peoples; they lived in a land of shadows.
But Jesus rolls up the scroll of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah; he sits down; he speaks. The long silence is ended. The Word has been made flesh and sits before them, speaking of himself, from himself, in every word and glance and act. In his living and dying, in his eating and sleeping, God speaks to his people. Nothing is held back. The revelation is complete. Prophecy is a forecast of love but Jesus is its fulfilment. All is communicated between God and his people.
So, the people of Nazareth, that unloved village of Galilee, are astounded; they are delighted at Jesus’ gracious words, for the grace of God has been made explicit in him. The long period of uncertainty is over. The time has come; consolation has come, for every revelation is a consolation and every imparting of truth is liberation.
The moment that the heavens seem to open in us, or that spaciousness appears in the heart: that is a moment of revelation, a moment of divine grace. It is to be noted and appreciated as a mark of favour. It is a gift completely beyond our control. For that and reason we give thanks and praise.
From the time of Abraham, the People had been promised a land. They endured slavery in Egypt and exile in Babylon. The prophets had promised them consolation, but still they waited for the promise to be fulfilled.
Jesus proclaims at Nazareth that the long wait is ended. “Today even as you listen”, he says, the promise “is being fulfilled”. He brings words of consolation because he is the Consolation. He is the living presence of the eternal God. It has all been worthwhile, this long waiting, this hope against hope. Something altogether wonderful is before them. At last they can say that God is indeed holy, for he has kept his promise. God has been true to himself, true to his people. They are at last truly the People of God.
Jesus does not console them with property and health, with political success and power, with things superficial and passing. He consoles them with himself. Indeed, his consolation calls them away from crops and cattle to the revelation of God. He takes them to his heart and God’s.
That is the essence. What more can they want? He has turned evil to good and sin into holiness. He gives meaning to their pain, and show them its value. He presents himself, not as the successful warrior, but as the pattern of true freedom. Their wasteland will flourish in ways unimaginable, not stalls filled with cattle but a world filled with Truth.
C, Sunday 4 The Word condemns
” ‘This is the son of Joseph surely’. ‘I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.” Luke 4:22-24
To choose usually means saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’, selecting or rejecting. If ‘yes’ is the only possibility, the choice is hardly real. Jesus likewise knows when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no’. He both reveals and consoles, condemns and favours. If he cannot reject, he cannot choose. If he cannot curse, he cannot bless. If he cannot condemn, he cannot save.
Jesus has revealed his graciousness. At first the people of Nazareth are astonished but soon they speak disparagingly of him. They say he is just the son of Joseph, and that therefore he is nothing special and has no authority. They say ‘no’, but Jesus says ‘no’ to their saying ‘no’; he rejects the rejection. He does not back down, for he is a wall of bronze and a pillar of iron. His words are a two-edged sword that finds the dividing line between spirit and soul. He shows up their ill-will, for truth always shows up the lie; and the Spirit brings into the open the evil spirit lurking within.
Thus, Jesus is a prophet; the Church too is prophetic. We speak the truth, welcome or unwelcome. We speak for those who have no voice, for the marginalized and the disempowered, for the children in the womb as well as the old who have no one to protect them. We protest on their behalf and condemn those who condemn such people to lives of wretchedness. We know how to say no. We will not be silent.
The Word of God is a sword, “alive and active” (Heb 4.12), sharp and cutting, overwhelming and decisive. It affirms the true and eliminates the false. The Word is able to console because it is also able to condemn.
Therefore Jesus, who comes to “proclaim the Lord’s year of favour” (Lk 4.19) does not hesitate also to condemn. His judgment is perceptive and sure. His look sees into the heart of darkness and exposes it. His words are not cant or uproar; they are liberating. His condemnation is not a bruising taunt but the declaration of truth. He speaks his words; he is the Word.
Thus, the Word has immense power. It eliminates whatever is not in keeping with itself. The Word is judge. All things are made through the Word and are based on the Word. All things, therefore, are expressions and manifestation of the primal Word.
Humans are words, as much as they are flesh. Conscience is the first sounding of the Word in the human heart. Its small voice clearly condemns whatever does not belong to the human state. The inspired Scriptures contain and surpass all other words. But all this is surpassed by the Word made flesh.
The people of Nazareth expel Jesus from their village because he gave examples of Gentiles being preferred to Jews. They try to kill him, but he escapes from their hands just as he will one day escape from the tomb.
Jesus gives authority to his disciples to bless and curse. The Church, therefore, has the power and the duty to bless and condemn, to bind and lose, to welcome and excommunicate. The Word is alive and cannot be silenced. So, the Church will first confess its own weakness and hypocrisy, and then speak the Truth. The Church is the Word in the world.
C, Sunday 4 The Word favours
“… and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.” Luke 4:22
God is free and freely chooses those to whom he should address his Word. He commanded Abraham to leave his country for a land of blessing; the words of the Law were given to the Hebrews at Mt Sinai; the prophets proclaimed the oracles. In this way God chose “Jacob the poor worm, Israel the puny mite”, not great Egypt and Babylon.
God favours his People but he is not tied to them. He remains free. He dispenses his gifts as he wishes. There is no law, no rule to bind him. God’s choice is never unreasonable but it is not bound by reason. No one, not even the People he has chosen, can subject him to their will. God remains forever transcendent. Is this unjust? Is it inconsistent? The people whom he chooses are his servants not his masters.
To speak to someone is to call them into one’s presence and to empower them, so that there is but one self. By contrast those who are not addressed see themselves as unwanted, despised, rejected, mere objects and depersonalised. All human beings are God’s children; all creation is beloved of him. He will address all, speaking to all human beings and even calling on the stars.
Jesus comes to the people of Nazareth to speak to them and to show God’s preference for them. They are the first to heard the Word made flesh.
Jesus, however, points out that God has sometimes favoured non-Jews over the Jews, choosing those who are not his people over those who are. He shows who is master and lord. This is hard lesson, and the people of Nazareth will not accept it. They will try to eliminate the Word, but are condemned even as they try. The Word escapes their grasp.
C, Sunday 5 The Word summons
“Do not be afraid, from now on it is men you will catch.” Luke 5:10
For many years Simon and Andrew, James and John have been only anticipations of themselves, but now the Word makes them be. Jesus summons them. He arouses hidden energies and makes them excel beyond their wildest dreams. They will launch into the sea of humanity and catch men and women alike.
The Word is a summoning force. It arouses and inspires; it provokes and calls. It is not domineering, not arrogant, not coercive, for it commands in a way that gives freedom and opportunity. It communicates its power, and brings to the surface the confidence that lay dormant. It is not weak, hesitant and unsure, embarrassed and embarrassing. The Word is confident and gives confidence.
Jesus’ command is heard over the waters: “Do not be afraid.” It is the moment of truth, to which, inspired by the Spirit, the fishermen wholeheartedly say ‘yes’. They become the Word they have heard. The Spirit brings them to birth and they in turn bring the world to birth.
The words spoken either in the Gospel or in the events of life or mysteriously as from nowhere – those words that inspire – are all aspects of the original Word. They have power in them; they invigorate and impel. They have created the past, they also summon the future, making the new heavens and the new earth, the New Man.
C, Sunday 5 The Word gives knowledge
“He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.” Luke 5:3
Jesus sits in the boat and teaches the crowds; Simon Peter and the others sit and listen, perhaps unwillingly at first. They hear the words, they hear the speaker and finally they come to faith in him.
Simon perceives, by the power of the Spirit, that Jesus has a knowledge that does not come second hand, from proof or tradition, but from experience. Jesus is the Word, the mind of God. Jesus is the knowledge that God has of himself.
Simon hears the words and is taken beyond them to the insight they express, and beyond insight to the ultimate Word of which all insights are partial visions. Simon realises that this knowledge comes from beyond life and death, from Jesus’ own eternal heart, and leads to the One who speaks the him, to ultimate consciousness, to Love itself.
In listening to Jesus’ words Simon has already put out into the deep and made his finest catch, the Word itself. Or rather the Word has caught him and he is entranced. He will leave all and follow.
This is the knowledge that surpasses all other forms of knowledge, because it takes us back to our very origins, to the Word in whom all things are made. We come to ourselves in coming to this knowledge. Jesus is the Truth that inhabits all truths.
C, Sunday 6 The Word approves
“Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said: ‘How happy are you who are poor!’ ” Luke 6:20
Jesus fixes his eyes on his disciples and blesses them, for they are poor; they have left all and followed him. He too is poor, essentially poor. He looks at them intently because he recognises them: they are of him, he is of them. He looks at them because he sees himself in them; he sees that they are his very self. He and they are of one substance, one origin and destiny. They constitute one being.
They in turn recognise in Jesus someone who became poor for their sakes, and they are glad to be poor for him. They recognise themselves in him and recognise him in themselves. There is one recognition, for there is one mind and one heart, one being. Same recognises the same.
Jesus looks at them. His recognition is an attitude, a statement, an empowerment. He knows them and finds them worthy since they are from him and for him. He speaks to them and his words bless them, for his approval carries power. It opens hidden reservoirs, and unleashes unknown capacities. The Word creates and recreates. Heaven and earth, the whole rule of domain of God have been given to them. What more can they want?
Therefore, they can be rich or poor, well or ill, honoured or humiliated. It does not matter. They retain their dignity because their self-knowledge comes from beyond this passing world. They are profoundly wealth.
C, Sunday 6 The Word curses
“But alas for you …” Luke 6:24
Jesus fixes his eyes on his disciples. He looks steadily at them because he is about to curse the rich. To some the wealthy may seem blessed by God, but in reality, they are rejected, for they are sated and self-satisfied; their wealth is the fruit of callousness and indifference. They have nothing in common with Jesus or with the God who sent him. The Word made flesh cannot recognise himself in them, for they do not reveal the merciful One.
Therefore, with all the power of the prophetic word Jesus condemns them: “Alas for you”, and passes the sentence: ‘You shall go hungry, you shall mourn and weep, and have no consolation.’ With a word he crushes them. All things are made by the Word, and to be rejected by the Word is to be ruined. His words are the sentence handed out to them.
When Jesus blesses, God blesses; when he curses, God curses. Jesus is God’s self-expression and therefore Jesus’ expressions – his curses and his blessings – are those of God himself. Through Jesus, the God of truth eliminates those who are not of truth. Through Jesus, the holy God eliminates the unholy, and in this way, God is revealed.
The Church, which is the expression of Jesus, can also bless and curse, canonise and anathematise, approve and condemn. Indeed, the Church must do so if it is to be faithful to its Master. This immense power can be misused but it is not therefore withdrawn. The Church can curse but is itself cursed if it does so falsely. The Word is a dangerous power.
C, Sunday 7 The Word gives
“Give, and there will be gifts for you, a full measure … will be poured into your lap.” Luke 6:38
‘To give and give again’ is seen as weakness. Is not this what captured nations are forced to do? But ‘to give’ is of God, for only God can give and give again. He needs nothing and is the source of all. So, those who belong to him will pour out blessings without end and come to their glory: to have the mind and heart of God, his wealth and inventiveness, his creativity and generosity.
However, this is fully possible only in the light of the cross. Thus, to those who humiliate him with a crown of thorns, Jesus gives the honour of becoming children of God; those who rip off his garments he clothes with his love; to those who take his freedom by nailing him on the cross, he gives the freedom of the Spirit. Their very rapaciousness is an opportunity for him to give what exceeds their wildest fancy.
Only those who are of God have the strength and imagination to do this. Thus, the only answer to those who take is to give greater things and so convince them of the value of giving. The giver projects the attitude of giving into those who think they live by taking. He shows himself to be the stronger. Where they take he gives, and so all the world is transformed into gift.
C, Sunday 7 The Word forgives
“Forgive and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6: 37
What are the limits of forgiveness?
To forgive does not mean refusing the requirements of justice. It does not mean approving or accepting. It means replacing sin with grace, error with truth, darkness with light. To forgive means imparting one’s own personality, giving one’s own heart and soul. It means seeing the opponent as an aspect of oneself, for even the Word is incarnate into the world of sin. Forgiveness does not mean glossing over the evil but on the contrary acknowledging it in all its horror. Only when it is clearly perceived can it be properly removed. It means seeing clearly and assessing accurately.
Only God can fully forgive because only God sees with perfect clarity. Only those with the mind of God can forgive. Thus, forgiveness is the means of acquiring the mind of God. Only God has the strength and purity to see beyond evil and to replace it with good.
So, the teacher forgives by enlightening, projecting into the disciple the light of grace, and the energy of the Spirit who is more powerful than the attraction of sin.
Thus, Jesus forgives the paralytic, the adulterous woman, his executioners, and his betraying disciples. Among his most frequent teachings is to the requirement to forgive. As they nail him to the cross, he pleads, “Father, forgive them”. Will the time come when Hitler will be forgiven and restored to the company of human kind?
Who knows the value of an act or its sinfulness? Who knows what good and evil are? Who knows what must be forgiven and what must be praised? These are unknowns. In the end we say simply ‘Lord, have mercy’.
C, Sunday 12 Perception
“But you, … who do you say I am?” Luke 9:20
When you hear of Jesus Christ what do you think? Do you think of nothing at all? Is he just a great thinker and teacher of humanity? Is he a fool? Is he just a cipher on whom Christians have projected the figments of their imagination? Is he just another incarnation of the Invisible? Our perception is all important, for what we see is what we are; what we give is what we are.
As we change, we begin to see Jesus differently. We now say he is Lord of all, but it will be possible to see him as Lord of all only if we see all things.
What is he for me? He is the one from whom all things come and who takes all things to himself. For me he is the universal man, the universal friend, the universal spouse. He is for all; he is all. He encapsulates in himself all things; he is the seed from which the great tree of this world sprouts. Therefore, he finds himself in all things and all things find themselves in him.
What does Jesus see? He perceives all things in himself and stands as the still point of the revolving universe. He knows he holds all human flesh together. He knows that without him there would be no centre to time and space.
We see ourselves as he sees himself, for he is our self. Therefore, we too are able to hold all things in unity. We too take all things to ourselves in a universal embrace. We are the universal lover. All things come to us and come from us. And so, we are a centre of stillness and reconciliation.
Only when we have come to know his paradoxical self can we really come close to him who exceeds all thought. Only in ignorance can we perceive him. Our perception of him finds its fullness in darkness.
Then we are one with him; there is no longer any separation between the seer and the seen. He sees himself in us and we see ourselves in him. The seer and the means of seeing and the seen: all are one. All are one in the Darkness which is Light.
C, Sunday 12 Faith
“The Christ of God!” Luke 9:21
It is a delight to live at the level of faith; it is exciting, invigorating, fully satisfying in a way that knowledge can never be. Faith is the work of the uplifting Spirit.
The moment of faith can be triggered by a word or by a person. But the trigger is not enough, for faith is the work of the unfathomable God.
Faith is the knowledge of things unseen. It is a power which can move mountains. It is a leap into the future and into eternity. Faith achieves what neither action nor reasoning can do.
Faith is placed in the unknown One but also in oneself. Those who have faith in themselves can have faith in others, and vice versa, those who have faith in others can have faith in themselves, for faith binds all together. Faith is the act of identifying with others so that the many are no longer disparate but one whole. I place my faith in them because I am one with them and they are one with me. We move from the dual to the non-dual. In comparison knowledge is a bore, reason is unexciting and action is slow.
Those who recoil from the risk of faith do not plunge into the depths but must remain hesitant before the enticing well of darkness. Those who do take the risk of faith find that every other faculty is drawn into its excitement and is fulfilled. The disappointments of life do not matter.
Because of this they become centres of security and vigour in this world. They give people confidence since they have the confidence of faith. Facts and ideas disappear, not because they cease to exist but because the heart has turned its attention elsewhere.
C, Sunday 13 Discipleship
“I will follow …” Luke 9:57
The man says he will follow but hesitates. His will has not been inspired and affirmed to the extent that he will follow Jesus with all his heart and mind and soul. The Spirit has not given him courage of faith and so he delays. He is a half-hearted discipleship.
It is the Spirit who freely makes this one a disciple and refuses another, for the Spirit is the “Lord and Giver of Life”. The Spirit decides who will decide. The Spirit who is the open Ear gives hearing as he chooses. The Spirit makes disciples, for the Spirit is the perfect Disciple, listening with fully open ear to the Word of Love that comes from Love. The Spirit delights to hear the Message of Love, the Word who is entirely the message that he brings and is the love which he pronounces.
The disciple who clearly hears the Word of Love becomes love and becomes the Word of Love, speaking words of love that have never been heard before. The fullness of discipleship comes from the fullness of love. He or she speaks of love, not only to the whole world but to the Spirit too who wishes to hear words of love spoken in every time and place so that the whole world is filled with the sounds of love.
The perfect disciple follows wherever love calls and wherever love sends. Thus, all become the Word as they have become the Spirit. As they have submitted to the Spirit in being fully inspired, moving as the Spirit moves, following as the Spirit follows, so too they become the Word speaking as the Word speaks. Jesus is thus their master as they become the Word.
There are one Spirit and one Word who together draw all words together and resolve the hubbub of the world, enabling an exchange of the words of love. The disciples love to speak the words of love that spring from love. They are disciples each to the other. Thus, there is a conversation of love where the speaker and the listener speak and listen to the same message, the one message of love of the one God.
C, Sunday 14 Apostolate
“The Lord … sent them out …” Luke 10:1
The Lord sends them out to bring good news, not to cut down sacred trees and deface sacred monuments. He sends them out, he impels them for he too is impelled. He too is an apostle, sent and sending. They are sent to reveal secrets hidden from previous ages and placed at the heart of creation but unknown and untapped. By the Spirit that is in him he drives them, inciting and exciting them.
The disciples set out, not knowing what will come but trusting the Lord who has shown that he knows. They trust him and set out, so that the words they speak are the Word who has spoken to them.
These words have touched them deeply because the Spirit has given them ears to hear. The Lord sends them and the Spirit concurs in the sending. Thus, the Word sent from God and the Spirit coming from God impel the disciples to prophesy. It is the one God who is speaking, pronouncing his Word and inspiring with his Spirit.
The disciples are sent to speak, not as if coming to those who are opposed or foreign but to those who in their very depths know the secret. They are impelled to walk with confidence not as among enemies but as among friends.
This involves a willingness to endure. Only with the power of the Spirit of the suffering Lord can they go out. Only with faith in the one who has been crucified and will be crucified again in them, can they speak the Word. This is their mission, to be the Word in the world, welcome and unwelcome, because something greater has impelled them, the power of the Word who commands them.
C, Sunday 16 Contemplation
“She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.” Luke 10:39
Martha provides food for Jesus, but Mary, her sister, satisfies his deepest hunger: to find a disciple who listens and understands. She is the contemplative. She sits in silence and brings him to speech. She allows him to be who is, the Word speaking in time. She gives him space to reveal himself and the One who sent him. And so, he tells her of his love. She listens in love to the words of love. She listens hot only to the words he utters but to the unspoken depths within. This she divines. In the intimacy of their silence, his heart speaks to her heart; she listens with all her heart and gives him heart. She is focused entirely on the heart from which his words flow. Because of her silence, the Word has resounded upon the earth. She brings him to birth.
In the silence of meditation, the meditator discovers the Word resonating within and coming to the surface in exquisite knowledge. The Word is made flesh anew in the meditator.
In eternity we will at last be able to hear each other. From our hearts, words of love will flow, love heard and love said, one love.
C, Sunday 16 Stillness
“It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.” Luke 10:42
Martha is busy because she loves her Master and seeks his welfare. Mary, by contrast, sits at the Lord’s feet, in quiet and in stillness. She has found the one whom her heart loves. She has found her truth; all her doubts being answered. She is open to him, setting no obstacle to his words. She has been given to him and gives her attention to totally, as he does to her. He speaks and reveals his love which pours out in a clear tranquil stream. She rests in him; he rests in her, for they have found each other. She has come from him, the Word in whom all things find their source; she returns to him, for whom all things are made. She is in him, he in her; they rest in each other, for to rest in the other is to rest in one’s very self. Jesus is Mary’s self. She is his self. One Self.
C, Sunday 17 The hermit
“Now he was in a certain place praying …” Luke 11:1
As crops failed and sickness raged, people realized how powerless they were, and turned to a deity who might save them. Their prayer was proof of their weakness. But with our increasing human mastery over the world, why turn to a god in prayer? Why pray for rain or healing?
The Lord’s Prayer teaches the nature of prayer. It begins with a cry of wonder, “Father”, a moment of knowledge and acclamation, of closeness and intimacy. It is a moment of knowledge given from above, a knowledge of God and of the things of God. Thus, prayer is first and foremost a relationship, a union of mind and heart.
Jesus likewise acclaims in one great cry without beginning or end, once and forever, ‘Father’. He is beyond time and limitation. He needs nothing; he has all authority in heaven and on earth, and therefore it is in exultation that cries out ‘Father’. When, as the everlasting hermit, he withdraws from the world so as to pray of behalf of all mankind, he cries out ‘Father’; and blessings pour down on creation. His acclamation is not a sign of weakness but of power.
The prayer “Father, thy will be done” is not said out of powerless but out of a sense that the Father is first in all respects. Even if we could move mountains by a simple command, we would still pray that his will be done, so that everything should be gift, given out of love. This world becomes filled with love and not just satisfied desires.
C, Sunday18 Success
“But God said to him, ‘Fool!’ ” Luke 12:20
Gown and mitre, blazer and wig: to those who put their trust in these things, the Voice loudly cries “Fool!”
It is Mary of Nazareth who shows the way. She had no status, no political power, no wealth, no education. Yet she is called ‘Queen of Heaven’, ‘Queen of the Angels’, ‘Mother of the Church’, because she brought heaven to earth and takes earth to heaven.
Those who are truly successful know the mind of God and can read the human heart. They have insight into the purpose of life and judge wisely. They penetrate the divine mystery. They embrace the world from end to end, for everyone is welcome to them. This is the success that counts and endures. No one can take it away. Their possession is secure and they are at peace.
“There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, ‘What am I to do?’ ” Luke 12:16
What is success, what is achievement? The ultimate success is to succeed more and more, in a never ending, exponential increase, where one success leads to ever new possibilities of achievement and enjoyment. Where is this form of success to be found?
Spiritual success is the highest, for then we become masters of heaven and earth; every good is placed in our hands. All is given, all can be achieved. We enjoy all that the Spirit brings; we have all the power that the Spirit communicates. The ultimate success is to manifest the Christ in one’s own flesh, and to reveal the Infinite in one’s finite clay. It is found in forgiveness and reconciliation, in the healing of memories, in the ability to raise the dead to life. This is the highest possession, to be possessed by the Sprit and to possess the Spirit. Then can we say ‘My soul, take your rest’.
C, Sunday 23 Father’s Day
“… intending to build a tower …” Luke 14:28
The man procreates, but his fathering has only just begun. He fathers a second time when he brings out the man hidden in the boy, the woman hidden in the girl. It is a second procreating and far more complex.
The father does not use his son to satisfy his own unfulfilled ambitions but helps the boy discover his own destiny and manhood, the girl to realise her dreams and reach her womanhood.
The boy, in idolising his father comes to respect himself; in identifying with his father he comes to know himself. But the boy needs many father-images in order to come to his own self-image.
A time must come for him to ‘hate his father and mother’, so to speak, and choose to be himself. Father, mother, family, culture, class: nothing must hold him down. He must ‘cut the apron strings’, but this happens only if his father gives him the self-confidence to step into the unknown.
The father helps his son to make the break. In fact, he loses his boy so as to find the man, to see before him the true image of himself, the man that has sprung from him.
When the boy has discovered his own maleness, he will value all humanity. The father will rejoice to see his son has become a man; he will rejoice to see his son show that he has truly been a father. He is justified.
And then they realise that there is one God, one Father of them both.
The birth of the child is like the construction of a tower. It is a man’s great work. The father may feel like a god and rightly so, for what is more wonderful than to bring another human being into existence.
He sees in the child an expression of himself and the child in turn sees in his father the image of God. A wise and competent father, protective and caring, is the child’s first educator in faith. And so, the father gradually constructs his child like the architect constructing the great tower that reaches to heaven
But the world too is like a child, for the world is being refashioned in our own image and we will see ourselves reflected in the face of the earth. If it is fashioned according to its own capacity we will become human, but if it is distorted and destroyed we will have become monstrous.
When all is brought to its completion each person will look upon the world and see their own self. Whether they look into the depths of their own heart or out into nature they will see their own being, for creation will have been reborn in their image.
Equally they will see that they have become Christ himself, for whom and through whom all things are made. They will see Christ in themselves and themselves in Christ. They will look upon the world and see Christ, for all will have become new, the one Christ who holds all things in unity.
C, Sunday 23 Technology
“… intending to build a tower …” Luke 14:28
What is the tower we are building? What is the great project, our palace in the skies? What resources do we draw on; what are the building blocks at our disposal? These are great questions. Above all, what is the dream that comes from the heart and the creative hand? What is the vision that has come from the Spirit?
In contemplation, when the soul becomes still, we envision the place where humanity can find a home. Or rather, it is the Spirit who is building her palace out of this world, a spiritual palace fit for her. Here is no lack of imagination, no lack of ambition, for the highest good is to transform not stones into a tower but matter into Spirit. This alone will satisfy the human heart which comes from the creative Spirit and leads to the Spirit. The tower we are building is something unseen since the foundation of the world, but already known obscurely in the depths of our being.
Technology at the service of the Spirit is put good to a good purpose. Technology based on reason alone will become a monster, uncontrollable, and ultimately destructive of the soul, of nature and its resources, turning our world into a place of torment, a field of war.
Christ is the palace that is being built, the complete Christ, the world transformed into the Christ who has come before and comes anew in this way. Technology is the tool by which the Christ will return. And so, God who is beyond all technology is revealed, the One from whom Christ and Spirit come.
The purpose of technology is ultimately to take us beyond technology and throw open the casement onto the Void. This is the ultimate technology: to abandon all technology, all means and plans, and to give way to the One who needs no plans, who is governed by no laws, who is completely free, without calculation and method, who simply is and who make all things be.
C, Sunday 23 War
“… none of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions.” Luke 14:33
The wars on the earth reflect the wars in the heart. Wars against drugs, against dictators: these are the expression of unresolved issues. The outer battle is a reflection of the inner battle. Therefore, Jesus says that his disciple must give up all his possessions. True poverty is the only solution to war.
A just war has become virtually impossible, given the vast and unjust impact it must have. The jihadthat must come first is the struggle against the unruly passions of the soul. It is also against ignorance and hunger, loneliness and distress of every sort. This is the war that must be fought, so that there might be that peace on earth which comes from peace in the heart which itself comes from the faith which in turn comes from the Spirit.
This is possible only if there is true poverty, when people have given up the unjust desires that occupy the heart and disturb the hand. Only with the poverty that is found in the darkness of faith can we achieve that peace which brings an end to war.
C, Sunday 24 Wealth
“A man had two sons ….” Luke 15:11
The old man is immensely wealthy but cares nothing for his wealth. He cares only his sons and their relationship. The two sons, by contrast, care nothing for their brotherhood; both are unworthy sons of a generous father. They think only of their stomachs, to fill them with the food of pigs, or with the meat of a fattened calf. Yet it is only relationships that can fill the heart. The belly can go empty if the heart is full.
The old man’s wealth becomes a sign of love for his boys. To the younger he gives from the folly of love, aware that the boy might waste it. To the elder he says “All I have is yours”. He gives away all his wealth because he gives himself completely to those who mean everything to him. All he wants is that the sons should rejoice and be glad in each other. Yet he is repaid with dissipation and anger.
Some wish to fill their wallets because their hearts are not filled with the presence of God. Their mouths are stuffed with food because the words of truth have not entered them. Greed is a proof of dissatisfaction. The Christian proclamation is not a gospel of prosperity but a gospel of impoverishment. Only the poor in spirit are wealthy. Only the rich in heart can become poor. That is why the old father can give away all his money. He wants nothing because he is everything.
Yet wealth is good. Food is necessary and gives joy, opening up hidden reserves so that the heart knows God and gives thanks. The Spirit is the ultimate wealth.
C, Sunday 24 Wonder
“He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.” Luke 15: 21
Does God exist? There is a simple way to find out: “love your enemies” and “eat with tax collectors and sinners”, for God is known to those who do the acts of God. Proofs can be given but they do not satisfy. They can convince the mind but not the heart, for the heart wants evidence.
The hand measures the size of things but the heart measures the heart. The eye can see the stars but only the inspired spirit knows the Spirit. Science can answer scientific questions – how far is the earth from the sun, how reap better harvests? – but cannot say what is the meaning of life, what is good and evil, what happens after death. To know God, one must have the mind of God.
Jesus comes eating with sinners, forgiving those who crucify him. He is the wonder that upturns human thinking and opens human minds. Miracles may occur, but Jesus is spell-binding and provides the courage to welcome the unwelcome and to love the unlovely. He is the wonder, revealing the divine wonder and our own wonder. And we gasp. He cannot be explained. He does not come from earth with earthly thoughts but from heaven and, dwelling in the divine heart, reveals the heart of God.
He and those who imitate him are surprising and attractive: all are drawn to them. It is the compassionate who convince the human spirit.
C, Sunday 25 Aid
“…use money …. to win you friends, …” Luke 16:9
The title ‘Christian’ has been hijacked by the fundamentalists. They show the worst features of enthusiasm, self-righteous and domineering, with a fist of iron beneath the velvet glove.
The Gospel is not like that. It is best proclaimed in courtesy and clarity, with forgiveness and service, for God is Light, with a radiance that does no fail or flicker. His is a generous light, secure, with healing in its rays.
Likewise, Christians are able to give and give again from the unfailing store of wealth within. The more Christians give, the more they have to give. The more they forgive the more they are able to forgive. Christians can be rich or poor, honored or dishonoured because their value does not come from outside but from within.
The steward has been found out. He has been wasteful with his master’s property. He is a symbol of humanity, for world’s resources are being consumed at an alarming rate. Time is wasted. Opportunities are wasted. The richer nations of the world are increasing their wealth at the expense of the poor nations.
But humanity is being called to account, like the steward.
C, Sunday 26 The poor
“There was a rich man …. at his gate there lay a poor man …” Luke 16:19-20
The rich man sits at his table, magnificent in his clothing, magnificent in his food. The servants would have scurried around, the guests would have flattered his ego and he would have thought that he was blessed by God. Yet he is the fool, living a life of illusion, for he ignores the poor man at the gate.
The Christian mind does not accept narrowness of heart; it is universal. Knowing the life and death of the Lord, the Christian is universally present. The Christian does not divide the world into ‘mine’ and ‘thine’; and on seeing someone in poverty does not turn away but says: ‘You are my very self. Your condition is mind, and I am with you. Let me share your sorrow that we may both reach our destiny, for only in sharing joy and sorrow can our happiness be complete.’ Only then will God be known fully.
The rich man is callous. He is caught up in his own success. But Christians are moved by the Spirit and acquire boundless sensitivity. They become what they see. All lives become their life and they relive the innumerable generations of human kind. Through infinite compassion their being experiences the variety of heaven and earth; they become infinitely expansive. Then the one God is known.
The rich man wears the finest clothes and eats the best food. He and his five brothers seem blessed by God. But all this is illusory for their hearts are corrupt and their minds are closed. They cannot even see the poor man at their gate. Already a great gulf is set between them and the beggar; between them and the God of justice. For God is just and demands justice. The unjust are condemned, eventually. The oppressed are saved, eventually. Balance and fairness are demanded.
No one should be either too rich or too poor. Benefits are given to some so that they might be shared with all. Only on this basis can there be a culture of peace. The inequitable distribution of goods leads to division and war.
The Christian knows the life and death of the Lord, knowing how to be rich with the rich and poor with the poor. The Christian is one with him who is beyond life and death and who is discovered in simplicity.
Lazarus lies at the gate, unnoticed. Only the dogs pay any attention to him. The rich man has everything he wants, food, fine clothes, the illusions of blessing. Even in hell he is only thinking of himself.
The rich man is unable to sit with Lazarus in the dust, to join him and befriend him. Jesus, by contrast, does not reject because of poverty, does not divide between good and evil, pure and impure. He has a universal heart.
Jesus tells this story in order to shake people out of their complacency, to create in them a heart that does not distinguish and refuse. Only the rich in heart can be poor.
There are many who are like Lazarus, without food, without education, without hope, without company, discarded by all. They will be taken to the bosom of Abraham just because they are poor. All barriers and divisions must go. We will already be in hell if we do not share the condition of the poor.
C, Sunday 26 Leisure
Work and leisure go together, one allowing the other, one needing the other. We produce the good fruits and we enjoy them. This is good. Leisure allows the mind to unfold and hidden capacities to be explored. Leisure is a means of coming close to the God for whom work and rest are the same, for his work is effortless and he enjoys the work. He does not cease to work nor does he ever need to rest.
This is quite different from those who are slaves both in work and in leisure, slaving all the week in order to indulge in excess at the weekend. The fear of the end haunts their every moment, both their working and their enjoyment. Every taste is infected by its ending. How find an enjoyment which only increases with its exercise?
Those for whom enjoyment and the absence of enjoyment both lead to peace: these are the ones who truly enjoy. Security is found elsewhere. When the Spirit comes, people are made able to be both active and at rest, peaceful in loss as in gain. They know how to be rich and how to be poor. They live in the knowledge that comes from faith, the knowledge of things unseen. They are at ease with the wealthy, they have no guilt before the poor, but share their condition in compassion.
C, Sunday 27 Industry
“Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and panted in the sea’, and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6
The wheels of industry turn. Where once we had to walk or go horse, taking months, now we can travel in a day. We once we were confined to land or sea now we can fly through the air. Where will it end? What are the limits to our imagination? Is nothing impossible?
We will proceed to move mountains, not by the manipulation of forces but by the power of faith. We have come to understand the forces of nature; we will go further to discover other resources, not just further powers of nature but the powers of faith. With the power of God in us, that gift of the Spirit, we will not just transform the earth; we will create a new heaven and a new earth.
We will do even more; we will raise the dead. This is the greatest act, to bring to life that which was long dead. This is the seemingly impossible task which faith makes possible. We will command and say, ‘Rise to eternal life. Come to us as we come to you.’ We will create the banquet of heaven and invite the dead to come to the feast which never ends, to fullness where all the possibilities of earth and heaven are laid out for our enjoyment, richer than Aladdin’s cave.
Things will not stop here. In the joy of seeing such possibilities, we will want to form utterly different worlds with different laws and dimensions. We will want to see new universes and new histories. The fulfilment of one world leads to the starting of another so that there is marvel upon marvel in endless array. We will want to contemplate other dramas. Why not, in new cycles of creation of new creations, in a constant vibration? How? It will be from the industriousness of God himself who is omnipotent and all-imagining. There is no end to the infinite God.
C, Sunday 27 Work
“Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and panted in the sea’, and it would obey you.” Luke 17:6
Jesus tells his disciples that if their faith were even so much as a mustard seed they could command the mulberry tree to be planted in the sea and it would obey. Faith involves power. It involves identity with the mind and heart of God. It brings about the unity of knowledge and will and action. By faith all faculties are brought into harmony and to fullness. Faith is creative and energetic. It is confident and assured, open and welcoming.
So often, of course, we are divided. We don’t know what is the best thing to do and so cannot choose wholeheartedly. We may know what is right but are hesitant and insecure. Or we lack the capacity to do what we know is best. But when all the faculties are brought into harmony, we know what is best and can do it unreservedlyand with full commitment, without misgivings. This is redemption. It is a peak moment. It is most pleasurable; it is irresistible.
By faith the Church continues to exist. When our faith has grown to full size, we will do more than plant the mulberry tree in the sea; we will bring heaven to earth and earth to heaven, joining them as one.
It is our delight to recreate the world, and like an artist to fashion it in our image so that the whole of creation becomes human and all humanity takes on the configuration of the world. Our world also becomes divine since we have ourselves will be transfigured and will transfigure all things. We can do this only by becoming divine and so the world, the human and the divine will be one. All will be seen in all.
“We are only servants; we have done no more than our duty.” Luke 17:10
The servants have worked in the fields; they will work in the house. Work is part of every existence. Thus, God works, not just for the six days of creation but goes on working, at every moment sustaining the universe. God is the worker and human are the co-workers.
For God and those who are of God, work is play and play is work, for the work is effortless, a natural outpouring of vitality. Activity and rest coincide; work and rest are the same. It is from the very stillness that energy arises naturally, of itself, making and breaking, giving birth and death. God works without any need or wish for reward. All is of him and for him. Where some may divide between the workday week and the weekend, between remuneration and leisure, those who find pleasure and fulfilment in their work, do not distinguish. Only the slavish mentality divides between work and leisure.
As the faculties decline and the body tires, the type of work changes but continues, for work is natural to everyone even the most still. The energy that pours forth from stillness is the most pure. Likewise, the most energetic are the most still.
C, Sunday 28 Praise
“Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice …. The man was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16
All ten lepers have been cured, but only one comes back, a Samaritan, shouting at the top of his voice. He has seen his flesh change, and the praise of God springs out of him spontaneously. He praises because he knows. He is healed in body and enlightened in mind.
The other nine, where are they? They are cured in body, but nothing has happened to them in soul. They do not praise; they do not appreciate. They have not been brought to knowledge of God. They are without life.
The praise of God is a statement about those who praise him. To glorify is to be glorified. Those who praise draw close to those whom they praise. The Samaritan has the mind of God and the power of God. Therefore, Jesus praises this outcast from Israel, and commends him: “Your faith has saved you”. As he kneels before Jesus feet, he is close to the God who healed him. He is one with the God whom he praises.
C, Sunday 28 Satisfaction
“Finding himself cured, one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice …. The man was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16
The ten lepers come; all want healing and all are healed. For nine of them that is enough. But the Samaritan sees more and seeks more. He recognises the immense generosity of Jesus and comes to kneel at his feet. Why go elsewhere? Here is healing and truth, here is heaven and earth; here is the true temple, the true priest. Here the Samaritan comes to rest.
Some set their sights low and are satisfied with food and health, with good things that do not satisfy, for the human heart has the capacity to embrace every value and benefit.
Does your heart sing or has it become mute? When we find what our heart loves, we sing a new song. We cry out in delight at the top of our voice in a moment of wonder. It is a new song that expands continually, new song leading to new song, in a mighty chorus of thanksgiving, resounding in infinite variety through the ages and in eternity.
The nine are healed but their hearts are not satisfied. They do not leap in joy and thanksgiving. Their desires were met but their hearts are sad. The leprosy continues in their hearts.
In Jesus’ day leprosy was effectively a living death. The extremities lost sensation and decayed. The disfigurement was terrible. The leper was feared and excluded from society.
The ten lepers, nine Jews and one Samaritan, living on the borders between Samaria and Galilee, belonged to rival tribes but in their share disease they found companionship. They come to Jesus and ask for healing. He commands them, they trust him and are healed. But only one is healed in soul as well as in body. He alone returns to give thanks.
The other nine, where are they? We do no know. Their faith did not lead to thanks; they remain among the living dead. There is no enlightenment in them, no stirring of the spirit. They are satisfied in body but nothing else has happened, nothing awakened, nothing satisfied.
Healing is complete only when it leads to thanks, for thanksgiving is the acknowledgment of graciousness, an awareness of being chosen and loved. Thanks spring from the mind that knows the divine compassion. Satisfied at last, the heart is drawn into the heart. This is the true satisfaction.
Without it there is anger and bitterness, a profound sense of exclusion and loneliness. This is the real leprosy of heart: not to be wanted. It is a living death.
The Samaritan has been cured, but above all the Spirit has come to enlighten him and make him pure of heart, and thus able to give thanks to God of whom Jesus is the true priest, more than Moses or the priests of Judaism.
This thanksgiving satisfies the God whom has healed him. God is satisfied, the leper is satisfied. There is peace.
C, Sunday 29 Petition
“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart.” Luke 18:1
Christianity proclaims that God is love. Why then does he not heed those who call for help? Does he not hear; does he not care? Does he exist at all? The unanswered prayer is a scandal. Yet human beings still wish to join with some higher power, with something that transcends the world and fills the heart.
In famine on land or storm at sea people would make their vows to secure the protection of some Deity. But the God of the Christians is not like that, and does not need to be cajoled into doing good. The Christian prayer says first “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done”. Three times we ask first that the divine will be done, for God seeks our good before even we do. Prayer is an act of faith, believing the seemingly unbelievable.
The Christian is supremely confident. Faith is power; faith that survives the test is even more powerful. Unanswered prayer is a boon if it leads to a strengthening and clarifying of faith. The heart places less store on harvests and health and sees that having the mind God is the greatest blessing.
If we acquire the fullness of power so that we can move mountains and created a new earth, it will be done always as petition. For we are in relationship. Even when we are all powerful with the All-Powerful, we will always say ‘if you will’, for our relationship is gracious, our exercise of power is always interpersonal, always acknowledging the One who is our origin and the source of our power. The Almighty has the primacy and our freedom is exercised in the context of his primal freedom. The prayer of petition is not a begging; it is not addressed to an uncaring God; it is not powerless. On the contrary, the petition is the exercise of infinite power in relationship with the infinitely Powerful. It is done in union of wills, in the one will, the Father first, his children in union with him.
Praying does not mean begging. To pray does not mean to plead and cajole. To coax means presuming that God is neither generous nor caring. Grovelling assumes God is arrogant and will only answer those who humiliate themselves.
On the contrary, petition is done with assurance, knowing that the Giver is good. It is made in freedom of heart. It is done with a sense of authority, of power and faith, not doubting but knowing that the prayer, because it is made in freedom, will be answered. Petition is not a sign of weakness but of authority over heaven and earth. True prayer allows God to be God.
Existence is essentially prayer, concerning life and death, between being and non-being. It is ultimacy. It is the acknowledgment of relationship between heaven and earth.
Prayer can be made for rain and harvest, but we want more than the fruitfulness of the field. Even when by science we can produce fine weather and good health, we will still pray, for prayer is inexhaustible as God is inexhaustible.
Petition involves a readiness to receive; it is an abandonment of control. It is the allowance of the possibility of gift. Prayer is above all a sign of relationship. Petition springs from a relationship of identity, knowing that we are one with God and therefore have his mind and heart and power
How wonderful, that there should be someone to whom we can turn, someone who will hear and answer, even in ways we do not understand. How sad are those who have no one in whom they can place their trust! What isolation!
Our view of God will have an effect on our view of each other. We want to give and long to be asked, to be trusted and presumed good and generous. We love to give and to be of service to others. We want be of ultimate value, of use in life and death, indeed we wish to bestow life and death.
C, Sunday 29 The last things
“But when the Son of Man comes will he find any faith on earth?” Luke 18:8
Time is slipping by; opportunity is being lost; we are confronted by bleakness and blackness. What will become of us? The future is bleak indeed. These questions constitute a test of faith. When the son of Man comes will he find any faith on earth?
Yet faith survives the challenge of doubt, for by faith we already know the future. It is on this that we make our prayer. Our petition is a discerning of the path. Our prayer is a mixture of knowledge and ignorance. Essentially our every prayer is ‘Thy kingdom come’. Let the future come, let our destiny be fulfilled. We do ask for bread and health but these are steps along the way. We aim higher and want an infinite joy, an eternal wonderment. We seek a union so total that we become as ‘of one being with the Father’. We seek an intimacy which allows us to penetrate deeper and deeper into our mystery and the divine mystery. Prayer for things in the present is made in virtue of things in the future.
But if we are deaf to the cry of the poor, God will be deaf to our cry. If we do not let their words speak to us, God will be silent. And the silence of God who refuses to speak to us is damming. But the more we hear the appeal of the needy, the more our prayer will be heard, for we shall have become like God in his generosity; we will have acquired his own power and largesse. We shall be blessed if we are a blessing to others. In the end there will be blessing upon blessing, infinitely so, for God is endless.
A plea rises from the depths of distress and there is no response. The dying cry is ignored, so it would seem. Is there no God who will come to our aid? He can do something, yet he refuses! Either he is impotent or uncaring. In either case he is not God. Therefore, there is no God. There is no protector, no one who cares or listens. The unanswered prayer leads to a crisis of faith.
And yet, knowledge of the living God has been given. It is there, in the depths, uncomprehended, puzzling, and unintelligible. There is no evidence, but still there is conviction, a conviction about the above that comes from above, since no human reason can prove it. It is faith, although darkness surrounds on every side. Every other source of knowledge is removed and no longer carries any weight. Only faith supplies that knowledge, that faith which is the basis of one’s existence. Despite all evidence, the conviction remains that God is loving, powerful, protective, the source of every good. It is only the Spirit that gives and maintains this faith.
God does nothing, it would seem. Therefore, man must do everything. God will not act; man must act, and move mountains. It is the moment of crisis; it is the moment of maturity. Faith is purified. God seems to do nothing, but with the faith that comes from the Spirit we begin to refashion the world. This faith is a power and a capacity, the darksome light showing the way, the brilliant darkness by which the world is renewed.
Thus, it is an advantage that prayer is not heard. It is a blessing that God should refuse our prayer. God’s silence can be his best form of speech. We move from being dependent to becoming independent and productive. Strangely, God refuses so that we might become self-reliant by the power of the faith that is in us. We now produce and give and so take on the generosity of God. The gulf between God and ourselves is crossed, dependence gives way to independence and we take on divine qualities.
And so, in the end, the face of God becomes apparent. Christ is seen in the self-assurance and liberality of the human being come to maturity. Christ is come again in those who have lived by faith in him.
C, Sunday 30 Adoration
“The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven, but he beat his breast and said ‘God…’.” Luke 18:13
The two men, the Pharisee and the tax-collector, go up to the Temple.
The Pharisee says “I”. God is mentioned as an after-thought, a mere spectator. The Pharisee goes on to talk about himself and all he is doing. He is imprisoned in his own ego, paralysed. He has no expansiveness, no joy. He is his own idol and does not know the living God. On the outside he is perfect. In his essence he is Godless.
The tax collector exclaims “God”. It is a word of humble amazement, a word of adoration. Only God can fully know God. Only God can properly acclaim God. God is adored adequately only by God. True adoration is possible only in the Triune God. Adoration is the essential prayer of the Trinity. Outwardly the tax-collector is a sinner; inwardly he is justified. He knows God and is of God. Adoration is the act of the redeemed.
Only God can fully know God. Only God can truly adore God. God reveals himself so that the one who is taught can become like the one who teaches, and indeed become of the same substance and reality.
The tax collector comes to the temple, not so much because of his sin, but because, somehow, the knowledge of God has come to him. He must draw close to the One, in the place which most publicly proclaims him, so that he might be where he is most at home. The knowledge of God has come to him, so he must come to God, like to like, same to same. He comes to the One whom he has become. Taught by the Spirit inspired and impelled by the Spirit, he has come to the temple, since he himself the temple where God. He comes to his own self. He knows his God and knows himself.
He is right not to raise his eyes to heaven, but this is because the knowledge of God has revealed to him both his sin and his essential dignity. To what extent did his sin reveal to him the sinless God? His sin is the context of his knowledge, but not its cause. He has entered into the dichotomy of sin and grace, and there has known the grace more powerfully.
And there he says in all humility “God”, the word springing from his lips before ever he confesses his sinfulness. He knows he is a sinner because he first knows God. His focus is on God rather than on himself. He has come into the presence of the Presence and is lost for words, fully aware of how inadequate his words are. He simply beats his breast, and repeats his short mantra again and again, ‘Have mercy on me a sinner’. He worships his God and knows his own sin. But the dichotomy is overcome. The sin no longer matters. He has come to the height of prayer which is adoration, not just of the One Who Is, or of the Compassionate One but of the One Who is Love.
The Love loves love. Love adores being loved. Love adores saying ‘Love’! Love adores being Love. We do not say ‘God is love’, as though there were some disjunction between the two. Thus, we abandon the word ‘God’ and come to the word ‘Love’, the one who is Love, whose highest name is Love. Only Love can adore Love. Only Love can know love.
Love is known in the compassion but transcends compassion, for compassion is found in the context of weakness and sin. Love takes us beyond weakness so that the sin of the past is no longer relevant. It is forgotten and there is in the end neither compassion nor being but simply Love, not one who loves but simply Love who is not impersonal, not some emotion but Love who is personal and compassionate and the fullness of being. When we have known love and given love then we are Love and adore Love, knowing ourselves as Love and knowing Love himself.
All this is done in the Sprit who communicates this knowledge in faith, and our voices cry out in highest prophecy and thanks: ‘Love’!
C, Sunday 30 Oneness
“This man, I tell you, went home again at rights with God …” Luke 18:14
The Pharisee stands up and keeps saying, ‘I’. “I thank you God that I am not like the rest of mankind”. God is the audience and he the actor, strutting in the temple that has become his stage. He is self-absorbed and worships himself as a false god. He does not realise how monstrous he has become. He does not realise his sin. There is grace in him, no inspiration, no communication of knowledge by the inspiring Spirit, no faith. His words are empty flatulence, the clashing of cymbals. He leaves the temple at odds with God.
The tax-collector who is at odds with the traditions of his faith, and an enemy to his people, exclaims from the outset ‘God’. Despite his unjust way of life, he has been drawn by interior knowledge to the temple where God dwells. He is at one with the One who has called him to himself.
He now goes home, transforming it into a temple for he is one with God. When he cried out ‘God’ he had been enlightened by God and became like God knowing God, like God calling on God, like God worshipping God, God in God. There is one mind, one heart. The publican transforms every alley and every room into a divine dwelling for he is at rights with God.
All this is the work of the Spirit. No human act, no observance of the Torah can produce it; no depth of sin can prevent it. The Spirit is free to touch the tax-collector and not to touch the Pharisee. The one he inspires to words of truth, the other he leaves with empty phrases.
C, Sunday 31 Almsgiving
“I will give …” Luke 19:8
Had they closed ranks against him, blotting out the tax collector from any sight of the famous Teacher? Had they long excluded him and mocked him, the runt of a man. Had he compensated and taken his revenge by siding with the Romans?
In any case he climbs the tree and at last he can see – and is seen. Jesus sees him, sees right into him and sees the unfairness and the pain. Ignoring the animosity of the bystanders he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house. It is the visitation, the shepherd coming to claim his sheep. At last, here is the Perfect Friend who seeks his companion, no matter his appearance or his treachery. This Friend, who carries no haversack and no purse, shows it is possible to be poor and to be rich, to have nothing and to have everything. The Teacher is truly wealthy.
It is the moment of conversion, for Zacchaeus is not slow to understand. Boldly he gives away half his wealth; he restores magnificently what he has taken unjustly. His gift is his prayer. His generosity is his act of faith. His open hand reveals the open heart into which God can pour his grace.
Therefore, Jesus declares: “Today salvation has come to this house.” Formerly it was only money that flowed into the house, bringing despondency and alienation. Now that money flows out of it, salvation comes back abundantly. Generosity invites generosity, for heaven will not be outdone by earth.
Zacchaeus was small of stature. For all his life, he had been shut out and humiliated. Had he become a tax collector so that he could at last come across as a ‘big man’? If they did not respect him for his size they would respect him for his money.
Others had no regard for him but they now want to look at Jesus. Zacchaeus too wants to see, so he climbs the sycamore tree. Jesus sees him, calls him by name and invites himself to his house. He visits the feared and despised. He overcomes the barrier which had been erected around this tax collector whose house had become a place of abomination. Jesus gives himself to Zacchaeus and takes Zacchaeus to himself.
Zacchaeus was burdened by his wealth. His grasping nature had made him avaricious. He had become small indeed, and narrow hearted, but now by the humility of Jesus he achieves greatness. Jesus projects into Zacchaeus the same spirit of generosity which inspires him.
Zacchaeus comes to his moment of conversion. He stands up, ignoring the hostility of those around him; he makes ample restitution to those he cheated and gives large sums to the poor. His largesse is in response to the largesse of Jesus. Why accumulate wealth when he has visible presence of Jesus and the hidden presence of the Spirit?
Zacchaeus’ action shows, as Jesus says, that he is indeed a son of Abraham who gave away half the Promised Land to Lot. Zacchaeus is no longer dependent on what his hands can grasp but lives in faith in the teacher who has graced his home.
Generosity is a sign of grace and the presence of something greater. It is an act which binds the giver both to the God from whom all blessings flow and to the recipient who is restored and recreated. Almsgiving joins heaven to earth.
C, Sunday 31 Morality
“Today salvation has come to this house.” Luke 19:9
Zacchaeus had collaborated with the Romans and collected their taxes. He had been false to his God and his people.
Yet it is to the house of this sinner – he was indeed a sinner – that Jesus comes. And Zacchaeus is overwhelmed. Despite his perfidy and misanthropy, he is sought out and invited into fellowship. He is confronted by pure grace. He is amazed and emboldened. At last he has the courage to undo what he has done and to do what had never previously done.
Like Abraham who gave half of the Promised Land to his nephew Lot, Zacchaeus gives away half his fortune. He is truly a son of Abraham, not a traitor to the People. He repays fourfold those whom he has cheated. He makes reparation for his crimes and once again is at rights with his God and his compatriots. Truth has come to him and he has become true. “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Zacchaeus’ mind has changed. It has been opened so that he becomes open-handed. He understands his true wealth: the knowledge of the living God and can become the most generous of the inhabitants of Jericho. He understands Jesus’ greatness and his own greatness; he can now stand tall in the company of men. In place of ill-gotten gains, justice is found in his house. He is now righteous.
His new mind is his prayer. His new morality is his act of worship. His new stance is an act of union with God, having the same mind and heart. He dwells continually in the Presence for he has become generous as God is generous.
How much resentment filled the heart of Zacchaeus, how much greed, how much anger at the treatment he had received from others? How many conflicting emotions raged in him? How much was he cut off from his own people and his own self by unresolved issues? His life was unjust and immoral; he was no friend, either to his fellows or to himself. He is self-destructive even as he accumulates his fortune.
When Zacchaeus gives back fourfold to others what he has stolen from them, he is moving into more than morality. When he decides to give away half his property to the poor, he is doing more than nature demands, for grace has come into his life.
Through Jesus, God has visited Zacchaeus and the Spirit has begun to inspire him. Even though Zacchaeus is an extortionist Jesus comes and stays with him, eating his food, showing him that he, Jesus, neither cares for riches nor despises them. Jesus is free from such considerations and wants only the heart of this man who had climbed the sycamore tree.
The enlightenment of the Spirit has been given to Zacchaeus and he now acts in faith, no longer depending on the money he can touch. He is inspired to give away his money in a gesture which is prophetic, showing the mind of God. For here is true morality, the fullness of morality: to have the mind and heart of God who is generous in giving away his only Son in the passion and death.
C, Sunday 32 Fate of matter
“… they are the same as the angels …” Luke 20:36
How did the universe begin; how will it end? The theories are many, the answers are uncertain. Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Is the world we inhabit so improbable that the universe is scarcely large enough to make it likely? What is matter? What is energy?
This much we know: we are made of star dust that coalesced to form our world where life evolved, followed sentience and intelligence, and then the depths of the human heart. Yet this is only the start of our evolution. For by the power of Paschal Mystery an impetus has been granted such that matter will evolve into spirit. As Jesus says, ‘you shall become like angels’, not ceasing to be human but acquiring the mobility of spirits; not ceasing to be physical but being able to dwell fully in the presence of God, and like the Cherubim to cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy”.
This world is the springboard by which we leap into eternity. The great universe finds it purpose admirably fulfilled when matter is transfigured. When this work is done, the rest of the universe will peter out.
Hydrogen gathers together to form the elements; these coalesce to form the stars; from the earth, plants spring up and become flesh, and from the human face a smile radiates. It is a remarkable transformation, but this is not yet the end.
The One who is Love rules by love and transforms into love, so that in the end there is but love.
The children of the kingdom are to be his messengers, his angels, transcendent yet immersed in the world. They are sent to change malleable and fragile matter. Their look is all-powerful; it refashions. The fate of matter is to be transformed into love. Dust is destined to become divine love.
C, Sunday 32 Becoming spirit
“… those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the deaddo not marry because they can no longer die, …” Luke 20:35-36
Jesus teaches that eventually there will be no giving and taking in marriage. Will there be no intimacy? Whom shall we love deeply and call our own? Why have the resurrection of the body? What is its use if there is no sharing of body to body? Those who seek to be angels become beasts!
But love, physical love, opens up the reservoirs of love. Love lead to new vistas of love, broader, deeper, more intense, more inclusive. Spousal love leads to universal love.
The love of husband and wife is not negated but completed. It is the solid stock on which love flowers in all its variety and fullness. Past love is not undone but perfected.
When loves comes to fullness it bears the quality of our past loves, just as our eternity is established by the nature of choices in time. The whole world is loved in the manner of our particular love, in a manner more intense, more intimate, more sensitive, more free and freeing. Love in time flowers into love in eternity.
C, Sunday 33 Transience
“… everything will be destroyed.” Luke 21:6
All changes. The seasons come and go; nations rise and fall. Even the universe is unstable. This is the teaching Jesus gives to his disciples when they comment on the glories of the Temple. All is transient. All is consumed in fire and returns to ash.
To some this is frightening. To others this apocalyptic vision is exciting for it releases the fountainhead of life. By recognizing the fragility of the present order, we drink of the waters of eternity, that well-spring from which all comes and by which all is renewed.
We arrive at an immense confidence. “Not a hair of your head will be lost.” Our life is in touch with life, our life is the very life of the Living One. All is stable.
All things pass. Youth fails, the faculties falter, friends depart, and money slips away like sand. Knowledge too and the securities we once had, these go; and music fails to stir the soul. All things pass, even the sense of the self and of the immortal soul.
All that remains is that knowledge which comes from above, that knowledge which is a darksome light, a brilliant darkness; that confidence which persists when all hope seems dashed. It is the knowledge which is not of our making, for it comes from elsewhere. It cannot be let go, for it has taken hold of us. Or rather, Someone has taken hold of us, that One who is the sole foundation, the one ruler of all. From him alone all things come and to him things all go. All is unstable except when based on him.
Thus, our sense of transience is in fact a great gift, for we at last live by faith and by the knowledge of that love which alone supports us, that sense of love even in the absence of the sense of love, love against all appearances to the contrary. This love will win out, seen as all the one foundation which replaces all other foundations and transforms all into itself, so that eventually transience itself is loved, and the unreliability of things is loved as the play of light on the waves.
Therefore, we stand erect, confident knowing that all will be well, in a manner beyond our knowledge.
C, Sunday 33 Purgatory
“Your endurance will win you your lives.” Luke 21:19
Expiation must be done for sins hidden and known, chosen and inherited.
Justice must be done. The consequences of sin must be allowed their full effect so that the balance is redressed. Guilt must be acknowledged and the punishment exacted.
Reparation must be made if righteousness is to be restored. Judgment must be given. Those who have done wrong experience, willingly and gladly, with fear and trepidation, how in their whole person, body soul and spirit, expiation is made. All is revealed, all is set at rights.
The process of purgation is both a burden and liberation. It is done both by the individual and by the community past and future. It is performed above all by the Christ who bore in his flesh the punishment due to all mankind.
The limitations of life give way to the freedom of heaven, when the divine vision is complete, filling the heart with a joy radiant and rich, overflowing and universal. The bonds are cut loose and the fire of divine love burns away all impurities. It is the cleansing fire which nothing can resist, for there is no hindrance to the Spirit. It is at once painful and joy-giving as when the thorn is removed from the flesh, or when the boil is lanced.
Then at last, freed and consumed by the Fire of love, one enters into Love.
By knowing love, we know what is not of love. Knowing love and loving love, we seek to heal the wounds caused by our hatred, the injustice cause by our ignorance. The purgation is greater, the greater our impurity. We need to do penance, and the revelation of love has enabled us to do it. Where most we have harmed, there most we place our love.
We shed our tears of sorrow. We bow low, asking for forgiveness. We wait for those we have injured to let us to be a blessing. We seek to serve where we had tried to control. We become a blessing where before we were a curse.
This knowledge is real fire because it touches the physical; it is intelligible because it touches the mind; it is most subtle because it purifies the spirit. Purgatory is a place because the body is physical; it is a mental state; it is spiritual reality.
It is above all a happy liberation as the dross is cut away, even as we still cling to it. This cutting can be a painful but is freeing. It is the repaying of the debt. The ill consequences of our actions are burnt away by the fire of love.
Whoever has sinned will need to be purged until their every cell is infused with love. Then the King will at last be ruler of all and his kingdom will have come, that kingdom of justice, love and peace.
C, Christ the King Limbo
“… today you shall be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
Once the moment of realization comes, the heavens open and knowledge floods into the heart, awakening and recreating. It is a redeeming moment. But it is not enough. The wish comes: ‘Let this regeneration be acknowledged, let it be expressed, let it be made real. Let the waters flow over the body as they have flowed in the soul. Let me be plunged into the waters as I have been plunged into eternity.’
And so, it is that the adult who comes to knowledge will naturally seek baptism. It is natural too that parents should wish to bring into their own baptism the child they have brought into their life.
But for the child who dies before being received into the community of the baptized, is there to be a double deprivation? Their prospect of life is unfulfilled. Shall eternal joy be denied them? Shall the child remain forever ambiguous, neither received into heaven nor consigned to hell, living in limbo? Shall the billions who reached only the threshold of life reach only the borders of eternity? Are they condemned simply by being born of sinful Adam? Is the sinning Adam more powerful than the redeeming Christ?
No! If Jesus took children in his arms and said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them, infants who die before their time shall not be deprived of the heaven that is theirs.
C, Christ the King Eternity
“… remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Luke 23:42
The thief says, “Remember me”. It is a though he has said ‘Remember not my sins, remember me, a poor wretched thief, and bring me to mind, bring me to your reality, and bring me into being and into life’. This is the great cry of the human race: ‘Remember us. Do not consign us to oblivion.’ For the memory is powerful and recalls from death.
In the last throes of his torment, the thief hears the spell-binding words “You shall be with me”. There is no condemnation. There is only mercy and endless future. The sins of the past are forgotten.
Jesus assures him that it will happen “this day”. From the point of view of eternity, each day is ‘this day’, for eternity does not know past and future but is present to every time.
And the thief will be in paradise, the true paradise where all is free, where joy expands the mind, joy building on joy, so that the heart bursts onto even great joy, exponentially, for the divine happiness known no bounds.
There is no need to choose, no need to hesitate between one or other good. The supreme good is displayed and is chosen wholeheartedly without any shadow of doubt. It is the fullness of light and truth, overwhelmingly convincing. Necessity and freedom coincide.
The thief is alive in the life of the Crucified. His self is restored in the Self.