Saturday, 20 July 2013

The Quality of Being: July 18th readings

I keep apologizing every time I do skip out on days, but I promise it's the last time I do so! I'm sure nobody minds! I also promise to keep up the blogging as much as I can. It's a great asset to me when I can immerse myself in any with with the readings of the day!
Re Thursday's Saint: As I often do when EWTN does not provide me with a photo of the Saints, I had to wrestle with the formatting today, but it seems to have more or less worked out for my entry on this Benedictine Bishop.

St. Bruno of Segni( 1049-1123)
Feast: July 18

St. Bruno of Segni

Benedictine bishop, serving as Vatican librarian and cardinal legate. Born in 1049, Bruno became a Benedictine while still young, and in 1079, Pope St. Gregory VII (r. 1073 - 1085) appointed him bishop of Segni. He left that see to reenter the monastic-life, becoming the abbot of Monte Cassino. Burno served as librarian to the Holy Roman See and as cardinal legate. Bruno's theologial work on the Holy Eucharist set the standard for centuries. He was canonized in 1183.

Reflection on Readings
 Thursday's readings proved to be a great intellectual challenge that were a pleasure to pray with. Both the first reading and the Gospel left me with some questions and ideas that I prayed over and am to some extent, still wrestling with.
 Before I get into that however, I'll relate a story from this Spiritual Director's workshop we're doing that helped me clarify the meaning of one of these readings
 On Wednesday, we had a seminar session on addiction. In the afternoon, the presenter/teacher  made us a do a little personal exercise around our own life.  He asked us to fold a sheet in two:   on the left side  of the  sheet, we were to write the words 'I Am'. On the right side,  he asked us to come up with many words that could describe how we felt, or describe us as individuals. I was originally a little slow on this one. I had a few obvious ones ('I am Canadian, I am male, I am a Montrealer, I'm passionate, I am a follower of Jesus etc..') but the rest  weren't flowing very naturally. I had such a block that I didn't even think of writing 'I am Catholic', which is ironic considering how busy  my mind usually is with musings of what it means to be Catholic in the 21st century.  I eventually found my groove though, and went at it. It was around that point that the speaker asked us to stop.  I was pretty pleased with the introspective effort, and therefore a little distraught by his next instruction:  '  Cross out the words on the right side of the paper. What are you left with?"

 I am.

This was the core of his message: As hard as we labor to find words that describe how we feel or who we are, we mustn't be  defined by externals only. We get easily attached to descriptive words  Let our interior life play a role in how we express ourselves, how we talk about this unique individual that we are. This was quite beautiful to me...but what was even more striking was the parallel  between this exercise, and  the first reading from Exodus: 

 In our continuing read of  Moses' story, we see an ongoing resistance on Moses' part as God reveals the divine plan to him. After all, as we've already read this week, this is a pretty tall mission he's being assigned. However, in today's reading, Moses is  being a little more practical in his objections: (more paraphrasing) " Ok, you want me to go tell Pharoah to let an entire people free thousands of slaves... I have my doubts that it will work, but fine I'll try. How do I talk to my own people about this? Who do  I say is liberating us, and sending us on this mission?" 

The answer he was given is so unusual, it's never used again in any scripture passage...but it's one of the most important moments in Biblical history: 


  The Green and the brackets  are mine, the Capital letters are the texts... Green, because I thought it'd be cool.. I put parentheses because most editions of the Bible in English translate this important passage as 'I am who I am.' My Catholic study Bible -the New American  Bible- drops the 2nd I. It sounds weird it English, and drives the point home.  I am who Am. The one who has been, who is, and will always be. That's what it means. As the Catechism says " It's a name that expresses one's essential Identity, and the full meaning of one's life....God is no longer an anonymous force. He has a name" (my younger brother, for whom this blog was originally started, recently reminded that I use to be a lot more reluctant to use 'He' when speaking of God. I still think it's theologically unsound to attribute a gender to God, who I know is way more complex than anything we can ever imagine. At the same time, I find it tiresome to always be worrying about what pronoun I use. I try to avoid using He, but I will resurface every once in a while.. and I won't change it when quoting texts! Sorry for the rant. Back to the topic at hand!) It is a name that will build intimacy between Yahweh and his children, one that will strengthen the bond between them. 

  As wonderful as this idea sounds, it's even more Awesome in Hebrew. This sentence (I AM WHO AM) is a translation of the Hebrew, "he Creates", or "causes to be". YHWH (no vowels in Hebrew!)  which when converted into English, becomes the name (drum roll)....


(I'd love it someone could say 'No Way!!' at this stage. It would allow me to say 

" Ya Way!!") 
It's only one of the 7 Hebrew names for God, but it's one of the more common ones, and one that expresses perfectly, that GOD IS.  How God is, what God does etc...that remains a mystery.  For example, some may look at the story of the 10 plagues, and wonder 'why would God be so awful towards the Egyptians? Why are the whole people suffering for the foolishness of their leader?' There's no easy answer to this. We can get to know God, but never fully understand Why things are the way they are in History, in the present, or how they will be in  the future. The way I see it though, this story is used to illustrate once and for all how strong Yahweh truly is. 

 Still, the marvel of this scene has nothing to do with God's power: it's all about his intimacy. Just as I, must in my walk of faith, learn to define myself by who I am at my core, so God, presents himself not in the fullness of his power, or the Kingship of his glory, but in a simple, intimate phrase that would leave no doubt about the most most fundamental aspect of  Yahweh's character. The Being. This message is so complex in it's simplicity. Unfortunately, we've made it even more complicated.

 Over the years, the Israelites would prove that faithfulness to Yahweh would be very difficult, almost impossible at times.  In their efforts to increase their faithfulness...many rules were created to force people into holy behavior. As times went on, those rules forgot the point: It's not about external behavior, but internal simplicity, honesty, and faithfulness to the rules of God, not those of men. Thousands of years later, that was precisely Jesus's message to the people. The words from Thursday's Gospel passage reflects two message he was bringing to the people:

a) Following God is a challenge. We must labor for it. BUT IT SHOULD NEVER BE A BURDEN
b) The Religion of his homeland had become a burden to many, due to the hypocrisy of a few Synagogue leaders ( the famous Sadducees who in spite of all the problems, continued to interpret the Bible literally!). 

 With that in mind, he invites the people to come labor with him. His yoke still exists, because he continues to labor in his Father's vineyard...but it's an easy yoke. Not a heavy burden at all. In fact, Jesus invites all people to receive comfort, and rest in their labors for the Lord, not the burden of these ancient rules that were not from God. No wonder so many people were drawn to him if his message was 'you can remain close to God and not be burdened in your faith'. It's a message we still need to hear today I believe. Let us pray that Christians always stay close to this simplicity of heart and soul that God asks from us.

 Have a blessed weekend

Exodus 3: 13 - 20

13Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"14God said to Moses, "I AM WHO (I) AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, `I AM has sent me to you.'"15God also said to Moses, "Say this to the people of Israel, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you': this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.16Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, `The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt;17and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, a land flowing with milk and honey."'18And they will hearken to your voice; and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, we pray you, let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.'19I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.20So I will stretch out my hand and smite Egypt with all the wonders which I will do in it; after that he will let you go.

Psalms 105: 1, 5, 8 - 9, 24 - 27

1O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples!
5Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
8He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9the covenant which he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac,
24And the LORD made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than their foes.
25He turned their (the foes') hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.
26He sent Moses his servant, and Aaron whom he had chosen.

Matthew 11: 28 - 30

28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

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