Feast of Saints Philip and James, Apostles



For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve....



Speaking of tradition, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote,
Not the individual man nor a single generation by its own power can erect the bridge that leads to God. Faith is the achievement of ages, an effort accumulated over centuries. Many of its ideas are as the light of a star that left its source centuries ago. Many songs, unfathomable today, are the resonance of voices of bygone times. There is a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory of which we partake in our faith.
In today's first reading, Saint Paul invokes the tradition which he "handed on to you as of first importance." This tradition comprises the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection which happened "in accordance with the Scriptures;" and the Eucharistic Meal which began with the Last Supper. These Christian traditions are "a collective memory of God in the human spirit, and it is this memory of which we partake in our faith."

In my conversations with Veterans in treatment for alcoholism and drug abuse, I review the second of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, "We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." Someone has parsed that sentence into smaller steps, 1) We came; 2) we came to; and 3) we came to believe....

In the process of healing, after an extended period of abstinence and of attending meetings ("we came"), the user "comes to." He emerges from the fog of alcohol and begins to remember, "I was not always so miserable, angry, resentful and selfish. I used to be happy!" 

"Coming to" is regaining one's memory, which is vital to the human being. Alcohol and drugs are used to suppress painful memories but they suppress all memories. The user does not remember much of his or her life. Recalling memories and telling stories help in one's recovery. One story leads to another and little by little the past appears; they might even coalesce into an integrated sense of identity. .

But recovery remembers more than one's own life span; it recovers connections to family and community and the ancient past. The alcoholic might realize this illness has plagued his family for generations. 

Recovery also reclaims faith in God which, as Rabbi Heschel describes it, is the achievement of ages, an effort accumulated over centuries."

In recovery tradition comes to life again; it's like a leafless tree that, with the springtime, runs with sap and sprouts new growth. The tradition that seemed dead and useless, an ugly hulk of the past that only blocked progress, revives, flourishes and provides vital direction to the future. With one's memories restored, "Many songs, unfathomable today, are the resonance of voices of bygone times."

We live in an intoxicated age which has willfully, violently suppressed its memory. Traditional religions are despised. But the Spirit of the Risen Christ cannot be suppressed; it will rest in a moldering tomb no more than three days. As we await a rebirth of wonder, the Holy Spirit remembers and revives our dead bones .

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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.