A new heart, a new spirit, – commentaries on Ezekiel

New heart, new spirit, commentaries on Ezekiel

Year 2 , Week 19, Monday                                      Glenroy 1976

The freedom of God

“On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there. …  Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.”      Ezekiel 1:2-3, 28

The priest Ezekiel has gone into exile to Babylon, in the first deportation. There, so far away in a foreign land, he prophesies to his saddened fellow exiles. Like Sinai, more glorious than Sinai, the presence of God is manifested on the banks of the River Chebar, with clouds and flashes of lightning. Like the Temple liturgy, more glorious than the Temple liturgy, God comes with noise and the sound of mighty waters. Like the Ark of the Covenant, infinitely more glorious than the Ark, the Lord dwells above the four living creatures, the cherubim. In Ezekiel and the exiles, so far away, he continues his mighty purpose.

God’s presence is more glorious than Temple and Ark. He does not depend on them. His presence is not confined to its former manifestations. Even in the land of exile, more so in the land of exile does God appear. Most of all, on the gibbet of the Cross is God revealed, made fully known in Christ’s glorious ignominy. God does not depend on anything created, no matter how holy;  he is supremely free. He transcends all the laws and all cults; he is supremely powerful. He manifests himself where and how he wills; he is all holy.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Vision and vocation

He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe. He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.”     Ezekiel 2:10, 3:1-3.

After seeing the extraordinary vision of God’s majesty, Ezekiel receives his vocation. Not tables of stone, not a spoken message, but a scroll is given to him; not with laws upon it or a message of peace, not a covenant or stories of the past, but “lamentations, wailings, moaning”. His future work is given to him: to write prophecies. Even though his audience has already experienced the trauma of exile, his message is still more terrible. He does not bring them consolation but desolation. And yet, as he eats the scroll it tastes sweet to him, and satisfies his hunger.

A vocation from God must begin with a vision of God. Every vision of God involves a vocation to service. No matter what the vocation may entail, it is sweet. No matter what else we might prefer to do, only a vocation will satisfy.

At one point stands the holiness of God, at the other, the people of God. The vocation is a link between them. Every vocation is as different as every vision, but all are one since God is one and human good is one.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

Against presumption

“To the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and kill; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Cut down old men, young men and young women, little children and women, but touch no one who has the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” Ezekiel 9:5-6

The avenging angel had gone among the Egyptians and struck down the first-born of those whose abode was not marked with the blood of the lamb. The people of Israel had taken confidence from this predilection God had shown them, but it was an overweening confidence. Again destruction comes to a nation. Not one angel but seven; not taken from one class only but from both warrior and priestly caste; not the extermination of the first-born only but of old and young alike, men and women, virgins and children; not of foreign Egyptians but of the very people of God. If the Egyptians had refused to allow the Hebrews to go and sacrifice on Mt Sinai, Israel has done far worse. In the very Temple itself they had offered sacrifices to idols. As God has punished the Egyptians, far more terribly and for a far worse sin, he decimates his people.

These readings of destruction are a timely warning. If the Jews could not presume upon the indulgence of God because of his kindness to their forbears, neither can Christians presume on God’s indulgence because he raised their Christ from the dead. As God could decimate his people because of their idolatry, so can he decimate the Church if it neglects the true spirit of Christianity.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

Prophet as symbol

“Say, “I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.””    Ezekiel 12:11

The exiles on the River Chebar in Babylon were the first group of deportees from Jerusalem. They hoped they would be the last and that they could soon go back to their homeland. Ezekiel destroys their hopes. The rest of their brethren will be sent into exile and the punishment will be complete.

Ezekiel shows this by acting out a play. He pretends to be a Jerusalemite going into exile. As they ask him why he packs his bag during the day, picks it up in the evening and walks away, he says: “The thing that I have done will be done to them: they will go into exile, into banishment”. The prophet’s action reveals the mind of God and brings about the people’s fate.

Ezekiel is a symbol. The pretense he has made is not a pretense. It is a reality. It shows the future at seed in the present. It effects what it pictures. It affects body and will, sense and soul, heart and mind.

This is the vocation of everyman: to be the symbol of the Future Man.

  

Year 2 , Week 19, Friday                                         Glenroy 1976

Infatuation

“But you trusted in your beauty, and played the whore because of your fame, and lavished your whorings on any passer-by.”     Ezekiel 16:15

From unpromising material God has made Jerusalem into a great and beautiful city. Adorned with Palace and Temple, aqueducts and noble houses Jerusalem had, for a while, earned a place among the significant capitals of the Middle East.

This fact is presented in today’s reading as the result of God’s love for an abandoned child. No one loved her, God has loved her completely. Abandoned at birth, God brings her to the flower of age. Left in unholy blood, the Lord has cleansed her and made her his own. She had nothing, God has given her everything.

This very generosity is the basis of her fall. So beautiful, she becomes “infatuated with her beauty”; so heaped with riches, she was nothing but wealth; so loved by God, she wants to be loved by all gods. She has loved the gifts but forgotten the Giver. For this reason, her future is unstable. The flux of history deprives her of her wealth and position. Until she comes to know the deeper value of life she must bemoan her loss. Until she realizes the true wealth God gives, she will be deprived of all wealth. Until she is stripped of all other goods, she will not know the highest good. Until she endures the cross – in the person of Christ -–she will not achieve her glory: to be with God, to be of God, to be God.

  

Year 2 , Week  20, Monday                                     Glenroy 1976

The silence

“The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.”        Ezekiel 24:15-16

Ezekiel has gone into exile. The loss of homeland is made worse, there in exile, by the loss of his wife. Yet he must endure even more. God will not let him mourn for her; he must treat her loss as though it were no loss and must not perform the customary mourning rites. This is because Ezekiel has a prophet’s task and must give a sign. God does not mourn the loss of Jerusalem. He is well rid of the adulteress nation. His anger is followed by silence. He does not even feel anger. Jerusalem does not exist for him.

God is just. When Christians show they are idolatrous by being  unjust to their neighbour, God will call them, insistently, to love. But when they prove their idolatry by refusing to change, God is angry and his anger will be a fire of judgment upon them. But this anger is sweet compared to what comes next, for after his anger comes silence. He turns his face away from them. This they cannot endure. His face in anger is still his face turned towards them. But when he and all the saints eventually turn elsewhere, Christians have no meaning for Him. They do not exist for him. Silence is the final torment.

 

Year 2 , Week  20, Tuesday                                      Glenroy 1976

Pride

“The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: Because your heart is proud and you have said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,” …. therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of the nations; they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down to the Pit, and you shall die a violent death in the heart of the seas.”                        Ezekiel 28:1-2, 7-8

The city of Tyre stood on a rocky island near the coast of Palestine. Surrounded by the seas, she sent her ships far and wide, amassing a fortune and ruling a vast empire. Success had encouraged Tyre in the worship of her god. Indeed, Baal, a god of increase, had seemingly increased Tyre till she thought she was herself the god.

This folly angers Ezekiel. As he sees the armies of Nebuchadnezzar leaving a fallen Jerusalem to attack Tyre, he predicts her downfall. “You will die a violent death, surrounded by the seas”. The place of her pride is the place of her fall.

Tyre was correct in wishing to be divine, in wishing to be at once city and temple. But she was in error concerning the nature of God who is not a god of material prosperity. God is found at that point where the spirit meets the Spirit. This juncture is the concern of God, and the finest concern of human beings. This is where ‘city’ and ‘temple’ are one. This is where the human becomes divine. The union of Spirit and spirit gives eternity and fullness of every sort.

  

Year 2 , Week  20, Wednesday                                  Glenroy 1976

The true shepherd

“Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.”    Ezekiel 34:10

The leaders of the people – the kings and the priests – had the duty of securing justice and truth. Yet they had led the people astray and abused them. Therefore, they lose the mandate of heaven. The triumphant Chaldeans depose them, but more importantly God disowns them. They lose their authority.

There will be no leaders, no teachers, no need for brother to say to brother “Here is the Lord”. God will inspire each one directly. The Spirit will come upon the whole community so that each is a shepherd to the other. By passing the whole people through the crucible of suffering, God raises them in his Spirit.

There is no other way. Only through the crucible can one be refined. God pours out his Spirit above all on those who are crucified. Such a death leads to life.

 

Year 2, Week  20, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

A new spirit

“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.’      Ezekiel 36:24-28

At last the Lord has done with punishing and purifying his people. He prophesies their restoration. He will bring them back to their homelands, cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit, in an eternal covenant. The people did indeed return and await the fulfilment.

Christians perceive that Jesus is the one in whom all sin is put to death; he is the one with the new heart, the new spirit, he is the one with whom a new and eternal covenant is made by the glorification on the cross. He is the one in whom all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled.

And through him Christians perceive they share in the fulfilment. When they are joined to him by faith and interior knowledge, then they too have a new heart, a new spirit.

They look forward to when this first step of faith is complete, when not only the heart but the whole self is renewed, when all disharmony and ignorance and sin are removed, when the whole body is become spirit. They shall enjoy that unity of knowledge and purpose, that directness and compassion, self-determination and spontaneity, that vigour and joy, when every fibre will be a world and every movement a sign. Then they shall be free of all that is foreign, of the limitations of time. Then the covenant will be complete, they and God being one.

  

Year 2, Week 20, Friday                                          Glenroy 1976

Restoration and resurrection

 “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”   Ezekiel 37:4-6

The punishment has been so terrible, the destruction of Jerusalem and the House of David has been so total, the purification has been so keen that the exiles have lost heart. “Our bones are dried up; our hope has gone”.

Ezekiel begins the task of consolation. Should their bones have dried up, no matter! God will refresh them. Should their hope have gone, no matter! God will bring them back to their promised land. Once they are purified unto death, then their restoration in truth is possible.

Ezekiel says all this in a vision. As God fashioned humans from the dust of the earth, so he will fashion a new people from an assemblage of bones; as God breathed life into the clay doll, so will the four winds breathe new life into refashioned bones. Marvelous though creation is, the re-creation of Israel is more marvelous.

Yet this work is just a restoration. With Christ it is resurrection. Their restoration is a foreshadowing. As the people had to experience the ultimate in the pain of body and soul, so too the Christ had to experience the ‘numbering of his bones’, had to cry out “My God, my God, why have you deserted me’. Once Christ had been reduced totally, he could be raised completely. Once his trust in God had been perfectly revealed, once the purification had led further than exile, right into his own death, then he could be raised and resurrected. The people are restored to a condition they had before, but Christ is raised to a glory he never experienced as man. The people go back to their own land, but Christ ascends to heaven.

Raised in the Spirit, his body has a strength, a liveliness, a durability, a sensitivity that goes beyond what can be observed. Christ lives in his body and beyond the confines of body, his body brought to its full perfection and beauty, its utmost development and strength. His body is perfect; his hope is fulfilled.

 

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A Covenant in the Heart, commentaries on Jeremiah

A New Covenant, commentaries on Jeremiah

Year 2, Week 16, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

Power of the Word

“Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,“Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”           Jeremiah 1:9-10

Jeremiah had the terrible and tragic task of prophesying the fall of Judah and the end of the House of David. By the power of the word he was to destroy the nation and overthrow the king.

He has this power because God has touched his mouth. He does nothing of himself. The words are not his. He doesn’t want the words or the vocation. It is God’s work, and for this reason it is powerful. His prophetic word is more powerful than any other force. By it Jeremiah is set over his own people and over foreign nations. By it he has authority of life and death. Weak Jeremiah has the strongest weapon. The defenseless prophet overcomes the mightiest nations.

The Church has no weapon but the word. When the Church humbles itself, then God touches it. When the Church says the word of God, it is irresistible. The Church, by its word, is set over nations and kingdoms, to bless and curse, to build up and condemn. Words produced the French Revolution; words produced the Russian Revolution; words produce the Christian Revolution.

At the end of time, Christ will come to judge mankind with words. His judgment is a sword issuing from his mouth to condemn or to bless; his word will be eternal and total in its effect.

May the Lord touch me and put his words in my mouth!

 

Year 2, Week 16, Thursday                                     Oakleigh 1978

Living water

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this,be shocked, be utterly desolate,says the Lord,for my people have committed two evils:they have forsaken me,the fountain of living water,and dug out cisterns for themselves,cracked cisternsthat can hold no water.”     Jeremiah 2:12-13

The Lord made water flow from the rock in the desert. From Jesus flowed the fountain of living water as he hung dead upon the cross. Peter is the rock from whose confession of faith flow the graces of ministry in the Church.

No cistern can last. No need to dig a well and fill it with water, for it will become stagnant. Only the fountain is mysteriously perennial.

Within each person is a fountain, perhaps as yet untapped, which can flow. Why build cisterns? The waters break through by the gift of God, through faith and in total surrender.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Friday                                          Glenroy 1976

Completion

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”  Jeremiah 3:17

The people of Judah are in distress. The Ark of the Covenant has been destroyed; the Temple is in ruins. The places where God dwelt among earth have been destroyed by a godless nation.

Jeremiah comforts them. He looks forward to a future time, a greater time. Ark and Temple will be replaced. Jerusalem will itself where God dwells on earth. That sorry town will become the Throne of God. The nations that destroyed these sacred sites will come to worship at the City where they had come as conquerors. The victors are defeated.

Time passes. Jerusalem in its turn is replaced by Christ who is the Dwelling of God, Emmanuel. As he walks in the Portico of Solomon, he is in fact the Temple walking within the Temple. He too is eventually killed and disappears.

Ark gives way to Temple, Temple to Jerusalem, Jerusalem is replaced by Christ, Christ is found in the Christian.

As the Temple gave way to the many mansions of Jerusalem, so the one Christ is completed by the many Christians. As the Temple had to be destroyed if Jerusalem was to become the divine abode, so Christ had to die if the Church was to receive the Spirit. As the Temple foreshadows Jerusalem, so Christ in the flesh foreshadows the Church. In all those where the Christ dwells, the fullness of heaven and earth resides. As the needle is known in its tip, so God is known in the human being. As each point on a sphere is the outermost point, so each Christian has the fullness of God. 

                                                                        East Doncaster, 1992

Body as Ark

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”  Jeremiah 3:15-17

The God of Israel dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the Tribes of Israel in the desert. Over this most sacred place the Cherubim spread out their wings. It was eventually placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The Ark was presumably destroyed by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Some wondered if it had been hidden, but Jeremiah advises the people that Jerusalem itself will be the throne of God.

In time Jerusalem itself will be destroyed. Jesus becomes the place where the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. In fact, in his tomb, at the foot and the head of the slab where he had lain, angels sit when the women come to visit the tomb.

Indeed, Christians are the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, the new Jerusalem, the place where God dwells on this earth and the Mercy Seat, because they are the Christ.

 

Year 2, Week  17, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

The sin of our age

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.”            Jeremiah 14:17-18

Jeremiah loved the Chosen People. Even though his prophesies brought about their exile, he still loves Jerusalem ‘the daughter of his People’. Therefore, when he sees the ravages of war, the slain outside the city and the besieged within, he laments and grieves; ‘tears flood his eyes, night and day, unceasingly’.

The words of Jeremiah apply to the Church, for Christians too have suffered a cruel blow. They too have eyes filled with tears, for the Church has been robbed of its vitality. All is pleasantness and affection, but lukewarmth, neither hot nor cold, fit to be vomited. The Church has succumbed to its enemies, to wealth, success and comfort. Where is the strong and healthy person who wants God, demands God, who is ready to endure the cross for the sake of the glory that lies ahead, who wants the completion of creation in the kingdom of God?

And so, the Church lies moribund from a subtle, hidden blow.

 

 Year 2, Week 17, Wednesday                                   Burwood 1986

“Your words are my delight.”

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16

Jeremiah has the terrible task of prophesying and bringing about the destruction of his people. He falters in his task. Yet he reflects on the joy of his own experience. “When your words came, I devoured them”. When, in the state of inspiration, the message of God came to him, he would receive it as a hungry man. He hungered for God and the very fact that God had addressed him. He wanted God himself to enter into the pit of his stomach, into his very heart, into his bones. He has received the word of God and indeed God himself, becoming the receptacle and the bearer of God, the place where God abides, and therefore he can bear the name of God. “I was called by your name, Lord God of hosts.” The one who received the word of God received the name of God. His human reality is taken up into the reality of the One who addresses him. He is not God but becomes one with God, sharing his eternity.

We have come here this morning and come again and again because the word is our delight and the joy of our hearts. We come to devour these words given to ·us and to fill our minds and our very bodies with the presence of God. We can be called God. We are ‘God’ for having heard God. We are Christ to the world because the Word has been spoken to us.

 

Year 2, Week 17, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

Fidelity

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”Jeremiah 18:5-6

The people of Judah were troubled. They remembered God’s promise to Abraham that a fair land would be given to his descendants. They remembered the promise to David that a son of his would always remain on the throne. Yet now the People is taken captive and the king is deposed. Had God changed his mind? Was he inconsistent? Was he untrustworthy?

To this Jeremiah replies with a parable. God is the potter shaping a vessel. If he can’t make it one way, he will make it another. To the pot this seems inconsistent, but to the potter it is fidelity. God has failed to form his people into a faithful kingdom. Now, through exile he will turn them into a faithful remnant. In all cases he wishes to create an assembly of whom he can say: “I will be your God and you will be my People”.

Christians are clay in God’s hands. They do not understand his actions. They see the immediate plan, but not the long-range purpose. His actions seem illogical and unjust. Why sickness, why death, why sorrow and old age? If Christians understood the mind of God and saw the ultimate purpose, if they were more than the clay from which they are fashioned, then they would see the reason. For through all the apparent chaos of life, God pursues his course relentlessly, consistently – to make of us the Man.

  

Year 2, Week18, Wednesday                                    Glenroy 1976

Constancy

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.”    Jeremiah 31:3-5

Repeatedly and vehemently Jeremiah, on behalf of God, has condemned and cursed Israel for its sins. Yet now a new message is heard: “You shall be rebuilt, virgin of Israel”. The adulterous one is virgin again; the ruined nation revives.

How can God reject and then choose again? What is this inconstancy?

The inconstancy is not in God: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. The same fire of love warms those who seek it and burns those who refuse it. The same love cuts down the proud and raises the lowly, encourages the humble and reduces the arrogant. The fire of God is the same, the human heart varies. As the sun shines continually, burning or browning according to the skin, so God loves continually, felling or raising according to the heart of the individual.  Love has an anger of its own, which has nothing to do with the anger of hatred.

God’s love is constant in that he constantly seeks human good. Only when his work is complete can he fully  approve. Only at the end of time can God utter his lasting judgment.

  

Year 2, Week 18, Thursday                                      Glenroy 1976

Glory

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”  Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah speaks  of the final and finest consolation of his People.

The Law had been given on Sinai. Moses had read it to the People, but it remained external. It was given to them, but it was not their own. For this reason, they could not observe it, and must go into exile.

Jeremiah foretells another time. A new covenant will be established. No one will need to hear it from outside, for it comes from within. All will observe it, for it is their self.

Jesus, whom some called Jeremiah, fulfills this promise. He undergoes the utter exile, rejected from life, abandoned by friends, betrayed by  his People. He is supported fully and only by the Spirit of God. In him the covenant is final and full, written on his heart, for he who was refined by the completest tragedy is  raised to the finest glory.

To all who understand from within the mystery of his death and glory, the same character is given, the same Spirit, so that they too have the new Law  written in their hearts, the Spirit of the glorified Christ.

 

 

 

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Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Year 2, Week 14, Saturday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

God is Holy

 And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory.””          Isaiah 6:3

The holiness of God overwhelms the prophet Isaiah. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the reality of God is revealed to him, as the Seraphim cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts”. God is. He is entirely what he is. By the grace of God, Isaiah knows the integrity of God, that he is generosity, freedom and clarity. God is just and true, without limitation or division. Therefore, nothing unjust or untrue, nothing inconsistent or ambiguous can withstand him. The divided heart cannot resist the purity of his presence. The sheer majesty of God makes all things worthy of him, or else unmakes them, consumes them, and eliminates them.

At first Isaiah is overwhelmed by this sight. Once he is purified, he becomes God’s messenger.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Hear the word of the Lord,you rulers of Sodom!Listen to the teaching of our God,you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?says the Lord;I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsand the fat of fed beasts;I do not delight in the blood of bulls,or of lambs, or of goats. …learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”             Isaiah 1:10-11, 17

Isaiah perceives God as thrice holy. There is no aspect which is not holiness. In his inmost substance he is holy. Therefore, God requires that all be holy.

For that reason, the Most Holy is angry with the rulers of Judah; he calls them ‘Sodom’. They seem holy in one respect – their service of God – but are unholy in another: their treatment of the people. Therefore, all is wicked. The Holy will have nothing to do with their sacrifices, their festivals, their pilgrimages, their prayers. These are repulsive, because the orphan and the widow and the oppressed have not been served.

The All-Holy requires that all aspects of life be holy. He will be no one’s favourite. He requires that the poor be served before he is worshipped. Because the rulers are unjust they will be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, wiped off the face of the earth.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Glenroy 1976

The blood of the dead

Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me,I am weary of bearing them.When you stretch out your hands,I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers,I will not listen;your hands are full of blood.”     Isaiah 1:14-15

The New Moons, the Sabbaths, the Assemblies were of divine institution. In the majestic theophany of Sinai, God had commanded Moses to ordain them. Yet now he says: “I cannot endure festival and solemnity.” They performed the duties of religion with care, yet God says: ‘Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul’. God gives the reason: “Your hands are Covered with blood”. The prosperity of Israel was built on the sufferings of widow and slave, of orphans and the poor. The injustice of their social life cancelled the justice of their religious life.

The words of the prophet, so strong in the past, are strong in the present. Christians have their Masses, our Easter and Christmas seasons. They perform the duties of religion in the church and at home; they say rosaries, perform penances during Lent, contribute to parish needs and sacrificial offering. They perform the duties of religion with care. But is there blood on their hands? Not the blood of the living, but the blood of the dead. Are their works of religion just a means of keeping the system going, of keeping this world as it is, of holding God at bay. Are their works of religion only a way of supporting the status quo. Do they do look for the completion of time, for the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection of the dead? They should first seek the kingdom of God and the world to come, the completing of things and the resurrection from the dead, and the rest will be given them.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

“Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, 4and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.”          Isaiah 7:3-4

The holiness of God cannot abide infidelity.

Pekah, the king of Israel has sided with the foreigner, Rezin, king of Aram, to wage war against his own flesh and blood, Ahaz king of Israel. The treachery of brother against brother, fellow worshipper against co-religionist, is an act of treachery that is offensive. The fidelity of God must overwhelm the infidelity of the northern king.

Therefore, Isaiah is sent to give heart to Jerusalem. He does so with a sign. He takes his own son, Shear-jashub. The fidelity of father to son is the sign of God’s fidelity to Jerusalem and indeed to Ahaz. The bonds of brotherhood may  have been broken, but the bonds of father and son are stronger. God will be faithful to the king who is as a son to him. The king and the people with him, like the young boy Shear-jasnub, must stand with their father, God. Together they will form an alliance which is inevitably victorious over the invading kings

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Inspiration

“If you do not stand firm in faith,you shall not stand at all.”           Isaiah 7:9

Aram and Israel have conspired to invade Judah, to destroy the house of David and parcel it out. Ahaz is tempted, therefore, to make an alliance with Egypt. But Isaiah forestalls him, and God says: “If you do not stand by me you will not stand at all.” Ahaz and Judah are to find their strength in God, not in alliances.

Today’s world is at war with chaos and disease and poverty. If human beings place their hope in human ability alone, they will not stand at all. They will create a society more terrible than ever. Those without divine inspiration will succeed for a while, but being blind, will eventually makes mistakes. Out of chaos they will create disaster. By contrast, those by whom God stands with his inspiration will discern the right thing to do at the right time. Those who are of God – they are the future, able to  master all problems.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire.”      Isaiah 10:16

God condemns the kings of Judah because they have been unjust towards the orphan and the widow and have tried to bribe God with sacrifices. He curses the King of Israel and his ally, the King of Aram because they have been unfaithful to their brother the King of Judah. Now he rejects Assyria because it has refused to remain as the instrument of God’s rage and has set about making plunder for its own sake.

How is it that the holiness of God expresses itself so vehemently? Is not our God full of mercy and compassion?

The holiness of God cannot cohabit with sin. The fidelity of God undermines infidelity. His truth cannot compact with the lie. He is without compassion to those who have no compassion, and his pity does not extend to the pitiless. Holiness requires holiness; mercy demands mercy. God requires holiness and when it is lacking  “a burning will burn like a consuming fire”.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Burwood 1984

Arrogance

When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says:For he says:“By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding. … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”        Isaiah 10:12-13, 16

Assyria was sent as executioner to punish the people, to be an instrument of healing, to redress the balance and re-establish harmony. Yet Assyria has overstepped the mark. The powerful nation has been deluded by its success and has turned into its own master. “By the might of my arm I have done this, and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine.”

In our own day, medical research seems to be repeating the folly of Assyria. For surely medicine is a godly work. Yet some have overstepped the mark. Those sent to heal with their surgery and their medicine have gone on “cutting nations to pieces without limit”. Medical research has explored areas that pertain to other fields, “pushing back the frontiers and plundering the treasures” that are to be known by other methods.

Therefore, will the fate given to Assyria be in store for medicine: “The Lord is going to send a wasting sickness of his stout warriors”? Will medicine, the most prized of sciences, be esteemed as treacherous and inimical to mankind?

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Oakleigh 1978

Good and evil

 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger – the club in their hands is my fury! … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”       Isaiah 10:5, 16

The ‘rod’, the ‘club’, how can these be the tools of a God of love? Disease and famine, plague and ignorance, how can these be the work of God?

Yet the harm that arises can be of God as much as the good. The contradictions of life can sometimes be justified by the results to which they lead, by that goal beyond pain and pleasure, beyond our ideas of good and evil, by that state of the highest good which is the only true good.

In this way, God leads out of one condition which is called ‘good’, through a method which is deemed ‘evil’, to another condition which is truly good. Or again, the process of change to a truer good may be called ‘punishment’, ‘correction’ or even ‘education’. Whatever analogy or word we wish to use, God is leading to the highest good, beyond good and evil, to himself.

Therefore, he is good, even he who “burns like a consuming fire”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

 Problem of evil

Against a godless nation I send him,and against the people of my wrath I command him,to take spoil and seize plunder,and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. …When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding.    Isaiah 10:6, 12-13

Assyria conquered Israel. Did this mean that the gods of Assyria were more powerful than the God of Israel? Did it mean that the Chosen People was misled in its belief that God would protect and preserve it?

Isaiah replies that Assyria is more powerful, not because other gods lead it, but because the one true God has sent it to punish his own People. “I sent him to a godless nation”. Assyria is more than permitted; it is sent and commissioned. Israel suffers because of its sins. God does not condone Assyria. Assyria has failed to see itself as the tool of God. It has said: “By the strength of my own arm I have done this”. For its arrogance and blindness, it too will be destroyed.

The problem of evil triggers a crisis of faith. Does God really exist? Does it mean that mankind is misled into believing in the existence of a good and loving Creator?

God does not simply permit ‘evil’. He sends it. What can be seen as evil is not a proof of his non-existence but of his intention to lead to fullness of life. Evil is a sign of imperfection, false paths, wrong choices. From this suffering God will bring good.

  

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                      Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Having expressed his anger at the people of Judah, at the king of Israel and at the nation of Assyria, God now relents. Even so, his anger was an act of mercy.

To punish is to free. To punish is to redress the balance and to bring peace. Of course, if the sin is total, the punishment cannot cease, and therefore cannot lead to lasting peace. To refuse to punish is to refuse peace. To punish is to acknowledge a relationship. It is an act of claiming. Therefore, even punishment can be an act of love. When the punishment comes to an end, peace is re-established. Punishment undoes the sin and so liberates from sin.

For that reason, Isaiah ends with a note of hope: “Your dead will come to life”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                    Glenroy 1976

Birth of the new city

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Isaiah has witnessed the destruction of Israel, has seen both the innocent and the guilty driven into exile or slain in the fields. He laments and grieves. Yet he sees the sufferings of his people as a sort of childbirth. Nothing is more painful than childbirth; nothing is more fruitful. The oppression of captivity is not evil but sacral and fruitful.

Of its every nature, Christian life involves a battling with the world, a dissatisfaction with sin and injustice. Christians writhe, for they are giving birth. They recreate the world, fashioning the seed that is in them. Yet, as Christians labour and endure, they do not leave the presence of God. They labour and give birth to the future city, they raise the dead, peopling their city with the just of every age. God’s fidelity to them overflows. And the child, the new city to which they give birth, knows in all fullness the saving power of God.

 

Year B, Week 15, Friday                                         Glenroy1976

The power of the Word

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.“This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.”  Isaiah 38:4-8

Isaiah, the mouthpiece of God, shows the power of God. He proclaims Hezekiah’s death, saves him from Sennacherib, restores his life, and even reverses the movement of the sun. He has power at every level.

The Word focuses the light of the Spirit upon a point already enlightened by the Spirit. It is great force, for blessing or for condemnation. The Church has no weapons except this strongest weapon. The Church has no sword but the word, indeed the Word, Jesus the Prophet.

Enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Church is tasked to  bless and condemn, uproot and plant.

 

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Japa, recitation

Recitation (japa)

summary of a teaching given by John Dupuche at the Interfaith Ashram, Warburton, January 2015

mantra is a word or phrase or sentence, a ‘vocable’, something that is said. The term ‘mantra’ comes from two elements, ‘man’ from manas which means ‘mind’ and the suffix ‘tr’ which is an instrumental suffix. A mantra is therefore a tool of the mind, as distinct from a tool of the hand such as a knife. Any instrument is for a purpose, so too the mantra is designed to achieve an effect, but with the power of the mind.

The mantra is more interior than a hand-held tool, indeed, a mantra, properly speak, is the phonic form of a deity. A mantra is not just a vocable recited again and again in order to pacify the mind and free it from distractions. It is a form of the deity, which is received in initiation.

Thus, properly speaking a mantra cannot be obtained from a book. It is given to the disciple by the guru at the very core of the initiation process. It is a gift from guru to disciple, from the guru who has perceived the quality of the disciple. In giving the mantra that suits the disciple’s particular capacity, the guru also communicates his very being and indeed the whole tradition with which he, the guru, is identified.  It is a gift from heart to heart, from mind to mind, the gift of the word.

Jesus of describes his own words in a most powerful way when he says: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (Jn 6:63) Every word he speaks is a mantra, just as every act he performs is a sign, which speaks of God and forecasts the world to come. He is in his words; he is the Word who speaks his words. He is the Word who comes from the eternal silence of the One who speaks him. He is the Word of God and by hearing him we are taken into the immense silence of the One, that silence which is the fullness of sound.

The reciter eventually becomes the mantra. Again, the mantra is the phonic form of the guru but it is firstly the phonic form of the deity of whom the guru is the manifestation. To recite the deity’s mantra is to come into contact with the deity, indeed to become the deity. Thus there is ultimately no separation of mantra, deity and reciter. All are one. In this way the mantra, the tool, has produced its result.

The recitation of the mantra is done in complete stillness and is perfectly relaxed. Furthermore, it is an inspired act. If it is not inspired it will not achieve its effect. It will be just the mouthing of a sound, no more significant than the squawking of a parrot. But when it is inspired from above it leads to the above.

The mantra starts in silence, and the reciter perceives the beginning of the mantra, how it bursts forth, so to speak, from the silence. It is word out of silence. It then comes to an end, where the mantra leads to silence, the pregnant silence, which is fullness.

The mantra is that of one’s chosen deity (iṣtadevatā). Each person must find the deity, which most truly reveals them and frees them. For the Christian, this is the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. But each person must find their deity, the one who touches them in the heart.

All words lead to the Word. All words are the expression of the Word; all mantras are the expression of the primordial Mantra.

The reciter lets himself or herself become identified with the mantra they recite, which must come from a valid and true tradition and from an authentic teacher. If it does not, they will be deformed by the mantra. It will injure them and not bring them benefit. Thus not any so-called mantra will do. The disciple must be without gullibility and discerning as regards the guru whose teaching and words they seek.

A mantra of particularly significance is so ‘ham which translates as ‘I am he’. That is, ‘I am the divinity whom I worship’. This can be easily misunderstood as a form of megalomania. However, properly understood it is a profound act of faith where the practitioner realises by his or her faith, namely by their deepest knowledge, that they are identified with their Deity, and that their Deity is the foundation of their lives, and that they themselves are the expression of that Deity. It is therefore an act of humility and devotion. By reciting this mantra the practitioner is identified with the Deity, such that there is but one ‘I’.

The phrase so ‘ham is related to the incoming (so) and outgoing (‘ham) breaths. It so happens that this process is sometimes spontaneously reversed, so that the in-coming breath is accompanied by the sound ‘ham’ and the outgoing breath by the sound ‘so’. This then becomes ‘haṃsa’, which means ‘swan’ (strictly speaking the Siberian goose). This term haṃsa acquires a symbolic importance. Just as the swan floats on the surface of the lake and from time to time immerses its beak into the water, so the practitioner essentially transcends this transient (samsāra) world but also takes part in it. The practitioner who achieves his or her identity with the deity is both transcendent and immanent to this reality, but principally transcendent.

This fits in with the teaching of Jesus who declares that his disciples are in the world but not of the world. (cf. Jn 17:14-16)

The term haṃsa then becomes a significant title, and we often hear of great teachers being called paramahaṃsa, laterally ‘supreme swan’

By reciting the mantra, the practitioner becomes immanent and transcendent, joining heaven and earth. He is his mantra, he is one with his guru and with the tradition and the deity. All is one.

Posted in Hindu Christian relations, Hinduism, Kashmir Shaivism | Leave a comment

My house in Warburton, Australia

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Halloween, All Saints and All Souls

The three celebrations – Halloween, All Saints and All Souls – are interconnected. Let me explain.

The word ‘Halloween’ means ‘evening’ (‘een’) of ‘hallow’ which is an old English word meaning ‘saint’. Thus ‘Halloween’ means ‘the day before All Saints Day’. I will come back to this.

It seems that the Feast of all Saints was originally celebrated in May but was shifted in the 8thcentury to 1 November where the forces of winter are starting to be felt. Winter in northern Europe was dangerous; it was a period of darkness, little food, the real possibility of not surviving till spring.  It was around this date, 1 November, that there was an important pagan festival where the custom was to kill off the feeble animals so that they would not use up all the fodder. This meant huge feasts of meat eating. The fear of death and of winter led to other excesses as well.

It was hoped that these fears would be set aside by the celebration of All Saints and the hope of their support in the coming times of real difficulty. Thus, Halloween was a time for chasing away all that was evil, all the dark forces of nature, the demons and ghouls.

Halloween has lost its earlier sinister aspect and has now taken on the character of  dressing up and going around to houses for ‘trick or treat’. This was developed especially in the United States, and took on a ‘spooky’ character where people dress up as ghosts and witches. It is all a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously.

The Feast of All Saints is a reminder that Christians are in communion with all the holy men and women of the past, those known and these unknown. It is the recognition that we are not confined to this earth but that we have a bright future, and that we are supported by those who have led outstanding Christian lives.

This celebration of all the saints in heaven leads to the Commemoration of all the Souls in purgatory, that is of those who are still on their way to enjoying the blessed sight of God and the blessedness of heaven. They are in what is called ‘purgatory’. The imagination is not helpful here. Purgatory is a time of change, a place or process of purification. It should not be imagined, as it has been in the past, in terms of hell with its fire and punishments but rather in terms of heaven, with its liberation and freedom. All that holds us down, all that hampers our fulness of joy, these bonds are being stripped away. Purgatory is a place of increasing freedom, an anticipation of joy, a place of hope and dawning bliss.

The Commemoration of all the Souls is a time when we on earth and the saints heaven, can share the benefit of our good deeds with those who have gone before us. It is an aspect of the ‘communion of saints’. It means that we can be useful to those who are dear to us, our family and friends. It means that those who have no one to pray for them can also be helped. We are of value to each other in the process of being freed from every limitation and sin.

These three celebrations are linked. Modern commerce and the media have focused on Halloween, but the principal joy of these days is the prospect of eternal life and light, of joy and beauty, of happiness for ourselves and all human brings.

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BLESSING AND CURSING, reflections on verses from the Twelve Minor Prophets

BLESSING AND CURSING,

reflections on verses from the Twelve Minor Prophets

 

Year 1, Week 25, Monday                                          Glenroy 1977

The true temple of the Lord

“Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.”         Ezra 1:3

The pagan ruler and the faithful remnant set out a common purpose: to rebuild the temple. And in rebuilding the temple the Chosen People are preserved and the greatness of the Empire is assured.

The Christian people, and the non-Christian people with them are engaged in building a temple. Not the gothic cathedrals which embody medieval Europe, not the baroque splendours which reformed the Church, but a temple structured out of people. Gone are the securities of marble and stone. Gone too are their ponderous mass. We now build the moving structure of a community, in all its intricacy, in its far greater beauty, as mobile as the Spirit who inhabits it, more firm in its determination than the spires of Cologne. The temple we build is the community of humankind, firm, committed, delicate, sensitive, marvellously varied and graced: the true temple of the Lord.

 

Year 1, Week 25, Tuesday                                          Glenroy 1977

The need for something greater than a temple

“The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.”        Ezra 6:16

The restoration of the temple has an air of joy about it, and also an element of sadness. It has a ‘fabricated’ quality, for it was an attempt to restore the past. It was a necessity indeed, but not a liberation. The destruction of Solomon’s temple showed the need for something greater than a temple. A truly liberating, lasting ‘temple’, not subject to time, was needed. Rocks last for millennia but eventually decay. Their solid mass seems eternal as the hills, but is in fact ephemeral.

More durable are the forms of life so changing, so transitory but more equipped to last. And humans, when will the rocks conquer them? Their race will last forever, on this or another planet. But what about the individual? By sharing in the life and death of the Christ, individuals  become spirit. In them God dwells more than in rocks or living creatures or even in the community of mortal flesh. God dwells supremely in those who have become free, liberated, true, eternal, real, and lastingly triumphant.

 

Year 1, Week 25, Friday                                            Glenroy 1977

The new glory will surpass the old

“My spirit abides among you; do not fear.”       Haggai 2:5

There is no need, therefore, to regret the past and its wonders. The new glory will surpass the old; the new temple will be more grand than the old; the new Church more splendid than the former; the risen Christ more marvelous than the mortal Jesus. What existed was Christ; what will exist is the whole Christ. Jesus of Nazareth will be the Man. The seed will become the tree. The Galilean of the gospels will be forgotten in the splendour of the New Adam. All of this because “my spirit remains among you”, active, raising to greatness.

By grace, we will, like Christ and following him, become all, embracing all, entering all, making of all things our body. What Christ said at the Supper and told his disciples to do after him, they do. They take the bread of the earth and its riches, all the gold of human heart and the silver of human minds, and of them make ‘my body’. That new ‘Temple’ will have surpassed the old.

 

Year 1, Week 26, Monday                                          Glenroy 1977

These we will restore to life.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”             Zechariah  8:7-8

Think of the children of Biafra, the starving thousands of the Sahel, or the men and women burnt to death with napalm or the millions aborted in the womb: these we will restore to life, to their fullness of life, by the power given to us. The Lord swears by it.

Return and banishment

All those whom ignorance and fear, whom time and distance have banished from the fastness of the Church, these we love with tender compassion. These we lead back and restore them to the City of delight. Those whom fear and rigidity, whom pride and human respect have kept within the confines of the Church, these we banish for a time in the deserts of uncertainty to learn how much indeed they love their Church.

 

Year 1, Week 26, Tuesday                                          Glenroy 1977

No earthly Jerusalem, only the human being

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”         Zechariah 8:23

They will come to those who live in justice and integrity, to learn the truth and to worship in them the God who is with them, the God who is with each person who radiates humour and compassion.

Every person will come to every person, every person will be with every person,  each one a living temple. There will be no earthly Jerusalem, only the human being.

 

Year 1, Week 27 Monday                                           Burwood 1983

Humour

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.    …But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.                    Jonah 1:1-3, 17.

The Book of Jonah is full of humour. We hear this cantankerous prophet trying to fool everyone with the stereotypes of a prophet. Out of the humour comes a sense of a God who is kindly and forgiving, who understands human foibles and is ready to relent.

The story also forms the backdrop for stories of Jesus on the lake. The prophet is asleep in the hold while the seas rage; Christ is asleep in the stern of the boat. The boatmen cry out in distress; the disciples are overwhelmed by fear. The boatmen try to reach land but cannot because of the heavy seas; the disciples row towards the shore but cannot reach it because of the contrary wind. Once Jonah has been cast into the sea and the calm has returned, the sailors make sacrifices and vows to God; the disciples fall down in worship of Jesus, amazed at the calm he has produced. Most explicitly, Jesus makes the comparison between himself and Jonah who remains for three days and nights in the belly  of  the whale.

The humour of the Book of Jonah is fulfilled in the grace of Jesus Christ.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Tuesday                                          Burwood 1983

Jesus and Jonah

“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. … When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.               Jonah 3:4-5,10

Jonah is one of the few people of the Old Testament with whom Jesus explicitly compares himself. Jonah has tremendous success, for, in response to his few words of teaching, all in Nineveh, from the king to the animals, do penance; Jesus is a spectacular failure. Jonah is held for three days in the belly of the whale; Jesus is enclosed for three days in the rock of a tomb.

Yet, what occurs partially in the case of Jonah, occurs completely in the person of Jesus. The sin of the world brings Jesus to his death, and in his death all humanity is destroyed. The apocalyptic moment has occurred in the very body of Jesus. God, by raising Jesus from the dead, offers salvation to all mankind.

The Book of Jonah speaks of danger and rescue from danger. The life of Christ leads through death to eternal life.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Wednesday                             Glenroy 1977

Humour as a sign of grace.

“But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”        Jonah 4:9-11

Humour is a sign of grace. Not the humour that is raucous or cutting, but the humour which proceeds from joy. Humour is the realization of incongruence. And yet this is incongruence is suffused by the realization of a deeper harmony, which, in turn, is the sign, beyond all expectations, of a greater, more loving force, which is not disturbed by the  incongruence. Aware of this more loving force, we are delighted, uplifted, for it means we are loved despite being incongruous. In fact, the incongruence becomes attractive. What was incongruous is now valuable, what was senseless is now loved. Justified and loved, we are full of joy, we laugh.

For that reason, the Book of Jonah – a book of humour – is part of revelation.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Thursday                                         Glenroy 1977

Burning and healing

“See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.”                    Malachi 3:19-20

The same fire which burns up the stubble also brings healing. That one Day is two sided, a day of wrath and a day of blessing.

For that reason, there is no need for anger, no need to keep the wicked in mind. Rather, there is need only to offer blessing and peace, justice and truth. That alone is the Christian concern. That alone is the Christian character and purpose. To those who receive it, it is a blessing. To those who refuse it, it becomes a blazing fire, more unquenchable because it is the very being of the eternal God, who is love. It is the grace of the Church which is everlasting.

Those who refuse it fade away. They retreat at its presence; they are consumed and driven back infinitely and eternally, as in a continuous falling motion, just as those who welcome it know a continuous ascension.

Justice is the Christian concern. It is the two-edged sword, and all else follows in simplicity.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Friday                                            East Doncaster, 1989

The Day of the Lord

“The day of the Lord is coming, it is near.”                    Joel 2:1

Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord”. Jesus takes up this phrase when he warns that the day of the Lord is coming. He speaks also of himself coming like a thief in the night. He speaks of the labour pains that come upon a woman, and of the day of his return to create a new heaven and a new earth.

The “day of the Lord” is the time of devastation and retribution. It also refers to the time of consolation, and to the blessings that come with the Lord’s presence.

The two meanings coincide. The moment of grace is both a consolation and the elimination of the thoughts and ways of the past. The interventions of God are both burning and  warming. When God makes the new he abandons the old. He destroys  and restores. Life and death coincide in his hand.

He is a living God and gives life, but only through the cross. Every moment of grace, every touch of God’s hand is a partaking in the Paschal mystery. The “day of the Lord” makes us tremble and makes us thrill.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Saturday                                          East Doncaster, 1989

Judgement Day

“I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.” Joel 4.12

Today’s reading speaks of judgment: “I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.”  The day of judgment means bringing justice to this earth. It is a day of punishment on Egypt and Edom for having done harm to the people of God. It is a day of consolation for God’s People: “When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk .”

God acts in this world. God did not create the world and then ‘retire’ to heaven, in some deistic manner. The Lord’s Prayer reads,  ‘Thy kingdom come’, ‘Thy will be done on earth’. The Lord of all is involved in the world he sustains. He intervenes. He forms the laws of nature but is not bound by them. He inspires and raises up new leaders. He is just and therefore eliminates the unjust. Good overwhelms evil.

As our God is, so must Christians be. They too must bring justice to bear. Their task is to eliminate injustice and to make society flow with milk and honey. When good prevails and evil is eliminated, the kingdom of God will have come among us: “the Lord shall make his home in Zion”.

Year 2, Week 13, Wednesday        Glenroy 1976

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. … Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.        Amos 5:21, 23-24

They are strong words, of the prophet Amos. These very feasts were established by God on Sinai. The people performed them correctly and frequented them assiduously. Yet God says: “I hate and despise your feasts”.

We may rightly wonder, does God say ‘” hate and despise your Masses. I loathe your sacraments and your church-going!”, even though they are of his institution.

At the time of Amos there was grave inequality between rich and poor. That is why God says: “Let me have no more of the din of your chanting … but let justice flow like water”.

Is this why the young reject our Masses? Do they see our ceremonies as the outcome of our mutual love? Are they the prophets from God, like Amos?

 

                                                                                          Oakleigh 1978

The very sacrifices God ordained have become hateful. Why is this?

Where the Spirit is absent the sacrifices become hateful, which is what happened in Amos’ time. But also how could they not inevitably become hateful? Being of transitory value, they have in themselves the seeds of their own destruction, arising from the Spirit, yet not fully spiritual. The Spirit that originally formed them also makes them obsolete, for the Spirit builds up and pulls down until all become Spirit. Only where there is fullness of Spirit is there full purity of action.

Amos realizes this. He looks forward to another time, to the full flowing of the Spirit, like an unfailing stream. Then there will be no offerings, no oblation, but the fullness of sacrifice.

To be with Spirit, to be of Spirit: that is the perfection of sacrifice, ‘in spirit and in truth’.

 

Year 2, Week 13, Thursday           Glenroy 1976

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” Amos 7.14-15

The reign of Jeroboam was the most successful in the whole history of Israel. The shrines of Bethel and Dan were flourishing, yet Amos comes and curses them all, the king, the nation and the priest.

Amos startles them. He has no prophetic background and comes from another kingdom. The only thing that justifies him, the only thing that could possibly justify him is the Spirit that has fallen upon him. “It was the Lord who took me from herding the flock”. “It was the Lord who said: ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’”.

Our own day longs for a prophet like Amos. People want to hear a word that is authoritative, which will uproot and plant, build up and cast down. People need to hear the prophet exposing the faults of society and Church. We want to hear the truth and find our faith strengthened.

Where shall we find the new Amos?

 

Year 2, Week 13, Friday               Burwood 1982

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, … The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. … The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”    Amos 8.4, 7, 11

The words of Amos apply to our own day, for he lived at a time when the Northern Kingdom was economically very successful. Yet that success was a sham and was built upon rotten foundations.

Making money rather than engaging in worship, heaping riches at the expense of the poor: these sins are found in our own age. So too on our own age the words of condemnation are threatened. God promises disaster and lamentation to the Norther Kingdom. Will there be recession and depression in our day? Will there be worse still? “I will bring famine on the country, a famine not of bread, a drought not of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord”.

Those who have chosen Mammon must lie with it. In their hearts they will know they are condemned, but in their mind they will seek to reject the thought.

 

                                                                                          Burwood 1986

Amos announces the crime of the people: they have been unjust to man and unrighteous towards God; they have impoverished the poor and denied worship to the One who gave them the Promised Land.

Therefore, Amos announces the punishment. Firstly, universe will be shaken; the days will darken and the light will fail. Then society will collapse; feasts will be accompanied with weeping and bitterness will fill every day. Thirdly and worst of all, there will be silence. They will stagger from sea to sea, wandering from north to east, seeking the word of YHVH and failing to find it. They have been unjust to the poor; therefore, the natural order will collapse. They have been unjust towards God: therefore, God will be silent.

They may well seek the wisdom needed for preserving the Kingdom of Israel: God will not tell. God who spoke to his people will withhold his word. Without divine guidance they will perish.

Is not this prophecy of Amos also true for our time? The gross concern for success, for profit at the expense of poor nations; the refusal to allow the divine mind to form the human mind:  these have brought unwisdom. Our society staggers.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Monday            Glenroy 1976

On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.”           Hosea 2:16

The people of Israel had been affected by Canaan and its gods. They were forgetting their experience in the desert and started addressing God as ‘Baal’.

Hosea fights against this. He looks forward to a renewal of religion in Israel which will involve both a turning away from Baal and a deepening of the relationship with God. Turning away and deepening go together. God will be a husband to Israel, a loving spouse, no longer a God of armies and thunder and smoke.

We are in danger, in our own day, of taking on too much of the mentality of the modern world. There is a lot of humanism, a lot of worship of creation and man in his natural state. We too must turn away from that diluting of our religion. We seek the divine; beware lest we end up with the merely human.

There is no need to look to the past, no need to look to the heavens, no need to look even at images of Christ. We look at all who are of good will and, behind the outward appearances, sense the Spirit, and see the everlasting Christ and the eternal Father of all.

 

                                                                                          Burwood 1982

Israel thought that a magical relationship with the fertility god of the Canaanites, would be more productive than worshipping the storm God of Sinai. The prophet, by contrast, reveals how much closer, more enriching and mutual, is the bond between Israel and YHVH.

How much closer, ever closer, will the relationship with God become, indeed! For a time will come when the human creature, made eternal by the power of God, will say ‘I am’; when the human race will bow down in worship not only of the Word made flesh, but also of each human being made one with the Word Incarnate. The flesh as flesh, but flesh redeemed and therefore truly flesh, will receive the worship accorded to the Infinite. Humans will speak with the authority of God. God will speak in them. They will speak in God. There are no limits to closeness with the Transcendent.

A time will come, when human beings will no longer call their neighbour ‘Fellow’ but will call them, ‘My God’. No longer will they seek God in the skies, but will look and find God all around, in themselves and in their companions.

 

                                                                                          Hoppers Crossing, 1988

At the time of Hosea, the gods of Canaan were given the title ‘Baal’. It was customary, also, for a wife to address her husband as ‘My Baal’, ‘My Lord’. It implied a relationship that was indeed grand, but it was  aloof also.

God, through the prophet Hosea, tells of his wish to draw his people to a relationship that was more intimate and equal, more affectionate and closer. No longer will his people call him ‘My Baal’, they will call him ‘My Husband’.

Jesus wishes that God be in us and we in God, through his body. This intimacy and equality are to surpass even the closeness of husband and wife. The identity of substance will be complete in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God and his creation will not be separate but enjoy a oneness of substance, as it were, and a communion of Persons.

Thus, we look forward to the closest possible union between ourselves and our God.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Tuesday            Hoppers Crossing, 1988

“Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.… an artisan made it;it is not God.The calf of Samariashall be broken to pieces.”     Hosea 8:5-6

During the period of the Kings, there was more than one temple in the Holy Land. Jerusalem did not yet have the outstanding position it would hold after the return from exile in Babylon. In the Northern Kingdom there was the great Temple at Bethel, the national Temple.

The people of Israel, had no graven image of God, in marked contrast to the surrounding nations who had many gods and many images of their many gods.

God exceeds any created thing. Not only must there be no images in wood or metal, there must be no images in our imagination. God transcends any idea that can be had of him. It is true that Jesus reveals the Father perfectly, but he is no graven image. It is Jesus raised by the Father who reveals the Father completely and is his perfect image.

Yet the people of Israel formed images of metal and wood. Therefore, the ‘calf of Samaria’ will be consumed, like all images, in the fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

                                                                                         Hoppers Crossing, 1988  

“Though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh, the Lord does not accept them.”    Hosea 8:13

Instead of the living God to whom all sacrifice is due, they loved the meat of sacrifice. They have turned away from the One who is life beyond meat, substance beyond flesh. To love meat is to find one’s body starved.  To live in God is to find one’s flesh nourished. To be with God is to find the being of one’s being and to be of God is to be abiding despite decay.

The Lord takes no pleasure in that meat. The lover of God likewise takes no pleasure in that meat but the living One and so finds his own flesh made firm experiencing every pleasure. The living God takes delight in the one who draws life from him, and from that life comes joy indescribable, subtle, overwhelming, in the flesh made spirit.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Wednesday        Glenroy 1976

“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.”      Hosea 10:1

Israel has come from the desert, destined to possess the promised land. They conquer it but corruption begins. With the goods, they also take up the idols of the land What began well ends in disaster.

The strength of faith has given the Christian world prime position among the nations, for they are, in the main, the wealthy nations. Yet they are becoming idolatrous. Altars are erected to idols as wealth is amassed beyond what is necessary. The accumulation is becoming sinful.

We cannot, in the face of poor countries, continue to live in our present affluence. God is not found there, but in greater poverty. Idolatry is a subtle thing, for it retains the outward forms, even when the Spirit is gone. The right words and gestures continue, but there is no substance. What began as promised land is turning into Gehenna.

 

                                                                                         Burwood 1982 

“The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow upon their altars. They shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us.”     Hosea 10:8

Jesus says these words to the women of Jerusalem as he carries his cross to Calvary. With that quote from Hosea he condemns the idolatry of those who would not recognize him.

The Northern Kingdom had raised altars to the Baals and the Astartes. Instead of the God of Israel they worshipped the gods of the Canaanites. Therefore, the very places they used as worship have now become their tombs. The shrines they had raised are now asked to fall on them, to cover their shame, to remove their suffering.

Jesus condemns his opponents for their idolatry. While they preserved the name of God and the outward show of religion, they did not revere him, for if they had worshipped the true God truly, they would have recognized his Christ. They are condemning themselves even as they lead him out for crucifixion.

There is no comfort in mouthing the name of God. Nor do the externals of worship prove much. True knowledge enables true worship of the true God.

 

                                             East Doncaster, 1992

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”      Hosea 10:12

The prophet begins by speaking of his time and of our time too. The more prosperous the people have become the more they have turned to idolatry. ‘The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built’. So, in our time, the growth of prosperity in our country has coincided with the growth of materialism and religious indifference.

The prophet gives a warning: “Then they will say: ‘We have no king because we have not feared the Lord’.”(Ho 10:15) The same warning is given to our society as well. With religious indifference there will be a breakdown of the social order. Laws will be circumvented. Commitment will disappear. Marriage will break down. The stronger will rule, and their rule will be by fear.

Then the advice is given: ‘break up your fallow ground’. The fallow ground is the land that has not been ploughed and remains still virgin soil, often wild but bearing much promise. So too there is need in our Church to discover new ways, to break new ground, to engage in lateral thinking.

For this reason, I have begun this interest in Tantra. It is fallow ground as far as the Church is concerned. It provides the means of a new insight into the perennial gospel. Let us explore this new direction and see if the Lord will “rain salvation on us” as surely he will.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Thursday           Glenroy 1976

“I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”         Hosea 11:9

God’s whole intention is the good of his people. He has proved this by the tenderness of his care in calling Israel, in leading him through the desert, in feeding him and bringing him to the Promised Land. Yet this same God has to bring Ephraim to his senses. And so, though he recoils from it and he trembles at the thought, he brings about evil.

God’s whole intention is human good. But humans learn and change through suffering. In choosing to create evolving humanity he involves himself in a world where destruction is a necessary ingredient. God does not simply allow evil, he actually brings it about – but the final purpose is good. There is no other way. God, by foreknowledge and design, brings his Son to the cross, but the aim is his glorification as Lord and Christ.  His purpose is not evil but good.

 

                                                                                          Hoppers Crossing  1988

… it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms.”    Hosea 11:3

From God we have come, to God we are destined.

From the very start he has loved us and at the very end he will receive us into his heart.

There can be no other place that satisfies us.

We were conceived in love and brought forth in love.

Nurtured and weaned and educated in love there can be no destiny which satisfies except to be constantly held in his arms, secure and eternally present there.

This is the highest joy for us and for him the outcome of his play of love.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Friday               Glenroy 1976

Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” In you the orphan finds compassion”.         Hosea 14:3

The orphan becomes child of God through the Holy Spirit. The Son of God becomes an orphan through sin. We were orphans, for there was a time when the Holy Spirit did not move in us, but Jesus was always Son of God for the Holy Spirit never ceased to inspire him.

The Holy Spirit comes to us, not by our efforts, but by God’s compassion. When we are at a loss, then God can make us gain. God’s compassion is a healing, an active changing of our bodies and hearts.

He grants us his Spirit by which when we acknowledge our sin, by which we cease to depend on ourselves and await his Spirit. He gives us his Spirit powerfully when we try to make up for the harm we have done. He gives us his Spirit publicly when we acknowledge our sin before the Church. He gives us his Spirit most perfectly when we receive the sacrament of the altar.

Then we too become children of God and we stand next to Christ in equality: he the source, we the beneficiaries, but equal now in the gift. We are not fully moved, he is fully moved. We resist. He never resisted. A time was when he still had to be raised in the Spirit. A time will come when we are fully moved, when we shall all be one, he in us and we in him, all equal, standing before Him who is all in all.

 

                                                                                         Burwood 1984

“They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.”          Hosea 14:7-8

The pattern is so constant: the people turn to idols, disaster strikes in punishment, hope is held out: “He shall bloom like the vine”.

The pattern is repeated in every age since grace and sin are of every time. We too have our idols, although they are nameless. Idolatry has become anonymous.

The hidden idol of our day is ‘mammon’. But “What has Ephraim to do with idols anymore?” There is no substance to this idol of mammon. Its promises are empty and cannot bring pleasure. “Assyria cannot save us”.

 

                                                                                         Hoppers Crossing 1988

“I will fall like dew on Israel.”          Hosea 14:6-7

United to God with heart and mind and body, acknowledging God as the One who transcends the human condition, as the One from whom all come

and to whom all are destined, when falseness of heart disappears, then his blessings come upon the earth, falling gently from above like the dew, coming into mind and thought, watering without violence, refreshing quietly and fully, giving strength to every faculty, hope to the heart and energy to the limbs, bliss and every happiness.

We shall bloom like the lily and thrust out shoots like the poplar, beautiful as the olive and fragrant as the high mountains of Lebanon.

 

                                                                                          East Doncaster, 1992

“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.”         Hosea 14:6

After expressing anger at the misdeeds of the people, the prophet now describes the healing that will come.  He uses imagery taken from nature.

Our imagery is different for is taken from the Spirit and his effects in the flowering of mercy, in the great drama of the Church, the holiness of the saints, the courage of the martyrs, the schools of philosophy and theology, the works of art and humanity: these are the fruitfulness of the Church to whom the mercy of Above has been made known.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Monday                                       Burwood 1986

Worthy sacrifice

Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.“O my people, what have I done to you?In what have I wearied you? Answer me!For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery;… “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:2-4, 6-8

The court has assembled to hear a case between God and his People. Heaven and earth are called as witnesses.

God accuses his People  of ingratitude. He has led them out of Egypt and through the desert into the land promised to Abraham. They have not done enough in return.

In reply the People claim exhaustion. They have offered him rams by the thousands and oil in torrents. Does he want their children also, even their first-born?

God replies that he does not want  an external but an internal sacrifice, he requires not the sacrifice of animals or children but the sacrifice of mind and will and status, “to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” What counts is internalization so that they themselves become the sacrifice.

Likewise, it is not enough to celebrate Mass. Our minds must become eucharistic. Our very persons are to become bread for all, given for the life of the world.  Our task is to live the eucharist so that we become the eucharist. The final condition of mankind will indeed be eucharistic. There will be no more celebration of eucharist in time but the state of being eucharist in eternity.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Monday                                       Glenroy 1976

Worthy sacrifice

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

The people of Israel had spent forty years in the desert learning the will of God which was “to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with their God”. Yet their arrival in Canaan led them to the worship of Baal, with temple services and holocausts, libation and even the cruelest of sacrifices. The people were zealous about these and forgot the true will of God. They were careful about the works of religion and forgot the demands of justice.

Micah calls the People back to their first vocation.  God demands not sacrifices and festivals and offerings, but justice, love, and humility.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Without limit

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land;let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvellous things.”   Micah 7:14-15

The exiles have returned to Jerusalem, but are force to live within its walls. The mighty nation of King David feels constricted and inhibited. They pray that God will give them governance over Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

The Church too feels confined. The horizons to which Christians called  are infinite, but they feel hemmed in by fear and ignorance. They pray that God will let them enjoy the freedom that is the goal of the children of God.  Their destiny is to acquire the dimensions of Christ, the expanses of his knowledge and sensitivity, the depth of his experience and the strength of his saving will.

Truth is all around. Heaven is at their side. Their only confinement is their sin, voluntary and involuntary, committed and inherited, chosen and imposed. Who shall make them see the wonder of Christ’s resurrection in their own bodies. Then they shall pasture on the fields of the universe, and drink the waters of the world, filling all things, being filled with all things, till God is all in all.

 

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