Reflection on the Second Reading. One must live with the mystery that is God.

One lesson to be learned from the second reading, in which Paul is speaking to the Romans, is that one must live with the mystery of God. Not that God is completely a mystery, in no way knowable. Quite the contrary, As John tells us in the prologue to the Fourth Gospel: No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known. And this the Father has done out of his great love for humanity. God’s same love for the world has been made manifest in the death of Christ on the Cross for its redemption. All this was known to Paul and was central to his missionary message, as it has been to that of the Church down through the ages. But all this is not to say that God’s essence, his inner Being, has been exhausted in this revelation. God remains infinite, and Paul’s words to the Romans hold true. We are all reminded of this truth at times.

            Another aspect of the mystery that is God is the divine holiness. The term holiness in relation to God, as used in the Bible and outside of it, has a variety of meanings. One is that God is removed from the world, the “Wholly Other” as some philosophers express it, the Numinous, the Mysterium trememdum et fascinans, a mystery that is both terrifying and fascinating, applied to the presumed Otherworld, or otherwo$rld Power, not specifically to the God of Israel. Aspects of this concept, contact with God that creates fear, can be found in some texts of the Old Testament. In religious people of all ages there will be a certain amount of reverence and reverential fear for God. At some periods the distance between the human and divine is to the fore, at others the nearness. For a long time in the Catholic Church lay ministers did not touch sacred vessels without the use of hand gloves. Not that one approach or other made a difference to their Christian life as such, which would always be judged by fidelity to the two great commandments of love of God and of one’s neighbour.

Reflection on the Gospel Reading. See the reflection on this same reading for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 29 June.

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