Sunday, 30 August 2015

Prophetic Voices Praying 1

The rationalist demand nothing short of empirical evidence, from believers, for the existence of God, and all their religious claims. I suppose that if someone claimed to know a person who was able to levitate from a sitting position and remain suspended in the air, you would remain disbelieving until you witnessed it for yourself. After all, seeing is believing. Yet, think of the apostle Thomas refusing to accept that Jesus had risen from the died unless he saw for himself. Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jo. 20:29

But the Lord wants us to believe - to know him and his love for us. Indeed, the Lord wants to, and will "show" us, if we will let him. There is a big difference between demanding him and letting him show us. If someone love us we will not know this until they begin to show us their love. They initiate the revelation of their love in ways that are uniquely their own, but are tailored in such a way as to make it possible for us to see and accept the fact of their love. It remains for us to accept or reject their love.

It may be that another person tells us that someone loves us. We in turn can make ourselves available, in anticipation of a personal experience to the truth of that love. Here we have a good description of what is meant by personal prayer, "opening ourselves to the experience of God's love".

In psalm 139, we see someone who has come to know, in a deep and personal way, his status in God's eyes. How did he come to this knowledge? Only God could have reveal this to him. He had opened his mind and heart and God showed him.

This is a wonderful text to take to prayer. Think of these verses of the psalm as God's words to you. This is how God's voice sounds, gentle, personal, loving. Let this voice speak to you.

LORD, you have probed me, you know me:
you know when I sit and stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.

You sift through my travels and my rest;
with all my ways you are familiar.

Even before a word is on my tongue,
LORD, you know it all.

Behind and before you encircle me
and rest your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
far too lofty for me to reach.

Where can I go from your spirit?
From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;
if I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn
and dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,
your right hand holds me fast.

If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me,
and night shall be my light”

Darkness is not dark for you,
and night shines as the day.

Darkness and light are but one.

You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!

My very self you know.

My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.

How precious to me are your designs, O God;
how vast the sum of them!

Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands;
when I complete them, still you are with me.

When you would destroy the wicked, O God,
the bloodthirsty depart from me!

Your foes who conspire a plot against you
are exalted in vain.

Do I not hate, LORD, those who hate you?
Those who rise against you, do I not loathe?

With fierce hatred I hate them,
enemies I count as my own.

Probe me, God, know my heart;
try me, know my thoughts.

See if there is a wicked path in me;
lead me along an ancient path

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach."

Your eyes saw me unformed; ... my days were shaped, before one came to be.

Probe me, God, 
know my heart;
... lead me along 
an eternal path.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Prophetic Voices - 3

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the TRUTH will make you free.” John 8:32
(In response to Pilot's interrogation) Jesus answered … "For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the TRUTH. Everyone who is of the truth hears My VOICE.”
Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” John. 18:37     


When asked in all sincerity, this is the question above all others. The dictionary defines the word truth in this way:
(1) :  the state of being the case :  FACT – it is what it is
(2) :  the body of real things, events, and facts : ACTUALITY – it does what it was           meant to do
(3) :  a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality - heaven, angels, soul

We can say in truth that the universe exists - that the universe unfolds in an orderly way (that it conforms to a design). For Pilot, understanding the working of the universe, as it was known in his time, was a work in progress, together with understanding the meaning of life within this universe. Those were important questions then (as they continue to be in every age). The theories put forward were many.

Pilot may have been familiar with the Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle and their approach to truth. He would know well the dynamics of politics and its subjective application of principles for justice and truth. The proliferation of religions and their countless deities were everywhere, all vying for the claim to the truth. So one can easily understand what formed Pilot's retort to Jesus, "Truth, what is truth?"

Questions of philosophy, politics and religion continue into our generation no less than in Pilots time. But now a new forum dominates the scene today - that of science and technology. New players have emerged laying claim to the truth, players such as the rationalists, the agnostics and the atheists. Since the atheists claim that there is no true God or gods, religion is dismissed outright from their quest for truth. The "fact" of the universe remains, true, but not by design since it was not created - there is no creator.

“If you continue in My word ...,

The voices of the rationalists, the agnostics and the atheists dominates the discussion now. The voices of religion and faith, which were once important influences in shaping our society, are now relegated to a corner set aside for myth and superstition. Religion is now replaced by secularism as the new path to truth.

Our history reminds us that whenever God's Truth is under attack, the Lord raises up the voices of His prophets to contend with the voices of untruth. In Paul's letter to the Romans we read:
How then shall they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear apart from preaching? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it has been written: “How beautiful are the feet of those proclaiming good news of good things!” Rom. 10:14
So who are the prophets who's voices are to proclaim God's truth to our generation? We are - those in the Church who still hold on to the truth, entrusted to them from the Lord. This is the age of evangelization and we are all called to be evangelists. But how? Where do we begin?

In the Book of Kings, we read how in the time of Elijah the voices of the prophets were under attack and silenced by the sword. Elijah alone remained, having fled to a cave on the mountain. We read:
And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
At that moment, the LORD passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11
View from the Cave ... Needing to Hear
The Church has reminded us that our generation is starving for truth, and that our vocation now is Evangelization. Prophet/Evangelists must first have their hearts attuned to the Voice of the Lord, (.... a voice, a soft whisper...) This begins in prayer, personal prayer, in the pattern we have explored throughout these posts. Elijah's cave is now changed from a place of hiding to become a place of encounter. Personal prayer is a schooling in evangelization. How can they speak of Him who's voice they have never heard?
(the LORD was not in the wind ...the LORD was not in the earthquake ... the LORD was not in the fire) Earth, wind, and fire, may be likened to the tumult of arguments swirling around us, all claiming to have the truth. But the voice of the Lord is not to be found them. It begins in prayer, then connects with others who have likewise learn how to listen in prayer. They are the voices, “... of those proclaiming good news of good things!”

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Prophetic Voices 2

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst … Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me … Then many of his disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” … As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. John 6:

Surveys show that since the mid 60's there has been a sharp decline in participation in the formal practice of religion among Christians. In one Canadian survey taken in 2012, when asked - did you attend a religious service in the past month - 23% answered YES, 77% answered NO. However, more than 7 out 10 people describe themselves as spiritual.

In 2007, Reginald Bibby, authored a paper with the title: Religion À La Carte in Quebec : A Problem of Demand, Supply, or Both? - link. 
"Quebec provides a fascinating case study of secularization and its limits. Prior to the 1960s, this historically Roman Catholic province may have had the highest level of church attendance of any region in North America. Since the 1960s, attendance has plummeted to the point that it now is among the lowest. Many observers assume Quebeckers have given up on religion, holding only to a kind of “cultural Catholicism.” The author draws on extensive census and survey data to show that Catholicism in Quebec remains highly pervasive, characterized by ongoing identification and the selective consumption of the Church’s teachings, particularly with respect to everyday life. However, large numbers of Catholics who have limited involvement in the Church indicate that they are receptive to greater participation – if the Church can touch their lives in significant ways......"
In the past, people may have gone to Mass on Sunday because it is was the Law, they were bound by a moral obligation that had mortal consequences. Failure to make your Easter duty bore the consequence of excommunication from the Church. Now, more and more people believe it's their choice to go or not, and how often. "What do I get out of going to church", is the issue now.

Catholics who attend services less than once a month are receptive to greater involvement, point to the fact that significant numbers of Catholics are open to ministries that can touch their lives and the lives of their families. But the important qualifier is that they have to find that such involvement is worthwhile. Most are not inclined to attend services more often simply because “that is what a good Catholic is expected to do.” Duty and deference have given way to a desire for worship experiences and ministries to children and young people, for example, that add something to their lives. (pg.15)

So is this a people's problem or a Church's problem - a failure to believe or a failure of ministry? Bibby's paper opens up the question but leaves it open for further study. 
An adequate assessment of such prospects is well beyond the scope of this paper. But one can initially see that many Roman Catholic leaders in Quebec and elsewhere have a mindset where they see involvement in the Church as something that is simply expected of practicing Catholics, rather than being conditional on the quality of ministry of the Church.
Apart from inclination, it is not readily evident that Canadian Catholic seminaries, for example, are training priests to assume leadership roles with a strong emphasis on ministry – beyond the celebrating of mass and the administering of core rites of passage. A cursory of glance at the current course offerings of Roman Catholic seminaries across Canada reveals that relatively little attention is being given to courses that attempt to understand the cultural context of ministry; focus on effective ministry to children, youth, and families generally; address issues relating to the enhancing of worship and music; help priests carry out effective pastoral work; and courses that prepare priests for the large amount of time they will to give to administrative and organizational tasks. Far more attention is given to traditional core courses that address the scholarly aspects of the priestly role – Biblical studies, theology, archaeology, Church history, and the like. (pg. 16)
Where is the problem ... with the ministry of the Church ... or with people's unwillingness to hear and believe? (And on a personal note, the same question asks ...?)

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