Monday, May 09, 2016

Mother's Day: Call it an Intervention!

Ascensiontide & Mother's Day

It is Ascension Sunday and we celebrate this day the fact that Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God on high to become our Advocate and Judge. Isn't that a curious juxtaposition of words. How curious that these two words are set together so as to open for us a means to maintain an Honest to God creative tension. Jesus, at one and the same time an Advocate for us for the forgiveness of our sins, and Judge to keep us accountable to God and ourselves for our behaviors. As we read in the Book of Revelation; "See, I am coming soon, my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work." Thanks be to God. 

Happy Mother's Day. I do hope that there is an appropriate amount of fussing and flowers and dinners today in honor of those among us who give so much that we might know life, and love and joy. There will be some of that in our family, I can assure you. Having said that, I must tell you that my mom could be a feisty and ferocious woman. We did have our difficult moments. But she also gave me much to be thankful for including some backbone. Indeed, the apple does not fall far from the tree and I too can have my own feisty and ferocious moments. 

She loved us in her own way. I remember one day in particular, when I was still very young. I was venturing out on the rocks in Gloucester, and didn't realize how slippery those rocks could be. She called out for me to return, and I pretended not to hear her and continued further out on the rocks. She hollered out to me using my full name for emphasis in a way that indicated she was becoming somewhat irritated. I ignored her. And then my foot met one of those slippery spots which was as slick as grease. My feet went out from under. me, I went flying, and landed on my back. The impact knocked the wind out of me. When I looked up, there she was reaching out to me to carry me back to safety. She used some colorful language which I also learned from other members of my working class family in Somerville. It was an intervention that I shall never forget.

I learned that unconditional love and intervention have a direct relationship to one another.

May is the month of the Mother of Jesus especially so among our sisters and brothers in the Roman tradition. The example of of the Holy Family; Jesus, Mary and Joseph is exemplary as we take note of Mother's Day and that dimension of the human and Godly character that seeks to nurture and care and love. This dimension of our Journey to God is indeed worth noting and celebrating.

It is not surprising then that we see judgment and advocacy, and unconditional love and intervention as proclaimed this day as being two side of the very same coin. 

We love our children unconditionally, of course. But what do we do when we see them on a course of self-destruction? Shrug our shoulders as if there is nothing we can do until they hit bottom? Or do we put ourselves at risk and venture out on the rocks to snatch them out of the jaws of danger?

We live in an increasingly secular world. There are those who accuse us of holding onto "The God Delusion" as Richard Dawkins, the famous contemporary atheist calls it. It is a world that believes it can go it alone. That also includes many of our children. For so many we are children of science to the exclusion of any notion of God.

The problem of holding to such a notion is that it is simply not true. It is the greater delusion by far to think we can go it alone; either without God or without one another. As John Donne, the famous English metaphysical poet and Anglican clergyman once noted; 

No man is an island entire of itself; every man 
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; 
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe 
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as 
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine 
own were; any man's death diminishes me, 
because I am involved in mankind. 
And therefore never send to know for whom 
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 

We discover time and again that we cannot go it alone. Even those of us who do believe in God, we need to learn every single day of our lives how urgent a matter it is to be Honest to God with ourselves and one another. 

Science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Albert Einstein once observed that "religion without science is blind" how true, but he went on to say "science without religion is lame". Interesting statement! Imagine looking at the wonder of the universe either in its immensity or at its most minute, without a reverence for the creation. What emptiness!

No, the Scientific method requires of us the curiosity and rigorous honesty to ask the right questions. It is not a pursuit of all the answers as much as it is the pursuit of framing the right questions. 

The same can be said of our Spirituality. For more than a quarter of a century, I have been keeping a journal in order to explore the inner mystery of my attempt to love God, love my neighbor and love myself. There are no easy answers. But it is not the answers that help me as much as the ability to frame up the questions. 

For me the search for inner truth, relational truth, scientific truth and Godly truth are all of the same sacred quest. It is the search for the Truth itself that is at the root of our deepest yearning; As Jesus said; "You shall know the Truth and the Truth that shall make you free". ~John 8:32

Call it an intervention; It is into this world that the Child is born.
God's Name is "Love". Love is much more than warmth. It is Honest to God Truth. You know that Jesus was a truth teller. Being honest brought him into conflict often particularly with the religious authorities of the day. Pharisees, Sadduccees, Scribes, and Doctors of the Law often found themselves in conflict with Jesus.

This God business is a matter the Joy of Jesus. It is also a matter of life and death folks, Honest to God!

I believe that without God, we set ourselves up for all kinds of sin. The human being is created to know and to love God. We are called into Covenant with God. To ignore this one central fact of our very creation is to put ourselves into great and immediate peril. 

This wonderful little story of Paul and Silas in Philippi in Macedonia is a case in point. They cured a fortune teller and seeing their hope of financial gain disappear, the folks conjured up some charges and Paul and Silas ended up in jail. The ensuing earthquake led the jailer to see himself in immediate peril and Paul then told him not to harm himself. The jailer then understood where he stood with God and declared "What must I do to be saved?" 

Paul tells him; "Believe on the Lord Jesus." There is more to belief than a few syllables. Belief is the fruit of that earth shattering realization that our entire being depends on an encounter with the living God. Baptism is a good beginning but it is only a beginning for each and all of us. Daily we turn to God. Moment by moment we set the compass of our lives to True North, Honest to God. 

Without salvation, we find ourselves subject to the sinful nature of a world that seeks to destroy us. Conflict, violence, hatred, bigotry, oppression and injustice are just the beginning of our sinful nature. We are also subject to the self destructive tendencies human nature is prone to. We may not always take the word sin seriously. We do so at our own peril.

What must we do to be saved? Believe. But when you believe put your heart and soul into it! Jesus the One Ascended to the Right hand of God is both our Advocate and Judge, thanks be to God. On this Mother's Day may our hearts be filled with all the fullness of God. 

In the Name of God, the Most Holy, Undivided and Everlasting Trinity.

Fr Paul. 

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