Tag Archives: Incarnate Word

Careful and Troubled about Many Things

Martha, Martha, Martha… We cannot just go out and do and expect greatness – we must first have direction and meaningful purpose.  If we do not first listen to what God wants of us, then our actions are just busy-ness without holiness as our end.

Luke 10:39-42

39. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.

40. But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42. But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

It wasn’t Martha’s serving of others that was wrong – for Jesus said that he himself had come to serve and that, if others wished to follow him, then they, too, must serve.  However, in her serving, Martha was “careful and troubled about many things,” she was “cumbered about much serving” and complained about it.  Was there, then, true love in Martha’s heart that inspired her serving?  Or was she, on that day, being one of those people who takes pride in being seen as hospitable and laying out a sumptuous table?  Martha’s pride seems rather evident for she questions whether or not Jesus cares about her plight, about justice, and then proceeds to tell him what to do.  Compare that to Jesus’s mother at the wedding feast in Cana when she brought what she saw as a problem before her son – she did not tell him what to do, but, rather, told the nearby servants to listen to Jesus and do what he told them to do, whatever it would be.  There is deference here and trust in Jesus, something which Martha did not demonstrate in serving (but which she did demonstrate later when her brother Lazarus died).

Martha’s sister Mary, on the other hand, was purposefully sitting at Jesus’s feet to listen to him.  She left Martha with the details that the older sister had chosen to encumber them both with, choosing, rather, to hear the word of God.  Mary’s humility here is visually evident as she sits in a low place, at the feet of Christ.  Her eagerness for and attentiveness to what Jesus says is not lost on him.  She “heard his word” – it won’t be lost on her.

Jesus reminds Martha that there are only a very few things that human beings truly need.  This makes me think of how we need to eat in order to survive – but we don’t need to dine with elaborate meals that are difficult to prepare and serve.  We need shelter to keep us safe – but we don’t need spacious houses appointed with every convenient or luxurious amenity.  And as Christ tells the over-anxious server, “But one thing is needful”.  As he makes clear elsewhere in the Bible, “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.”  Martha seeks to attend to Jesus the man in the flesh, but Mary seeks to attend to the Word of God.  By her choice, Mary is truly serving the Word of God made flesh, who is Jesus Christ, because she is attending to what he says and seeking humbly to learn from him as his disciple.  Meanwhile, Martha is busy.  Yes, she is adopting the role of a servant, which should be a good thing – but she is adapting the role of a servant to suit her own self-centered needs, worrying and troubling about many things that are not necessary.  On the other hand, a God-centered servant listens to God’s word, attentive to what is truly necessary for every human being: divine love, mercy, redemption.

The fact that I’m writing this two days before the beginning of Lent is not lost on me.  Soon, Catholics around the world (and other Christians, too) will be “giving up” something for the season of Lent.  We humans, like Martha, can daily encumber ourselves with the care and trouble “of many things.”  How many of these things are needful?  Letting go of some of them for the 40 days of the Lenten discipline can help open our eyes to see how very few things we really need.  Some people think that they can’t function in the morning and start their days properly if they don’t begin with a cup of caffeinated coffee.  If they give up that coffee for Lent (and stick with the deprivation through the first week or so of difficulty) then they will see that they were able to live and function well without that supposedly needful thing.  Someone else may want to give up daytime television or staying up late playing video games or going onto Facebook every day – and the time that that person will gain every day can be spent being with family and friends, thus nurturing essential relationships, or reading to expand the mind and soul, or embarking on that creative project he or she has been dreaming about but has not yet started.  I often see Lent as a kind of spring cleaning – I get rid of the clutter of things in my life so that I can get back to basics and remember what is truly important: love.  The giving and receiving of love that is divinely sourced – this is what is truly needful.  So, I will try, with the grace of God, not to worry and busy myself about things that, in the end, don’t matter at all.  And, being thus freed, I will be more aware of who I truly am and of what – Who – I truly need to be ever joyful, to be fulfilled.  I sit at His feet…

Christina Chase

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With My Whole Heart before the gods

There are gods and there is God.  There are words and there is the Word.  There is strength and there is strength.

Psalms 138:1-3

  1. I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee.

  2. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

  3. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.

 

In our material lives we live in the flesh, solid and “real”, we direct our gazes upon the bright and shiny and our ears upon the brash and the loud.  This is our survival instinct, we do it to survive.  And we look for the symmetrical and are drawn to this beauty, and listen for the soothing and are drawn to this comfort.  This, too, is instinct, we do it to thrive.  All instinct is geared toward pleasure, the material comforts of life, the pleasing sensations of flesh.  And when this goal is achieved and we thrive successfully, we remember our choices, like patterns, and follow those patterns repetitively expecting the same results.  Being all human, when we follow the same patterns, those markers, those things chosen stand out as things to be much sought after, much desired, as things worth sacrifice in order to have.  We set them up like gods.  They bring out division among us, jealousy from within us, yielding strife, discord, wars.  Appease the gods of materialism, the gods of greed, the gods of lust, prostate your dignity before the temples of sex and money and receive the demigods’ rewards.  We are willing to pay the price because we don’t know the cost.

What is human dignity?  Is it the absence of embarrassment?  And, therefore, is it the presence of pride and honor?  If one does not have material wealth, material beauty, material health, if one does not have independence, attraction, or any physical strength, is that person undignified?  What if someone steals prescriptions from her own father or child in order to feel less overwhelmed by anxiety and more focused on things that need to be done in order to survive?  Is she not simply appeasing the gods?  What if someone dresses alluringly and uses the talents of her body to gain protection or promotion and prestige?  Is she not merely another worshiper practicing the rites?  What if someone beats or maims or murders in order that his life may look bright and shiny and his whims of pleasure answered or so that he may gain protection or promotion and prestige?  Isn’t he just surviving and thriving, praising the desirable goals as he puts an end to whoever stands between him and the gods?  Should these people not be considered role models and heroes?

We often measure strength by the ability to move one’s body in desirable ways, to push things out of one’s way, or to forcibly get one’s way.  We look at the physical.  And seriously, what else are we supposed to look at?  With our eyes we can only see what can be seen with our eyes.  Objects of beauty, comfort and praise are visible.  Words of guidance, comfort and praise are audible with our ears – for what are we supposed to hear except for what can be heard with our ears?  And we embrace and hold onto the material, as well – for our muscles for grasping are physical.  So we have gods, and words, and strength… But we have not holiness.  Holiness – the quality of a true God, and therefore of true worship – is “other”.  It is not something that we see in ourselves with our eyes, nor hear in ourselves with our ears, nor hold close to ourselves with our bodies.  Holiness is other than.  Other than mere survival.  Other than animal instinct.  Other than material wealth.  Other than physical health that is physical strength or even aesthetic beauty.  Other than worldly prestige, honor and praise.  Holiness is other than independence.

What is “real” is what comes from ultimate reality.  Ultimate reality is about being, while what we call “real” is about forms.  We think that if we cannot see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or touch it, then it isn’t real.  Even love, which causes many to wax poetic and is the subject of much romantic sentiment and ideals, even love is easily reduced to forms.  Love has pieces and parts and is reduced to the sum of its parts: instincts of attraction, protection, attachment caused by brain chemicals and hormones; hugs and kisses; formulaic words; gifts of tribute and sacrifices as proof – for love itself is just another little god, and our instinctive or conditioned worship is to seek the little god’s blessing, reward that is felt in the flesh and that dies with the flesh.  Though the truly successful, whether they worship love or wealth or control of others, are deemed successful if they are remembered after their bodies are buried in the dirt.  If some words can be written down about them, in poems or history books or on the sides of stone buildings, or, at the very least, in newspaper eulogies and on tombstones – if these words exist, then this is all that we can know of eternity.  Certainly, it is all that we can know in the flesh.

What of the word that is other…?  The wordless Word that is not uttered with a mouth or written in any form.  The Holy Word.  The Word that is ultimate reality, that is being itself, that is the source of all forms and yet not contained within any of them.  The Word that is irreducible and imperishable and, therefore, stronger than strength – actually eternal.  The Word that we can only see with our eyes shut, the Word that we can only hear in silence – that which cannot be seen, heard, tasted, smelled, or touched.  The Word that can only be communicated through a communion… The Word that can only be received without possession.  The wordless Word of the one, true living God who is Ultimate Reality, who is what always was, what is, and what always will be.

And… if this Word were to assume our human nature, were to take on our human flesh… well, then, and only then, through this divine initiation of communion, could we be able to experience Ultimate Reality in forms and come to know holiness, and truly worship with true dignity, true praise, and true strength for all the days of living – days beyond forms, the day eternal.

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