29 Sunday B #146
Is 53, 10-11
Heb 4, 14-16
Mk 10, 35-45
October 18, 2009
Saint Mary’s Church, Marlboro, N.Y.
Deacon Tom Cornell
(Is knowing and believing the same? What can we know about God, really know? Everyone has at least a vague intuition of The Other early in life, the Mystery we call God. One opens to the mystery, or one does not, and believes, or does not. And even if one does not, God is known to pursue, the “The Hound of Heaven,” relentlessly. When we open ourselves to God, our consciousness expands. That’s if we pray, not just mouthing words but really pray. Then we are more aware of everything. But human consciousness cannot capture the Infinite. We can not imagine God, that is, make an image of Him. We can not take hold of Him, capture Him. The Hebrew Scriptures tell us that God is involved in history, God cares. He didn’t just create the world, walk away and leave it at that. He called Abraham out of Ur to form a People and He led the People out of Egypt.)
The Hebrew religion is about a book, and the Muslim religion is about a book. But the Christian religion is about a man, Jesus, Jesus of Nazareth, who we believe is the ultimate revelation of God, the God-man. Eternally begotten of the Father, he became one of us. Jesus is what we can know about God, all we need to know.
If you want to know what God is like, then look to Jesus. You want to get closer to God? Then develop a personal relationship with Jesus, a real, a personal relationship. Picture him in your mind. That’s what the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross are meant to do, to help us to imagine Jesus, to picture in our minds the scenes of his life, and his mother’s life, and to enter into them. Make a mental image. Imagine. Talk to him, every day, several times a day. And know that no matter what happens, good or bad, Jesus is with you, by your side, your best friend. He will never abandon you. He taught us to pray “Thy will be done.” “Let it be,” said his mother, “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” But we have our part to play too in God’s plan. Pray “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Then turn to Jesus.
Picture Jesus? The Bible doesn’t tell us what Jesus looked like, the color of his eyes, his height or weight or complexion or build or voice. Did he have blue eyes, and wavy blond hair? If you want to imagine him that way, go ahead, but that’s not likely. He was a Palestinian Jew. So he probably had brown eyes and skin darkened by the desert sun. But picture him as you will. The Shroud of Turin may or may not be the burial cloth of Jesus. But it’s easy to imagine that Jesus looked like the mysterious, unaccountable imprint on that cloth. I see a well-built man with a manly face, a large nose and full firm jaw and chin, with deep-set eyes, not beautiful, not even handsome really, but strong, commanding attention. His strength radiates gentleness by the way he carries himself. His voice is strong too, but it is soothing, reassuring with quiet authority.
People gathered around him to hear him preach, thousands of people at a time. He taught sitting down. That was the custom. There were no microphones in those days, no loudspeakers, so he must have had a powerful voice. He went on for hours, long enough for people to get hungry and need to eat a meal. So he must have had a strong voice. And he must have had physical stamina too.
He died after only three hours on the Cross. Of course he had lost a lot of blood from the scourging. He fell, maybe even passed out three times on the way to Golgotha. A large man will die sooner on a cross than a small man because the weight of his body will pull him forward and inhibit breathing. So there is every reason to believe that Jesus was a large man, imposing, dark, with piercing black eyes and a powerful voice. But at the same time, he was gentle and kindly, humble, meek even, seldom moved to anger. But then he could ring out condemnation like thunder. The meek and gentle Jesus could in a moment rise up in righteous wrath casting the money changers from the Temple, or castigating hypocrites, pious frauds.
God looked upon his creation and saw that is was good. Jesus looked upon the Father’s creation and saw that is was good. He was intensely aware, of everything. That is what happens when we allow God into our lives. Our consciousness expands; we become more aware. We can see His traces in a grain of sand or the starry skies or the eyes of a child. And at the same time we are able, as Jesus was, to empty our minds, to peer into the void. For some few destined for the highest spiritual development, God hides in a “dark night of the soul,” as with Mother Theresa. God seems to withdraw, to be absent; all spiritual consolation is withheld, only to purify the soul of any delusion. Even Jesus had a moment like that when he cried out, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
All through his life Jesus loved everything he saw, the earth, the sea, the sky, birds, his home, his tools, flowers, rocks, rain and sun and children. He loved people, not with a sentimental love. The love that moved God at the Creation is Jesus’ love, the love he revealed. Men had turned away; they rejected God’s love in mythic Eden. But Jesus revealed it once again, to take away our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh, eyes to see, ears to hear, to love as he loved, even to the Cross. He loved everyone, but especially the lowly, the outcast, the ones nobody else wanted. He ate with them. That was the ultimate sign and act of friendship, solidarity in those days in Palestine, to eat together, and it still is. Jesus ate with tax collectors, even fallen women, and public sinners. He did not encourage sin. Quite the contrary. When Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery who was about to be stoned, he forgave her but he told her to go and sin no more! But the fact is he forgave. And he still calls sinners to the table. And forgives.
Think of the titles given to Jesus: Lord, Messiah-Christ, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, High Priest and Prophet, Savior, Redeemer, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Teacher, Rabbi Rabboni, Good Shepherd, Morning Star, Dawn from on High, Comforter, Everlasting Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Lamb of God, Way, Truth, Life. He is all of that and more, Holy, Mighty Immortal! And yet so close, so near, Emmanuel, God-with-us, brother, friend. Need we ever fear, can we ever be thankful enough?