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.


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.



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.