Friday, November 28, 2014

Blaze Orange in Advent

It was in Advent, 1958, that I first attended a silent Retreat, and first allowed myself to become submerged in the flow of  sacred reality around me For the first time, I found myself spending long periods of time sitting quietly in church with no service in progress, just sitting and soaking
up the tangible sense of a silent presence.
        If you think that was odd behavior for a sixteen-year old, you should know that I was used to sitting for hours in the woods listening for the sound of a deer’s approach. Listening for God isn’t that much different, except that you don’t wear blaze orange and you don’t have the intention of shooting God if given the opportunity.

    In Advent we are “hunting” for God, and, amazingly, God comes “hunting” for us. The
hunter becomes the hunted, stalked by a ghostly presence. Yet this powerful hunter is the most
gentle of predators, the kindest of adversaries. To be swallowed by God is the happiest of fates.
To be ambushed by God is to cast out all fear. To be preyed upon by God is the epitome of
prayer. To die with God is to be reborn with Christ at Bethlehem, in Michigan, or in Paradise.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Matthew 5:13-20

1)   You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

2)   ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

3)    ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
“The saying as it stands in our English versions makes virtually no sense at all. “ Anchor Bible Commentary (1971) p. 54
The Roman orator and politician Cicero described the city of Rome as a “light to the whole world.”
“Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 6:1
“…Not one letter, …not one stroke…” =King James “…jot…tittle” Greek iota= dotted “i” and keraia= small marks in Greek script to “guard against confusion with one another.” (?) Anchor Bible Commentary p. 58

·         Obviously there is a stark contrast between the Gospel of Matthew and the letters of Paul, where we read “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.” Romans 7:6.
Yet St. Paul does not dismiss the Jewish Law… but does not regard it as the basis for a relationship with God. For Paul, a relationship with God depends upon Christ. Would the author of Matthew disagree?
·         The Gospel calls us to a “righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”, as the teaching of Jesus requires greater love and forgiveness than what the Law envisioned. In practice, as St. Paul wrote, “all have fallen short of the glory of God.” Our salvation is not a matter of “deserving to be rewarded by Christ and the Father”, but of accepting, as The Twelve Steps of AA put it, “that we are powerless…[to achieve righteousness]”.
·         In Christianity, moral striving occurs as a consequence of salvation, not as a way of achieving it.