Rise Up on Eagles’ Wings

After a grey wintry, mountain day followed by a stormy, rainy night, I can see the sun coming over the mountains to the east. A new day is dawning. The Creator is shining forth in Splendor and Glory.

God reminds the people through Isaiah that God is the Creator (40:25-31). God is responsible for all that is. God is still bursting forth in creation as it unfolds.

But, our God is more than the Deist God of the Founding Fathers. Our God is more than a clockmaker in the sky. Our God is incarnate. God dwells with us in Jesus the Christ and in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Eastern theologians teach us that God became human so that we might become divine. It is called divinization.

God dwells within us as our deepest reality, our deepest expression of self. Meister Eckhart knew this. Julian of Norwich knew this. Anthony de Mello knew this. Karl Rahner knew this. And Thomas Merton knew this. This cloud of witnesses and many more represent the long-buried sapiential tradition in the church. Bruno Barnhardt shows how this tradition reemerged with Vatican II.

Now as many church prelates are trying to act as if Vatican II never happened, we are witnessing another concerted attack on the wisdom tradition in the church. The wisdom tradition and the dogmatic tradition augment one another. The top-down, you-have-got-to-believe-this, dogmatic tradition serves a useful purpose in setting boundaries; however, the bottom up, experiential wisdom tradition also has value in that it personalizes the experience of the divine for believers. As creation unfolds, revelation unfolds. New boundaries emerge. The sapiential tradition is often in the vanguard of discovering the new revelation.

Hierarchical, patriarchal religion has always been fearful of the wisdom tradition. When Rome grabbed power in the 6th century, the Irish monastic tradition—a wisdom based tradition—was one of the first victims. The Irish monks were forced into traditional Augustinian and Benedictine monasteries—no more faith-filled voyages, no more pilgrimage to the place of one’s resurrection. The windows that Pope John XXIII threw open to the world are now being shuttered. The dogmatic tradition is circling the wagons for the final battle (and it may well be another Big Horn.) One pundit recently remarked, “The bishops are referring a game that no one is playing.”

Be that at it may, we return to the wisdom tradition of Isaiah and Jesus in today’s Gospel (Mt 11:28-30). Isaiah assures the people that God is still with them. God knows their struggles. God knows their hopes and dreams. God will strengthen them. They will speak the truth, confront the Wicked, and not grow weary. Isaiah assures them:

They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar as with eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.

Nor can we grow weary. As we initiate a surge in another war, the President who promised during the campaign to bring the troops home is now sending more troops into a quagmire war. Those of us who follow the nonviolent Jesus know that war is not the answer. Violence only begets more violence. We know we are on a slippery slope. We speak out but nobody seems to be listening. But speak out we must. We are called to be faithful—to proclaim Gospel nonviolence. God is in charge of the results. We keep on keeping on and let the rest up to God. I encourage you to read John Dear’s column in this week’s National Catholic Reporter (http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/our-new-war-president).

Jesus is the wisdom teacher par excellence. We are laboring in the vineyard. We are burdened because our hopes for peace and justice for all are thwarted at every turn. Jesus issues a gentle invitation, “Come to Me, you who labor and are burdened.” Jesus promises to give us the rest that lets us rise up on eagles’ wings. His burden and yoke is light—although the yoke of nonviolent resistance to empire and its wars can seem to be pretty heavy at times.

The wisdom teachers in our tradition understand the wisdom of Isaiah and Jesus. They know that proclaiming the Gospel is top priority; however, they also know that activism must be grounded in a prayerful, contemplative approach to life. Grounded in the love of the merciful God, we can struggle and not grow weary. We too can soar on eagles’ wings. We can rise from the ashes of disappointment to bear witness once again.

The Kin-dom is here. A new day is dawning. The light is streaming over the mountains. Paradise is returning. Our God is with us. All is well and all will be well. “Come, O come, Emmanuel.”

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