The eighteenth chapter of the Qur’an emphasizes God’s greatness, and His use of all of His creation to reach your soul. Not only the Torah, or the Psalms, or the Gospels, but popular stories (including this Lectionary!) proclaim his goodness. The Lord has given you the Rock, the Fish, the Life of the World — just stay focused on him, use these signs for what they are, and proclaim this good news to others.
And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan.
A Reading, from the Book of Genesis:
And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
So the LORD God said to the serpent:
“Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
A Song, from the Psalms:
The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
O Jordan, that you turned back?
O mountains, that you skipped like rams?
O little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of waters.
A reading from the Letter of St. James
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the LORD wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
A Reading, from the Holy Gospel According to Luke
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.
A Qur’anic Homily
God controls time. This is vital for understanding the spiritual sense of scripture. The cave that Abraham acquired for Sarah is the one that Christ freed Lazarus from. The gulf of time means nothing to the Lord, nor do man’s plans for the future
Do not say about anything, ‘I will indeed do it tomorrow!’ without, ‘God willing.’ And when you forget, remember your Lord and say, ‘Maybe my Lord will guide me to more akin to rectitude than this’
Consider Christ’s parable of the foolish man, prompted by someone asking for more inheritance from his brother. The interlocutor demanded more land, more of a Garden of Eden, without even realizing the Living Water was right besides him, Water sent from God through the Wind:, the Word from the Lord through the Spirit:
Draw for them the parable of the Life of this World: like the Water We send down from the sky. Then the earth’s vegetation mingles with it. Then it becomes chaff, scattered by the Wind. And God has power over all things.
Draw for them the parable of two men for each of whom We had made two gardens of vines and We had surrounded them with date palms and placed crops between them. Both gardens yielded their produce without stinting anything of it. And We had a stream gush through them.
A wise ‘poor’ man realizes his blessings, and the ‘rich’ man harms himself most through his greed. The worship of Mammon besides God had left the foolish rich man condemned and helpless:
Why did you not say when you entered your garden, ‘As God has willed! There is no power except by God!’ If you see that I have lesser wealth than you and children, maybe my Lord will give me better than your gardens and He will unleash it upon bolts from the sky, so that it becomes a bare plain. Or its water will sink down, so that you will never be able to obtain it.’
And ruin closed in on his produce and as it lay fallen on its trellises he begin to wring his hands for what he had spent on it. He was saying ‘I wish I had not ascribed any partner to my Lord.’ He had no party to help him besides God, nor could he help himself. Qur’an 18:39-41
In the proper perspective — God’s perspective — the mountains themselves move. They are built up and torn down. Every false god — Money, Fame, Pride — will fall leaving only the soul, and God:
The day We shall set the mountains moving and you will see the earth in full view, We will muster them and We will not leave out anyone of them. They will be presented before your Lord in ranks: “Certainly you have come to Us just as We created you the first time. But you maintained that We will not appoint a tryst for you.’
This is not to say that Money, Fame, and Pride weren’t created by God. Surely, they were as much as Satan, Iblis, the Devil. But these things are not helpers, and the evil they cause is from the wrong orders. If Iblis had been at Eve’s feet from the beginning we would not experience the wrong ordering of our sinful world. As it is, that serpent will be at the feet of another pair of man and woman — Jesus and Mary — who will crush its head:
When We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam,’ they prostrated, but not Iblis. He was one of the jinn, so he transgressed against his Lord’s command. Will you take him and his offspring for masters in My stead, through they are your enemies? How evil a substitute for the wrongdoers!
The stories from the bible, in their spiritual meaning, are parables. Whether or not they physically happened, or whatever their full historical context, we are supposed to understand a deeper meaning through them
We have certainly interspersed this Lectionary with every kind of parable for the people. But man is the most disputation of creatures. Nothing has kept these people from believing and pleading to their Lord for forgiveness when guidance came to them, except that the precedence of the ancients come to pass for them, or that punishment come to them, face to face.
To this end, in the eighteenth chapter the Qur’anic author includes several popular stories, such as
- The Sleepers of Ephesus
- Alexander the Great’s Search for the Fountain of Youth
- Moses’s questioning of the Angel
In the same way, last Sunday my priest worked Home Alone into the homily. The spiritual sense of scripture can be made easier to understand using these works. Because all good things point to God. For instance, take the story of the search for the Fountain of Youth, with its Fish…
So when they reached the confluence between them, they forgot their fish, which found its way into the sea, sneaking away. SO when they had passed on, he said to his lad, ‘Bring us our meal. We have certainly encountered much fatigue on this journey.’
He said, ‘Did you see?! When we took shelter at the Rock, indeed I forgot about the fish — and none but Satan made me forget to mention it! — and it made its way into the sea in an amazing manner!
He said, ‘This is what we were after!’ So they returned, retracing their footsteps.’
The world was made God, and the world points to God.
The Rock provides shelter. The Fish provides a meal. And the things that point to them — the Shelter of the Rock — are good, and right. But the Shelter is not a Master. Indeed, Satan will trick you into forgetting about the object of your love — God – the Real – and distract you into false gods, into idols, things less real than the Real.
Or consider the Sleepers of Ephesus, a story of how God protected persecuted Christians by allowing them to sleep (with a pet dog!) in the safety of a Cave:
When the youths took refuge in the Cave, they said ‘Our Lord! Grant us mercy from Yourself and help us on the rectitude in our affair.’
So We put them to sleep in the Cave for several years…
You will suppose them to be awake, though they are asleep. We turn them to the right and to the left, and at the threshold their dog stretching its forelegs. If you come upon them, you will surely them to flee from them and will be filled with a terror of them…
The Cave can be a place of safety, protected by the Rock. Or it can be a grave. The difference is if you worship the Rock, or the Cave – if you worship God, or a creature.
Keep God first, kneel when you should kneel, be in the proper order
There, all authority belongs to God, the Real. He is best in rewarding and best in requiting.
God is patient. Be patient with God. And one day, you will see Him face to face, like a friend. Pray, do what you should in remembrance of Him, praise Him with other believes. Just love Him, and not the glittering that surrounds Him
Content yourself with the company of those who supplicate their Lord morning and evening, desiring His Face, and do not loose sight of them, desiring the glitter of the life of this world. And do not obey him whose heart We have made oblivious to Our remembrance and who follows his own desires, and whose conduct is profligacy.
Every good book, every good story, every good thing sings of the Lord. There is no end to the instruction that you have available to you. The Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels, popular stories, and this Lectionary all point to Him:
Say, “If the sea were ink for the words of my Lord, the sea would be spent before the words of my Lord are finished, though We replenish it with another like it.”
Now go, and evangelize in your own words, be that good thing that points to God:
Say, “I am just a human being like you. It has been revealed to me that your God is the One God. So whoever expects to encounter his Lord, let him act righteously and not associate anyone with the worship of his Lord.”