Thursday, 30 April 2015

Communion of Saints - Four

We now move to PART 3 of chapter 6 in John's gospel, The Discourse on the Bread of Life. [ LINK TO TEXT ] There is about to be a major shift take place. When Jesus provided bread to feed the multitude, they expected that their struggle to acquire their daily bread was over. Now their life was secure. Never again would they have to face hunger, for Jesus would feed them.

It is easy to see how people would be drawn to Jesus. Here is someone who is able to secure life itself, proof positive that he is truly a man of God, a prophet like the great prophets of old, the one God had promised to send.

But now confusion is about to set in. Jesus is missing. Where is he? Finding him on the "other side", (note the significance), does not seem to help for his message has changed, he seems to be distancing himself from "the provider of bread". "On the other side you welcomed us, sat us down and fed us. Now on this side you tells not to work for this life's bread. We are confused."  

Food that perishes

We are alive because we eat the bread that grows up out of this earth. But the life it gives will soon perish.

Jesus tells us that there is a bread that comes down to this earth from heaven. This bread gives eternal life.

Food that endures for eternal life

The people now try to regain the other Jesus, the one who provides this world's bread, the one with whom they could identify. At this point Jesus makes a startling claim, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst”. What is he saying? Are we to eat Jesus?  

We understand the process of the metabolism of food. We ingest the wheat in the form of bread, then our bodies use its components to make new components, compatible with our bodies. (In metabolism some substances are broken down to yield energy for vital processes while other substances, necessary for life, are synthesized - definition) 

In "Communion" There are two mysteries taking place. Firstly, the substance that is bread is changed into the substance of Jesus' glorified bodily presence. Secondly, in the act of "Communion", the communicant's substantial form co-mingles with that of Jesus, in a profoundly intimate way . Remember, the glorified Jesus is now freed from the constraints of natural world as we know them. Eternal life is a radically new form of life.

Communion in Jesus is the summit of every possible meaning we give to to what is intimate. Jesus uses our experiences of things that are intimate to help us get a rough idea of what the intimacy of "Communion" in him really is. 

In the celebration of the Eucharist, at the offertory, the priest lifts up the bread brought to altar for consecration saying: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

Then a few drops of water are mingled into the chalice of wine with these words; "By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity."
These drops of water sink into the wine until they too become wine. In the act of taking Communion, our being sinks into the being that is Jesus, and we share in the very divinity that is Jesus'. This is the COMMUNION that is the experience of the faithful sharing in the Eucharist - what we mean by the Communion of Saints.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a “Communion” in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a “Communion” in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. 1 Cor. 10:16,17

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Communion of Saints - Three

Our focus for this series is on the Communion of Saints, with particular attention payed to the notion of "communion"; noting that there is a significant difference between being a practitioner of religion and living in the "Communion of the Faithful". The key word here is "living". True religion is alive and active, animating all aspects of our lives. The question then is what is the source of life in true religion, a living faith? 

In our last post we turned to chapter six of John's gospel for insight. Noting that it was divided into three parts:
  • PART 1: vs. 1-15 ... feeding the five thousand people.
  • PART 2: vs. 16-24 ... disciples dark night on the sea, Jesus walking on the sea.
  • PART 3: vs. 25-71 ... discourse on the Bread of Life.
We have looked at PART 1. We now look at PART 2.

There are actually three accounts of Jesus' disciples struggling on the sea at night, and Jesus coming to them, walking on the water:

  1. Matthew 14:21-33
  2. Mark 6:45-52
  3. John 6:16-21

These passages lend itself so very well to the Ignatian approach to contemplation. There are different senses in which we can look at a passage of scripture. 

  1. There is the literal/historic sense, where you look at the passage as it is literally laid out before you.
  2. There is the spiritual sense, where the elements of the literal picture take on more symbolic, more personal meaning for you. Here we find three possible meanings to take from a passage.
  • The allegorical sense, where the disciples in the boat can mean the community of the Church, the sea the modern world.
  • The moral sense, where Peter on the water represents my soul and the struggles I am facing right now.
  • The anagogical sense, where Jesus saving peter is now Jesus intervening in my present life situation and what the outcome will be.

Start by reading each of these three accounts, just to get the full picture. Here is a >LINK< to Voices File Cabinet, showing them in parallel format. Here is a >LINK< to a web page that lets you line up different passages side by side.

It is most important that we realize that what makes Praying On a passage of Scripture fruitful is the presence and action of grace. Unless the Lord comes into the dynamic of our praying, it is just us alone in our thoughts. But when the Lord enters, our thoughts and feelings will emerge out of the prompting of his grace, inspiring us, and leading us to insights we would never have achieved on our own.

We cannot conjure up the Lord's presence, we do not make him come. We ask, in all humility, that he come into our prayer and guide us.

There are three separate accounts of the event on which we are praying. Using all three helps us get the big picture by taking note of the different elements the others have not included. 


  • In Mt and Mk, it is Jesus who "makes" the disciple to get into the boat and head out on the sea at night. In the dark night they loose sight of the Jesus they know and trust. This is deliberate, so that a new Jesus can be revealed to them. [When we think we know all there is to know about us and Jesus, he must take that away from us in order to take our relationship to a new and deeper level.] 
  • Mt and Mk tell us that Jesus enters into prayer. [It is in and through prayer that the plan for our life is discovered.]
  • The wind is against them. [The Wind/Spirit is driving our ship.]
  • An unexpected Jesus now appears and at first they are greatly disturb by what they are seeing. [When "the Jesus" we knew is gone and the new is revealed, we often have confusion and turmoil accepting him.]
  • Peter (us?) is will to experiment with the new. But his trust sinks under the challenge. However, Jesus will not let him flounder. [Peter is us, the turbulent sea our world reality, his sinking a measure of faith]
  • Why did you doubt – you of little faith – not understanding the “new bread” – the same boat but a new shore. [What does this all mean to you?]

Are you ready to enter this boat, to embark on a stormy sea in the dark, loose connection with the comfort level of your faith, find yourself in a new places? 

 Praying On a Passage of Scripture
  • PLACE: choosing a place with a measure of quiet and solitude.
  • PRESENCE: entering this prayer expecting to be guided by Grace.
  • PETITION: asking for the graces that will make this prayer fruitful.
  • PASSAGE: preparing a passage of scripture for reflection.
  • PRAYER: entering the passage, looking, listening, imagining you are there, focusing on various persons, collecting your thoughts, feelings, reaction. 
  • PRAISE and thanks: closing with a prayer formed in your own words, as one speaking face to face to another; expressing your gratitude for the blessings and guidance received in this prayer time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Communion of Saints - Two

We began this series on the Communion of Saints by looking at the notion of Communion; that there is a serious difference between being a practitioner of religion and living in the "Communion of the Faithful". It's the difference between existing and living. Rocks exist, but plants live; and everything that lives must have a sources for its life. This connection that living things have with their source of life is a communion of life. If the connection between this life-source, this communion, is broken, all life ceases. 

Communion is Life in the Spirit Perhaps the most compelling rendering of this notion is given by Jesus, in chapter six of John's gospel, where Jesus declares, “I am the Bread of Life.”

Chapter six is divided into three parts; 

  • PART 1: vs. 1-15 ... feeding the five thousand people.
  • PART 2: vs. 16-24 ... disciples dark night on the sea, Jesus walking on the sea.
  • PART 3: vs. 25-71 ... discourse on the Bread of Life.
Each of these parts will now be the focus for reflection and prayer.


Having a source of food is essential for all living beings. Everyone knows this fact. Jesus will begin with this common understanding to show that this is equally true for the spiritual life.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Much of life is spent trying to put food on the table. People have evolved from little bands of hunter-gathers into complex communal societies, pooling their resources to maximize the process of putting food on the table. A large crowd has gathered. They are hungry to hear the word Jesus is teaching them, even to the point of forgetting their need for food. 
Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus begins now to reveal how he and his "communion" of followers will be the source of the "Bread of Life", for the people.

  • Consider what constitutes the priorities of our societies today.
  • Inequality in societies - the have's vs. the have-not's.
  • What are my priorities - 
  • Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. Mtt. 6:19
  •  No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Mtt. 6:24
  • Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Mtt. 6:25 
  • So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness,* and all these things will be given you besides. Mtt. 31-33 

 Praying On a Passage of Scripture
  • PLACE: choosing a place with a measure of quiet and solitude.
  • PRESENCE: entering this prayer expecting to be guided by Grace.
  • PETITION: asking for the graces that will make this prayer fruitful.
  • PASSAGE: preparing a passage of scripture for reflection.
  • PRAYER: entering the passage, looking, listening, imagining you are there, focusing on various persons, collecting your thoughts, feelings, reaction. 
  • PRAISE and thanks: closing with a prayer formed in your own words, as one speaking face to face to another; expressing your gratitude for the blessings and guidance received in this prayer time.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Communion of Saints

In the Apostles Creed, as we profess our faith, and the beliefs that are central to our faith, we say we believe in the Communion of Saints. What is it that we believe when we say, "... I believe in the Communion of Saints." 

First, look at the word "communion". The dictionary defines the word as 
  • a sharing in
  • belonging to
  • participation in an intimate relationship with others
Now imagine this scene, you are walking down the street, you turn and enter a walkway leading to the front door of a beautiful family home, into which you freely enter, to participate in all the benefits of that family's life, because it's your family, your home; you belong, sharing in communion with the others of your family. Other people must walk on by, because it is not their home, they do not belong, they are strangers and do not have communion with your family.

In the picture above, on the left side, there is group of this world's people, among which we might easily include ourselves. Like all people, we are striving to live our lives as we move along the street called time. Now the question to ask, do you have a home to which you are going, a family with which you share life, loving relationships in which you share an intimate communion? Is there a door which is open to you, through which you freely enter because you belong?

On the right of the image above, through an open door, is the family of the Communion of Saints. They are those who heard the invitation, given by Jesus, to come and join his family, to belong and have communion with him; to follow in his steps, truly and faithfully, as he brings them home to the Father's house - the home prepared for the Communion of Saints, safe and secure forever.

There is so much to discover about this idea of Communion. For instance, there is the difference between being a practitioner of religion and belonging to the "communion of the faithful". In John's gospel account, we see Jesus saying: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. John 15:15

There is a real difference between the "practice of religion", and "a living faith". The next few posts in Voices, will explore the significance of this difference. 

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + 

In 2013, Voices had a series devoted to, "The Baptism In the Holy Spirit". You might wish to visit those posts at this time as well. The links are found in the side panel of the page. They begin with this post: Baptism in the Holy Spirit - One. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Divine Mercy Sunday

Second Sunday of Easter
Divine Mercy Sunday

Why Catholics Celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday
By Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem.

On the Second Sunday of Easter of the Jubilee Year 2000, at the Mass for the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, Pope John Paul II proclaimed to the world that “from now on throughout the Church this Sunday will be called Divine Mercy Sunday.” … link to the article

Second Sunday of Easter ... a homily by Fr. Robert Barron 

Conversations of the Merciful God With a Sinful Soul ... Divine Mercy Notebook V

Texts from the liturgy of the Second Sunday of Easter

God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own,
increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
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.

Prayer after Communion
Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that our reception of this paschal Sacrament
may have a continuing effect
in our minds and hearts.
Through Christ our Lord
Pope John Paul II with Mehmet Ali Ağca, 1983,
forgiving his attempted assassin

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Voices of Easter - Three

The Mystery of Easter

A mystery is something that we see, but not all of it. It is like a closed door. You see the door, you approach the door, but what is behind the door, to where it leads, remains hidden until you open it and enter into it. The tomb of Jesus, his burial place was not a mystery to Jesus disciples, at least at first. They know where is was; they had been in it to place within it the dead body of Jesus, covered with a shroud; they closed it shut with a large, rolling stone door. 

But when they returned to the grave site on Easter day, they could see:

  • the grave was where they knew it to be,
  • the stone door was there, but rolled away,
  • the shroud and head-covering were there,
  • the body of Jesus could not be seen.
They were now entering the Mystery of Easter
  • the dead body of Jesus was missing,
  • was it removed by someone, by whom, to where?
  • Jesus was there, but not as a dead body, he was alive
  • he was alive and present, but not as before, he was radically transformed,
  • his existence is no longer subject to the laws of nature, as we know them,
  • his real presence could been seen or not seen, by some or all
  • recognized and not recognizable as Jesus
  • he could be there and then not there
  • his voice could be heard
  • his body could be touched and held
  • yet it was not subject to the laws of nature as they are known
  • he was not subject to space and time as we understand it
  • his burial cloth held an image - how was it imprinted
Clearly, a new order of existence is being revealed. We have entered the mystery of something new. It comes to us

  • by eye witnesses
  • by the Shroud
  • by an act of grace where given
This Act of Grace was experienced by St. Paul, and many others down through the ages. This same Act of Grace, with its new laws of being, is still at work today. "For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened". Lk. 11:10

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Voices of Easter - Two

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
So she ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we don’t know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.
For they did not yet understand the Scripture
that he had to rise from the dead. Jn 20:1-9

Points For Reflection and Prayer

  • In the spirit of the Ignatius approach to contemplation - imagine you are rushing along with these two.
  • How far is it - Does Peter seem winded?
  • The other disciple is getting ahead - which one are you nearest to?
  • What are they saying to each other? Do they think Jesus' body is going to be desecrated to mock him in death?
  • Notice the reference to the Shroud and the Sudarium, (the cloth that covered Jesus face when he was taken down from the cross) Who would have gathered them up and taken them?
  • What do you think is happening to Peter as he emerges from the empty tomb?
  • Notice this account of the other disciple ... "he saw and believed."
  • Is he the first to grasp what Jesus meant when he said, "... and on the third day he will rise again?" (Mtt:17:23)
  • What is your conviction regarding Jesus resurrection?
  • Do you think you may have encounter Jesus some where, some time? (remember Mary Madeline did not recognize him at first)

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Easter 2015

An important part of our Easter celebration is the renewal of our baptismal promises. This is an opportunity, here and now and in full public view, to truly confess our faith in Jesus Christ. By these words we sign and seal our part in a covenant/contract that Jesus sealed with his blood on the Cross. This is a most serious moment for we will be held to account for our responsibilities arising from this covenant/contract on judgement day.

(from the Easter Vigil)

Dearly beloved, with one heart and one soul, let us by our prayers come to the aid of these our brothers and sisters in their blessed hope,
so that, as they approach the font of rebirth,
the almighty Father may bestow on them
all his merciful help.

O God, who by invisible power accomplish a wondrous effect through sacramental signs and who in many ways have prepared water, your creation, to show forth the grace of Baptism;

O God, whose Spirit in the first moments of the world’s creation hovered over the waters, so that the very substance of water would even then take to itself the power to sanctify;

O God, who by the outpouring of the flood 
foreshadowed regeneration, so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue;

O God, who caused the children of Abraham to pass dry-shod through the Red Sea, so that the chosen people, set free from slavery to Pharaoh,
would prefigure the people of the baptized;

O God, whose Son, baptized by John in the waters of the Jordan, was anointed with the Holy Spirit,
and, as he hung upon the Cross, gave forth water from his side along with blood, and after his Resurrection, commanded his disciples:
“Go forth, teach all nations, baptizing them
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
look now, we pray, upon the face of your Church and graciously unseal for her the fountain of Baptism.
May this water receive by the Holy Spirit the grace of your Only Begotten Son, so that human nature, created in your image and washed clean through the Sacrament of Baptism from all the squalor of the life of old,
may be found worthy to rise to the life of newborn children through water and the Holy Spirit.

(lowering the paschal candle into the water)

May the power of the Holy Spirit, O Lord, we pray,
come down through your Son into the fullness of this font, and, holding the candle in the water, he continues:
so that all who have been buried with Christ by Baptism into death may rise again to life with him.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
R. Amen.
(The people acclaim:)
Springs of water, bless the Lord;
praise and exalt him above all for ever.

Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Dear brothers and sisters, through the Paschal Mystery
we have been buried with Christ in Baptism,
so that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, now that our Lenten observance is concluded,
let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism,
by which we once renounced Satan and his works
and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church.

And so I ask you:
Priest: Do you renounce Satan?
All: I do.
Priest: And all his works?
All: I do.
Priest: And all his empty show?
All: I do.
Priest: Do you renounce sin,
 so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
All: I do.
Priest: Do you renounce the lure of evil,
 so that sin may have no mastery over you?
All: I do.
Priest: Do you renounce Satan,
 the author and prince of sin?
All: I do.

And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins,
keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.

All: Amen.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Holy Saturday 2015

"... And it was NIGHT."
These chilling words are found in John's gospel, Chp. 13:vs. 30. We heard these voices.

  • Jesus: “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”
  • Peter to John: “Ask him which one he means.”
  • John:  “Lord, who is it?”
  • Jesus:  “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”
  • Jesus: “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 
  • As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him … he went out ... AND IT WAS NIGHT
 It is in this "Night" that the Easter Vigil begins.

After the blessing of the new fire, one of the ministers brings the paschal candle to the Priest,
who cuts a cross into the candle with a stylus. Then he makes the Greek letter Alpha above
the cross, the letter Omega below, and the four numerals of the current year between the
arms of the cross, saying meanwhile:

  1. Christ yesterday and today (he cuts a vertical line);
  2. the Beginning and the End (he cuts a horizontal line);
  3. the Alpha (he cuts the letter Alpha above the vertical line);
  4. and the Omega (he cuts the letter Omega below the vertical line).
  5. All time belongs to him (he cuts the first numeral of the current year in the upper left corner of the cross);
  6. and all the ages (he cuts the second numeral of the current year in the upper right corner of the cross).
  7. To him be glory and power (he cuts the third numeral of the current year in the lower left corner of the cross);
  8. through every age and for ever. Amen. (he cuts the fourth numeral of the current year in the lower right corner of the cross).

When the cutting of the cross and of the other signs has been completed, the Priest may insert five grains of incense into the candle in the form of a cross, meanwhile saying:
  1. By his holy
  2. and glorious wounds,
  3. may Christ the Lord
  4. guard us
  5. and protect us. Amen.
The Easter Candle is lighted with these words: "May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds." With this, the Night is about to end. Our chains of bondage are broken. The Light of Christ dispels the darkness. The Exultet is sung.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Good Friday 2015

The Voice of Guilt is one of the most powerful influences the human mind and heart we can ever experience. True Guilt arises when we realize that what is said of us, our wrong doing, is both fact and belonging to what is evil. Our accusers can be others who know of our actions, or just ourselves when we measure our deeds against what is truth. 
But there is one Accuser who's voice can lock up our hearts with unbreakable chains of guilt, it is Satan. Satan knows what deeds belong to evil, for he is the father of evil. He also knows the intimate details and motives of our actions. With the full force of an attorney for the prosecution, he lays out his case for our guilt with the full wait of irrefutable evidence. We may employ the services of psychology to explain away your actions but we are no celestial attorneys and no match for Satan.
Our sentence is inescapable, banishment to utter desolation. As the shackles of guilt are fasten tightly around our soul, the darkness of despair engulfs us, our sentence is pronounced. 
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Messiah have now come, because the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown out: the one who accuses them before our God day and night. Rev. 12:10
FORGIVEN! Satan's case against us has been thrown out. "I forgive you. Go in peace."  It is God's plan that we should abide in truth and experience the peace that flows from it. Evil wars against that plan and its weapons are sin and guilt. Our only hope is not our self-righteousness, rather, it rests solely in forgiveness. The Roman cross was the ultimate sentence of punishment and death. Satan used it to destroy God's only Son, and thus bring down God's wrath on all humanity. But from the cross His Voice is heard. "Father, forgive them." 
 St Ignatius described a soul in the grip of darkness as one in "Desolation," He defined it as the "darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptations which lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, and loss of love. It is also desolation when a soul finds itself completely apathetic, tepid, sad, and separated as it were, from its Creator and Lord" (Spiritual Exercises, p. 130). 
When we are overtaken by such desolation, cling to the Cross, confess your sin and let Forgiveness set you free.

The VOICE of Jesus from the Cross
 Of the many voices we hear on Good Friday, the Seven Last Words of Jesus, spoken from the Cross, enter most deeply into our hearts. Here is a link to an inspirational reflection on these words. LINK

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