28 September 2009

Receiving like children

26th Week OT (M): Readings
Fr Philip Neri Powell, OP
Holy Rosary Priory, Houston

What do you see, who do you see when you think of God? At prayer, in times of crisis, with the ones you love, what picture of God develops in your mind? Reading scripture, enjoying the bright day, at work on your computer, who comes to mind when thoughts of God rise up? Pagans and atheists have it easy. Either their gods manifest as animals, trees, or monsters; or they think of God only to refute His existence. When your god can be anything at all or nothing at all, your imagination is challenged hardly at all to see beyond what stands around you, or past the nothingness of obstinate denial. Where pagans worship creation's evidence for God, atheists deny creation itself. No creator, no creation—just accidentally mixed-up stuff that moves. Do you think of everything when you think of God? Or nothing at all? Do you think of everyone or no one?

The God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob says to Zechariah, “I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. . .I will bring [my people] back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.” The Lord says “I am” and “I will.” Notice: “I” cannot be everyone, nor can “I” be no one. “I” is personal, first person, singular. One and first. As a person, with faithfulness and justice, He will be our God and we will be His people. Animals, trees, mountains do not grow jealous. Forces of nature—storms, fires, rain—do not love. Even when laying waste to coast lands and hills, hurricanes and floods do not destroy out of wrath. What does not exist cannot be faithful or just. How can nothingness trust? How can no-thing set relationships right? Do you think of everything when you think of God? Or nothing at all? Do you think of everyone or no one?

On Mt. Sinai, God instructed Moses not to carve any image of Him. There can be no statute or painting or icon that depicts I AM. How can we chisel a verb? How do you draw and color Being? And even as I AM forbids images of His countenance, He reveals Himself to be our Father, our Maker, the One Who gathered dust from creation and breathed His spirit into us. Even as He instructs Moses to stand against the pagan love of idols, He reveals Himself as Flood, Fire, and Cloud. He speaks. He walks among us. He teaches and preaches and heals. And yet, no painting of His face exists. No statue captures His body. For us, He is, at once, Everything and Nothing. He is All yet No-thing.

Caught as we are between the reality of I AM and our natural human need to use language and image, we fight our own devices to find or invent a way of speaking, a way of imagining Him that is both true but not limited, full yet still-to-be filled. In times of desperate crisis, we cry out “Lord!” When we are joyful and content, we cry “Lord!” as well. First, personal, and singular—we address a person, one God, another like us but well beyond us. Jesus reminds the disciples of their limits and ours when we places a child on his lap and says, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” The lesson? We have a true and faithful God. We do not need static images, limited words, or even beautiful concepts. Receive a child in Christ's name and receive the One Who came to us in the flesh; the One Who comes to us still, body and blood.

Do you think of everything when you think of God? Or nothing at all? Do you think of everyone or no one? If you think of both Everything and Nothing, Everyone and No One, you are still thinking in darkness. “Even if this should seem impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people,” the Lord delivers His promises. Ours is a God jealous of our love. Always faithful, always just, He is with us. We are His people. And He is our God.

No comments:

Post a Comment