Saturday, December 21, 2013

Daily Old Testament: Isaiah 31-32 and My Own Book "Leadings: A Catholic's Journey Through Quakerism" (Part 29)

Isaiah 31 – Those who go down to Egypt to seek help there and build their hope “on cavalry” will be in trouble. “The Egyptian is a man, not a god, his horses are flesh, not spirit” (31:3). Eventually, “Assyria will fall by a sword that is not man’s, will be devoured by a sword that is more than human” (31:8).

Isaiah 32 – Kings “reign by integrity and princes rule by law” (32:1).  They are like shelters, like “shade of a great rock in a thirsty land” (32:2). A time of happiness will come.

From Leadings: A Catholic’s Journey Through Quakerism
Part 29
Sacramental spirituality, in my estimation, is based on a better understanding of our human nature and ultimately on a better understanding of the wisdom of Scripture. It reflects the reality that we are part of the creation; that our comprehension of God is mixed up in a complex and mysterious way with the physical world that we are grounded in. We enter the dimension of spirit through physical doors. It is from behind these doors that our creator calls to us. We tap around these doors like blind men looking for him. It is our nature to tap and explore around them, God’s grace working in us. If we are responsive to his call and persist in our seeking, the doors will start to open, revealing the deep truths that lie behind them, truths that give human life its meaning. At such moments we may be tempted to relegate the doors we passed through to something not so vital, to something that blocked or obscured the truths we now see more fully or more inwardly; but the doors we pass through are an essential part of the process of discovery. The sacraments are doors like this. They are physical but not solely physical. They are vehicles of that grace from God, who invites us to come through them to him.

Is it possible for us to get caught up in the outward appearances and to forget that the doors must be gone through? I think it is. This is one of the dangers sacramental spirituality entails, but it is a danger we cannot obviate by doing away with sacraments. The shepherds who understand the power behind each door must take very seriously the task of keeping the sheep from thinking that the door is the ultimate goal. It is the proper place of the prophet to badger both sheep and shepherds, to scold them and maybe even sometimes threaten them so that they remain awake and moving spiritually. Life is short, and the rewards of coming through the door are much too great to give up on people.

The other question we must ask is this: Is what lies beyond the door always exactly the same for every person who enters? If I experience my foretaste of God’s kingdom as an intense intellectual pleasure at seeing the many parts of God’s plan finding their fulfillment in Christ or in experiencing an almost excruciating sense of God’s healing and redeeming love for his creation, or if I experience it in seeing my moral life transformed—not to perfection, but to a much higher state than my own will and my own understanding were ever able to effect in me—these are my experiences of God’s saving power. Other people may experience God’s reign over their lives differently. They may feel an overwhelming love and desire to emulate the life of Jesus without knowing much about how he fulfilled the promises made throughout the earlier stages of God’s work in the shaping of the Jewish people. They may not have the capacity or the inclination to understand anything about doctrine or sacramentalism, and yet be filled with a kindness that has been shaped by God’s love in a way I cannot understand. We ought not to have too narrow a sense of how God’s saving power and love might be experienced by a person.

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