|Death and Fire -- Paul Klee (1940)|
- Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65 •
- Sirach 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 and Psalm 84:1-7 •
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 •
- Luke 18:9-14
What lies at the root of all religion, it has long been held, is not a belief about a supernatural world, but an awareness of the character of this one -- its contingency. Nothing about the world in which we find ourselves is guaranteed. When it comes to success and failure, prosperity and deprivation, health and illness, joy and sorrow, all the things that matter most to human beings, we are completely dependent on time and circumstance. Our best laid political systems and our most ingenious technologies are highly beneficial, usually, but they cannot give us absolute control -- of life or of death.
Religion starts in this awareness of a world that far exceeds our understanding and control, and prompts a profound awe. But this sense of humanity's awesome vulnerability generates a practical problem. How are we to make ourselves at home in such a world? The great religions, in different ways, offer answers to this question.
|House of God - George Stefanescu (2006)|
In just the same vein Paul writes to Timothy. "The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so . . . I was rescued from the lion's mouth". Having "fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith", Paul looks forward to a "crown of righteousness". The brief parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel, however, contains an important word of warning. The greatest spiritual danger human beings face is displacing true righteousness with self-righteousness. Self-righteousness complacently supposes that some mix of material success and good works will make us secure. But that is precisely to lose the insight in which religion begins; human beings cannot be the means of their own salvation.