Friday, August 10, 2007

A nebulous God post

Last night I taught the second of three RCIA Inquiry classes. These are classes I teach over the summer for those folks who express an interest in beginning formation to become Catholic in September. After discussing the Triune nature of God in our first session, we discussed revelation last night. We began with what is fundamental. Knowing about Msgr. Luigi Giussani makes this task easier. So, we discussed those ways God seeks to be known by us that are prior to Scripture, or anything else. We dealt with three: the universal desire for transcendence, creation, and the human person. Of course, these three link together and overlap. One way in which they do so is via faith and reason.

Then, we moved to God's particular revelation in history beginning with Abraham and Sarah and the nation of Israel and culminating in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, through whom this covenant, which takes the form "I will be your God and you will be my people," is extended to the whole human race. It bears noting in this context the necessity of Judaism for Christianity. In order to understand, to interpret we have to have a context. Jesus Christ's context is Israel. This brings me to a post by Rocco over at Whispers that is resounding throughout the Catholic neighborhood of the blogosphere that I tend to inhabit. It is about the funeral for Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger and is entitled Kaddish for the Cardinal. Because Cardinal Lustiger saw his conversion to Christianity as the fulfillment of the covenant he entered at birth as a Jew, he never forsook being Jewish. It was his dying wish that Jewish relatives recite Kaddish on his behalf prior to his funeral Mass. During his lifetime, even while cardinal archbishop of Paris, he could sometimes be seen in the main synagogue of Paris reciting Kaddish for his mother who, along with St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was murdered in a Nazi concentration camp.

I'm not really sure that I have "point" this morning. If I do it is that God is with us always, even if we don't perceive God's often unobtrusive presence. God is with us in suffering, in sadness, in uncertainty. God is our companion on the way always and without exception. The challenge of the spiritual life is not to find God, but discern God's abiding presence, and to ultimately become like Christ, or Christ-like. Often this companionship is a silent accompanying. The reason why the poem "Footprints in the Sand" is so popular and so meaningful for so many is that it articulates our experience, or at least our hope, of God's accompanying us. At the same time, just as imperceptibly, God is holding it all together for us and for the world that God, who is love, created out of love, for love (1 Jn 4,8-16).

In St. John's Gospel we read of the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Logos: "What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (Jn 1,3b-5). This is good news, indeed. It is a message we need to not just hear, but heed. In other words, God is not a fixer, a genie we summon when things get tough, who magically, with a nod of his head, makes it all better. Isn't this one of the main points of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness, of his drinking the cup that he prayed would pass from him? Are we, his disciples, greater than the master we freely choose to follow because we love him? If Jesus had not drained the cup of his passion and death, if he had not emptied himself for us, the greatness of God, which to us is paradox and mystery, could not have been shown. We are to imitate Jesus, to incarnate him in our own lives and in our life together, which means the daily and painful dying to self.

Today is Friday, a day of recollection, a day of penance, a day on which we observe and remember Jesus' death on the Cross. If we do nothing else on this day we are to abstain from the meat of warm-blooded animals, pray more, and give charitably. In doing so may we all come to see more clearly not just that God is with us, but how, in what manner, God is present. May we live in the confidence that if God is with us nothing and nobody, in the end, will stand against us.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it" (Eph. 2,13-16).


  1. The song, "Held" by Natalie Grant says something similar.

  2. Wow, Natalie Grant has a song about the non-scriptural sources of revelation, salvation history, saying Kaddish for a Jewish Cardinal, Fridays as days of penance, God is love, and the second chapter of Ephesians? It must be quite a song! And here I wasted all this time composing my poor post, when I should've just been surfing I-tunes!

    Then again, perhaps I plagarized the whole thing!


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