Sunday, August 10, 2008

19th Sunday - Ordinary Time

God is not in the strong wind, the earthquake, the fire, but the gentle breeze.

Readings: 1) “When Elijah reached Horeb, the mountain of God, he went into the cave and spent the night in it. Then he was told, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord,’ Then the Lord himself went by. There came a mighty wind, so strong it tore the mountains and shattered the rocks before the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind came an earthquake. But the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire. But the Lord was not in th e fire. And after the fire there came the sound of a gentle breeze. And when Elijah heart this, he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave” (First Book of Kings 19, 9, 11-13).

2) “After having fed the crowds, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a headwind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. “Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, bid me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter go tout of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?! And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Matt. 14, 22-33).


a) The lake is the secular world
b) The boat is their domestic home and professional work of their own fashioning
c) Christ sends them into the world.
d) Christ comes to them walking on the water. He is “in” the world by his humanity. Or rather, the world is “in” Him as created through Him and unto Him (Col 1, 15), and taking its meaning from Him.

e) They can’t quite make him out with their sensible vision. There is ambiguity in recognizing His presence. In His divine Person, He is the Kingdom of God in the secular world. However, the eye, ear, touch, etc. cannot reach His divine Person to “know” Him as He is.

f) The epistemology of recognizing the Kingdom kicks in here fully. The exegesis of John the Baptist’s lack of faith, his sending messengers to Jesus with the message: “Are you He is to come or should we look for another?” is exactly applicable here. And the answering message of Jesus: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them, and blessed is he who takes no offense at me” (Lk. 7, 22-23). And the comment of John Paul II: “Especially through His lifestyle and through His actions, Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live – an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity…. Christ, then, reveals God who is Father, who is ‘love,’ as ‘rich in mercy’ …. This truth is not just the subject of a teaching; it is a reality made present to us by Christ. Making the Father present as love and mercy is, in Christ’s own consciousness, the fundamental touchstone of His mission as the Messiah.”[1]

It is the same “scandal” that Christianity has always experienced down the millennia: the “inefficacy of Christianity: after two thousand years of Christian history, we can see nothing that might be a new reality in the world; rather, we find it sunk in the same old horrors, the same despair, and the same hopes as ever. And in our own lives, too, we inevitably experience time and again how Christian reality is powerless against all the other forces that influence us.”
[2] Since the God-man is in the world, you would expect the world to be different place that we could experience according to our own measure. We should be able to calibrate the “success” and power of His presence according to our criteria.

And Ratzinger, brilliant in his honesty and openness, explains that it is precisely because of this “scandal” of the ineffectiveness of Christianity, that “Christian theology… turned the kingdom of God into a kingdom of Heaven that is beyond this mortal life; the well-being of men became a salvation of souls, which again comes to pass beyond this life, after death.”
[3] In a word, Christian theology “clericalized” the message of Christ which was full-bore secular as the kingdom of God here and now “in” the world.

g) The key to “knowing” Christ as divine Person is to go through conversion. Peter is called to leave the boat of his own making and ownership. He has to risk doing the impossible: to walk on water. That means: to live a supernatural life = a life of relation to Christ and to the others. He must forget about himself and think only of Christ and the others. Only thus, can he walk on water.

This is the life of conversion to be gift, to be relation. Only thus can one "see" God.

Benedict asks: "Who knows God?" He responds: "Only God knows God": "No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' (Mt. 11, 27). That is, one must become "another Christ " in order to know the Father.

h) This exegesis is the spirit that was given to Josemaria Escriva, who said: “You must realize now, more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular, and civil activities of human life. He waits for us everyday, in the laboratory, in the operating theater, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home, and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand t his well: there is something holy, something divine hidden in the most ordinary situation, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.”

God is not in the strong wind, the earthquake, the fire, but the gentle breeze: the small things done with love.

[1] John Paul II “Dives in Misericordia” #3.
[2] J. Ratzinger, “What It Means to Be a Christian” Ignatius (2006) 26.
[3] Ibid 28
[4] St. Josemaria Escriva, “Passionately Loving the World,” Scepter 2002.

No comments: