Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The LORD Lifts Up All Who Are Falling, And Raises Up Those Who Are Bowed Down.

Tuesday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading I
1 Corinthians 2:10b-16
Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God.
Among men, who knows what pertains to the man
except his spirit that is within?
Similarly, no one knows what pertains to God
except the Spirit of God.
We have not received the spirit of the world
but the Spirit who is from God,
so that we may understand the things
freely given us by God.
And we speak about them not with words
taught by human wisdom,
but with words taught by the Spirit,
describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.

Now the natural man does not accept
what pertains to the Spirit of God,
for to him it is foolishness,
and he cannot understand it,
because it is judged spiritually.
The one who is spiritual, however,
can judge everything
but is not subject to judgment by anyone.

For “who has known the mind of the Lord,
so as to counsel him?”
But we have the mind of Christ.
Here Paul discusses the true nature of the genuinely spiritual person. And the source of his spirituality is, not surprisingly, the Spirit of God. “The Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.” The Spirit does this not in order to know them better for the Spirit knows all things. Rather, he understands fully the depth of God’s nature and so is fully competent to reveal them to us.

And, just as only an individual person alone knows what is going on in the depths of one’s own heart, so only the depths of God can be known by God’s own Spirit.

What distinguishes the true followers of Christ is that they are not imbued by the spirit of the world around them. The ‘spirit of the world’ is that ‘wisdom of the age’ which is alienated from God and all he stands for. It is the attitude of ‘sinful nature’ as described in the Letter to the Romans (8:6-7). Instead, true followers have received the gift of God’s Spirit which helps us to understand the gifts, the love that is constantly being showered on us.

So Paul’s teaching is not, as he said before, based on philosophical speculations but comes in the way the Spirit communicates, that is, straight to the heart and not just in the mind.

In the verses which follow (including some which are not part of today’s reading) Paul explains why many fail to grasp true wisdom. It is because such wisdom is perceived by the spiritual (i.e. mature) Christian. The Corinthians, however, were unspiritual, worldly (infant) believers (3:1-4), and the proof of their immaturity was their division over their human leaders (3:3-4).

The unspiritual person is described as one who is closed to the working of the Spirit. The Greek term here is psychikos, a person who depends on his own natural resources, who, in the words of Romans 8:9, follows “mere natural instincts”. This person is dominated by the merely physical, worldly or natural life.

Such a person - and we have surely met him/her often - rejects the Gospel teaching as nonsense. In fact, he does not understand it because understanding only comes through being open to the promptings of the Spirit.

The spiritual person, on the other hand, “is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by others”. The Spirit gives the follower of Christ deep insights into the meaning of life, it gives him a vision of what is really important. Paul himself, as a ‘spiritual’ man, is not to be judged by the Corinthians who are sensual and immature (not yet ready for solid food but only for milk).

Many a truly Spirit-guided person will, as Jesus and Paul were, be frequently criticised. He may be rejected and even removed altogether by exile or death. But, as long as he remains true to the guidance of the Spirit, he does not feel effectively judged by such people.

The Christian must never be arrogant or contemptuous of others; at the same time, he must not fear or hesitate to be in opposition to the conventional wisdom of his environment. In order to make sure of his integrity he must constantly discern the voice and the leading of God in all that he says and does.

Paul ends by asking a question posed by Isaiah: “Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him?” Paul answers by saying that, while we may not know the mind of God and still less dare to teach him, he does claim that he and many of the baptised “are those who have the mind of Christ”.

To have the “mind of Christ” is to see things the way Jesus sees them, to value things the way he values them, totally to share his vision of the meaning and goal of our lives. What exactly that mind of Christ is can be found in the lovely hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians (2:6-11).

Let us pray today that we may be truly spiritual people who share and understand that mind of Christ.*
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Psalm 145
The Lord is just in all his ways.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
The Lord is just in all his ways.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
The Lord is just in all his ways.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is just in all his ways.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
The Lord is just in all his ways.
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Luke 4:31-37
Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee.
He taught them on the sabbath,
and they were astonished at his teaching
because he spoke with authority.
In the synagogue there was a man
with the spirit of an unclean demon,
and he cried out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?
Have you come to destroy us?
I know who you are – the Holy One of God!”
Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet! Come out of him!”
Then the demon threw the man down in front of them
and came out of him without doing him any harm.
They were all amazed and said to one another,
“What is there about his word?
For with authority and power
he commands the unclean spirits,
and they come out.”
And news of him spread everywhere
in the surrounding region.
Immediately after his mixed reception in Nazareth, Jesus moves on to Capernaum, a town on the north shore of Galilee, which was to be the base from which Jesus did much of his missionary work. As in Nazareth, he taught the people in the synagogue on the sabbath. Unlike in Nazareth, “his teaching made a deep impression” on the people because he spoke “with authority”. He did not quote other authorities, like the teachers of the law, because his authority was directly from God, it was his own.

At the same time, it was not the authority of domination. It was the authority of someone who has access to special knowledge, the authority of someone who speaks in his own name and not just on behalf of others, the authority of one who empowers others and makes them grow. (‘Authority’ comes from the Latin auctoritas, which in turn comes from the verb augere, to increase or augment).

And Jesus’ authority is not only in word and teaching. Right there in the synagogue as he speaks is a man possessed by an “unclean spirit”. The spirit speaks through the man. It speaks in fear of the power of Jesus. “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” This title seems to indicate that the spirit recognises Jesus’ divine origin but not his Messiahship. There was a belief in those times that knowing the exact name of one’s opponent gave one power over him.

Jesus ordered the evil spirit of the man who was thrown to the ground but not hurt. The people are amazed. Exorcism was not new to them but they had never seen it done with such speed and effectiveness. They are astounded again at the power and authority of Jesus. They realise they are in the presence of someone very special, in fact, the “Holy One of God”.

Each one of us is given authority of some kind - as a parent, a teacher, our job responsibility… Let us make sure that we use it in such a way as to enhance the abilities of others rather than diminish them.*

The Irish Jesuits

1 comment:

Sarah in the tent said...

It's strange how infested with demons Israel was at the time of Christ, and how everyone seems to take them for granted, the way we take a new disease like aids for granted now. Demonic possession doesn't seem to have been a problem in the Old Testament, even up to the times of the Maccabees, so it seems unlikely to me that these demons were the product of greater ignorance and superstition on the part of the evangelists. The demons seem to have been expecting Christ and swarmed around Him like hornets - perhaps it was the evil one's own perverted effort at incarnation ...!