A Word Spread Over Bread

Maslowe 2

I remember years ago working on the side at a group home for mentally ill and being exposed to a pyramid model called Maselow’s Hierarchy.  Abraham Maselow was a psychological theorist that put basic human needs on the first level of the pyramid (food, shelter etc) and that a human cannot do well in the higher levels of need unless the basics are addressed.  It is a simple principle but one I have come back to in personal and academic development.

Jesus had something to say that one could interpret as addressing the same thing. In teaching His disciples how to pray He said, ““Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).  Sounds simple enough, right?  It could seem like a proof text about asking for one’s personal, physical needs to be met.  Now as a social worker I would see that there is some credence to applying Maselow in social services.

But for Christian application I propose that Jesus meant to go much further than that.  First, the modern reader needs to understand that the “personal Lord and Savior” paradigm that is emphasized in western Christianity was not developed in the first century.  As we have seen in the Lord’s Prayer it has “Our Father” as the first words.  Our needs, whether physical or spiritual, are meant to be contextualized in the context of being in the family of God.  We should come to God in prayer knowing provision is more than about the individual in some intrinsic way.

Second, we should udnerstand that the prior verse is about His kingdom and will coming and being done on earth as it is in heaven and that emphasis overlaps in theme with bread.  At this time only Jews were disciples of Jesus.  They had counted the cost of discipleship and found Jesus to be the King of Israel.  When bread is meantioned it is pregnant with meaning via the salvation history they knew.  There was bread in the qahal, solemn assembly, in the time of David.  There was manna in the desert in the time of Moses.  “Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance” (Psalms 78:25).

The meaning of Jesus, literally in the name, is that God saves.  God is out to save the world so much that in my recent post I wrote that praying for God to save the world should be our highest intercession.  But when the macro goes to the personal, we are made whole in salvation.  In fact, many times in the gospels the word sozo is about one angle of participation of being whole.  If somone repents and turns to Jesus they are made sozo and when the woman was healed by Jesus through touching the hem of His garment it was sozo there too.

For many years I had a few gnawing questions in Christian fellowship that bear some telling here.  One is that I would see someone like the stage at a high school that my old church rented and wonder how there could be some kind of focal point for worship in the congregation that would be right with Jesus and not idolatry.  The other query I had wanting to know some deep way of experiencing Jesus in the communion of bread and wine.

This has been answered in my journey in becoming a Catholic.  The bread of angels would not be of the lowest angel because provision presupposes hierarchy.  The bread of angels would not be of man’s design since in the time of Moses they lacked the cleansing of original sin.  The bread of heaven is Jesus and He said so clearly in the the Bread of Life Discouse in John 6.  Pope John Paul II referred to the Eucharist (from the Greek word eucharistia) as the “Summit and Source of our faith”.  Christ referred to His flesh with the following words, “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6:54-55).

Jesus did not mince words in what was both an invitation by grace. Jesus laid down the gauntlet on how someone could be scandalized by the message of the cross sacramentally and thank God for it. It is just a matter of asking Our Father in heaven that which is the divine nature in Jesus. Peter wrote in his later years that we are partakers of His divine nature and he meant it as something far beyond that of a goosebump emotional experience.  Peter knew, and experienced, that to partake of God’s divine nature was a matter of communion as both the theological and ecclisastical norm.

Recommended Reading:

Jesus and The Jewish Roots of The Eucharist by Brant Pitre.

The Lamb’s Supper by Scott Hahn.

A Reflection On Will–Reboot

Cooperation

Do to some different personal variable that have happened in my life the last few weeks, this is my first time that I have wanted to do editing of a post after it is posted.  Call it a lesson for me in humility since I like to leave my work alone when I have supposedly “figured it out”.  Nevertheless, I hope that this is an encouragement to those who read the first version and those new to my writing.

It is no small thing to figure out what God’s will is, even  a piece of it, and go forward in life in accordance with it.  I might compare it to eating an elephant: one bite at a time.

Assuming the hearers know what the will of God is, Jesus includes this in the teaching of “The Our Father”.  What is more, Jesus teaches the hearers to ask for it to be done as follows.

“Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

The concept of God’s will being done should be understood first that God is love.  The first way to misunderstand what God’s will is is having a wrong premise of how He is love.  The type of love God is in the Greek is “Agape” which is divine, unlimited, unselfish love and always in the context of giving.  Even in the trinity the members defer to one another in an eternal loop.  Just looking at John 3:16 we see, “God so loved the world that He sent…” you likely know the rest.  Within the communion of the Trinity the Father initiates and the Son reciprocates and the Holy Spirit proceeds always from both (the ancient word for this was the Filioque).  Time does not exist for these three Who’s of The Divine What.  This love with deference for the other two is in an eternal “now”.  And thus the identity of “The I AM”.

But the world we live in is not made of agape.  It is made of eros.  Eros could be translated as, “I love you..based on what I can get out of you”.  With this is a blindness so par for the course with sin.  It is to instead defer to ones instant gratification so much that when Jesus comes on the scene their hatred was considered from the blindness of their hearts and because their deeds were evil.  The evil deeds were part of a perpetual cycle of self-love that costs everything of a soul.  Jesus pinpointed on this about “gaining the world but losing your soul”.

So with that in mind, God wants to remedy this situation with creation coming into that communion as described above which is His will.  How has this been explored?

1:  All man’s effort.  Work for it in the midst of vague hints and the spiritual elite are full of the stuff to ascend to that.  This does not work because God is love and does not create people to be elitists.  This is why Plegianism was condemned at the papal level in the 400’s.

2:  God coerces.  This would be God blowing our socks off by interupting life everywhere and every way.  This would be so imposing that the independent will of the individual is hampered and faith stops being a substance.

3: The still small voice of God in universal truth with a universal message with a universal community in mind that works in cooperation with God’s will.  Though I appreciate my conversions experience to Jesus as a boy knowing Him as my, “personal Lord and Savior”, this is only a start.  God has a message of his will for salvation through a still, small voice but as Lord and Savior for the world the megaphone of the announcement of salvation is through the Catholic Church.  Through such a community God would use people in cooperation with Him.    When integrating The Magesterium, Tradition and Scripture, it shines bright as, “the pillar and foundation of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

But how does cooperation with God’s will look for the individual? In the history of God redeeming the world there were important people with sin and they cooperated imperfectly.

Until you come to Mary of Nazareth.  She says, “Let it be done to me according to your word” in context of being told she would bear the Son of God.  She had been so filled with grace that there was not room for anything else: namely sin.  By her faith and work she is the “Mother of God” (Council of Ephesus, 431).

The conception happened in the context of her having been filled with grace unto a work of cooperation.  Are you filled with grace now?  Can you be?  Ask and see how God could call you in your own unique way to carry the grace and truth realized in Jesus Christ into the world around you.  You could lose the world, but gain your soul living fearlessly in holiness.

But another important point from the turning point person in salvation history is the simple message of Mary when speaking to the servants preparing the way for Jesus to change water to wine, “Do whatever He tells you”. We can do the former and declare the latter.

I have only addressed somewhat where we can come to a knowledge of God’s will and exhort others to His will but the heart of abiding and interceding in Christ is where both meet.  We abide as we “behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:19) and are scandalized because our deeds are evil.  But if in humility and grace we get past that, the scandalous Christ on the cross becomes our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) and such an engrafted word of God will save our souls (James 1:21). It is perhaps because the wild ride of faith is so examplified through Mary that Jesus said to John on the cross, “Behold your mother” as she knew God as Savior connecting to our redemption.  The Father meet us in the process.

“How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption. We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s, in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world. We are radically incapable of this, but united with Jesus and with the power of his Holy Spirit, we can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father (Catechism of The Catholic Church 2825).

The further we go in such union, the more in line we are in God’s purposes until salvation for the world is our highest prayer.    “Consider how Jesus Christ teaches us to be humble, by making us see that our virtue does not depend on our work alone but on grace from on high. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world. For he did not say “thy will be done in me or in us,” but “on earth,” the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, truth take root in it, all vice be destroyed on it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven”  (St. John Chrysostom, 4th century).   This is one boundary that we do want blurry when it is for the one between heaven and earth so that the Lord’s Prayer is fulfilled in and through us.

Kingdom Come!–Oops, Did I Mean That?

Stormtrooper

For a week or two I have been overdue to write my blog.  I pride myself on staying on track to once per week minimum.  Special emphasis on “pride”.

Where I have been writing on my Sermon On The Mount series has landed me next onto  writing about “Your kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven”.  I have been blessed in recent years from much wiser sources than I on this subject and looked forward to sharing some insights with someone such as you the reader.

But I sense that in the last few weeks that God has had a different agenda for my life, and I hope as I share what has been happening that it will in turn also be a blessing to you in the heart first and then the mind.

Almost two weeks ago I felt compelled to pray a dangerous prayer.  My wife and I have worked hard in recent years in growing our family number and moving to Arizona.  After being in this new state a while I went into my Masters in Social Work program, graduated and was hired with the same agency where I got my internship.  Recently we were finally able to sell our house in Oregon and now it was looking pretty good for us to buy a new house and have plenty of profit to buy our own house warming gifts.

As I reflected on this, I felt a swell of satisfaction or accomplishment.  “Look what I have done!  I have really arrived!”  But as I then reflected on how far I have come I renewed a swell of thanksgiving to God and then swelled with, “Uh-oh”.  You see, I hoped through the years when I was divorced, poor and lonely that if God ever helped me out circumstantially that I would never be one of , “Those people”.  Meaning I did not want to lose sight of the grace of God and that every good and perfect gift comes from God.

So I prayed a dangerous prayer.  I asked, “Lord, I ask that you keep me humble”.  I still struggled to get my words out because I liked the illusion of control and I also knew that God in His love may play hardball.

So he started answering my prayer.  I had worked hard over the last several weeks with a client who had become very belligerent and manipulative as she approached graduation.  I was humbled and angry that she was not appreciative of the hard work I had done with her.  But I still took it was some grace.  Sigh. Whew!  It could have been worse!

But then the next week I was fired.  Much of it I cannot get into due to the nature of the work I do with clients but suffice it to say that my manager mishandled information that had come to her and made a summary judgement of my abilities as a counselor despite evidence and perspectives that would indicate otherwise.  I consider it a political firing far more than a clinically based one.

In the minutes before the firing I saw some signs that it was about to happen so I prayed to Mary for her intercession (in Protestant-ese I would say did a shout out for Jesus’s mom as a prayer partner).  Overall, I took it well considering but still struggled with bitterness for the next several days.

But I should expand that there is “something about Mary”. She responded to the angel telling her about bearing the Son of God with “let it be done to me according to your word”.  It was a shocking bit of news that was going to turn her life upside down but she just responded with praise and reflection of the mysteries of the kingdom of God.  And from that Christ was formed in her.  And from that same attitude Christ is formed in any of us when we say it and mean it.

Would I have been fired if I had not prayed that prayer?  My guess is yes.  But would I have had near as much grace in dealing with it?  Not even close.  Yes, my Father in heaven cares about my needs and those of my family.  But most important in His agenda on earth is that holiness happens.  We were made to worship the Father in spirit and truth with our words and our lives.  And God loves us.  Will we cooperate with His love?  His agenda?  What is stopping us? I hope as I prayerfully go forward in the job search that I will keep these questions close to my heart.