The music leaflet says that the opening hymn is Christ is Made the Sure Foundation and the closing hymn is There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy. First, that Wideness song always makes me think of Renee Weidman. Beautiful but, sadly, troubled Renee. God bless her. Anyway, next I think, hey, didn’t we sing these same two hymns last week? No, actually, ’twere Christian, Do You Hear the Lord and Now Let Us From This Table Rise. Maybe based on the same tunes? Nope, Westminster Abbey and Wellesley this week, something I don’t know can’t find and Deus Tuorum Militum last week. But, hey, we did sing Wideness six weeks ago.
I have something of an epiphany, maybe a mini epiphany praying before mass starts. I get to the part in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I usually think of this passage when I’m annoyed at someone about something, and then I think of the forgiving as something that maybe is really really hard to do but is just simply something that one must do. It’s just what we do. End of story.
But for some reason today I get to thinking about how the two are connected, the begging God’s forgiveness for our own trespasses, as we forgive etc. And I think about how our trespasses are generally not against God but against each other. I think of how sin can be basically defined as anything that takes us further from God, including, and maybe then especially, when we do something against someone else, not necessarily towards or against God himself.
All good stuff to be thinking about, but then the readings themselves all turn out to be about sin and forgiveness. It’s pretty cool. But I get especially excited at the Gospel, from Luke of course, where the Lord gives us the Our Father. I’m waiting also for the explanation about loving God and loving one’s neighbor. But of course that was two weeks ago, and that’s probably why I’m making this connection. Oh, well, better late than never.
The first reading is from Genesis, good old Abraham getting all lawyerly with God. “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!,” he says. Hah. But God let’s him get away with it. And it’s times like these where I wonder about God’s omniscience. That he knows all that’s happened and all that will happen. What does he get from this conversation? See how he lets Abraham bargain him down, from fifty to ten? But it’s not really bargaining down from God’s perspective, is it, since God knows that Abraham’s going to pull all this on him, has always known. So it can only be a lesson for Abraham, even though Abraham thinks he’s being all slick, especially with the false humility.
Or is it false humility? Or do I only look at it with the jaded, ultra-ironic eye of the here and now? Maybe gotta find out more about this Abraham guy. All I really know is the story of Sarah and Hagar, & Ishmael and the water from the rock.
St. Paul writes to the Colossians about the “the uncircumcision of your flesh.” What the heck does that mean? It makes me think of the battle in early Christianity, whether Christianity was this new separate thing or just a specific sect of Judaism, whether this was open to the Gentiles or not. Of course it turned out to be this new thing, open to the Gentiles, who didn’t have to be circumcised. So here maybe Paul’s trying to get sorta metaphorical about circumcision, maybe saying that becoming a Christian involved being circumcised, either physically or metaphorically. Maybe? Seems like that’s got to be it, given the earlier verse, talking about being buried in baptism with Christ, being raised from the dead with him. Definitely metaphor there.
The reading is just verses twelve through fourteen. Verse eleven gives a better clue as to the whole metaphor: “In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not administered by hand, by stripping off the carnal body, with the circumcision of Christ.” So, there he just goes ahead and says it, that it’s not actual physical circumcision, not “administered by hand.”
The Gospel is also somewhat strangely funny, where Christ asks what father would give his son a snake or a scorpion when he (the son) asks for a fish or an egg. It’s just an amusing image to me, actually picturing this little boy asking for an egg and getting a scorpion. I can’t really imagine the boy asking for an egg, though. How would he do it, ask his dad for an egg. “Hey, Pa, can I have an egg?” Just doesn’t sound right. Maybe more like:
Kid: Morning, Dad!
Dad: Morning, son. You’re up early. Hungry?
Kid: Yes. Starving.
Dad: Whaddya hungry for? Want some toast? Waffles? An egg, maybe?
Kid: Ooh, yeah. An egg.
And so Dad reaches behind his back and hands the kid …
… a scorpion!
(And this little scene for some reason reminds me of Shakespeare. Think Winter’s Tale. Exit, pursued by bear.)
Christ’s ultimate point, though, is rather astonishing:
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven
give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?
He’s talking to us, and says flat out, we are wicked. Wicked. But all we have to do is ask for the Holy spirit. That’s all. Ask for the egg, and get the egg.