Showing posts from September, 2012

Dazzling Darkness: Exodus 24

Over today's readings hangs the constant threat of fire. In this morning's Gospel, Jesus talked about the purging flames into which we must cast those wayward parts of ourselves which bar our way to God. And as tonight draws in, Moses ascends into a cloud of darkness to find the devouring fire of the glory of God. Jesus invokes the threat of Hell; for Moses, the danger is getting too close to God's own blinding light.

The fire of God does not destroy, but perfects. His blazing glory burns away our iniquities, cauterizes the wounds they leave on the perfect Image in which He made us; yet in so doing, it heals us, and once we are healed, we can warm ourselves by the fire. And, when our eyes are accustomed to it, we can see so much more clearly by its light, see it reflecting off everybody, everything; but while our eyes are still weak, its brightness is blinding, a dazzling darkness, leaving us to grope blindly up the steep mountain towards the warmth we who are far off can…

The Cleansing Fire

The first message of this Sunday's Gospel was memorably inverted by George Bush II in his attack on the "Axis of Evil," when he announced to the world that 'whoever is not for us, is against us.' As a learned colleague has pointed out to me, this is the tenor of Mt 12.30 and Lk 11.23, but I prefer the Marcan (and hence older) account here, where Jesus says that 'whoever is not against us, is for us.'

Jesus' call here is for charity, not enmity: charity towards all those who work in His name, even when they are  aberrant in their beliefs and schismatic from the one Church He founded. Our prayer for Christian unity must be grounded in love, not contempt, however difficult we might find it (and I am by no means exempt!).

Jesus' subsequent threats of Hell are harder to take. He tells us to sever those parts of us that drag us into the Pit. As always, we have to take such threats alongside God's will and Jesus' promise that, in St P…

The Mass reveals Christ more deeply than words: Mark 8.37-38

Again, we are faced with the paradox of Mark telling us about Jesus telling his disciples not to tell anyone about Him. This time, Jesus has asked them the misleadingly simple question: Who do you say that I am?
Predictably enough, if we have followed Mark's portrayal of the disciples so far, they come up with all the wrong answers. Finally, Peter seems to get it right, when he proclaims that Jesus is the Christ. This is where Jesus tells them all to keep his identity secret.
And well He might, since the next paragraph shows how little the disciples understand even when they know that He is the Christ. They are clearly expecting a very different Christ - that is, a very different Messiah, since 'Christ' is simply the Greek translation of that Hebrew word - from the suffering servant that Jesus depicts. Even when he plainly predicts His execution and resurrection, the disciples cannot or will not believe it. And so, those famously harsh words to Peter: Get thee behind me, …

Mark's Jesus: Open your ears before your mouth!

Muslim prayer begins with the admirable gesture of raising the hands to the ears to listen to God. Given Mark's account of the failure of the disciples to listen and their propensity to speak instead, there is surely something to learn here.

"I can't wait to get out and tell people about Jesus!"

My heart sunk at these words from the lips of an enthusiastic young ordinand training for supposedly Anglican ministry at an Evangelical seminary. The Bishop had asked him what he was looking forward to, why he wanted to do it, and this was his answer: 'Telling people about Jesus.'

Well, perhaps you're more generous and forbearing than I am, but when people come up to me and start 'telling me about Jesus' I start to remember my atheist past more fondly and frankly feel like lamping them. The sheer patronising presumption of those who think they can go around 'telling' people things about Jesus, that all their Bible study gives them privileged know…