My friends, I wrote this on a morning after not sleeping well the night before, so you can imagine that my level of faith and hope might have been somewhat diminished, due to tiredness, yet that seemed not to be the case—I will let you decide. Additionally, the Scriptures for this Sunday are full of challenge, which for someone without enough sleep, might feel off-putting, but remarkably, it seemed not so as I wrote. Again, I will let you decide.
The three readings today are all about “relationships,” with God, with others, with creation—relationships with each and all.
Isaiah’s reading today is a foreshadowing of the Messiah—about how this long-awaited One will appear among us—then and now. As we spoke of it last week, God choosing to be among us was not just a “nice story,” “once-upon-a-time,” but for us now, in our time too. Our faith in God, as I said above, is about “relationship” with this entity that we can’t fully know in this life, or perhaps, ever, even in a “next life.”
Many of us have no doubt read in more recent years of the work of cosmologists, Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and a host of others who spent their scientific careers advancing the work of their predecessors, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, and others to let us know, very simply, that our universe is ever-expanding—that we can’t, in fact, know its ending. That is why our ideas about God, formulated for most of us, as children must grow too, so as to encompass a God more worthy of who this entity truly is.
Theologians such as Ilia Delio, Richard Rohr, and Diarmuid O’Murchu, advancing the work of Teilhard de Chardin, are doing just that in our present time. These theologians are tapping into the grand scope of our universe, presented by cosmologists and astrologists, to confirm the other—that in fact God is part of this grand scope that we can’t fully understand. These theologians are really answering Jesus’ question in today’s gospel: “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus, our human and spiritual brother, part of a Trinity that we have come to know and believe, as much as that is possible, to be God—Creator, Savior, and Spirit, chose to come and be One-With-Us, so as to show us the intent of this Original One—that we might as spiritual beings too, have a human experience, living to our fullest. Within all these words, I simply want you to hear that our God, whom we can’t fully know is yearning to be, “in relationship” with us—each of us. If we seek to know how to do that, we should keep our eyes on Jesus— “listening to his words,” “watching” his actions.
Jesus lived for others—his whole coming into humanity was about others. If we would follow in his footsteps, we must be “for others” too. And the most present and immediate example of this is the need for all of us in this country to get vaccinated as our president implored us to do this past week. This is a time to get beyond political parties, personal wishes for freedom and comfort—this present need is what will eventually, sooner rather than later, truly free us from an enemy we can’t even see—this action is about others, not just ourselves. And the wonderful thing is that when we act for the good of others, we are helped too, in ways we can’t always imagine.
Isaiah speaks today of a long-awaited Messiah, one who will confront us, as we must “confront” others, to be our best selves. This Messiah, the people of old would need to realize, was not coming to help them vanquish their enemies, but to help them to, one day, be “in relationship” with them. It is always easier “to fight” than to make peace.
Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the day here, in our country, that planes became bombs on 9-11-2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. Newscasters have sought out survivors of that horrible event that took place in New York City, at the Pentagon and surrounds and the overriding thought in all the interviews was of “relationships” to loved ones who survived, to the thousands who didn’t, to the need of our nation to reach out and in some way try to help in a situation that initially made us feel so helpless.
And while not only one war, but two would follow, this wasn’t what was on the minds of any of the people who remembered this date, 20 years ago. What they spoke about was where they were that day, and where the people who they were in relationship with, were on that day.
Last week, we ended the last of the two wars, the 20-year long war in Afghanistan. Our president’s overriding message, in my mind, was about “relationships” —we all, on both sides, have lost enough, he said—it’s time to stop doing something that clearly isn’t working. He has been ridiculed by some, but as the prophet Isaiah says today, and I paraphrase, all our adversaries will wear out like a piece of clothing. This same prophet says that “God awakens my ear to listen,” and I would add, to see—see beyond our small world—to understand that we are to see how we are called to be in “relationship” with the wider world—each group of people and each nation given the chance of life and to live it to the fullest.
As we study more and more, and learn more about the fantastic cosmos that is, minute by minute, hour by hour, stretching out further, we must realize how insignificant we are and rather than puff up with pride over whatever we may have accomplished, rather, stand in awe, of all we are, “in relationship” with—all we are called to stand in solidarity with, to love and protect, rather than, conquer.
James tells us today that “faith” and action go hand in hand –you can’t really say you have “faith” if no action follows. And that certainly brings us to our present day—so many needs—so much that calls for big-hearted people, each striving for our own good, yes, but for the good of all as well.
Jesus came among us to show us how much we are capable of as human beings—how flexible we can be, and of how, like the cosmologists who see a bigger universe than they ever imagined and the theologians who see a God even bigger and more inclusive than ever expressed by our small-minded churches—we can too.
We are now, in our time, being called to see not only a God who lives in a building, or in a piece of bread—but in all created life, and when we can do that, we will have solved many, if not most of our problems and perhaps truly answered Jesus’ question in today’s gospel, “who do you say that I am?” Amen? Amen!