Lenten Meditation 15 March 2012
“A prime idea of the Bible is its very straightforward critique of power, from Genesis to Revelation.” (page 85)
|Caiaphas questions Jesus, by Matthias Stom|
From the very beginning of his book Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality, the author Richard Rohr had posited that there are themes, or as he calls them dots, that connect the entirety of Scripture from the beginning to the end. A long time priest friend who grew up Southern Baptist uses an expression for the whole Bible that I dearly love: he speaks of everything from “Genuine Morocco to maps.” I was listing to him teach many years ago when he said that and I had to ask for clarification. He explained that many Bibles are leather bound, and on the front cover is printed, often in gold leaf, “Genuine Morocco”. Then he asked me, “And where do you invariably find the maps?” I replied, “At the very end. Oh, now I see.”
Rohr takes this theme—or dot—of critique of power and builds chapter 5, entitled good power and bad power. His discussion of power may make some readers uncomfortable and others angry. Jesus does the same thing when he challenges the powers that be in his own culture and time: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Scribes who are all trying to put Jesus in his place with both subtle argument and direct confrontation, leading finally to Jesus’ crucifixion. Even the Roman Imperial government comes under Jesus condemnation when he refuses to meet the power of government in a quid pro quo fashion by calling down the army of angels to dominate and defeat Pilate, Herod, and finally the Emperor in order to save his own life. At his so-called trial before Pilate, the governor asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?... Jesus answers, ‘My kingship is not of this world….” (John 18:33-36)
Part of the problem that we continue to wrestle with is the power of this world versus the power of God’s kingdom. When all is well with the world, at least in my little corner of the world, I am quite happy to rely on God and to put my “whole trust in his grace and love” as we promised in our Baptismal Examination. When life is chaotic or I am experiencing the attacks of either the Enemy or other human beings, sometimes both at the same time, I tend to want to rely on and exercise what Rohr calls “dominative power” which he describes as “the ability to influence events or others through coercion, punishment, threat, money, the power of my role or any other external force.” This is what our author calls “bad power.” Jesus life and witness, throughout his life is the exemplar of “good power.” From the Garden of Eden to the present day, God could have chosen at any point to overwhelm us human beings with force to make us behave properly, including annihilation of the entire created world. However, God chooses to be a God who reveals God’s self as “a God who is willing to wait, allow, forgive, trust and love unconditionally. (page 89)
My challenge continues to be how I use power. Do I act out of fear, thus dominating others including my family, those with whom I work, the members of the diocese? Or am I willing to put my need for control into neutral and make my primary focus relationship and reconciliation. I believe the latter is Jesus’ image and that to which He is calling us. If indeed Scripture is to become spirituality for me I need to work continually on that as a growing edge which will take the rest of my life to hone. Lent is our yearly opportunity to reflect on our relationship with God who is not punitive, threatening and coercive but forgiving and who loves unconditionally—even me. I encourage you to reflect on your own use of power—good and bad—and set as discipline for the remainder of Lent, or as 12 Step programs say “Just for today”, a reflection on how you relate to others. Then go back to the Liturgy for Ash Wednesday and pray through the Litany of Penance once again. Accept the forgiveness which God is offering, forgive yourself, and then begin the difficult task of forgiving others. May your day be filled with God.