Is it wrong to want to return to the good ol’ days?
Granted, excommunication seems a little extreme even for the ringleaders of the 2013 conclave bookmaking circus…
… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love these past few days:
– – – – – – –
NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?
This passage in Ephesians is St. Paul’s answer to Isaiah. Isaiah 59 speaks of the alienation between man and God caused by sins such as dishonesty, injustice, violence, contrivance, denial of the Lord… the picture he paints as a result of the alienation is one of the blind stumbling in the dark (Is 59:9-10) at which time the Lord will come and will
put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle.
Isaiah speaks of how the Lord will come and bring justice to those who have done evil, and they shall fear Him, and they shall see His glory. He tells us:
And he will come to Zion as Redeemer, to those in Jacob who turn from their transgression, says the Lord. And as for me, my covenant with them , says the Lord: my spirit which is upon you, and my words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your children, or out of the mouth of your children’s children, says the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.
Isaiah illustrates the victory of the Lord over the darkness he describes in verses 9 and 10 when he describes the Lord’s coming as the rising of the sun (Is 59:19) and it is this total victory that makes the covenant described above possible.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; 16 besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel
Paul challenges the people of Ephesus to put on the armor worn by the Lord in Is 59. Paul frames his text within a battle against principalities, powers, the world rulers of this present darkness (referencing Is 59:9). He asks each Christian to equip himself for battle and to fight with these tools in order to withstand the wiles of the devil, and to quench his evil darts. He shows his reader that this is the way for him to begin living the covenant that Isaiah records the Lord making in chapter 59, where the Spirit is upon him and that the words of the Lord are being given him.
Verse 11 is enough to give me chills, and here’s why.
11 Put on the πανοπλιαν of God, that you may be able to stand against the μεθοδειας of the devil.
The two words of interest are πανοπλιαν (transliteration: panoplian) which literally means “whole armor” and εθοδειας (transliteration: methodeias) which means wiles/tricks. So far, so good… so what? At this point its all about the word selection Paul has made, and the word he chose NOT to use.
The pan prefix at the beginning of the word for “whole armor” is the part of the word that translates to “whole” (think panorama, pantheism, etc.)
In biblical Greek, there are two words for wiles/tricks. One of the words is the one that Paul chose to use in this text, i.e. methodeias. The other word with the same basic meaning is πανουργια (panourgia.) Notice the inclusion of the prefix pan in the word that Paul chose not to use.
Why is this important? Paul is trying to illustrate that the battle is uneven… no, that its already won! God provides whole armor, complete protection. The devil doesn’t have a complete arsenal of tricks to throw at us, the kind of tricks that would match up to whole armor. This is highly encouraging!
Put on, then, the whole armor of God. Christ came, the Dawn of Compassion that broke among us, the Rising Sun that vanquished the rulers of this present darkness. He came, He fought and He won. We who follow Him are still playing our part, we are still fighting in the name of His victory as the saga of time and space plays out to its conclusion. If we fulfil our part of the covenant of the Lord by wearing His armor, quenching the darts of the evil one, praying at all times in the Spirit, keeping alert, persevering and making supplication for each other… so too will the Lord keep His promise to us – the Spirit will be upon us and His Word will always be with us. We will abide in Him and He will abide in us, participating in the Trinitarian Life that is the birthright of those adopted sons of God who were born to new life in baptism.
This is hands down one of the most engaging episodes of The West Wing ever made.
(See this page for more info on the episode.)
The substantive part of the episode appears to put capital punishment front and centre. This is an issue I feel strongly about and it is tempting to go off on a tirade using Gen 4:1-16 as a starting point, with particular focus on the ‘Mark of Cain’… look, there, I almost got started… will have to go into this later!
Back to the WW: what its really all about is personal responsibility.
Of particular interest is the discussion between President Bartlet and his boyhood Parish Priest in the Oval Office. Fr Tom asks the President if he would prefer to be addressed as Jed or as Mr President. Bartlet insists upon the title Mr President and then proceeds to explain why in an attempt to justify himself – he disassociates his personal decisions from those made in his capacity as the President in a transparent attempt to vindicate himself of responsibility for the execution that is occurring while this exchange is taking place… an execution that he could have stopped but for the political implications that he was unwilling to face.
From the finger-pointing between Adam and Eve over whose fault it was that they had disobeyed God, to Pilate’s hand-washing display prior to the execution of Jesus Christ all the way through to the modern home or board room… the unwillingness of each of us to take personal responsibility for our failings truly is a universal weakness that has endured from the beginnings of human history.
As I ponder this I’m reminded how beautiful and awesome is the mystery of the Incarnation. Christ was the first Man in human history to take responsibility, and it is only because God became one of us in this fashion that we can experience God’s Divine Mercy. It is now our privilege to be able to participate in Christ’s love by making reparation not just for our own sins, but those of others, for we are indeed our brothers’ keepers.
Almost everyone is familiar with the reality that there are several words in Greek for ‘love.’ Perhaps fewer are aware that in this famous passage, Jesus and Peter have their wires crossed – 2 out of 3 times, Jesus and Peter are using different words for ‘love.’
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you αγαπας me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I φιλο you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you αγαπας me?” He said to him, “Yes Lord; you know that I φιλο you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you φιλεις me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you φιλεις me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I φιλο you.” 18 Truly, truly I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
When I was younger I was taught at school and at Mass alike that the reason for the repeated question was in a certain way to ceremonially repair the relationship after Peter denied Christ three times. I’m sure that there is some truth to this; Augustine and Chrysostom both proffer this and their interpretation is not to be sniffed at! What I find so wonderful about Scripture is that there is such depth that can never truly be plumbed!! I find the teaching of the Fathers in this regard to be very beautiful, but I believe that the significance of this passage goes even deeper than this… there is so much to be drawn from it!
Consider the first time that the question is asked. Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him in the sense of αγαπη.The noun refers to a sort of self-sacrificing love for other that has later come to be associated with Christian love – this should give us a beginning. But it is only a beginning… you see, the sense of this word in verbal form equates to following through and proving or acting out one’s love. If the love concerned is of the self-sacrificing variety, then necessarily, proving that sort of love means to sacrifice oneself. Jesus didn’t just ask Peter if he loved Him, but rather if he loved Him in such a way that he would sacrifice himself to demonstrate that!!
Now let us examine Peter’s answer – he uses a completely different word!!
Peter uses another word for love – φιλο. Love in the φιλο sense refers to having a deep sense of feeling for someone as a friend. This is a wonderful thing – Peter feels a strong friendship for Christ. Yet this is not what Christ was asking! I find myself wondering if Christ in His human nature didn’t feel a twang of sorrow at this response.
At the same time, this was a truthful answer on Peter’s part. In that instant he had not been given whatever grace was required to give that genuine αγαπη love to which Christ was inviting him. And not only did he admit as much, but he also demonstrated by what he said that he knew Christ was already well aware of this fact! There is a frankness in Peter that I find refreshing, somehow.
Christ shows us the sort of friend and brother He is; He demonstrates how much He trusts Peter by giving to him the care of His lambs. Then, He Peter to rise to a higher love than which he was at that point capable by his own
strength… He asked Peter if he loved Him with an αγαπη love.
Peter’s response demonstrated that, even in the face of the trust that Christ had placed in him, he didn’t ‘get it’ and he again declared his friendship.
Christ’s third question of Peter is where He brings out the ‘big guns’. This third question is not a repeat of the previous two (unlike what English translations of the Bible lead us to believe.) Knowing, of course, that Peter is not yet ready for αγαπη love, Jesus asks Peter simply if he loves Him in a φιλο sense. The Scripture passage above tells us that Peter was grieved that Christ had asked him this. Many might suppose that this is because Jesus has just drilled him and nagged him as if He were having confidence issues or as if He didn’t trust what He heard the first time. That might be how we would respond if we were asked the same question three times in one sitting… we all know, though, that Christ had no reason for confidence issues, and we’ve just seen through Christ’s
entrusting of His flock to Peter that trust wasn’t an issue either.
I think the reason for Peter’s sorrow is the self-knowledge that came of Christ appearing to lower His expectations. Christ was obviously aware of Peter’s shortcomings, but Peter, who had been so ready to declare at the Last Supper that he would follow Jesus even to death (Mark 14:29) came to the realisation that although he loved Christ dearly as a friend, he was not yet able to love Him in that deep, self-sacrificing sense.
Peter, in response to this third question, declares the twofold truth that Jesus knows everything, and that He knows that Peter loves (φιλο) Him. I get a real sense of Peter longing to be able to give Christ the αγαπη love to which He was inviting him, but not being able to let go of whatever may have been holding him back.
The remarks with which Christ closes out this little encounter seem ominous, but really, they are a beautiful promise, a fulfilment of the promise of beatitude to all who seek righteousness (Matt 5:6)! Christ is telling Peter that he WILL be capable of αγαπη in the future and that he will bring glory to God – that he would be able to love the Lord in the way he longed to love Him.
FINALLY, now that Jesus has told Peter exactly what he’s in for… given him all the information he needs to know… He says “Follow me” – He renews the call and allows Peter to choose what He has just foretold.
Random aside: I find myself wondering if this isn’t the scriptural basis for the standard manner of progression through religious formation. One makes temporary profession and lives the life for a time, and then makes a final profession some years later. First profession is perhaps a symbolic response to the ‘follow me’ Jesus spoke at the nets; the final profession is that response that encompasses a readiness to die to oneself to follow the Lord, and may be seen as the response to the passage above.
Before I continue, let me clarify that I concur with all who claim that the portrayal of Christ is not one that can be taken seriously as an accurate representation of Christ. JCS portrays a very human Christ and neglects any treatment of His Divinity. This could be interpreted as implicit denial of the Divinity of Christ, the beginnings of an excursion into the realms of Arianism. However, strictly speaking, to arrive at such a conclusion is a blatant non sequitur. The only explicit denial of Christ’s Divinity comes from Judas, the traitor, who is portrayed in the musical as a troubled dissident amidst the ranks of the Twelve with a political agenda. As in all art, perspective in Rock Opera is important and any analysis or review that manages to avoid the charge of superficiality will take perspective into account. Christ has two natures – human AND Divine. Quite simply, JCS considers the humanity of Christ; in that it is essentially an artistic work, it does not aim for historical or theological accuracy as to a complete representation of the person of Christ. The only categorical conclusion that holds from the absence of treatment of Christ’s Divinity is that this is outside of the scope of consideration for this piece of art. Thus, to suggest that enjoyment of the show is tantamount to endorsement of Christological heresy (a charge that has been levelled at me in the past) is not a logically tenable position.
What has all of this to do with mercy and relationship, you ask?
An answer to this depends upon the realization that JCS is not a story about Jesus at all. The name of the show is unfortunate and misleading, really… well, not entirely. I guess the name of the show is part of the satirical treatment of the hero-worship that society directs toward the modern-day celebrity. Thats definitely packed in there, and perhaps it was more central to the original intention of Rice and Lloyd Webber than I’m acknowledging. A great deal of social commentary is built into the show, of particular relevance to the original 1971 audience, and of historical relevance to the audiences that have followed up to our own time and beyond. But none of this is the point.
What I am getting at is that the meat and potatoes of the show is contained within the several parallel subplots that each examine the encounter with Christ of a different character. The accurate representation of each character, again, is not what the show is aiming for. Rather, each encounter and the portrayal of its character is a “what-if?” exercise. The character is more a type than a person, one that is portable through time and space. The viewer is invited to enter into each “what-if” story, to really consider the emotions and circumstances of each encounter, and to apply it to his own experience. The show isn’t about who Jesus is. The show is about who I as a viewer am in relation to Jesus.
NOW we’re ready to talk about mercy and relationship.
… His love endures forever! I experienced God’s love today:
– – – – – – –
NB: JGL = Journal of God’s Love
What IS the Journal of God’s Love?
does the sun resent the clouds, when they come out to play?
for the sun needs to vacate its playground in the sky sometimes;
and as it does and the aspect changes,
the sky weeps.
i listened, anticipating the answer, in hope.
anticipation perhaps obscured His response?
will he resent my choice, if i go another way?
no tears, i hope – not him, nor me
nor that tug inside that they oft accompany.
i pray the truth will make us free.
– – – – –
(A dusty sketch from Friday, 1 December, 2009)
In 2009, bouncing about the blogosphere, I read that the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI recommended to all the faithful the idea of an interior “Journal of God’s Love,” i.e. the frequent recollection of ones experiences of God’s Love in daily life.
The notion seems in keeping with an idea discussed by Fr. Simon Tugwell O.P. in his book Prayer:Living With God (1975). Tugwell speaks of the need to build a sense of “Catholic Memory” to facilitate an interior attitude of prayer; it was one of a few key ingredients to a healthy prayer life that he proposed, along with creating ‘space’ to pray.
The problem, as Tugwell presents it:
Somehow we must find a way of remembering God that does not work in fits and starts, but that will actually last through the day; kind of fundamental rememberance of God that will affect our heart, and allow our most unpremeditated and spontaneous behaviour to be transformed, as it were, at the root…
In his discussion, he presents as helpful a consideration of the sin of our first parents that led to the Fall as the misappropriation of knowledge. Tugwell’s aim is not to oversimplify the fall, simply to examine one aspect from which he then seeks to draw some conclusions that are useful to fostering the relationship with God that Christ restored through His Incarnation and Paschal Mystery.
Tugwell goes on to caution that “our minds are at least as capable of running away with us as our legs and emotions are,” proposing that the way to prevent this from sabotaging our relationship with God is to seek knowledge that is good, knowledge that is wholesome, to…
…allow the Lord to get hold of us at the level of what the Bible calls the heart, below the level of contrivance…We shall become involved with God in spite of ourselves, there will be something in us undermining our self-built edifice of conceit and self-will, so that it will not be quite so easy for us to go on forgetting God and His commands and promises at every critical moment.
We need to allow the knowledge that God wants to give us to penetrate, to be absorbed and made a part of our very deepest selves. The tool that He has given us with which to accomplish this is the memory – an impressionable power of the faculty of the intellect that can be shaped for good or ill.
What shapes our memory? Our experiences, both real and imagined, sensory and emotional.
For a sanguine like me, experiences are intense, but in many cases the impressions left in my memory tend to be short-lived. For someone like me to build “Catholic Memory” requires sustained exposure and absorbption of the works of the great contributors to Catholic culture over the centuries – the likes of Augustine, Catherine of Siena, Aquinas, More, Erasmus, Dante, Teresa of Avila, Newman, Chesterton, John Paul II, Benedict XVI… and so many more.
Yet none of this takes the place of the effort of the repetitive exercise of pondering God’s works, God’s goodness, God’s providence. The Scripture is the primary source of God’s work in the history of His people, and the lives of the saints complement this nicely, demonstrating the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our midst now that the Son has returned to the Father. Time to sit and meditate upon these things is a must.
But what about me? Isn’t this about my personal relationship with God?
Let’s add to Scripture, then, God’s work in MY life. How often do I stop to consider that, to thank Him for it? Keeping a “Journal of God’s Love”, to record and revisit God’s goodness in my everyday interactions and duties… I think the Holy Father might be onto something!
I’m going to try it.
i always knew
and never did
He wants me, me? me!
not for what i can do,
but who i can be, no, who i am.
soon, I leave Dorothy’s sun-scorched sands behind
white-washed home under star-spangled banner, perhaps, to find.
words describe the scenario, all falls short of the meaning.
– – – – –
(A dusty sketch from Friday, 26 November, 2010)
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