Saturday, September 3, 2011

"God, the Lord, is my strength"

Back on Thursday, my friend and internet co-conspirator, Frank, writing over on Why I Am Catholic, quoting the farmer-prophet, Amos, whom I revere, along with John the Baptizer and Jeremiah, as the greatest among God's prophets, rejoices in the fruit produced by his 5 year-old, storm-damaged, fig tree. Such simple observations, made in awareness, help us realize, as one of the petitions for Morning Prayer yesterday captured, that God created all things and provides for their growth, causing us to plead with the Lord that we might always perceive His "handiwork in creation."

This prompts me to wonder what to do when the tree remains barren? No sooner do I ask than another prophet, speaking God's word, answers. Habakkuk said:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength...(3:17-19a- ESV)
Jesus is not merely the seal of the prophets, as it were, He is the fulfillment of all prophecy, the realization of all authentically prophetic utterances. He tells His disciples:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (Matt. 6:25-30-ESV)
One of the questions often posed to me after such scriptural excursions, goes something like this, "Very lovely and insightful, but what does this say to me about my life?" Well, I am not in a position to answer that question for anybody except myself. I can say that you have to think about it in light not just of your life, writ large, but of your present circumstances.

Another dear friend, Fred, also on Thursday, brought to my attention a response by Santiago Ramos to something critical written about a previous article he did on about Kurt Cobain, whose death I commemorated back on 5 April, marking the seventeenth anniversary of his suicide. Ramos' piece is in response to a critical assessment by Tim Hoopes of a previous article, "In Defense of Kurt Cobain's Sadness." I think something Santiago wrote has a lot of bearing on life's frequent and, for some, like even Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (whose liturgical memorial we are approaching on 5 September), unrelenting barrenness, namely that "even for those who have been given the gift of faith in their lives—those for whom the God-shaped hole has been filled up to the brim—the drama of life does not end. Faith merely makes you look at the drama in a different way. Just ask Abraham, or St. Augustine, or Tom Hoopes. (It’s true that Augustine says that the restless heart finds its peace when it rests in God–but that doesn’t happen in this life.) For the wayfarer who is lost in the desert, the discovery of a map or a signpost that shows you the way out is an occasion for joy and hope, but it is not an immediate rescue from the heat and the sand and the sun. As he follows the path out of the desert, he needs constant reminders that he is actually still on the path, and that somehow someone is taking care of him, with him at that very moment, guiding him through his terrible adventure."

As Don Gius taught us, "Expect a journey, not a miracle that dodges your responsibilities, that eliminates your toil, that makes your freedom mechanical. No! Don’t expect this."

Eucharist and Scripture=viaticum=food-for-the-journey. The word companion refers to those who share bread. So, I'll see you at the altar!

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