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contemporary reflections on the sunday readings

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart

From 1986-July 2005, my scripture reflections appeared each Sunday in Living Faith, a quarterly publication with a subscription base of over half a million readers. In addition, thousands of others read my reflections in Catholic and Protestant church bulletins from Houston, USA, to Mooi River, South Africa; they were used by homilists, chaplains, and "ordinary people" in such settings as churches, hospitals, prisons, nursing homes, university campuses and family living rooms. Commenting on my work, Editor Mark Neilsen stated, "No writer of Living Faith has been more prolific, more creative and more original than you have been over the years. It has been a great run, a fantastic effort...."

In 2005, in response to letters from readers across the globe who missed my work in Living Faith, I launched Sunday BibleTalk , an online bible service which features contemporary reflections on every Sunday's Gospel reading.

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You may reproduce my work in parish bulletins and newsletters provided 1) you reproduce my words accurately and exactly, without any form of modification 2) you give me credit, listing my full name (Elizabeth-Anne Stewart) and my website (


Sunday, August 6th, 2017

The LORD is king; let earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad.
God is wrapped in thunder cloud,
throned on justice, throned on right.
R. The Lord is king, the Most High over all the earth.
Ps 97

On August 6th, 1945, a mysterious cloud formed over Hiroshima. From a distance of 40-50 miles, those who saw it marveled at its surreal beauty; at "ground zero," all that was left was molten metal and heaps of ash. Here and there, fragments of bone or human teeth proved that the city was once inhabited. 70,000 people were killed instantly and, by the following year, a further 140,000 had died from their injuries or from radiation. The mushroom cloud had done its work and the nuclear age began....

Clouds feature in all our scriptural texts today, but they are not clouds of destruction. On the contrary, they are clouds of glory. In the first reading, the Son of Man approaches the Holy One on the clouds of heaven and receives everlasting dominion over all creation; in Ps 97, God is wrapped in clouds and darkness, perhaps because a vision of divine majesty would be too overwhelming for mortal eyes to behold; then, in 2 Pt 1:16-19, Peter narrates his experience of Jesus' transfiguration when God spoke from the depths of a  cloud (cf. today's Gospel):

"We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven
while we were with him on the holy mountain.
Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable.

You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place,

                                                       until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."

God speaks from within the heart of cloud because humans are incapable of beholding God as God is. Our seeing is too limited; we are too accustomed to darkness. Just as we would need to shield our eyes from a nuclear event, so we need to shelter our eyes from a God-event. God shines, illumining the darkness, but we, the people who walk in darkness, have to lower our gaze or risk being blinded, perhaps annihilated

How, then, can we increase our capacity for beholding the Holy One? Will God always hide in cloud or is there a way of training our eyes to SEE beyond all that obscures our vision? The anonymous author of  C!4th The Cloud of Unknowing claims that only darts of Love can penetrate the Divine Mystery. Love and Love alone can help us to behold the Beloved. As long as we are creating clouds of destruction, we will be blinded by the fallout.

1. Why is the proliferation of nuclear weaponry a spiritual issue?
2. Have you ever caught a glimpse of God through the clouds of unknowing?