Friday, 31 March 2017

Lenten Meditation One - The Cross of Christ

As we approach the final days leading to the Cross of Jesus, it is of highest importance that we have a clear understanding of what is really taking place before our eyes. 

From that time on Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. “Far be it from You, Lord! he said. “This shall never happen to You!” But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”… Mtt 16:21

What is about to happen is not a matter of political and religious infighting and Jesus becoming an unfortunate victim. What is about to happen takes place on a cosmic level and is a battle between heaven and hell.

Then a war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But the dragon was not strong enough, and no longer was any place found in heaven for him and his angels. And the great dragon was hurled down—the ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rv: 12:7

Satan had been created by God as an angel and clothed in unimaginable glory. But pride so consumed Satan and many other angels like him, that he considered himself as equal to God. For this grave sin they were expelled from heaven. God then chose to create human kind and give them the glory forsaken by the prideful fallen angels.

For it is not to angels that He has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking. But somewhere it is testified in these words: “What is man, that You are mindful of him, or the son of man, that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor and placed everything under his feet.” Heb 2:5

Enraged and consumed with deadly hatred, Satan set about to destroy God's plan by corrupting the human heart with the same sinful pride that had cause his own downfall. And so "Death" entered the world.

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and crying out in the pain and agony of giving birth.
Then another sign appeared in heaven: a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads. His tail swept a third of the stars from the sky, tossing them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman as she was about to give birth, ready to devour her child as soon as He was born. Rv: 12:1

"Ready to devour . . .", The voice of Death and his message literally devours all hope that life has sown in man's heart. "Your destiny is to rot in graves, consumed by worms; never to live again . . ." is Death's message.

Because PRIDE caused the corruption of the fallen angels, God's plan for human kind was that life should begin in time, before eternal glory would be given. During this period of time, man would have power over this world through intelligence and free will. But one power was withheld, the power to give himself immortality. This period of time on earth will be a time of purification, an antidote, a remedy for pride. It will require man to surrender in filial trust to God.

“From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Gen. 3:2

God alone defines what is "TRUTH". By learning truth and shaping one's life according to it, pride is conquered. It is then that one can be entrusted with heavenly glory. Then, death is not a grave it is a portal that leads into the presence of God, and a sharing in his eternal glory.

But what human can match wits with such an intelligence as Satan? Will not everyone be corrupted and devoured in the graves of death? Is there at least one human capable of resisting the council of Satan. If that One should succeed, could he not help us to resist as well? The Cross of Jesus is that cosmic battle to rescue me out of Satan's grip of death and bring me home to the Father's house. What can I do? Choose who's side I'm on, who's ways will be my ways, who's council I will embrace.

Then Satan entered Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve. And Judas went to discuss with the chief priests and temple officers how he might betray Jesus to them.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” “Lord,” said Peter, “I am ready to go with You even to prison and to death.” But Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” Lk. 22:


Sunday, 26 March 2017

Fourth Sunday of Lent - 2017

Recently, I saw a video of a young boy being given a special pair of glasses, enabling him to see colours for the first time. He looks out in amazement, then begins to cry and turns and hugs the person who gave him the glasses. This video you can see on YouTube. [ . . LINK . . ]

The little boy could see, just not colour. But imagine the impact on a person born blind who becomes able to see for the first time. In Jesus’ time, blindness, and other serious sight problems were common, with little hope of solutions. What is worse, people considered blindness as God punishing a person for their sins. The question raised in today’s Gospel asks, but who sinned if that person is born blind?

Jesus comes into the world to heal blindness – not simply physical but spiritual blindness. This miracle of the healing of the blind man will demonstrate Jesus mission, “. . . so that the works of God might be made visible through him. We have to do the works of the one who sent me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

All through the gospels, the people Jesus encounters are like the boy unable to distinguish colours. They have some idea of the importance of right religion but are blind to the full purpose of religion; that is – become holy as God is holy; become merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.

Then he said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mk 2:27  . . .   If you had known what these words mean, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned the innocent. (… would not be condemning me.)  Mtt: 12:7 –

There are two major religious/spiritual blindness’s to deal with in our time: the first is not having any religious faith at all; the second is practicing religion without a true conversion of heart. The Pharisees Jesus is dealing with in today’s gospel are of this second kind. They see their religious practice as a way to manipulate God. They think that strict obedience of religious laws pleases God. It is all God wants. These Pharisees fail to understand that the law is meant to direct them toward God, but God wants more than their conformity, he wants them to love the truth and goodness that the law points to – to be holy as God is holy.

Here is a simple illustration of how this might play out today.  A Catholic couple are getting ready to go to Sunday Mass. They are devout and faithful Catholics who would never miss mass. They see it as a serious obligation. Then one starts to become ill and they appear to be getting worse. But the other says, “I hope you start to feel better soon, but I can’t help you right now, I must go to Mass, it is my obligation. I will check on you when I get back”; and they leave their sick spouse alone with serious illness.

Wrong. They do not understand the reason for this serious obligation to attend Sunday Mass. We go to Mass to learn from Jesus the importance of loving God wholeheartedly, but not only loving God, but loving our neighbour as well; how, to love and care for them as God loves them, is also a serious obligation. To leave your spouse in serious need so you don’t break the obligation to go Sunday Mass, fails to understand its full purpose of that obligation.

As we hear this gospel passage today and enter this fourth week of Lent, let us examine ourselves in the light of these two spiritual blindness’s.

First, is my focus on the importance of the practice of my faith weakening? Is this secular age clouding my vision? Am I developing the cataracts of indifference and mediocrity which are starting to render me blind and deaf? This past Thursday, Pope Francis’ message in his homily at morning Mass pointed out that when we turn away from God and are deaf to His Word, we become unfaithful or even “Catholic atheists.”

Second, is the problem of Phariseeism affecting how I see the practice of my faith? Do I think that all God wants is to see me at Mass on Sunday, while I pass judgement on others and ignore the needs of my neighbour?

An article on modernday Phariseeism [ . . LINK . . ]

Saturday, 18 March 2017

The 3rd. Sunday of Lent

There are many ways to characterize this generation – I would use the word “Thirsty”, a thirst to get more, and more out of life, yet never satisfied. Forever going back to the well for more; thirsting for greater excitement, greater pleasures out of life; for more possessions to fill up the “never enough” empty spaces; More distractions, more entertainment, with less reality; more and more places to go, things to see; more friends, more relationships, yet fewer commitments - day after day, returning to the well with a thirst that never seems to be satisfied.

Jesus word today: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but the one who drinks of the water that I will give will never be thirsty. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

The woman in today’s gospel is a troubled, thirsting person – five failed marriages, now on her sixth, coming to the well again, alone, in the heat of the day, because she has been ostracized by her community. But on this day, there will be an encounter that will change everything and end her painful thirsting. She has tried all the angles for a happy life. She can converse on the issues of religion, but she does not know love, until today.

Jesus takes her through the wreckage of her life to the very centre of her thirsting heart – revealing to her God’s love. This woman is experiencing the healing of memories. Jesus leads her through a general confession and the receiving of the grace of forgiveness. Her encounter with Jesus is a model for the real purpose for Lent. Lent is for the thirsting – they who know too well the futility of their lives, the emptiness of their vessels.

Lent is a time for us to encounter Jesus at the “Well of Forgiveness”, or the sacrament of Confession. There are many resources we can go to prepare for the sacrament of Confession. These often appear in a form that resembles a checklist. But, as we see with the women at the well, preparation should begin in “conversation” with Jesus, in prayer, where we begin by asking Jesus, who knows us perfectly, where we should be looking. In Ignatian Spirituality, this is known as the Prayer of Examine. It is meant to be an ongoing spiritual practice.

For those unfamiliar with the Prayer of Examine, Lent is a perfect time to include it in one’s prayer life. The Ignatian website has all the information you need. . . . LINK . . .

More suggestions for the Sacrament of Confession: . . . LINK . . .

A final thought. There is someone today who is thirsting more than anyone else in the world. In the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross, the 5th is, “I Thirst.” This very day, these very Lenten days, Jesus continues to thirst for our hearts; for our surrender in faith to his love. Your response?


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Reflection on the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent - 2017

Some background into today’s gospel passage. This event is known as the Transfiguration of the Lord. This is Matthew’s account, but all 3 evangelists record it – almost word for word with each other. It begins with – “After six days” – six days after what – after Jesus predicting his death on a cross. This has thrown apostles into extreme confusion, with Peter protesting, “… this must never happen to you”, and Jesus correcting him strongly – it will happen.

The time setting here is harvest time. The crops are in, the meat is slaughtered. In book of Leviticus, God’s people are instructed, at the end of harvest, to observe 7 days of celebration in thanksgiving for the blessing of a good harvest. During these days, they are to recall their history – how their ancestors spent 40 years in desert, where God alone protected them and fed them, and continues to bless them today.

So, on their roofs they were to fashion little huts or booths of branches – like their ancestors did in the wilderness – they were to enter and contemplate God’s unbroken providence. It’s sort of like a seven-day spiritual retreat time. But this day would reveal that everything is about to change. It is as if the great vail is parted and they are now looking into the future, into heaven itself.
They see Jesus in his glory as the son of God. They see Moses who represents the law of the O.T. and Elijah representing all the great prophets of the O.T. And now God’s voice is heard from heaven: “This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased, LISTEN TO HIM.”

The age of the Law & the Prophets is now fulfilled. A new Age has begun,
o   the Age of the new People of God – now to include all peoples of the world.
o  the Age of Salvation through Faith in Jesus Christ, the new Law for holiness of life.
o   the Age of the Church, the new Prophetic Voice proclaiming God’s Word, God’s plan of salvation for all people.

Today, in the liturgy, we are standing in this very same place, God's presence – now we take our turn, listening to God’s Voice, with the very same command – “Listen to Him!” But oh, how hard it is to listen in these days. A cacophony of voice pours down on us every day – radios, T.V.s internet and cell phones – all ring in our ears. That is why we must have a plan, a clear strategy for listening.

First and most importantly is the Mass – here we are together, with Him. In the Liturgy of the Word it is Christ’s voice we hear. (Document on the Liturgy) But we must include others sources too: spiritual reading, bible study, faith-sharing in groups, retreats, papal teachings, devotional practices, etc. Get a paper and pen today and sit down and example what your strategy is – what’s happening, how am I listening, what’s missing?


Saturday, 4 March 2017

First Sunday of Lent

Some reflections for prayer on the First Sunday of Lent

Gospel for the First Sunday Lent invites us to go with Jesus into the wilderness – not literally, rather into the wilderness of or our own minds & hearts. Like Jesus, we want our own integrity to be tested, to examine the true quality of our faith. What kind of believer am I?

So, let us look at the three tests to which Jesus was subjected by the devil, which are the same tests we too must face this Lent.

The first test: integrity, security of our lives, "my bread of life".

It is said that we are living in the Age of Individualism – the “Me First Generation", the “What-ever-makes-you-happy” generation. That is “my truth”, and it’s my right to have what I need and want to make me happy.

Jesus’ response: Truth comes from God the creator. The true goal of every life is to discover and pursue God’s plan for my existence. The question I must ask myself is what truth is shaping my life? What is my daily bread I seek and desire each day?

The second test: proof; seeing is believing. 

We are also called the Scientific Age. Sound reason demands proof. If religion is true, where is the proof? If God is, and God is love, why so much suffering in the world?

Jesus’ response: believing is seeing. No human mind can capture the essence of God – but God will reveal himself to those who open their minds and hearts. Ask yourself, is the secularism of today eroding my faith?

The third test: power & possession – “to the victor goes the spoils”. 

We are also called the Age of Success. My life is measured by all my successes and the power that I must have to control them.

Jesus’ response = wealth & power last but a few years – then death comes to everyone. It is said of our age that the rich are getting richer; poverty in the world is growing. But where is this leading us? History has some worrisome suggestions.
Ask yourself: life is short, eternity is forever; where do I wish to end up?

Friday, 3 March 2017

A Lenten Examine


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The Prayer of St. Francis can be used as a plan and working agenda for our Lenten observance this year. As we mark our heads with ashes, we are exhorted to Repent, to turn away from sin. 

What is this sin we are called to repent of, to turn away from?  In general, any time we deliberately choose – by what we say or do, or fail to do – that does harm to ourselves or another, is to sin. 

Lent is a time for us to take an honest look at ourselves – to see where we may be instruments of harm in our world. The Prayer of St. Francis gives us a checklist for our examination. How do I measure up as an instrument of Peace?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ash Wednesday

From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope (Years 88 to 98)

Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognize how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father,” and I will listen to you as a holy people.

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarrelling and jealousy which only lead to death.

Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving. Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favor except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

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