2017. április 26., szerda

The dignity of the soul – an Easter question (Deuteronomy 3,18-end; Acts 3,1-4,4.)



The dignity of the soul – an Easter question (Deuteronomy 3,18-end; Acts 3,1-4,4.)

Our passage recalls Moses’ request, and its refusal, to enter the promised Land. ‘I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. … But the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan.’

There is an important symbolic meaning of these lines. Do we belong to a past, transitory world, brought down by ‘sin’ − or do we belong to the world of the Resurrection? The world of Easter is in stark contrast with the world of inertia, idleness and dead-ends.

Peter’s speech in the Temple speaks on behalf of this liberating Easter. He asks for the decision of faith. ‘The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead.’

Indeed, our world is entrapped in a Beckettian ‘Endgame’. We are caught up in the past which manifest itself in a weightless, formless present. There is no exit. The past cannot be accessed, the present cannot be transformed, and the future cannot be shaped.

Unless a miracle pushes us to the tipping point of Easter faith − that leads to a new and irreversible development. Exactly this is what happens to part of his audience. ‘And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day…. Howbeit man of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.’

The big question is, do people today have a sense of the dignity of their soul? Or there is a collective fainting into oblivion when the responsibility for one’s immortal soul is forgotten? As Julia Kristeva in her New Maladies of the Soul puts it, ‘do people still have a soul’? Perhaps, this lack is the situation of the ‘man lame from his mother’s womb’ whose request for something less then the dignity of the soul triggered out Peter’s liberating speech.

Bearing in mind the above tipping point, indeed, who still has a soul?

26.04.2017

2016. január 13., szerda

'Paul in translation': an archetype of mission (Gal 2)


'...When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter...'

It is worth paying attention to this 'dramatic self-confession' by Paul; how he struggled between his own 'old' Jewish and the 'new' pagan recipients of the Gospel. We see Peter in charge of proclaiming Jesus' good news within the Jewish tradition.

This is an important aspect of, and task for the Catholicity of the Church. This is the call to re-vitalise the Jewish roots of the Christian tradition.

Listening to the core of one's Tradition (its historical language, doctrine and piety) will necessarily set up a 'gap' between the present and the past. Tradition (the life of previous generations of we are part of!) will always confront the pluralisms of the present. Its weight will collide with the uncertainties of our very flexible age. It is necessary to be so as the difference between Tradition and present is that the latter is always open ended as a history. Tradition does not have to fight the challenges of our times; but its task is to be a useful resource in this task.

It is in this context, that Paul provides us with a blueprint of mission. 'For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law I am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.'

Paul, being caught up between two traditions, undertakes the pain of 'translation'. His is 'the self in Exodus'. It is the most fertile state that brings forth mission in a creative way. As such, Paul's translation of his Jewish faith is the archetype of mission. It is painful; we are torn apart between existing and non-existing vocabularies. (We are caught up between the Word of God and the missing human words.) It seems that this giving birth to missing words and sentences, which would bridge us with Christ's 'outside' world, is an essential part of the Catholic faith. Catholic, that is, being capable of self-translation and understanding.


13.01.2016.
 

2016. január 12., kedd

Aerials of grace (Mt 9,18-34)



When we pray, Christ is perceiving our prayer. He 'senses' it already before our words reach him. As if sensitive aerial, he listens to us, fine tuned to this very particular way of communication: prayer seeking Christ's presence.

'If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole', prays the woman with an issue of blood for twelve years. 'My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live', says a certain ruler. 'Two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.'

These examples confirm that Jesus is surrounded by a space of faith, reaching out to him, at its centre. He sensitively perceives the faith of these people, 'a faith asking'.

Indeed, one should see prayer as an all-encompassing mystery. Jesus' birth and his Cross; his Baptism in river Jordan, his Pentecostal arrival in the Spirit – have set up a sensitive intra-, and at the same time trans-historical 'aerial'. As our Gospel story shows, he already communicates with these people's needs. What is an unexpected event for their environment ('the bystanders'), it is a long evolving dialogue and bond of trust with the persons to be healed.

The thirteenth century icon from Mount Sinai, St Catherine's Monastery, through its combination of scenes of the Nativity, and above it the Crucifixion, express this 'aerial' charged with divine attention. The bright stars surrounding the Cross and the crib tell of this space of living connection when words travel unseen.

 
12.01.2016.


 

2016. január 4., hétfő

In memoriam Rene Girard (1923-2015)




The second Sunday of Christmas is dominated by the theme of light. Christ as the light of the world shines on the whole cosmos and history itself, both measured by God's Life. The readings of the week in the morning and evening prayers unfold this theme. The Sermon on the Mount is a striking vision, even more, the very source of this Light. It is worth re-reading Matthew 5,17 to the end.
This teaching of Jesus is the key to heal our history, which has lost its ways. Seeing what is going on in the world, as if our world would have grown into a negative parallel world.... parallel to our failed possibilities to create a more peaceful global environment. Unfortunately, this 'worst version' prevails. All the missed chances, the wasted and missed opportunities for peace are the fictitious worlds.
Jesus' 'impossible demands', with a striking force, get the balance right between our present reality, and what, in a normal world, is the genuine, the real. 'For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven.' Indeed, mediocrity, what we are at present, as persons, is not enough. It is only through these extra efforts that we can reverse the negative course of human history. The individual human heart must make this laborious step. Otherwise the news from our TV screens will grow into our room as 'here and now'.
I am thinking of the images of war-torn streets of the cities in Syria and Iraq. I feel ashamed that there is not one a single sober voice that would say: it is madness. What are these militias fighting for? 'Cities?' What one sees is the complete devastation of these cities and villages. Ruins. We are fighting for ruins, for streets and infrastructures destroyed for good. Only hubris govern our war efforts.
And where is the only valid and effective voice for peace? Dark gasses are smoking up from the mouths of politicians and world leaders. In the view of the Prince of Peace whom we have just been celebrating in the Christian (parallel) world: sending more weapons and fighter jets and air raids into these regions is madness and sin! The medication would be so simple, though.
'You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children o f your Father which is in heaven.'
Naivety? Then let us be content with the 'Father' of this parallel world: power, violence, repudiation and revenge; and all his/our scenarios.
Read these beautiful and compelling 'extra commandments'. Feel that only Jesus has the power and vision to resurrect what is dead in the body of History. His vision gives us the Kingdom of God as our collective healing − here and now.

04.01.2016

2015. december 25., péntek

Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life

 

'Sadness should have no place on the birthday of life.' (St Leo the Great) This is a great consolation. Indeed, this thought has re-centered my feelings and experiences of this Christmas day when I visited few of my close relatives. They are aging. All of them suffer from some kind of illness. This experience of decline has made me said and inwardly inert. Yet, St Leo's encouragement, though it does not change the bare facts of life, changes my perspective.

I suddenly understand the importance of prayer. When we pray, this is en extension of today's birthday of life, Christmas. This attention, we are encouraged to believe, will embrace as a lasting help our beloved ones.

25.12.2015

 

2015. november 3., kedd

Messianic gates and vision

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:...A time to weep, and time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance" (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

"Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?" (Lk 20:2)

There is a time to recognise God in our life. These are sensitive moments when we are not only offered the opportunity to 'name' him, but we are called to confess him as our Messiah.

This self-revealing Messiah, first, always heals us. In order to be perceived and responded by us, Jesus wants to heal our relationship with 'time'. We need to regain our sense of life itself. That is, the control over the time of life that we are given. This is a tremendous effort in itself: to take off the clothe of a distorted time. Cyber-realities, gadgets, flickering news, and the anxieties of our work (or of our being unemployed) do not allow to fix our gaze on what is real from our God; what is real from our life.

Prayer, the physical reality of the Eucharist, our compassion for those who are in need are 'messianic gates'. We must breath freely in our life, in the real time of our existence, with this clear consciousness.

Luke's is a painful account of how the 'authorities' are lost in a fictitious reality. Their blindness not only is a blindness to God, but also betrays the missed 'messianic gates'. The moments of compassion for others sensitise us or make us blind depending on our response.

2.11.2015.

2015. október 27., kedd

In the circle of fertility

"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

"I tell you, Nay: but except ye shall repent, ye shall all likewise parish... 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.'" (Luke 12:56; 13:3) (Tuesday after Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity, Matins)

Day-to-day exhausting work and its effects on our spiritual well-being and personal relationship are well known to all of us. It is tempting to give up all effort to keep the balance right. Prayer-life, spiritual focusing seem to be a luxury.

Yet, contrary to all expectation, it is through the extra effort to 'pray' which gets the balance right. Investing into our spiritual wellbeing on a daily basis is indeed a hard investment. However, this is the only way. It is 'slowing down our anger', minding our often wounding words which make the human heart alive. When the heart (the centre of consciousness) is focused, then can we enter into our life ('again'). Strength and resource is gained through the daily work of remaining a Christian disciple. For this is discipleship which makes the passive Christian in us active and alive.

Spirituality alive is the state when we are able to 'discern this time' in which we live.

However lifeless or inert we feel ourselves, incapable of producing any 'growth', we must never give up. 'I tell you...except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:3) We have been given a powerful encouragement. The 'dresser of the vineyard' intercedes for us: 'Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dug it: and if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.' (Lk 13:9) 'This year' as our last year is given to us. Full of chance. We can read this intercession as the words of our guardian angels. He has 'dug about us'. An angelic presence is writing the circles of fertility around us. (We are always standing in the middle of this circle; paradoxically, in the middle of the Kingdom of God!)

27.10.2015.

2015. október 26., hétfő

The pendulum of the Spirit




"The simple believeth every word... A wise mean feareth and departeth from evil." (Proverbs 14)
"...for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say."
"Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12)

We need both experiences: the laborious effort to live up to the desired goodness that we express in words; and the joy of being fully transparent when touched by the Father's love. Hard work and full celebration will enable us to appreciate the gift of being a Christian in the here and now. These two experiences purify us.
This purification is vital in order to be able to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and really small) gifts. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German martyr theologian stresses that entering into the real life of grace is the ground of genuine Christian joy. As Bonhoeffer puts it: "The Christian community is not an ideal which we must realise; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we participate." "Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may appear great and glorious to God." (Life Together).
Seeing the numeric decline in our congregations can be extremely painful. Proverbs and Luke's Gospel remind us that the person and the community are always on a pilgrimage. These are not our high ideals and expectations that define reality but always God's generous Providence. Being unfinished can be God's glory, precisely because it shatters the dream that it is we who are the source of life and who can 'create' the otherwise rightly desired growth and rebirth.
Cranmer's masterful composition makes us realise that this is time for moral growth (through effort). This is also a time for full reliance on external life (as little flock). And the middle way of the pendulum between the two is when we will start to speak, judge, and reflect freely. This is when "the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." For this 'hour of the Holy Spirit' is worth working and waiting.

26.10.2015




2015. október 25., vasárnap

A definition of being a Christian in the age to come

 

"I will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it." (Ezekiel 14)

Ezekiel's words can be read as "spiritual hunger" sent upon our culture. A community, which does not live up to its true potentials, necessarily ends up in "famine". That is, several aspects of its life can end up as futile, even self-harming.

God, even in these circumstances, creates a community, when people wait patiently and make a genuine attempt to re-focus their hearts. "Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters... and they shall comfort you, when ye see their doings: and ye shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, saith the Lord." (Ezekiel 14)

Thus, when "word goes through the land" (when violence and endless wars spread worldwide), we are called to contemplate the "writing of God" amongst us. That is, how he has already started planting eternal peace in our yearning hearts.

This dignity of the "holy remnants" (their responsible preparation for the future) is shown in Luke's Gospel. God, who invited the powerful to the wedding feast, and who failed in living up to their potentials, now invites the "blind", the seemingly powerless. This blindness shall prove to be the clearest sight of grace, very soon.

25.10.2015