Tag Archives: Human

And Hath with His Hand

[I’m finally returning to my writing challenge!  My Internet access was down for a couple of days, so I randomly selected a verse the old-fashioned way – with a real, solid, three-dimensional Bible and a quick pointing hand…]

Does God have a mouth? Does God have a hand? …Does God have a face?

1 Kings 8:14-15

And the King turned his face about, and blessed all the congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood:

And he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which spake with his mouth unto David my father, and hath with his hand fulfilled it…”.

The human body is a beautiful and marvelous thing. A thing because each human body has physical shape and form, it is an object of flesh that exists in the world. And, yet, not a thing, and much more than a thing, because each human body is created by God in order to be a beloved creature of both flesh and spirit. Therefore, in grammatical terms, we should think of the human body, not so much as an object, but, rather, as a subject. The human body is subject to nature – and also to the human person. Above all, the human body, being created lovingly and purposefully by God, for God, is subject to God.

Okay… Maybe that’s a bit confusing. But, often, it is confusing to consider the human body in the light of the Christian faith. The confusion comes, most strongly, when we think that the body is sinful. The body is not sinful. Nothing created by God is sinful. Trees, birds, water, stars – none of these are sinful.

What is sin?

Sin is not imperfection. If that were so, then the person with the most imperfect body, one that contains genetic defect, say, and is severely crippled and weak, would be the most sinful. And the person with the most nearly perfect body would be the least sinful. And we all know that that’s not true.

Sin is also not bodily desire. The body craves and desires food – rightly so, for the body needs food in order to survive, and God did not create our bodies so that we would starve them to death. We also bodily desire sleep when we are tired and a good washing when we are dirty. All good stuff. The only bodily desires that are sinful are those that are self-centered. Yes, eating and sleeping are about self-preservation – but a kind of self-preservation that God desires. Imagine, for example, if we were locked in a room with one another, with no escape and with nothing to eat for days on end. We would, naturally, be very hungry and desire to eat something, maybe anything – maybe even one another! But, God certainly would not want us to kill each other in order that we may eat. Healthy bodily desires that turn toward selfishness, toward greed, gluttony, lust, toward actions at the expense of others – these are not God-centered desires but, rather, self-centered and, so, sinful.

For, sin is about the human will, not the human body.

Do we will what God wills? Or do we will only what we will, even if that goes against God Our Creator?

As the Baltimore Catechism states, we are created by God to know, love, and serve God in this life, and to be happy with God forever in the next. It is for the purpose of this knowing God, loving God, and serving God that God created us – body and soul. With our mouths and with our hands, with our ears and with our feet, and also, first, with our brains, we communicate with God by receiving and understanding God’s will – and then doing it. We can help feed the hungry who have no food with the bread in our own hands. We can lead the lost or the homeless who desire shelter with our feet. We can listen to those who are bereft and desire comfort with our ears and speak of God’s love and mercy to them with our mouths. We can do these things with our bodies – when our hearts and minds will to do so. If our hearts and minds are in union with God, then we will bodily love one another as God loves us.

Almighty God, who is Infinite and Eternal, the Creator and Master of the Universe, does not have bodily shape and form. God is spirit. God is not physical and, therefore, able to be broken down into parts, able to die. Therefore, it is wrong to say that God has a physical mouth or a physical hand. Or that God has a physical face.

And, yet…

God chose to become one of us.

The Word of God, which is not thought in a fleshly brain or spoken from a fleshly mouth, was made flesh. Jesus Christ is the Word of God Incarnate, made flesh, made one of us. Jesus is fully God and fully human. So, although it may not be proper to say that God has a face, that God has a mouth and hands, because of Christ, because of the Incarnation,  God spoke with a human mouth and worked with human hands… God laughed, wept, and smiled with a human face. And when Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me,” he was speaking of the profoundly intimate connection and union that God has with each and every human being through Christ, Our Lord.

When we wash the dirty face of a poor and orphaned child with our own hands, it is God working through us. We, with our own freewill, choose freely to cooperate with God’s will. To co-operate. And our hands, although they are not truly Jesus’s hands, are like his hands, are like the hands with which God gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and bread to the multitudes. Then, we are truly like Christ – we are real Christians.

And, most profoundly and awesomely, when we wash that helpless child’s face… we’re washing the face of Jesus, the face through which God smiled.

Christ Jesus, who was physically thirsty and tired, desired water to drink from the Samaritan’s well. Christ Jesus, who was physically exhausted and weak, desired bodily assistance to carry his cross to Golgotha. And Christ Jesus, who began his earthly life as a helpless little baby, desired and needed to be physically taken care of, dependent on others for every thing of survival.

So, yes, let us think of God having a face, and mouth, and hands… they are yours… they are theirs…… they are his.

© 2015 Christina Chase

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Not Avenge

What do we want most from others for ourselves?  I think it’s mercy…

Leviticus 19:18

Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.

I am human and I make mistakes.  A lot of them.  Not being God and, therefore, not being perfect, I am bound to have flaws, to get things wrong, and to do things that I wish I wouldn’t do.  Sometimes, as I am responding to my loved one, I will hear the words coming out of my mouth and wish them back just as they hit the air.  My words can be mean – petty, spiteful, downright cruel.  And in that moment, with my murderous speech hanging between the two of us, my heart drops down into the pit of my stomach and I hold my breath, begging silently for mercy.

It’s not often that the dagger slashes of my tongue are received with warmth and kindness – okay, not ever.  My loved one feels the pain, I hurt her, I hurt him, and the love they feel for me gets locked down inside of them and they harden with anger, putting up their defenses, whipping out weapons of their own.  Often, in the deadly speechlessness of their heavy, raging sigh, arrows shoot out their eyes and I feel myself cowering.  But I don’t cower.  I don’t apologize or try to console or make it up somehow.  I just want – need – to be forgiven.  More than anything I want to be spared the wrath of vengeance I have spurred.

Yet… What do I do when someone is mean to me?  What do I do when someone’s rash words cause me pain or, worse, when someone’s willful act of cruelty slices through me?  I’ll tell you what I do – I give it right back.  They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and I well believe it.  Though, to be fair and clear, I have inherited from my father a violence of temper unmatched by my mother’s in tamed and deep-seated force.  Please don’t misunderstand me – my family is not physically violent in any way.  I thank God there is no abuse of that kind in my home.  Even if, however, our angry responses don’t rise to the level of abuse, physical or verbal, we still find ways to seriously hurt each other.  The only thing that saves us from dysfunction and despair is the depth of our love – not only for each other, but also for ourselves.  We know how to be cruel, but we also know how to be merciful.

To “love thy neighbor as thyself” is to follow the golden rule by treating one’s fellow human beings the way that one wants to be treated oneself.  If we want to be forgiven by our loved ones when we say or do things to hurt them, then we should be ready to forgive them when they hurt us.  We react and respond too often out of anger, frustration and irritation.  We let our fears get the best of us and we irrationally take it out on the people who love us the most.  We are sorry when we do this, sometimes right away, sometimes several days later, and sometimes not until our loved ones show us the harm that we have done.  We bump against and batter each other, causing damage.  Efforts to minimize the friction and to repair the breaks and dents are good.  But, really, sometimes a person can be so hurt by another’s willful act of cruelty that only God can repair the damage.  My friend, who has suffered from every kind of abuse, once told me that there are some wounds that only God’s love can heal.

It’s God’s healing love that we truly want more than anything.  We want that divide between flawed humanity and perfect divinity to be bound up so that we may know wholeness.  To be who we are created to be, we cannot wallow in worldliness, we cannot inflict each other – and so inflict ourselves – with vengeance and destruction and violent dominance.  We must look past pain to the source of all joy.  Every tongue lashing is the scourging agony of a whipped back.  Every act of selfishness is the piercing of a crown of thorns.  Every cruel twist is a spike driven through the flesh.  God knows.

To stand one’s ground in the face of cruelty is not an act of unkindness.  To let the mean one know the pain that the meanness is causing is the right and kind thing to do.  But, what is one’s ground?  Is it vengeance?  Is it to give back as good as one gets?  Or is one’s ground love?  When my loved one meets my cruel words with silence and a look that tells me how wrong I was, I feel more penitence than I do when my unkindness is met with matching rage.  There’s something within me that will not allow me to learn or grow or improve under force and aggression.  That something is the divine image in which I am created.  That something is my soul.  I was created by God with the gift of free will.  I was created by God to reflect divinity into the world.  Not to reflect my own self, my offended pride, my insulted ego – but divinity, I am made to reflect God.  I am fearfully and wonderfully made, exquisitely beautiful in the eyes of the Infinite Eternal One and I will love myself as He loves me.  I will love my God-given ability to love, I will love my God-given capacity to forgive, I will love the gift of healing that God has given me.  And then, and only then, will I love, forgive, and heal.  I am not the Lord.  I shall not lord myself over anyone.  I shall receive, rather, the Lordship of God deep in my heart and through my whole being, becoming the person that the LORD created me to be.  Merciful.  Merciful is God, giving me perfect love when I do not deserve it.  And merciful am I created to be.

To forgive is to not forget that another person is capable of cruelty, but, rather, to remember that I am likewise capable.  To forgive is not to condone the hurtful behavior of another person, but, rather, to foster love and healing behavior within me – and so the world.  To forgive is to receive and share God.

Christina Chase

Written Not with Ink

2 Corinthians 3:3

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

The word of God is not merely to be written down, memorized and recited.  The word of God is to be lived.  Those who have never read or heard a single word of the Bible may know God’s word better than those who can deliver chapter and verse.  For the word of God is not a concept.  The word of God is not some thing.  The word of God is someone.  The Word of God is a Divine Person, is with God and is God, existing before time and space.  All of Creation came through the Word, and nothing exists without the Word.  Into particular time and space, through the Mystery of the Incarnation, the Word became flesh, assuming human nature and dwelling among us.  The Divine Person Who is the creating Word of God became a creature, became one of us.  This is Christ, the Lord.  And Christ, through the Paschal Mystery, gives the Holy Spirit to every human creature – freely gives the Spirit of the living God to all of us.

(But, do we receive?)  We are called to receive the Spirit, not merely with our ears or our eyes in spoken or in written words, but with our hearts.  Not so that we may merely “like” God’s Word, but so that we may truly love God’s Word and embrace the Divine Word in the deepest core of our beings, into the quiet sanctuary within ourselves, the sacred dwelling place that is the true heart of our lives.  Open to the Spirit of God, we are able to deeply understand truth and be transformed by truth: the truth of eternity, the truth of Creation, the truth of ourselves created, through the Word, in the image of God to know, love, and serve God in the fullness of truth.  We deeply understand, we know, not by grasping a concept, but by being in communion with God’s Word dwelling in our hearts.  Dwelling – not written, but living and breathing in us and through us.

God’s Word is given to every human being through the Holy Spirit – but not all of us willingly open ourselves to receive… for we can close ourselves in on ourselves through the self-centeredness of sin and, being hardhearted, fail to live truth, fail to live in the fullness of communion with God.  God’s Word Incarnate gives Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity, for every human being to save every human being from this failure.  In assuming our human nature, the Word Incarnate, Christ, the Lord, takes the lethal poison of our sins into His own flesh nailed onto the Cross.  God tastes death… pouring forth Divine Grace and sanctification in self-giving love.  And when the Incarnate Word rises from the dead, He raises all of us up with Him, our antidote of mercy, sharing His eternal life with us – when we willingly share our lives with Him and open our hearts to Him.  If we accept the Divine Word and allow the Holy Spirit to transform us, then we become testimonies to God, proof of holiness, not written with ink or carved into stone, but living and breathing in, with, and through us.  From the sacred abode of our hearts, where we dwell together alone with God, to all of Creation and every one of our fellow human beings – we send forth the Word of God: Love.

And, so, I say that even if someone has never read or heard the words of the Bible – even if someone has never been properly introduced to Jesus Christ – that someone can still know the Divine Word, Who is Truth, Who is Love, Who is God in Whose image every human is created.  Open to the Spirit of the living God, every person, whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, Hindu, Buddhist, or Sikh, can be faithful to the creating Divine Word, living lives of self-giving love, striving for truth, reflecting God into the world.  And if those who have not been properly introduced to Christ encounter Him through someone who has been saved into fullness by receiving Him fully, then the growing intimacy with the Divine Word Incarnate that they will experience will become the deepest blessing, the most sacred understanding, the fullest salvation – the fulfillment of their lives.

May I , in the sacred dwelling place of my heart, marry with the Word and bear forth the fruit of Divine Love so that all the world may also deeply know and love the Divine Incarnate One.

I am an epistle…

Christina Chase

Witness

Exodus 20:16

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

My neighbor needs me.  Nope, I don’t live in a commune or some other kind of cooperative.  I live in a house on over an acre of land, which abuts four other properties, with a house across the road.  Though this sounds congested, the trees bordering the property make my home private, and the road is quiet and peaceful.  I can go days without even glimpsing sight of any of my neighbors.  The town picks up our garbage and plows our road and there isn’t even a sidewalk or common mailbox space to keep clean together, or shared fences to maintain.  And, yet, I profess that my neighbors need me.  Why?

My neighbors need me to be honest.  They need me to not accuse them of things that they haven’t done, like stealing my Wi-Fi or trashing my yard.  They need me to not call the police to their doors for some contrived reason or blame the litter in the road on them, even though I know they didn’t do it.  They need to be able to trust me because we live on the same spot of earth, sharing lawn and trees and air and road.  Keeping this in mind, I see that everyone is my neighbor, for we all live on the same earth, sharing flora and fauna, sun and air and water.  My fellow human beings need to be able to trust me, for our common Creator has entrusted me with my own unique space in one particular slot of time.  What I do with that space in that time has consequences on everyone around me, near and far, as a pebble dropped into the center of a pool causes ripples that stretch out to the shore.  Those nearest me feel the effects soonest and most strongly, but even the ever decreasing waves can be felt in further places and more distant times.

This is not merely a call to better ecological awareness and to actively reducing my carbon footprint on the planet.  No, this is about the fullness of the truth.  (For I don’t want anything less than fullness of life.)  And the full truth is that I affect people by simply passing by them in the mall or on a sidewalk in the city.  My presence beside someone in a restaurant or a church pew can have an influence on that person’s day – and, yes, even on that person’s life.  A miserable demeanor or attitude can be contagious and set people out with a bad feeling, though they might not even know why, and cause them to fall into meanness themselves.  Thankfully, a joyful demeanor or attitude can likewise be contagious and set sensitive people out with a positive outlook, spreading good feelings and actions.  This isn’t overstating anything.  We humans are sensitive creatures and we pick up signs and stimulations from the others around us as naturally as we absorb nutrients and toxins from food.

My neighbor needs me to testify to the truth.

Perhaps, I feel this reality more acutely because I am so very noticeable among others in a crowd.  I am never the person who blends into the background causing no reaction whatsoever.  Not only am I in a wheelchair, which is different than most people, but I am also crumpled in that chair by severe scoliosis that causes my head to rest sideways on my left shoulder/hunchback.  Not a pretty picture, I know.  I may be the most deformed person that some people will ever see in person.  And if I were a negative type of person, wholly self-centered, living a “woe is me” existence, then the people whose eyes inevitably fall upon me would have a sense of miserable sadness and that melancholy would stick with them for the next few minutes, or even hours or days, of their lives, affecting their thoughts, words, and even actions.  Happily, I am naturally a positive type of person (though sometimes self-centered) and I live a grateful and joyful life, loved and loving.  I know for a fact that strangers who just look at me can feel uplifted somehow, having more optimism and appreciation for the goodness and beauty of life than they had a moment before.  To share one story:

One day, after Mass, a man, who was just visiting our parish and saw me for the first time as I sat across from him, came over and told me that my smile was exactly what he needed that day.  He said that he was going through a rough time and feeling low, but seeing me all crumpled and crippled, obviously intelligent enough to know how bad a shape I was in – and, yet, genuinely smiling, genuinely taking in everything around me with appreciation and gladness – this, he told me, was like a wake-up call for him.  My presence snapped him out of a funk and reminded him that life is inherently good and beautiful and that he had many blessings for which to be grateful.

It seems to me that the effect we have on others is stronger if we are people of faith because our presence is deeply rooted in Presence, and our joy is more than just a passing smile.  Perhaps, also, the effect is felt most strongly on people who are struggling with faith.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  As a believer, I believe fully and deeply in the goodness of God and God’s Creation – I have utter faith in the goodness of being itself.  Through Christ, I have an eternal perspective and know that all works out for the good through God – my hope is in divine and endless mercy and, so, is never squashed.  And, knowing that I am infinitely and particularly loved, I am free to give love, and loving kindness, to everyone around me.  I know the truth and the truth has set me free.  If what I were to portray and give out to the people around me was doom, gloom and meanness, then I would, in effect, be bearing false witness to life itself.  Sure, I may honestly be feeling like crap one day – but, knowing that it is just one day and having deep faith, hope, and love in and for life and the joy of goodness, for me to lead other people into misery and melancholy would be a deceitful act on my part.  My neighbor needs me to testify to the beauty and goodness and joy of life itself – crippled and crumpled as its forms may be – and to the power of love.  For that is the fullness of truth.

Christina Chase

 

Out of the Ground

Genesis 2:9, 15

And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

In the garden

every good thing grows,

all that is pleasing to the body and the mind;

A wellspring of abundance and beauty,

petals and grains, fruit, nectar and spice.

And male and female came together in peace

in the gentle sighing of evening, night’s starlit nesting,

flesh yielding tenderly to the fruit of love.

In the garden

is innocence and purity of heart,

but also, on the fringes, the doubting serpent lurks;

A self-interested blindness that closes in the senses

and renders the beauty into gain.

The garden unguarded let’s suspicion in

and, without the sense of sacred, wordless, guileless love

is cheaply bartered for lust.

In the garden,

humans lost what humanity is

and shielded themselves from each other’s hearts;

Hiding in the shadows, on the edges of beauty,

unable to see what is Divine.

Exiled from one another by the war of want,

longing and pining for more and more,

we neglect the garden that is All.

For, in the garden,

crying tears of blood,

the clear, pure stars sending dew upon His pain…

A heartbreaking rendering

of innocence to the weight of sin…

As God knelt down, His tender human flesh upon the ground,

and ate all our bitterness, our sorrow, fear and hate –

In the garden,

the Divine wellspring

swelled in the heart of a human being;

A restoration, a new creation,

in the crushing exultation of self-giving love.

And we are given sacred hope, faith and love yielding forth,

the Divine One’s human flesh becomes the Tree of Life

in the garden, anew.