Indeed, if the presence of God in us does not take the same form now as it did in Christ, we can at least agree in recognizing that God is in us today no less than he was then. Today, he is involved with us in as much as he maintains creation in existence. In the incarnation he mingled himself with our being in order to make us divine through contact with his nature, after he had snatched it from death. His resurrection becomes for mortals the promise of our return to immortality.
Our whole nature had to be recalled from death to life. God therefore stooped over our dead body, offering his hand (so to speak) to the poor creature lying there. He came near enough to death to make contact with our mortal remains, and by means of his own body provided human nature with the capacity for resurrection, thus by his power raising to life the whole of humanity.
— From The Catechetical Orations by Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)
Selena Gomez’ song, “The Heart Wants What it Wants” looks like a song about love and betrayal and how “There’s a million reasons why I should give you up,” except that – and this is the refrain – “the heart wants what it wants.” “The Heart Wants What it Wants” looks like a song about love and betrayal and not giving up and “the heart [wanting] what it wants,” but Gomez’ song is really a song about Lent.
Gomez’ song is about Lent because, like the song, Lent is about love – Lent is about opening ourselves to how much God loves us: which is absolutely, infinitely and without conditions. Like Gomez’ song Lent is about betrayal – daily we betray that love (or, at least I do). Like the song Lent is about not giving up – even though we may have messed up, we are not to give up. And Lent is about letting the heart want what it wants; letting the heart want what it really wants, deep-down. Continue reading →
Origen of Alexandria, writing in the early 3rd century about today’s gospel lesson, says the reason Jesus was transfigured only before Peter, James and John – and not before the other disciples – was that only Peter, James and John had the capacity to behold Jesus transfigured. According to Origen, Jesus shows himself to different people differently, depending on their capacity to see him. Origen writes:
The Word has different forms as he appears to each, as is expedient for the beholder. [The Word] is manifested to no one beyond the capacity of the beholder… It is possible for Jesus to be transfigured before some… but before others not to be transfigured.
I imagine your initial response to Origen’s words is not dissimilar to mine: “Great. Where does that leave me? Am I one of those who gets to go up the mountain, or am I one of those who has to stay down below?” Continue reading →
When love has cast out fear from our souls completely, and all fear in us has been transformed into love, then the unity which is the gift of our Saviour will be fully realized among us, because we will all be united with each other through our union with the one supreme Good. Following his ascension, after conferring all power on his disciples by his blessing, our Lord obtained many other gifts for them by his prayer to the Father. Among these was the greatest gift of all, which was that they were no longer to be divided in their judgement about what was right and good, because they were all to be united to the one supreme Good. As the Apostle says, they were to be bound together with the bonds of peace in the unity that comes from the Holy Spirit. They were to be made one body and one spirit by the one hope to which they were all called. Continue reading →
One of the true joys of working with teenagers and young adults over my thirty-two years of teaching has been their complete unwillingness to tolerate fraud and hypocrisy: they can smell it miles away. This means that when you’re speaking with them—especially about important and ultimate things—they require complete honesty and absolutely no equivocation whatsoever. They seem constitutionally incapable of tolerating evasion, and they will always ask: Why? Young people literally demand to know the truth—“the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” as they say. So, the exchange between the teacher Jesus and his student disciples at Caesarea Philippi in this morning’s Gospel reminded me of many such exchanges between me and my students in the religious-studies classroom. One question leads to another question, until we finally get to the heart of the matter. And things are never what they first appear to be. Nothing should be taken at face value.