Burning Embers and Anthropo What?

July 20, 2014 at 9:34 am

How can we finite beings speak of the Unspeakable who is beyond the comprehension of our limited minds? One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the Fear of the Lord which is the gift of grasping how small we are in the face of the awesome transcendent majesty of The Absolute Being. Here is how the prophet Isaiah ( Is 6:1-8) conveyed it:

I saw the Lord seated on a  high and lofty throne, They cried one to the other,  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!”  Then I said, “Woe is me.  I am doomed!  For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips!”   Then one of the Seraphim flew to me, holding an ember that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  He touched my mouth with it and said, “See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?”  “ Here I am,” I said, “Send me”.

We can only speak of the unspeakable by using inadequate words of our human existence to capture the awesome transcendent majesty of the Absolute Being.  Is God a King?  Is  the kingdom of heaven or God a monarchical theocracy?   I think not.  But within the culture of Isaiah where the prevalent form of governance was monarchy, isn’t that best way to capture the Lord’s majesty?  Is it not still a helpful way to describe the beatific vision?  Isaiah’s language does convey a sense of the Lord as the Master of the Universe. ( I recall asking my son, Martin, when we was a little tyke perhaps 5 or 6 how he saw God.  His said, “ God is the Master of the Universe.”  At that time, I recall there was a cartoon or TV show with that theme).

Mt 10: 24-33 provides another sight of Who our God is:    “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.  Even all the hairs of your head are counted.  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Addressing God as Father, Jesus revealed to us that the Absolute, the Almighty, the Master of the Universe,  loves us as his children.  Therefore, we need not live our lives in the fear of a karmic payback or a strict God who may judge us fairly, yet harshly. Such cowering fear of punishment is not the Fear of the Lord described above. Jesus constantly reveals that the Lord is “ My Father,”   “ Your Father”, “ Our Father,”   “Abba” or Daddy. Without question, one of Jesus’ primary teachings and revelations is God as a loving, merciful, faithful Father who patiently pursues, welcomes home and embraces with love the repentant thief or profligate son. Like Isaiah, we will experience a fearful sense of imperfection in the presence of the Almighty, but we have recourse to the embers of the Eucharistic sacrifice which cleanse and make us one in Jesus’ relationship with his Father who is now our Father as well .

Is God only a Father?  Is this metaphor not yet another anthropomorphism?  So be it for  this anthropomorphic expression is a powerful mode of communicating that the Transcendent is loving and unconditionally merciful.  Yet does not God’s love also have the nurturing presence of a Mother’s love who lovingly strokes the hairs of her children’s head?  Cannot both a mother and father reflect the faithfulness of our God?  May we as parents faithfully reflect God’s loving presence to our children as well as others.

This passage from Matthew comes in the midst of a section of the scripture wherein Jesus is sending his disciples out to preach for the first time. The disciples want to do what Jesus is asking. They are willing like Isaiah to be sent, but they are afraid. He senses their hesitancy and fear.  He tells them “…do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  Is it not amazing that our God who Jesus reveals as Father actually lovingly holds all of creation in His/Her heart?  We should not be afraid of where the Lord may send us as we respond “Here I Am. Send me!” The Almighty knows and loves all of creation every moment. Our Lord God is a deeply loving Master of the Universe.

“Be not afraid.”  Yet we are.  I am.  Despite knowing God’sfaithful ever present loving care, I still fear the future.   I consider continuing to scramble to build barns to hold more wheat in case there is ever a need.  No matter how much money people have, they fear its loss.  Where can it be invested safely come what may?  How can I avoid my circumstances changing for the worse?  How can I make sure that my safety net will not have holes?How challenging it must be to be an investment advisor or money manager for people! How do you think their clients would react if advisors told their clients to pay attention to the counsel of Jesus:

“Consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field.  They neither sow nor reap or gather into barns.”

Lord, help us deal with our fears.  Both our fears of You and the insecurity of our futures. Help us relax in your loving care.   May the Eucharist be an ember from the sacrifice that makes us holy as it touches our lips.  May it  cleanse us of our fears and enable us to say “Send me”.  May we not be afraid of what other’s think, but share your love in word and deed as your disciples and your children  have down through the years. Let  our hearts understand, recognize and embrace  Your promptings.  May the gift of your grace enable us to follow  You and not refuse You, our Fatherly King.  May we consistently reflect Your Fatherly and Motherly love in our families. May our families be like yours,  a Holy Family. Amen.