Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Reflection
In Jesus the Christ we have the full revelation of God, God’s plan, God’s will and the nature and blueprint of all reality. God’s Word is revealed to us in the person of Jesus. When Jesus speaks, Scripture is fulfilled; God’s kingdom is a reality fulfilled in the person of Jesus, the eternal Word incarnated and made known to us.
How can we hear and follow this Word in the world today recognising the many oppositions that have emerged because of the power of empire and the role of that power in our experience. The power and resources of empire all too often informs our empirical observations which in turn become the basis for expressing theological claims.
Out of the dark ages there arose new empires with Clovis in the West and his holy war, to Justinian in the East and his endeavour to establish a new Rome. Empire ensnared and enrolled religion in its search for conquest and domination. In the light of history we have seen this as the source of those theological claims used to defend royal prerogative and to justify imperial conquest.
The ability to switch between ‘theological’ and ‘empirical’ justifications for democratic governance, on the one hand, and imperial conquest, racial subjugation and class domination, on the other hand, is as real today as it has ever been. It is little wonder that so many of us have lost our faith the many grand institutions. These are the principalities and the sovereignties of our day.
How and where do we begin to recover authentic interpretation of Holy Scripture as Ezra does in our first reading so that we too may sing praise as we read in the psalm? Thomas Aquinas stated that “Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver.”
How You See is What You See
People at different levels of maturity and in different cultures and societies will interpret the same text of Scripture in different ways. How you see is what you see; the who that you bring to your reading of the Scriptures matters. Who are you when you read the Bible? Defensive, offensive, power-hungry, righteous? Or humble, receptive, and honest? Surely, this is why we need to pray before reading a sacred text!
Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalist texts in his own inspired Hebrew Bible in favour of passages that emphasised inclusion, mercy, and integrity. He read the Scriptures in a spiritual, selective, and questioning way.
Jesus had a deeper and wider eye that knew which passages were creating a path for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. Our current culture here in South Africa is caught up in playing the Blame game and the culture card. We must take our own temperature so as to gauge our position.
God’s Word Present in All Creation
In the presence of Jesus we walk on holy ground. I remove my sandals to remove any barrier between myself and that holy ground. On this holy ground, I touch the soil and to feel the grass, standing silently to breathe and to feel that energy of God’s Word present in all of creation; recognising my ‘oneing’ with this Word and all that I may behold. In the present moment; in that now, I am, and that is enough. In this moment there is no space for illusion, pride and grand posturing.
Where we encounter Jesus that is also where truth is and where the symphony of creation becomes audible. Where Jesus is present, so also is the Trinitarian procession of kenotic love. With this Trinitarian procession of kenotic love present there can be no self-serving clinging or manipulation.
It is the nature of God, the nature of kenotic love, to give of itself completely to and for the other. When we humbly attune ourselves to this continual joyful Trinitarian procession, our true nature also becomes evident as it resonates with its own source; a beautiful and true note reflected from the tuning fork.
This resonance that we find with Truth, does not require our searching for meaning and least of all the imposing of meaning; it is simply the presence and an awareness of the soul to the source of its being.
This enlightenment of the soul is pure grace, pure gift. Our diligent studies of theology can as easily support us as it can be a hindrance to this enlightenment. As St Bonaventure affirmed, the illiterate woman cleaner who has experienced true love, is as great a theologian as any teacher.
Joy; this is the evidence of the presence of Jesus, the truth of God’s word made known to us. Where Jesus is present, there also we find unity that respects our diversity. This is not the pseudo-unity of imposed conformity to uniformity but the joyful acclamation of the other’s identity.
Where Jesus is present, there we find healing and hope that always marked Jesus relationships. Those who open themselves to the healing presence Jesus, always went away filled with joy, hope, compassion and a burning experience of God’s Love have for them.
We acknowledge that the world and even the churches have become caught up in the commercialisation of love that I have termed the Babylon effect, but this cloning and mimicking of the Truth that is Love, cannot overcome the light of Christ that is with us. Any other experience that replaces the truth, will leave us empty of consolation and devoid of ultimate hope.
The experience of Jesus brings us into direct relationship and experience of Truth. This is the witness of the Saints and this is the promise of Jesus the Christ. When we hear and attune ourselves to the Trinitarian procession of kenotic love, there is nothing in the heavens or the earth that can replace this Joy of Love.
A Trinitarian Love
This joy of love that the experience must also give of itself to others in a self-emptying gift of service. As Thomas Merton tested, “This is indeed how we know the Truth, Love the Truth we know and come to act in accordance with the measure of that Love”.
This is how Scripture is fulfilled in our own hearing and the Kingdom of God made present in our world. Our philosophy and inventive theology has since the earliest times of the church had its place and continues to have its place. Whenever and where ever this however replaces an experience of Jesus in the triune procession of Love, we will leave ourselves open to the manipulation of the power of empire conspiring with its own agendas.
Again and again we must affirm that first comes love, out of which and for which creation takes place; we have been created out of Love, for Love and to Love. The disordered love this world has caused much misery, inequality and sorrow but we have come to know and we have come to believe that the darkness will never overcome the Light; all will be well, all will be well! “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust in Jesus.”
Where is the Love? Can it be found somewhere along the way, like some treasure that makes the journey worthwhile? Or is Love the journey itself? Or is it the dream that makes the journey possible? These thoughts ran through Francis mind one day as he listened to Brother Leo reading to him the letter of St John the apostle: God is Love, and if you abide in Love, you abide in God and God in you.
Yet, if you found God, you also found Love. But that was only the beginning of the quest, for who was ever sure of having found God or even sure of looking for God in the right places and by the right road? Francis experience in the cave assured him that Jesus dwelled within him, that God was nowhere farther than his own heart. But there were the other presences of God he sought to find. He wanted to search for God in all the places where He dwell and he knew that such a quest meant finding God everywhere along the way.
That is where Love was, that is where God was – anywhere and everywhere. To find God in the poor crumbling houses of Poggio Bustone, to find God in the Castle of a count, in a cave on Mount Subasio, as well as in the Eucharist reserved in the tiny chapel of St Mary of the Angels. Francis suddenly realised that somewhere along the way he had begun finding God everywhere because God was with him all the time. He brought Love with him on the road and that is why he found Love all along the way.
It was all so simple when he thought about it now. Love comes to those who have a Love already. You find what you bring with you in your heart. God has loved us and that gift is ours before we ever set out to find it. That secret was there already in the prayer he taught the Sultan but he had not quite understood it quite the way he did the day he heard the letter of John from Leo’s lips. (Bodo, 2011 p. 138)