18 December 2016

The Same God.



Today’s readings: 

  • Isaiah 7:10-14
  • Romans 1:1-7
  • Matthew 1:18-24

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE with other Mass texts.

Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in bracchio extento. 
Alleluia Verse for 18 Dec

I'm cheating a little and leading with the verse for the Date instead on on something from the 4th Sunday in Advent. The verse (as it will be for much of the week) is a condensed version of the text from Vespers.
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstreched arm.
This is the same God. There are some who want to imagine sort of a judgy God in the Old Testament and then Jesus now. Some don’t want to go so far as to say Jesus is God, mind you, but he’s certainly better than the judgy God in the older parts of the Bible. They miss the point. This is the same God.

This is from a letter written by Pope St Leo the Great (reg. 440-461 AD) it was part of the Office of Readings for yesterday in the Roman Rite:
No doubt the Son of God in his omnipotence could have taught and sanctified men by appearing to them in a semblance of human form as he did to the patriarchs and prophets, when for instance he engaged in a wrestling contest or entered into conversation with them, or when he accepted their hospitality and even ate the food they set before him. But these appearances were only types, signs that mysteriously foretold the coming of one who would take a true human nature from the stock of the patriarchs who had gone before him. 
It was the pre-eternal Son of God walking the Garden with Adam, Feasting with Abraham, rescuing Lot, wrestling with Jacob. It was the hand of the Son of God inscribing the law on the Tablets for Moses and on the wall in the King’s palace for Daniel to read. It was the Word of God, not yet come as Messiah, who created the world and all that is in it, and he who spoke from the burning bush.

And it was he who rained fire on Sodom, who drowned the Egyptians, who destroyed the Prophets of Baal - all for their injustices (not sex, or idolatry, per se, although these are also injustices).

We don’t like some of these stories, so we decide they are culturally biased. We ignore them because they “must be untrue”. Yet, we don’t get to pick and choose - otherwise we miss out on the revelation of holiness at Christmas. It’s important that it is the whole Word of God that comes to us, not just some a la carte of some of him that we like (ignoring the parts we don’t like). We are like Ahaz in today's first lesson: who says in pretend piety, "I will not tempt the Lord!" Even though God has told him to ask! Ahaz won't ask, mostly because he's afraid there will be an answer. We don't want there to be a God who can reveal stuff to us because we're afraid he might actually, you know, reveal stuff. So we say there is no God of Revelation, and that he has never spoke... we silence him in our pride.

Either God has revealed himself in our Sacred History or he has not. I’m OK with one or the other on your part, but don’t say you get to pick and choose. You get the package or you don’t get it: you’re on another path. Me too. If God can reveal himself, then we don't get to decide which parts we don't like. (Eg: Why is God the only person who can't pick his own pronouns?)

This is the same God. Jesus as leader of the house of Israel means, of course, that the Church is Israel: and we have to remember what Israel means. “He who wrestles with God.” That doesn’t mean that we win, that we get to change God’s mind or God’s laws, but it acknowledges that we struggle. And that God knows that we do. We are on a wrestling team doomed to fail in our contest: and fated to be blessed by the submission we make to our opponent.

The Doctor knows you don’t want to be here. But you’re here. Let’s make you healthy.

As noted yesterday, our freedom lies in our ability to conform fully to the nature God has given us. That means that the things that are against nature might be fun, but they are leading us away - not towards - God. The Burning Bush calls us forward, gently: it’s pretty! Yet it issues commands as we get closer. Then it gives us hella awkward instructions. Sometimes, we can banter (send my brother, God) but in the end, the commands are for our good and the good of all God’s church. So we have to follow them. We don’t get the beauty without the true and the good. God defines all three.

At Christmas, the same God comes to us as one of us. Are we ready?