Sunday, September 4, 2016

Bright lights

Back when I was a boy my father used to take me fishing on Flannagan Lake.  One year he bought a portable spotlight that had a million candle power!   That thing was so bright that on a dark, cloudy night you could shine it up in the air and see the light on the clouds.   I used to get such a kick out of catching my brother unaware and shining it in his eyes.  The things we do as kids eh?   He of course would get me back.  For many minutes (felt like hours) afterward you would see nothing but green.   The funny thing is, when it's pitch black out there and someone lights a match.. you get the same effect don't you?   You know that sensation when you're sitting in the dark and someone turns on the light?  It's startling how bright it is!  Even the dimmest of light compared to the darkness is amazing!

In the readings today, especially the one from the book of Wisdom, there is this beautiful rendition of a thought that God is so beyond us that we cannot possibly express who He is in mere words.  The enormity of who He is, is beyond human reasoning.   We have spent thousands of years of human existence trying to figure out the right words, the right phrases, the right metaphors to convey exactly the properties of God.  The author reminds us though that plumbing the depths and experience who He is would be impossible without God himself at the helm steering our thoughts, guiding our tongues.  It is in that light that we have received the revelation of the Incarnation.   Christ is the key to understanding God. 

Christ gives us continual examples of what it means to be disciples, what it means to follow this God that we are trying to be in relationship with.  Today He teaches his disciples that detachment is the key to growing closer.   That giving up everything we have and desire, that relying solely and only on God is the only way we can truly begin to glimpse further the mystery.   St. Paul in the second reading does just that.   Here he is in prison and he sends his friend, the one closest to his heart, back to his owner.   In a revolutionary statement he tells the owner to receive the slave not as a slave, but as a brother.   Considering the time, the thought process, etc.... this was astounding!   Even more astounding is that Paul put others before himself, gave up the one comfort he had left, all for Christ.   That's the detachment Christ is calling us to. 

hyperbole [hahy-pur-buh-lee]
noun, Rhetoric.
1. obvious and intentional exaggeration.
2. an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally, as “to wait an eternity.”.

Jesus uses a method called hyperbole often in his parables.   This mornings is one that many have used over the years to hate others.   Rejecting their families, their wives, their children... all in the name of God.   That's what happens when we become fundamentalists.   When we ignore the writing methods, the genre, the historic context of what was said.  So what did Jesus mean?  He meant that compared to the love we have for humans, the love we have for God should be first and foremost.   In English we have just that one word.. love. In other languages there are often four or more ways to convey love.   The things I think most of though when I see this verse about hating family is one that Catholics are very aware of: dulia, hyperdulia, and latria.  Dulia is the love we have for each other and for the Saints.   It's a respect, a friendship, a brotherly love.   Family.   Hyperdulia is the love we have for the Virgin Mary.  First and foremost of disciples, the one human who have a complete and unconditional Yes to the Father. It's a little more.  Then there is latria.. that is worship, honor and praise only for God.   That's the love we aim for.   The love of the Father for us, returned to Him.  

In the scheme of things it's like the little parable I started with.   Dulia is like a spark.   It's a little bit of light.  Hyperdulia is more like a match in the darkness.   It's brighter.   Just a little.   Latria?  It's like that million candle power light.   It's so far above and beyond the other two that it leaves you reeling.   That's what we offer to God.   So in comparison the love we have for family?  Looks very dim compared to the others.  That's the thing Jesus is teaching us... that we learn to love God with Latria.... so that He can fill us with His spirit.. who then in turn can give us the eyes of God... so that we can take that overwhelming, blinding love of God and turn around and give it to others.   Are you being a conduit?  Or a clogged pipe? 

His servant and yours, 

"He must increase, I must decrease."  

A reflection on the Mass readings for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.  September 4, 2016.