Monday, 31 December 2012

The Light Shining in the Darkness

The gospel text for this last day of this year 2012 is the first verses of the gospel of John. What better text to reflect on at this pivotal point in time; looking back over the year now completed, a summery of the foundation of our faith, looking forward, an inspirational starting point to hear again the voices that will lead us ever deeper into the mystery of our faith.

John uses the image of light to connect our minds to the mystery of our faith that he is revealing. We might say there are four kinds of light for us to consider. 
  1. There is the Light of Seeing, the light that enables us to behold this wondrous creation of which we are a part. Seeing is the point at which our learning begins.
  2. The second is the Light of Knowledge. As we look ever more deeply into the wonders of creation, our ability to interact with it increases. We become co-creators in creation, using our knowledge of its workings to enhance and develop our living experience.
  3. At this point a third light takes over, the Light of Wisdom. It enters our thinking that there seems to be a designed purpose for the way all creation fits together. The philosopher in us begins to asking questions and seeking answers. We know how it all works, but why? 
  4. We have now reached the point at which these three lights can take us no further. The answer to the question, who am I, why am I here, where am I going, must be answered outside of us. We need the Light of Revelation to tell us. "The light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world." He comes to shed light on our deepest of questions. "But to all who receive him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God." And so, the question, why, is ansered.
 Here is our starting point for this new year. Let us begin this new year by living each day,  enlightened by the light Christ shines upon us in Word and prayer.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Finding Jesus

Would it not be so very interesting to be able to listen in on this exchange between Jesus and the temple teachers. The scripture text on this Feast of the Holy Family, merely refers to listening and asking questions. It does tell us how amazed the teachers were with Jesus. However, the scriptures do give us more of the the exchange between Jesus and Mary and Joseph. It's Mary who speaks. "Child, why have you treated us like this?" How easily any mother or father can relate to this situation. A child, mere twelve years old, alone in a large city, this now being the third day. What fear must have gripped them as they searched frantically. Mary continues; "Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." This tender human moment gives us all a way of entering into the mystery of our faith at a starting point we understand. We identify with Mary and Joseph at this point for we too find it hard to understand these mysteries Jesus brings us into. Mary says, "your father and I ....", but Jesus' answer speaks of his Father's house. One easily can imagine the questioning look on their faces; the same puzzled brow we so often have as we listen to the voice of Jesus.
Here, Mary becomes for us an example to imitate. "His mother treasured all these things in her heart." It is in the heart where understanding is found, often in a way words are unable to explain.
Teach us dear Mary, how to surrender our hearts to the mystery that is our faith. With each new question that arises, show us how to "treasure in our hearts", the voices we hear coming to us from within, where the voice of the Lord is heard. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

On the Feast of the Holy Innocents


What should we say of this day
          How shall we describe its pain
                 If grief is a word so inadequate

How shall we gather up or even measure
          So many tears now falling
                 Into this garden of sorrow

Will we ask God for an answer
          Since no one can say
                 Why this infant life
                        Should not come to stay

 Why we must gather this way
          To say goodbye
                   Even before sweet welcome

 Why baby Hope is taken from us
           Before a joyful sound is heard

Love is sorrowing for her loss
          A mother's love -arms waiting to hold
                 God's gift withheld

          A father's love helpless before
                 So powerful a foe as death

          A pastor's love so frail and shaken
                 Who must speak for God
                       And now give answer

Who is this other One I hear weeping
          In this garden of grieving

Who is this who reaches out first
          To take up the cup of sorrow
                   This chalice of tiers

 Who is this who consumes it fully
          Leaving only one drop
                   For each of us to taste

Is not this garden Gethsemane
          Where God came first to weep for us
                   Again today that we weep
                             Not alone

Is not this garden Paradise our home
          Where Hope now lives and awaits
                   Our coming too?

Dedicated to newborn baby Hope February 2000. Fr. James Curtin

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

On the Feast of Stephen

While Christmas may be considered over for some, in the liturgy it has just begun and ending only when we reach the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 13th. This day, following Christmas day, is the Feast of Stephen. It reminds us that Christ's coming into the world is to do battle with the Evil One, whom he will defeat on the Cross. The First Reading of today's Mass gives the account of Stephen's martyrdom. As the voice of Stephen describes his vision of Jesus standing at the right hand of God, his enemies cover their ears, trying to shield them from hearing Stephen's revelation. They are filled with rage, a rage no doubt, that comes from Satan and all the fallen angels; enraged that they failed to destroy the Incarnate Son of God.

It is important that we hear of Christ's victory here at the beginning of his coming, for this same victory is ours to carry with us as we go forward into this year to come. No doubt, when we raise our voices to proclaim Christ, we too will be met with a measure of that rage. Let us not be intimidated or hesitant to profess our faith by the lives we live.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Voices From the Christmas Liturgies


Let us rejoice in the Lord
for our Savior has been born in the world.
Today true peace has come down to us from heaven
Lord, help us to encounter you today, that you may fill our hearts with your precious gift of peace.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness -
on them light has shone.
In many places and in many ways ours is that land of darkness today. Evil reports are heard daily. Let your light enlighten the path we walk O Lord, lest we too stumble and fall. Be the star that guides us.
O sing to the Lord a new song
sing to the Lord all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, bless his name
tell of his salvation from day to day.
May our voices be messengers voices, countering the babble of unbelief, so loud and deafening. Teach us what to say to a world so confused and deceived.
And the shepherds said to one another,
"let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us".
Lord, remove from us our timidity and hesitation to believe all that been revealed to us. Let others see the certainty of our faith and be inspired to go with us as we search more deeply into the mystery of your presence in our world.
Today a light will shine upon us, for the Lord is born for us;
and he will be called Wondrous God,
Prince of peace,
Father of future ages:
and his reign will be without end.
Grant, we pray, almighty God, that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word, the light of faith, which illumines our minds, may also shine through in our deeds. 
When the kindness and generous love
of God our saviour appeared,
not because of any righteous deeds we had done
but because of his mercy,
He saved us through the bath of rebirth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
whom he richly poured out on us
through Jesus Christ our saviour,
so that we might be justified by his grace
and become heirs in hope of eternal life.
I fear O Lord, that in my journey, I have much soiled that white garment with which I was clothed in baptism. But here, in these sacred mysteries, I pray that I be washed clean by the outpouring of your Holy Spirit.
The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God
for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways
by the Prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by the Son,
whom he appointed heir of all things,
through whom he also created the ages.
Tune our ears to the sound of your voice O Lord, give us listening hearts, attentive to your every word. Speak to us now, we are listening.
How beautiful upon the mountain
is the voice of the messenger who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."

With the Heart of a Child


Some like to say that Christmas is just for children. Now before one might be inclined to dismiss this remark as merely sentimental, recall this text in chapter 18 of Matthew's gospel, At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

What is it therefore that is found in little children that we also must have in us? It is the innocence of humility. Often today, leaders of religion in their efforts to attract the younger generation will try to make the gospel message come across as "relevant", appealing to what is thought to be a sophisticated audience.  If the message is to be believed, it must pass the tough test of credibility; the test of science, the test of consensus, the test of popular approval. Why should people today accept the experiences and reports of simple people from centuries ago?

I have always enjoyed reading the exchanges between Job and the three friends who come to console him, or rather to straighten Job out, believing they know the ways of God and why Job is suffering as he is. Finally God's voice enters into the picture challenging the three friends. Since they know so much, God asks them to explain this; then God takes them through the many ponderous questions of that age, to which they have no answer.
Wanting to know, to learn, to discover is good. Children are like that, asking, waiting for answers, willing to explore. Give a child an answer and they will come back with more questions. In their innocent humility, children seem to understand that God's design is much bigger than a single answer. It's a mystery to be discovered. I have always found the image of the tunnel a good way of illustrating this point. A mystery is something you see yet not fully comprehended. You have to be humble of mind and willing to enter into the mystery to discover it fully. What better person to ask than the One who made it.

As a child, whenever I would come across an entrance like this, I could not wait to go inside. I lost that child's humble questioning at one point and with it my way. Then I was given a gospel passage, (the Nativity) with the instruction to enter into like a child and discover where it takes you. "Show me Lord, I wish to learn".


Thursday, 20 December 2012

A Time For Listening

"Do You Hear What I Hear?" - the title of one of the Christmas song we hear played during these days, composed in 1962 by Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne. It is but one of the many favourites that lift up our spirits at Christmas with its inspirational message. But no sooner does the music end than we hear another report about the massacre of the twenty little children in Newtown, Connecticut, and with that a shadow darkens our spirits. We may want to turn quickly to something else to dwell on, perhaps to the scriptures, the real Christmas story. We take up Matthew's account of the birth of Jesus reading in chapter one to chapter two. What! There at the end of chapter two is the account of the massacre of the Holy Innocence. "A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamintation; Rachel weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled, since they are no more."

You realise that evil is not foreign to Christmas it is the reason why Christmas is necessary in the first place. Having failed to prevent the plan for the Incarnation to happen during the rebellion of the fallen angels, Evil must now undertake to destroy this Messenger of hope and salvation before anyone can hear His voice and be rescued from the reign of darkness and untruth.

In his rules for discernment, Saint Ignatius of Loyola describes two possible situations in which a soul might be found. The first group are those who have yet to hear and embrace the message of hope. In this case, evil will do all it can to prevent these souls from hearing the message by Drowning out His voice with every possible appeal from the secular world, deluding it into thinking truth is of its own making.

The second group are those who have heard the message and joyfully embraced it, striving to conform their lives to its wisdom and truth. Here evil must use every means of deception, striving to confuse and discredit and mislead the soul away from what has been revealed and believed, leading it back into its former isolation and darkness of mind, making it impossible for the soul to ever hear His voice again.

The Lord's voice will never be silenced and defeated, a lesson evil refuses to learn. Let us not be discouraged by the negative shouting that blares out around us. Let us continue to be attentive to His Voice of Hope. Let those with ears to hear, listen. Do you hear what I hear?

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Advent Reflections

Go to the page entitled:Third Sunday of Advent for some thoughts on the Third Sunday with references to William Kurelek. I have included a video.

Here in this place
surrounded by silence
my heart is listening to His voice
words my heart alone can hear,
I straining as one eavesdropping,
trying to listen in.
Images flash by like menacing figures
outside windows seen from within,
but unable to disturb this heart
absorbed by His voice of peace.
I shall stay a little longer
while my heart listens
then I shall ask, what did you hear?

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