Thursday, 18 July 2013

Confronting the Burning Bush: A long walk of faith (July 17th readings)

As I continue to labor through the formation program for Spiritual directors in Guelph, I'm also exploring old language around one's relationship to God, which is vocational language. This has inspired me to look at yesterday's readings from a ' faith/ vocation story' lense.  So it's quite perfect that yesterday, we celebrated these women whose vocation took a tragic turn.

The Blessed Martyrs of Compiegne
Feast: July 17
A scene from the opera "Dialogue des Carmelites" by Francis Poulenk.

Feast Day:July 17
Died:17 July 1794 at the Place du Trône Renversé (modern Place de la Nation) in Paris, France
Beatified:27 May 1906 by Pope Pius X

 It's not often talked about that the French revolution was a very difficult time for the Church. However, there is no doubt that the Church was much closer to the Monarchy than to the poor, and that this link would mark it as a collaborator with foreign nations. Furthermore, led by the thinking of the Enlightenment (  especially  Francois-- Marie Voltaire and J.J Rousseau ), the Revolutionists believed there was no place for God or the Church in France under this regime. There are all kinds of stories of how Monasteries were sacked, and religious who weren't executed on the spot were forced to -at gun point- give up their vows and join the new Republic. Of course, once the revolution would run its course, the Catholic faith would come back in full force -and even stronger than before- in France. However, in the meantime, many would suffer great persecution.

 This group of Carmelite nuns were part of this group. They were guillotined at the Place du Trône Renversé (now called Place de la Nation). They are the first sufferers under the French Revolution on whom the Holy See has passed judgment, and were solemnly beatified 27 May, 1906. Before their execution they knelt and chanted the "Veni Creator", as at a profession, after which they all renewed aloud their baptismal and religious vows (the operatic version from the Poulenk work...not quite the same tune!) The novice was executed first and the prioress last. Absolute silence prevailed the whole time that the executions were proceeding. The heads and bodies of the martyrs were interred in a deep sand-pit about thirty feet square in a cemetery at Picpus. As this sand-pit was the receptacle of the bodies of 1298 victims of the Revolution, there seems to be no hope of their relics being recovered.

 The faith of these women is something that really struck a chord with me. It's one thing to receive one's destiny with the courage that they did, but to do so WHILE SINGING!? To do so with an Angry crowd jeering at you -the article says Silence was maintained during the executions. I find that hard to believe...- to do so when other options were probably opened to them...this makes their act that much more heroic. And yet, when one gets a religious vocation, there isn't much in this world that can take you away from it. Now I know that many people, especially in the West, simply do not understand this 'vocation'. They don't understand how, just like one gets married out of love for another ( and hopefully, not because there are societal pressures that people  get married!!), one also gets a strong desire to serve God and humanity out of that same strong love. And it will be my job to explain that kind of love to such people who don't get it!

It's that same love that's at work in the scriptures we read yesterday. We begin with Moses. Let's make one thing very clear about good ole Mo: He was not a particularly pious man like Abraham or Noah had been (don't forget, as we read this week, Moses killed a guy). He was not strongly devoted to God, nor is there really anything that indicates to us why God would have wanted to call him. And yet...he was called.  He was called into this great mystery, this desire that God had to intervene on behalf of Israel, to answer the cry of his people, and therefore change the course of history. He was called to be the mediator between God and the world in his own imperfect way. And unlike Abrahm -before he became Abraham- we get this notion that Moses really was Called...God calls his name twice -something we see with other 'callings' in scriptures, especially with Samuel (1st Samuel, 3:10). 
 Moses does not turn away from this call, but he has his doubts, of course. (Paraphrasing the text) "  You want me, to take on Pharoah? ME..Vs one of the Mightiest rulers of the world!? HAVE YOU SEEN ME!!? I can't do this!!". But you see, that's the whole point. God's not asking Moses to 'do it'. He's telling him, and he reminds him 'you will never be alone. So have trust'. 
 That to me,is the foundation of any vocation: This moment when we face our fears of doing this, and have God's assurance that we won't be alone, that we must trust that God will give us all the tools we need to do this. When those of us who are called finally understand this, we rejoice with the Psalms " Bless the lord, Oh, my soul, and every part of my body" . Know that God is alive in the world, and is actively seeking us out. He is not promising to keep us safe for the rest of our days -as so many believe. I once heard someone argue ' I have a cold and am sick today. How can there be a God if I am sick'. Brilliant!-. He promises to be present with us through the good times and the bad, and to give us courage to face everything that lies ahead. How can we do anything else but  praise to God with every ounce of our Body!

 Even Jesus' words from the Gospel seem to be along this line...for he celebrates that it is not the wise or the powerful to whom the mystery of God's presence in the world is revealed, but to children, to the small, to the meek, to the poor, to those who are genuinely seeking healing -not physical, but spiritual healing!-. Many others will seek to understand that mystery, but only a few will truly understand it. I find this hard to believe, but at the same time, I can see where it's coming from. It's not all people who are willing to give their lives for the service of others. Those who are, I believe, are a little closer to understanding that divine presence in our world, even if they themselves don't see it. God no longer lights bushes on fire to make us understand his divine presence among us, but the Lord still reaches us out to us daily.  

Exodus 3: 1 - 6, 9 - 12

1Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Mid'ian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.2And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.3And Moses said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt."4When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here am I."5Then he said, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."6And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.9And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.10Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt."11But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"12He said, "But I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought forth the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain."

Psalms 103: 1 - 4, 6 - 7

1Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!2Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,4who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,6The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed.7He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

Matthew 11: 25 - 27

25At that time Jesus declared, "I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes;
26yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.
27All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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