Divine Revelation

St. Francis of Assisi vision of the Crucified

In a terrific homily I heard recently, the homilist talked about God as a “revealing” God. I often take notes during homilies for later use, and I did that day. Later I took those notes into my prayer time, blended them with my own meditation and then transcribed it all into my journal. Here’s an excerpt…

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At the heart of Judaism and Christianity is a God who reveals himself. In fact, the whole of Sacred Scripture can be said to be a witness to God’s very lavish and highly elaborate plan to make himself known to human beings. But why? What’s underneath this scheme of self-disclosure in which God spares no expense? First, what is it that God reveals? You might say, in short, that God reveals to us who he is, who we are, who we were created to become, how we get there, why things are such a mess and what God is doing about that mess to ensure we can become what he made us to be. As you can see, divine revelation is really about deep and substantive matters, and at heart it’s really a relational affair. Second, what does saying “God is a self-revealing God” imply? Think first about your own choice to reveal yourself to someone else. Not just revealing trivial information about yourself, but your deepest inner self, your inner secrets. What does that choice imply? It implies that you love and feel loved by the recipient of your revelation, that you desire an intimacy of friendship with them, that you trust them. It implies that you enjoy their company and companionship. It also implies that you possess a hope that they will receive what you reveal in love, with interest and with reverence. And a hope that they will be willing to reciprocate by revealing themselves in equal measure to you. In this sense, self-revelation bears a remarkable vulnerability on the part of the revealer as their is always a risk of rejection, disinterest, non-reciprocation, etc.

I once worked with a severely disabled resident in an assisted care facility who would never speak to me. One day while I was helping her with her food, she said, “Thank you. That tastes good. It’s the one pleasure I have left.” I said, “You’re welcome. I’m so glad you spoke to me.” She responded, “I learned not to talk because it hurts too much to talk to people who are just doing their job. But you really seem to care.” I suddenly felt really uncomfortable inside as we had moved from a cold distance to a stunning intimacy in only a few words. I was amazed a few words could make you feel so close to someone. I also realized how painful communication can be for one who feels what they have to say is not really worth much to anyone, and so feels rejected.

Now I think of Jesus, the Father’s eternal Word. He is the supreme expression of God’s desire and choice to fully reveal himself to the human race. I think more, the whole life, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s encounter with and response to humanity’s (and my) catastrophic rejection of his self-revelation. I ache. Every time I watch The Passion of the Christ, the scene where the nails are being brutally hammered into his hands always tears me apart — as the pain shoots through his body, he cries out like a child, “Abba! Abba!” I can hear in that moment an unfathomably tender and pained cry that emerges from the silent depths of the life-giving Trinity whose essence is utterly innocent and guileless love — a love mocked and spat on in that very moment. But even there as he suffers this rejection he thinks of us, as he continues: “Abba, forgive them; forgive them…” It’s devastatingly beautiful and terrifying to reflect on — the response of the Omnipotent God to this mortal rejection by his creatures is unremitting forgiveness, mercy and undefended vulnerability. His response is to pour out on us without measure the Holy Spirit. Qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur.

I think also of the words of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary in 1673 as he revealed his Sacred Heart to her in a series of visions:

Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this Sacrament of Love.

Here I think now of the gift and invitation to prayer, which is fundamentally a response to God’s revelation. What an unspeakable privilege we have to each become a loving, reverent, reciprocating recipient of God’s vulnerable and selfless self-disclosure. When we read the Scripture and encounter this long and mind-blowing history of God’s attempts to converse with men “face to face” in friendship, to enter into intimate union, we can — in faith — experience this whole history as being for me (cf. Galatians 2:20). When I ask for a sign of love, the biblical narrative and the Sacraments all shout out to me: “It was all for you, it is all for you!” The whole long, meandering and painful history of God pursuing humanity ends with me, with my “yes” or my “no.” How will I respond?

I think I will try to follow Colleen Nixon’s Marian lead:

3 comments on “Divine Revelation

  1. Jennifer says:

    Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing Yourself to your people throughout the ages, most especially in the Word made flesh. Lord, have mercy: here I stand worthy of condemnation: rejecting, scorning, ignoring your Son at his most vulnerable, in the flesh and distressingly disguised as the other. Yet, it is He alone who pleads forgiveness out of overwhelming, overextending love. Christ, have mercy: help me to open up my clenched fists to receive this profound gift of love that you want to give me and help me to enter into this vulnerable, tender life of love to which you invite me. Lord, have mercy: give me the grace to say yes to you in all things.

  2. nos. says:

    ” J” dearest “J” thank you so so much that we thru your honesty and vulnerability can also look at the blessed sacrament and say with faith hope and charity ……… heal me LORD. Your cross bearing walk I know lifts this sinner up in hope and I’m sure the many who share the wisdom and love of the humble dr. Kneel can appreciate the many graces GOD gives his obedient sons and daughters. So obedient sister”J” continue to not only talk as you so eloquently do here but be lifted moment by moment in your walk with the HOLY THREE.

    P.S. Dearest Thomas, we are so blessed to have Colleen so near .I am going to offer my services to her Ty and the kids for a live rendition of that oh so beautiful song. I’m envisioning her and Patti in a duet of many songs heavenly yes. Joy oh joy.

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