“The Word of God is Living and Active” Heb 4:12
Reflections by Priscilla Solomon CSJ at Providence Bay United Church on Sunday Oct. 14 2012, after the Kairos Making it Matter workshop and Blanket Exercise at Mindemoya on Manitoulin Island. Sr. Priscilla has long been a part of the KAIROS Community in North Bay. She is from Henvey Inlet First Nation, and is a member of the KAIROS Indigenous Rights Circle on behalf of the Canadian Religious Conference.
Scripture Readings: Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22:1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16 and Mark 10: 17-31.
As I listened to the prayers and hymns of the liturgy this morning, I thought of the question a Sister of St. Joseph asked at an American conference of the Sisters of St. Joseph. She asked: “What if we had known the secret all along?”
I think that is Jesus’ response to the man who asks: “Good Teacher, what must I do?” Jesus’ response could be expressed this way: “You have known the secret all along, but there is one thing more.”
I have reflected on how the “The Word of God is Living and Active.”
Thomas Berry, a Passionist priest spent much of his life educating people to recognize and accept the new scientific story of the dynamic, evolutionary development of the universe. I thought of him as I reflected on today’s readings. He knew the power and the limitations of words. He coined the word – ‘geologian’ to explain that his work was one of bringing together the new universe story and the task of the theologian to understand God’s self-revelation, especially in the Logos, the Word. He wanted to better understand and explain how the unfolding of the earth’s story is the story of God’s living Word acting in the created universe.
He spoke of “the curvature of time and space” to express how everything that was created came out of an initial bursting forth of Divine Love, and how it is contained within the double framework of time and space until, in the end, it is called back out of those ‘time’ and ‘space’ limits into eternal life.
I like the image: ‘curvature of time and space’ because it reminds me of embracing arms. We are all embraced in the arms of God. God’s love is poured out on us in that embrace, whether we realize it or not; whether we acknowledge it or not; whether we deserve it or not.
This is an important truth to hold on to in light of yesterday’s Making it Matter workshop. The workshop – a Kairos event, was one that brought together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Islanders, and a few from off the Manitoulin. Together we took part in the Blanket Exercise. It helped us to learn about the historical relationship between the first peoples of this land and those who came later from other lands. It helped us to experience that story and some of the impacts of colonization up to this very day.
There are a number of themes in the readings that I think connect today’s sacred scripture, the Kairos workshop experience and the embrace of the Holy.
The themes are the power of words; the human struggle to find the meaning of our lives as well as God’s presence and action in our lives; trust and finally – the power of love.
Our words convey our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Yesterday there were many words spoken that either aroused or expressed deep and powerful feelings: feelings such as gratitude, admiration, shame, anger, guilt, and desire. There were thoughts and ideas spoken that have may not have been said or heard at other times or in other places. We know that actions flow out of the words that express our thoughts and feelings, so it may well be that the words we spoke will transform our actions. That is my hope! That is the hope of the organizers!
Job certainly believed in the power of the word – his own word- to influence God. He said: “I would lay my case before him … I would learn what he would answer me…There an upright person could reason with him, and I should be acquitted forever.”
Job was willing to engage in the struggle to understand God’s presence and action in his life. That struggle meant that he also had to struggle with the understanding and interpretation of suffering that was held by his culture, his faith tradition and his faith leaders as well as his friends. It meant too that he had to struggle with his own image of God and the image of God that his culture and society held. In the end he was moved to trust the God that he had come to know. We faced that kind of struggle yesterday.
I am sure that those of you who participated yesterday saw and felt the power of words. You understood that the words of Pope Alexander V1 in 1493 had tremendous power over the lives of Indigenous Peoples around the earth. The words that he spoke were what is now called “the Doctrine of Discovery.”
Without any right to do so, he handed over to Christians all the islands and mainlands to the west and south of Europe. He claimed that any lands that they thought to be empty were theirs from the time of discovery onwards. Non-Christian peoples could no longer own land, and these people were made subject to European domination. This is the doctrine of discovery.
His words had power. Nations, including Canada, have been built based on those words. Words have been used, and are still being used in law, and in society, to create structures and systems that have entrenched the doctrine of discovery. These laws and structures have silenced the voices of Aboriginal Peoples, decimated the Aboriginal population, denied Aboriginal rights and have shattered incredible numbers of Aboriginal lives and communities. There is no doubt that words have power!
The psalmist, in desperation, complains that God does not seem to hear his words. He says: “I cry but you do not answer!” Then he seems to move out of the despair and find strength when he says: “Yet you are holy. … In you our ancestors trusted and you delivered them.”
It is as if he is on the crest and then in the troughs of huge waves that threaten him with destruction. He drops again into despair and cries out: “But I am a worm and not a human; scorned and despised.”He quotes his mockers who say: “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him rescue the one in whom he delights!” Yet, the psalmist remembers God’s goodness and God’s intimate care for him since birth. He is moved to trust.
We usually think of Jesus Christ of Nazareth when we pray that psalm. It speaks to his passion and suffering. But we can also connect it with the suffering of the Christ in real people living today.
Yesterday as we told the story of our historic relationship, there were Aboriginal participants who were in touch with feelings of despair, of trust, of humiliation, of shame, of betrayal and of hope for a new relationship and a new future.
There were descendants of the other nations who came to this land who also felt despair, trust, shame, betrayal by church and government officials, and hope for a new relationship and a new future.
We lived out the journey experienced by the psalmist. We also understood from a heart space that we are brothers and sisters. Since the proclamation of the doctrine of discovery was promoted and implemented in this land, we have shared a journey in which some have born much pain and injustice while others have benefitted. Yesterday we voiced our desire for change.
Despite the pain of the past, and with the knowledge that there will be pain in living out the kind of transformation to which we are called, we can say with the psalmist: “Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver – let him rescue the one in whom he delights.”
“The one in whom he delights!” Have you thought of yourself as “the One in whom he delights”? Have you thought of your Aboriginal neighbour on this island, or elsewhere, as “The one in whom he delights”? How would this kind of thinking change our relationship?
Truly, we need to hand our cause over to the Lord. It is beyond our power to transform such brokenness on our own. But we hand over our trust, not our responsibility to struggle through this and to learn the power of love.
In the second reading, Paul says: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
This is one of my favourite passages from Paul. It fills me with hope and with an awareness of the intimacy of our God with us. What is closer than soul and spirit, joint and marrow? Yet, God’s living Word with its power to transform penetrates to that depth in our being. Dare we open ourselves to that kind of intimacy? It is a Living Word, a word vibrant with life, a word that carries the power of life, and the power of transformation, a persistent word – a word that is active in us until our very spirit and soul, joints and marrow are divided or parted; that is, until death.
It is also a sobering word with the warning that I cannot live a double life. My thoughts and intentions must be aligned with God’s desires and my action must express that alignment. My thoughts and the intentions of my heart will be judged by the very God-Word that lives and acts in me. This is a call to grow in conscious awareness of my thoughts, intentions, emotional responses and actions toward everything and everyone around me. It is the call to transformation and conversion. It is an invitation to see myself and all others as: “The one in whom he delights!” – His beloved. It is the call to see the curvature of God’s arms holding all in God’s embrace of love.
So how do we do this? Let us turn to Jesus.
Mark tells us he was about to go on a journey. We too are about to go on a journey if we are listening to God’s call in this Kairos event. We are about to go on the new journey that we began together yesterday. Like the man we ask: “Good teacher, what must I do …?”
In his exchange with Jesus, the man revealed that he was a good living man. Yet Jesus reminded him, and us, that no one is good but God. As we start out on this journey we need to let go of our understanding and interpretations of who is good and who is bad. We need to trust that only God is good and out of that goodness God will empower us to walk together in a good way, a new way.
That way is the way of love. “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” These are powerful words expressing a power greater than any and all power on earth. But it is a power that is contested by the things of the earth – our possessions.
The searching man went away sad because he had many possessions. Jesus must have been saddened too that the man was not ready to follow him, but he did not condemn him. He reflected with his disciples on how hard it is to follow him when we have possessions holding our hearts bound up. Again, Jesus in his love gives us a way to respond. To his disciples he says: “Children, how hard it is…”
He knew that children live and act out of love. You who are parents know that. Before they are distracted by possessions, they are focused on love. They look for love. They watch the faces of those around them on whom they depend. They look into the eyes of their parents, they smile, they laugh, they cry, and they pour out their very self into whoever is open enough to receive them. They give love and they hunger for love. Let us be like them. And let us be like Jesus: ready to acknowledge that only God is good and that it is that goodness that is reflected in us; ready to look on others with love and ready to welcome them without judgement.
May the Word of God live and act in us, empowering us to love as Jesus did. Meegwetch. Amen