Saturday, 31 October 2015

Why We Go To Church?


1. To Encounter Jesus - His Real Presence - Source of Faith - Giver of life -Answer to Prayer

On a personal level, the motivation that draws one to attend Mass is rooted in a true ... personal ... connection with Jesus and his gift of Grace. One goes to Mass because they are certain that Jesus is present. They go to meet him, to take their place at the Heavenly Banquet, to sit at his table to listen to his voice speaking to their hearts, and to nourish and renew their spirit by partaking of the One Bread and the One Cup from his table.
All of this is cloaked in liturgical forms, rituals that are meant to support the expectations of faith one brings to the Mass. These liturgical forms bear a serious burden of  responsibility to clearly and faithfully point to the realities hidden within their forms.

2. To hear the Voice of God - Seeding the heart with true Wisdom
In the General Instruction of the Roman Missal we read "When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel." #29 General Instruction of the Roman Missal.  
This is not bible study, it is the "act of listening". Think of the times, in communication with another, you would have to say: "That is not what I meant. Listen carefully to my every word, to what I am saying." Words are instruments, like a brush in a painter's hand, forming a picture, so that we can see what he sees. The more you gaze upon it, the more you see. Listening is contemplation with the eyes/ears of the heart. Movement of the heart becomes the measure of understanding.
The homily that follows is not a sermon reciting lists of codes of conduct. The homily is a fellow contemplative's take on the message revealed in the words - understanding that has been mined after much contemplation. "Now here is what I see ..." Clearly, those who minister in the liturgy of the word must be true contemplatives.

3. To be Nourished in Spirit - The Eucharist ... the Bread of Life.

I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Jo. 6:51
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. vs. 53
 “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” … 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. … Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

All life must receive nourishment if its life is to survive. Cut off from its source of nourishment, it will surely parish. True faith is not just a bunch of ideas, it is something living, growing, maturing - something that bears fruit as it lives. In nature, the relationship between that which lives and its source of nourishment is called nutrient assimilation. In the spiritual life it is called Communion.
Jesus answered the question, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” at the Last Supper. Jesus takes the bread and cup, which are natural instruments of nourishment that we understand, and transforms them into an instrument of Communion, to nourish the Life of the Spirit he has placed within our spirits. With the eyes of the flesh we see natural food and drink. But with the eyes of faith we see Jesus nourishing this new life he has given us. Nowhere else can we find such a Communion than here in the Eucharist.
How ironic are Jesus words, “Do you also want to leave?” as people withdraw from the "Table" and leave the church, not to return. Our answer is that of Peter's,  “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” Jo. 68-69
4. To Become - One Body - Corporate Unity - Become the Body of Christ
 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:12

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Rom. 12:4
We do not go to church for ourselves alone. This may sound odd to this age that asks, "... what is there in it for me?" Jesus tells Peter, "I will build my Church." We go to church because we have been called there. We are one of the many building blocks that Jesus uses to build his Church. Each one has a vocation given them by Christ. We have our part to play in God's plan for the world. In a way we go, not to get but to give ourselves up as Christ gave himself up to the work of salvation. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ living within me"
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Rom. 12:4

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2Cor 5:5

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor. 5:17

Spend some time in prayer with these points meant for your prayer time.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

For Where Your Treasure Is ... So Your Heart

"Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?" We might say that our quest in life is the pursuit of happiness. But when happiness alludes us, stress replaces happiness. In faith terms we call this the Problem of Evil. If God is good and loves us, why do the innocent suffer - why am I suffering? We have already looked into this in the posts, The Trouble With Weeds - [part I] & [part II]  If the quest of life is the pursuit of happiness, then answering the argument of evil is the quest of faith. Is there meaning in the struggles I face, if so, what?

When man walked upon the surface of the moon, no life was found, only the silence of empty existence. By contrast, looking back upon the earth, a planet, teaming with life, filled the imagination with wonder and awe. All the countless individual struggles that are conspiring together in the give and take of living, are now seen as one magnificent manifestation of life and purpose.

For now, we are unable to see the whole picture of our life's purpose in God's plan. Because of this we are vulnerable to deception and discouragement. So the Spirit comes to us in prayer, especially the prayer of contemplation, and lifts us up, beyond our narrow view of the present moment, and enables us to see beyond, to gaze into the bigger picture of God's design. Like moon walkers, we may see only the empty grayness of our present struggles - until the Spirit re-orientates our outlook, causing us to see how it all comes together into one perfect whole. No scientist, no philosopher can do this for us, only the Spirit can enter the moonscape of our desolation to show us the consolation that is found in God's perfect plan for us.

Luke Chapter 12
He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear.
For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.
Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds!
Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span?
If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?
Notice how the flowers grow. They do not toil or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass in the field that grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink,
and do not worry anymore.
All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them.
Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides.
Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.
Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.
For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

click to open link
Here is a link to an article by Joan Guntzelman in Word Among Us, in which she offers some advice on coping with the stresses we inevitably must face in life.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Pope Francis - Prayer and the Holy Spirit In the Synod On the Family

Synod On the Family

Reflections For Personal Prayer On Pope Francis Opening Address to the Synod On the Family

Dear Beatitudes, Eminences, Excellencies, brothers and sisters,
The Church today takes up once again the dialogue begun with the announcement of the extraordinary Synod on the family, and certainly even long before that, to evaluate and reflect on the text of the Working Document (Lt. Instrumentum laboris), elaborated on the basis of the [Extraordinary Assembly’s] final report (Relatio Synodi) and the responses of the Bishops’ Conferences and from the other organizations with the right to contribute.

The Synod, as we know, is a journey undertaken together in the spirit of collegiality and synodality, on which participants bravely adopt parrhesia, pastoral zeal and doctrinal wisdom, frankness, and always keep before our eyes the good of the Church, of families and the suprema lex, the Salus animarum.

 I should mention that the Synod is neither a convention, nor a parlor, nor a parliament or senate, where people make deals and reach compromises. The Synod is rather an Ecclesial expression, i.e., the Church that journeys together to read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God; it is the Church that interrogates herself with regard to her fidelity to the deposit of faith, which does not represent for the Church a museum to view, nor even something merely to safeguard, but is a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life.

In my personal life, does my prayer read reality with the eyes of faith and with the heart of God?
In my prayer of discernment do I interrogate myself with regard to my fidelity to the deposit of faith?Do I see my communion in the church a living source from which the Church shall drink, to satisfy the thirst of, and illuminate, the deposit of life?

The Synod moves necessarily within the bosom of the Church and of the holy people of God, to which we belong in the quality of shepherds – which is to say, as servants. The Synod also is a protected space in which the Church experiences the action of the Holy Spirit. In the Synod, the Spirit speaks by means of every person’s tongue, who lets himself be guided by the God who always surprises, the God who reveals himself to little ones, who hides from the knowing and intelligent; the God who created the law and the Sabbath for man and not vice versa; by the God, who leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one lost sheep; the God who is always greater than our logic and our calculations.

 Let us remember, however, that the Synod will be a space for the action of the Holy Spirit only if we participants vest ourselves with apostolic courage, evangelical humility and trusting prayer: with that apostolic courage, which refuses to be intimidated in the face of the temptations of the world – temptations that tend to extinguish the light of truth in the hearts of men, replacing it with small and temporary lights; nor even before the petrification of some hearts, which, despite good intentions, drive people away from God; apostolic courage to bring life and not to make of our Christian life a museum of memories; evangelical humility that knows how to empty itself of conventions and prejudices in order to listen to brother bishops and be filled with God – humility that leads neither to finger-pointing nor to judging others, but to hands outstretched to help people up without ever feeling oneself superior to them.

Do I open myself in my prayer time to the action of the Holy Spirit?

Do I trust my prayer?

Am I intimidated by all the so called "great lights" of the secular world - reluctant or unable to challenge them? 

What "temptations of the world", what rationalizations of  modern secularism, with there accompanying "good intentions", are extinguishing the light of truth in your mind and heart?

 Confident prayer that trusts in God is the action of the heart when it opens to God, when our humors are silenced in order to listen to the gentle voice of God, which speaks in silence. Without listening to God, all our words are only words that are meet no need and serve no end. Without letting ourselves be guided the Spirit, all our decisions will be but decorations that, instead of exalting the Gospel, cover it and hide it.

Speak Lord, 
your servant is listening.

Dear brothers, as I have said, the Synod is not a parliament in which to reach a consensus or a common accord there is recourse to negotiation, to deal-making, or to compromise: indeed, the only method of the Synod is to open up to the Holy Spirit with apostolic courage, with evangelical humility and confident, trusting prayer, that it might be He, who guides us, enlightens us and makes us put before our eyes, with our personal opinions, but with faith in God, fidelity to the Magisterium, the good of the Church and the Salus animarum.

In fine, I would like to thank: His Eminence Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod; His Excellency, Archbishop Fabio Fabene, Undersecretary; and with them I thank the Rapporteur, His Eminence Cardinal Peter Erdő and the Special Secretary, His Excellency Archbishop Bruno Forte; the Presidents-delegate, writers, consultors, translators and all those who worked with true fidelity and total dedication to the Church. Thank you so much!

I also thank all of you, dear Synod Fathers, fraternal delegates, auditors and assessors, for your active and fruitful participation.

I want to address a special thanks to the journalists present at this time and to those who follow us from afar. Thank you for your enthusiastic participation and for your admirable attention.

We begin our journey by invoking the help of the Holy Spirit and the intercession of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Thank you.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Stop You

… on this rock I will build my church, 
and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mtt. 16:18

When you hear the expression "the gates of hell" you think of that place of imprisonment where the souls of the condemned are held in eternal bondage and prevented from ever leaving, held securely by the gates of hell.

But there is another way of understanding the gates of hell - not as gates of imprisonment, preventing escape, but as citadel gates, preventing entry, entry into the great city of this world, the great city to which the Lord is sending his evangelists to bring the truth of the gospel, the Good News of God's Merciful Love and to set people free.

Mark ends his gospel account with what is known as "the Great Commission" - “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons;... Mk 16:15
Jesus makes it clear that he has been sent into the world by the Father to free the world from the bondage of ignorance that constrains it, from the lies and deception that Satan has used to imprison the minds and hearts of all peoples. From the moment Jesus enters this world, the powers of darkness conspire against him to prevent his coming by destroying him. But Jesus breaks down "the gates of hell" and enters triumphantly, first freeing the spirits of the dead held in bondage (1 Pt. 3:19) then entering the whole world through the ministry of the Church which he empowers through the Holy Spirit.

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Luke 9:1

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Lk. 10:17

By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to be evangelists, "to go out to all the world", and through every form of engagement and communication bring the light of the gospel to all people. Just as certainly as did Jesus, we too will be opposed. The gates of hell will stand against us. 

The face of this opposition may not be as obvious as depicted in the opening illustration. As St. Ignatius teaches in his "Rules for Discernment", our enemy will take on the persona of the "angel of light", appearing to be on our side - a welcoming friend, ready to assist us in our calling. That is why the prayer of discernment is so essential for the evangelist to practice.
It is a mark of the evil spirit to assume the appearance of an angel of light. He begins by suggesting thoughts that are suited to a devout soul, and ends by suggesting his own. For example, he will suggest holy and pious thoughts that are wholly in conformity with the sanctity of the soul. Afterwards, he will endeavor little by little to end by drawing the soul into his hidden snares and evil designs. Rule IV wk. II
The Prayer of Examine helps us stay connected with the "Angel of Light" as we strive to live as a true evangelist in whatever way God's Spirit is leading us. In John 15: Jesus reminds us of the importance of staying connected: Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
The following are some links that can help you with the Prayer of examine.

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