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 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.
- 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.
- 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.