Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Our Biblical Blog /'Examined Life'
Jacob said to Joseph: ‘Bury me not, I pray thee, in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers, and thou shalt carry me out of Egypt, and bury in their burying place.’ Jacob dies. For Joseph, this was a journey to remember his father’s love and God’s mercy in their astonishing story. This is a sacred journey, it humbles us as this is the journey that all human beings have to remember. This journey - looking back in search of meaning and love - awaits for all of us.
This ‘sacred time’ in the Joseph-story is a kind of parallel with what we experience in the Eucharistic Presence. The prayer of the adult psyche contains this ‘josephian’ remembrance. In the Eucharist, our Lord’s presence is so intense, that, as part of our prayer, we are prompted to process our past. This is the specific time experience of the Eucharistic adoration’. In it, we undergo a purifying journey. We are swimming back in time. It is a purifying journey; it leads to conversion and determination to amend our ways.
This is not merely a personal journey. Praying in the presence of the Eucharist is far more than individual reflection. This ‘journey with Joseph’ is sacred in the collective sense, too. When carried away, backwords in time, by God’s love - we remember with the determination to amend history’s ways. This time-experience is akin to when we see the astronauts in free-fall. They levitate in space; we are levitating in time. Within history itself.
In the trial-scene of Jesus, we see the opposite of this sacred (healing) journey. The protagonists of this drama ignore God’s presence. Their heart is, as it were, evacuated from this Presence. Abandoning their co-journey with the Divine Shekinah (God’s glory), they violate the commandments of preserving Life. Their ‘humane’ memory is blot out… Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, commits suicide. The others (religious and political leaders) facilitate a national and religious tragedy. The ways of human history get totally lost if we are not journeying together, if we are not remembering the sacred Presence. How our life is embedded in God’s care and in conversion.
Joseph sends his brothers back to his father with lots of gifts; gifts beyond words. This is the expression of his love, love beyond words, towards his family and father. ‘…and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived: and Israel said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die.’ Their love, we recognise it from the perspective of Divine Providence, was a gift from God. After the conversion of the brothers (fully taking responsibility for their sin of selling Joseph) and Joseph (full forgiveness), love thrives and freely flows between the parties.
What a contrast with this is the scene of Jesus’ trial and Peter’s betrayal. In the Joseph story, love, as the greatest gift among humans (and the most intense exchange), flows. Here, the very opposite of love prevails: refusal till death. It is worth seeing, that it is in this paralysing climate that Peter fails.
Yet, his weeping leaves the way open to conversion and love’s full return. ‘Do people still have a soul today’ − asks Julia Kristeva pondering our modern world of psychological inertia. The Bible puts the question in this way: ‘Do people have yet the ability to weep for their sins and failures in love, and the hurt it caused?’ It seems, we live in a dry eyed cyber world.
When the brothers of Joseph came to Egypt to buy food, Joseph said to them: ‘Ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land ye are come’. This is a psychological direct hit. He accuses them with something in which they are not guilty, but they have a real guilt to hide. They wanted to kill Joseph and sold them to be a slave, and they lied to their father about his disappearance. This sentence triggers out a remembrance in them, and the process of admitting their guilt.
What is the sentence that God pronounces over us, in this Lent, to bring about a similar purification of our hearts? The function of the apocalypse in Matthew’s Gospel is a similarly healing message. ‘And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down… And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places. All these things are the beginning of sorrows.’
Going through the images of the end-times, we are shaken to the very ground of our souls. This inner earthquake brings to surface what is hidden in us, what is unfinished, what is un-mourned and un-corrected.
‘But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men…Woe unto you… for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgement, mercy, and faith: these ought ye have done, and not to leave other undone.’
This is in important passage in two senses. First, it shows how the superego of our culture (religious and secular alike) needs to be scrutinised, revised, and if necessary, even ‘pulverised’. The great lesson of human history is that it is only a matter of time that we get entangled in its thickness. This ‘shadow authority’ not only can distort Revelation and the freshness of God’s knowledge.
The second aspect of keeping this superego under control is about our individual freedom. The authority represented by the Pharisees, which is becoming more and more rigid if left unchecked - actually if ‘not prayed through’ -can suppress individual creativity, the freedom of the soul, the joy of having fresh insights into God’s love, and the acting out of this newly experienced Love.
Perhaps, living with an unchecked superego of our culture explains a lot of how ‘fake news’ start controlling our life and we are left deprived of the real conditions of the human heart.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..