Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Br. Roy Parker, OHC
Year A - Easter 7 - June 1, 2014
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
On this Sunday between Ascension and Pentecost the readings are a kind of overture for what we’ll be celebrating next Sunday, Pentecost itself.
Jesus ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father (for) you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit (in short order) and you will receive power when that Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses. (Acts)
. . . do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place . . . to test you as though something strange were happening to you . . . but rejoice because the spirit of glory and of power, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you . . . Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that God may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because God cares for you. . . (1Peter)
Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you . . . All mine are yours and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them . . . The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one . . . (John)
So, now we’re in a season of waiting for the promise, of waiting to be exalted in due time, of coming to know the glory which Jesus has given, and
to illustrate this I’ll focus on Peter’s imagery of the fiery ordeal, and of casting all our anxiety on God.
Peter assures us that the fiery ordeal is tantamount to the Spirit of God resting on us. Rabbi Robert Kushner has described the fiery ordeal for Jews in answering the question ‘Where was God at Auschwitz?’ by replying, “God was with the victims at Auschwitz.” Or to put it another way: Emmanuel is rooted in the God who appears when God has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.
The disappearance and appearance of God is described by Jesus in terms of ‘a little while’ in the Fourth Gospel, a phrase which keeps the Twelve guessing. “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me” and “Because I am going to the Father.”
To this the disciples say, “We do not know what he is talking about.” Jesus continues by assuring us that the birth pain of a new mother is overwhelmed by the joy of bringing a human being into the world, apt imagery in the light of Dame Julian’s description of the Savior as Jesus our Mother.
The extraordinary mystery is that our poor heart with all its ragged edges is in its very poverty the place God’s presence is perfectly manifested in the world. It is coming upon the realization that we are most powerless in being powerless to be anything other than infinitely loved. That is, it is coming to the realization that nothing we do or say can make God love us more. Nothing we do or say can make God love us less, that the measure of God’s love for us is never what we do or say. The sole measure of God’s love for us is the measureless expanse of Godself given to us whole and complete in and as who we simply are as precious in our brokenness. In the Christian tradition they speak of the gift of tears.
Sometimes these tears are literal. Sometimes it’s an inner weeping that is the joy of being loved without foundations. It’s the joy of the ultimate irrelevance of anything we do or say as having any bearing whatsoever with regards to the absolute sovereignty of the infinite love that is itself the origin and ground in the fulfillment of our life. (substantially indebted to the thought of James Finley in Christian Meditation: Practices and Teachings for Entering the Mind of Christ)
And it might be summarized by the following rabbinical story:
At Passover a child asked her mother, “Mom, when did the Red Sea part for the children of Israel? Was it when they stepped into the water? . . . “No, child, not then.”
“Was it when the water reached their knees?”“No, not then.”“When it reached their waists?”“No, honey, not then.”
“Well, what about their necks?”“Not even then.”
“When it reached their eyes?”“Not then.”
“Mom, when the water closed over their heads?”“Yes, dear, that’s when the Red Sea parted for our ancestors.”