Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Building the Temple of God: Fifth Sunday of Easter

Since the beginning of time, human beings have sought to construct buildings that would bridge the gap between the temporal and eternal, earthly and heavenly planes of existence.  These temples have taken widely differing forms in many cultures.  One of the greatest was the Jerusalem temple begun by Herod the Great (73–4 BC), an architectural marvel of the ancient world while it stood. 

The authors of the New Testament texts in this Sunday’s Readings were well familiar with Herod’s great temple, yet they were convinced that God had begun the construction new and greater dwelling place for himself in their own time, consisting not of gathered stones, but of a gathering (ekklesia) of human beings, first of whom was Jesus the Christ.  Thus, our Readings are filled with images of the building of the Church, the new sanctuary that would replace the old and continue to serve as God’s habitation on earth till the end of time.

1.  Our First Reading is Acts 6:1-7:

As the number of disciples continued to grow,
the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews
because their widows
were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said,
“It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men,
filled with the Spirit and wisdom,
whom we shall appoint to this task,
whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer
and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community,
so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit,
also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas,
and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.
They presented these men to the apostles
who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread,
and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly;
even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

We tend to idealize the early Church, as if everything were perfect and “smooth sailing” for the first generation of Christians.  “Oh, if only the apostles were still around, performing miracles and preaching the Gospel, we wouldn’t be having all the problems were faced with today!”  Yet the Book of Acts is quite honest about the crises the early Church faced, even though she enjoyed the charismatic leadership of the Twelve.  This First Reading is a good example of such a crisis: dissent breaks out in the Church along ethnic lines.  The “Hellenists” complain against the “Hebrews” because their widows were not being fed in the daily distribution.  These categories refer to the spoken language of the two Jewish groups.  “Hellenists” spoke Greek; “Hebrews” spoke Aramaic, a language closely related to Hebrew (thus sometimes called “Hebrew”) and the common tongue of Israel in the first century.[1]

The Apostles’ reaction to this crisis is noteworthy for its indication of the priorities of the Church: “It is not right for us to neglect the Word of God to serve at table.”  In other words, the Apostles knew it was contrary to their vocation to neglect the preaching of the Gospel in order to manage the material affairs of the community.  The proclamation of the “Bread of Life” (Jn 6:51) takes precedence over the distribution of “bread which perishes” (Jn 6:27), because “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word the proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4).

The priorities of the Apostles should be the priorities of the Church as a whole.  Yet how often the Church in various times and places has given in to the temptation to neglect the Word of God in order to distribute food and medicine, thus becoming, as Pope Francis has described it, a massive “NGO” (Non-Governmental Organization).  The reasons for this are easy to understand.  No one objects to the distribution of food and medicine.  Everyone appreciates it, and it wins praise from society.  The preaching of conversion and faith in Jesus Christ, however, frequently meets with opposition, controversy, and persecution.  If the Church mutes her message and busies herself with distributing material aid, she can purchase for herself a safe role in society, but at the expense of her primary mission. 

Works of mercy and the attendance to physical needs are of great importance; indeed, they are integral to the Gospel message.  At the same time, they are not the unique contribution of the Church in the world.  Other organizations exist to distribute food.  No other organization, however, has the saving Word of God that can lead men to eternal life.  The Church alone has this treasure.  Furthermore, we underestimate the degree to which the preaching of the Gospel and conversion lead to societal change on the material level.  For example, rampant poverty in certain areas of the world are the result, not primarily of a lack of physical resources, but from warfare, greed, political and financial corruption, sexual promiscuity, and a failure to practice Christian marriage.  In these situations, the distribution of food and aid is only a temporary solution; for long-term change, there has to be a conversion of heart among the populace, a turning to God that can only come about from the preaching of the Word.

Returning to our Reading, we continue to observe the Apostles’ reaction to the crisis: they tell the Church, “select from among you seven reputable men … whom we shall appoint for this task.”  Traditionally, these seven men are identified as the first deacons of the Church.  This event is tremendous significance for the life of the Church, because it demonstrates how the Apostles responded to the need for leadership in the Church beyond what their sphere of personal influence, and establishes basic principles of Church government.

I myself used to cite this passage (when I was a Protestant pastor) as evidence that God intended the Church to be governed by Church officials elected by the laity.  “See how the lay people here get to choose their own leaders,” I would say.  But the truth is more complicated than that.  True, the Apostles consult with the “laity” of the Church to identify the first deacons.  Yet, the initiative for this whole procedure, as well as the final authorization, all stays in the hands of the Apostles.  Ultimately, the “deacons” are not elected, they are appointed.  “Select from among you men … whom we shall appoint.” The authority flows from the top down, from Apostles to deacons.  Authority is not conferred by the local assembly.  These men do not become leaders until the Apostles “pray and lay hands on them,” i.e. ordination.  So we see that this passage does not model a form of “democratic” Church government, but illustrates a hierarchical authority structure and a basic principle of Holy Orders, namely, that Jesus entrusted the authority to govern to the Apostles, and this authority was in turn entrusted by them to others, when the growth of the Church exceeded their capabilities for personal oversight.  That same authority has been passed down from man to man, by the laying on of hands, to our present day.

As many have noted, all seven of the men chosen as “deacons” have Greek names.  Therefore, it appears that the early Church chose Hellenized (Greek-speaking) Jews to take over the distribution of food, so that the widows who spoke Greek would not be overlooked.  As these deacons take over the custody of the material affairs of the Church, the Apostles again devote themselves to “prayer and the ministry of the Word,” and the result is rapid growth of the Church.  We note particularly that “a large number of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.”  This conversion of a large number of the descendants of Levi is one form of fulfillment of God’s covenant promises to this priestly tribe: “the Levitical priests shall never lack a man in my presence … to make sacrifices for ever” (Jer 33:18).  These converted Levites did not lose their priesthood when they entered the Church; they found their priesthood fulfilled, as they became part of the “holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices,” as the Second Reading will say.

To sum up, this event from Acts shows us a key step in the growth of the Church: the first time in which the Apostles bestow a measure of their leadership authority on others.  This is the beginning of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, and those in Holy Orders (the clergy) form the “frame” or fundamental structure for the Temple we call the Church.  Like the skeleton which holds together the body, those in Holy Orders provide support and a place of attachment and gathering for the rest of the Body of Christ.

2. Responsorial Psalm Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19:

R/ (22) Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
R/ Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
Upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R/ Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.
See, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R/ Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Like so many others, Psalm 33 is a song of praise to God that presumes the existence of a covenant relationship marked by hesed, “covenant fidelity,” translated “mercy” in the refrain and “kindness” in the second line of the third stanza.  God has shown his faithfulness to his covenant promises by establishing the Church upon the earth.  God had promised to Abraham that he would become a great nation, possess a great name (royalty), and bring blessing to the whole earth (Gen 12:1-3).  The Church, growing in Acts, is that “great nation” of Abraham’s descendants, a nation of royalty (see the Second Reading) that has a priestly role to bless the whole earth.  This fulfillment was unexpected and unforeseen; indeed, even today it goes unrecognized, like treasure hidden in a field or a valuable pearl mixed with fakes.  But when we recognize God’s plan in human history, and see that he has indeed been fulfilling his promises in unexpected and subtle ways, we are moved to awe and worship.  “Upright is the word of the LORD, and all his works are trustworthy!”

3.  The Second Reading is 1 Pt 2:4-9:

Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings
but chosen and precious in the sight of God,
and, like living stones,
let yourselves be built into a spiritual house
to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices
acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it says in Scripture:
Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion,
a cornerstone, chosen and precious,
and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.
Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:
The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone, and
A stone that will make people stumble,
and a rock that will make them fall.
They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people of his own,
so that you may announce the praises” of him
who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

We are taking a tour of St. Peter’s First Epistle in the Second Reading this Easter Season.  This selection is full of Easter themes.  For most of this passage, St. Peter develops the theme of the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone, spoken of in Psalm 118:22-23.  We know how important Psalm 118 is to the Triduum and the Easter Season in general.  Psalm 118 is a todah (thanksgiving) psalm, the last of the set of todah psalms (113-118) sung during the Passover Seder as the Hallel hymn.  We recall that it would have been the last psalm sung by Jesus before he left the upper room to begin his Passion.  This is the Psalm that we sung on Easter Sunday and on Divine Mercy Sunday.  Now, St. Peter exegetes these key verses of the Psalm: vv. 22-23.  What is the building for which the “stone rejected” has become “the head of the corner”?  It is a Temple, built of “living stones,” that is, human beings.  This idea of a Temple of humanity rather than stone has a long history in Scripture and Israelite tradition.  The Jewish Esssene community, who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls, also believed that their religious congregation constituted a Temple for God:

1QS 8:5-9: Then shall the party of the Community truly be established, an eternal planting, a temple for Israel, and—mystery!—a Holy of Holies for Aaron; true witnesses to justice, chosen by God’s will to atone for the land and to recompense the wicked their due. They will be “the tested wall, the precious cornerstone” (Isaiah 28:16) whose foundations shall neither be shaken nor swayed, a fortress, a Holy of Holies for Aaron, all of them knowing the Covenant of Justice and thereby offering a sweet savor.

So we see how the Essenes thought of themselves as a “human Temple” whose membership had a priestly role to “offer sweet savor” of sacrifice.  They even appeal to the “cornerstone” text in Isaiah 28. These ideas were available and current in Judaism in St. Peter’s day.  But St. Peter asserts it is the community established by Jesus, around the “new covenant” he established in his body and blood (Luke 22:20) that is actually the New Temple built on the “cornerstone” of Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 28:16: the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Those who join themselves to Jesus the cornerstone become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood.”  These are words taken from God’s promise to the people of Israel in Exodus 19:5-6.  Just before God bestowed on Israel the covenant at Sinai, he promised them: “if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples … and you shall be to me a royal priesthood (LXX; alternately “kingdom of priests”) and a holy nation.”  That generation of Israel ultimately rejected the covenant by worshipping the Golden Calf, and subsequent generations were often scarcely any better.  Jesus is the True Israel; on behalf of the whole nation he embraces the covenant and becomes the True Royal Priest (that is, Priest and King).  Those who join themselves to him become part of Israel and share his royal priesthood. 

What does that mean for us practically?  Jesus throne in this life was his cross.  One of the paradoxes of the Gospels is that Jesus is proclaimed king publically while hanging on the cross.  The cross is also the instrument of atoning sacrifice: on it, Jesus performs his last priestly act, the sacrifice of his own body.  So we participate in the “royal priesthood” by reigning from our own crosses, that is, by accepting the suffering of each day and offering it to God for the salvation of the world. 

4.  The Gospel is John 14:1-12:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”

We want to comment on three aspects of this Gospel: (1) Temple imagery, (2) Jesus “arrogance” in proposing himself as “the Way,” and (3) the “greater works” to be done by the disciples.

Jesus says:

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.

Several temple terms are used here. “My father’s house” is used as a designation for the temple in other parts of the Gospels (Luke 2:49; John 2:16).  The Temple was the largest building in Israel, and was full of storerooms, antechambers, and other spaces roundabout, thus: in it there are “many dwelling places” (NAB) or “many rooms” (RSV).  Finally, in Judaism the word “place” (Gk topos, Heb maqom) had a special connotation.  It often meant “the holy place,” that is, the “sanctuary” (see John 12:48 Gk; cf. Gen 28:17).  All this means that Jesus is departing to prepare a Temple for the Apostles to live in.

What is this Temple that Jesus prepares?  In one sense it is the Church, elsewhere identified as the Temple of God.  The disciples will live and abide within the Church, the Body of Christ, and there they will experience communion with the Father, the Son, and each other.  Jesus’ words also have an application to heaven, which is nothing other than the Church triumphant. 

The disciples want to know the “way” to make a pilgrimage to this Temple, and Jesus tells them: ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Isn’t that rather arrogant of Jesus, to claim that he alone of all the great religious teachers in human history is “the way to the Father”? 

Actually not.  No other major religious figure in human history has taught that God is a Father.  Muhammed denied the fatherhood of God, and the Buddha taught no specific doctrine of God.  In fact, technically the Buddha was an agnostic, and some forms of Buddhism are agnostic to this day.  Therefore, neither Muhammed nor Buddha even claim to be the way to the divine “Father.”  They claim to show you the path to Allah or to Nirvana.

Only Jesus proposes that God is a Father.  He and his teaching are “the only way to the Father,” the only viable path to knowing God in this way. 

After emphasizing his own unity with the Father (“He who has seen me has seen the father”), Jesus promises “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these.
”  What?  Is everyone who believes in Jesus going to raise the dead and perform even greater miracles than Jesus himself?  How can this be?

I’m convinced that the Sacraments are at least a partial solution to what Jesus means by the “greater works” to be done by the disciples.  The miraculous “signs” of the Gospel of John have been told in such a way that we can see their resemblance to the Church’s sacraments: this is especially the case for the Water to Wine (Jn 2) and the Feeding of the 5,000 (Jn 6) with respect to the Eucharist; and the Healing of the Man Born Blind (Jn 9) with respect to Baptism.  But all the signs Jesus performs have some connection with the Sacraments. (See my talk on this.)

Throughout John, Jesus warns people not to be overly impressed with the physical miracles, but to look to deeper spiritual realities.  Seen from a spiritual perspective, the interior effects of the sacraments—like forgiveness of sins—are much greater miracles than the physical transformations affected by Jesus’ signs.  The .resurrection of Lazarus pales in comparison to the power of the confessional:

“But even the raising of the dead to life, the miracle by which a corpse is reanimated with its natural life, is almost nothing in comparison with the resurrection of a soul, which has been lying spiritually dead in sin and has now been raised to the essentially supernatural life of grace.”  Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, The Three Conversions in the Spiritual life (Rockford, Ill.: TAN, 2002), 15

Likewise St. Augustine teaches:

“The justification of the ungodly is something greater than the creation of heaven and earth, greater even than the creation of the angels.” St. Augustine, The City of God, Book IV, chapter 9.

The “greater things” the Apostles will do after Jesus is gone include the administration of the Sacraments, which have the power to forgive sin (John 20:22-23).

To sum up: all the Readings point to the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is the Body of Christ, which is the true Dwelling Place and Temple of God.  By extension, we who participate in the Eucharist are also incorporated into God’s Temple.  Those in Holy Orders, who bring us the Eucharist and the other Sacraments, are key to the structure of this human Temple.  These Sacraments are the “greater works” we will do in Jesus name, that brings us to the “Father” so that we can dwell with Him and with the Son.  

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[1] Some argue that Hebrew itself was the dominant spoken language in Jesus’ day, but we cannot enter into that debate here.


Susan Moore said...

“It was John who said, ‘Master, we saw a man using your name to expel demons, and we tried to stop him because he is not of our company.’ Jesus told him in reply, ‘Do not stop him, for any man who is not against you is on your side.’”
If I have God in me (and I do), then if I allow Him to, He can use whatever part of me He desires to make all things new. He can heal others, cast out demons, speak in new languages (Mark 16:15-20).
The Sacraments have their definite place, but God does not stop making all thing new when there are no Sacraments available. We are His Priestly people. Let us not hide behind the Sacraments, “The Spirit God has given us is no cowardly spirit, but rather one that makes us strong, loving and wise” (2 Tim.1:7).
Signs, wonders and miracles give evidence to the power and nature of God. Jesus is not just the Word, He is also the Way. His divine nature and eternal power go together; they are inseparable. And His divinity and power dwell in His Priestly people, both collectively (Sacraments) and individually: We, as His body, need to take ownership of that truth.
Paul was not an Apostle. Nor was he given any special power because he was Paul. Nor was Paul obedient because God had knocked him down, blinded him, left him for 3 days with no food and water, and with no end in sight to his suffering. No, Paul’s strength came from experiential knowledge of the grace of the merciful God who healed him. Paul’s misled faith became instantaneous, undeniable knowledge of His way, His truth and His life. It was because of Paul’s profound gratefulness that he was obedient to the calling of Christ to bring salvation to the Gentiles. It was because of Paul’s humble and contrite heart that God could use Him in miraculous ways, just as He can use us.
Minimizing God’s use of signs, wonders and miracles in this day and age borders on cessationism; which is the work of Satan, not God.

johnnyc said...

The Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith.

There was no hiding behind the Sacraments yesterday.....


The Eucharist was front and Center and warriors all were marching!

Susan Moore said...

Yea, johnnyc, that's it -awesome! Go team! Evil will persist, but that does not mean we are to silently stand by (like Adam in Genesis 3:6) and allow it to expand. "I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning. See what I have done; I have given you power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy..." (Luke 10:19-20a). Let us all stand up and use the authority God has given us! "I will build my Church, and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
Adam is out, Jesus is in.

Anonymous said...

Prof Bergsma,
Thank you for your scholarship and erudite readings of these texts.
Building on your suggestion that the greater works would be the sacraments, Fr Matthais Scheeben says in his work , "the Glories of Divine Grace" :
"For although we do not produce grace in ourselves, we can, with divine assistance, prepare ourselves for grace and make ourselves worthy of it. We can encourage and induce others to fo the same thing, and thus we can perform greater works than Christ did through His miracles". (Chapter 3 pp12)

John Bergsma said...

Anonymous: thanks for that excellent quote! I'll use it!

Susan Moore said...

Regarding Dr. M.Jos. Scheeben’s, “The Glories of Divine Grace”, Chapter 3 of the First Book begins on page 32, and page 12 is actually part of the Table of Contents.
A truthful quote would be from the Fifth Book, First Chapter, pp. 347, “The 1st question is, how shall we acquire grace? We cannot acquire it by our own virtue, by our own merit. ‘If by grace,’ says the Apostle, ‘it is not now by works; otherwise grace is no more grace.’ For ‘to him that worketh, the reward is not reckoned according to grace, but according to debt.”
The Protestant church I belonged to taught that ‘Anonymous’ is synonymous with ‘Satan’, because both dwell in darkness and are deceptive. The proof of that is that the 27 year old pregnant Sudanese woman about to be flogged and hanged for being a Christian is not known as ‘Anonymous’, but as ‘Meriam Ibrahim.’ –Anonymous, if the world can know her name, why can’t we know yours?
Dr. Bergsma, I know you are no dummy, and you are a beautiful writer. Would you please consider being my academic advisor?

Nick said...

Susan, be weary of self-importance, which likes to talk a lot. Be humble by God's Grace :)

Susan Moore said...

Being created in God’s image means, among other attributes, that we are created to speak. Moses, the Prophets, Jesus and the disciples were no doubt told they talked too much, and for the same reason you told me (Wasn’t Jesus crucified for saying He was God?). In fact, Paul talked so much that some man fell asleep and then fell out the 3rd floor window (Acts 20:9).
But you are right, coveting self-importance is a symptom of pride, and is a sin. When we act out of our sinful human nature, we tell lies. Nick, what part of anything I have said do you believe is a lie?

Anonymous said...

Nick is right Susan. There is no humility in them. Your comments rightfully deserve to be deleted.

Fr. Bill said...

Glad to see im not the only one who thought this. Every other week that I come on here it seems like there's always something by her broken into parts.

Anonymous said...

I think some of you may be being a bit hard on Susan. She just converted back to Catholicism. Shes giving her thoughts. If Dr. Bergsma truly thought it was spam he would have deleted them. To make an assertion of no humility to someone who just converted back to the church seems prideful in itself.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who calls herself 16 and then later calls herself 40 is fake. Its spam. And yes, I am one prideful son of a gun. How about this: Why don't you pray for my pride? 10 our fathers and ten hail marys a day for 20 days. I would love you for it.

Susan Moore said...

I will pray for you that way.
I was 16, then later in life I was 40, and now I am 53 (I think, I've had a head injury in a car accident and I'm not so good at math anymore).
I am real and my story is real.
It feels difficult, sometimes it feels impossible, to go to a priest and confess my sins. But when I dig deep and find the courage, I go and confess and am forgiven by God. God always forgives us when we honestly ask Him to. It's a promise by Him to us. Unlike humans who are never perfect, God is always faithful to His promises. When I am forgiven I feel clean, and peaceful. It's good.

Anonymous said...

Your fake. I am really surprised your comments are still up. I have nothing more to say to you.

Anonymous said...

You are rediculous. This is exactly what Im talking about. She did nothing wrong. Susan, on behalf of all good practicing catholics, I wish to offer you my presonal apology for the above attacker. You are precious to all of us and God is with you. How blessed we are to have you here to live in this time. God bless you sweetheart.

Julie said...

We all believe and follow Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Saint Paul says in Romans . Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tim said...

Amen. Were with you Susan. Gods grace and peace. You continue to inspire us with your scripture quotes. God bless you!

Anne said...

Ya really honey. Dont let people who hate your message silence you. You be the stronger woman. Theres no sin in one upping someone who says these things. The person who said your fake is wrong for saying your posts should be deleted. There was nothing morally praiseworthy in that individuals statements. Just ignore people like that. You be you and be in love with the Lord and be the stronger woman.

Philip said...

Going off of that, a lot of people simply cant connect with you and your situation. You have had some hard experiences. Some people just dont want to accept them because your ordeals sound too trialsom. The Lord will deal with the person who is insulting you and will deliver you from that individuals wicked words. Be strong. Be couragous. I know its harder as a woman, but you can rise above insults and persecutions with he who strengthens you (John 3:16). Be strong!

Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 4.
Thank you for your support and understanding, and sorry for the delay in responding.
It’s ok.
I’ve learned there are four different ways that any given person may respond to the testimony of Christ, just as there were four ways that people responded to Jesus, Himself.
1. About 50% of people respond with confusion when they hear that Jesus miraculously healed me. The verse that best describes this confusion is Paul’s own response when the flash of light knocked Him blind, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:1-22).
2. About 25% respond in gushing worship of Him. The best example of that is the woman who washed His feet with her tears and dried them with her hair (Luke 7:36-38).
3 & 4. About 25% respond with a fight or flight response; terror or rage (Mark 5:1-20, Acts 9:20-23).
My own initial response was that of confusion. I could not get my head around that He would miraculously heal me –why would He heal me, does He not realize I am a horrific rebel? I was in shock for two weeks. When the truth was confirmed, and hit my heart, my reaction of confusion immediately changed to one of gushing worship, and it has never stopped.

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 4.
So, I’ve learned to be patient with people who express confusion. Usually the confusion settles around one of these three questions: Am I confabulating my story? Could the healing be attributed to another cause? Does Jesus have the capacity to heal nowadays?
People who question His capacity to heal nowadays, have generally had their faith short-circuited by one of these three deadly lies: Jesus went back to heaven and took His power with Him, or Jesus gave His power to human works, or Jesus gave all His power to His people. Those false understandings are misunderstandings regarding His eternal power.
A person may also not understand His loving nature, as I did not understand Him, and therefore question His motivation to heal. It is important to note that Jesus said He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). It is also important to note that the words ‘save’ and ‘heal’ are often used interchangeably in the Bible: Salvation is a spiritual healing, and physical healing gives evidence of His eternal power and divine nature, of His ability and desire, to forgive sin. Forgiving sin redeems (heals) humanity and therefore saves the world.

Susan Moore said...

Part 3 of 4.
Our emotions are a response to our thinking. The responses of terror and rage are dramatic examples of that truth.
It seems people who respond in terror tend to be believing one of the following three myths:
a.Terror of eternal punishment instead of the truth of His benevolent nature toward towards His children.
b.Terror of oppression instead of the truth of His desire for the divine dance. He does not desire to usurp our will and take us someplace we do not want to go, or make us in to people we do not want to be. He desires to dance with us, His beautiful bride.
c. Terror or rage in defense of a guilty conscience instead of the truth that salvation comes from the Lord (Jonah 2).
As part of the two reasons for rage, I have additionally placed the anger of the deceived. But please note that that anger is different in both quality and quantity than the rage that will be discussed. When someone hears the voice of their Good Shepherd through my story, and realizes they have been misled about the power or nature of Christ, that person may feel angry at the people who have deceived them. That person also may feel angry because someone who knew the truth did not intervene earlier in their faith walk and tell them the truth. Interestingly, the deceived often feel the need to repent, and will seek comfort from their Lord.

Susan Moore said...

Part 4 of 4.
These are the two types of rage that have been expressed to me:
a. The rage of the false teacher. The false teacher is the wolf in sheep clothing. This person approaches life relationally self-entitled and opportunistic. Although they may express regret for having been caught in a lie, there is no actual remorse felt for having lied to God’s people. There is no remorse because there is no perception of having sinned. Either covertly or overtly, the truth about God is aggressively denied. We are told to guard against false teachers (Matt. 16:12). They tend to deny the power of God (2Tim 3:1-7), and introduce destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1-22). Their father is Satan (John 8:42-47). And they tend to want proof of God, that is to say they want the physical world to prove the spiritual world, which is backwards.
b. The rage of the hurting. These people have experienced an unresolved loss, and upon hearing of my healing, express rage at God for not healing their loved one.
There are apologetics with Bible verses and reasonings for all of those above reflections. But the greatest apologetic of all is God’s mercy and grace expressed by Him through us in our loving kindness to others: Thou shalt not judge, lest ye be judged.
I am not the message. Jesus, our risen King and loving spouse, is the message.
I am just a messenger, a vessel made of clay (2 Cor. 4:6-7).

Anonymous said...

Praise god. clay is easy to bend and mold which is exactly what God wants for you. I am now convinced of your persecution on this blog post. We need to pray for your attacker and that you can withstand her persecution should she return, The attacker wanted 10 our fathers and 10 Hail Marys for her conversion for 20 days. She said it in a prideful way so defiantly let's pray for humility for her and that she may again be in the state of grace and not a wolf in sheeps clothing. Susan will you do the honors of beginning the creed?

Susan Moore said...

Please forgive my ignorance, I do not know what 'beginning the creed' means. But if you mean will I pray for her, then yes, I prayed for her the way she asked yesterday and today, and will do so for 20 full days, and more if she/he asks. Since I don't know that person's name, when I pray I refer to him/her as Anon Y. Mous. God knows.
I doubt that person is a false teacher, because it seems Anon is not questioning God, but is questioning me.
I've been walking the streets of my town for 2.5 years telling my story face to face with people, so I have gotten pretty tough. Writing is less intense, but safer at times.
In my own biological family, I’d say it was initially one terror, one rage, and three confusions. One confusion resolved quickly into worship. The other two confusions and the rage seem to be resolving into gratefulness, and the terror is resolving (slowly) into confusion and sometimes curious enough to have a short, controlled question and answer period if a safe-enough distance is kept.
The most painful part for me is that for people who are terrified or rageful, the person who has the most understanding and ability to get them through their extreme response is me, but I am also the one deemed most dangerous to be near, so I am avoided.
Staying away from me, of course, does not solve the problem, because the problem is in their minds. Staying away just makes the problem seem controllable, because it gives them relief from their extreme anxiety.
There are people who hear my testimony and don’t want to talk to me, but urgently want me to refer them to a church. I have learned that those people are quietly freaking out and want to talk to someone, but they are too freaked out by my story to talk to me.
What church should that person be sent? If they talk to a pastor or a priest, how will that pastor or priest respond? They will respond like this: 50% will be confused, 25% will respond in terror or rage, and 25% will identify the truth about God and be able to help that person.
So here I am, responding to blogs, attempting to educate the world.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me! Who ever said I was not in the state of grace? You can certainly pray for my conversion. I would be honored. But this entire conversation is absolutely ridiculous and the fakest thing I have ever ever ever seen. Like ever ever getting back together. I cant stand that song and yet here I am singing it. I would rather sing skater boy or mood rings. But no you have forced me to sing ever ever ever ever getting back together.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Oh yes, and just in case you cant read my lips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8TiyMazbxg

Anonymous said...

And one last thing on this subject because I forgot to mention this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcMn_Eu-XTE

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Now I have that song stuck in MY head!
Ok, so what kind of love are you expecting from humans? What kind of love are you willing to give?
There are three kinds.
The ‘because’ love, “I love you because you are cute.” Which means, “If you were ugly I wouldn’t love you”, right?
The ‘if’ love, “I’ll love you if you break the rules.” Which means, “If you don’t break the rules then I won’t love you.”
The ‘in spite of’ love, “I’ll love you in spite of who you are or what you do.” That’s the best kind to give and get. That’s the kind of love God has for us. When people don’t love us that way, we feel angry, hurt and sad. The way to get over that is to love people like God loves you.
It’s very late here. Good night, Princess, sweet dreams.

Anonymous said...

Her majesty does not know. She will have to think about it.

Anonymous said...

To His beloved Princess,
Here are some videos I like. They’re both about His love for us.

http://www.fallingplates.com/ The video is excellent, but I would beware of the other propaganda if it is not boasting the Catholic faith. The Catholic faith believes there is one Truth about God (which is what the Bible teaches –I am the way, the truth, the life- not, I am the ways, the truths and the lives), the Protestant belief systems believe there are many truths (Protestants believe in relative truth, not absolute truth. They are protesting the Catholic faith).
Anyway, praying for faith, and time with Him doing some good thinking.
Many blessings to you.

Anonymous said...

Her majesty does not know? Do you mean I don't know? Well I guess now if im a princess it is my royal obligation to answer the question. The answer is all three and: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcMn_Eu-XTE