Saturday, April 08, 2017

What Are We Going to Do?

I will make with them a covenant of peace; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them, and I will multiply them, and put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling shall be with them; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Thus the nations shall know that it is I, the LORD, who make Israel holy, when my sanctuary shall be set up among them forever. Ezekiel 37:27-28

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, "What are we going to do?” John 11:45-47

LORD, my heart is not proud;
nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself with great matters,
with things too sublime for me.
Rather, I have stilled my soul,
Like a weaned child to its mother,
weaned is my soul.
Israel, hope in the LORD,
now and forever. Psalm 131

The utopian covenant is at risk. God has held out the promise of a unifying ruler for all of Israel and promises that when he delivers the prince of peace, all will be set right in our relationship with the Lord and with each other. The tense of the reading from Ezekiel is the future. If only we hold up our end of the covenant. However, even the Lord God knows that is not going to happen.

I will make…
It shall be…
I will multiple…
My dwelling shall be…
If only we did the same.

Just as Ezekiel describes Israel and Judah as two sticks which must be joined together. Unfortunately, even with Jesus dwelling in their midst, some will follow the new covenant and others will not. Many came to believe but others went to the Pharisees with their complaints.

The tense of the reading from Ezekiel is the future. The tense of the reading from John is the present.  If only we hold up our end of the covenant, all will be at peace. However, even the Lord God knows that is not going to happen.

What are we going to do? Will we be in the group of believers who fulfill the covenant or will we be in the group of betrayers?

Words from Dorothy Day: "It is not just Vietnam, it is South Africa, it is Nigeria, the Congo, Indonesia, all of Latin America. It is not just the pictures of all the women and children who have been burnt alive in Vietnam, or the men who have been tortured, and died. It is not just the headless victims of the war in Colombia. It is not just the words of Cardinal Spellman[i] and Archbishop Hannan[ii]. It is the fact that whether we -- like it or not -- we are Americans. It is indeed our country, right or wrong, as the Cardinal said in another context. We are warm and fed and secure (aside from occasional muggings and murders amongst us). We are the nation the most powerful, the most armed and we are supplying arms and money to the rest of the world where we are not ourselves fighting. We are eating while there is famine in the world.

Scripture tells us that the picture of judgment presented to us by Jesus is of Dives sitting and feasting with his friends while Lazarus sat hungry at the gate, the dogs, the scavengers of the East, licking his sores. We are the Dives. Woe to the rich! We are the rich. The works of mercy are the opposite of the works of war, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, nursing the sick, visiting the prisoner. But we are destroying crops, setting fire to entire villages and to the people in them. We are not performing the works of mercy but the works of war. We cannot repeat this enough."

It is gassed citizens in Syria. It is flooded citizens in Peru buried under mudslides. It is dead shoppers at a mall in Stockholm or Paris or Berlin or London. It is nightclub revelers in Orlando. It is school children in Sandy Hook or Columbine. “It is the fact that whether we -- like it or not -- we are Americans. It is indeed our country, right or wrong.”

What are we going to do? We have had five weeks of Lent to reflect. Now it is time to decide. Shall we move forward as believers or betrayers. Will you be coming to the feast or to the trial?

Carl McColman, on his “A Contemplative Faith” website, suggests that our prayer journey to come to the answer can progress right through the steps in Psalm 131:
  1. Begin with humility, letting go of the temptation to relate to God through clever thoughts or complicated ideas;
  2. Move into silence, finding calmness and rest in God like a baby finds resting on its mother’s breast;
  3. Finally embrace hope, that in the down-to-earth quiet of contemplative prayer we learn to fully trust God.[iii]

[i] Francis Joseph Spellman was an American bishop and cardinal of the Catholic Church. From 1939 until his death in 1967, he served as the sixth Archbishop of New York.
[ii] Philip Matthew Hannan was an American Roman Catholic Archbishop. Archbishop Hannan, in his episcopal career, served as Auxiliary Bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and later as the Eleventh Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans from September 29, 1965 to December 6, 1988.

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