Friday, September 5, 2014

He is among us

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
September 7, 2014

Matthew 18:15-20

Although Jesus' words, recorded by Matthew, are very important for the life of the Christian communities, they rarely draw the attention of commentators and preachers. This is Jesus' promise: "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Jesus isn't thinking about massive celebrations like those in St. Peter's Square in Rome. Even though there are only two or three, there he is in their midst. It's not necessary for the hierarchy to be present; those who are gathered don't need to be many.

What's important is that "they are gathered," not dispersed or in confrontation -- that they aren't disparaging one another. The crucial thing is that they are gathering "in his name" -- that they are listening to his call, that they are identified with his plan for the kingdom of God. That Jesus is the center of their little group.

This real and living presence of Jesus is what must animate, guide and sustain the small communities of his followers. Jesus is the one who must inspire their prayers, their celebrations, projects and activities. That presence is the "secret" of every lively Christian community.

We Christians can't gather in our groups and communities today any which way -- out of habit, out of inertia, or to fulfill some religious obligation. We may be many or, perhaps, few. But what's important is that we gather in his name, drawn by him and his plan to make a more humane world.

We must reawaken awareness that we are Jesus' communities. We gather to hear his Gospel, to keep his memory alive, to be infected by his Spirit, to receive his joy and his peace within us, to proclaim his Good News.

The future of the Christian faith will depend in large part on what we Christians do in our specific communities in the coming decades. What Pope Francis can do in the Vatican isn't enough. Nor can we put our hope in the handful of priests who might be ordained in the coming years. Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

We are the ones who are to center our Christian communities on Jesus as the only force capable of regenerating our routine and worn out faith. The only one able to attract the men and women of today. The only one capable of engendering new faith in these times of unbelief. The renewal of the central bodies of the Church is urgent. The reform decrees, necessary. But nothing is as crucial as coming back radically to Jesus.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The feminine part of God

By Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)
LeonardoBoff.com (em português)
August 30, 2014

One sleepless morning, I resumed my usual work at the computer. Suddenly, I thought I heard -- I don't know if from the heavenly world or my mind in an altered state -- a voice saying to me in a whisper: "Son, I am going to reveal a truth to you that was always there in my evangelist Luke, but that men's eyes, blinded by centuries of patriarchy, could not see."

"It is the intimate and ineffable relationship between Mary and the Holy Spirit." And the voice continued, whispering, "He who is third in the order of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is the first in the order of creation. He arrived before the world; only then came the Son of God. It was the Holy Spirit, the very one that loomed over the primeval chaos and from there brought forth all created things. For of that Creator Spirit, it is said by my evangelist Luke that 'he shall come upon you, Mary, and will pitch his tent upon you; therefore the Holy One engendered will be called Son of God.' "Pitching the tent," as you know, means to dwell permanently. If Mary, bewildered, had not said her "yes" -- let it be done according to Your word -- the Son would not have become incarnate and the Spirit would not have become feminized."

"Look at what I'm saying, son: The Spirit came to live permanently in this woman, Mary. He was identified with her. He united with her so radically and mysteriously that from there the sacred humanity of Jesus began to take shape. The Spirit of life produced a new life, the new man, Jesus. To you and to all the faithful it is clear that the masculine was deified through the man Jesus of Nazareth. Now, go there in the gospel of Luke and you'll note that the feminine, through Mary of Nazareth, was deified by the Holy Spirit. He pitched his tent means he came to live in her forever. Notice that my evangelist John says the same of the Son: "He pitched his tent in Jesus."

"It's not the Spirit," the same voice whispered, "that takes the prophet for some specific mission and once accomplished, ends its presence in him. With Mary, it's different. He comes, lives within her, and never leaves her. She is raised to the height of the Holy Divine Spirit. Hence, logically, 'the Holy One engendered will be called Son of God.' Only someone who has been raised to the height of God can generate a Son of God. That's Mary's case. It is clear why she is 'blessed among women'."

"Son, here's a truth you should proclaim: Through Mary, God has shown that besides being a Father-God, He is also a Mother-God with feminine characteristics -- love, tenderness, caring, compassion, and mercy. These virtues are also in men, but they find a more visible expression in women."

"Son, by saying Mother-God you will discover the feminine part of God with all the virtues of the feminine. You should never forget that the women never betrayed Jesus. They were faithful to him even at the foot of the Cross. While the men -- the disciples -- fled, Judas betrayed him and Peter denied him, they showed faithful love to the end. They, before the apostles, were the first to witness Jesus' resurrection, the greatest event in salvation history."

"The feminine side of God doesn't consist only of Her motherhood, but is revealed in intimacy, lovingness, kindness and sensitivity, noticeable in the feminine."

"Do not allow anyone, for any reason, to discriminate against a woman because she is a woman. Present all the reasons to respect her and love her since she reveals something of God that only she can, being, along with man, in My image and likeness. Reinforce her struggles, gather the contributions she brings to society, to the churches and to a balance between men and women. They are a sacrament of the Mother-God for everyone, a path that leads them to God's tenderness. Let's hope women assume their divine part, present in one of their companions, in Mary of Nazareth. But the day will come when the scales that cover their eyes will fall. And then all of us, men and women, will feel deified by the Son and the Holy Spirit too."

Coming back to myself, I felt in the clarity of my mind how much truth had been communicated to me. And moved, I was filled with praise and thanksgiving.

Leonardo Boff wrote O rosto materno de Deus ["The maternal face of God"], Vozes 1999.