Third Sunday in Advent Reflection
Babylon changed things, many things. Like the air that we breathe, these many things are within the collective consciousness of Jewish history carried through into our Christian religion.
This famous and beautiful city is mentioned within Scripture three hundred times; the Babylon effect. This is the effect of the Babylonian language of commerce and industry upon the Hebrew language, introduced the commercial concept of the debt of sin that needs to be repaid.
This idea replaced the earlier Jewish Scriptural theology of sin as a burden carried by the individual that infects the collective. This required the ritual laying of sins of the people on the head of a goat to be chased into the wilderness away from God’s sight; the scapegoat!
The sins of the people were now out of God’s sight in the ‘God forsaken wilderness’ and right relationships between God and the people as well as between the people themselves, was restored.
John the Baptist calls out with exactly this need of remorse, admission of guilt and punitive repayment for preparing for the coming of the Messiah. There is certainly an allurement in this idea of repayment; getting back what was taken from me or my ancestors and for the guilty to be doing the repayment, to suffer; those brood of vipers. In the name of justice we demand restitution and compensation.
There are so many strident calls in the world today; redistribution of wealth; America first; land expropriation without compensation; the war against terrorism “one terror against another terror”. Justice however, whether it be decorated as restorative justice or just plain getting even is like the ice-cream; sweet to the taste, but be careful of the brain freeze.
Standing in the opposite corner we have the fish; mercy, compassion and forgiveness which we applaud, as long as it is on our hook and not swimming towards my opposition. This is the juxtaposition of justice and mercy that tears apart our worldview as quickly as it tears apart our world. There is never peace found in this route because it excludes God’s work of compassion, mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Just as God is excluded from the proposition of Kant “I think, therefore I am”, God is also excluded from the proposition “if you want peace, work for justice”; it’s all about me! Confusing of Cause and Effect is a fallacy that occurs when we claim that because two things typically occur together, that one causes the other.
However, the two things do not have a cause-effect relationship. The Law can never justify us. The only preparation necessary for receiving Love, which is the cause of peace and gratitude, is the letting go of our attachments, especially our attachment to our own precious little ‘truth’.
This can be difficult. Our minds hold us captive to our own illusions. It is as though an entire committee were having a meeting inside my head. All of the members talking at the same time affirming my rights; judging and condemning; choosing those images that best fit with my own illusions. This is the blindness that is bolstered by my own treasured opinions; opinions that are strengthened by refusing to look at reality; refusing to experience the one who is ‘Truth’. And so we also do not recognise ‘God with us’.
It is only from conscious awareness of reality and Truth, that we experienced ‘God who is Love’. This experience of love, leads us into gratitude; and out of this gratitude flows our peace and our joy as Christians. This never was and never can be a commercial transaction. What value can we attach to love? What value can we attach compassion, mercy and forgiveness?
“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see …each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, and competition; all such distortions within our own egos; condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That’s how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other’s naked hearts.” ― Tennessee Williams.
St Paul admonishes us in the same way as the communities of Thessalonica and Ephesus: “Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants of you in your life in Christ Jesus. Speak to one another in the words of the psalms, hymns, and sacred songs; sing hymns and psalms to the Lord, with praise in your heart. Always give thanks for everything to God in the name of our Lord ‘Jesus Christ. May you always be joyful in your life in the Lord. I say it again, rejoice! … Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking God with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe, in Christ Jesus.”
Today is Gaudete Sunday; Rejoice Sunday! It is a day for considering all that we as Christians and specifically as a Christian community can rejoice about.
This is the good news that each and every one of us share in. The grace that is the Cross of Jesus in which converge and transform evil, justice, mercy, forgiveness and love. As a Christian community we are privileged to share in Jesus’ spiritual life and so must also share in Jesus concerns and desires.
In order for us also do the will of ‘the One’ who sent Jesus, we need to free ourselves of the Babylon effect; the commercialisation of religion, the commercialisation of justice, peace and forgiveness as well as the commercialisation of love.