Saturday, May 28, 2011
TRUTH, SWORD, FIRE, WATER -- TWO EDGES EACH
It's been a long week. You know the kind. The ear-worm won't go away. The gout that awakened you on Monday imposes itself on you for the whole week, no matter what you do. The dear friend who got evicted with a three day notice calls every day. You make three wrong number calls in the same week, each one for the same number. You change an important password, write it down, hide it and the day after you can neither remember it nor find it. Finally, you make a public statement and get called out on it as being false, the moment after you made it. In the heat of the moment you hesitate and in frustration you say, "I'll look it up." Three hours later you should be in bed, but you're still thinking, "Yeesh!, I have to be more careful not to get carried away." To make matters worse, every hour of every day of the week you construct a positive teaching from your mistake in order to give your sincere, yes, sincere, apology some positive value. So, that's the kind of week it has been. This is the end, and you get this thought.
I start by saying that in the middle of the week, a "rock-star", You Tube entertainer who pushes his religious views on the world made a statement that really fell right in line with my Bad Week life. He talked for four and one-half minutes about why the "Truth" is divisive. Then, for thirty seconds he ended by saying that it is only in the acceptance of Truth that we can be united. Here it is:
"Our job as Catholics is to do everything .. EVERY .. THING we can do to help people see the truth. Only by everyone agreeing to the same authentic truth will division come to an end. And not a split second sooner. Not on this earth."
I said to myself, "I didn't fall off a cliff this high in my mistake." I happen to believe that the absolute truth is ONE, and that in and of itself it causes unity, not divisiveness. Human beings cause the division, not the truth itself. Let's take a moment to consider other parts of the title of today's thought.
SWORD: A good sword has two edges.
It has the edge of aggression and and punishment and the edge of protection. In the Bible we are shown several aspects of the sword. Michael the Archangel uses the sword according to God's will and drives the evil dissident into the eternal fire of damnation. God's people get to claim the Promised Land by the sword. Saul, the first king, and a bad one, uses the sword against the wishes and the commands of God. David, the chosen one of God uses the sword according to the will of God and actually saves Saul's life by not using the sword against Saul, his enemy. Jesus teaches that He has not come to bring peace but to bring the sword. The sword of St. Michael, the sword of Joshua, the sword of Aaron, the sword of David, the sword of salvation. In the teaching of Jesus, Love, Mercy and Reconciliation are the sword that He brings. It is with this spiritual sword that we are meant to to conquer the Evil one and gain the Kingdom of Heaven, as the Israelites gained the Promised Land.
FIRE: In the tradition, fire is punishment and damnation. Fire also has two edges. In our relationship with God, we have a two edged relationship with the reality of fire. We traditionally hold that fire is bad and that it is the tool of punishment at worst and of purification at a mitigated stage. In our natural lives we know that fire is a very dangerous ally. It plays a big role in our struggle for survival and even contributes to our progress as a civilization. In our Church lives we also have an appreciation of fire as a picture of ardent zeal, and all sacrificing love. We use the color of fire to celebrate martyrdom as well as the infusion of the Holy Spirit.
WATER: As we are reminded during the celebration of the escape of the Israelites from Egypt, water too is a dangerous ally.
We are conceived in water and water remains an essential part of our physical lives at every moment. We are also around water and its life-giving properties all during our spiritual lives. Beginning with the story of the punishing deluge being also the very medium that supported those who survived it, we come through the ages and see Moses saved by the waters of the Nile and the Land of Milk and Honey having an abundance of fish and water to support the Chosen People. That central source of life support provided the water which John used to cleanse the Chosen People of their past and take upon themselves a new life in the Messianic age. Jesus took it further and bequeathed His Baptism in water and in the fiery love of the Spirit to those who would follow Him in the renewed Kingdom, the renewed Chosen Land, the Church.
St. Paul would give us a deeper appreciation for the mystery of the saving water when he said,
"are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life. 5 For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection." [Romans 6:3 - 5]
So it is that we live in a world where we occupy both sides of the coin. We constantly strive to live on the bright side and shine in the loving sunlight of the God who created us and who guides us through our earthly existence. It is our call to always choose the life giving qualities of the sword, fire and water for the power of the unifying truth is always to be found in the pureness of our discipleship with God.
You can read what caused my disconcerting week by clicking here. Put your good humor suit on. I'm going to approach the subject in a more light-hearted way. It has a happy ending, so you don't have to cry at my funeral.