Friday of the First Week of Lent

Lectionary: 228

...go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.


When the Name of God is mentioned there are three attributes we most often associate with him: power, knowledge, goodness. The Church, witnessing the collapse of the Roman Empire and the return of barbarity, celebrated and promoted human authority. In those days, they were emperors, kings, their armies and the aristocrats they appointed to rule. How they garnered such power was less important than that they should maintain security and peace. ("We'll worry about justice and mercy later.")  

Gradually the mystery of the Holy Trinity was set aside during those chaotic centuries and God the Almighty, All-Benevolent and All-Knowing reappeared. Perhaps there was also the winking and nodding understanding that God the Father is that particular god while God the Son and God the Holy Spirit submitted obediently to His Benevolent Rule. (I found the "God" who appears in Milton's Paradise Lost insufferably arrogant. Such was the god of empire. Satan seemed far more attractive.) 

Eventually that god would be discovered as pathetically weak. If God is so good, wise and powerful, why do the innocent suffer? Why are there wars? Can God prevent us from destroying all life on this speck of Earth in the vast universe? 

Clearly, we need an even more powerful god than the one we've known. 

During the twentieth century, theologians began to reexamine the doctrine of the omnipotent god. Hans Urs von Balthazar, in his book Credo, describes God the Father: 
"When the New Testament refers to him in many passages as “almighty,” it becomes evident from these that this almightiness can be none other than that of a surrender which is limited by nothing—what could surpass the power of bringing forth a God “equal in nature,” that is, equally loving and equally powerful, not another God but an other in God...? ...It is therefore essential, in the first instance, to see the unimaginable power of the Father in the force of his self-surrender, that is, of his love, and not, for example, in his being able to do this or that as he chooses. And it is just as essential not to understand the Father’s love-almightiness as something darkly elemental, eruptive, prelogical, since his self-giving appears simultaneously as a self-thinking, self-stating, and self-expressing (Heb 1:3): The Logos, the Word that contains every sense in itself, is their product. Just as little is the Father’s “all-mighty” self-testimony something compulsive; rather, it is also the origin of all freedom—once again, not in the sense of doing as one chooses, but in that of superior self-possession of the love which surrenders itself."
Power is not proven by doing whatever one wants to do but by the willingness to surrender all of one's power, for if the all-powerful God cannot totally and utterly discipline himself -- even to the point of utter submissiveness before an inferior -- he is a most pathetic being.

That's deep stuff. Let's bring it home: In today's Gospel Jesus instructs us to go first and be reconciled..., and then come and offer your gift.

A disciple of Jesus who aspires to be God-like ("holy") is always ready to apologize and always ready to forgive. This authority over oneself comes from God and emulates God. The one who refuses to forgive or apologize clings to the trappings of power and righteousness but is exposed as an undisciplined, self-willed child. 

That disciple bears little resemblance to the Lord who forgave and pleaded for his tormentors even as he died. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.