Saturday, 27 August 2016

Meditation for the 22nd Sunday - 2016

In ancient times, people lived mostly in fear of the gods. When lighting and thunder, storms and chaos fell from the skies, they believed it was the anger and wrath of the gods punishing them for their offences against the gods. Even the Israelites, who know of the one and only God, still perceived God as sending punishments upon the people for their sins.

It was also believed by the ancients that those with wealth and power and privilege among the people were receiving the favour of the gods. The poor were of no interest to the gods, and were left on their own, victims of whatever fate should befall them.

Jesus brings a new vision of God. God is a loving Father for all people. God is not the God of fire and brimstone, he is their loving and merciful Father. God desires not death and destruction, rather life for every person. Perhaps, most radical of all Jesus’ revelations, is the revelation that the poor and broken, the weak and the powerless, yes and above all - the sinner, were first on the list of those the Father has sent Jesus to call.

So in today’s gospel we have an example of Jesus bringing this good news to the people by using an example from their own daily experience; a wedding feast. Here Jesus demonstrates that the way they think is not the way God thinks and acts. A wedding celebration was of highest importance to the people. So when they planned a wedding and prepared a guest list of those to be invited, seating was of high importance. Those thought of most highly would be given the places of privilege. But in the wedding feast of heaven, the least important, the least worthy are given priority, because no one is to be left off the list.

In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus makes it plain and clear; I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Lk. 15:7

This is what is at the heart of this Year of Mercy. It is not to proclaim a “get-out-of-jail-free-year”.  The need for repentance has never been greater than it is today. Rather, Pope Francis wants us to stop judging one another. We are not to be making list of those we deem not worthy of our concern. We are to consider those who need to be on our list; on our list of those to pray for, those to reach out to, those with whom we need to be reconciled. Let us not forget, we all are sinners too, we are not on God’s mercy list because we are so holy and wonderful.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:1

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Through the Narrow Door

Meditation on Sunday's Gospel

The gospel opens with these words; “Lord,” someone asked Him, “will only a few people be saved?” Jesus answered, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able." Lk. 13:24. Mathew’s account renders it this way; “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Mtt. 7:13

This brings to mind a similar teaching Jesus gave about the narrow way that leads to salvation in his encounter with the Rich Young Man.  “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:23

There is an interesting discussion among scripture scholars about the “camel” reference. Some think it is a mistranslation. It should read “rope” (to pass a camel hair rope …) that cannot pass through the eye of a needle. See the reference and article below.

In Mark’s account of Jesus’ discussion of how wealth is an obstacle to anyone seeking salvation, Jesus makes it clear that saving one’s self is impossible. Then he adds that only God can make it happen. So the question arises, why does Jesus tell us “… to make every effort to enter …” if our efforts will be futile?

In order to grasp and appreciate, even in a small way, the gift of salvation, we must have some personal experience of what it is to give out of love. With the gift of free will working in us, we can begin to appreciate what it means to give and so to love. As we strive to be givers-out-of-love, we come to know who God really is and our relationship with him. And when we experience our giving the love of mercy to those who do not deserve it, we begin to appreciate how God loves us. God wants us to know we are loved not that we are deserving.

Our striving to enter does not make God love us, nor does it qualify us to merit salvation. It forms us into lovers and only lovers understand lovers; only lovers can know the God of love. 

* * * * * * * * * *

Consider Lucifer, angel of light, "Day Star, son of Dawn", so magnificent was his glory, that were you to enter his presence you would think you were seeing God. Yet pride and self deceit caused him to fall from glory. 
  “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15
To save us from such a fate, when God created us, he placed us in this lowly humanity, so that we would have nothing to boast of accept our nothingness - so that when God would cloth us in heavenly glory, we would not fall into pride as did the fallen angels.

There are some 41 bible references to Lucifer and the fallen angels. Here is a link to a site listing these references. [... LINK ...]

Camel or Rope 
"The Aramaic word gamla means camel, a large rope and a beam. The meaning of the word is determined by its context. If the word riding or burden occurs then gamla means a camel, but when the eye of a needle is mentioned gamla more correctly means a rope. There is no connection anywhere in Aramaic speech or literature between camel and needle, but there is a definite connection between rope and needle."
For the full article go to [ ... LINK ... ] 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Prince of Peace - Bringer of Fire

Meditation On Sunday's Gospel

At Christmas time, we hear hymns quoting Isaiah 9:6 - For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. The most famous rendering of coarse is Handel’s Messiah.

So how do we reconcile Prince of Peace with the words of Jesus in today's gospel?
“Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided."

The key here to understanding is in Jesus’ words, I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed!" His passion and death on the cross.

Some think of peace as everyone getting along. For us Canadians it is our boast. We are a peaceful nation, home of many cultures, languages; a model for all to imitate. Unfortunately, today more than ever, we hear that the best way to achieve this peace is by keeping religion out of the conversation. So when Catholic voices speak about, God’s revealed truth, right to life, marriage and family, sexual morality, doctor assisted suicide, they are severely criticized.

The “fire” Jesus says he comes to bring  is a cleansing fire, a fire of divine truth to challenge untruth, to engage in battle with the Deceiver, the distorter of God’s truth. His cross is not some unfortunate event caused because he was not careful about what he said, it was directly because of what he said, and those refusing to listen, becoming angered and enraged.

Jesus did not proclaim His message by forcing it upon anyone, it was spoken with compassion and mercy – full of healing and forgiveness; but also proclaimed without compromise. That Baptism Jesus speaks of is his Cross, and it is our same baptism.  We are baptized to be evangelists like Jesus, witnesses to God's truth.

So when we live and speak in imitation of Jesus, there will be some who will take offence. I wonder how much the Catholic voice today is hesitating to speak the gospel, feeling compelled to be politically correct, lest someone might be offended? 

Our evangelizing is not to be "an in your face" way of speaking. It is not accomplished by passing judgement, rather by confessing one's conviction and witnessing by one's life lived.

A beautiful model of a true evangelist is given by St. Peter:

Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander, 1 Peter 3:13

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Information Highway

  . . . . Who's Message Are We Getting? . . . . 

The conquering Romans built vast networks of roads to and from the lands they conquered. They used these roads to move in their occupying armies and to move out the wealth they looted from these countries. These roads were not bad in themselves, it was the purposes for which the Romans used them that was bad.

It was on these same roads we find Paul and Barnabas and the many other evangelist to follow,  bring the Gospel to these same peoples. The very roads that were used for evil purposes are now being used for good, to bring a knowledge of God's plan of salvation.

Today the highway network that spans the world we call the "Information Highway." Some internet facts:
  • There are 3.26 billion internet users as at December 2015; that’s over 40% of the world population.
  • By 2017, there will be more internet traffic than all prior internet years combined
  • 2.9 billion Google searches are made every day.
  • Google is the #1 most popular website in the world, followed by Facebook and YouTube.
  • (for more information = > > > LINK < < <
Like the Roman roads of old, the "Information Highway" is there for anyone to used. The question we need to ask is, "who's feed is feeding us?" 

As a resource for our faith, the internet can be useful if it is used wisely. The Church uses it as an instrument of evangelization; the Vatican, dioceses, parishes, Catholic religious community's all use the internet. Some of these are linked here on this blog. In addition to these, there are numerous personal sites that individuals have created dealing with Catholic interests. But there are sites among these that can have a negative impact; sites who's information is in direct conflict with authentic Catholic belief and practice.

The goal for this blog is to provide resources that can be useful to one's personal prayer practice. Because of the sheer volume of sites available, one needs to avoid having their time swallowed up by "information overload".

To help with this challenge may I offer these suggestions:
  • Create a priority list of links to sites that have a direct affinity with the direction in which your prayer is being inspired.
  • Include a site that has scripture resources like daily Mass readings.
  • Look for sites focused on prayer. i.e. Jesuit site.
  • Link to your parish, diocese, bishops conference, Vatican.
  • Downloading eBooks on prayer to use as a study resource (especially useful for commuters)
  • This "highway" is for getting there, not sightseeing, evaluate carefully your driving-thumb habits.

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