Thursday, March 07, 2013

Power which feels like powerlessness

by Richard Rohr

The supreme irony of the whole crucifixion scene is this: he who was everything had everything taken away from him. He who was seemingly “perfect” (Hebrews 1:3, 5:9) was totally misjudged as “sin” itself (Romans 8:3-4). How can we be that mistaken? The crucified Jesus forever reveals to us how wrong both religious and political authorities can be, and how utterly wrong we all can be—about who is in the right and who is sinful (John 16:8). The crowd, who represents all of us, chose Barabbas, a common thief, over Jesus. That is how much we can misperceive, misjudge, and be mistaken.

Jesus hung in total solidarity with the pain of the world and the far too many lives on this planet that have been “nasty, lonely, brutish, and short.” After the cross, we know that God is not watching human pain, nor apparently always stopping human pain, as much as God is found hanging with us alongside all human pain. Jesus’ ministry of healing and death, of solidarity with the crucified of history, forever tells us that God is found wherever the pain is. This leaves God on both sides of every war, in sympathy with both the pain of the perpetrator and the pain of the victim, with the excluded, the tortured, the abandoned, and the oppressed since the beginning of time. I wonder if we even like that. There are no games of moral superiority left for us now. Yet this is exactly the kind of Lover and the universal Love that humanity needs.

This is exactly how Jesus “redeemed the world by the blood of the cross.” It was not some kind of heavenly transaction, or “paying a price” to an offended God, as much as a cosmic communion with all that humanity has ever loved and ever suffered. If Jesus was paying any price it was to the hard and resistant defenses around our hearts and bodies. God has loved us from all eternity.

Adapted by Fr. Richard Rohr from The Great Themes of Scripture: New Testament
(available from Franciscan Media)

Image by Salvador Dali

Sunday, March 03, 2013

3 Lent

Readings are here.

Thoughts toward Sunday: Theme might be "wake up" "pay attention"

Moses has run away from Egypt and his people's troubles. He's now married and tending sheep - a long way from being raised almost as a son in Pharaoh's palace. Perhaps the company of sheep, caring for their well being reminds him of the Hebrew people toiling away (not building pyramids regardless of Charleton Heston movies!), laboring for low or no wages, treated as aliens though they had been there for generations and once a welcome presence. The knowledge of their plight and the insight into the politics of empire smoulder in his mind and heart. He sees a strange sight that evokes all those memories and hears again the plea for their liberation from the heart of his very being - that place where God dwells in us. He could have continued on with his new life but a new call was lodged in his heart.

Paul responds to the Corinthians who live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith port city, who are the seekers in his time - new to a faith in Christ and like all converts - somewhat holier than thou. He warns them that spiritual pride gets in the way of a true relationship with God and that sometimes those who proclaim their holiness most loudly -- are actually still doing those very same things they rail against. True faith reveals itself in acts not words.

The Gospel wrestles with the continuing question of the Bible and of all faiths - why do bad things happen and why do good things happen. Is it God, is it my faith, is it punishment, is it reward? Or do things just happen because of the way the earth is created (earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, fire, flood), and because of human actions (climate change, dams and buildings built with shoddy materials, drunk driving,) - all with consequences. While I think certain choices lead to certain consequences I don't believe God zaps people or rewards people individually with intent. The world is created with tectonic plates that have to move to maintain a stable planet but God does not call forth an earthquake because people did something God did not like. But humans often do arise to their greatest potential in the face of disaster and tragedy (not always - but often). God made us with a desire to help one another and God made the earth - but still life is not God's pop quiz. As Jesus is on his way to the cross -- we are shown that God joins us in our sorrows, suffering, joys and celebrations - enters into life and does not hold Godself above us or apart from us.

Jesus ends this passage with the story of the fig tree -- the owner thinks the tree is a lost cause and it should be cut down to provide wood and make space for a more productive tree. But the gardener (often the metaphor for God - see Eden in Genesis - and the scene with Mary Magdalene at the tomb) want to give the tree another chance. The gardener wants to free up its roots so they can grow a bit - add a little manure to fertilize it.

All of these lessons can show us how we can grow more fruitful in our lives - how we can be witnesses to our faith - one is "notice" - pay attention to the holiness around us. Two is don't compare ourselves to others - pay attention to our own faith and deeds. Three: things happen - try to see the opportunity instead of the disaster -- let God loosen up your roots and use the manure to grow stronger, deeper, closer to God.

“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”
― Elizabeth Barrett Browning

And I found this