Archive for the ‘Staff Picks’ Category
“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories. When your relationships were so alive, as your prayers were so alive and you wanted others to then have the same experience. Mostly the same stories, generation after generation. In search of the Promise Land. With a great restlessness. Carrying the fire, with the importance of the binding in the relationships, in stories within your own tradition, about pure love. With God’s intervention in the relationship.
Moses was born into a story whose history long predates him. Like Abram, Moses was a member of a “tribe” and like Abraham, he carried the idea of a new nation, after the burning bush, based upon Abraham’s idea of a place to freely sacrifice? A nation based upon blood, though it is thought that the young would never want to know about pain, never want to know about war, pestilence or death? The young do not, for the most part, want to hear of the never-ending plagues? They do not want to hear about Israel,named after the renamed Jacob?
There is this poetic justice of Passover, when contrasted to the times of the birth of Moses in Egypt. I wonder whether the Egyptians were then having kids? Behold, in the story of Moses, the outsider! To the Pharaoh, with the two kinds of people in his kingdom – those who were free and those who had become enslaved – there was this annoying Moses. Or had it been the savers and those who needed to be saved, as the slaves were making the Pharaoh look bad? Was this a fear, like in Sodom, of the growing minority of outsiders? [Lot, who had married a woman of Sodom, had been the only outsider.] Contrast the ambiance in Egypt in the times when Moses had been born to the ambiance in Egypt during the plagues. Death was all around? New life was not?
Note the separation if not a halving in this unsettling story. To be moved, like Abram, from his place of birth. The writers who record, unknowingly, an identity in stories, never mention the heart-break when you sacrifice a homeland? For the Pioneers, the FIRST time in the story of firsts. Born into a story whose history long predates me, note the Identity, here! The ones listed, in the metrics of measuring up to the past, to judge. So Abram’s first born son was half-Egyptian, though never in his early life had he seen the land of Egypt? After Egypt had saved the sons and grandsons of Jacob – after the Ishmaelites had saved the life of the prophet Joseph – wasn’t the threat HERE, in the times of Moses, to the Hebrew slaves whose identity comes from the LAND? Hadn’t that been the reason Abram left, in his Call, in the first place? When he sacrificed his father’s home? There is a threat when you identify so much – too much – with the native land?
Compare / contrast. The metrics of story. Miscasting Ishmael, as a son disowned, the story of Passover miscasts the slaves? The tradition of story – the Passover story – only makes sense in light of the larger narrative arc of God’s saving work with Israel – so much like the half of his mother’s family that Jacob came to discover, as he had moved in with them [those who had formed her]. Echoing this theme of fulfillment is, the larger narrative arc, from an every day invisible formation of his own creator, at what point you were felt to be half-slave? As you were losing your identity, in this more and more secular land, like in Egypt? In a slavery which consumed every moment of your life, without any law to protect you and your loved ones? When you were not free, the past and its tradition become so dispensable, in a secular world.
Formed to be different than those living in the secular world of The Egyptians. Concerning Identity …. what does make me belong here, even after The Call? Notice ever the saving LAND of Egypt, for more than 400 years? There is this hostility in the perspective to the past, over the power of the past that everyone has been born into, because the past carries a certain authority.
Passover. There is the past in the story. So a new nation, based upon Abraham’s idea …. like maybe Abraham once had considered what a son would be like? And is it ironic that his first-born son had been half-Egyptian, and it was Egypt that had saved the grandsons and grand-daughters of Jacob, who had been renamed Israel? In a story of the loss of innocent life, is there a missing perspective about this unsettling story of Passover. For the Pharaoh who lost his first born son – the one he thought would one day be king?
The Call, again. Did you hear the Call again, here, like Abram had been called out of the land to which he was born? And so another story about halving in this unsettling story of refugees, like Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael.
Was there a great irony, in a disconnect from the time of Joseph when he had saved not only his father and the sons of Jacob but he had saved the Ishmaelites and all of Egypt? Behold another story about those who were saved, those who belong not to a land but, to us, still – the 600,000 refugees and their God. And what clearly had happened in the story of Passover, at the time of Moses’ birth through the time when Moses killed an Egyptian to save a slave, is that under the Pharaoh the past and its tradition had become so dispensable.
Over and over there is, for the sons of Abram, The Call. And in Passover, it is Moses who heard the same Call, to move the descendants of Abraham through Sarah out of Egypt. The story is not about political Power but something else. Did you feel all of the emotions connected to leaving? “I envy the dead with somewhere to settle down … permanently,” said the Syrian widow who envied the dead, while leaving in 2015 her loved ones behind . . . to be moved, like Abram from his place of birth? Life as refugees, for forty years! Behold Passover! Note the halving/ separation in this unsettling story, as hearts are broken, as death is all around, but new life is not?
Had you read what had happened in Cologne on December 31, 2015, about the missing sacred, for younger people whose smaller attacks repeatedly have been discounted as random acts, by the secular leaders like Angela Merkel and the mayor of Cologne? It was like the gun violence, here, where I live. The secular world, in Belgium, treated Muslims from Morocco as victims who had no chance of succeeding, in life. What happens to a people who cannot be saved? To their Spirit? To move out of a kingdom, with powers of the monarch, into the land with more freedom where the majority ruled but you were always going to be the minority. You were not formed as the majority had been formed here. The KING of Morocco – unlike the Pharaoh – was happy to get rid of these discarded Moroccans who had come over time to sacrifice their identity? Clearly, these accused young male were giving up their religion and their identity which had taken up every moment of their life. Cast into a democratic republic, new belief filled the vacuum, that the end justifies the means? The young all around wanted consumer goods or some kind of worldly power over someone? It had been young Moroccan men in Cologne on New Year’s Eve, involved in sexual assaults. [The unresolved mystery for this writer is how so many Muslims claimed January 1 as their date of birth.] Behold their underlying anger, that accompanies a lost identity! What does the secular world not see about what had been left behind? Behold the emptiness in the story, in the stories of the great unsettling and an emptying out. Is it a wonder that ISIS – these pimps FOR sacrifice, for only their own temporal power – appeals to the refugees from a kingdom?
As you sacrifice a past, either voluntarily or involuntarily, the story of Ishmael had never been about a frothing rage at the colonialism of Sarah, using her handmaid to have a son. In the great unsettling, the story of Ishmael is not about a paternal Authority but something else – the spiritual power at work in an unsettling. The Call. His very own Call, just like the Call of Abram. And Hagar too listened to the voice of God, in another story of a saving love which comes out of the true sacrifice in leaving, as Abram once left.
Passover is the challenge to remember for the children the unsettling story of invisible splitting. So had Ishmael been a victim? When each of the Victims in the stories of sacrifice – Isaac, Ishmael, Jesus – left behind to their followers this boldnes-for-life identity, like for a chocolate chip cookie. The unsettling boldness passed on by Abraham, to all of his sons and grandsons? This Passover season [which does extend for eight days] recall with bold gratitude the insertion into a rich family history of this ancient tribe of Abraham, with the attachment to the arc of God’s saving work through Abraham and Sons, both in the Land of Israel and wherever you happen to live, after the Great Unsettlings. As a believer in one of the Abrahamic religions, consider the chocolate chip cookie and whether you had enough chocolate chips inside to even be considered a chocolate chip cookie, by both the inside and the outside world, or in the new world that you had entered. With forty years of exile, to come. What does happen when there is not a community of people there who had preceded me? It is said in Belgium, “a less-integrated Turkish community has resisted the promise of redemption through jihad offered by “radical” zealots. The Turks, as a result, had held on to their identity in a foreign land. Their children are not so split – YET – between the old world and the new. And speaking of “saving love,” it is Turkey and Jordon which are saving so many refugees!
Behold the land which had once saved the sons of Abraham in Egypt, if the leaders there always did not. Note the Ishmaelites who did sell Joseph – at a time when slaves were sold – in the “Saving” in act of buying. A caravan of Ishmaelites had been given Joseph, after Judah had had his brothers sell Joseph – for a price, each time. Behold Egypt in the story, of salvation! This selling of Joseph by the Ishmaelites, in the end, to the Egyptian, had saved him.
Behold the system, and the closeness to power in the story, in the household of the king! In the real world, behold The Pharaoh, counting the cost, 400 years later. And slavery was about humans looking for enough ease! Yes, the Ishmaelites had sold Joseph . . .to a chamberlain. Behold the pain of giving up, what you one day had had.
This ‘giving up’ was a Passover story. Just as saving or being saved, in the case of Moses, by the Pharaoh’s daughter. Living with the Egyptians before the split, with a closeness to power. Hadn’t it been a betrayal to the sons of Joseph who had saved all of Egypt to then enslave them? Behold the perspective of sacrifice: inside and outside over the devolution of sacrifice! “So where is the lamb, Abraham?”
From the saving LAND of Egypt, was it all of this LAND that needed slaves? Behold the invisible fertility which returned since the times of Famine! The grateful-for- having-been-saved slaves! When these people of Egypt had enough – Dayenu – and then forgot, by this point in the story, about all the people connected to how Egypt had been saved. So how, Moses, would the land be tended after our slaves were set free? What did a LAND do to a people’s spirituality, for these humans looking for ease! Behold the threat of attachment to a place, if the Israelites too much belonged? Behold The LAND as a character in the story, with the sell-out, with betrayal, of your one-time saviors! Did you have too much land or too much money if you ever considered purchasing a slave? Or not enough of your own fertile young kids to work the land?
With income and expenses, note the involuntary nature of his request to sacrifice your nation’s slaves, by this man named Moses. There would have been a revolt! In the betrayal part of the story, in the Akedah, hadn’t Abraham betrayed his son? How does that story connect to Passover? Why should the Pharaoh betray the Land and the future? Had there been a threat of attachment? So did these slave belong to Egypt? If your son never had a homeland, how would any of your descendants ever belong? Did a son make a father too attached to the world? Why HAD Abraham heard the Call to leave his home? And then the Call to sacrifice his only son? Whichever son!
It had been the chief servant who found Isaac, oh so damaged in the Akedah, as the reliance on the servants continued in this family, a wife. Hadn’t Jacob then betrayed Rachel by not saying no to the marriage with Leah? And then there were all the handmaid tales, with the sons and one daughter of Jacob, with sellouts, with betrayal, over issues of belonging? Or in a world with all of the arrangements and the arranging, in a world with dowries, was it the laws which determine belonging? Locate all the betrayals…. in Joseph tattling on his brothers; in his brothers plan to sacrifice Joseph; even in the revised arranging to sell Joseph into slavery, based upon who was free and who was a slave in this family? And Reuben! Yes, with the long-forgotten Reuben, did you ever see the voluntary nature of his sacrifice …. of the birthright? And wasn’t that what had saved Joseph in the first place? And by saving Joseph, Joseph had saved all their known world? To have sacrificed the birthright, and his own sense of attachment, in the name of love.
Eve. Did you ever feel her conflict over the very first commandment? In the one law about belonging in The Garden? Like in the same conflict for Reuben, in the story how he lost his birth right, over a handmaid, in times when the law recognized handmaids as wives except with respect to an inheritance, though it had been Reuben who had saved Joseph after he was thought to have lost his inheritance. And before Moses ever saved his people, there had been his sister Miriam who had saved Moses, risking her own life. In the name of sisterly love.
So wasn’t the conflict between Moses and Pharaoh – with the same deep emotions of his sister at the time that Moses had been born – over the recognition of the Spirit of God? After the God of Jacob once had saved all of Egypt, in a forgotten recognition of the God of Abraham? From out of The Call to KNOW – in sacrifice of Abraham’s son by Sarah – comes a recognized expectation to save. After Isaac is saved. And if you read the Quran, the same thing had happened to Abraham’s first born son. Unlike Ishmael, Isaac never physically leaves …perhaps because his faith is so shaken . . . as he is saved from Abraham’s image of God. Did you know of the involvement of a servant in the case of both these sons, after their own so personal involvement in the Akedah, then to find them a spouse? In Ishmael’s case, it was the handmaid/ mother Hagar who found him a wife, as Ishmael learned over a time of discovery that he was born as no traditional servant. Behold the Post Traumatic Stress in the stories of the Victim, to make OUR lives a blessing …”bless those in need of healing”….. when no one would ever be the same!
Behold the conflict! “Though you are holier than I am, your God is not my God. Yet!”
Enough! Note the point of enough between Pharaoh and Moses, in the halving/ separation in this unsettling story, in asking for a place for his people to “freely” worship. Moses was challenging the Pharaoh who was connected himself to “his” people’s worship? Behold the Clericalism of the Pharaoh, where Church and State were one, who acted as mediator between the gods and the world of men. After death the Pharaoh became divine, identified with Osiris, the father of Horus and god of the dead, and passed on his sacred powers and position to the new Pharaoh, his son. So compare / contrast the valuation connected to this blasphemy in Moses’ betrayal of the Pharaoh who had once saved him. Behold Moses, so perfectly formed by the Pharaoh, much like a prince of Egypt. “We are not giving up our slaves …. over matters of worship.” Ask Abraham Lincoln, about April 15, 1863, on setting the captives free, without any compensation? Dealing with loss. Of not just the work force. “We are not sacrificing our slaves,” over issues of our god in Egypt! Moses was asking the mediator as leader of the Church/State – a strong-willed monarch whose view of a rebellious slave-leader threatening old elites – to sell out existing religious belief in Egypt? Was Moses asking Pharaoh to connect worship to love?
Behold the story of Liberation Theology, long before the controversy of Liberation Theology of John Paul ll with his South American theologians! Mission creep, threatening “our way of life!” Did you feel the mission creep of church or state, based upon the series of plagues from your God – the one that my people did not freely come to – in a challenge by your God, rather than my God? Or to my people? Compare / contrast, in the metrics of story, of blood in the story of Passover. Compare the children of Joseph to what the descendant of Isaac discovered, so much like the half of his mother’s family that Jacob came to discover, as he had moved in with them. The miscasting half of the family that he had never come to know, perhaps only heard about? When you never felt a part of a family that you did not know? The tradition of story – the Passover story – only makes sense in light of the larger narrative arc of God’s saving work with what always seems missing. In stories with various degrees of closeness, did you ever note the descendants of Joseph WERE related to the Egyptians, and not in a step-relationship. Who should be saved? Who should save, when these slaves were HALF- EGYPTIAN?
“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” writes David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. As the first plague and the last plague involved a plague of blood.
Behold the rock of power meeting the pluralistic theological sands – shifting sand – of your slaves. Compare / contrast the metrics of story, as the blood of the lamb had saved the first-born sons of the Israelites, the Pharaoh was not quite so blessed. And did you hear the voice of Isaac from the Akedah on the story of Passover, about the whereabouts of the lamb? Did you ever paraphrase Isaac over his ‘lamb’ question? So where is The ‘Saving’ love of prophets, formed to be different than those living in the present day secular world? When power and position of Church and State were One! A perfect first-born son! Behold The Call – behold all the chances in his very own Calls in the story – that the Pharaoh did not heed, as another Pharaoh once had when it came to the dream of the Prophet Joseph. And as a result, behold the intense deep emotional grief so personal all over Egypt, over all the perfect first born, considered to be pure Egyptian, lost!
Larry Gillick Ascension Thursday Commonweal
Creighton Online Ministries
I live half-a-mile from The History Center. In the New World there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of history and memory, like with Church or State. Had this been the same unsettling connected to the Messiah – in the beginning – dealing in public ministry, as History is used against you? Whether with cameras or like Laws of Church or State can be used against you … as PLACE – the invisible …. in what always has been here – is used against you? This Spirit from where you come … like in The Americas, founded on the back of slavery and Imperialism?
Consider that first day on the job as a Messiah. And the loss of this protected status … in the beginning, closest to home …. later all over Israel. With the entire tradition resting upon purity, washing, dinnerware, bloodlines. This theology of Purity, ever since the time of Abraham. With Sarah, his half-sister.
Move! Letting go! Sacrifice. Note The Bond, just like for Ishmael in the story of Hagar — speaking of captives and refugees — becoming invisible as you move …. God-like. Feel the great unsettling of The Spirit of the Lord, connected to authentic sacrifice! When nothing else is left…. locate the displaced in the story, like the Lakota in South Dakota. Yes,in order to survive, MOVE! — to what the Canadians called the Reserve Land. And then what is left of my center, as a child – as a captive, like Ishmael – looks to their parent(s) as authority figures? But did you feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son?
The noun Targum – Targumim (singular) –refers to “translator, interpreter,” derived from early semitic quadriliteral root ‘trgm‘, and the Akkadian term ‘targummanu.’ A translator of the Hebrew Bible is called a hammeturgem (he who translates). Necessary near the end of the 1st century BCE, with the common Hebrew language in transition, to give explanations, as Hebrew was being used for little more than schooling. Besides denoting the translations of the Hebrew Bible, the term Targum also denotes the oral rendering of Bible lections in synagogue. Other than the meaning “translate,” the verb Tirgem also means “to explain.” Writing down the targum was prohibited. Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture by a Rabbi in common worship, in the common language of the listeners, with paraphrasing in the common language after Hebrew Scripture was read.
“…. handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.’ Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.”
In either saving or being saved, locate the comeback in the story …. with an audience that felt that they did not need another authentic sacrifice connected to a Messiah? Hearing of the great unsettling teaching, The Spirit of the Lord, in “their” synagogues …. praised by all. Into the real Promise Land, into the synagogue, Jesus had come back to Nazareth, to where he had grown up, and went according to ‘his’ custom into his synagogue, in public ministry, on the Sabbath day. And there in the House of God was the great unsettling Presence … in The Spirit of the Lord. Living with the invisible loss of language, as PLACE is used against you, as PLACE claims you as its slave? How old were, how blind were, how oppressed were the eyes of all in the synagogue? As your place of birth blinds you to the outside world.
With language directed at intimations of attachment, This Spirit from where you come … founded on the back of sacrifice. The humility,in an endurance for a generation, living under the great Roman Empire. Dealing with loss, for the those who were small, slow, weak? For those who endure, generation after generation, over and over, sacrifice. Loving not your teammates from Rome, but your neighbor. . . but who is my neighbor? Where so many try to choose their neighbor, based upon the choice of domicile. With all the different degrees of closeness to a neighbor, as your child becomes captive …to a PLACE founded on the back of sacrifice! Captive to an identity that they are born into. With a King who bowed down, as the Giant had bowed down in death to David.
There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status, for the son of David, who had worked as a carpenter in a search for God’s Will? “… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him.” Met with silence? Do you feel the invisible size in another story of sacrifice?
There is this great unsettling, with the loss of this protected status! With the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile — threatened the Jewish and Christian communities — and wasn’t this then what happened in the Inquisition to the Jews of Spain, in 1492. What had the prologue said about ‘mostly the same lives’ in that David Remnick book Reporting? There is an unsettling loss of this protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice, to develop your very own abilities in all areas – intellectual, artistic, social, physical – of accomplishment.
Besides meaning “translate,” the verb “tirgem” also means “to explain.” While Targum refers to “translation” and “explanation” or argumentation of spoken paraphrases, expansions and explanations of Jewish Scripture, writing down the targum was prohibited — not unlike some communities banning or limiting study altogether of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon’s (Our Rabbi Moses Son of Maimon”) The Guide for the Perplexed, as well as his writings on Jewish law and ethics.
According to scholars, otherwise equal under the laws of property, contract, and obligation, dhimmis did not enjoy, as citizens in the Islamic state, certain political rights reserved for Muslims. Dhimmis — Jews and Christians — had their rights fully protected in their own communities, but with certain restrictions. It was obligatory for dhimmis to pay the jizya tax, which complemented the Islamic tax (the zakat) paid by Muslim subjects. Excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims, the various dhimmis communities were allowed to rule themselves under separate legal courts in the Ottoman millet system. Under Sharia Law, the dhimmi communities were usually subjected to their own special laws, rather than some laws that were applicable only to Muslims.
Noting the history of Spain and the subsequent history of the Spanish Empire, the family of Rabbeynu Mosheh Ben Maimon (Maimonides) chose exile. Some speculate that it was likely that Maimonides feigned a conversion to Islam before escaping. When brought up by a rival in Egypt, his forced conversion was ruled legally invalid under Islamic law. Maimonides moved about for the next ten years in southern Spain, eventually settling in Morocco. This was during this time when he composed his acclaimed commentary on the Mishnah in the years 1166–1168.
Yes, I live 800 meters away from The History Center which is somehow directed at intimations of attachment, like the attachment that I got at home from my parents and grandparents, to share a form of secular holiness that often is directed to a home … or a neighborhood … or a city. There was a distinct sense of place in my life which had always been asserting itself, enfolding over time, staking a claim on a people. Before it was lost or overtaken. Or just taken anyway? After you had come to know something about a place.
“… and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him… And he said to them,’Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.’ …They also asked, ‘Isn’t this the son of Joseph?’ …. he said, ‘Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.’ When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town.” And did you note, how after the reading from Isaiah in his hometown, Jesus became — in THE TRADITION OF ABRAHAM, ISHMAEL, and ALL the descendants of the sons of Abraham — homeless? ‘For we know partially and we prophesy partially…’ So, in search of a Promise Land, Jesus chose exile.
Note, while reviewing the words of Isaiah, the proclamation: ‘The Spirit of the Lord … has sent me to proclaim …. to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim….,” with the credentials of a carpenter.
Feel the alone-ness in the story, for the son of David. God-alone prayer seems so selfish, without stories and without sacrifice….. and without a community to give and receive support. And according the the previous verse, Jesus had just come back from his forty days alone in the dessert. For me, without a community to give and receive support, I would believe in neither miracles nor prayer. In the God-question – in the perspective as the Receiver of prayer, without others – prayer is self-indulgent, affecting no one else, unless you did belong to a community.
‘They will fight against you but not prevail over you, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.’ There is the unsettling loss of protected status, with the choice of exile; did you feel the alone-ness in the story, as a son of David? In Nazareth, “Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.”
When the power of a culture is based upon a shared literature. In stories. “Mostly they are the same lives, the same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker. We endow our lives with stories, if the power in the ideals of a father – the bonds, the identity, and all the belief – is gonna survive. If the identity in a name is going to survive at another level. When you were forced to somehow start over. Without a home. And there is the unsettling in this place, whether on issues of Church or State, when a human is displaced.
On the day you became the Authority over your own life – or think that you could do anything that you wanted….alone or together, though this is the perspective only if you were the Master, not the Handmaid.
Note these Victims of sacrifice, followed by the Post Traumatic Stress to anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice in the Book of Firsts of the Hebrew Bible as well as in the first book of the New Testament.
Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Did you ever notice all the victims of rape in the Book of Firsts. The daughters of Lot whose own protected status is now connected to their father. Note the rape stories, connected to the daughters of Lot, later to the daughter of Jacob and Leah, Dinah, whose own protected status is now connected to her brothers … or not? Note the barren women, in half-relationships, in arranged marriage, with mostly informed consent? Locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Note the unsettling stories, of sacrifice, which includes Hagar, a woman whose own protected status is not connected to a man. Was Lot a rape victim, with all of the sons of his nameless daughters who went on to find their own nations? Did you ever note the chronology, where after the birth of Ishmael comes the story of Sodom? Doesn’t chronology – in the spotlight on the First Born all over the Book of Firsts – mean something? And those Ishmaelites were the folks who ended up saving Joseph so he might save his family as well as all of Egypt. Note the unsettling stories, with the various degrees of informed consent, just like in the story of Hagar’s pregnancy related to such personal sacrifice?
Could you connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice? And these were the sons who were related to such personal sacrifice. So how is the birth of Abraham’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal sacrifice? After the attempted sacrifice of Ishmael on Mount Moriah, after the birth of Isaac, after he is weaned – if you ever noted the chronology – Abraham sets the captive (Hagar) free, along with his own son. Yes, locate all the victims in the Book of Firsts. Did you count the barren women in arranged marriage whose sons all became prophets? Did you count Ishmael? Had there been agony in the arrangement in Abraham’s marriage, as Abraham was asked to sacrifice his first born son – to banish him when he had reached adolescence. In the perspective of Sarah, Ishmael was sacrificed in his exile from his father. And Hagar had been this woman in an arranged relationships, whose son became a prophet.
Living in denial, note the little attention paid to the VICTIM of rape … like Ishmael. In either saving or being saved, locate the need for a body before you ever sacrifice. With an appreciation for the mothers – before you note these Victims of sacrifice – locate who it was who first gave birth with agony in those days, before anesthesia. In that the first born son of Abraham was born a slave, was there in the manner that Ishamel was born a slave an imitation of attachment, for Sarah and Abraham? In a world where birth and motherhood give meaning and purpose to a human life – if your faith in God did not – over time Ishmael becomes unwanted to Sarah. What did Sarah know about all the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent? On the day you became the authority, over your own life – or think that you did – are you conscious of your own protected status which is connected to authentic sacrifice that occurred in the past, over giving birth? With an appreciation for the mothers and their life cycle as women whose sons all became prophets, note – in the day and age now where so many believe in the organization called Planned Parenthood as well as this authority over your own body and consequential life (or think that you did) – and locate the agony connected to giving birth, with the various degrees of informed consent. With different degrees of education and experience – like music appreciation in elementary school – note the lack of appreciation connected to your perspective of Hagar, for what she was willing to do out of love. What did Sarah know about falling in love with a stranger, in that she married her half-brother – Abraham who had always been there – ten years older than she was? And wasn’t Abraham’s fatal flaw Sarah’s fatal flaw – not understanding what it means to really belong – that Abraham had been forced in the name of love to share with her? By locating all the victims in the Book of Firsts – focused since the argument of Cain with Abel – in either saving or being saved, what had motivated Abraham to travel first to Mount Moriah with his first born son, per the story in the Qoran. Was Abraham’s motive to subsequently travel to Mount Moriah with Sarah’s first born son, per the story in the Book of Genesis, the same? If you compare Abraham to Adam, did you see the same acquiescence to Sarah and her handmaid that Adam had given to Eve, concerning eating the apple? Were the female prophets married to the male prophets using, in the name of love, the God of Abraham? Isn’t this especially the same female fear of being used and exploited … connected to creation? Just as Sarah tried to have this God of a nomad belong ‘to us,’ through her handmaid’s son –through birth – Abraham set forth to Mount Moriah to have this God belong ‘to us,’ through his sons’ sacrificial death. Yes, locate the need for a body before you ever so personally sacrifice that a mother so well understood. How did Abraham address the anger of Sarah over the sacrifice of their protected status – like with the various degrees of anger by some believers – with such a perfect son? And the believers, as a descendant of the Father of Faith or anyone who personally knew the Victim – Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus – through stories of such personal sacrifice, believed that these Victims were perfect, up until the moment on the Mount when they were saved – before the Post Traumatic Stress. And the perfect really have no need for God? Or forgiveness?
Note how closeness and the Truth about closeness, through / with /in love stories, along with a feeling about the misuse of human power – to whom did this Living God really belong? – lead to a stories about Mercy and the birth right of God’s Mercy. As if you are entitled to have this protected status, carrying a name, as a descendant of the Prophet Abraham? There is the realness of raw emotions after a son seemingly lost his father, of a closeness to his father. Yes, over time a prophet becomes unwanted, like the presence of Isaiah was an unwanted intrusion, in his native land. When the Victim in each of the stories of sacrifice taught the importance of giving up the protected status that you once had considered to be the inheritance, in the name of Forgiveness. And both of the sons of Abraham – in stories on innocence – had come back to bury their father. Together.
Did you ever notice how you are on-guard with outsiders? Did you note in a relationship, the best humor is always domestic, like about a father or any family member …. if you had once been living in a spirited place? If mostly these are the same lives, the same stories, over and over, there comes the unsettling time in witness or hearing testimony about either true human sacrifice or an act of rape, that the unsettling sets in, again. Maybe like with the circumcision of a grown-up. And there is this long period of recovery, either for the Victim or for anyone, like her/his family, who had come to know the Victim. And there is this long period of recovery, in trying to return to what was once there. When a Victim was so innocent. And somehow this indescribable event is connected to learning how to pray, directed at God-alone prayer with others, out of the alone-ness in the stories. In the three Abrahamic religions, whether in the Old Country or the New World, there is the same unsettling for anyone who personally knew the Victim — Ishmael, Isaac, Jesus — with a closeness. In the three Abrahamic religions, if you were ever going to come to learn how to pray, you needed first an appreciation connected to a body and the stories directed at keeping a reverence for indescribable sacrifice directed at a Living God. But mostly you needed an authentic love relationship connected to a splitting if a sacrifice is ever gonna mean anything.
….. and then she died.
Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. But how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? How is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah.
Memory is the key to any identity, touching your emotions in this tremendous bond, touching you deeply, connected to your identity. So “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”
Copyright © 2016.
Paying the highest price possible.
POST SCRIPT: ….. and then she died.
Perhaps you are able to connect the lives of the descendants of Abraham to unsettling sacrifice. Abraham, who discovered at the end of the story of his tremendous human longevity, was, in the dénouement — in the release of tension in the dénouement — coming back home in his lame-duck days, with his great sense of shame after wounding his own fertility, while dealing with loss of mostly power in old age, and starting over. Is pride, involving a desire for power, based upon knowledge – to somehow be more important than others – the most serious of the deadly sins for Chosen People? Based upon more than surface knowledge, how is the birth of Sarah’s first born son – on issues of power, ordering, shared dominion and freedom – related to such personal unsettling sacrifice in the lives connected to the descendants of Sarah? It is Sarah, per the chronology too often ignored – the mother of the sons of Abraham is key to their identity – who dies after The Akedah. So was it Abraham wondering before The Akedah, or or Isaac wondering afterwards, if he had even mattered, begging to have had mattered, begging to be blessed, so that God would never forget, NEVER forget Abraham, just like THAT Holocaust — or had it been Sarah wondering if Abraham ever really loved her?
Recognize the developments after The Akedah story as Isaac, not Abraham, becomes the protagonist by the time of the dénouement of the story? So how was Sarah ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice of Isaac? Somehow the movement in the common stories, like the physics after The Akedah, or in Eid Al Fitr— creating something out of nothing, like with the lingering Spirit from a closeness, in the beginning — becomes this birth right, related to Closeness, even after all the splittings and separation …. with all the lingering human doubts. So was Ishmael, was Isaac, ever able to forgive Abraham after the attempted unsettling sacrifice? And how did they come to understand this God of Abraham Who had first called the Father of Faith, away from his own father’s home so long ago, giving up a sense of protected status connected to borders? Since The Call of Abraham …. “Let me show you a Promise Land, a place you do not know….and you shall be a blessing.” … there is this unease over this place you do not know, similar to my unease when I am running late for an important appointment. Only a displaced son carried this unease related NOT to a clock but to an unknown place – a lot like over not belonging here – maybe so much like being a Jew in Germany in 1939, when you carried the unease with your every moment of your life, or like a one of the millions of refugees suffering mass displacement, from Syria in 2016?
Memory is the key to your identity, touching your emotional connection in this tremendous bond, with different degrees of deepness, in the 26 European countries without visible national churches that have abolished passports and any other type of border controls, on imitations of attachment, directed at union. In a collective memory of forgiveness of others in the name of a forgiving God, on issues of inheritance and birth right — note the discovery of forgiveness through the son, in all the Abrahamic religions — with all the eye-popping tension in the story between those who were not good enough with those who seemed to be too good, there is this indescribable pain which creates memory in a culture — like out of that closeness, in the beginning. As that closeness, in the beginning, often seems one day lost if not sacrificed, in a more secular world with such free movement. Did you note how the son really ends up saving the father …or, in the case of Ismael, the mother? On issues of union, beyond imitations of attachment? Yes, “remember that you are dust, and unto dust thou shall return.”
This paperless world gives me the heebie jeebies
larry gillick, sj
jorge mario bergoglio, sj and molly mattingly
Daily Reflection Creighton Online Ministries
It is stories that map a place as well as a time. And yes, the same stories about match-making and being chosen change over time as the old tellers die off. As times change, especially from the perspective of the woman.
Growth, in almost all of human history, came through a system of arranged marriage. Was that the proclamation in marriage, when growth was the only measure of success? If you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about your organization? (I once served at the age of thirty on a board of directors which allowed its president to send in money, claiming new members, trying to prove greatness to the national. Whether there was true growth, however dishonest.)
Power. Truth and story-telling, with words, in the story about power and dominion. Feel the BONDS which came from stories . . . feel the speed up, of success, in numbers while trying to increase and maintain numbers, through some kind of human arrangement. In a world of power and the story about power, you take something so private public in relationship – in either sexual relationship or in worship. That you might pray, like I prayed: did you ever realize how personal this all had been — maybe a lot like the act of reading is — or even worshiping can be?
To allow yourself to be Chosen, legitimately, like the woman named Rachel, with Jacob like his grandfather, doing the arranging – as opposed to what had happened to Isaac. Creating, then sustaining the illusion, in a parental kind of way. Power. Feel the presence of a spirit, that you might love like I loved.
Power. When you are born into something. When you as a child had no choice and you had to live with it – in the outside world, in the inside world. When at one point in life you were able to run away, and in a sense discover your own inner power, but you now at this point could not run away.
Power. Restlessness. Shame. The visible and the invisible, as busy men and busy women did not understand power — the power of just keeping company as chosen people. There is the craziness of men who feel empowered, in the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe.
The ordering, the separation, growing suspicion, and the doubts about each other, when you were young, bound by the family rules. Rules that started to look, oh, too confining. About the ordering of society, where families had been identified within a community. With rules about power.
The movement in the story of power. Listen once again through the stories in the power in connection as the invisible birthright was passed on again in a family: That this God is somehow connected to me. The inheritance, based upon goodness, did not involve “luck.” To realize how – wired to the community –that through institutions of learning and books, but mostly through stories, God is connected to me.
Exodus was the movement in the story of Jacob, not so unlike the story of banishment sustained by Adam and Eve. Upon the advice of his mother, Jacob was having to take decisive action, to survive, suddenly leaving upon receipt of birthright which came out of nothing but deceit — in this case, based upon his mother’s decree, just when he might have wanted to stay home, Jacob left Abraham’s homestead, for Rebecca’s homestead. And hadn’t Jacob really been a Momma’s boy?
With an Irish intuitive sense of what was happening, what is called in German fingerspitzengefuhl – the fingertip feel that maybe your pitching coach understood — for me the story, still, was all about Abraham’s old plan. He who was never coming back, you know. Home. To Sarah. Not after he killed her son, in sacrifice on Mount Moriah. As the past and the future were at odds, when reflected upon. And neither he nor his descendants could outlive this personal shame. Here so much was a living sacrifice by Isaac in role of a loving son; now, Jacob somehow was now being offered and given up as a living sacrifice to Rebecca’s family? And did you get the sense that Jacob was never coming back?
Note the vexation by Rebecca’s brother – Rachel’s father – not so unlike Abraham’s vexation with his son, Isaac. Once again there was a bit of the spirit of vexation: damage which is suffered in consequence of the tricks of another. Hoodwinking, not unlike Abraham getting Isaac to go on this three day journey, there was these stories of another trick on another journey. Over and over in the story of family, there is mention of hoods, of hiding, of idols. So all along, is God hoodwinking people to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen? What of the concept of unconditional love from the Covenant in the story of Jacob, as Jacob and Rachel gave up a belief in unconditional love to marry? Neither monogamy is present, nor was belief in monotheism shared for these two.
To know a land and its people was to know the stories. Have you ever left home thinking, maybe on a trip with Abraham to Mount Moriah, you were never coming back? Would you over time come to feel a shame over the greatness that you were born into? Did you ever feel the power in this story which comes from personal sacrifice while on the receiving end of all this deceit and the pretension in the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life. Did you ever note the separate belief connected to a place – to a land – like you discovered in a relationship with an outsider? Did you ever note how connected by belief you were as you shared a place in time, maybe somewhat like with a classmate?
Note the irony of the son of Isaac, marked for life by a mother, and the hostility of a mother with power in reduplicating Truth, in the arc of generational injustice based upon family pride. Like Jacob’s own mother had, there was Jacob living within a tribe, learning the mystery, as an outsider. Leaving home and not knowing if you ever would get back. Not knowing how long you would be gone. Like when you were drafted. Note the serious indefinite departures, after all this sex that the nuns failed to point out that Jacob had with one wife, two handmaids and now a second wife. Did you feel a hostility as an outsider, when you missed a feel, either within or not, for holiness?
Nice guys. Like in the insurance industry, there was a human resource department filtering out the people who just would not fit with the company, as it appeared in the public eye. Looking in the old days for guys, like Jacob, who every woman wanted to sleep with; a nice guy like Jacob, without any retribution. Leah. Leah’s sister. Their handmaids. I had failed to notice until relatively recently that there had been a lot of sex going on in Jacob’s bed, with his birthright. And Jacob, now with all of these wives and all of these children, and his belief in one blessing, with his one true love Rachel?
“Something that is yours forever,” wrote Chaim Potok, “is never precious.”
In the Jacob story, note the outsider, exiled from the world of theory, living at some point with now only memories but somehow wanting to make them your own. It was Jacob who thought a father with one wife had just one blessing to give. But Jacob was with his two wives and their two handmaids and eleven sons and one daughter.
It is stories that map a place as well as a time. What did the birthright of Jacob mean to the outsiders? To Laban who wanted his daughters connected to his sister’s family, so much like Abraham once had this same desire? There was the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, to others far away. It was part of the craziness of men who feel empowered. Did you feel the personal shame in the story of men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel: men like Abraham, who felt so deeply inside that they had been created to travel the world? Men like Jacob who were never coming back to the nuthouse which had been the homestead of Abraham, thinking, then trying to kill within his own family, his son?
Yes, men like Jacob, hostile to and leaving that tradition behind. Before his attempt to return home, had Jacob really ever felt the presence of God directly, outside his youth? Beyond Canaan? Or outside his immediate family? And with Rachel, from Laban’s family with a belief in neither monotheism nor monogamy. Looking for the divine in all relationships even with superstitious women, looking for union with God, through their own flesh and blood. How could a man have a favorite child? How could a father or a husband with bonds, as the dogma of currency, show favor? Yes, how can Jacob have just one wife he loved the most? Or one son? Or one God?
What were the suspicions of this beautiful woman named Rachel, the young shepherdess grown, who had been born into this culture of deceit. Often in covert operations, a damage is suffered as a consequence of the tricks of another. And like Eve and Adam were punished by their cleaving, reproducing more people like themselves, so the story of Jacob and his wives.
When you were no longer so young, but still bound by family and the feelings which had come out of your family. What of the old rules which started to look, oh, too confining? Note the waiting in the story, to cleanse the influence of strange gods, from your native land, if that influence could ever be cleansed of the pretensions of the every day aspects that took up every moment of your life like a slave. A young shepherdess considered to be the lowest of the low – a shepherd girl willing to give her life for her sheep – on the receiving end and the giving end of all of his deceit, with Jacob who had wanted a piece of the institutions which had sheltered a civilization back home.
Power. Did you ever feel the power in this story – or the illusion of power — or the connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the Promise Land, to the coming of a messiah? Have you ever left home thinking, as a child, you were never coming back? So much like Rachel, who was never coming back . . . but her children somehow find God in the story. These stories do not float free but are connected to a place – to a land. To know a landscape was to know the stories. So in this male dominated world, there had been Rachel, in shame over her fertility and infertility, another barren woman, the progeny of Jacob’s mother’s family, looking to bear a child to prove their worth. As if fertility came just from herself. As if she alone controlled fertility.
And what idol exactly had Rachel stolen from her father, Laban? (For all of these women in the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, merging lives between two tribes while facing sterility as a human condition.) How unusual was it for Rachel to be allowed to name her first-born son, Joseph, noting that God “has taken away (in Hebrew ASAPH) my disgrace”? Finally, after all of the messy arrangements, with her father, her sister, her servant, her husband. Yes, her disgrace was to allow Jacob to have so many wives, to have been a collaborator with her father in the marriage of Leah? From the world of fertility at harvest time, there is this second-born daughter Rachel, from the tribe of Laban and Isaac’s wife, caught up in the generational injustice based upon family pride. Jacob, hoodwinking each of his wives to come to believe that they somehow are Chosen?
Exodus. What did it mean in the way of institutional thinking, to give up personal ambition to rejoin the tribe, with a desire to return to the world that he knew had always been mostly more honest? So the thrill of the connection, of distant people within the tribe, in his return not so much to an institution but to the home and way of life which had formed Jacob.
Though the etymology of Canaan is uncertain, one explanation is that ‘Canaan” has an original meaning of “lowlands”, from a Semitic root kn’ “to be low, humble.” Though Canaan included what today is Israel, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, northwestern Jordan, and some western areas of Syria, in Biblical usage the name was confined to the country west of the Jordan, the Canaanites being described as dwelling “by the sea.” The Biblical narrative makes a point of the renaming the “Land of Canaan” with “Land of Israel” in marking the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land. Transhumance is the seasonal movement of people with their livestock in a certain subsistence mode. Wikipedia report that evidence of this moving — between-pastures cycle of agriculture — has been found showing shepherds staying with their flocks during the wet season and returning to graze them on the harvested stubble, closer to water supplies in the summer. There was a polarity between coastal towns and agrarian hinterland, illustrated in Canaanite mythology by the struggle between the storm god and the god of the sea.
Men who felt deeply inside that they were created to travel, like Abraham and Jacob had traveled, much like Cain had desired to travel, as his brother had gotten to. Jacob, soon to be renamed Israel, just before Rachel dies. Note the nomads as itinerants who still were a member of a community of people who move from one place to another. In trying to pass something in the way of spiritual power on– in the way of conversion through spiritual journeys. Note the humility, like a shepherd’s, in accepting a certain kind of authority until kids grow up and did not want to just obey what had always been the authorized commandments which belonged to someone else. There was an innate need for explanation about beginnings and endings. You needed others to tell stories of this migrant – otherwise if you just stayed home you would go, over a time, crazy.
Did you ever see the connection of these stories to past stories, or a connection of yesterday to today? As the past and the future were at odds…hoodwinked to believe that you were chosen, or hoodwinked to believe that you were born into a world that always had mostly seemed more honest. In an innocent view of a child.
Did you see the very same shame in the story, like the hostility of the son of Eve, in the stories? So Jacob, the allegedly just man of his generation who, like his grandfather before him with his family ego, wanted to return with some revolutionary ideas about relationship? Abraham had had a concept about only marrying within the tribe, one women. And there was this grandson of Abraham who had discovered the one true God, marrying his mother’s niece — or then two of her nieces, for God sake! Can you imagine the shock of Isaac when he heard the story about two of their nieces marrying one of his sons? Or the neighbors when Jacob returned, if he would safely return, to Canaan, with some degree of shame. Did you connect this to the hostility of Eve which she had to finally recognize in her son –even if a parent never came to blame themselves, their neighbors would. Hadn’t Eve eaten the apple out of an unease if not a hostility toward the Creator?
“Why are you going back to the ‘Land of Canaan’, Jacob? With two wives, when that seemed the norm only within the tribe of Laban.”
Yes, how old were you when you felt the growing shame in the story? And so the shame and disgrace in these stories of firstborns and the world’s systems. Did you see the sacrifice of Rachel, forced to travel in her finals days of gestation? In the story of unconditional love, what kind of man would make their so pregnant wife travel, even when all the forces of the world came down on you? Did you wonder about the connection of false gods — false idols so much the center of this trip — to what exactly Jacob thought he was returning? Contrast Rachel, who had upheld her tribal rules, waiting to marry Jacob after seven years as her father finally gave his consent, with Jacob who had not his tribal rules. So Rachel had honored her father, as Jacob at this point really had not? And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Esau, Leah, and the systems that favored firstborn. After Jacob had hid with his family — with what was supposed to be the future — placed in front of him for some kind of protection, as either one or both of Isaac’s sons faced annihilation, just like on Mount Moriah?
Exodus and the relationship conflict: Did you have a the ringing in your ear in certain words connected to this story not so unlike the initial conflict of Adam and Eve facing banishment? From that stated belief of Rachel with a birth of her first son: “God had taken away my disgrace”? Chosen. ‘Favored’ sons, with ‘favored’ wives and ‘favored’ sons. Note the hostility of those things which get in the way of either God or independence. Note, in the beginning, the hostility toward insiders – people using people – if growth was the only measure of success, when you were dishonest in your reports of growth, what else was dishonest about you and your organization, out for material gain and personal profit? Suspicions perhaps between women . . . envy between sisters, like between brothers: Esau and Jacob. Cain and Able? Were these the first pair of sisters mentioned in the Book of Genesis, who until this point in the story lived by the rules of their father, who allowed themselves to be Chosen. As Jacob prepared to meet Esau, were the word of Cain ringing in your ear, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”?
Jacob with his birthright, who somehow was above all other men. When you had it all, and you wanted to keep it? Jacob, with his two real wives and their handmaids, all caught in a borderless land, between the borders of the past, between two places, between customs of favoritism granted to firstborn sons/daughters in their tribal world, with handmaids, just like Hagar. The revolutionary Jacob, re-named Israel, for what he had done to the systems that favored the firstborn. And what of the shame of Jacob, in having to still address what he had done to all of the firstborn: Isaac, Esau, and Leah. What he had done to the people he had once loved, or based upon the system that he was supposed to? Did you feel the pride in the story, just as Jacob was returning to the world he knew, to the home with a return to a way of life — his old way of life — like an old institution which had formed Jacob, Rachel died delivering her second-born. In the movement in the story, with power in reduplicating Truth, in the generational injustice based upon family pride — Jacob now more and more like Abraham – note the perspective changes to the next generation?
Did you ever feel the power in this story, in Jacob’s discovery of a Living God, after he intended to wage battle to kill Esau, as Cain had killed Abel? Did you feel a connection of the story of Jacob, in the story of the nomad with the physical disability after his battle in the night – when a disabled nomad could not travel without pain. Note the humility in the story, which does give a certain power as all the force of the world seemed to come down upon you, as he gave up his perceived birthright, by sending flocks of his livestock to his brother in recompense of his crime. Had Jacob asked the Living God to bless his shame, as he prepared to meet his brother, in a battle between old tribal beliefs and what was missing for all other powerless beyond-the-firstborn people?
To lose either what you once had or what you once longed for and had waited, comes the discovery how to really pray, with a communal perspective. With the need to save the entire tribe. In one story of conversion, note those living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation. What Jacob was doing in the story was bringing HIS family back, feeling a command from Y*w*h to “Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you.”
Note the personal transformations in the generational injustice based upon family pride, in the dénouement of the story. Note the change in Jacob as a result of the death of his true love, with the power of his great love which in the end involved no deceit. Just as there was a hostility toward a brother who tried to take a birthright, just as Jacob thought his father had just one blessing to give, was there a hostility toward a God who tries to take life – like Abraham had once tried to take from Isaac –if you had never come to know the one true God? It seems that it was the power of unconditional love for Rachel, for his brother, that so moved Jacob to find a Living God, transforming hostility to love. As Leah was left having to care for Rachel’s sons?
“Mostly they are the same lives. The same stories, over and over,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. As a birthright grew to the twelve tribes and some knowledge how to pray. Did you feel a growth in the suffering of one man, living with the system built for the human spirit of vexation, in the need for a larger place, for a Promise Land, for a place to freely pray and to try to love Isaac’s one true God unconditionally, and to atone for what he had done and what he had failed to do? Did you feel a presence still in the first recorded death of a woman in childbirth, in the human creation process, trying to prove greatness to God, which foretold so much of the history to come, as you were forced to somehow start over, with such a long learning curve, of a people shamed by what they had to endure. The leaving, the coming back informed and engaged in the world, to a place that it was believed God would return, in the “lowlands” called Canaan, with a Semitic root meaning “to be low, humble.” And there was Jacob, dealing with loss, wondering what would be the reception from Isaac and Rebecca, as to an anger and blame which went towards those who left you. And did you see an irony that by giving his blessing which came from the sacrifice scene on Mount Moriah, Isaac ends up with his birthright sacrificing his son Jacob for twenty years. Would Isaac come to see a growth of the concept of “Chosen” in the family of Jacob, as his own son had not come to banish the sons of the handmaids of his two wives?
There was Jacob, in the days with a need for support. . . with his large family. To go home, to gather together, with Isaac to grieve. Together, a hoodwinked people who come to believe that they somehow are Chosen, but still having to contend with death, accepting God’s support and a support of one another, in times of grief? Friedrich Nietzsche said that it was the stories passed on from generation to generation about the deepest of all suffering –stories about love — which made life worth living.
So what was the connection in the bonds of a grown shepherdess to God Who made all of this possible? With the two children delivered by Rachel who would deliver a generation from hunger, what was Rachel’s connection to Moses, to the City of David, to a Promised Land and the long-line of Chosen People — as vast as the stars in the sky?
Copyright © 2012.
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I have a friend who took a vow of poverty 22 years ago. The first vow was actually taken at least 10 years before that. And no he was not married. We had lunch a few weeks ago. After a touching on a lot of the fiscal concerns in the world, as much as how they affected his job, he asked me at the end of lunch how much my identity was based upon money. It was a good question. Afterwards, it hit me that he really might have asked, subtlely, why I was not a priest like him.
His job was going to become more difficult in the years ahead. My friend had a job where 80% of his time was spent raising money. Even though he had taken a vow of poverty. If you worked for a religious institution, the people and their children expected a standard of living in the buildings where they would spend time in formation.
So how much of my identity was based upon money? I don’t think any of my central identity is. But in a sense, money was a language that we all communicated in. It was how we exchanged things, beyond words. It was a way of understanding. Money reflected values of a community. And values were always debated. Even if you were Catholic, you had to question why an archbishop would seek more than $30 million dollars for his cathedral. In a sense the size of the cathedral was part of the mystery that non-believers never understood. It was why many said the Catholic church had a lot of wealth. The generosity of Christians could not be grasped by non-believers. But even Catholics questioned the $30 million campaign when the money could have been better served through corporate works of mercy. But I think the campaign which happened in St. Paul, and yes, in Minneapolis, had been successful. Were these just Americans who felt that God deserved a place of worship to reflect their idea of value, the standard of living, in the place where they had come to worship God?
A standard of living: I was not sure if a standard in this case referred to some kind of flag, as my unabridged dictionary might suggest. In visiting college campuses in this decade, I was stunned at what had happened at the university that I had attended. I authentically love the institution. But I think “they” now have too much. The university reflected a lot about this generation of American society. Abundance. In the buildings where the children of my generation were spending time in formation, the dorms were nothing like we had had. There were no aging halls of instructions. The leaders of this institution had maintained the past well. But I am not sure if the past was still recognizable. I was not certain if something had been lost in the transformation. I was not sure anyone deserved all this. When there were places like Bolivia.
Now I have donated to my university’s appeal for funding since I had graduated, through 2005. I have since sent my donation, their donation, to a university in Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the world. This school, Unidad Academica Campesina, did not have alumni like me to solicit funding. It was a part of the world where slavery had still existed in 1953. The Carmen Pampa Fund in St. Paul raised money for this school which seemed to have strong ties to Augsburg College in Minneapolis, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, as well as the Catholic community of St. Paul-Minneapolis. And I also had really seen the 3rd world up close in 2006, after I had seen in 2005 the abundance all around the campus where I had spent 4 years, which had been so proudly displayed at an alumni reunion.
The people overseeing my university, who had taken vows of poverty, had to contend with alumni and their children who carried expectations of a standard of living. The job of those people overseeing my university who had exchanged things, beyond words, in their vows of poverty, was balancing the needs of the real world with the expectations of their financial supporters, and seeking recruits interested in learning the ideals of this academic Jesuit Catholic institution.
In one sense, the Jesuits are, with a subtleness that is missed by most, asking each day to their student how much an identity, their identity, was based upon money. And why there were not more priests.