We usually think of the first aim of justice as a process of identifying and punishing the guilty. But what if this were the outcome of the process while the first aim was to discover the innocent? Would not the world be a gentler place and society better oriented towards the essential human tasks of learning the sacred disciplines of love and of celebrating beauty in all its forms?
Whether Putin decides to destroy Kyiv or not we should be thinking now how we will hold him and his willing henchmen to justice once his orgy of death and destruction has turned upon itself as violence always does.
In the Exodus story in yesterday’s reflection the Hebrews moaned and rebelled because their journey of liberation was uncomfortable. God did not punish their guilty ingratitude (the eighth deadly sin) as one might assume He would. Instead, He sent them manna (and threw in a quota of quail meat as well). Manna is also mentioned in the Qur’an as a medicine for the eyes. It was a light flaky substance to be consumed fresh daily because if stored it quickly went rancid. Only on the Sabbath, when there was a double portion, could it be stored for a day. It appeared on the ground at night, like dew, and had to be collected before it was melted by the heat of the sun. It tasted like wafers with honey. The word manna seems to derive from what is it?, suggesting the element of surprise and wonder we feel whenever we are nourished and cared for, especially when we expected to be punished. It is the food of forgiveness. It turns the state of guilt and shame into innocence.
In Catholic and Orthodox Christian spirituality manna was associated with the thin wafer-like host used in communion and consecrated as the Body of Christ. Manna, like the Eucharist, is a physical symbol that transcends the realm of appearances and surpasses ordinary understanding. I was brought up with a reverence for the Mass and a devotion to the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the tabernacle. Originally it was reserved to bring to the sick in the community who couldn’t come to the Eucharist in person. Later it became a more static object of devotion in itself. Sometimes this can border on the idolatrous as Protestant Christians often remark. But if we avoid this danger - and keep the manna fresh - it bestows a physical and spiritual delight that no pharmaceutical company can even come close to. As the Book of Wisdom says of manna:
... Instead of these things you gave your people food of angels, and without their toil you supplied them from heaven with bread ready to eat, providing every pleasure and suited to every taste. For your sustenance manifested your sweetness toward your children; and the bread, ministering to the desire of the one who took it, was changed to suit everyone’s liking. (Wis 16:20-21)
This describes an experience: a state of mind and so transient. But it can also become a progressive healing force in the still depth of the person beyond conscious experience.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022