Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Bloody God

I continue to blog about the Holy Father’s  visit to Lebanon Sep 14-16, excerpting and commenting on his various talks there, which  provide a much needed perspective on the challenges of the Middle East in our day.

It is moving for me to recall my journeys to the Middle East. As a land especially chosen by God, it was the home of Patriarchs and Prophets. It was the glorious setting for the Incarnation of the Messiah; it saw the raising of the Saviour’s cross and witnessed the resurrection of the Redeemer and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Traversed by the Apostles, saints and a number of the Fathers of the Church, it was the crucible of the earliest dogmatic formulations. Yet this blessed land and its peoples have tragically experienced human upheavals. How many deaths have there been, how many lives ravaged by human blindness, how many occasions of fear and humiliation! It would seem that there is no end to the crime of Cain (cf. Gen 4:6-10 and 1 Jn 3:8-15) among the sons of Adam and Eve created in God’s image (cf. Gen 1:27). Adam’s transgression, reinforced by the sin of Cain, continues to produce thorns and thistles (cf. Gen 3:18) even today. How sad it is to see this blessed land suffer in its children who relentlessly tear one another to pieces and die! Christians know that only Jesus, who passed through sufferings and death in order to rise again, is capable of bringing salvation and peace to all who dwell in your part of the world (cf. Acts 2:23-24, 32-33). Him alone, Christ, the Son of God, do we proclaim! Let us repent, then, and be converted, “that sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-20a).

Post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente 8

Reflection – Ecclesia in Medio Oriente is a lengthy document, and I won’t be able to do more on this blog than touch on a few paragraphs of it. It is worth reading, though, for anyone who wants to really delve into the Pope’s and the Church’s vision and program for this troubled area of the world. With so many loud and bellicose voices calling out for aggressive interventions in these lands, or the cold calculus of Realpolitik and protection of economic interest, or at best a wholly secular vision of tolerance and human rights unlikely to persuade many in this most religious of all regions, it is good to consider this other voice, this other perspective of faith.

The Pope highlights here the tragic irony of this land which is so much the locus of God’s biblical action, so much the cradle of monotheism, the revelation of the God of Israel become the God of all people in Jesus Christ, which has been so torn by violence and hatred, war and death. He points out that this very irony, this terrible clash between light and darkness, love and violence, is only resolved in Jesus Himself and his conquering of violence and death by love.

It seems to me, not called to live in the Middle East, that this same dynamic appears in big and small ways in every human life. There is God and his revelation, there is love and its work in our lives, there is all manner of good and beautiful things given and unfolding in each human life. And then there is the other thread of our being, thickening and thinning in turn, blood red and pitch dark alternately, of violence and hatred and death, selfishness and coldness and alienation.

The two merge together, weave in and out, co-exist against all seeming possibility. The life of God and the death of sin, the victory of love and the persistent negation of that victory by selfish cold hatred. It may appear in our lives with dramatic soul-shaking intensity or more insidiously in the quiet working out of the heart’s intentions, but appear in our lives it does.

We are all the Holy Land. We are all this place of God’s revelation and human darkness, of God’s assent to man and man’s refusal to God. We are all this soil bearing the bloody footprints of God in Christ and the bloody footprints of Cain. And it is Jesus, our bloody God, who is our sole hope in this holy land of the world, this holy land of our hearts. Jesus, the mercy of God who penetrates to the innermost and outermost reaches of human sin, darkness, failure, with the inexhaustible power of divine love and life. Ecclesia in Medio Oriente orients all of us in the midst of life to the hope of the Church, and that hope is Christ.

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