Sit back and receive from God


And we think we are being called to greater efforts in hospitality, but we are not listening to Luke, we are not listening to Jesus in the gospel sections. Jesus is calling us to the opposite.

Hospitality was one of the key virtues in Jesus’ society. I would like to think it is one of the key virtues in ours. Last week the gospel began with an example of a Samaritan village refusing to give hospitality to the disciples en route to Jerusalem. Then Jesus tells the Scripture scholar the story of a Samaritan who did treat his neighbour with hospitality. Or at least that’s how the story is usually interpreted. ‘Go and do thou likewise.’

But as so often with Jesus, there’s a twist. The neighbour has become not the one receiving hospitality, but the one giving hospitality. How are we to treat our neighbour? Our neighbour in this case is the Samaritan, the stranger giving us hospitality. How do we receive the gift of kindness from strangers? Especially strangers who we are pre-programmed to distrust, even hate?

In the story, we are called primarily not to be good Samaritans, as worthy as that vocation is, but to  learn to be recipients.

Luke provides a similar twist in today’s gospel concerning Mary and Martha. All the usual interpretations about our hospitality to Jesus – are the tea and scones perfectly cooked and well-supplied? Are we ready to focus on spiritual teaching? Are women important in the church? are secondary issues. The primary issue, it seems to me, is how are we to receive the hospitality of Jesus to us?

In a sense, Mary in the story gives the clue. She is prepared to be a guest in her own home. She is prepared to allow Jesus to host her in Mary and Martha’s family home.

We are always too anxious, like Martha, to get things right. But these two stories are saying that God already has got things right. He is inviting us into the heart of his universe. He is the host. He is the one offering hospitality. And it is not always easy to receive, but what gifts are ours if we are open to God’s hospitality to us. What healing at the roadside; what feeding, what divine spiritual teaching, all are ours. The first action is to let God be God, let God be host, and to prepare to be not in control, not in charge, but to allow God to lead and provide.

 

[Luke 10:38-42 and Luke 10:25-37]

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Image courtesy: https://thevirtualabbey.wordpress.com/category/ora-et-labora/

Isaiah 42 for Western Australia


Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:

6  “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

7  to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8  I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.

9  Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

10  Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from one side of Australia to the other,
you who go down to the Indian Ocean, and its leviathan surf,
you who explore the wave-carved gaps and blow-holes of Torndirrup National Park.

11  Let the Sandy Desert and places up north raise their voice,
the towns of the Great Western Woodlands cry out to God;
let the wild-flowers of the  south-west sing for joy,
let the climbers shout from the top of the Stirling Ranges.

12  Let us give glory to the Lord,
and declare his praise in Geographe Bay.

– Isaiah 42:5-12 based on ESV

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The Great Western Woodlands

 

Interviewing Thomas


Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy, Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality,
HarperSan Francisco, 1992, 532 pages.
reviewed by Ted Witham

In 1986, I was lucky enough to spend 13 weeks with the medieval genius, Saint Thomas d’Aquino. It was by accident. Forced to choose a Church History unit in my studies, I opted for the subject with fewest dates and chronological gymnastics: Thomas Aquinas.

What a joy it was for me to shatter my image of him as a dry-as-dust scholastic theologian, concerned about angels dancing on pinheads.

Brother Thomas came alive for those 13 weeks, a spiritual companion who enlarged the view I had of faith in Christ. His personality is quirky, warm, courageous, utterly straight. He showed complete disinterest in things such as social etiquette.

Thomas was a mystic, and a genius of the order of Albert Einstein.

But after my course I found it difficult to communicate my enthusiasm for the ‘seraphic doctor’. His writings are hard work to read, and if you wish to follow through an idea, apart from the 30-40 volume set of the Summa Theologica, you really need a knowledge of medieval Church Latin. (If you are blessed with a e-Reader, you can download the complete Summa edited by the Dominicans for 99 cents.)

That is, until Matthew Fox’s Sheer Joy. Sheer Joy is a Thomas reader that aims to make Aquinas accessible to a wider audience. In Sheer Joy, Fox “interviews” Thomas, his brother in the Dominican Order (or ex-brother, as Matthew Fox is now an Anglican)! Fox puts questions to Aquinas, the answers to which are the actual words of Aquinas.

This interview format achieves three things:

* Fox can ‘ask’ 20th Century questions to reveal Aquinas’ relevance for us.
* Fox invites Thomas Aquinas to show his skill as an interactive teacher. Brother Thomas has a warmth easily submerged in long passages of translation.
* Fox displays his enthusiasm for his mentor and the reader can catch it!

As it is a selection from the writings of Aquinas, Sheer Joy is inevitably an interpretation of the master theologian’s ideas. Matthew Fox does set out to show in what ways Aquinas is a creation mystic. The themes of the four conversations (decided by Fox not Aquinas) are the movements of mystic theology: the Positive Way, the Negative Way, the Creative Way and the Integrative Way. Fox does take the risk of distorting Aquinas by placing him in an alien framework. I think, however, that the distortion is minimal. Medieval mysticism is not so alien to Thomas, who was a great poet of the Eucharist, influenced by Francis of Assisi and the medieval archetypes of the “goddess” and the “green man”. Fox also takes pains not to limit his viewpoints to modern frameworks of understanding. In any case, the words of Thomas are so powerful as to stand in their own terms.

Matthew Fox succeeds in making Brother Thomas more accessible. Don’t, however, expect an easy read. This is serious and deep stuff demanding real thought. Aquinas is not noted for levity. A brother once tried to tease Thomas by telling him that there was an ox flying outside. Thomas ran to the window. Everyone laughed. Thomas said woodenly, “I would rather believe that an ox could fly than that a friar could tell a lie.” (No wonder they nicknamed Thomas “the Dumb Ox”.)

Thomas tells it straight. He tells it straight from the heart, but through one of the most powerful intellects in the history of Western civilisation. So do persevere with Sheer Joy. It yields depths of wisdom. Thomas yearns for every Christian to draw closer to God, and his insights can light the way.

Fox brings out Aquinas’ holistic teaching about the creation, the delight that God’s love brings to all his creatures and the conscious response of love and pleasure (“sheer joy”) mortals are invited to make to God for themselves and on behalf of all creatures. This basic indwelling of God in all things and all things in God releases creativity both in God and in humanity. Desire to work with God to bring about a better world, what Fox calls ‘social justice’ and what Aquinas calls ‘perfecting’ creation, is the task of all Christians.

Fox shows that the best way to understand Thomas is primarily as a scriptural teacher, who uses philosophy only as a tool to bring contemporary meaning to the Bible. We have the false impression that Aquinas is primarily a philosophical theologian mainly because many of his Biblical commentaries have not been translated before. Fox’s translations are lively, avoiding the muddy ponderings of much previous translation.

I received two gifts from reading Sheer Joy. One was the deep love Thomas Aquinas has for the God who reveals himself in nature and the Bible, and who abides in us in the Eucharist. The second was the burning desire that others might know the embrace of that love.

Loss of Integrity


PSALM 12 PARAPHRASE
Help, Lord, there is nobody left with integrity.
Loyal and consistent people have vanished from Australia.

Everyone tells lies to their neighbours.
Their flattery is patently insincere. All they want is to get ahead for themselves.

If only the Lord would stop the lies and flattery,
and turn the spin into honest human talk.

They say, “We can talk our way out of everything.
No-one can stay in our way!”

Because of the abuse to Indigenous communities;
because the refugees are treated with disdain,
“I will arise,” says God, “and create safe places for Aboriginal children,
and warm refuges for those who seek asylum here.”

What God says is like tapping the bark of a healthy karri,
like the sympathetic vibration of a tuning fork.

You are sure to provide appropriate protection for us, O Lord.
You will keep us safe in this shifty world.

Though the ruthless strut on every side,
though the vilest call the shots in every State.

This paraphrase was written as an exercise in the Companions in Christ program. It also happened to be the week when Kevin Rudd was deposed as Prime Minister, and the backroom operators of the Australian Labor Party were briefly visible.