As if not
No other word defines the existence of the believer as precisely as the pauline “as if not”. For wherein do the members of the community differ from the other residents of Corinth?
They buy and sell, laugh and cry, marry, have children. They do it differently though: They use the things without depending on them. They think about tomorrow, yet live in today, act at their own risk and let the others win with them. Even someone floating through space detachedly couldn’t be freer than them. mim
I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.
Are you living yet?
I’ve never quite understood the furniture store’s slogan: “Are you living yet or do you just reside …?” That is what residing means: live, it means more than just screwing a couple of boards together to sit on.
Hence the question to Jesus: Where do you reside? It was more than: What is your address? Rather: How do you live? How do we see who you are and what you want? Jesus’ answer: Come and you will see! His residence is the gathering of Israel and living together with his disciples, the life, which he means. acb
John was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” — which translated means Teacher —, “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where Jesus was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” — which is translated Christ —. Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas” — which is translated Peter.
The gospel speaks of people and places as a means to tell of the opened heavens. For the baptism John chooses exactly the spot along the 600 km long river Jordan, at which the people entered the Promised Land under Joshua.
Israel has to reenter the land again. Jesus also comes to John and lets himself dive into the current history of his people. Among the many, who were baptized, is he, who witnesses and sees the spirit of which John speaks. Above Jesus the heavens are opened and through him the Promised Land is opened anew to Israel. hak
This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Wonder or Miracle?
“What can you give me?” Admittedly, that’s coming it strong, answering the Highest like this. Abraham, the first Jew, gives the Lord this answer. With that he shows his levelheaded mind; for how should God’s promise of the great reward become true when Abraham is childless and – like his wife Sara – already old?
With this healthy skepticism Abraham determines the grounds on which wonders become possible, not miracles; because wonders require the participation of man. That differentiates wonders and miracles. And it is Abraham, the first Jew, who supplies the history-making example for this. To the repeated, now detailed promise of God that Abraham will have numerous descendants he reacts: “Abraham put his faith in the Lord.” And “Sara became pregnant”. After the first big bang, the “conception” of the cosmos, this was the second: Israel developed, the people of God. Through the faith of a single person. The first wonder of the bible, which had more in its lap. That this people is still alive after a 3000 year history – at the same time a history of perpetual persecutions – in its own land again at that, is a miracle equal to the beginning with Abraham. It is like a shining star, also over the third century. bek
The word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying: “Fear not, Abram! I am your shield; I will make your reward very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what good will your gifts be, if I keep on being childless and have as my heir the steward of my house, Eliezer?” Abram continued, “See, you have given me no offspring, and so one of my servants will be my heir.” Then the word of the LORD came to him: “No, that one shall not be your heir; your own issue shall be your heir.” The Lord took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” bram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness. The LORD took note of Sarah as he had said he would; he did for her as he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time that God had stated. Abraham gave the name Isaac to this son of his whom Sarah bore him.
Where does God live?
The successful king through God’s grace, the great David, wants to give God back his due: God should not be worse off than he is, he too should live in a splendid house. It even takes the prophet a while to realize: by this David would lock God in a house, as is customary in religions.
This God, however, does not have a permanent residence, neither is he a king’s subtenant. It is God’s way to travel with his people, to lead the way, and kings and prophets have to try to keep up. tac
When King David was settled in his palace, and the LORD had given him rest from his enemies on every side, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!" Nathan answered the king, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But that night the LORD spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: Should you build me a house to dwell in?’ “It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and I have destroyed all your enemies before you. And I will make you famous like the great ones of the earth. I will fix a place for my people Israel; I will plant them so that they may dwell in their place without further disturbance. Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old, since the time I first appointed judges over my people Israel. I will give you rest from all your enemies. The LORD also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”
The message of the third Sunday of Advent is easy to understand: “Gaudete – Rejoice! Be happy!” What is left to explain? Particularly he, who has read the 60 chapters before that, will understand Isaiah’s good news.
For who rejoices there? And why? It is the war-ravaged city of Jerusalem unexpectedly being rebuilt and repopulated. Like a bride she adorns herself for her groom. Thus the word of the prophet searches for the right listeners to this day: those that find their joy in Jerusalem being rebuilt. mim
The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God. I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.
End and Beginning
The end has always been interesting to everyone. The end of one’s life and the end of the world. When will it come? And how? And what will happen? The Jewish people were not interested in the end for a thousand years.
They left speculations about the afterlife and Last Judgment scenarios to the Egyptians. What moved them were the beginnings. How does something new come into the world? A people of free human beings? Solidarity, justice, peace? Such a beginning is recounted this Sunday: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…”. Somebody attracts attention through his special language, through his unusual life style. He does not make himself bigger than he is. It begins with him. acb
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
According to the latest studies we spend 30 percent of our lifetime asleep. Reducing this healthy statistical mean is not what the gospel has in mind, when it calls on us to stay awake and vigilant. This is about a specific point in time.
It requires focus, a concentration of attention because all of the responsibility is entrusted - to each one a task intended just for them. The matter-of-fact realistic acceptance by the individual and the necessary cooperation requires its own kind of vigilance and interest. Disinterest and negligence would signify sleeping in this case – vigil, to do the work of the absent-arriving landlord in the world together.
Jesus said to his disciples: Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his own work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!
There are life style habits – eating habits, sleeping habits, but also habits of understanding. So for generations it has been our habit to see the maxim of Christian action in the parable of the last judgment, somehow valid for every person: doing good for the needy – and thus doing good for Christ.
Whoops, a wrong viewing habit has slipped in there! An exact perusal and exegesis lead to a different interpretation. Namely? The addressees of the judge of the world’s words are “all the nations”, thus the gentiles. The needy aren’t simply the poor of the world, but Jesus’ disciples, whom the Son of Man calls “least brothers of mine”. This follows from the context of the gospel. And what does this mean? The gentiles are measured, “judged”, according to their behavior towards Jesus’ disciples, who became uncovered, vulnerable and persecuted for his sake. And Jesus’ disciples themselves and their associates, what applies to them? That is written in other parts of the gospel. bek
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
It is a bold thought to compare the arrival of God with the intrusion of a thief. In fact, this image talks less about God than about us humans.
We tend to get frightened when God approaches and fear for our belongings. Apparently we view our life as our property. But God comes into our life – also and especially during the darkness of night – as its owner. Being sober and alert means knowing the right property relations. tac
Concerning times and seasons, brothers, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief at night. When people are saying, “Peace and security,” then sudden disaster comes upon them, like labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.