Thursday, March 7, 2013

Any Takers?

You have prepared a banquet for me
In the sight of my foes
My head you have anointed with oil
My cup in overflowing
Psalm 23

Reflection -  You know, I should have mentioned yesterday that the psalm shifts in the previous verse in a very significant way. The first half of the psalm has been all third-person statements - 'the Lord... He gives... He leads...' But with the whole prospect of the valley of the shadow of death and evil and not being afraid, something interesting happens.

Suddenly, we're not talking about God - we are talking to Him. It is not enough, it is never enough, simply to talk about God, to have all the right ideas about Him, to have perfect theology and perfect verbal expression of that theology. We have to know God; just knowing about Him will not do.

Meditation, in other words, must lead to prayer. Prayer--talking to God, expressing to Him our love, our gratitude, our total need and total confidence in that need--is the end of meditation--discursive thought about God and his ways with us. Meditation leads to prayer, and prayer leads to contemplation, where we behold God with the eyes of faith and rejoice in His beauty in peace and in love.

You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes - So God takes care of us, right? God is laying out a banquet for us continually. The Eucharist, for sure - this is the utter center and most lavish earthly experience of that banquet. God Himself feeding us with Himself - what banquet could be greater, this side of heaven?

But of course there is more - after all, we don't consign all non-Catholics and non-Orthodox to the starvation bunkers of the world. God feeds his people - the invisible feeding of grace. The lavishness of creation itself - the bounty and beauty of the earth. The mysterious and most hidden and delightful action of love in the world, flowing in and out of human hearts and minds. So much food, so much God is giving us. Our meal ticket, so to speak, is total surrender to Him, total abandonment to His will. He can and does feed us as He can when this is absent, but when we utterly give ourselves to Him, it is like planting ourselves right at the head of the buffet line and getting all the choice cuts and best savory dishes.

What about these enemies? Well, the devil and the disbelieving world, of course. But I have to admit - my own worst enemy is my own disbelieving heart. And it seems like God delights in setting a banquet before me in the sight of that foe above all. God delights, in his great fatherly love, in putting me to shame in my disbelief and rebellion. And may He continue to do so until faith is put to flight in the vision of His face.

My head you have anointed with oil, my cup is overflowing - again we see the two levels of the psalm here. On the basic level, it is just another way of saying how God lavishes a banquet on us - the anointing of the head, the cup brimming with wine, all that good stuff.

But... we know that anointing with oil is something quite more than just a symbol of rich abundance. Messiah or Christ means 'anointed one'. Kings and priests and prophets were anointed in the old covenant; the whole people of God are anointed in the new one. Anointing is with the Spirit, not with rich oil. The Spirit is upon us, and the cup overflowing is filled with the love of Christ poured into our hearts by that same Spirit.

And so the banquet God gives us is not just or mainly 'all kinds of nice goodies'. We may actually live in great poverty and affliction - many people of deep faith do, as we all know. It is the gift of the Spirit that is God's banquet set before us each day. And this gift of the Spirit means the capacity to live and love as God lives and loves. To be liberated from the boundaries of our finite humanity to enter a truly divine sphere of life and action. To be divinized as a free gift of grace from our Father in heaven who in the Spirit makes us sharers in his Son's life and being.

That's the gift God offers us. Any takers?

1 comment:

  1. We might also say something about oil and healing. As we pilgrimage toward the center of the Trinity and the fullness of the Spirit we are in need of healing and oil is a sacramental through which healing can take place. As we are guided in the healing process God reveals to us in a proper order the areas in our life needing healing be they physical, spiritual or just stinking thinking. The outcome of this process is that profound banquet of a new closeness and spiritual joy.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.