By REV. FERDINAND ANNO
“WHILE BUSHES BURN” derives directly from the biblical story of the burning bush (Ex 3: 1-21). Firstly, this column theologically appropriates in our contemporary context the theopolitics of “divine economy” as laid out in the one gospel of the exodus and that of the Christ event. Secondly, it surfaces the groaning of simmering social volcanoes and the burning earth as agenda for the churches and the ecumenical community. Thirdly, this column seeks to remind readers of the sacramentality of Christian participation in the people and creation’s life-rites de passage from bondage to freedom, an ethical imperative that is deducible from the narrative of the burning bush.
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The season of Lent is about the passion of God in Jesus. This passion has to do with God’s radical presence and participation in our lives and everyday struggles.
This was shown in Jesus’s weeping over Jerusalem and his insistence to prophesy and share his vision of the full life even in the most dangerous of situations.
This was shown in Jesus’ overturning of market stalls in the temple to demonstrate his revulsion over the comprehensive marginalization and exclusion of the poor.
This passion was poured out in Jesus bending down to wash the feet of his friends, a symbolic depiction of what God’s presence in the world is about. It was about the passion for serving and for serving unconditionally.
This passion was shown in Jesus’ abandonment of himself for the sake of his friends. He announced social reversal, pronounced indictment to injustice, rebuke those who called on him to play it safe. He violated the law to fulfill the higher law of love. He exposed the hypocrisy of the religious establishment and the lies of imperial peace. He defied the empire and announced the coming of a new social order.
The passion of God in Christ was seen in Jesus’s courage to engage powers and principalities and face its consequences. It was seen in Jesus’ willingness to die so that others may live and live life to the full.
The passion of God was seen in Jesus’s enduring the pain of abandonment, of betrayal, of humiliation, of indifference, of apathy, of violence, and the pain of an excruciating death on a rebel’s cross.
The passion of God was seen in Jesus’ “descending into Hades” and rising back to life to proclaim that death is not the last word in this world and in this life; that our lives however defiled and disfigured are not beyond redemption; that history has not yet ended and hopes for a new, just, and a better world for everyone stays ablaze. Our hopes for a new life, for a transformed world and a livable planet, have found their solid ground in the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
This passion of God in Jesus is the core of the narrative of our faith.
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, God is as present as he once was in Jesus the Christ. God is weeping over us for not listening enough, for not caring enough, for not loving enough, for our transforming God’s garden and the human city into a howling moral and geographical wilderness leaving everyone exposed to the innocent viral emanations of a deeply wounded earth.
Nevertheless, God in God’s weeping persists in manifesting divine solidarity with us by making us see the necessity of overturning those tables that keep us divided and fragmented, by making us see the value of distributing love in all our human institutions and see greed as ferociously ravaging not only our souls but our planet and the human commune in its totality. The COVID-19 pandemic happens not in a vacuum but in a world afflicted by the virus of unloved and injustice and scandalous separation from one another.
God’s presence manifests itself in us when we are finally able to see this human tragedy as an opportunity for spiritual and moral rebirth; when we see our present predicament as an opportunity to rebuild our relationships, revise the way we live, and give birth to a new world.
Finally, God’s presence is made manifest when we are finally able to see the abandonment of ourselves as key to rebuilding our common life, when to wash in love the feet of the other becomes our moral compass, and when to love and serve unconditionally and efficaciously become the fulcrum of our spirituality.
This affirmation of God’s presence is the most powerful antidote to the present pandemic; it is the one antidote that calls us to approach the current crisis as one human community destined to share the earth; it is the one antidote that can give birth to a radically ecumenical vision and spirituality necessary for the rebuilding of our global and national communities; it is the one antidote that pushes us into expanding the horizons of our creativity and resourcefulness in terms of medical and social cures to both our physical and social malaise; it is the one antidote that we now see at work in big and small ways by those who, amidst our debilitating fears if not mass hysteria, continue to courageously offer themselves in the service of the weak and vulnerable. # nordis.net