The Readings for the 16th Sunday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
The mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones.Colossians 1:26
CLOSING (ALMOST?) EVERY video & podcast they make, the folks over at the Bible Project recite their Doctrinal Position: “We believe the Bible is a unified book that leads to Jesus.” They use typology and historical study to make this point in over 150 videos translated into 13 languages as they walk us from Eden to Eternity, underscoring both its cultural context and its current applications. And they do most of it in a way that is illuminating and yet wonderfully transparent: they are teaching, yes, but they take us on a voyage of discovery where they are (usually) only a step or two ahead, showing us the way. They are not deigning to download their vast learning “at us” but rather inviting us to learn along with them.
In our Sunday readings Paul takes that same tack: what the Apostles are preaching is the “mystery hidden” from all who came before. Now it’s made fully known to the saints: “Christ in you, the Hope of Glory”.
The Messiah is the fullness of the message God has sent to us. He has come not to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. He is the key that unlocks the fullest meaning in all of the scriptures and if you read a passage and think “this doesn’t point to Jesus at all” then you’re reading it wrong.
But it’s a lifetime of study.
The Bible can be deceptively easy. Look at the reading from Genesis: Abraham says to the three strangers (that is, to God), “Sit here in the shade while I get you something to eat.” Then he gets some bread, cheese, and meat and serves it to them. Which sounds good, I guess. But the Bible makes it clear that he asks his wife to make bread – at least a couple of hours worth of work – and, in the meantime, he kills a calf and roasts it. So, maybe 6 hours? This all happens in the space of a few verses of Genesis, but it takes most of the day: starting at “while the day was growing hot” and going to supper time. Did God spend the night before walking on towards Sodom?
In the Gospel, instead of Abraham and Sarah with God, we have Mary and Martha with God. These latter two also struggle with what God is saying to them. Yet they offer hospitality to God and welcome into their home the Infinite One whom all the heavens cannot contain.
Then you must sit with it for a while.
Mercy, not sacrifice, as we read earlier this week. But didn’t God give us (or Israel, at least) a long list of sacrifices and rituals? Yes, but what happened first? The people after having agreed to the Covenant popped off and worshipped the golden calf, breaking the Covenant even before they had received the Tablets of the Law from Moses. God says he’s going to destroy them and start over, but his anger is appeased by Moses’ intercession. No sacrifice needed: the people were saved by prayer and mercy, that is, grace. Jesus, God in the flesh, is not a new plan: it was the plan all along for God to be mercy for us. He loved us even while we were sinners.
And waits only for our hospitality to reveal himself in the mystery that has been hidden through the ages.