Sunday, February 10, 2008

Three answers

1. “It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”

When I was a kid and would read today's Gospel, I thought Jesus was referring to scripture when he spoke of "every word that comes forth from the mouth of God." It always puzzled me that one could take literal nourishment from the Bible. But it occurred to me today that since the world, in all its particularity, was created through words that came forth from the mouth of God, that what Jesus is really saying is that the world, precisely as God has made it, is good enough for him. A stone is a stone and bread is bread -- each of these things are precisely what God intended them to be. The world and all it contains are knit together according to an order decided and executed by God. Reality is sacred; don't mess with it!

2. “Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

God has given us reason for a purpose. We must use it -- not bury it in the ground to hand it back to him when he returns. Reality, including the laws of gravity, all exist according to God's divine Law. To disregard this reality is to mock God's masterpiece. We are called to live in our circumstances, according to the givens of our environment. We can't ignore gravity; we must learn to respect it as a gift from God.

3. “Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.

Just as we respect the world, in all its fine detail, exactly because it exists according to the words that come forth from the mouth of God, and just as we respect the laws of gravity because they were built into the world according to the magnificent order God spoke into the cosmos, so any grasp for power is a direct participation in the great lie that seeks to contravene the order of the universe. "Look up and count the stars, if you can," says God to Abraham. If you can!

After these three answers, the Gospel tells us that angels ministered to Jesus. Put these three answers in your hip pocket and in any circumstance, find which one applies and whip it out. It's the surest way to invite the angels.

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Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."