Our images of God (The fear of the Lord is awe, not flinching) “Here is the great novelty of Christianity: A God that, although disappointed by our mistakes and our sins, does not fail in His word; He doesn’t stop and, above all, He doesn’t retaliate! Brothers and sisters, God doesn’t retaliate! God loves, He doesn’t retaliate, He waits to forgive us, to embrace us. Through the …— through situations of weakness and sin –, God continues to put in circulation the “new wine” of his vineyard, namely MERCY; this is the new wine of the Lord’s vineyard: MERCY.” ---Pope Francis (10/08/17) I was asked to give a talk last night to a group that is here for their own retreat. The leader of the group told me to pick whatever topic that I would like to share. Last week I spent my Lectio Divina time on the “Sermon on the Plain”. As usual, when doing Lectio, a passage that I have perhaps read but did not stop to consider in the past, jumped out at me. So I spoke on this passage last night. I have been spending time thinking about what the term, or theologically reality of the ‘Mind of Christ’ means. As I was doing my slow reading this verse made me understand on a deep level that the “Sermon on the Plain” as well as the “Sermon on the Mount”, was a revelation showing the ‘Mind of Christ’. This is the passage that spoke deeply to me and over the last few day could not shake it. Luke 6:32-36 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked”. I simply stopped when I saw that. This is an idol smasher, a sledgehammer blow to the idols that I can manufacture when it comes to God. There is a kind of comfort, or familiarity when we have a God-sized down to something that we can understand. God is like us, just bigger, much bigger, loving true, but like us not stable and can get really mad and strike out in rage. This sounds absurd to many, but our images of God more often than not flow from a place that is not conscious but works on our emotions and deepest fears. In other words, we make God into our image and likeness. Perhaps Zeus is what is worshipped, a strong idol, yet one day it has to be shattered. Many believe that God is not good to all, especially to the ungrateful and wicked, those other people. Yet the revelation of Jesus Christ, who shows us the Father, says otherwise. God loves, simply that. The Mind of Christ is love, not anger, or the desire to pour out vengeance on others. That comes from us. Of course, there is the Old Testament which can be unpleasant reading. This is what Pope Benedict said on the subject: “The “dark” passages of the Bible: In discussing the Old Testament… due to the violence and immorality, they occasionally contain, prove obscure and difficult. Here it must be remembered first and foremost that biblical revelation is deeply rooted in history…God chose a people and patiently worked to guide and educate them. Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times…such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things…Rather, we should be aware that the correct interpretation of these passages requires a degree of expertise, acquired through a training that interprets the texts in their historical-literary context and within the Christian perspective…” Pope Benedict explains in Verbum Domini, It is the action of making an act of trust in God’s love, which allows us to slowly be healed of our many fears of a projection of our own human tendency to judge and hurt in the name of justice. Yet judging others is so very easy. As long as we spend time judging others, we do not have to face our own fears of God, as many of us were taught to believe in as children. Our business is to ‘love God with our whole mind, heart, and soul”. The rest will follow by the action of God’s freely given grace. We also to learn to love ourselves and to not fear whatever we see float up from the deep reservoir called the ‘unconscious’. I am at war with myself and if I am not aware of that fact, I will project that inner turmoil and it will be placed on others and I will react. If I fear to see myself and to allow the loving gaze of Christ Jesus to see me fully (He already does) my relationship with God will stay at a childish level. Love and fear cannot coexist. Either one or the others will win out in the end. We deny ourselves much joy when we do not confront our fears, our terrors, or deepest and darkest secrets and offer them up in faith, love, and joy to the Lord. It is all we have to give, all else is a pure gift from God. We did not create ourselves, nor chose our DNA, yet we each have many gifts that we are asked to develop in the service of others. Hebrews 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.