Tag Archives: Womb of the Father

You Have but One Father in Heaven

“You have but one Father in heaven”
Matthew 23:1-12 “in a snailshell”
Saturday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Related posts: Lent, Day 12, Abba, Draw Us to Your Son, Mysteries Too Deep, Servant Leadership
©️2021 by Gloria M. Chang

Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them. All their works are performed to be seen. They widen their phylacteries and lengthen their tassels. They love places of honor at banquets, seats of honor in synagogues, greetings in marketplaces, and the salutation ‘Rabbi.’ As for you, do not be called ‘Rabbi.’ You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. Do not be called ‘Master’; you have but one master, the Messiah. The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Matthew 23:1-12

Between the Creator and creation, there is no barrier. Phylacteries and tassels, like the fig leaves of Eden, seek cover from the original, naked simplicity before God. 

As no barrier exists between the Son and the Father, none exists between the Son’s brethren and the Father. Abba’s children are directly in his hand and in his womb. God designed the human person to hear his voice directly in the Spirit. The Son of God came to restore Adam’s union with the Father, for “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30).

In the Bread of Life discourse, Jesus quotes Isaiah 54:13, which prophesies a new intimacy with the Father:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day.

It is written in the prophets:
‘They shall all be taught by God.’

Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.

John 6:44-45

All your children shall be taught by the Lord;
great shall be the peace of your children.

Isaiah 54:13

The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means wholeness, soundness, and completeness in God. Fractured Adam and his offspring will be made whole by the Spirit of God:

I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground,
streams upon the dry land;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring,
my blessing upon your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

The law of life written on hearts is the voice of the Holy Spirit, our interior teacher:

But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days—oracle of the Lord. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the Lord!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me—oracle of the Lord—for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin.

Jeremiah 31:33-34

And I will give them another heart and a new spirit I will put within them. From their bodies I will remove the hearts of stone, and give them hearts of flesh, so that they walk according to my statutes, taking care to keep my ordinances.

Ezekiel 11:19-20

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost fulfilled the prophecy of Joel:

It shall come to pass
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions. 
Even upon your male and female servants,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Joel 2:28-29 (NABRE: Joel 3:1-2); cf. Acts 2:17-18

The essence of prophecy is the recognition of truth, which is given by the Holy Spirit:

But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.

John 16:13

In the Last Supper Discourse, Jesus enigmatically told the disciples that the hour and day is coming when he will no longer intercede for them. They will find themselves “in the Father” just as the Son is “in the Father.”

I have told you this in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures but I will tell you clearly about the Father. On that day you will ask in my name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have come to believe that I came from God.

John 16:25-27

I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.

John 17:20-23

Water and Spirit

Christina DeMichele, Christ Enthroned in His Creation (Used with permission)

Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter

John 3:7-15

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked Jesus (John 3:9). How can a person be “born of the Spirit?”

The youthful Mary had also asked the angel Gabriel, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34)

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary received the forthright response, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).

Gabriel’s answer did not explain how in the scientific sense, but it named the agent of the miraculous Virgin birth. “Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). 

Nicodemus received a less clement response:

“You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.

John 3:11

Written in the last half of the first century, the Gospel of John was composed in the milieu of the tension between the early church and the synagogue. The shift to the plural, “you people,” seems to express a sorrowful gulf between Jesus and the community of teachers represented by Nicodemus.

The Torah is a window onto eternity. Nicodemus was expected to recognize the face of God and the works of the Spirit of God, given all his learning.

If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

John 3:12

The “I” of the Dabar/Logos/Word spoke “in the beginning”—Bereshitthe first word of the Torah. The entire book of Genesis is a record of God’s covenant love with humankind. The Lord God Almighty of Israel gave to Moses the gift of the Ten Commandments to guide his people in living a holy life on earth, paving the way to “heavenly things.” Through his mouthpiece, the prophets, the Lord God described himself as a king, shepherd, prince of peace, potter, father, lover, husband, mother, hen, Spirit, wind, breath, rock, fortress, tower, and more. By means of vibrant and colorful earthly images, God painted a splendid portrait of his character for Israel. 

Nevertheless, making the leap from the Torah to Christ was by no means self-evident. Nor is this dialogue with Jesus in the dark of night easily comprehended. Nicodemus speaks for all persons, past and present, in his perplexity. A survey of biblical commentaries on this passage reveals an abundance of varied and divergent interpretations. Nicodemus’ “How can this be?” continues to reverberate down the centuries. 

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

John 3:13-15

Jesus identified himself with the ladder of the holy patriarch Jacob-Israel (Genesis 28:12). The Greek verbs for ascending and descending in John 3:13 and the Greek Septuagint version of Genesis 28:12 are identical. 

Jesus also identified himself with the likeness of the poisonous serpent that healed the children of Israel in the desert (Numbers 21:9).1 Moses’ original action of “setting” the serpent on a pole becomes in the Messianic light an exaltation and glorification2 of the “Son of Man,” a self-referential term from the Psalms, Ezekiel, and Daniel that Jesus frequently used. The promised Messiah has come to heal the brokenhearted and bind up the wounded, and to send his Spirit to renew the face of the earth (Isaiah 61:1; Psalm 147:3; Luke 4:18; Psalm 104:30: Genesis 1:2).

The angel Gabriel’s answer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the answer for all her children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ her Son. For the Woman whose womb waters were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit is a living symbol of the watery Womb of God the Father.

And the earth was tohu vavohu (without form, and void); and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Ruach Elohim (Spirit of God) was hovering upon the face of the waters.

Genesis 1:2 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

From the Virgin Father’s Womb to the Virgin Mother’s womb, the creation and recreation of Adam and the earth are accomplished by “water and Spirit” (John 3:5).

We join Nicodemus in his journey from the nighttime of obscurity to the dawning light of faith in the resurrection of the Son of Man on the third day.

-GMC

1 See related post: Christ and the Bronze Serpent

2 See New American Bible (Revised Edition) footnote to John 3:14.

The Caliber of the Human Heart

26th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday (Year II)

Job 1:6-22; Psalm 17; Luke 9:46-50

Why believe in God and follow his commandments? Do motives of fear or gain fuel religious observance? Can lovers of God transcend the fear of loss or the desire of gain (even the reward of heaven)? 

From the divine end, do karma-like principles govern the universe? Must the good always prosper and the wicked suffer?

The Book of Job wrestles with these questions in a scenario of extremes involving a man of impeccable virtue above reproach, numerous and auspicious progeny, and bountiful wealth and prosperity, who loses it all at once in a trial to explore the limits of purity of heart.

In the courts of heaven, an “accuser” or “challenger” (ha satan) facilitates an extraordinary spiritual experiment to filter out all sediment of ulterior motives in Job, as well as turn the retribution principle on its head: What if God’s beloved suffers the lot of the wicked?

The New American Bible (Revised Edition) and a few other translations have rendered ha satan (“the accuser”) as a title and role rather than a personal name (Satan). The word is used of David as an “adversary” (l’satan) to Saul in I Samuel 29:4. An angel of YHWH was sent to oppose Balaam as an “adversary” (l’satan) in Numbers 22:22. In 1 Kings 11:14, a satan (“adversary”) is raised up against Solomon as a political rival (see NABRE footnote). In Zechariah 3:1, the “adversary” (satan) is a figure in the Lord’s heavenly courtroom.

“The satan” might be akin to the role of the “devil’s advocate” in the canonization process of a saint. The accuser, adversary, or challenger plays a pivotal role in bringing to light the truth of a candidate’s life, faith, and heroic virtue. By posing difficult questions and deliberately looking for “chinks in the armor,” obstacles to canonization are cleared away.

The satan in the first chapter of Job, who is not a sinister character, plays the auxiliary role of  “devil’s advocate” to test the mettle of humanity at its finest, and to challenge the divine retribution principle widely assumed to be incontestable. 

One day, when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, the satan also came among them. The Lord said to the satan, “Where have you been?” Then the satan answered the Lord and said, “Roaming the earth and patrolling it.” The Lord said to the satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him, blameless and upright, fearing God and avoiding evil.” The satan answered the Lord and said, “Is it for nothing that Job is God-fearing? Have you not surrounded him and his family and all that he has with your protection? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his livestock are spread over the land. But now put forth your hand and touch all that he has, and surely he will curse you to your face.” The Lord said to the satan, “Very well, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.” So the satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.

One day, while his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys grazing beside them, and the Sabeans carried them off in a raid. They put the servants to the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” He was still speaking when another came and said, “God’s fire has fallen from heaven and struck the sheep and the servants and consumed them; I alone have escaped to tell you.” He was still speaking when another came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three columns, seized the camels, carried them off, and put the servants to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.” He was still speaking when another came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, and suddenly a great wind came from across the desert and smashed the four corners of the house. It fell upon the young people and they are dead; I alone have escaped to tell you.”

Under God’s watch, Job is dismantled of every external good that he considered precious—children, servants, property and possessions. His foundational faith and piety remained unshaken at this stage: 

Then Job arose and tore his cloak and cut off his hair. He fell to the ground and worshiped. He said,

“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I go back there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!”

In all this Job did not sin, nor did he charge God with wrong.

Job recognized his existential poverty: the God of the universe owed him nothing. From the dust of the earth in his mother’s womb he was formed, and to the dust of the womb of Mother Earth he shall return. 

Job mustered up all his faith in God’s goodness and blessed (barak) him. Unbeknownst to the suffering servant, the “devil’s advocate” had predicted a curse (barak) from the saint. The Hebrew word for “bless” is used euphemistically by the satan in Job 1:5 and 11.

To explore the hidden caverns of human motives and intentions, Job’s heart was dipped in a fiery cauldron to purify it of all dregs. To what heights of disinterested love (agape) can humanity soar? 

The heart is a complex, incomprehensible spiritual organ: “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The hearts of Jesus’ disciples were also put to the test, not by a satan, but by the Son of God himself:

An argument arose among the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus realized the intention of their hearts and took a child and placed it by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. For the one who is least among all of you is the one who is the greatest.” 

A disciple of Christ does not serve God for individual profit—power, prestige, or position. Actions flow from identification with the eternal, divine Child in the Womb of the Father.

The prayer of David is the prayer of Jesus and his disciples:

“Though you test my heart, searching it in the night,
though you try me with fire, you shall find no malice in me” (Psalm 17:3).

-GMC

Holy Women

Icon of the Holy Myrrhbearers

24th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday (Year II)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20, Luke 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke’s Gospel is widely acclaimed for its unconventional respect and prominence accorded to women in the first century. In this brief pericope, we are informed that a train of women followed Jesus and his disciples on their apostolic mission as benefactors and spiritual mothers. As recipients of his healing and mercy, love for the person of Christ united this motley crew of men and women from very different walks of life. 

Jesus did not have “charisma” or a “magnetic personality” to attract all these followers (Isaiah 53). What radiated from his person was the pure and primal energy of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit uniting all persons and creatures. Distinctions of male and female, Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, did not faze him. Jesus’ immaculate soul also had no capacity for unloving emotions. He experienced no feelings of “contamination” by setting foot on Gentile territory, breathing Gentile air, or dining with tax collectors.

Pure mercy and compassion moved the Son of God and the Son of Man to remove suffering from the afflicted like a doctor fixing the broken wing of a bird or pulling a thorn out of the paw of a lion. The gentle and kind Jesus tamed the wildest of beasts and humans. Demon possession, harlotry, thievery, leprosy, lunacy, blindness, deafness, muteness and other ailments of spirit, soul, and body arose from the primordial wound of universal Adam, which he, the new Adam came to heal and restore. 

The eyes of Christ penetrated far beyond the exterior to the very person in the Womb of the Father: a unique “someone” created for eternal love and glory. 

As a divine person transcending all divisions, Jesus was unconditioned by earthly categories, biases, and divisions. The man Jesus was conditioned by historical circumstances and thus acted in accordance with culture and customs, but his uncreated identity as the beloved Son of God permeated his entire sojourn on earth.

Tradition extols St. Mary Magdalene, St. Joanna the Myrhhbearer, St. Susanna, and the anonymous women who played a vital role in Jesus’ life and ministry. The impartiality of Jesus toward women and men moved the Church to declare St. Mary Magdalene an “apostle of the apostles” after two millennia, a title that would have startled Peter and his colleagues. She stood fast at the foot of the Cross, was the first to witness the empty tomb, and the first to confirm the truth of the resurrection. Jesus entrusted this beloved apostle with the task of bringing the good news to his brothers (John 20:17).

St. Joanna accompanied St. Mary Magdalene and other women to the empty tomb on the third day as soon as the Sabbath was over (Luke 24:10). The women intended to anoint the body of Christ, and hence received the title of Myrrhbearers in the Eastern Church. St. Joanna is also known in the East for burying the head of St. John the Baptist with honor on the Mount of Olives. 

Nothing is known about St. Susanna (which means “Lily”), but the Church honors her as a fragrant lily in the garden of Paradise. 

The witness of the apostle of the apostles and her sisters are the backbone of the Church’s message of hope: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith. Then we are also false witnesses to God…” (I Corinthians 15:13-15).

Jesus’ entourage in the Gospel of Luke is an early snapshot of the heterogeneous and multi-personal communion of saints the Father desires to gather back into his Womb in the Spirit of truth.

-GMC

The Christic Body-Tree

Tree of Christ and the Apostles

23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday (Year II)

Luke 6:43-49

“For every tree is known by its own fruit… A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good… for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:44-45).

Jesus Christ, our theandric Body and organism, is the living tree out of which persons flourish and grow. The Heart of the Body-Tree overflows with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When we lose our ego boundaries and acquire the Heart of Christ, individualism dissolves and gives way to the emergence of unique persons in the Womb of the Father. The Spirit who anoints persons with distinct ”tongues of fire” fashions unique icons of Christ in the Body-Tree.

The source of life in the Sacred Heart and Tree is the Holy Spirit flowing from within:

“…but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

“Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him’” (John 7:37-38).

Five centuries before the Incarnation, the Buddha was enlightened under a Bodhi tree, a sacred fig tree known as the “tree of awakening.” The young man, Siddhārtha Gautama, sought wisdom and liberation with all of his energy. If he had met the selfless and compassionate Christ, would he have found a kindred spirit? 

Our prayers and meditations under and within the Christic Body-Tree connect us with Life and Light itself, who is tri-personal. May the Holy Spirit enlighten us and make us one in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

-GMC