Tag Archives: Elizabeth Johnson

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, cycle A

cross

The cross is a symbol of our salvation.  Each time we look upon and venerate the cross; each time we cross ourselves in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we profess our willingness to take Jesus seriously, to live the radical Gospel fully, and to die for our beliefs, our values and commitment to God, to Jesus and one another (Sanchez, PD, NCR for 8/29-9/11).

1st Reading – Numbers 21:4b-9

What logic is behind this reading and command? Why should a victim have to look at that which can kill them? The reason becomes a bit clearer if we look at the meaning of the snakebites which is the same thing as looking at the nature of sin, since the people had revolted against God and Moses. They were not even grateful any longer for the free bread that came to them from heaven. God sent the snakebites to punish them – not vindictively but as a ‘reality-check’ –considering how their sin and ingratitude had distanced them from God, the source of life – discovering later in their pain that they were suffering, lonely and God-forsaken. The only answer is to open the door again, and so they do that. They own up to their sin and ask for God’s help once again. Moses is told to make a serpent out of bronze, and so he does. This serpent has no sting; they can look on it without fear and without death. They can face their wrong-doing knowing that it has been taken up into the splendor of God’s on-going love which has brought them out of slavery to new life – a love that will continue to lead them if they but follow. (Fr. John Foley, S.J., “Spirituality of the Readings, http://liturgy.slu.edu.)

2nd Reading – Philippians 2: 6-11

This early Christian hymn that Paul is using should help us to appreciate how freely God gives his love to us and how completely this love is revealed in Christ Jesus, our Lord – the only one that is worthy and safe to be called Lord.

This is the Paschal Mystery:  that by emptying ourselves, we may rise to new life.  Ronald Rolheiser in the Holy Longing says, “Like all things temporal, our understanding of God and the church too must constantly die and be raised to new life.  Our intentions may be sincere and noble, but so too were Mary Magdala’s on Easter morning when she tried to ignore the new reality of Jesus so as to cling to what had previously been, “ (p. 162).  What needs to be emptied in you to bring about new life?

In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, he talks a lot about this emptying as a way of detachment.  In making personal decisions, we should pray to get to the point where we could go either way in deciding (emptying ourselves).  That way, we are truly leaving it in God’s hands to make the decision, and thus doing God’s will.  He says, “One strives earnestly not to desire that money or anything else, except when one is motivated solely by the service of God our Lord; in such a way that the desire to be able to serve God our Lord better is what moves one to take or reject any object whatsoever,” (#155).

The Gospel – John 3: 13-17

God: all life begins with God; it is God who sent Jesus.

Loved the world: Here is the motive for all of God’s activity – God is love!

Gave his only Son: God gave in two senses – first, in the Incarnation  God’s Word, God’s Message became flesh in the world; second, this Son in whom God is perfectly present endured death, the ‘lifting up’ on the cross.

Believes: God asks us to respond to his love – believe in Jesus. This believing in John’s gospel is always an entering into a deep and abiding personal relationship with Jesus.

Not perish/eternal life: God’s plan is NOT for human destruction, condemnation, or punishment. God wishes us to trust his love so that this love can lead us to an eternal life where death is destroyed, wrong is righted, and peace/shalom is established forever. This is the Good News we exalt on today’s feast.

(“Working with the Word”, http://liturgy.slu.edu)

In Elizabeth Johnson’s Consider Jesus, she compares 2 theologians’ views on the cross.  Jurgen Moltmann, a German Reformed theologian, was a prisoner of war during WWII and wrote The Crucified God.  His view of salvation is that out of love, God freely chooses to be affected by what affects others, so that when people sin and suffer this influences the divine being.  He saw the cross as an event between God and God.  While Jesus suffers on the cross, both Father and Son are suffering, though in different ways.  Each suffers the loss of the other, yet they have never been so deeply united in one love.  In their common loving will to save the world, regardless of the cost, what is revealed is the Holy Spirit, who is the Love of the Father and Son.  At Jesus’ death his Spirit, God’s Love, is let loose on the world.  Only if all disaster is within God can God affect salvation.  (Think of all the current disasters today and how God may reveal Godself in them.)

Compare Moltmann with Edward Schillebeeckx, a Belgian Roman Catholic who is a Dominican and contributed greatly to Vatican II.  He says God wills life and not death, joy and not suffering, both for Jesus and for everyone else.  The cross reveals the tension between God and sinful humanity.  God, as pure positivity, enter into compassionate solidarity with Jesus on the cross, keeping faith with him, not abandoning him.  God is present in the mode of absence.  He keeps vigil until human freedom has played itself out and Jesus is destroyed.  Then God overcomes the evil of death through the act of resurrection, conquering and undoing the negativity wrought by human sinfulness.  We are saved not by the cross but despite it

Neither theologian is right or wrong…it is all just thinking aloud about knowing God.  Jesus is the Compassion of God.  Jesus is in solidarity with us, and we are all united with God in Jesus by being in compassionate solidarity with all those who suffer.

Scripture Commentary for The Most Holy Trinity

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Let us pray this Reflection by Hildegard of Bingen

Good people,

Most royal greening verdancy,

                Rooted in the sun,

        you shine with radiant light.

In this circle of earthly existence

        you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding.

God hugs you.

        You are encircled by the arms

                of the mystery of God.  Amen. 

On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the very essence of God – and how we experience this essence. And so, by this celebration we hope to come to experience this mystery more deeply within our real and everyday lives. This God of love, truth and life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be loved, experienced,  and lived.

From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God, “Trinity: The Living God of Love”:

Christians do not believe in three gods but in one. What is particular to this faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate . . .

It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as self-giving communion of love . . .  This is about “an encounter with divine Mystery” . . . experiencing the saving God in a threefold way as beyond them, and with them, and within them . . .

‘Trinity theology’ too often has presented its findings as if they were a literal description of a self-contained Trinity of three divine persons knowing and loving each other. This, of course, is not the case, no such literal description is possible . . .  we must think with humility. Our “God is not two men and a bird” even though artists have often depicted the Trinity this way. This art is a meditation not a photograph. (207-208)

God is love – God lives as this mystery of love. We humans are created in this image. “Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” “The church’s identity and mission pivot on this point . . .  Only a community of equal persons related in profound mutuality, pouring out praise of God and care for the world in need, only such a church corresponds to the triune God it purports to serve.”  (223)

“The point is, with the three circling around in a mutual, dynamic movement of love, God is not a static being but a plenitude of self-giving love, a saving mystery that overflows into the world of sin and death to heal, redeem, and liberate.  The whole point of this history of god with the world is to bring the world back into the life of God’s own communion, back into the divine dance of life  (p. 214).

1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22 – 31

The Book of Proverbs is sort of an ‘Owners manual for the Jewish mind, heart and hands. All the chapters tell the reader about a spirit of right living: a life of discipline, restraint, just judgment, and relational sensitivity. This passage is a poetic presentation of how Wisdom assisted in creation. The goodness of creation and of ourselves is affirmed so that we reverence and use well all of that creation.  Larry Gillick, S.J., http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistr/053010.html

This passage in the Old Testament is considered typology…a foreshadow or hint of what may be understood further in the New Testament.  Trinity is not a concept that was revealed well in OT, but this is a prefigurement:  the idea that the Father had company in creation.

2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5

Paul insists that standing firm in the midst of trials yields to endurance and a firm hope.  For Paul, the assurance that salvation was a free gift for all inclusively was based on his belief in God’s love shown to us through the power of the Holy Spirit.  It was Paul’s firm belief in the triune nature of God that would later be the foundation upon which theologians based the doctrine of Trinity.  For Paul it was the Christian anchor:  hope and endurance come through faith in the Triune God’s transcendent power!  (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 554)  How has hope and endurance helped you in the midst of trial?

The Gospel – John 16: 12-15

This passage continues the Farewell Discourse of the Last Supper that Jesus has with his disciples.  Note how gentle Jesus is in not wanting to overwhelm them by only feeding them bits of information that they are able to understand  (Think of how we teach our children!).  “Spirit” in this piece of scripture in Greek is “paraclete”…one who stands by us.  We have a God that stands forever with us.  How does this speak to you?

Let us pray this prayer by Richard Rohr…

God for Us, we call You Father,

God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus,

God Within Us, we call You Holy Spirit.

You are the Eternal Mystery

That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,

Even us, and even me.

Every name falls short of your

Goodness and Greatness.

We can only see who You are in what is.

We ask for such perfect seeing.

As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be.

Amen.