3rd Sunday of Easter Reflection
God is angry, and so am I. God is righteous and therefore God’s anger is just and righteous.
The Jewish Scriptures abounds in images of God’s anger and wrath. So often I align myself with God’s law and justice and therefore my anger also is righteous. And so I cry out with the Psalmist ‘Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies’ (Psalm 139:21‒22). This is my participation in God’s anger and wrath.
Let us take the time to look upon these images of righteous anger, wrath and their closely associated images of sacrifice. Let us especially examine the sacrifices that we ourselves have made for others, for family and for friends. If we dare to look closely enough you will soon enough encounter the embers of resentment and anger. Sometimes this resentment and anger is barely below the surface in our barbed and critical remarks.
When we get cause and effect in the wrong order and additionally personify God’s emotions to reflect our own feelings, things do fall apart, and the very first victim along with Abel, is inevitably, compassion and love.
Using our own interpretation of Scripture to define love, rather than the foundation of love to interpret Scripture, fear and anger, resentment and blaming, leads to separation and disintegration. Family ties fall apart and communities concern themselves with law and statutes to set themselves apart from a world that is crying out in travail. Without love, we mistake the map for reality:
The explorer returned to his people, who were eager to know about the Amazon. But how could he ever put into words the feelings that flooded his heart when he saw exotic flowers and heard the night-sounds of the forests; when he sensed the danger of wild beasts or paddled his canoe over treacherous rapids?
He said, “Go and find out for yourselves.” To guide them he drew a map of the river.
They pounced upon the map. They framed it in their Town Hall. They made copies of it for themselves. And all who had a copy considered themselves experts on the river, for did they not know it’s every turn and bend, how broad it was, how deep, where the rapids were and where the falls?
It is said that Buddha obdurately refused to be drawn into talking of God.
He was obviously familiar with the dangers of drawing maps for armchair explorers.
First comes love, and only then can we recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Those two disciples on the road to Emmaus were dejected and disappointed; the great prophet, Jesus, had not lived up to their expectations. It was only once their hearts had become inflamed by God’s incarnated Love that they understood the Scriptures. It was only in this flame of love that the Emmaus disciples recognise Jesus in the breaking of the bread. It is no coincidence that love finds expression in poetry:
My intellect sees what has happened,
but it cannot explain it.
It can see, and wishes to explain,
but can find no word that will suffice;
for what it sees is invisible and entirely formless,
simple, completely uncompounded,
unbounded in its awesome greatness.
What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as one,
received not in essence but by participation.
Just as if you lit a flame from a flame,
it is the whole flame you receive.
It was our Franciscan brother, John Duns Scotus, who led the way for us; we love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). Rather than knowledge and understanding, it is love that leads to love. Look into the eyes of the mother and the father as they gaze upon the new-born babe. This is the ongoing Easter image of resurrection and new life.
God’s revelation to us in the eternal Word, Incarnated in the person of Jesus the Christ, is an invitation for us also to participate in this dance of life, present in the here and now of history. This is our participation in the life of God, each one of us with our own particular communion of gifts.
God’s Family coming together, kneeling together, singing together, listening to Scripture together, praying together and sharing together in God’s greatest gift of love, the Eucharist and our communion. As the introduction to the new lectionary says, “In every age and in every place, coming together as God’s people to praise and to worship, in supplication and in thanksgiving, in times of celebration, in times of commiseration and in times of danger…”
This is a reminder as we gather in our homes around the world during this time of isolation and lockdown, facing together as humanity this new and terrible threat, not only to our financial survival, health and lives, but to our very humanity itself. Yes we know that there is great danger, there is selfishness, there is disorder and there is sin, but we also acknowledge our hope that wherever these abide, God’s grace abides the greater.
Now is the time, now is the opportunity, now is the call to humanity clear and loud; we are called together as one people, on this pale blue dot, to uphold and to support the weak and the helpless, to share in the ample resources of this One World, to put aside our guns, our greed and our grievances, to put aside our anger and our wars, and to participate in the dance of life through union and communion. In this great abundance of grace, there is an abundance for all of our needs.
On our current trajectory, there is no winner’s podium, no profit or market in a dying people on a forlorn and fractured planet. This is our call to join the disciples and to turn back from the road to Emmaus, the place of hot water.