Saturday, 29 April 2017

Easter Meditation Four - Emmaus

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

We are continuing in our Easter celebrations – listening and looking at the gospel accounts of the First Easter. These stories are full of drama and excitement as we watch the people go through a myriad of emotions – from despair, to confusion, to wonder, to illation – and there is a gentle humor in them as well.

My favorite Easter story is today's – Luke’s account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Have you ever wondered how you would react if you found yourself in the middle these stories?

But you are in the middle of this story – the road to Emmaus – as it continues to unfold for us today.
Here, let me show you what I mean:
o   Two friends of Jesus plodding down the road of life as it continues to unfold.
o   Jesus joins them but they don’t recognize his presence
o   They are full of questions about faith in Jesus – is he here, is he gone?
o   Jesus takes up the scriptures and begins to teach them.
o   Then he breaks bread and distributes it to each of them.
o   They recognize his presence and believe.

Dear friends, is this not us, right here, right now? Are we not having essentially the same experience?
o   Are we not plodding down the road of our lives – moving along to the next place to get to?
o   Are we not full of questions about faith, about Jesus – is my religion dead as many say it is?
o   Does Jesus not joined us here at table, even though we don’t recognize his presence?
o   Does Jesus not take up the scriptures and begin to teach us and answer our questions?
o   Does he not break bread and distribute it to each of us?
o   Is this not just as real for us now as it was for them?

What the disciples experienced was the Eucharist at its first beginnings and as it continues now for us today. The Vatican II document on the liturgy states clearly that when the gospel is proclaimed at Mass, it is Jesus who proclaims and teaches us. It is Jesus who breaks the bread of the Eucharist in the hands of the priest. Constitution On the Sacred Liturgy # 7

Now the question we must ask –
o   Are our hearts burning within us as he speaks to us in the liturgy and opens the Scriptures to us?
o   Do we now recognize his true presence in the breaking of bread?”


Thursday, 27 April 2017

Easter Meditation Three - Behind the Wall

On Wednesday of Week Two in Easter time we read this Gospel text: 

 God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.
For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light,
so that his works might not be exposed.
But whoever lives the truth comes to the light,
so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
Jn 3:16-21

In the image above, there are two figures and the wall. One figure is behind the wall, confined by the darkness of sin and guilt. The other is imbued in glorious light as it passes through the wall into freedom. The wall is the wall of guilt and condemnation, behind which there is no escaping. Behind this wall there is only death.

John tells us that there is one who is greater than the wall, one to whom the wall is no barrier. Before him the wall dissolves in the glorious light of Mercy, leading to freedom all who will follow the Light to live by His Truth.

Darkness and light and truth are now the preoccupation of Easter People. Where is my heart at this time? Am I dwelling in the darkness of my truth-less choices, behind a wall of self condemnation? Am I still refusing to listen to that Voice telling me, it is Easter now, the wall has been breached, the choice is mine now, stay in darkness or follow the Light? Where will my heart be - in darkness or in light?

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. 
Psalm 139


Monday, 24 April 2017

Easter Meditation Two - The Tree of Life

We began this Lent/Easter series by reflecting on God's plan to create mankind and to give us that share in God's glory that was lost by Satan and the fallen angels. Pride caused these angels to look at their glory as making them equal to God. Because of this, God stripped them of the glory he had given them, and banished them from his presence.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. 
Isaiah 14:12ff

To protect us from this same condition of pride, God begins our existence in this natural world, in the humble condition of a natural man, with only the promise and hope of sharing in God's glory. Then, with hearts purified of all pride, God can bestow on us a share in his glory.

 “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him? You made them a little lower than the angels; you crowned them with glory and honor and put everything under their feet.”

We do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Hebrews 2:5ff.

The image of an empty tomb greets our Easter meditation. Another is to have before us the image of the valley of death and the "dry bones" of Ezekiel's prophecy, together with the "Tree of Life" in the center.

Now begins our transformation and our sharing in the Life of God. St. Catherine of Siena gives an interesting account of what this transformation will look like.

St. Catherine of Siena was permitted by God to see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace. It was so beautiful that she could not look on it; the brightness of that soul dazzled her.

"Oh, if you could but see the beauty of a soul in the state of grace, you would sacrifice your life a thousand times for its salvation. I asked the angel who was with me what had made that soul so beautiful, and he answered me, 'It is the image and likeness of God in that soul, and the Divine Grace which made it so beautiful.'
Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena

Catherine's account reminds us of the experience of the Transfiguration of Jesus on mount Tabor, as well as some of the Resurrection experiences i.e. St. Paul's conversion experience. But the vision of the "glorified" person is extraordinary. 

Our transformation begins with the infused gift of the Holy Spirit. As we empty our hearts of our self-will and purpose, an emptying which is in imitation of the Cross of Jesus, we are filled with the New Life of the Spirit. As the image above depicts, the Cross now becomes the Tree of Life rising up in our hearts, full of new life.

And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But remain in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Lk. 24:49

And when they were gathered together, He commanded them: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift the Father promised, which you have heard Me discuss. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” Acts 1:4

In his book, "Spiritual Exercises", Karl Rahner draws from scripture a series of descriptions of the nature and working of this Holy Spirit in us.
  • the Holy Spirit,
  • the Spirit of the thrice-holy God,
  • the Spirit of the Father and of the Son,
  • the Spirit who was poured into us,
  • the Paraclete,
  • the Comforter, 
  • the Advocate,
  • the Spirit of freedom,
  • the seal of our redemption,
  • the first fruits of the redemption,
  • the pledge of eternal glory,
  • the strengthening and comforting anointing,
  • the Spirit who enlightens and inspires,
  • the Spirit who lives in our bodies as a temple,
  • the Spirit who sanctifies us into a dwelling place of God,
  • the Spirit who makes us the sanctuary of the Church,
  • the Spirit of the new creation through Whom the Lord makes all things new,
  • the Spirit out of Whom a person must be born again, in order to be the person God     intends them to be for all eternity,
  • the Spirit, the arouser of the glorified body,
  • the Spirit of adoption, testimony that we are the children of God,
  • the Spirit who searches the depths of God.
The health and worth of a tree is measured by the fruit it bears. For the next forty days, the scriptures of the liturgy will take us through an examination of this "Life of the Spirit" at work in the early Church. We will see these effects of the Holy Spirit working in the people "Baptized in the Holy Spirit". We look for the fruits of that Baptism to be renewed now in us.


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Easter Meditation One - Easter People

We Are Easter People

What do we mean when we say that we are Easter People? On Easter Monday we wake up to our usual Monday reality. We still have to get up and go to work, we still have a sore knee from a fall on Good Friday, we still have that neighbour complaining about our yard, we still have that Chemotherapy appointment to get to. So what has changed on Easter Monday; what does it mean to be Easter People?

The natural world has not changed, the political world has not changed, nor has the historical realities that shaped our present situation, changed. But the reality of who we are now, and the destiny to which we are called now, has radically changed. Now we will live in an intimate, spiritual communion with that Jesus, who is risen from the dead, who remains with us to shape entirely how we see ourselves now, how we will negotiate with the world around us here after, and who will replace the anxiety that shapes all life with the certainty of our resurrection with Him into eternal life.

Easter People still get wet when it rains; the reality of the world touches them the same as it touches everyone. But the way they touch the world back is changed, because of how they now see the world.

The first principle that dominates the world is "the survival of the fittest". All champions of life, both real and mythical, are conquers by force and power. That works if all there is is this material world; life that is short, and in the end death. Easter People have learnt that death is not the end of the story. The victory they have come to know, is not worldly conquest, but victory over death itself; the victory of "resurrected life" lives in them now, shaping their world view with a heavenly vision.

Easter People begin to live life now as they will live it eternally. But this is also a work in progress as they undergo that transformation of this earthly existence into that which they see revealed in the risen Christ Jesus.


Saturday, 15 April 2017

Lenten Meditation Seven - Easter

An Easter Sunday Reflection

St Paul makes this most striking statement; in his first letter to the Church in Corinth he writes:
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all (people) men most to be pitied. 1 Cor. 15:16
That is why today, Easter, is the most important day we own! I encourage you to take your scriptures and read the four gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Look at the people and the effect it has on them. See yourself right there is the midst of these wondrous happenings.

Now remember, many, including the Pharisees did expect there was to be a resurrection . . . but more like the resurrection Ezekiel describes in the vision of the “Dry Bones” - people wake up in their graves and be themselves again, living here on earth as they had been.

But this Jesus . . . this body he has . . . the totally new way he lives and is present to them . . . they are overwhelmed, over joyed, dumbfounded. Jesus has to demonstrate in various ways that it is he. It is Jesus, yet his body is not bound by the laws of nature as they know them to be.

But let us grasp why today is the quintessential, the most important day of the Christian faith as St. Paul has pointed out. Today we come to the intersection of all belief, several roads to choose are before us. Some take a road leading to other religions. Some take the road of no religion; the agnostic, the atheist. How many seem to be taking that road today. Many just stand there confused, seemingly unable to know which way to go. You will see them all in the resurrection stories.

But now it is our turn to choose. Which road do I choose? Today the Church replaces the usual recitation of the Creed with the renewal of our baptism promises. Today, we too who stand at that crossroad of all crossroads will be challenged to make our decision. Which road do I choose for my life? Who do I believe?

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.

Do you renounce Satan?
And all his works?
And all his empty show?

Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?

Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

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, 14 April 2017

Lenten Meditation Six - Good Friday

"He descended into Hell."
In the spiritual sense, death is the description of a person's ongoing condition. It is not that they no longer exist, they are very much that person, that soul, God brought into existence. But the state of their existence is now marked by the absence of the original "Goodness & Truth", that was intended to be their eternal state. "Goodness & Truth" are now replaced by "Evil."

The Devil and the other fallen angels were the first of God's good creation to descend into this condition.

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Rev. 12:9

The "Great Problem" facing this world is "Evil". Evil is at war with Goodness and Truth. Evil is vowed to infest every human soul, thus corrupting it and cause it to end up in the same condition as its own.

Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 
1 Peter 5:8

Souls that have been corrupted by Satan and sinned, now exist in a hell of hopeless separation from God's good purpose. In 1 Peter 4:6,  we read: "That is why the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged as men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit." Jesus defeats Satan's hold of condemnation over the souls departed. They hear Jesus VOICE, calling them by name, forgiving them their sins, and leading them personally out of "hell" and into the eternal light of God's presence. 

In your prayer this day, try to understand that your salvation was not God announcing from heaven and saying; "People, it's alright, no worries, I forgive you". The Son of God must come down to each soul personally, to reveal to that soul the message of salvation in ways that it can understand and accept. 

The Cross was Satan's attempt to scare off Jesus from ever accomplishing this goal. As vicious and evil as the passion of Jesus was, Satan failed. Jesus entered fully into the death of every soul, that he might encounter them, person to person, and offer them salvation through forgiveness. Understand, it is your personal salvation that has brought Jesus to this cross. For you, Good Friday is personal.

The following is taken from The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Paragraph 1. Christ Descended into Hell

632 The frequent New Testament affirmations that Jesus was "raised from the dead" presuppose that the crucified one sojourned in the realm of the dead prior to his resurrection.478 This was the first meaning given in the apostolic preaching to Christ's descent into hell: that Jesus, like all men, experienced death and in his soul joined the others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Savior, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there.479

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

634 "The gospel was preached even to the dead."484 The descent into hell brings the Gospel message of salvation to complete fulfilment. This is the last phase of Jesus' messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ's redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.

635 Christ went down into the depths of death so that "the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."485 Jesus, "the Author of life", by dying destroyed "him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and [delivered] all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."486 Henceforth the risen Christ holds "the keys of Death and Hades", so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth."487

476 Eph 4:9-10.
477 Roman Missal, Easter Vigil 18, Exsultet.
478 Acts 3:15; Rom 8:11; 1 Cor 15:20; cf. Heb 13:20.
479 Cf. 1 Pet 3:18-19.
480 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
481 Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
482 Roman Catechism I, 6, 3.
483 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.
484 1 Pet 4:6.
485 Jn 5:25; cf. Mt 12:40; Rom 10:7; Eph 4:9.
486 Heb 2:14-15; cf. Acts 3:15.
487 Rev 1:18; Phil 2:10.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Lenten Meditation Five - Jesus Condemned to Death

Jesus is now before Pilot. As we contemplate this scene, let us remember that this same distortion of religion and politics continue to be played out in our world today.  

Pilot is dragged away from his evening of pleasures by this mob of quarreling religious antagonists. Again the myths of religion interrupt the progress of the secular man - seeking to be unfettered by religion's claim on the truth. "Truth! What is truth?" Yes, for now these myths must be humored, but, by confining them to ghettos, they will eventually die out. 

Pilot must interrogate Jesus, looking for a way to get these religious fanatics out his face. But behind all this religion and politics is a plan of destruction, on a level infinitely deeper than any of them realize.

·  Pilate went out to them and asked, “What accusation are you bringing against this man?”
·   “You take Him and judge Him by your own Law,” Pilate told them.
·   Pilate went back into the Praetorium, summoned Jesus, and asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”
·   Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world; . . .“For this reason I was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice.”
·   “What is truth?” Pilate asked.

·   And having said this, he went out again to the Jews and told them, “I find no basis for a charge against Him. But it is your custom that I release to you one prisoner at the Passover. So then, do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” “Not this man,” they shouted, “but Barabbas!” (Now Barabbas was an insurrectionist.) John 18:28ff.

There is a very interesting player in these events unfolding. It is Pilot's wife who sends to Pilot a mysterious and disturbing revelation.

While Pilate was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him this message: “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered terribly in a dream today because of Him.” Mtt. 27:19

The text does not give us any details of her dream other than she knew Jesus was an innocent man. Perhaps Satan visited her with the promise of hell-fire for her and her husband, Pontius Pilot and all those who are now under the control of the great Satan, and causing this grave injustice. 

Or, perhaps she had a vision of Mary's face and the body of Jesus in Mary's arms, just taken down from the cross. As a woman and mother, her soul too was pieced with a sword of grief.

Again, lets us spent time with the these passion texts, recalling St. Ignatius' approach to contemplation: employing your imagination, seeing yourself in the scene, and asking yourself, how am I being affected? 


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Lenten Meditation Four - From the Garden to Judgement

Now, from this garden, Jesus is led down the stairs that lead to the gates of hell and the seats of false judgement. 

Then Jesus returned to the disciples and said, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! See, my betrayer is approaching!”

While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest Him.” Going directly to Jesus, he said, “Greetings, Rabbi,” and kissed Him. “Friend,” Jesus replied, “do what you came for.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus, and arrested Him. 
Those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to the house of Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders had gathered. Mt. 26:45

What irony unfolds before us. He, who is sinless, he who will be the final judge over all, stands bound by the chains his accusers will one day wear. "Jesus is about to be condemned in the name of good order, national pride, the good of the country, truth, belief in God, theology and philosophy, beauty and symmetry, - really in the name of everything on the face of the earth." (Karl Rahner - Spiritual Exercises pg. 228)

These same standards of judgement continued to be applied by people today; people who think they know God because they know the world. For Jesus to say he is the son of God, the barer of God's truth, continues to be judged as blasphemy to this day. To believe he is so is judged as the lot of pitiable fools.

When Jesus had said this, one of the officers standing nearby slapped Him in the face and said, “Is this how” You answer the high priest? Jesus replied, “If I said something wrong, testify to what was wrong. But if I spoke correctly, why did you strike Me? Jo. 18:22

At this, the high priest tore his garments and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He deserves to die,” they answered. Then they spat in His face and struck Him. Others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who hit You?” Mtt. 26:65

Yet, even as these blows of false judgement and condemnation rain down upon Jesus, he stands poised before hell's gates, about to call forth into freedom, those imprisoned souls who will listen to his voice.

"Christians of all ages have pondered the metaphysical and salvation-historical depths of Jesus' hours spent in prison.

     Because of sin and our subjection to death, Jesus really entered into the prison of our finiteness, loneliness and inescapability- into the prison of our hopeless self-deception. Because he has descended into the prison my human reality, the gates are now thrown open - I will not accept it as true, I will not sum up the courage to go out, I think that I will never escape. I feel that my situation is hopeless and yet Jesus is still standing by me. Sooner or later, the same thing will happen to me that happened to Peter in the prison in Jerusalem when the angel of the Lord shook him and said: Get up and gird yourself, put on your sandals and go! (Acts 12:7-8) . . . and the bronze doors of my imprisonment are open." (Karl Rahner - Spiritual Exercises pg. 229)


Featured Videos

Featured Videos.