A few years ago, an elderly monk arrived in India after fleeing from prison in Tibet. Meeting with the Dalai Lama, he recounted the years he had been imprisoned, the hardship and beatings he had endured, the hunger and loneliness he had lived with, and the torture he had faced. At one point the Dalai Lama asked him, “Was there ever a time you felt your life was truly in danger?” The old monk answered, “In truth, the only time I truly felt at risk was when I felt in danger of losing compassion for my jailers.”
There are enemies and then there are Enemies!
There are times when we just simply lose the plot; everything falls apart, our reasoning unravels and our tongues waggle with a life of their own. When this happens to a priest giving a homily, this can be most embarrassing. When it happens at a mass which is on a great solemnity and the congregation includes students in a formation house, this can be an occasion of hilarity or mortification, depending on where you are sitting. The sagging heads of the older friars of the community should have been warning enough to just stop, but no...
Twenty-five minutes later as we gather together for breakfast, this officiating priest turns to me with the conspiratorial air, commenting, “I really don’t know why we have to include this feast of the Assumption, it just makes everything more difficult”.
Fear, fury and rage at our helplessness, coupled to hope; these are the facts of our lives. The fury of the wind in the storm; the wind which is against the disciples leads them into fear. The disciples gaze upon the image of Jesus and see a spirit, a ghost and they are fearful. Peter gazes upon the wind and he also is fearful. Why does this ring strangely in my ears. Peter was not gazing upon the fury of the storm, but his gazing upon the wind and his fear overcomes his hope, overcomes his faith.
“What attracts men to evil acts is not the evil in them but the good that is there, seen under a false aspect and with a distorted perspective. The good seen from that angle is only the bait in a trap. When you reach out to take it, the trap is sprung and you are left with disgust, boredom – and hatred. Sinners are people who hate everything, because their world is necessarily full of betrayal, full of illusion, full of deception. And the greatest sinners are the most boring people in the world because they are the most bored and the ones who find life most tedious.”
Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation
Jesus exclaimed, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.”
Some time ago I presided at a marriage where I met a brilliant and assertive advocate. He had opinions on religion, philosophy, life, the law and virtually on any other subject that was raised. Like George Bush “I have opinions of my own, strong opinions; but I don't always agree with them.”
I’ve always taken immense childish delight in the subversive humour of the old rabbi teachers. Their kind eyes that appear to gaze into the future and their wispy hair falling into the tangled beard; they take the ordinary, the everyday, things that are safe and acceptable and turn them upside down. This was the way Jesus also taught; taking our knowledge, our sacred “opinions” and “truth” and completely dismantling their foundations.
Do not be afraid! The angel speaks to Mary. Do not be afraid! The angel speaks to Zachariah. Do not be afraid! Jesus talks to his disciples. Whenever God breaks through into the terror of history, the words are the same, “do not be afraid!” Throughout Scripture, crossing 38 verses, time and again, God speaks to us, “do not be afraid”.
PDF DOWNLOAD: img/Body%20&%20Blood%202017.pdf
Jesus has performed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and comes across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Large crowds follow Jesus. Jesus turns to the crowds and warns them not to look for the bread that does not last but rather to seek the food that lasts to eternal life. Jesus than says to his followers; I myself am that living bread come down from heaven; my flesh is food for the life of the world.
Horror, pandemonium and the crowds object. There is a strict prohibition on the eating of animal flesh with blood and now here we have a human being saying ‘I want you to eat my body and drink my blood.’ Jesus has the opportunity to change his language, to make it more spiritual, metaphysical; something symbolic. No, Jesus doesn’t take this route but instead intensifies the language: Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood, you have no life in you.
Most high, eternal, just and true God,
you have laid your hand upon me and shown me mercy,
you love me and I love you yet,
and for your sake I love those that you have given to me.
Your people are in anguish and have raised their voices to me,
and so I plead their cause before you.
In your church your feasts have lost their taste,
and their joy and their hope has turned to ash, bitter.
Your shepherds lord it over the people,
whispering the secrets of others with hushed voices behind their pious smiles,
betrayal; sowing doubt and confusion,
the one has become many and the flock is dispersed.
Your consecrated priests, your shepherds, have become predators,
the young ones in your convents have become their prey,
and now your sister ravaged and broken, rejected and sent home,
and this Shepherd; now appointed as spiritual Father to the convent.
In the palaces of your embassies O Lord,
your young ones also have become the prey of false shepherds,
ravaged and broken, rejected and sent home
Spirit of Love, Mercy and Forgiveness,
send respite to your people,
and grant them again the joy of your Holy Festivals, and the Hope of the Spirit
God, who is conscious and aware is the Source, and the Birther of the cosmos.
God speaks Gods’ plan and blueprint into the darkness of the great abyss. This is the Word, the centre of history and the blueprint of all creation, the spoken Word that becomes incarnated into our world and into our history.
God speaks, this Word creates and then God’s Spirit is breathed into God’s creation.
Intention, creative Word and Breath, separate yet One.
Conscious and aware, creative and affective, being and spirit; this is what God tells us about the one God; this is what God tells me about who also I AM.
I am the continued and continuing incarnation of God’s Word.
"Oh God, we are one with You. You have made us one with You. You have taught us that if we are open to one another, You dwell in us. Help us to preserve this openness and to fight for it with all our hearts. Help us to realize that there can be no understanding where there is mutual rejection. Oh God, in accepting one another wholeheartedly, fully, completely, we accept You, we thank You, and we adore You, and we love You with our whole being, because our being is in Your being, our spirit is rooted in Your spirit. Fill us then with love, and let us be bound together with love as we go our diverse ways, united in this one spirit which makes You present in the world, and which makes you witness to the ultimate reality that is love. Love has overcome. Love is victorious. Amen"
Prayer offered by Thomas Merton at the First Spiritual Conference in Calcutta, India
The view I have of God and the view I have of myself are intricately entwined. Knowing our original source gives me a firm direction towards my ultimate goal; gives me also the wisdom by which I come to direct my life. Without this there is a great emptiness in our hearts that nothing, no experience or possession, and no other human can ever fill.
The Jesus event of God with us as the source shows us the blueprint of who we are called to be. It is for this reason that every moment of the Jesus event points to our own destiny. The Ascension of Jesus the Christ points to His Divine identity but points to my own destiny also.
TO LISTEN: img/Ascension%202017%20Mp3.mp3
Imagine yourself travelling alongside a beam of light. As your speed increases and finally reaches the ultimate speed of light, what do you see? 100 years ago, at the age of 16, it was Einstein who tried to answer this question. The person and the light beam travelling together at the same speed, the wave of light stationery to the person travelling alongside… Well, no! That would contradict our scientific understanding.
There is a great divide that threatens to engulf us as we gaze ever deeper into the abyss. Our costly diversions keep us insulated and mindless to the horrors that we have helped create. Dreams, visions and secrets easily catch our imagination. Fragile promises and hope keep us clinging to our old ways of life with grim determination. Things were always better when… But it is above all fear and rivalry for resources that drives the human race to constrict, to erect barricades and to form unholy alliances.
Truly, truly I tell you, when you consider what you have lost, only then will you understand the power of the gift that has been given to you. Last weekend I travelled to attend the Regional Convention of the Knights of da Gama in KwaZulu Natal as the solemnly invested Regional Chaplain and a long-standing member of the Order. The hosts were Council 46, Regina Pacis of Ladysmith. For the members of this order, it is honour that guides their lives. Honour that is integrated into our lives by being morally upright, honest, noble, virtuous, courageous and charitable, Christian virtues that are imperative for all of us. What I experienced and what I heard made it clear that most, if not all, of these attributes had been lost in the local parish. How did this happen in the parish of over 600 families? Had there being anything to lose in the first place? Where does the power and grace of community come from?
There is a painting by Rembrandt of Jesus sitting at
table between the two disciples that captures the rapturous
joy on the faces of the disciples at the moment
when they come to recognise Jesus. The story is told
of a guide showing the picture to some visitors in the
museum where it was on display. He began by telling
them the story behind the picture, the story we have
just heard in the Gospel.
ead the Reflection
Today we gaze on the wounds of Christ. The sight of woundedness can be hard to bear, bitter, even when they are own wounds. Deep inner wounds are often hidden behind barriers of a stony heart and our carefully edited fairy tales and all our grand illusions. In hatred of all this woundedness that scars our outer features also, we plaster and paint, sculpt and mould, cut and snip, and then, dissatisfied, begin again. We keep most woundedness securely hidden, locked inside unforgotten silence. This is the some wound that continues to weep secretly, even after years of loss and desolation and all our attempts at healing.
He saw… and belief came to him.
When you forget your true identity as a beloved child
of God, you lose your way in life. Insecure and
Frightened, you no longer act freely, but out of fear.
You become preoccupied trying to please others
and you lose the confidence to be yourself‘.
You work hard to avoid rejection, or abandonment,
and you may cling to people more from fear than
freedom. In making compromises you may please
people but lose touch with your original blessing,
the connection to the deep and everlasting love of‘
Jesus announces to us, "Do not be afraid. I dwell in
you till the end of time."
Alleluia! Christ is risen, and we are no longer afraid
On this terrible Good Friday, two kingdoms collide and the darkness of the abyss seeks to overwhelm us in death, blood and destruction that began last Palm Sunday. Very near to this terrible day stands the face of pride. But let me never say, pride is over there or elsewhere, because pride is that desire within me to be more important; more attractive; more acknowledged than others. Pride fails to acknowledge the good works of others. He did very well, but… Did you hear… Death. That was nice but… It was great at… Death.
In St Francis admonition to his followers, there is great insight into the envy creeps into us with this pride. St Francis writes that envy of another in what God does through them, is blasphemy, because in reality we envy God who is the source of all good.
Lord, there comes a time in the lives of all of us when we, like Jesus, must have courage and enter into a radical confrontation:
Those in authority are abusing their power.
● We finally recognise that we need help to overcome an addiction, an obsession or illusion.
● Members of our family or community have betrayed us and we are on the road to join Jesus in Gethsemane.
● We need to give up our comfortable situation, our grief or our pain and move into something new.
● Grant us a share in that same inner freedom of Jesus, so that we also can go on ahead of the rest, as we go up to our Jerusalem.
Lord, we thank you for glorious moments of grace when
● we found a friend whom we felt we could trust perfectly.
● We remember those moments when one of our children made us proud as we reflected in the glory.
● A new understanding of reality arose in our community.
Like the disciples on the downward slope of the Mount of Olives:
● We joyfully also praise you at the top of our voices for the miracle which we have seen.
● We also cry out, “Blessings on the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” And we glorified you in the highest heavens.
As each moment of grace greets us, everything seems to fall into place so naturally. Whatever we need, we find; as we also call out “The Master needs it,” all obstacles are removed.
We pray that as a Church and as a community, we may not betray our young people, the old or the poor; those who are fearful of our future.
Lord, we thank you for the many humble people who enter Jerusalem in peace. As we think of them, we praise you at the top of our voices and cry out, “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heavens.”
“Roll away the stone.
Lazarus, here! Come out!
Unbind him, and let him go”.
Our reflection on this powerful gospel passage is often based on Jesus, his words, his work and his expectations in facing the death of his friend as well as his own oncoming death. We may focus also on Martha and Mary and their particular reaction in the face of the death and resurrection of their dearly loved brother. But what about Lazarus? He had been dead, and now he was alive! Yes, he was alive for now, but he would have to face the death process all over again. What were his thoughts and emotions at being given back his life?
Today we are brought into the heart of the cosmic conflict between light and dark, truth and error, sight and blindness, innocence and guilt. At the heart of this conflict we are given the evidence of who Jesus is as the Christ and what his work within history is and our own human condition.
Let us start by considering the work of light; these early mornings when I wake and go into the bathroom, the image in the mirror has become fainter. As summer fades, the image in the mirror also fades and eventually it will become necessary to switch on a light in order to see my image; that refection in the mirror. In order to see the image; the reflection, light is needed!!
The reputation of the Samaritan woman at the well as a slothful, wanton sinner and an outcast from her community begins with some early commentators.
Her answer [to Jesus] is a form of confession because she truly has no legitimate husband (Origen). Jesus’ request exposes her guilt (Chrysostom) because she is involved in an illicit union (Augustine). Jesus makes her understand that she needs to confess her sins and change her life before she can obtain this life-giving water of grace.
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches; ten years of lunch packs…never, and never again, I say!
Habits and routines in your emotional, physical, spiritual and mental world prevent us from seeing what is really there. We may not see the toy in the staircase because there usually isn’t one there; and so too late, we trip on it. These habits and routines dull our perceptions of what we once found good and gratifying. Imagine eating the same chocolate cake day in, day out! My mind remembers that I liked it, but does my tongue really taste it right now?
In the waste land we rest and we walk; a walking reflection through the hunger and the isolation and desolation on the way the journey of life has been directed. Touching the cold numbness of our memories past.
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land"
The waste land is the place the scape goat is sent from the Temple after the burden of the sins of the people has been transferred.
OUR CULTURE DENIES THE REALITY OF PAINFUL MEMORIES, DEMONISES THE EXPERIENCE OF DARKNESS, AND REJECTS THE CALLING OF SOUL TO MOVE INTO THE WHITESPACE OF UNKNOWING AND MYSTERY.
JOHN OF THE CROSS DESCRIBES THIS EXPERIENCE AS THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL WHICH IS A SPIRITUAL
JOURNEY OF HAVING ALL ATTACHMENTS STRIPPED AWAY.
Think of the lawsuits! The harassments, the strife and toil and blinding of the soul.
Jesus sits at the table with sinners; this is our hope; this is the assembly of church!
Jesus words speak for themselves. Very quickly wealth and power lead us away from the assembly and towards disdain. Listen to the disrespect of those who have the weight and authority of substance and wealth in their dealings with the vulnerable, their beneficiaries and underlings.
Jesus commands us, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect"; Let your love be complete as God’s love…
William (Morrie) and Bessie Markoff, live in downtown Los Angeles. They've been married for 79 years. He's 103 and she be 100 years old. For Valentine's Day this year they reflected on their lives together. Morrie told the interviewer that he had never used the word love in 79 years of marriage because half of people who talk of love get divorced or even kill each other.
There is a beautiful part of the third Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass: “There (in your kingdom) we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory, when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. For seeing you, our God, as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages and praise you without end, through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.”
It certainly has happened to most of us who are cooks or aspiring chefs; the salt pouring out over our delicate cuisine from a loose saltcellar lid or a broken box; everything ruined and totally unpalatable.
Mindfulness is the skill of being deliberately attentive to one’s experience as it unfolds—without the superimposition of our usual commentary and conceptualising.
The capacity to be mindful provides a wholesome way to attend to our experiences and helps us overcome the unskillful habits of mind that cause us to suffer needlessly.
I’m so blessed, I’ve just landed my dream job!
I’m so blessed, I have such talented, perfect children!
I’m so blessed, we’ve just bought our perfect home!
I'm so blessed to live in such beautiful country.
I’m so blessed that this … has taken this kid from … around the globe.
These are actual posts from Social media that reminds us that Jesus understands our hearts today as much as those of his listeners 2,000 years ago. Our hearts are corrupt, even though we try to disguise that corruption outwardly.
Repent! For most of us it is John the Baptist who immediately springs to mind when we hear this word. And perhaps with that comes the image of Charlton Heston in the movie role as the John the Baptist. As Russell Saltzman so graphically describes - Gritty, grimy, dressed in scratchy camel hair, stealing honey from African killer bees, gobbling down hapless grasshoppers, looking like some Stone Age Neanderthal prophet clubbing people with their sins; there’s John, gone crazy-mad with axe fever, itching to launch himself into a pyromaniacal rage. Dipping his water-puckered hands into the Jordan River time after time, he washes sins off “vipers,” and from “stones” that pretend to call themselves children of Abraham. Hear him? How can you not, yelling away about the axe and the fire and the wrath of God soon coming upon Earth?
The effect of sin is always a loss that leads to estrangement between people, God and the very earth that is our home. Such a loss of Love is the loss the very life blood of the heart and leads to death; the great infection that leads to all greed, suffering war and death. John sums up for us today the Christmas event we have just celebrated in the coming of “Jesus who is The Word of God made man”. To understand this great event it is necessary to set the stage of our history as Scripture describes our journey through the human condition.
WHAT IS THE GREAT MANIFESTATION; THE REVELATION OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD THAT WE CELEBRATE TO-DAY AND HOW DOES THIS CHANGE MY VIEW OF REALITY AND MY OWN WAY OF BEING IN THE WORLD?
The Australian jewel beetle has achieved celebrity status simply by choosing a rather unorthodox mate: a beer bottle. When professors Darryl Gwynne and David Rentz first noticed the male beetles' strange behaviour, they realised the creatures were simply seeking out the most attractive mate.
When the Western Australian beer industry unintentionally produced bottles that mimicked the shiny brown sheen of the female jewel beetle, the males found themselves in what researchers refer to as an `evolutionary trap'; they were responding to prompts that once offered an evolutionary advantage, but ended up leading them astray as a result of environmental change.
"As a consequence of their mating mistakes, the beetles experience reduced survival," says Darryl, a biologist at University of Toronto at Mississauga. "Attempts to copulate with stubby beer bottles continue until they are killed by the hot desert sun or by foraging ants."
I could perhaps claim that these are just stupid beetles who can’t tell the difference between reality and what mimics reality!
NEW YEARS DAY; for some of us, this is a good time to think on the past year and friends and family no longer with us; to consider also the possibility of making a significant new start in our lives, both as individuals and as members of our civil and church communities.
A CALL TO INNOCENCE
It is Christmas Eve 1914; the Germans and the English
face each other from trenches filled with despair, mud
and rats. In the English trenches letters and cards arrive
from home and the soldiers cheer up a little. By midnight
some of them even begin to sing; the songs of home
and family; hymns of the child Jesus born in Bethlehem.
Suddenly a sentry shouts excitedly: 'Listen!' They listen
and hear that the Germans are singing also.
A short while later and two brave soldiers, one from
each side, meet out in the open. More join them. From
a military point of view this makes no sense. As soldiers
they are supposed to fight and kill each other as enemies.
To stop suddenly and to be friends just didn't
make sense. But there is a greater force than armies at
the front this night.
Promises, promises; the big white wedding is off! Now what; how to control the situation? Perhaps a trip to a distant cousin for an arranged adoption or a quick abortion. Disgrace and dishonour of the family name can easily lead to financial ruin; what to do? Mary has no status in society or in law and the decisions to be taken are all in the hands of the man, Joseph. Joseph has a plan! We always have a plan…after all that is the responsible way.
God however has another Way; but following the ways of dreams and Angles; maybe not!
Faithful love and truth will join together; righteousness and peace will embrace. Truth will spring up from the earth, and righteousness will look down from heaven. Also, the LORD will provide what is good, and our land will yield its crops. Righteousness will go before Him to prepare the way for His steps. (Ps 85:10-13)
Mercy and peace are on one side; truth and righteousness on the other. Truth requires righteousness; mercy calls for peace. They meet together on the way; one going to make inquisition for sin, the other to plead for reconciliation. Having met, their differences on certain considerations, not here particularly mentioned are adjusted; and their mutual claims are blended together in one common interest; on which peace and righteousness immediately embrace. Thus, righteousness is given to truth, and peace is given to mercy. Where did these meet? In Christ Jesus.
Last week my boxes of ‘goodies’ arrived from my previous parish (thank you kind parishioners). As I was unpacking these six boxes, I was struck by silliness of the junk we carry with us through life…three remotes for equipment I can’t remember ever using…keys that I don’t belong anywhere I can recall.
“Post-Truth” is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year for 2016. The Oxford Dictionaries website told readers post-truth could be “one of the defining words of our time.” The term comes from an idea that became popular during the various 2016 election campaigns. Post-truth, as the website defines it, means to relate to situations where “objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”; personal interests.
The post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction. Deceiving others becomes a challenge, a game, and ultimately a habit.
What motivates this dishonesty that’s become a creeping rot? Why do so many, even those with no apparent need to do so, feel a need to embellish their personal history? This question arises every time prominent figures are unmasked as fabulists: business people, politicians, journalists, judges, military officers, police chiefs, beauty queens, newspaper reporters, parliamentarians, and the heads of sports committees; presidents and pastors.
Samuel was a wise and upright leader, just and impartial. As he became older and his sons were given authority, things changed. Bribery, corruption, patronage and self-interest infiltrated the kingdom at every level of government. Sounds familiar! Before long the people were so fed up with the situation that they asked Samuel to end the line of judges and give them a king, ‘just like the other nations’; a war king who will lead the people in conquest.
Samuel is furious, but God tells him that this is not a rejection of Samuel but the rejection of God’s very own authority.
Anne Frank was a teenage Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam during the early years of World War II. When the Gestapo started rounding up all Jews, she and her family went into hiding. Seven people in all, they hid for two years in an attic. There they waited in daily fear of being discovered. During that time Anne kept a diary, which her father found after the war ended. Translated into many languages, it has been read by millions of people. In it Anne expressed her thoughts and feelings with a maturity way beyond her years. In one remarkable passage she says:
It's twice as hard for us young people to hold our ground, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God.
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart.
I see the world being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.
- I have met a some of our declared saints, worked with a few living saints and lived with a couple of saints, and the first thing that comes to mind is that saints don’t look like saints that we may expect in many ways. On the other hand I have worked with a number of people who would consider themselves saints and do all manner of good works that may look like the work of the saints, but they are actually vampires that rob us of all peace and joy; sucking the very joy out of our lives. I have found this especially prevalent in those who are the hold the world in contempt, “Cintemptus mundi”.
- To be a saint is to be filled with love that is God; reflecting God’s goodness, truth and beauty into the world. Saints choose God above all and make a definite commitment to God and to bringing God’s peace and joy into the world. In her bookSaint Watching Phyllis McGinley writes that saints are human beings with an added dimension. “They are obsessed by goodness and by God as Michelangelo was obsessed by line and form, as Shakespeare was bewitched by language, Beethoven by sound.”
- All saints love other human beings. It cannot be any other way. In the First Letter of John (4:20) we read: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother (or sister), (s)he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom (s)he has not seen.” Living with the saints is a blessing with overflowing generosity. There is a feeling of “sufficiency” in their presence. The saints may be different in many ways, but they are always generous, seeking to bring goodness, joy and peace into the lives of those around them. You will never find a stingy saint.
- Beware of those saints who remind us of our insufficiency.
- While studying in Canterbury, I ministered as a prison chaplain to Swaleside and Canterbury Central prisons and was also involved in what is called the “Sycamore Tree Project”. This brings together unrelated victims and offenders; that is, they are not each other’s victims and offenders.
- The program gets its name from today’s gospel story in Luke 19:1-10 about Jesus and Zacchaeus, a dishonest tax collector. Zacchaeus wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus but couldn’t see over the crowd. So he climbed a Sycamore Tree to get a better view. Jesus noticed him and stopped to talk. Out of that meeting came something unexpected: Zacchaeus repented and agreed to pay back his victims.
- Jesus then helped the crowd understand the reconciling power of justice that restores. The Sycamore Tree Project® is an intensive 5-8 week in-prison programme that brings groups of crime victims into prison to meet with groups of unrelated offenders.
The Pharisee of the Gospel stands tall in the Temple of God, full of his own importance. He speaks to himself about himself, full of himself. The word ‘I’ is used five times. We might even cringe as we listen to his disconcerting bragging. Reflection might lead us to a sense of the extent to which this man has lost not only the sense of who God is but also the sense of who he is...and yet, and yet; check out those Facebook logs!
‘IF THE LORD HAS BLESSED YOU TODAY, TYPE AMEN AND SHARE!’
We often read and hear statements such as, “I am so blessed to have three such talented children!” or “I received the promotion that I’ve been waiting for…I feel so blessed!” or “We just bought the home of our dreams… we are incredibly blessed!” or “I am so blessed to have such a wonderful mother/sister/daughter/son etc.!”
This associates being blessed with positive circumstances, success, wealth, comfort, and the absence of problems. On the surface, the phrase seems harmless, wanting to give God the glory for everything I have. But there is a problem; there are in fact several problems!
Calling myself blessed because of material good fortune is offensive to the hundreds of millions of Christians in the world who struggle to survive on their ‘daily bread’, those who have lost everything they hold dear through famine and war. The millions who have been tricked or forced into modern day slavery.
Consider the victims of the theology of prosperity, where faithful people scraping by to feed their families were simply told they must not be faithful enough. If they were, God would pull them out of their nightmare. Just try harder, and God will show favour.
THE NATURE OF GRATITUDE
Gratitude is far more than delighting in a gift; more than
feeling happy that you have received something you desired
or needed. From younger and younger ages we see children
receiving gifts which are received without any second thought
of the giver or any real good will towards the donor.
Gratitude must embrace a spirit of joy directed toward a
person for giving you something good. It is a happiness that
comes not merely from the gift, but from the act of giving and
receiving. The feeling of gratitude generally rises in direct
proportion to how undeserved a gift is.
Where work and pay are commensurate, we do not feel
remuneration as an undeserved kindness, but as our due,
and therefore the feeling of gratitude is not very intense
toward our employer; they have not done us a favour; we
have traded favours.
Gratitude abounds in the arena of grace. Gratitude is a
response to grace. Gratitude is the deeply felt emotion of
happiness and good will you feel toward somebody who has
shown you some undeserved kindness; who has been
gracious to you. When I acknowledge myself as the
beneficiary of such undeserved kindness, such grace, I stand
before my donor in a spirit of
humility. Any sense of pride or of
entitlement precludes grace.
There are many possible ways of misusing the Scriptures; Careless proof reading, applying a different meaning to a passage that the author never intended, and misquoting verses. Whether wittingly or unwittingly, we are deceiving and leading people astray. The misuse of Scripture has serious consequences: the needy are deprived of help, the faith of some is over-thrown, and people are led into immorality. Those who teach error under-mine the authority and integrity of the Scriptures in the minds of people by feeding their belief that you can make the Bible say anything you want, and it means you can be sure you are set aside for condemnation.
Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that what we believe, teach, and practice is Scriptural. This means that we need to search the Scriptures, examine the context, and research the background. We need to learn all the rules of interpretation.
Angela of Foligno was a great beauty of the 13th century who loved the world and its pleasures; she was a star that loved to twinkle in beautiful clothes and jewellery. But things changed; the violent earthquake in 1279, a hurricane, the endless war against Perugia and its harsh consequences, affected the life of Angela who little by little became aware of the emptiness of her life, until she took a decisive step. In 1285 she called upon St Francis, who appeared to her in a vision and asked his advice on making a good general Confession. She then went to Confession with a Friar in San Feliciano. Angela felt she should give something to God in reparation for her sins, but slowly came to realize that she had nothing to give him, indeed, that she “was nothing” before him. She understood that it would not be her will to give her God’s love, for her will could give only her own “nothingness”, her “non-love”.
A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away. His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.” A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses. His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.” One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs. His neighbours said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.” The man just said, “We’ll see.” The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared, since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted. His neighbours said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”
Today’s Gospel parable of the prodigal son is a collage of family life that makes me uneasy and the more I gaze on the image it invokes, the more uneasy I become. It is as though I look again on the lover’s story of Paulo and Francesca who like Lancelot and Genevieve transform light and innocence into something quite sinister and dark. As I look ever more closely upon the beguiling lovers’ embrace it becomes an eternal, lustful, dark, ravaging and unbreakable bond.
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - YEAR C
The journey to our Franciscan postulancy in Kokstad was filled with many obstacles and difficulties, but at long last; here I was one step closer in following the way of the Gospel and the ‘Little poor man of Assisi’. And then the first evening. ‘That is a beautiful rosary, may I have it?’
The pretty little red beads that had been my companion in prayer through the pilgrimages from Bethlehem and through the Holy Land; and now you want me to give this to you!
Dr. Harry Ironside, the Canadian American Scripture author and preacher, was once admonished about his lack of humility. A friend recommended as a remedy, that he march through the streets of Chicago wearing a sandwich board, shouting the scripture verses on the board for all to hear. Dr. Ironside agreed to this dare but when he returned to his study and removed the board, he said "I'll bet there's not another man in town who would do that."
I came to bring fire to the earth…Perhaps our first thought at this yearning expressed by Jesus would be the idea of ‘hellfire’ and the destruction of enemies as in the ‘fire’ the apostles James and John wanted to call down from heaven on the Samaritans who rejected Jesus. The graphic punishment of Sodom and Gomorra.
The Bible employs the use of fire in many different ways. However, when it comes to the spiritual use of fire, it is attributed to God. Yahweh manifests in various forms of fire. In the making of the Covenant with Abraham, the burning bush, the pillar of fire, on Sinai, in the flame on the altar, and Yahweh answering by fire.
All our readings today are about waiting patiently, performing our duty and
a promise of joy.
This is difficult concept for many of us today, because in our culture we experience
waiting as something negative. ‘I am waiting’ means that I am doing
nothing and furthermore that I resent it: ‘How could you keep me
waiting?’ This especially true in the face of any illness or suffering. Yet this is
exactly the place of encounter; the time of grace….when we allow it become
for us the road of transformation.
Billionaire Virgin boss Richard Branson is well aware that these were not Jobs’s final
words, but he still managed to find inspiration in the “last words of Steve Jobs”.
In fact, he found the passage so inspirational that he decided to share it on his blog
despite the fact that it’s fake.
I have come to the pinnacle of success in business. In the eyes of others, my life
has been the symbol of success.
However, apart from work, I have little joy. Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to
which I am accustomed.
At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all
the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant
with my imminent death.
In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for
artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical
sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming
Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough
money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives
that are not related to wealth.
It should be something more important:
For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.
No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a
twisted being, just like me.
17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C – 2016
Wild Asters by Sara Teasdale
In the spring I asked the daisies
If his words were true,
And the clever, clear-eyed daisies Always knew.
Now the fields are brown and barren,
Bitter autumn blows,
And of all the stupid asters Not one knows.
From eager youth, beyond advancing years that knows that it does not know and finally into unknowing death. Words and symbols are important! Words and symbols can really get us riled up: especially when it comes to liturgical words and symbols, so intimate to our relationships; they can even become a burning obstacle to community unity and peace.
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
Mary sits at the feet of their guest, Jesus. She is listening to his Words which are Truth and Life. Jesus affirms that Mary has chosen the better part. I could reflect on the art of listening, the importance of the meal and hospitality, but sometimes it is necessary to talk of the reality of sin!
The Good Samaritan is so much part of our culture and language, whether or not we are a Christian, that the true teaching and the depth of this story has been obscured by so much muddy water.
When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples, he said that their first words on entering a house was to be, ‘peace to this house.’ They were sent to be ambassadors of peace and goodwill. This is at the foundation of building the Kingdom of God for without peace nothing is possible; without peace fear and terror stalk our streets.
Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem; facing certain suffering and ultimate death…then he admonishes those who hesitate, ‘Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.’
We have an instinctive fear and aversion for suffering and death; we see it as something unnatural to be fought against.
We are talking to a friend over a meal; suddenly they reach for their phones and start scrolling or texting and we have effectively been excluded and placed ‘on hold’. Today no one is spared, even during a Christening!
Themes of lust and power, murder and repentance, justice and favour, mercy, reconciliation and redemption, might all sound like one of our long running ‘soapies’, yet these are the motifs crowded into this Sunday’s reading, just as they are the great threads that run through our history as a human species on a journey towards greater consciousness. img/11TH%20SUNDAY%20IN%20ORDINARY%20TIME%202016.pdf
Jesus gave him to his mother.
‘‘Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are obstructed.’’ —The Dalai Lama
Death frightens us; leaves us speechless and disconsolate; yet is also an encounter that leads to transformation.
Akira Kurosawa’s film 1952 Ikiru (the intransitive verb ‘‘to live’’ in Japanese) presents the viewer with a seeming paradox:
a heightened awareness of one’s mortality can lead to living a more authentic and meaningful life.
Jesus has performed the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and comes across the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. Large crowds follow Jesus.
Jesus turns to the crowds and warns them not to look for the bread that does not last but rather to seek the food that lasts to eternal life.
Jesus than says to his followers;
I myself am that living bread come down from heaven; my flesh is food for the life of the world.
The disciples were absorbed in a discussion of the Master’s pronouncement:
"Those who know do not say;
Those who say do not know. "
When the Master entered, they asked him exactly what these words meant.
Said the Master, "Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?"
All of them knew.
Then he said, "Put it into words.”
All of them were silent.
Perhaps looking into the eyes of a lover or your newly born child, some of us may have experienced true gift love that changes forever who we are and how we see everything in the world.
Some of us may even have seen the heroic power of gift love that transcends all selfishness and even time itself. We may even have known the pain of giving oneself in unanswered gift love.
- Reflecting on the Ascension of the Lord can be daunting. The Word which was, and is always before any time or space, has taken on the form of its own creation in time and in space, has been born as one of us, has suffered as one of us, has died as each of us do, was resurrected in the body as each of us hope through our becoming the Body of Christ, then has returned to the Source; returned to the Birther.
- Beholding this Incarnated WORD, naked soles and all, now returning to that transcendent dimension beyond our domain can be a dizzying phenomenon so that we might rather gaze elsewhere. That would be fine except that this is the blueprint of your journey and of my journey.
- The Ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: Earth and Heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. They are again one, and it was important that we see ordinary human feet going into heaven! The Christ is the archetype of the full human journey and now we know how it all resolves itself in glory. “So that where I am, you also will be.” ( 14:3).
- Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Lk. 24:45-47)
- If anyone loves me he will keep my word…Those who do not love me do not keep my words. And my word is not my own; it is the word of the one who sent me…my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
- Jesus speaks to his disciples and friends about leaving them. The mood becomes bleak! We also can feel the gloom at the prospect of losing someone who is dear to us. We don’t want them to go. We want to hold on to them. It's not easy to let go of someone you love. It' not easy even to let go of a treasured possession or a pet.
- Jesus speaks of those who keep his Word, which is the Word of God and the beautiful assurance to those who keep this Word will have Peace that this world cannot give.
- When we however gaze inwardly, we must acknowledge that our hearts are often sad, troubled and afraid. We hold on to relationships, the past, our treasured possessions of this world and then scramble in vain to control anything that would that would threaten these…and peace is gone!
‘Pale Blue Dot’ is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager One space probe from a record distance of about 6 billion kilometres.
The astronomer Carl Sagan reflected, “Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam…Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light… It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.”
- Jesus, as Lord, as Truth, the Way and Life, the one who is Good, knows his followers; knows those who respond to his call; those who hear and respond to the call of Jesus also know the Lord; known and being known.
- Known and being known gives us a sense of being, of belonging and of purpose. There is a great sadness in not knowing and not being known. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta called this the greatest poverty of our world today, being alone, forgotten, disregarded and lonely; no longer having any identity.
- Recently I was stopped at a shopping mall by a man who wanted to debate salvation with me; in particular, his assurance; his absolute certainty of his own personal salvation. There appeared to be more than hint of fanaticism as I was followed back to the car.
- It was Winston Churchill who noted that “A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject,” or in the words of George Bush; “I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them!”
- Our Catholic faith affirms that presumption is the product of pride and is a vice opposed to the theological virtue of hope. It is defined as the condition of a soul which, because of a badly regulated reliance on God's mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it, or for pardon of his sins without repenting of them.
- This particular Feast of the Church is the first ever based on private revelation; instituted by Blessed John Paul II in the Jubilee Year 2000. This is not the only reason that this Feast causes unease among many of my colleagues.
- It is on the vespers of this Feast in the year 2005 that St Pope John Paul died. Previously this Low Sunday of Easter was intended to give much needed rest to the choir and other organizers of the Easter Tridium. How are all of these linked to each other and to Easter; Justice, Mercy, Doubt…..
- Within each one of us there is an inbuilt sense of a moral code; a sense of justice and an indignation at what we see to be injustice. The closer this sensed injustice touches us personally, the more intense that sense of indignation grows.
- This is the indignation that demands what was taken from me to be returned and with interest; for my tormentor, my adversary to suffer in the same way that I have suffered.
- During the last year at the parish where I was stationed, we, as a community travelled with a young woman on her pilgrimage through the various stages of terminal cancer. At the weekly masses that were said for her through this period, I was constantly reminded that her one goal was to be able to attend the celebrations of Easter Sunday morning.
- There were no easy words as we embraced on the church steps on that Easter Sunday morning. I thought of the death of my brother Shaun earlier in the year, so that all I could whisper into her ear; death is not the end; death is not the end!
- I also have spent the last few months journeying through an illness that has been teaching me to let go of that pesky ‘illusion of being in control’; learning again like a child what I am capable of doing and the things I have to let go of.
Holy Week is the final week of Lent, but the focus shifts during this week from the individual self-examination to an active following of Jesus through the last days of his earthly ministry. The three days before Easter, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, are stand-alone days in the Christian year that focus on the final words and acts of Jesus, his suffering and passion, and his burial.
- The Palm Sunday procession is a living lesson in liturgy. By inviting us to imitate the actions of Jesus entering Jerusalem and the crowd welcoming him, the Church wants us to experience that the story is still being lived today.
- Today’s liturgy is therefore both celebratory and sombre in nature. We wave palms or olive branches, and chant or sing our ‘hosannas’. The Scriptures read focus on the tension of Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, as well as passages highlighting his obedience and humility.
Many Bible scholars, theologians, preachers and perhaps some of us also, believe that this story of the woman caught in adultery and forgiven by Jesus, sends out the wrong signals. This is almost like a blank cheque, a ‘get out of jail free’ card; you can live as you please, be involved all sorts of immorality; and yet Jesus just comes along, wipes the slate clean, and tells you to go away; you're not condemned for breaking God's law, you're forgiven.
This apparently creates the danger of misguiding people into thinking that they can live as they like, and yet still be forgiven by God; Mercy trumps it over justice. This seems to open our doors (especially our church doors) to the ‘disordered’ lives of fornicators, adulterers, gays and even paedophiles; unthinkable; shocking; not acceptable!
The Pharisees missed the point, many Bible scholars, theologians and even churches have missed the point: God's grace is free! You don't earn it and you can’t take it!
- To understand grace, we must tackle the prickly and sometimes apparently conflicting concepts of Law, sin, mercy, forgiveness and justice.
- Let’s begin with the language and metaphors for sin, contrition and reconciliation which have developed and changed along with the human condition and our understanding of psychology.
- Sin and its affects our lives and relationships can sometimes break upon us quite suddenly. A view of millions of tons of toxic waste being pumped into our oceans; the source of life and our being on this planet; human greed seen against the wonder and awe of God’s beautiful and holy cosmic creation. A drowned child running from war and now washed up on a beach!
There is a time to sit in the shadow of the Moringa Tree of Life and just to be part of the nature into which I also have been spoken. Perhaps this is the core of our Lenten journey in coming to see reality without the embellishments of structural control and illusion.
Through the great illusions of history and culture; a flat earth….the earth as the center of the universe….slavery and separation in cultural identity as divinely ordained; seeing Truth through the lens of deception and structural evil is never easy.
As St Pope John Paul II reminded us;
…choose to face reality not on our own, but with the strength that comes from on high, the strength of truth and love which have their ultimate source in God. Faced with the treachery of evil, religious people can count on God, who absolutely wills what is good.
Address to the Representatives of the World Religions, Assisi 1/24/02, #6.
- Associating evil primarily with an external force too easily leads us astray from taking responsibility for ourselves and our social, cultural and political surroundings. ‘The temptation to despair is a siren’s voice in each one’s soul’. The tendency to hate is a lesson learned through faulty mind-sets. The prayer of pious Jews in the Sedur (Jewish prayer book) even portrays God as the author much of such structural evils and illusions of separation ad exclusion:
Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a Gentile.
Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a slave.
Blessed are you, Hashem, King of the Universe, for not having made me a woman.
Living on the edges of death, disunity, fragmentation, epidemics and terror, most of us at some times in our lives come to experience the cold greyness of despair.
As we experience the death of a loved one, the end of our career, the breakup of a friendship or the betrayal of a deep trust, that same despair can break our hearts or become the breeding ground of a cynical ‘blame game’
Some years ago I listened to a presentation given by the educator and activist Parker Palmer which he entitled ‘When your heart's work has broken your heart’. He spoke of how few things bring as much meaning to our lives as doing work that comes from the heart. But too often our work is thwarted by the institutions we work for. Schools, hospitals, social service agencies, churches and certainly our government are often driven by factors far removed from true service. As a result, individuals who set out to do meaningful work become broken hearted as they are forced to compromise their ideals again and again.
As I listened this week to the debates on the SONA presentation, I was impressed by the general use of logical, statistical and syntactical fallacies. Aristotle would be proud of the use of so many of the fallacies that he identified 400 years before Christ.
Although the use of inconsequential and misleading appeals to history, culture and authority, confusing ‘consequences with causes’, scapegoating and randomization may not be the sole privilege of South African politics, it is made more apparent by what I would see as a lack of virtue, rather than purely wishful thinking, laziness, manipulation, conquest, bureaucracy, fear or busyness.
The loss of virtue considered as a comprehensive set of acquired moral values directed towards the good and the skills required to apply those values in the right aims, and the loss of wisdom are synonymous. To acquire and apply these virtues requires time, good will, experience through inspirational mentors in the community and exemplars.
On this first Sunday of Lent, we are also celebrating Valentine’s Day, the Day of lovers with the practice of exchanging cards, gifts of roses, and chocolates packed in a red satin, heart-shaped boxes. Today also, my brother Kenneth and his wife Susan celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary.
Inherent to all of these and the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, is the work of the Holy Spirit who is Love who guides us to that integrity of heart that is the foundation to Truth and trust on which we base the commitments of our lives.
Gospel reading: Luke 5:1-11
“Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” But Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on ....”
Do not be afraid! Peter, like the demons, recognizes that Jesus is “the holy One of God,” and his fear comes from being in the presence of this holiness as a sinner. As an impure man, he does not dare to receive the one who is pure. The Fathers of the Church affirm that this fear was praiseworthy, because he had been taught by the law to distinguish between the holy and the profane. (Cyril of Alexandria)
Last week the Gospel called us to a moment of grace; to stop, to listen and to hear the gracious Words of Jesus and to be astonished, to be in awe…but do not be afraid, for from now on…!
These experiences of God’s presence can occur at moments of insight through beauty and goodness but more often happens at times when we feel we are stagnating and the joy appears to have gone out of our lives through anxiety, losses, rejection, failure or illness.
This is when the call is to “put out into deep water”; to move in a new, and often fearful, direction.
A moment of grace; to stop, to listen and to hear the Words of Jesus and to be astonished...to stand in awe.
This is an invitation for us to move to new understanding of reality and the truth of who I am, seeing this reality in and through the eyes of Jesus who is the Christ and the model for my own being.
As Jesus stood before those people in his home town, he also stands before us today with that same invitation.
We face the same danger today as did those people of Nazareth 2,000 years ago. The greatest danger with God is for us to become accustomed to him, to fall from awe into routine.
Jesus is in the synagogue at Nazareth, his home town and presents the mission statement for his ministry.
Jesus says that the acceptable year of the Lord has now come. An acceptable year of the Creator; for the renewal of the creation, is at hand; a Jubilee year.
Every fifty years a special Jubilee Year was supposed to be held. An acceptable time to God for the rebalancing of wealth and resources between the rich and the poor; for the re-creation of a just society. Debts are cancelled. Slaves are set free.
This is the first thing that Jesus talks about in his public ministry; Jubilee. It pervades his parables. It’s right there in the very prayer he taught us to pray — “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”
At the Baptism of Jesus in the waters of the Jordon, "A voice came out of the cloud, 'this is my beloved Son; listen to him.' "
As Jesus is about to reveal himself to his disciples at Cana changing water into wine, "His Mother said to the servant, 'Do whatever he tells you.' "
Both the heavenly Father and the earthly Mother do one thing: point to their common Son, Jesus, and command us to both listen and to obey his word.
- The baptism of Jesus announces the beginning of Jesus’ public life marking him out as the beloved of God. Luke’s account of the baptism does not focus on the event itself but on its aftermath, the descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus while he was at prayer.
- By describing it in this way, the evangelist is highlighting two themes that are central to his gospel. These are the role of the Spirit and the importance of prayer in Jesus’ life. For Luke the fact that they are important in the life of Jesus means that they must also be important in the lives of us who are his followers.
- In reflecting on this event, we are being asked not only to believe it of Jesus but also to recognise it as part of our own story. Jesus holds up a mirror for us to see the possibility of becoming that which we have within.
- The very breath of God, the Ruaha speaking us into being, calling us into becoming; making us into the Beloved.
Epiphany is celebrated as the manifestation of the Lord. Jesus as Lord being made known. We look at the scene of the Lord lying as a baby between Mary and Joseph: the adoring shepherds and the Magi before them. We certainly could never maintain and that this a cross section representing Jewish traditions.
It is perhaps even more interesting to note who are missing from this revelation of Jesus as Lord. Where are the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees, the members of the Sanhedrin? Each of these groups held power in either religious or political matters.
The Herodians held political power that supported King Herod Antipas, the Roman Empire's ruler over much of the land of the Jews.
The Herodians favoured submitting to the Herods’, and therefore to Rome, for political expediency; to maintain the peace. This support of Herod compromised Jewish independence in the minds of the Pharisees, making it difficult for the Herodians and Pharisees to unite and agree on anything. But one thing did unite them; opposing Jesus.
Herod himself wanted Jesus dead but does not follow the Magi to be present at the “revelation of this foretold King”.
- Being human does not just mean having flesh and blood, but also having blood ties. It means belonging to a family.
- The pagan philosophers of Greece and Rome reflected quite insightfully upon the role of family in human life. They saw that children owed more to their parents than to anyone except God.
- Obviously, kids’ physical existence and basic education depend upon mom and dad. But if you think about it, children owe much more to their parents. We learn our native tongue not from our schoolteachers, but from our parents. We pick up from them, as by osmosis, attitudes, mannerisms, gestures, and habits. Like it or not, we are profoundly influenced not only by our genes, but by our family experience.
- The Gospel of John tells us that ‘In the beginning; before things began, before time, space and the least atom of ant matter, was the Word, the Logos that is the Word, the thought, the mind, the awareness, consciousness and creative potential, that is the blueprint of all being. This Logos was with God so that the potentiality of the Word had no reality outside of its own Being.
- This Word was God, so that all that was, was God. Then God said/thought/spoke,..the Word so that the potentiality became reality, releasing the energy that is the light that becomes the matter of the created Cosmos that bears as an echo of the image of that Word in every part of its being.
- ‘Let us make man in our own image; a reflection of the Word, being aware, conscious and having creative potential; ‘and after our own likeness’ having Being that is Good, and so it was that God created humanity in His image, in the Divine Image He created them; male and female He created them’, and then God blessed them in their own reflected potential creativity, that was the image of the Word and their likeness to himself in Being and in Goodness.
Almost since the beginning of Christianity, the Blessed Virgin Mary has been venerated as Theotokos, which is translated literally as ‘God-bearer’, recognising that she gave birth to the Son of God.
Mary is given to us to be the model of our lives, so what does it mean for you and for me to be a God bearer.....
A person who bears something to another, bringing something to another; whether that be presents, news, ideas or indeed help through our active participation or compassionate presence.
The bearer is the actual holder of something important and of value; think of "pay to Bearer" on a cheque or of bearer bonds. Mary's act of faith, her choosing to believe she had been chosen is the foundation of her God-bearing.
If we allow ourselves to experience with Mary, being chosen, being a beloved, being God’s presence in the world, we invariably will communicate that same chosen-ness to others.
The bearer is a carrier or messenger to another; the Gospel brought by the bearer of glad tidings, of good news.
Today is Gaudete Sunday; Rejoice Sunday! It is a day for considering all that we as Christians and specifically as a Christian community can rejoice about.
St Paul admonishes us in the same way as the communities of Thessalonica and Ephesus: Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Yet Pope Francis reminds us that “Today Jesus weeps: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities. We are close to Christmas: there will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war. The world has not understood the way of peace.”
Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War, the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War: “Useless slaughters,” he called them, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred,” he said. Then he asked, “What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?
The example of God’s limitless mercy, borne out of his unconditional love for us, must always guide us, even and especially when it is easier to be hard of heart, or even vengeful. In this way, the concept of a Year of Mercy is not a vague feel-good idea, or a project to be discarded once the Holy Year closes next November.
The Year of Mercy issues to us individually and to the Church in general a call to conversion. That call is perennial; this Holy Year serves to amplify it and offer us an occasion to deepen that faith which keeps transforming us.
Hopefully, too, it will provide the tools with which to translate the call to conversion into action, for example through parish missions and special liturgies.
The Year of Mercy cannot be simply dealt with by restating our sincere belief in a merciful God who forgives our sins while we give our assent to programmes of mercy through the click of a Facebook “like” button. The Year of Mercy calls us to live God’s mercy concretely in our lives.
Darkness and crawling shadows seem to define the landscape of our Advent this year; falling over our human spirit.
Repeated year after year we repeat the ritual of lighting of candles in the darkness, but we rush to look away from the darkness, losing sight of the element in which the light shines.
Fear and foreboding have fallen over our world. Climate change; African xenophobia; Syrian refugees, in staggering numbers and ceaseless lines, cast uneasy shadows over many nations, and are a foreboding about the order of things.
The nightmare of Paris happened on a November evening, in the gathering dark. The violent raid in Brussels followed in the dark hours of an early morning.
The theme of the Kingdom of God is proclaimed over 80 times in the Gospels. In 1925 the Feast of Christ the King was proclaimed. The concept of the Kingdom of God can be traced to 1,000 years before Christ. The Hebrews asked God for an earthly King like the other nations; a warrior king who will lead the people in conquest.
Through the prophets, God warns the Hebrews that their desire to be like other nations is a rejection of the Reign of God and that there will be dire consequences. The prophet warns the peoples:
Your sons will be used in their armies as common fodder….there will be war.
Their daughters will be taken to adorn their mansions…….there will be a breakdown of relationships.
The very land itself that belongs to God will be parcelled out among their own followers…..there will be economic injustice.
They will live on your labour and grow rich while you suffer….there will be political injustice.
A hundred years pass and God now reveals that he will send humanity a redeemer. This man who will be a Son of God and to whom God will be father. That this new Reign of God will encompass all the nations of the earth.
Our faith teaches us about creation and its final end, the New Jerusalem. We call these end-times, eschatology, that leads us to life everlasting. “Our bodies are anointed,” says Pilgrim’s Progress, “to prepare us to cross the river to eternal life.”
This is our destiny. We are not born to die but to live forever, created in image of God. We are not simply built for time but for eternity, to be with God forever. Such is a saint, living “a perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity” and “heaven is the blessed community of all perfectly incorporated into Christ.
The Eucharist that we celebrate each Sunday is our foretaste of this incorporation; being in one body. This is what the church terms as the mystical Body of Christ. This is what modern science defines as quantum entanglement.
Each one of us comes, at some time, to an experience of darkness; an annihilation; the end of our lives, as we had experienced them up to a particular crises.
Each of us has our favourite saint; the joyful St. Francis of Assisi, the gentle little flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the strong and sensible St. Teresa of Avila, the courageous martyr St. Benedicta of the Cross, Edith stein.
It is very Catholic and delightful, it seems to me, the way we feel so at home with the saints that we not only admire them and ask their intercession with God for spiritual favours, but also send them requests for the daily things of life.
St. Anthony of Padua is a good example. Some of us remember the little prayer rhyme to him: “Tony, Tony, look around; something’s lost that must be found.”
Still, we tend to think that we can never imitate or measure up to most of the saints. We look at the saints who died for their faith, the martyrs, some of whom suffered horribly.
As Saint Francis of Assisi travelled around the Iberian Peninsula, he would greet people with the greeting; ‘Pax et Bonum’; peace and good.
This mirrors the promise of Jesus Christ when he was about to leave his disciples; “my peace I give you my peace I leave you; not as the world gives do I give you my peace.”
St James also reminds us that ‘Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.’
The Peace and Goodness that Francis wished to all those he met was that very gift that is an attribute of God and can only be given by God. When Jesus gives this to his disciples, he is in fact bequeathing something that is that is his very own nature.
English lacks a word as rich in symbolism and meaning as this Hebrew word, SHALOM, but similar words are found in other languages. The Hawaiian word, aloha, has a similar meaning.
“Among all the awful miseries of this world Francis had a natural horror of lepers, and one day as he was riding his horse near Assisi he met a leper on the road. He felt terrified and revolted.
However not wanting to transgress God’s command and break the sacrament of His word, he dismounted from his horse and ran to kiss him. As the leper stretched out his hand, expecting something, he received both money and a kiss.
This was a dramatic personal re-orientation that brought about Francis' transformation. As Francis showed mercy to these outcasts, he came to experience God’s own gift of mercy to himself.
As he cleaned the leper’s bodies, dressed their wounds, and treated them as human beings, not as refuse to be fled from in horror, his perceptions changed. What before was truly ugly and repulsive now caused him delight and joy, not only spiritually, but emotionally and physically.
Spiritual development begins with a human encounter experience that touches us on a deeply emotional level. I think that St Peter is the archetype of such a journey for each one of us.
On the seashore Peter has an encounter with Jesus that allows him to see Jesus as Holy and to see himself as sinful. To see our actions for what they are against the God’s holiness is always the first step on the way of our conversion. “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
A confession has been made and this is followed by a call to follow Jesus that requires a radical departure from everything that went before. And so we see Peter leaving everything, even to his very livelihood and going down a path he did not fully understand at the time. An intuitive trust in Jesus as the Way has taken hold of Peter.
Peter’s conversion was a slow going process. He stayed with Jesus and followed Him as He proclaimed the Good News, but there are moments in Scripture where it is quite evident that Peter did not understand what he was a part of.
St Francis, the little brother from Assisi was dying. But despite his illness he and the brothers with him would often sing the praises of Christ and the Canticle of the Creatures with the new verse he had made to welcome Sister Death.
His brother Elias reprimanded Francis: Father, you know that the people of this city have great faith in you and consider you a holy man, and so they may think that if you are as they believe, you should be thinking about death in this illness of yours and that you should be weeping rather than singing, since you are so seriously ill. Do you not think we had better go back to St Mary of the Angels?
Francis replied: Dearest Brother, you know that two years ago, when we were staying in Foligno, the Lord revealed to you the end of my life. Moreover, he has revealed to me that the end will come in a few days and he has given me assurance of the remission of all my sins, and of the happiness of Paradise.
Before I knew this, I used to weep over death and over my sins, but now I am so full of joy that I cannot weep any more. And that is why I have sung, and I shall continue to sing to the Lord who has given me the gift of his grace and the certainty of the bliss of the glory of Paradise. But regarding our leaving here, I willingly agree.
To neither hear nor speak; a truly touching story of those who cannot communicate.
Isolated, they cannot hear God's word of truth, wisdom and consolation; they cannot hear the words of those who would like to enter into communication with them; they cannot hear the life-giving words spoken by nature, the truth of themselves, the greatness or the weakness of their own being; their own humanness.
Isolated, cut off from the Word, they cannot see or understand God's Word made visible in the Incarnation; unable to see God in the Word that became flesh; unable to see God evident in creation.
The Word of God is the beginning of all things created; it is the energy, the very stuff of reality, and in our ability to form concepts and communicate with language, we also reach out to comprehend that Word.
This ability of language enables us to reach out to God's Word, to reach out to that which is infinite and to stand in the very doorway of the sacred; but something has gone wrong with our ability.
In today's gospel, the "impediment" in the man's speech symbolizes our own inability to initiate conversation - our inability to communication with God, with other human beings, with nature, and even with ourselves.
To understand today’s gospel, we must first discover what the notion of ‘clean and unclean’ meant in a distant culture that is so very different to our own. We may think we know what it means but it is really a foreign concept in our time and culture.
In its historical Gospel setting, ‘clean & unclean’ are not individual virtues, but social qualities: the real danger of someone doing something unclean is not what it does to the person as an individual, but what it does to the whole group to which the person belongs.
This is a very different way of thinking to our post-modern age.
The reason that the Pharisees are worried about what the disciples are doing is not because they are concerned for the souls of the disciples, but because they are concerned for themselves!
The impure actions of the disciples is making everyone who is gathered in the same place as the disciples also unclean!
St Augustine tells us that we believe in order to know. Had we wanted first to know and then to believe, we could never have been able to believe. What have we believed and known? “That you are the Christ the Son of God,” that is, that you are eternal life and that in your flesh and blood you give what you are yourself.
To say that we know something speaks about a truth which is held by the knower. Knowledge concerns truth. Belief in a falsehood is not knowledge, no matter how certain you are of its truth and no matter how diligently you work to discover and test its truth.
There is no such thing as mistaken knowledge. Believing a truth is not sufficient for knowledge. You may guess correctly how many fingers I am extending behind my back; that is not knowledge.
Over the last two weeks, we have meditated on Jesus presented himself to the people as True “bread come down from heaven”; as wisdom and insight.
Today Jesus does further and deeper to give his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.
A startling assertion that will turn many of Jesus followers away on that day and will also be the cause of many giving their lives as the Martyrs; the blood on which the Church is built over the centuries to come.
This assertion that Jesus makes is also at the core of thousands of men who have dedicated their lives in answer to a vocation of making Jesus truly present at our altars.
“Flesh and blood”, is the biblical expression that means the reality of a human being, with a special stress on his or her weakness or limitations.
DIOCESE OF DUNDEE
POSTNET SUITE 95, PRIVATE BAG X6603, NEWCASTLE 2940
KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA
TELEPHONE: (034) 312 6591 - TELEFAX: (034) 312 6592
Vocations to the Priesthood Letter to the Diocese August 2015
Dear Brothers and Sisters in our Lord
I am writing these few words in Mariannhill as the Bishops of the Conference gather for their twice a year meeting. During August we are reading from the 6th chapter of St John's Gospel, it is very relevant, rooted as it is in the wonder of the Eucharistic promise that “whoever eats my bread and drinks my blood has eternal life.”
Here at our Conference I have listened to the plight of a neighbouring Diocese that has very recently lost at least 4 Priests previously on loan from Mariannhill Diocese. This very close and real situation has only made me more aware of the shortage of Priests and the direct consequence of the loss to a number of communities of the Sunday Eucharist.
“And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left” – Luke 23:33.
The movie of John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary begins with the line: Do not despair; one of the thieves was saved. Do not presume; one of the thieves was damned.
The quotation is not from the Bible, but refined lines from Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot.
The movie Calvary portrays a calm and dispassionate Irish parish priest, Fr James who is faced off against a small village of grotesque sinners and vicious hypocrites who also continue blithely receiving Holy Communion; the opening scene of the movie.
Jesus tells us that he is the bread of life. In the prayer Jesus handed on to his disciples we are told to pray; Give us this day our daily bread....and in the Aramaic translation: Grant what we need each day in bread and insight.
Last week we heard how Jesus fed the crowds on five loaves and two fish. The multitudes were deeply impressed because they ate all they wanted and had twelve baskets of scraps left over.
The crowds wanted to make him king but Jesus went up to the hills while the disciples crossed the lake in their boat. Jesus himself walked on the rough waters and joined them on the other side. The next day, the people too, crossed in their boats. Today’s Gospel begins at the moment they meet him there in Capernaum.
Surprised to see him, since they knew the disciples had set off alone, they ask him when he had come; instead of answering how, Jesus tells them why they came; a lesson in self-knowledge. I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the bread you wanted to eat.
G.K. Chesterton noted that "It's not that we can't see the solution. We actually can't see the problem." Bono gives us another way of looking at this: "We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong."
To ask the right question, even when sometimes we don't know what we are looking for.....this is the secret and the intuition of coming to wisdom and finding the way to peace.
In today’s gospel Jesus asks Philip the question "Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat? We are told that this is a test.
Before we can go on to the question of the feeding of the multitude, we need to consider this question carefully; it is after all Jesus own question and is aimed as much at us, as it is at Phillip.
The question of where evokes a sense of seeking; a journey to discover something.
I am no one’s sheep and I do not need anyone to shepherd me or to tell me how to live my life! I think and therefore I am and I take control of my life and my destiny.
These notions of freedom and self-determination turn our human hearts away from the one who reveals Himself as the one who is the I AM, before time began and after time will cease for each one of us.
Our very fragile, brittle and empty illusion of control is incompatible to any notion of being taught by anybody, even Jesus.
Yet without this reference to the God who is transcendent; God who is both with us but also outside of time and space, it is not possible to reach into our own intrinsic human dignity and vocation into eternity.
Without reference to God as the divine origin and purpose of the universe and all that is, there is something lacking in our understanding, in our judgements on how we should act, and in the depths of our hearts a great restlessness.
The story is told of this young person who had just joined religious life and was sent to a particular house renowned for the saintliness of its members and for their knowledge, love and adherence to the rule of the founders of the order.
Shown round the house and reminded how everything was shared in common; how this was to be their home, a home of equality where the superior was to be seen as a mother caring for her children.
Then reality started! Taking down a mug to make some tea...no, no, no, not that one, it belongs to so-and-so and they don’t like others using it!
How can they be made a superior; they have hardly been in religious life for 15 years. I've have been in this house for 12 years...and I don’t need any changes, thank you.
We don’t really like visitors in our house...we need our own space! We have 800 years of patrimony, and don’t need any outsider or newcomer to tell us how to live our lives.
These holy people had taken a wrong path and the light of the Gospel message had been lost!
While I was still in formation for the priesthood, there was a particular superior that made my life miserable; it was like an all seeing eye, a control freak, critiquing every action; nothing was ever good enough and he was able to quote the law as backing for his continuous criticism.
As his own actions often contradicted the continuous litany of criticism, I considered that I personally must be the target of a malicious grumpy old man. This made me deeply resentful.
One day I was with this particular formator together with a group of his old university buddies, when I suddenly saw this person in a new light and recognized that his stream of criticism was actually based on the fear of losing control.
I thought to myself 'The old man is afraid?' By the sound of the barking criticism one would never have guessed this.
This caused me to reconsider my previous judgment. To be perfectly honest, I had to admit to myself, some of my fiercest barking is also caused by fear.
We all know that death is an event, a happening in other people’s lives. Yet, when it happens to someone close to us; to someone we love, the whole dynamics of own existence forever shifts.
The reality of death, with all its pain, deep sense of loss and confusion confronts us at this moment. But as we are united as a family and as a community in sorrow, we are also united by something else; by our Faith.
Confronted with the reality of death, we must also allow ourselves to be confronted with that reality of our Faith. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church, and we respond to it by saying, "Yes, I believe; it is true!"
God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it!
When we speak about heaven, and resurrection, and the next life, we do not speak about these things because they give us consolation and strength, but because we must be re-aligned our lives to the truth of the new dynamics within which we are called to continue our own journeys.
This sick woman must have been emaciated after a haemorrhage lasting for twelve years. Her sickness made her legally unclean, untouchable. In Jewish Scriptures, the blood of human or beast is equated with its life, and the loss of blood is equated with death.
She could not throw herself at the feet of Jesus and state her complaint. Her modesty, shame, uncleanness and pressure of the crowd made close contact impossible, thus her eagerness to touch, in some unnoticed way the hem of His garment.
The primitive church called her Veronica, who lived in Caesarea Philippi. It is said that this woman who was healed of her plague walked with Jesus as He went to His cross, and that seeing His blood and sweat, she drew out her handkerchief and wiped His brow. Later on, as she reverently caressed the piece of linen, she found the image of the blood-stained face of Jesus imprinted on it.
Face cloths for the Roman catacombs alleged to hold the imprint of His features were called Veronicas. St Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea records that when he visited Caesarea Philippi, he heard that the woman healed of her issue of blood out of gratitude for her cure had erected two brazen figures at the gate of her house, one representing a woman bending on her knee in supplication; the other, fashioned in the likeness of Jesus, holding out His hand to help her.
There is a quality about touching that a makes it an apt sense for experiencing Spirit.
In the midst of chaos, our hearts become constricted by terror and our minds numb with heavy darkness. The disciples in that sinking ship represent this state; where the darkness of the abyss stares mockingly back at them.
This is the primeval state of things as God’s Word vibrates over the waters. The same Word of god that becomes incarnated in the person of Jesus the Christ who once again speaks the Word that calms the chaos.
The disciples leave the crowds behind; the Master does the preparation and then joins with the disciples in the journey into darkness.
From those first disciples through the many centuries this journey of the soul into darkness has prepared countless disciples for the journey from fear to faith and from faith to hope and then from hope to love.
It is only when we are swept into the chaos; when all our illusions of control are sucked beneath the roaring waters of turmoil that we can truly turn to Jesus and cry out with him to the Father; My god, My God, why have you forsaken me? Do you not care that I am drowning?
Like any pastor or teacher, Jesus is searching for the right metaphors to illustrate the concept of the kingdom of God, and we are reminded that today we need to find new images to illustrate our own vision of God’s kingdom.
A farmer has sown a tiny seed; he now watches and waits for it to bear fruit. Jesus makes a comparison between the small and negligible start and the extraordinary results. The farmer is in no hurry, he simply waits and lets things happen. Whatever happens will take its own time and he must certainly not try to hurry it. He does not try to find out how this happens, but allows things to develop as they will. When the time is ripe the farmer knows that he must get to work.
We think of parents who worked hard for their children and then one day they saw that it was time to move on and let them go. We remember leaders who gave their all to their jobs and then one day knew that the time had come to let others take over. We think of church pastors who gave themselves to their work and must now allow others to take their place.
Jesus makes a distinction between the small beginning and the final flowering. “At the time of the sowing it is the smallest of all the shrubs of the earth.” We remember small acts that we know about and that have led to great results. Acts of love and kindness and loyalty that were done without thinking about what would happen in later years.
Looking back, we now see that a great tree grew out of it with plenty of space for people from other classes and tribes to benefit from it. We think also of the many cultures that have found their home in the Bible.
The year is 1263 as German priest, Peter of Prague, stops at Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome. He is described as being a pious priest, but one who found it difficult to believe that Christ was actually present in the consecrated Host.
While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina, he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal.
The priest was immediately confused. At first he attempted to hide the blood, but then he interrupted the Mass and asked to be taken to the neighbouring city of Orvieto, the city where Pope Urban IV was then residing.
The Pope listened to the priest's account and absolved him. He then sent emissaries for an immediate investigation. When all the facts were ascertained, he ordered the Bishop of the diocese to bring to Orvieto the Host and the linen cloth bearing the stains of blood.
With archbishops, cardinals and other Church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and, amid great pomp, had the relics placed in the cathedral. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the Cathedral of Orvieto.
- We live in a time of great changes, or as some say, in a change of epoch. According to Pope Francis “humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”
- He reminds us that also in the Church the topic of crisis also dominates: the crisis of vocation, the crisis of perseverance, the crisis of Christian faithfulness and religion, the crisis of the institution and the crisis of morals.
- Many people today openly mock all faith in God. The very lifestyle we follow often tends to promote a kind of ‘atheism’ in us all. Especially in our cities, surrounded by technological gadgetry and all the signs of human inventiveness, we can be at a distance from the things of nature.
- Within this Spirit, even the rural-based of our population are bound to feel in some degree God’s apparent remoteness from our situation, God’s silence, remaining hidden to the end of our earthly days.
- In this current situation, of what relevance can the biblical revelation of the Most Holy Trinity, be in our lives. Can this mystery that “God exists as three interactive, loving Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, while yet remaining one divine reality, one God, be of any practical use to us here today.
- The first magnificent stone temple of the Jewish people was built in Jerusalem in around 950 BC. On the day of the dedication of this "Solomon's Temple," the shekinah, the glory of Yahweh, fire and cloud from heaven, which had been covering the Ark of the Covenant Mercy Seat in the Tent of Meeting, descended into the inner sanctuary of the new stone Temple.
- This became the assurance of the enduring divine presence of Yahweh that made Solomon's Temple both the centre and cantering place for the chosen people of God. The Temple was where God lived! The Seat of Mercy from which God spoke to the people.
- 500 years later, the Babylonians tear down the Temple and take the Jews into exile. By this time the Ark of the Covenant has disappeared from history and the visible shekinah of God’s presence no longer resides with the people.
- This results in a crisis of faith. So Ezra, Nehemiah, and Jeremiah convinced the people that they must go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple so God can once more be with them. But the visible sign of God’s presence no longer fills this new temple.
- This explains the growth of Pharisaism during the Second Temple period. The belief strong in Jesus' time that if they obeyed laws more perfectly; following absolute ritual, maintaining Sabbath purity; then the Glory of God would return to the Temple.
- Mary was ill and needed a blood transfusion. Her little brother, Johnny, had suffered from the same disease and had recovered two years earlier. Since her best chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had recovered from the disease, her little brother was identified as the ideal donor.
- “Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. He began to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.”
- Soon the two kids were wheeled into the hospital room. Neither of them spoke, but when their eyes met, Johnny grinned. As the nurse inserted the needle into his arm, Johnny’s smile faded. Johnny watched his blood flow through the tube.
- When the ordeal was over, Johnny’s shaky voice broke the silence. “Doctor, when do I die?” It was only then that the doctor realize why Johnny had hesitated, why he trembled before he agreed to donate his blood. He thought giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life.
1. Feral or ‘wild children’ who have been reared by animals in nature and later rescued are unable to develop relationships or to come to full self-awareness; they are unable to love or to know love.
2. The window period for the development of language and cognitive skills is about three years.
3. Love is something that is initiated within us. Therefore we come to others with a love which we ourselves have experienced from others.
4. We love others from something we feel in ourselves. There are people outside ourselves whom we love. It isn’t something we do because we have been ordered to do; we just feel it and then act accordingly.
5. The love we feel for others has come from somewhere else. It was placed within us by those who loved us first. When we love therefore, we are re-enacting something we have inherited from others. It did not come from us.
Once we get this sequence right, we will come to know that our desire to love; the love we have within us and which we have to give to another; must be given in order to be sustained.
- During this whole period of the year, the focus is on discipleship. In Lent the emphasis is on recognising the blockages that exist in our lives in following Christ and repairing damaged relationships with God and our neighbours. In Easter it is about growing in discipleship.
- Discipleship is not a rush of enthusiasm, but a long term commitment to following Christ, collaborating with Christ, to having a relationship with the Father through Christ. And, in every long-term relationship there is need for refocusing, replenishing, restoring, and reconciliation.
- Discipleship is also about ‘discipline’ in the sense of training and the building of habits of behaviour. To be a disciple of Jesus requires training in a particular way of living, it requires the acquisition of specific skills, and it requires the practice to know how to put those skills into practice in our lives.
- A missionary in Africa several decades ago lived in a small hut which was electrically supplied by a quiet, small generator. The little gas powered wonder supplied current for both his home and the primitive church building beside it.
- Late one afternoon two men from another much more remote village visited the Pastor in his hut, and were amazed when night fell, and he simply switched the room lights on. They were wide-eyed at the electric light bulb hanging from the ceiling of his living space.
- Pope Francis recently called on the world’s priests to bring the healing power of God’s grace to everyone in need, to stay close to the marginalized and to be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
- The image that is being invoked by this call is of a shepherd who is sleeping and working outside, trudging through the rocky Palestinian hills in search of a patch of grass with a bunch of stubborn sheep; the shepherd who has the smell of sheep, dung, and body odours.
- This is rather a long way off from the images of Jesus as the groomed, doe-eyed good shepherd, cuddling a tiny helpless lamb or carrying one over his shoulders, as comforting and nostalgic as this image may be for us.
- Most of us want to see Jesus as taming what is wild and unruly in the world, who with the crook of his staff, can solve what is unsolvable and answer what is unanswerable in life, who can protect and defend against the thieves and bandits of this world who come only to steal, kill, and destroy.
- Pope Francis reminds us that we eventually must come face-to-face with the reality that the world is still wild and unruly, that there are still questions without answers, that there are still thieves and bandits in the world bent on destruction.
- The Extraordinary General Assembly on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World held in October 2014 spoke often of Truth in relation to the family. Truth is actually mentioned 16 times in the summary document.
- Truth was held in relationship with beauty, with hope, with faithfulness, with mercy and as the Word of God made flesh, the Christ, the God who is Love.
- Love is cornerstone of our humanity; only love protects us enough to grow and change. And increasingly, it's the element often absent from our otherwise fortunate lives. Living in a society that satisfies material wants we didn't even know we had, throws into glaringly high relief our need to find acceptance and meaning through deep human contact.
- Love remains something we all long for, at least on the receiving end, but that we also seem to have so much trouble finding, or recognizing, or holding onto.
- Each one of us needs someone to share our laughter, someone to be a best friend as well as a lover, someone who'll not only listen to our doubts and celebrate our triumphs but also jump in the car for impromptu getaways.
In Jesus name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
1. The way that we understand this one sentence in the Gospel, will be the way we lead our lives. That is why the first followers of Jesus, the Christ, were called followers of the way.
2. St Francis of Assisi taught the friars: "We must bear patiently not being good and not being thought good." It is a rare insight, as the common assumption is that one primarily needs to "think well of oneself.”
3. St Thérèse of Lisieux, who lived just over 100 years ago, teaches the same thing and says it is a "new way." She called it her Little Way and called herself a "Little Flower" in God's big garden. This spirituality of imperfection undermines the egoistic use of religion for purposes of self-esteem.
4. Both Francis and Thérèse recognized that you come to God not by being strong, but by being weak; not by being right, but through your mistakes; not by self-admiration but by self-forgetfulness.
1. "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36)”. Christ’s words are the key to the Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has called for us to celebrate as a Church beginning this December. What effect can we expect it to have on our lives?
2. The theme of mercy has been central to the Pope's ministry as Pope, but also as a priest and bishop, Francis has placed a lot of emphasis on the value of mercy as a moment of conversion and the foundation for a renewal of the Church.
3. In his homily announcing the year of mercy, he characterized the Church’s witness to mercy as a “journey that begins with a spiritual conversion.” Whether in the confessional or in the slums, he has seen that God's mercy liberates us and gives that peace that cannot be found in this world. It compels us to be better Christians.
4. Mercy is not just a theological term meant for homilies on Sundays, but a reality that transforms lives both spiritually and humanly. The social sciences are increasingly backing up any number of the Church’s teachings by showing that a sound moral and spiritual life is the key to a happy and flourishing life.
5. The effect of God's mercy can be seen not only a supernatural level, but also on a human and psychological one. Psychologists recognize that patients often are bound by anxiety about not being forgiven and become slaves of guilt.
- "It was very early on the first day of the week; when Mary of Magdala came to the tomb when Mary of Magdaia came running to Simon Peter ... Peter set out, with the other disciple to go to the tomb .... They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter reached the tomb first.... (2-4).
- On that first day of the week life flares up again. God has intervened. He has burst open the tomb.
- There are places where death seems reigns. Injustice seems to have routed the forces of life. People feel powerless to oppose evil. Is discouragement in the presence of the sign of the victory over death compatible with faith in the resurrection of Christ?
- In earlier times each item in the resurrection accounts was studied like the clues in a detective story with the aim of building an apologetic that would explain the ‘how’ of the resurrection and the ‘what’ of the risen body of Jesus.
- But the kerygma of the resurrection lies not in the details of ‘the first Easter,’ but in the reality that those who join their lives with the Christ shall share a fuller, glorious, transformed life as the gift of the Father.
1. An empty Cross and an empty tomb await us this night. Five thousand years of history at last come to fulfilment in the promise of God to share with us God’s own life beyond death.
2. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that wealthy neighbourhood for the parents to give the graduate a motor car.
3. "Bill’ and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car. On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift wrapped Bible.
4. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father’s death that brought Bill home again.
5. As he sat one night going through his father’s possessions that he was to inherit, he come across the Bible his father had given him.
- Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Oh were you there when they crucified my Lord?
(Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble) Tremble. Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
- Pope Francis speaks of murder: “The person who gossips is a terrorist who drops a bomb, destroys, and they are outside …they destroy others.”…Yes, we were there when they crucified Our Lord.
- St James warns the community: What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! …Yes, we were there when they crucified Our Lord.
- St John warns us: Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. …Yes, we were there when they crucified Our Lord.
- St Mathew does not spare us: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” …Yes, we were there when they crucified Our Lord.
Our chosen Mission statement for the Parish of Ladysmith states that;
WE STRIVE TO BE A UNIFIED, LOVING, FAITH-FILLED, VIBRANT COMMUNITY, ROOTED IN GOSPEL VALUES, WHICH SUPPORTS, NUTURES AND BUILDS EACH PERSON TO ENABLE US TO FULFILL OUR MISSION OF SERVING GOD AND HUMANITY"
1. The outward sign of this ‘Community’ is the active participation in the life of the Church in our Sunday Eucharist.
2. In this Eucharist we celebrate the Word of God proclaimed and the Body and Blood of Christ shared.
3. This is our Communion and union in and through the community listening to God’s Word and sharing in the one bread and the one cup.
- Today we allow the Gospel of our Lord’s Passion to speak for itself. The betrayal of Christ starts with someone from the inner circle; someone from the community; Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and asks: What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?
- Judas went to the Jewish authorities and asks; What’s in it for me! On the other hand we hear that the disciple came to Jesus and asked; what do you want us to do for you.
- Judas asked 'What will you give me?' - The disciples asked what can we do for you?
- It is Christ who is being betrayed; Christ the head of the community; Christ the head of the Church.
- How often do we also get it wrong; seeing the Church as somehow separate from Christ and separate from ourselves? It is people who betray Christ; in His community which is his body, the Church.
- Jerusalem held deep cultural and religious significance for the Jewish people. Many of their great leaders, David, Solomon, Hezekiah, reigned in Jerusalem during the days of Israel's glory. It was a place of kings and power, a symbol of the Jewish nation.
- At its’ heart stood the temple. The retaining walls around the Temple Mount were designed to hold a huge man-made platform twenty stories high that could accommodate twenty four football fields for up to a million pilgrims. When it was completed, it was the world's largest functioning religious site and until today it remains the largest man-made platform in the world.
- The Temple itself on top of this platform, was spectacular. The Holy of Holies was covered in gold; the walls and columns of the other buildings were of white marble; the floors were of carrara marble, its blue tinge giving the impression of a moving sea of water; the curtains were tapestries of blue, white, scarlet and purple thread, depicting, "the whole vista of the heavens."
- The Sanctuary had everything that could amaze either mind or eyes. Overlaid all round with plates of gold, the first rays of the sun it reflected so fierce a blaze of fire that those who endeavoured to look at it were forced to turn away as if they had looked straight at the sun.
- To strangers as they approached it seemed in the distance like a mountain covered with snow; for any part not covered with gold was dazzling white.
- Eliezer Wiesel was a fourteen-year-old boy living in Sighet, Transylvania, at the start of World War II. Transported with his father to the Auschwitz Concentration camp, Eliezer saw many executions, and the victims, having already lost their capacity for emotion, never cried.
- Only once did the jaded, dried-up prisoners weep at an execution. An Oberkapo and his pipel (a young boy who acted as his assistant) who everyone liked, were suspected of blowing up a power plant on camp, but they refused, despite torture, to give any information about it.
- The 13 year old little boy, who had the face of a sad angel, was sentenced to be hanged. The prisoner who usually served as executioner refused to perform his task and had to be replaced by an SS officer.
- When it came time for the execution, the child said nothing, and the whole camp observed in silence.
- Since the child was so light, he didn't die immediately when he fell, and he remained alive, hanging for half an hour. All the prisoners wept that day, and one man kept asking where God was.
- Today’s Gospel is called the story as the Transfiguration. Jesus’ appearing in glory was a new phase in the journey the apostles made with him. From his first appearance in the world, Jesus was clearly visible as Saviour of all those in need of help.
- He appeared so especially to those who felt they were in some sort of need and so wanted to turn to him in their prayer for healing and forgiveness.
- The gospels often tell us about this element of Jesus’ journey. People were attracted to him for this reason alone, which is also why Jesus often withdrew from the crowd.
- Those who went looking for his healing power found it very difficult to find him (Mark 1:40). This was why it was said so frequently that all found it difficult to really recognize him; although they kept coming to him in ever greater numbers.
- This incident on the mount of Transfiguration shows us that something radical happened then. Jesus’ divinity was now linked to his lowering himself to be with the smallest of all people. He was getting down to the reality of the cross.
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. (Mk. 1:15)
- The first command of Jesus’ public ministry is not forgive, serve, or even love - it is: Repent.
- Of all the words he could have chosen it was this word, this challenge, this command which he spoke – Repent, and then......believe in the good news.
- To think of Lent only as a time of penance in the traditional sense is to do it an injustice. While the traditional practice of "doing something" for Lent is praiseworthy, there is much more to this wonderful season than just additional practices of piety or acts of penance and mortification.
- In Lent the Church calls us to metanoia. This Greek word translated as penance denotes a change of mind and heart, altering one's mind-set toward whole new ways of thinking and acting.
- This involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be. It involves testing our values and discerning how they stack up against the values that Jesus offers his followers.
- A leper approaches Jesus. He was an excluded, impure! He was to be sent away from human society. Anyone who came close to him would also be impure; sent out of the community.
- But the leper had much courage. He broke the rules of religion so as to approach Jesus. He says: If you are willing, you can cleanse me! Or: “There is no need for you to touch me! If you are just willing that is enough to heal me!
- This sentence reveals to evils:
1) the evil of the disease called leprosy that made him impure;
2) the evil of solitude to which he was condemned by society and by religion.
- Deeply compassionate, Jesus heals both evils; the evil of solitude, he touches the leper. It is as though he said to him: "For me you are not an excluded. I welcome you as a brother!"
- Secondly, he heals the disease called leprosy saying: I am willing. Be cleansed! In order to come into contact with Jesus, the leper had broken the rules of the law.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.…
- I know who you are, the Holy One of God.' The demonic powers are the first to be recognize the Lord. The early church fathers Chrysostom, Ambrose and Augustine remind us though that even if the demons confessed Christ, but without love that meant nothing.
- While Peter’s confession sounded almost the same verbally as the demonic confession, the crucial difference was that Peter confessed out of love, the demons out of fear.
- St Athanasius noted that Jesus silenced the demons because he did not wish that the truth should proceed from an unclean mouth.
- It was fitting that the truth should become a means of judgment not only for the salvation of those who believe but also for the condemnation of those who do not believe, that all should be fairly judged (Irenaeus).
- Jesus walks into your office; your shop; your factory and he says to you “Come, follow me”...For a moment think what your response would be…”Come, follow me.”
- What was it about Jesus that led those first disciples to leave everything and to follow him? Jesus spoke with an authority that had integrity. As the eternal Word of God, having become flesh, the will and the act were a flawless whole. What this Word says, IS; there is no maybe; it just IS.
- This is the Word that becomes Incarnate in Jesus the Nazarene. His human integrity was flawless. Of Jesus we could say that he was truly whole, integrated; one with himself.
- Hebrews 4:12 fittingly describes the teaching of Jesus as the word of God which: is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts.
- It is only by moving closer to the integrity of God’s Word can we also become whole, become integrated so that the will and the act also become seamless. Without such integrity no one is capable of seeing and experiencing Truth.
- Recently a street survey was undertaken in a large city, in order to establish the level of optimism or pessimism of various members of society in that city.
- When the results were tabulated, it was found that particular groups of those survey results pointed repeatedly to a negative outlook while other groups pointed repeatedly to a positive outlook.
- The researchers decided to call in the group leaders in order to try to explain this anomaly. What they discovered was truly amazing!
- The group leader whose results indicated continuous negative outlook was in himself mean-spirited, cynical and highly critical. The results of the survey of this group reflected perfectly the attitudes of the group leader.
- On the other hand the group leader whose results pointed repeatedly to a positive outlook within society, was known for his generosity, his openness, kindness and great compassion.
- We see people, not as they are, but as we, in effect, are.
- When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the last century, the authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish.
- Moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Damien De Veuster, asked to be allowed to minister to them. He realised that there was only one effective way to do this: that was to go and live among them.
- Having received permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to them while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realised that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself.
- The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more in keeping his distance.
- The lepers now had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame.
- Epiphany is a feast about light! When we have an epiphany, we sometimes call this a “light bulb” moment’. A moment of sudden understanding, of becoming enlightened!
- We have just heard the proclamation of the fascinating story of mysterious travellers from the East who journey far from their homes, far from safe and known boundaries, in their search for Christ.
- Over the centuries, imagination and tradition have moulded these travellers into "three wise men," three kings, three astrologers. From the original account there is however, no mention of how many there were. The term "magi" which was later used to describe the mysterious travellers is a term that originally referred to a caste of Persian priests with special claims to interpreting dreams.
- We come to our last Sunday of Advent; today we hear about plans – both human plans, and divine plans – and these plans reveals two great mysteries to us.
- We hear about King David’s plans. He has, through the grace of God, secured his kingdom; “the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side.” Responding to a noble inspiration of his heart, King David wants to do something to express his gratitude towards the Lord. He wants to build the Lord a house, a temple, that is worthy of God’s glory.
One stands among you who you do not recognize. Jesus, the Messiah, Jesus the light of the world stands before them but they do not see; cannot see.
“Nobody sees anybody truly but all through the flaws of their own egos. That is the way we all see ...each other in life. Vanity, fear, desire, and competition; all such distortions within our own egos; condition our vision of those in relation to us. Add to those distortions to our own egos the corresponding distortions in the egos of others, and you see how cloudy the glass must become through which we look at each other. That's how it is in all living relationships except when there is that rare case of two people who love intensely enough to burn through all those layers of opacity and see each other's naked hearts.” ― Tennessee Williams.
- Nothing is ever destroyed, only transformed from one form to another. This is a scientific understanding of our world. It is just as applicable in the world of spirituality.
- In order for something new to come about, something old must give way; must die; must be given up.
- It was Einstein who noted that we cannot create an opening, a pathway or a solution for such a new way with the same mindset that created the old road, the old way!
- John comes baptizing in the wilderness, and when he sees the Pharisees coming to hedge their bets with him, he pulls no punches. He perceives that in his own day, God is at work separating wheat from chaff, and that the chaff will be destroyed.
- What chaff is this? If we aren’t careful, we’ll decide that the Pharisees are the chaff, along with anyone else who is different and whose ideas we don’t much like.
As St Francis lay dying he turned to those around him and reminded them, “I have done what was mine to do, may you also do what is yours to do. Let us begin again, for up to now we have done nothing!”
The word of Jesus the Christ is a command to love.
ln Mother Teresa's words: “The worst disease in the world today is the feeling of being unwanted, and the greatest evil is lack of love. What the poor need even more than food, clothes, and shelter, is to be wanted.”
The words of Christ are as relevant today as ever. We might put them as follows; The King will say to those on his left: 'Depart from me, for I was hungry, hungry for a smile, and all I got from you was sour looks.
I was hungry for a word of encouragement, but all you did was criticise me.
- To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante's hell is the inscription: "Leave behind all hope, you who enter here. Jürgen Moltmann
- Advent is concerned with that very connection between memory and hope which is so necessary to survive.
- Advent’s intention is to awaken the most profound and basic emotional memory within us, namely, the memory of the God who became a child. This is a healing memory; it brings hope.
- The purpose of the Church’s year is continually to rehearse her great history of memories, to awaken the heart’s memory so that it can discern the star of hope.…