Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

LUKE 11: 1-13 GENESIS 18: 20-32

One morning at the monastery during our Eucharist, I was standing around the altar as the monks do for daily Eucharist, and from my position I looked at the host as it was being elevated during the consecration. While I looked at the elevated host, I could see in a direct line past the host, to a monk who stood on the other side of the altar, and past him to a tree ouside the window of the chapel. Suddenly it hit me. All is One. The host, the monk, the tree, are all God Presence.

I had read about this mystical sense of Oneness, but never experienced it quite like I did at that moment. The Presence is everywhere in all things and places. It is illogical to say that God is more present in one place than another, as if the Holy could be divided up into smaller and bigger parts. This sense of Oneness has begun to affect my life in several ways. Start with the tree. Outside the window of my cell, there is a big tree that blocks my view of the mountains. Before this experience of Oneness, I whined that the Abbot should not have planted all these trees when he was a young monk because now they grow up and block a million dollar view. I wish the tree would die, or at least cut it down half way so I could have my view. It is an inconvenient tree. Now I see that the tree is filled with the Holy Presence, the same Presence that is in me, I hope. Now when I get up in the morning, I talk to the tree. "Hello tree, how are you?" Maybe I have had too much silence and solitude, but this is how it is. The tree is no longer something that bothers me. It reveals the Divine out my window.

Now turn to the monk. He is filled with the Presence. He is not just someone with whom I compete for scarce resources such as the last cookie in the jar. He is not someone with whom I compare myself in false pride. He is not a bother or inconvenience in my life. He is a revelation of the Divine. He is God present to me. He is one with me. When I see this connection between me and the other person, this Oneness, it becomes much harder to be unkind or uncaring toward another person, much less to kill someone in a war. It would become easier to forgive some one their debt to me because now I would feel a bond and compassion for the other person. Abraham had it right and the fellow in the gospel in his bed had it wrong. Abraham feels this bond between himself and all humanity. He wants to try and save the lives of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, even if they are not of his tribe, faith, or ethnic group. He wants to preserve life even if they are unrepentent people. He makes no judgment. The fellow in bed treated his neighbor as an inconvenience, a "bother" says the gospel. It was the way I had treated my tree outside the window of my cell.

The fellow in bed is probably a believer, of the same religion as the one asking for bread. He probably believes that he is in good standing with God, and goes to worship on the Sabbath. Yet, he sees his neighbor not as One with himself but as a bother, a nuisance. This brings me to the Eucharist, the elevated host in my revelation that morning. When I was young I was taught that God came into the host, but that I was a sinner who barely qualified to receive communion even if I went to confession the day before mass. Until God came to me in the communion, I did not have much God. As for trees, they were inanimate objects which could be cut down for the convenience of view or profit. I still see some people who love to go to Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, to reverence God in the host, but then these same people can be quite nasty, gossipy, and unkind to others outside of Church. For centuries Europe has been the battleground for fellow Christians killing one another.

Karl Rahner, S.J. a great 20th century theologian, helped me to understand the Eucharist. He used the term "Transignification." The significance or meaning of the bread changes, but more Godness is not added to the bread than to the tree or another person. God is everywhere. The bread signifies things that the tree does not. The tree does not remind me of the Incarnation, the Lamb of God, my Salvation, the Cross, or being fed by Godness in this special way. So I reverence the Eucharist as its unique expression of significance of the Divine acting in my life. I do not segment the Divine in a way that I can ignore or manipulate the world for my own selfish wants.

A parent will cut their child slack because the parent experiences a blood relationship. They would have a lot less tolerance of other people. So the parent would not give a snake to a their child who asked for a fish. Yet they might let the neighbor go hungry.

We ask God for many things. Jesus tells us to ask, seek and to knock, but he hints at what we might really need. To Jesus, God as Father, or parent, sees us all as children of the One. As such, Jesus suggests in the final verse of the gospel, that we might ask for the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that is the principal of all creation. God looked on all creation in Genesis and said, "It is good." God did not say, some of creation is better than good. Some creation may have different significance or meaning, but all creation is filled with the Holy Spirit. All is good and all is One.

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