THE PRACTICE OF FORGIVENESS

There was once a king who ruled his subjects through terror and intimidation. His cruelty was so deeply ingrained in his nature that his very face was frozen into a terrible rictus of disdainful pride that instilled fear and dismay in everyone he met. But he didn’t care, because those were exactly the emotions he wished to inspire.

But there came a time when from a distance he saw the beautiful princess of a neighboring kingdom, and for the first time of his life, he felt incomplete. He inquired, and learned that she was as lovely of character as she was of appearance. He longed to make her acquaintance and court her, but he knew that his terrible face would frighten her, and he would never have the chance of winning her love.

As his only resort, he sought out a local witch, and ordered her to fashion him a magic mask that would hide his true face, and instead show one of benevolence. When he tried the mask on, he could barely recognize himself in the mirror. Instead of arrogance, the mask showed an expression of humility; instead of cruelty, the mask showed kindness; instead of avarice, the mask showed generosity.  When he smirked with gloating delight at the deceptiveness of the mask, the mirror showed back a gentle look of calm reassurance.

With confidence in the mask, he arranged to make the acquaintance of the beautiful princess.

The courtship took root, but the king quickly realized that in order for it to flourish, his behavior would have to support the illusion of the mask.  Gritting his teeth – A friendly smile, through the mask! – he began playing the part of the benevolent ruler.  And over time, he played the part well.    The laws of the land came to manifest justice, instead of tyranny.  His people, at first wary, gradually turned to him for help and understanding.  Neighboring kingdoms, once exploited, now found in his a cooperative ally.  Most of all, perhaps, a feeling of general goodwill and peace spread over his country.

At long last, the king proposed marriage, and the princess accepted.  But on the eve of their wedding, the king, moved by a strange urging of conscience that he had never before experienced, confessed to the princess what he had done, that ever since their first acquaintance he had been wearing a magical mask that disguised his true appearance.  Before they could marry, he needed to show her his true face.

“Of course,” she said.  “But do not worry.  I love your heart, whatever your face.  Let me remove the mask.”

And when she had done so, she studied him for a moment, and then said, with a quizzical smile, “My darling, you look exactly the same as the first day we met.”

THE WORK OF CHRIST

We need not venture upon the fractious question of the nature of the relationship between, in Jesus’ denominations, the heavenly Son and the heavenly Father. Be the relation consubstantiality, whatever that theological imponderable might connote, or be it as identity in some mysterious mathematic, or be it as created to creator on analogy to human biology or manufacture, or, as is most likely, be it what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived, we may leave that disputation to eventual heavenly discovery, if we may only allow to received gracious revelation that the heavenly forgiveness of all human sin, past, present and future, has been accomplished for all of God’s children through divine instrumentality, the instrumentality named the Word by St. John, and by St. Paul, Christ.

SPRING

When you shine a flashlight into a dark closet, spring cleaning in your mind, the light doesn’t create the dust, the moth holes, the lonesome mitten lying on the floor. The light simply reveals them as they are.

Jesus is the light of the world.

When the spring sun bathes the earth with light and warmth, its light pours down heavenly nourishment, while its warmth thaws the life stored in frozen soil and branch, and begins to draw that life towards itself.

Jesus is the sun of righteousness.

FOR GOD SO LOVED

The buds that cover its branches in the spring have not earned the tree’s support: they grow out of it; they manifest the life and vitality and identity of the tree.

Jesus did not earn God’s love for us. He manifested it.

THE NEW BIRTH

Persuasion and instruction depend on the parties involved sharing certain premisses, certain interests and values. Instructions on how to apply for a passport hold no interest for the complacent homebody. Someone arguing for a particular political system – democracy, for example – by showing how it advances the cause of personal freedom will have no persuasive influence on someone who places no value on personal freedom – a committed Marxist, for example.

The internet sometimes offers videos of people, deaf from birth or injury, receiving a new cochlear implant. What the videos show when the implant is activated is invariably heartwarming. The sounds of voices and music that once fell on deaf ears are suddenly sources of joy and wonder.

Being born from above is not a supernatural intervention, creating a new and innocent spirit. It’s a change of perspective that may or may not result from exposure to the Gospel truth, the truth of God’s unconditional love for all His children. It’s not a new creation ex nihilo; it’s a new receptivity to Christ’s instruction.

NEW TESTAMENT DICTIONARY

Life is knowledge of the Gospel truth. Death is ignorance of the Gospel truth. Light is the illumination stemming from the knowledge of the Gospel truth. Sin is knowing the Gospel truth, but not walking in its light.

Pretty straightforward, really.

WHAT FATHER AMONG YOU

Imagine a mother who was informed that her infant son, at the age of twelve, would be removed to a far country, one with different customs and a foreign language, there to spend the rest of his life. Wouldn’t the mother, in all love, do her best to familiarize her child with the ways and habits of that country’s culture, to provide him acquaintance with what to expect, with how to understand and respond to its motivations, how to appreciate their rationale and enjoy their rewards? Most of all, wouldn’t she teach him the language of that far country, so that he might communicate from the very beginning?

Think of Jesus as our loving mother.

AMEN

Jesus can only do his work where he’s welcome. At the outset of the ministry, he reads from Isaiah, then closes the scroll and waits. And waits. His words are unwelcome, and we never again hear of Nazareth in the Gospels.

On sending out his disciples, he instructs them to linger only where they find hospitality.

Simon the Pharisee offers Jesus condescension and disrespect, and in response, Jesus turns his attention to a serving woman.

We conclude our prayers by saying Amen, and we often think of that as expressing intellectual agreement. And it is that, of course; but much more, it’s a way of saying Thank you, of saying Come in, sit down, of saying Let me give you something to eat.

Our spiritual devotions to God and our material devotions to the children of God are all ways of saying Amen. The Christian goal is a life that simply is: Amen.

THE TRINITY

Anything that is true and lovely is good. Anything that is lovely and good is true. Anything that is true and good is lovely.

A MOTHER’S LOVE

A mother’s love surrounds her baby whether the baby is awake or asleep, whether it’s sick or well. Her love doesn’t fade or withdraw when the baby is being difficult or presenting challenges. It’s not stronger when she’s hugging the baby to her bosum than when she’s asleep and dreaming of her own childhood. A mother’s love doesn’t name an emotion or a mood of the mother; it names a spiritual orientation between a woman and her child that nothing in the material world can effect.

Some say that El Shaddai means God of two breasts.