Love Longs But Doesn’t Possess

Ps 130:5-6 – I wait for the LORD, my soul waits and I hope for his word. My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak.

The Psalmist expresses so well our relationship to God: one of yearning and waiting.  Truly, the person who loves God is a person who longs for Him.  But this longing and yearning isn’t limited to our relationship with God; rather, it extends to our very own loving relationships as well with those whom we love: spouse, children, family, and friends.

The condition of the lover to the beloved is one of limited knowing.  In other words, because the beloved is a person with so much more than what is physically available to our senses that her being is communicated more than by our own empirical assessment of who she is.  The lover who mistakenly believes that he knows the entirety of his beloved’s being is one who seeks to possess rather than to love, for genuine love longs for instead of trying to possess the other.  This is the reason that Scriptures are filled with instances of people longing for God.  And once this longing is fulfilled, the peace is so overwhelming that death seems but a trivial occurrence – Lk 2:29-32

Likewise, when we, in our own human relationships, seek to genuinely love, we must therefore learn to long and yearn for those whom we love.  We yearn for them to reveal to us who they are, and we then embrace those revelations.  Without self-revelations we can never know anymore about our beloved than those things that are superficial and physical, marked by our own determinations of what they mean, and this is terribly dangerous because our determinations of others can be perilously biased.

Thus, whereas love that takes on the form of possession will take after the “you are mine” motto because it seeks to take control and take charge, love that takes on the form of longing and yearning will take after the “I’m yours” motto since it expresses that it is open to receiving what the beloved is willing to reveal to it, and it thirsts for those revelations.  Therefore, we wait and we long for our beloved’s revelations.  And when those revelations come and we can love deeply and peacefully, the bumps and obstacles within those loving relationships are but trivial occurrences of a fallen world.

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Good Friday

Today is the day that the creatures hang the Creator upon the cross; the effect kills the Cause; the subjects slay the King.  Today is also the day that speech must turn to silence in order grasp the mystery of the death of God. Today is the day that sin takes its final strike at the heart of God in an attempt to usurp His throne completely.  Today can be summed up by these words of Patrick F. Kirby:

They drove the hammered nails into his hands,
His hands that shaped the hot sun overhead;
Then all prepared to return to their own lands,
Glad in the knowledge God at last was dead.

“Now Babel can be built, and none deny!
In its cool gardens shall we take our ease;
Nor need we fear the everseeing eye,–
Our gods shall be whatever gods we please.

“Ishtar shall guard us, mother of all men,
And Bel rejoice us when the winds blow spiced
From Indus.  Wine and song shall glad us then,–
We never loved this wistful, pallid Christ!”

Let Us Pray

God has provided us a way to ask of Him for whatever we need: prayer.  Just as one who is in need of money or goods must beg for a living if he is unable to work himself, so too must we approach the Lord in prayer to ask for those things that we need that we cannot provide for ourselves.  The fall of our first parents has shut us out from our Father’s home, and it is by prayer that we knock to gain entrance.  This entrance is promised to us by Jesus if we pray aright.  Just as a good parent would provide those things that she deems fit and good for her child, so too will God, our parent par excellence, grant to us all those things that are most beneficial to us if we only approached Him and ask.  Do not be fooled into thinking that God would ask us to pray and refuse to listen to our prayer, or to give us something harmful.  He gives us what we need and at the correct time when we need it – we may be rash in our timing, but God is kairosian in His.

More importantly, God has made it so that prayer is available to all.  Prayer is for the Christian and the non-Christian, for the poor and the rich, for the adult and the child, for the priest and they lay person, for the general and the cadet, for the courageous and the cowardly, for the wise and for the foolish.  Prayer is for all, and all are welcomed to God’s throne filled with grace ready to be dispense to each according to his or her need.  Let us pray! Mt 7:7-12

A Prayer – Digby Mackworth Dolben

From falsehood and error,
From darkness and terror,
From all that is evil,
From the power of the devil,
From the fire and the doom,
From the judgment to come,
Sweet Jesus, deliver
Thy servants forever.

The Wisdom of Humble Faith

Jesus’ condemnation of the self-righteousness of the people of his time in today’s Gospel reminds us of the wisdom of faith content by whatever provisions the Lord has chosen to give.  Unlike the Ninevites, who repented from their sins simply by the words of Jonah without witnessing any miracles, the contemporaries of Jesus refused to repent even though he was among them working miracles day in and day out.  While one group profited from the words of God delivered through a prophet, the other group turned from the Word of God and rejected his grace that would humble their hearts.  The faith of Nineveh accepted whatever little revelation God was willing present to it and received such revelation with great humility.  The faith of Jerusalem doubted all the revelation that God was granting them and rejected Jesus’ revelation with its pride.  Allow Alexander Pope’s Universal Prayer to guide our own faith life today so that, with the humility the Ninevites, we may receive whatever little the Lord chooses to reveal to us with humility in faith.

Father of all! in every age,
    In every clime adored,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
    Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood:
    Who all my sense confined
To know but this—that thou art good,
    And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
    To see the good from ill;
And binding Nature fast in fate,
    Left free the human will.
What conscience dictates to be done,
    Or warns me not to do,
This, teach me more than Hell to shun,
    That, more than Heaven pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives,
    Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives,
    To enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span,
    Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
    When thousand worlds are round:
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
    Presume thy bolts to throw,
And deal damnation round the land,
    On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
    Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, oh teach my heart
    To find a better way.
Save me alike from foolish pride,
    Or impious discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
    Or aught thy goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
    To hide the fault I see;
That mercy I to others show,
    That mercy show to me.
Mean though I am, not wholly so
    Since quickened by thy breath;
Oh lead me wheresoe’er I go,
    Through this day’s life or death.
This day, be bread and peace my lot:
    All else beneath the sun,
Thou know’st if best bestowed or not,
    And let thy will be done.
To thee, whose temple is all space,
    Whose altar, earth, sea, skies!
One chorus let all being raise!
    All Nature’s incense rise!

Repent and Return

We are reminded in today’s Gospel reading that the path towards God is often one that requires the carrying of crosses.  The world offers convenience and ease as temporary fulfillment for our permanent thirst.  These drinks require our returning to them over and over again because they do not fully satiate our thirst.  None of us are strangers to these drinks.  However, Christ’s words are clear: the way of the Lord is difficult and tough, but while the body aches the soul rejoices.  And just as St. Monica prayed and waited patiently for the young Augustine to turn from his wayward ways, God, our parent par excellence, remains in waiting for our return to Him.  Allow Ellen Gilbert’s words from Prodigal to be our own words to God and guide us back to Him this Lent:

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home to Thee;
Home from a flight and freedom
That was never meant for me.

And I, who have known far spaces,
And the fierce heat of the sun,
Ask only the shelter of Thy wings,
Now that the day is done.

Like a bird that trails a broken wing,
I have come home, at last…
O hold me to Thy Heart once more,
And hide me from the past.

Jesus: The Son Of God, Part 2 of 2

In part 1 of this posting, I pointed out what God meant to first-century Palestine Jews and what they saw in the title “Son of God”.  I will use James DG Dunn and NT Wright, two conservative and traditional New Testament biblical scholars, as primary sources to tackle the task at hand.

Whether or not Jesus thought of himself as the Son of God is a question that raises a lot of difficulties for Christology scholars.[1]  However, given that we have no recorded autobiographical text of Jesus, there doesn’t seem to be a definitive way to make an argument in favor of either position.  Yet, Dunn argues that we can hope to penetrate into the mind of the first-century Palestinian Jew named Jesus, however implicitly through his words and actions, to learn of his own sense of divine sonship.  Dunn and Wright conclude that any movement that suggests that Jesus thought of himself as a divine person sharing in the divinity of God is ludicrous and does not take into account the historical context and development of the New Testament texts.  On the other hand, it is not altogether moot for us to approach the question “did Jesus ever claim his divine sonship?” since we have enough evidence from to the scriptural text, as well as other historical works, to insist that Jesus saw himself having an eschatological uniqueness in his relationship with God.

One argument for the self-knowledge of Jesus as having an eschatological uniqueness is his addressing of God as abba in the Gospel writings.  Dunn insists that this piece of evidence is a good starting point insofar as this way of addressing God was not very common in the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ time.  When Jesus addressed God as abba, it seems that there is an intimacy striking of someone familiar to the subject who is the object of his affection in a very familial way.  Distinctively, and worthy of noting, is when Jesus taught an adaptation of the Kaddish, where he addresses God as abba instead of the traditional ‘Lord of the world’ as how these prayers normally begin.  Further, Dunn points to Paul’s usage of abba as something distinctive for the Christians as another piece to the argument since, as Dunn argues, “had it been in common usage within any other large group or class within Palestine or Judaism Paul could hardly have thought of it in this way, as a distinguishing mark of those who shared the Spirit of Jesus’ sonship, of an inheritance shared with Christ.”

Yet, the question remains why it seems that Jesus saw himself as the great I AM in the gospel accounts, most prominently in the Johannine text.  Here, we find that the historical argument from the Johannine scripture is moderate, if not weak, for the self-knowledge of Christ as the Word of God, born before all ages.  In fact, Dunn, citing C.H. Dodd, argues that much of what is said about the person of Jesus as the pre-existent being proceeding forth from the Father in the Johannine tradition is a literary product of the author’s meditation or sermons.  This is the result of comparing the synoptic and the Fourth Gospel, which provides us with various sayings and affirmations that Christ made about himself which are present in the Johannine tradition, but are not present in the Markan, Matthean, and Lukan traditions.  This means that Jesus did not see himself as the very God of Israel who created all things from the beginning and to restore it to its former glory.

Conclusions

First century Judaism was situated amidst a variety of religious beliefs that saw god in various ways.  For the Jews of this time, God was seen in a twofold manner: the One existing before all things Who created all things and Who has called Israel to be his people and offer Himself to them as their God.  All of these religious traditions, along with Judaism, saw the title son of God in a variety of different ways.  Some pagan religious traditions and myths saw the title as a conferring of divinity by god himself to the one he has chosen, or that a god as copulated with a human being to give birth to a demi-god and so forth.  For Judaism, son of God is used in reference to one who lives in a holy manner and who has kept the Law of the Lord.  Accordingly, this title is used of various persons, as well as to refer to Israel and the Israelites themselves.

With this in mind, we do not think that Jesus thought of himself as the Son of God in the manner that modern Christians think of this Christological title.  There is little evidence to suggest that Jesus thought of himself as the same substance (homoousios) as that One God who created Heaven and Earth, and Who called Israel to be His people.  What little evidence we do have of this exists only in the Johannine tradition and, when placed side by side with the Synoptic traditions, does not provide a good enough argument for us to insist that Jesus understands himself as the Son of God with the same understanding that the Nicene Creed claims of him.  Yet, this in no way negates the expression of faith that the Nicene Creed claims of Jesus.  Instead, we must remember that the Nicene Creed is an extended proclamation of faith expressing in a more coherent manner what the early Christians understood by claiming Jesus as the Son of God.


[1] Cf. James DG Dunn “Christology In the Making”  and NT Wright “The Resurrection Of the Son of God”

 

Love Seeing

Today’s Gospel, from Mt 9:27-31, tells the story of two blind men calling upon Jesus for mercy as he passes by them.  In first century Palestine, blindness is seen as a curse of God upon the people inflicted with it since one’s sight is directly connected to one’s heart, i.e. I must be able to see God in order to love Him.  And yet, as we hear it throughout the Gospels, the people who were blind, deaf, mute, and lame are the people who exhibited the most profound faith in Jesus.  In this particular case, these two blind men seem to have exhibited great faith.  They did not ask Jesus if it is possible for him to restore their sights.  Instead, they cried out with the conviction of sinners who know they can be saved if only the Lord speaks the word, “Son of David, have pity on us!”

These men have been freed to love through their blindness.  In the same way, our sins and faults allow us to love properly.  In other words, for the Christian, the sinner is freed when he recognizes his own fault or failure so that he can proceed to learn and love as he would have himself loved.  This is the reason that the “gold rule” is so popular, for it asks that we bring judgment upon ourselves before we bring judgment upon others.  In this sense, the love that is freed is the love which proceeds in faith and hope.  It is the love that reminds us (sinners) that the Mercy of God demands that we give mercy when asked of us and to place hope in others that they will turn from their wrongs.  When we love in faith, we are able to “see.”  This seeing is the recognition of the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of God intrinsically present within others, a piece of knowledge written into our hearts but, because of our sins, we have neglected to do so.  Thus, it is in love seeing that we, the sinners, see Love.

This kind of love, one that proceeds from faith, allows us to move beyond the selfish desire for love of ourselves by admiring our own accomplishments and well-doings in order to move towards the recognition of our own sins and faults.   This is the kind of love that only embraces and never judges for it has brought judgment upon itself in order that it to love in the first place.  Thus, the good and meaningful Christian life is not consisted in self love, but love for neighbor and God.  For the Christian, the meaning of life lies in loving the Truth and following that Love with faith.

Happy Advent and Friday, my friends