Thursday, 29 August 2013

Mountain of the Lord

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?

The earth is the LORD’s and all it holds,
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it on the seas,
established it over the rivers.

Who may go up the mountain of the LORD?
Who can stand in his holy place?
“The clean of hand and pure of heart,
who has not given his soul to useless things,
what is vain.

He will receive blessings from the LORD,
and justice from his saving God.
Such is the generation that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.” 
                    Psalm 24

People of old, both Old and New Testament, are often seen seeking out high places, mountain heights as places of prayer. Moses was summoned to the mountain of the Lord to receive the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. Altars were built on high places, for like Moses, it was believed that high places brought them close to God. We see Jesus going up the mountain to pray. It was on Mount Tabor that Peter, James and John saw the transfigured Jesus, bathed in glory, conversing with Moses and Elijah. It was on mount Calvary that Jesus defeated Satan and won for us our salvation. It was from the mountain of the Ascension, after commissioning his disciples, that Jesus returned to the Father.

Lift up your heads, O gates;
be lifted, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may enter.

Who is this king of glory?
The LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD, mighty in war.

Lift up your heads, O gates;
rise up, you ancient portals,
that the king of glory may enter.
             Psalm 24

It is not necessary to climb real mountains in order to pray. Although, whenever you stand on the lookout platform of some very high peak, you get a sense of being set free from the bondage of the world with all its troubles.

However, a mountain is an excellent metaphor for the challenges facing one who is trying to reach God in prayer. The struggles of our lives often seem insurmountable, rising up before us like some great mountain we must climb. But unless we take the steps to begin, we remain weighed down at the bottom of our world.

Someone decides that they would like to climb a mountain, so they drive to the foot of the mountain, park the car and start climbing. It would not take long before a rescue party would be out looking for them. Climbing a mountain is no easy task. A quick visit to a website on the subject will reveal how much planning, training and equipment one needs even before they take a step up the hill. This might be enough to convince them that climbing mountains is not for them.

The Catholic tradition has a rich resource of guidance and instruction on the practice of prayer, great masters such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, and many others. At first glance, looking into their works on prayer might have a similar intimidating effect as the one facing the challenges of mountain climbing. The teaching these great masters brings to the subject of prayer should not be overlooked. However, their works should not be viewed so much as how-to works, rather as instruments for discernment and understanding of one's own experiences of prayer.

There is a distinction made about prayer having two sides. There is the "ascetical prayer", where the primary initiator of the prayer is the person praying. The other is "mystical prayer", where God is the primary initiator of the prayer. The person who sets out to climb the mountain of prayer does not climb alone. In chapter 9:28 of Luke's gospel, it tells us that Jesus "took" Peter, John and James with him up the mountain to pray. There they experienced the mystical transfiguration of Jesus. Literally, they enter into heavenly glory with Jesus. Such a revelation would not be possible on their own. But with Jesus leading them, it was made so.

As for "how-to's", I have recommended Saint Ignatius' approach to prayer. To climb the mountain of the Lord is both an invitation and a decision.  Once the decision has been set:

  1. Choose a time and place and firmly set your foot upon the mountain.
  2. Take with you the scriptures to map out a path to follow.
  3. Remember, you do not climb alone. Fix your eyes not on the mountain but on the Lord.
  4. Do not be intimidated by the heights before you. Ask and the grace you need will be given.
  5. Discern your climbing, marking well your steps in the light of the masters of prayer and the guidance of fellow climbers.
  6. Resolve, never to turn back.

Another said to him, "I will follow you Lord but first let me go back and ......"
Jesus said, “No one who sets (their foot upon the mountain) and looks to what was left behind is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Lk. 9:62

Saturday, 24 August 2013

With Contrite Heart and Humble Spirit

People of ancient times believed that various gods controlled the natural world, and so it was necessary to appease these gods in order to win their favour and protection. This was done by offering sacrifices to the gods on altars. Food, animals and even humans were sacrificed. Even when it began to be understood that there was only One True God, this thinking that God required human sacrifice was carried over. It would take some time for God's people to finally understand that God did not want human sacrifice, or any other material thing sacrificed. Everything already belongs to God. 

So beginning with Abraham, who was told not to kill his son in sacrifice, the message slowly began to be understood, but it would take time. There is this story in the Book of Judges.

Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the LORD. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering.” Jephthah then went on to the Ammonites to fight against them, and the LORD delivered them into his power.

When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah, it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the LORD and I cannot retract.” (Jephthah)  did to her as he had vowed. Judges 11:29-39

The temple of Solomon was build where the rituals practice of of offering sacrifice to God would continue. But this first Temple was totally destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC when they sacked the city of Jerusalem. 

With the temple gone and the people carried off into exile, we find this account in the book of Daniel. Daniel's companions Ananias , Azariah, and Mishael refuse to bow to the emperor's golden statue and are thrown into a furnace. Nebuchadnezzar sees a fourth figure appear in the furnace with the three and God is credited for preserving them from the flames. Azariah offers this prayer.

Azariah’s Prayer in the Furnace.

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,  brought low everywhere in the world this day  because of our sins.

We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received;  as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks,  or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. Canticle: Daniel 3:26, 27, 29, 34-41

An understanding of what God really wants of His people is beginning to to emerge. All things belong to God. However, there is one thing that God has given man dominion over, his free will, his heart, his freedom to accept or reject God's plan for him; his yes. In Psalm 51: 15 we hear: 

O Lord, open my lips,
That my mouth may declare Your praise.

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

In Psalm 40:6,

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand
you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.

Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
for your instructions are written on my heart.

A new temple is to replace the old, where true worship will be offered. It begins with Jesus purifying the existing temple.

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken. John 2:13

You are strangers and aliens no longer. No, you are fellow citizens of the saints and members of the household of God. You form a building which rises on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is fitted together and takes shape as a holy temple in the Lord; in him you are being built into this temple, to become a dwelling place for God in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22

With your whole hearts turn to God and he will blot out all your sins". Acts 3:19

This Grace I Seek:

  • Purify my heart, O Lord, and reveal to me every false idle that I am serving. Let my YES, be yes, coming from a truly humble, contrite heart. 

Examine for an Evangelist:

There are  the three areas wherein we meet our life's challenges.

        Where we must recognize the inordinate desires that dominate our hearts.
Where power and man-made value systems are contrived and put forward as truth. 
Where the father of lies, deceives even the wisest of people, where faith is ridiculed and God is denied.
 Where is your heart in all of these?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

I Come To Bring Fire On The Earth

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Lk 12:49-53 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + 

Fire of New Life

While we may think of fire as a feared and destructive force, nature sees it quite differently. For instance, forests need fire to keep them healthy and to promote new growth. Even as the raging flames engulf the trees, the searing heat causes the tree cones to irrupt, spilling out on to the ground their seeds, which have been waiting their release to begin the rebirth of a new forest. Every 50 to 100 years forests need this cleansing to invigorate new growth. 

Fire is also a violent and uncompromising force. When it begins its work of purging the forest of all that is dead and decaying, no longer fruitful, only suffocating life, nothing can stop it until the heavens open up with a baptism of life-giving rains for new birth.

We live in a culture that tells us that it does not matter what you believe, as long as we all get along. The search for truth is supplanted by the politics of compromise; truth is relative. It is here, with this way of thinking, that Jesus and the message of the gospels collide. When Jesus entered the temple and saw how greed and profit had  corrupted its sacred purpose, he was inflame with zeal  to purify God's house, restoring it to a house of prayer.

Each one of us is a "house of prayer", into which we invite the Lord to come. But when he comes, it will not be to pacify our desires with a false sense of peace. Rather, it will be to purify our hearts with truth, and to "en kindle in them the fire of His Love."  So often this leaves us bewildered, struggling to understand; confusing the fire of purification with the fire of wrath. Only when we have undergone such a purification will we be ready to become, the New Evangelists.

This Grace I Seek:

  • Lord, remove from my heart those desires that are opposed to your perfect will for my life. En kindle in me the fire of your love and zeal for the coming of your Kingdom.

Examine for an Evangelist:

  • Are there areas of my life I exclude from my prayer?
  • Does fear of confrontation prevent me from challenging wrong doing?
  • Am I open to sharing my faith with others?
  • Am I reluctant to identify myself as a faithful, practicing believer in Christ 
  • Do I speak up when my faith is disparaged? 
  • What concrete steps have I planned to deepen my personal knowledge of my faith and prepare myself to challenge those who attack the faith of the Church?

 Jesus, fill my heart with the fire of
 love which burns in your most
Sacred Heart
Brothers and sisters:
Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.
For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.
Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart.
In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood. Heb 12:1-4

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Assumption of Mary

God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth.

Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.” Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab  

Meditation Based On the Intercessions for the 
Feast of the Assumption of Mary

Eternal Word, you chose Mary as the uncorrupted ark of your dwelling place.

+Free us from the corruption of sin.

You are our redeemer, who made the immaculate Virgin Mary your purest home and the sanctuary of the   
Holy Spirit.

+ Make us temples of your Spirit for ever.

King of kings, you lifted up your mother, body and soul, into heaven.

+ Help us to fix our thoughts on things above.

Lord of heaven and earth, you crowned Mary and set her at your right hand as queen.

+ Make us worthy to share this glory.

O God, who,
 looking on the lowliness of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
 raised her to this grace,
 that your Only Begotten Son was born of her according to the flesh
 and that she was crowned this day with surpassing glory,
 grant through her prayers,
 that, saved by the mystery of your redemption,
 we may merit to be exalted by you on high.
 Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
 who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
 one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

It's Time - Light Your Lamps

Be Ready, Have Your Lamps Lit.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.

Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have the servants recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.

And should he come in the second or third watch and find them prepared in this way, blessed are those servants. Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” LK 12:35-40

Some Points To Consider:

  • What exactly is the service the Lord will expect to find you busy at when he comes?
  • Everyone has the vocation to become saints by a holy life of grace and service.  
  • Praying for others is a service in which we are expected to be engaged. "Stay awake and pray." "Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into the harvest."
  • Praying for the youth of this generation is critical. The sleep of indifference has descended upon us. Let us shake the silence with the clamor of evangelism, to wake our sleeping age.

The Grace I Seek:
O Lord, help me to know my true calling - the service to which you have called me - the purpose for which you created me.
My Prayer Reviewed and Journal
  • This meeting with the Lord, time and place.
  • The scripture passage that was chosen.
  • Presence - the character of your attentiveness - your sense of the Lord's presence.
  • Did you come with certain questions, certain needs, 
  • What was your state of mind?
  • What in the scripture passage caught your attention? Why?
  • How did you picture the scene in the scripture passage?
  • Which characters did you identify with - inspired you, most resembled you?
  • What images were you left with?
  • Characterize the way your spirit is moving.
  • What, if any, message were you left with?

+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

"Woman, Great Is Your Faith"

Great Is Your Faith"

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. Mt 15: 21-28

Some Points To Consider:

  • Is the Lord's delay in responding to the woman intended for his disciples, to give them, through the example of the woman's perseverance, a lesson in how to prayer?
  • Jews pejoratively referred to Canaanites as dogs. By juxtaposing this slander with the humility of the women, Jesus demonstrates who's prayers find God's favour.   
  • Consider again, the quality of your own prayer, your trust, your perseverance, your humility.

The Grace I Seek:

Create in me O Lord, a truly trusting, humbled, contrite heart; that my prayer may be found worthy in your presence.

My Prayer Reviewed and Journal
  • This meeting with the Lord, time and place.
  • The scripture passage that was chosen.
  • Presence - the character of your attentiveness - your sense of the Lord's presence.
  • Did you come with certain questions, certain needs, 
  • What was your state of mind?
  • What in the scripture passage caught your attention? Why?
  • How did you picture the scene in the scripture passage?
  • Which characters did you identify with - inspired you, most resembled you?
  • What images were you left with?
  • Characterize the way your spirit is moving.
  • What, if any, message were you left with?
+  +  +  +  +  +  +  +

Friday, 2 August 2013

Storing Up Treasures

The Parable of the Rich Fool: Luke 12:13-21

Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”  Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Points To Consider: 

  • Jesus refuses to arbitrate. Something else must compel his brother's actions.
  • In the scriptures, an abundant harvest is considered a blessing from God.
  • Would not any prudent manager choose to expand their storage capacity?
  • Wherein lies the problem?
  • "Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."
  • God's blessings are entrusted, not possessed.

  • The Grace I Seek:
    Lord, teach my heart to value wisely. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Mtt. 6:20

    My Prayer Reviewed and Journal
    • This meeting with the Lord, time and place.
    • The scripture passage that was chosen.
    • Presence - the character of your attentiveness - your sense of the Lord's presence.
    • Did you come with certain questions, certain needs, 
    • What was your state of mind?
    • What in the scripture passage caught your attention? Why?
    • How did you picture the scene in the scripture passage?
    • Which characters did you identify with - inspired you, most resembled you?
    • What images were you left with?
    • Characterize the way your spirit is moving.
    • What, if any, message were you left with?
    + + + + + + + 
    "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'… Mtt. 25:34

    Featured Videos

    Featured Videos.