I just posted this over at the Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor, but I will share it here as well. Today I feel invited to by the first reading, to try to live in a new way. Of course, I’ve been at that for years now – will it ever stick?
Interestingly enough, I was sitting with some folks from here at IC and they got to witness my anger – which I feel very embarrassed about. (No – it was not a loud outburst, but I was very angry and upset.) This reminds me of the importance of how faith is lived in community. If I were in my former loner mode of life, my anger would be flamed onward by itself. That however, is another reflection for another day.)
Last night I attended “The Infancy Narratives,” offered here at St. Edward the Confessor by Peter Avvento. If you have not taken any of Peter’s classes, I highly recommend them.
Near the end of the session, Peter did an amazing job – in my estimation – of describing the oppression of the Roman occupiers, on the First Century Palestinian Jews. He spoke about this backdrop and how it formed Jesus and many people of his time. Perhaps most chilling was the description that Peter offered of the sound of marching Roman armies – stomp stomp stomp – that Jesus might have heard. Then he spoke of the same scary sound in the same scary way, about the sound of jackboots on the streets of Germany in the 30’s.
Although I was born and raised Catholic, my father was Jewish and I have many Jewish friends and relatives. My own Jewishness is part of my Catholic life. I am not suggesting that Jews should convert; I am saying that my own faith is profoundly influenced by knowing more about Judaism and Jewish life. I grew up against a backdrop of insults about Jews and the confusion that my father was Jewish; I am highly sensitive about perceived and real anti-Semitism.
After Peter said this, I was chilled and that only grew worse as two people, however innocently, offered thoughts about how the Jews of Jesus’ time were not that oppressed. They both posited that things were made bad for the Jews by the Jews. Now while there may be some truth to the latter, the former is not true at all. The Romans made sure that there was “peace” – through the power of their military presence and so much more.
So what does all of this have to do with today’s Scriptures?
Just sink into that amazing reading from Isaiah, where I had to encounter my own thoughts and actions with trepidation.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
Well – that knocked me back when I read it this morning. What did I do in return for what I perceived? I did the same thing. I did not lean into knowledge and wisdom and understanding. No I – by hearsay – judged.
Let’s make no mistake – the “bad Jew” trope is alive and well and we are well advised to be aware of it. However, how do we react? The invitation is to follow Christ. This opens up possibilities.
Jesus – the ultimate game changer. Advent – our time to prepare for such change. Kind of like our current liturgical changes, it is going to take some time. There might be resistance. You know – like the resistance to see Jews as anything other than lesser than or somehow the makers of their own misery. (And trust me, as a partially Jewish person, I can say that we are good at that, so we don’t need the extra urging…)
And to continue with Isaiah,
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. the cow and the bear shall graze, together their young shall lie down
Oh. I get it. Justice, not judgement. Not fairness, as I understand it. (Read this for some wisdom about that.)
Peter’s words were scary and fear often makes us go back to the “old” places – and for many of us, myself included, that means places of less wisdom. Fear of God, which is awe, not the fear of anxiety, is the invitation to step forth, to see and hear new things and to change.
Last night I reacted with tremendous anger and fear. This morning I find the words that will lead me, once again, to see with new eyes, hear with new ears and to renew my heart. If our encounter with Christ does not do that – well then, what are we doing here?
Let’s see if it really sinks in this time. Thank God, Jesus is very patient indeed.