Monday, August 8, 2022, 19th Week of Ordinary Time, Year CII
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today: Ezekiel 1:2-28 Psalm 148:1-14; Matthew 17:22-27
The Responsorial Psalm reminds us to keep ourselves aware of the mystery of God by saying to him frequently: “Heaven and earth are full of your glory” (Psalm 148).
In Ezekiel 1:2-28 the prophet keeps saying that the description he gave of what he saw in vision only “looked like” what he really saw. It is the common testimony of the mystics that the experiences they had of God, whether in visions or ecstasies, were indescribable. Words do not exist to portray, make a “portrait” of, what they saw, because our words express our perceptions of created reality, and God is boundary-breakingly beyond everything he has created. A verse from the Responsorial Psalm declares: “praise the name of the LORD, for he alone is exalted; the splendor of his name reaches beyond heaven and earth.” God’s truth, God’s goodness, God’s glory are simply “beyond” anything that fits into the cookie-cutter frameworks of human knowledge. That is the meaning of “transcendent.”
When Ezekiel saw “something that looked like the glory of the Lord,” he said, “I looked and prostrated myself.” He could do nothing else. In the unfiltered presence of God there is nothing to do but adore.
Pure adoration is without words, thoughts or images. We don’t respond to the ineffable with words. Silence is the only acceptable answer to God communicating himself in the “sound of sheer silence” that alone speaks his unspeakable reality (1Kings 19:12). As an answer to the One whose Truth is wordless, words are demeaning.
In Jesus, however, the unspeakable and humanly un-hearable Word of God took flesh in a human body. God the Son, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness” (Philippians 2:6-7). In Jesus the Infinite is truly present, visible and revealed in finite, human terms. Jesus is the unique, supreme and ultimate revelation of God. “He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being (Hebrews 1:1-3). We affirm in the Gloria at Mass: “You alone are the Holy One… the Most High.” But Jesus truly makes God visible: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Still, Jesus always remains a mystery. In Matthew 17:22-27 Jesus gently shows Peter that, in spite of recognizing him as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16), he does not really understand his own words. If Jesus is “the Son of the living God,” then Peter shouldn’t say Jesus pays taxes to his own Father. In context, Matthew is also making the point that God’s way of saving the world is beyond the comprehension of his disciples.
Because the disciples’ goal was earthly power and success, they failed in faith when unable to heal. Because they trusted too much in human means, “a great sadness came over them” when Jesus forewarned them of his death. Because Peter was ready to compromise with the powers of this world, he implicitly denied the divine Sonship of Jesus. He fell into unconscious idolatry.
When we, as ministers, speak the truth of God to others, we should be aware that what we say is infinitely beyond our understanding or expression of it. All communication with God or about God should begin with divine faith, hope and love, and climax in reverent silence.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” When you speak words, be aware of their inadequacy.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry