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Political dynamite

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

By Sister Carol Gaeke, O.P.

“God made man is His own image and man has returned the compliment,” quipped the French philosopher Voltaire. This tongue-in-cheek line reveals two sides of the Easter mystery. On one is the belief in God becoming human and then being taken back up into the divinity at the Resurrection. The other side says that Resurrection is political dynamite.

Our Christian story stands with a foot firmly planted on both sides. We believe that Jesus is one with God and we profess to honor the one true God. “I am the Lord your God…and you shall have no other God’s before me.” Why? “Because I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, of slavery.” In our Easter fire and Easter water we celebrate this deliverance. Therefore, we are to worship no other gods and are to make no idols of other gods. Our second reading on Sunday affirms that we obey God’s commandments and states that is the true form that love of God takes.

But what does this have to do with Resurrection being political dynamite? Our first reading tells us how this love is to be lived out — “there is to be no needy person among you” and all will have what they need. When we hear these words on Sunday we respond: “Thanks be to God.” Yet these words upset the balance of power in the world as we know it.

The commandments are to keep us balanced in the world. They are the guidelines for how to live in balance with God and with humanity. When I know who God is then I know how to treat my neighbor. To say that all have what they need and there is no needy person among us is political dynamite.  (People may quote Jesus as saying that ‘the poor you will have always with you’, but He never said it was a good idea. He was describing life outside of the kingdom of God.)

Voltaire’s comment has so much truth in it. God says to care for each other is a sign of genuine obedience. But we have made getting ahead and acquiring power and stuff into our false gods. Our idols look like us, not like the God who heard the cry of the suffering slaves and drew them up out of slavery and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. When God became human it was in the person of one who showed us what God was really like — a compassionate God concerned for the alien stranger in our land, the sinner woman, the physically disabled etc. Is this the God I worship? If it is then I will know the peace Jesus offered the disciples on Easter morning. If it isn’t then I am like doubting Thomas who doesn’t accept the word of those who have encountered the Risen Christ. This disciple was not ready for political dynamite. Because if we begin to think in terms of living out the ideal recounted in Acts then we have to see God differently. God is not the God of my pet project or persuasion. God is not the property of Democrats or of Republicans, of rich or of poor, of blacks or of whites, of Christians or of Muslims or of Jews. Our God is the God of all reality who says: “Look at me again. Do you see the God of Sinai concerned about the peoples suffering, the God who died on the cross? Or do you see a graven image of yourself? That for all of us is a small god indeed. Are you ultimately willing, like Thomas, to put your fingers into political dynamite?

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