Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

Do you not know
or have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint nor grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.

Are there any limits to power? The philosopher Nietzsche, speaking more as a prophet than a teacher, recognized Europe's shift from the worship of God to the worship of power. Stripped of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, the enlightened god of humanism had melted into its own irrelevance.

Power needs no justification. It is what it is, and you either deal with it or die under it. Millions of people have died in the senseless wars of the last three centuries.

Even yet many Christians like to think of our God as "all powerful." He may be wise or good or beautiful but if he is not powerful they have no use for him. They have not gone to Bethlehem to see the helpless infant. They have not pondered Saint Paul's song, "Though he was in the form of God he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped."

In this twenty-first century, after witnessing the apotheosis of power at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after seeing "shock and awe" fail in England, Germany, Afghanistan and Iraq; realizing human beings cannot be cowed into submission, perhaps we're ready to return to Bethlehem and meet the God who would serve rather than be served. Power has not saved us; it has given us neither security nor comfort.

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,they will soar as with eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.

The strength we have found is not the power to intimidate but the willingness to meet others where they are. It is the power to forgive and to let go of resentments. It is the power to apologize -- even when we have done no wrong. Like the All-Powerful God who abjures all authority in heaven and on earth, we claim the freedom of vulnerability.

We  can save neither the powerless nor the powerful -- and least of all, ourselves -- but we can honor them as beautiful and beloved in God's sight. We can see them with the human eyes of Jesus. We can invite them to come with us "to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Pray for all those who died on this day, 75 years ago, and for those who still grieve the loss of loved ones in the ensuing war. 

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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.