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The Catholic Faith in Slow Motion (no. 62)

 
God's Right Hand
 
In the ancient hymn, Glory to God in the Highest, the Church sings: “Lord Jesus Christ, … you are seated at the right hand of the Father”. In the Creed the Church professes: “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father”. These words of the mass repeat the words of Holy Scripture. St. Paul writes that God raised Jesus from the dead, “seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion” (Eph. 1:20-21). The right hand of the Father. By this phrase we confess the authority of Jesus Christ. We proclaim that the authority he exercises is no less than the authority of God. And so we confess Christ to be not only our savior but also our Lord.
         
In the Bible, the “right hand of God” is an image of that heavenly place from which God's eternal power and authority are exercised over all creation. Where is the right hand of God to be seen at work in history? In the creation of the world, in the calling of Israel as a chosen people, at Bethlehem, in every word and gesture and mighty work of Jesus of Nazareth—and most mysteriously at the Cross of Jesus, where the supreme authority and power of God were exercised in the agony of the Lord. We confess this to be so, because the crucified one was raised up by the right hand of God and—marked by the Cross— he sits at the right hand of God .
         
Where is the right hand of God to seen at work in time and space? God’s authority is at work in the world in many hidden ways. But Christians are empowered by faith to recognize the work of God’s right hand in these particular times and places: whenever the Word of Forgiveness is proclaimed in the Name of Jesus Christ; wherever washing with water is administered in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; wherever and whenever a called and ordained servant of Christ breaks the bread of the Eucharist, declaring in Christ’s own words “This is my body, given up for you.” Every sacrament of the Church marks the time and place of Christ's reign from the right hand of the Father.
         
Who is it that sits at the right hand of the Father? The crucified and risen Jewish man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnate Son of God. This needs to be said very simply, so that we don’t make the mistake of “spiritualizing” Christ too much, making him into a mere idea, making the right hand of God some distant and abstract never-never-land. This is why the Church hears and tells the story of Jesus with such awe and joy. Because each moment in the gospel story reveals something of the identity of the one who sits at the right hand of God. To find this seat of authority, we do not look up into the sky, we look deep into the pages of Scripture, into the story of the gospel as proclaimed by the Church.
         
Many authorities operate in our lives. All rightful authority is ordained by God in his creating work. These authorities demand various degrees of cooperation and obedience. But only one authority commands us directly from the right hand of God, and so commands our unconditional and unquestioned obedience. It is not the authority of nation or family or fashion; it is not the authority of the demanding self. There is only one who sits at the right hand of God. And that is very good news—that the only one who can rightfully claim our unconditional obedience is none other than the crucified one, the one in whom suffering love and absolute authority are indistinguishable, and whose claim on us sinners is that he saves us.
 


 
 
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