Monday, 28 August 2017

Conversion of St. Augustine

 From the Confessions of Saint Augustine, bishop
"O eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity"

Urged to reflect upon myself, I entered under your guidance into the inmost depth of my soul. I was able to do so because you were my helper. On entering into myself I saw, as it were with the eye of the soul, what was beyond the eye of the soul, beyond my spirit: your immutable light. It was not the ordinary light perceptible to all flesh, nor was it merely something of greater magnitude but still essentially akin, shining more clearly and diffusing itself everywhere by its intensity. No, it was something entirely distinct, something altogether different from all these things; and it did not rest above my mind as oil on the surface of water, nor was it above me as heaven is above the earth. This light was above me because it had made me; I was below it because I was created by it. He who has come to know the truth knows this light.

O Eternal truth, true love and beloved eternity. You are my God. To you do I sigh day and night. When I first came to know you, you drew me to yourself so that I might see that there were things for me to see, but that I myself was not yet ready to see them. Meanwhile you overcame the weakness of my vision, sending forth most strongly the beams of your light, and I trembled at once with love and dread. I learned that I was in a region unlike yours and far distant from you, and I thought I heard your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow then, and you will feed on me. Nor will you change me into yourself like bodily food, but you will be changed into me.”

I sought a way to gain the strength which I needed to enjoy you.
 But I did not find it until I embraced the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who is above all, God blessed for ever. He was calling me and saying: I am the way of truth, I am the life. He was offering the food which I lacked the strength to take, the food he had mingled with our flesh. For the Word became flesh, that your wisdom, by which you created all things, might provide milk for us children.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would not have been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Twenty-first Sunday

Of all the questions, you may ever be asked – this question is the most important – “Who do you say I am?”

It is THE question that runs throughout the gospels. It begins with the boy Jesus sitting among the teachers in the temple. Luke tells us that they were amazed at Jesus, at how much he knew and understood – Lk. 2:46

In John, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him he said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." Jo.1:29

In Mark, when Jesus calms the storm at sea, his disciples question – “Overwhelmed with fear, they asked one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Mk. 4:41

When Jesus comes to Nazareth, his home, again the questioning - “Where did this man get these ideas?” they asked. “What is this wisdom He has been given? And how can He perform such miracles? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t His sisters here with us as well?” Mk. 6:2

So when Jesus asks his disciples in today's gospel passage – “But you, who do you say I am?”, their answer will determine the whole of the rest of their lives. When Peter responds with the only true answer, Jesus points out that coming to this understanding is a work of grace, a deep personal gift of faith.

Christianity has had a long history now, of dealing with this question, and yet we find that there are as many conflicting answers given today as there was when Jesus first asked the question. We in the church have the distinct advantage of our Church’s long history of dealing with the question; its doctrines and traditions. But for each generation, doctrine and tradition only serve to intensify the question.

The answer to the question still comes down to me, one-on-one; what do I say – say in my heart? The integrity of what I say will shape my life, revealing who I really believe Jesus truly is? The great St. Paul, who’s epistles do so much to shape our faith, began at "ground zero" with the question, “… who are you Lord?” Later he shows the integrity of his answer, "I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:19b-20

I think one of the best examples of the encounter with this question, is that of the apostle Thomas. He starts with the mentality similar to so many in this “scientific” age. “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands, and put my finger where the nails have been, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe.”
"Eight days later, His disciples were once again inside with the doors locked, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Jo. 20:26

Don’t ask science to answer the question for you – ask the Holy Spirit. 
"Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. Mtt. 16:17


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Twentieth Sunday - The Canaanite Woman

Not feeding the dog at table may be a rule at your home. Lucky for dogs there are a few young folks who aren’t getting the message. Lucky too for the Canaanite Woman in today's gospel text.

Here we find that Jesus has moved into the northern regions, predominately occupied by the pagan Canaanite people. (Today Lebanon and Syria). The Jews despised these people, they considered them as cursed by God with no hope of redemption. Both Matthew (15:21) and Mark (7:24) have this account. Mark says that Jesus did not want people to know he was in the region. Matthew recounts Jesus asserting that his mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Jesus may have withdrawn to this region for a time to avoid the growing hostility toward him by the Jewish leaders. 

There appears a Canaanite woman who has a daughter possessed by a demon. She has heard of Jesus' reputation in such matters and has discovered where he is staying. 

She came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." And he answered, "It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Mtt:
She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, "Let the children first be fed, for it is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." But she answered him, "Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." Mk:

Jesus enters into a little role playing with the woman. He plays the part of his antagonists with their misconception of God's plan of Mercy. She is given the role of true faith - faith that Jesus is revealing by his gospel. 
Then Jesus answered her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire." And her daughter was healed instantly.
The subject of God's mercy has been once again brought into focus for us by Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy he established. Once again we see there is a right and a left side to the way it is approached. On the right, like the Pharisees of old, God's mercy is seen as something earned, a reward for the righteous efforts made by one who judges themselves as righteous.

On the left are those influenced by a secular humanist view, dominant in our day, that mercy is an automatic. Since any fault must lie within the limits of human nature and not the person, God does not hold anything against us.

The woman in today's gospel becomes a model for us to contemplate. The direction and remedy for our lives is not found in the solutions we create, whether by our designing or our doing. It is found in the TRUTH we discover when we come to Jesus in humble faith, in person-on-person encounter. Only God's Truth can make us free. Mercy releases us from the folly of our lives and opens a path to a truly holy life. 

Mercy resides in in the heart. The Divine Mercy of God is found in the heart of Jesus. The heart of Jesus is found only in the communion of deep and personal prayer. It is there that we too will hear these words, 

"O my child, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire."

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Reflection for the Nineteenth Sunday

We know that among ancient peoples, they believed the gods lived in the high heavens. So, to communicate with the gods one must climb a high mountain to get close to them in hopes of getting a hearing. Throughout the scriptures mountains and high places became the favored places to hear God’s voice. Moses received the Ten Commandments on mount Sinai, and it was a fearsome, awesome experience.
On the morning of the third day there were peals of thunder and lightning, and a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud blast of the trumpet, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Ex. 19:16
No doubt this sight got the people’s attention. They must understand, the commandments are not just a bunch of nice suggestion. Clearly, God means business – these commandments must be obeyed. But the people eventually fell back into worshiping false gods.

In today’s reading, the prophet Elijah ascends a mountain to tell God the bad news.
“I have been most zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts, but the Israelites have forsaken your covenant. They have destroyed your altars and murdered your prophets by the sword. I alone remain, and they seek to take my life.” 1 Kings 19:10

But now a different manifestation of God is experienced. Not in wind and fire and earthquake, but in a sheer whisper – a gentle breeze – a foretelling of a voice of mercy to come.
Last Sunday we saw the God of Mercy revealed in the transfigured Jesus, with Peter, James and John – an image of the Church, gathered in worship on the mountain of the Lord.  In today’s gospel the merciful Redeemer Jesus, after feeding the multitudes, returns to the mountain and to union with the Father in prayer. His prayer is a prayer for the world in peril, represented by the disciple caught up in the stormy sea.

For us the mountain is a metaphor, not only for this sanctuary of worship, but also that place where we go in private, in personal prayer. We are surrounded every day by a world caught up in a stormy sea of confusion and loss of faith, and at times, in our own lives, we find ourselves floundering.

Today, Jesus shows us where to begin. We too must have the practice of prayer, daily prayer, person-to-person prayer with the Father, on our mountain place of prayer.

It should be like this:

o   Appoint a time and place for this encounter in prayer. If you are willing to meet, the Lord will be there. It is His desire that we grow in the knowledge of His love for us and the plans He has for our life.

o  Have a scripture passage chosen. There are many approaches to choosing scripture for prayer. A scripture passage from the liturgy is a good place to start. The gospels, especially those passages that tell of Jesus encounter with others, are especially good for beginning this approach to prayer. When a particular passage stands out for you, returning to it several times gives more time for its message to unfold. Sometimes we come across a passage in an unexpected way. We might say such spontaneity is the Lord's way of leading us to a text.

o   In John Ch. 14:23 Jesus promises, "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him". We can be certain that if we sincerely make this appointment for prayer the Lord will be present. He is surely there with you. Look, listen and respond, be yourself. The Lord will take care of His part.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

VOICES: Hints On Using Voices

VOICES is into its sixth year now. Much has been said about PRAYER. If you are looking for information on specific subjects related to prayer, VOICES may have covered it. There is a search instrument on the side panel that works well. Type in a word or phrase and search.

You can automatically receive notice, via your email, of new posts. Add your email address into the notification instrument on the side panel.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Fishnet and Discernment

Here is another reflection on prayer borrowing from  Jesus' images in the parables of chapter 13 of Matthew.

"The Kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea,
which collects fish of every kind.
When it is full they haul it ashore
and sit down to put what is good into buckets.
What is bad they throw away. Mtt: 13:47 
When you take up a passage of scripture for prayer, you launch into a sea of mystery, with its many words surrounding you. You cast your net into this sea of words, to draw out as much of Wisdom's message as you are able.

When you have completed your "fishing", and your net is full, you call upon the Spirit to come and join you. Together you hall your catch of words and thoughts and ideas ashore. You listen carefully to the Spirit guiding you as together you seek out those that fill up God's good message to you. The rest you throw back into the sea.

Fishing without discernment (and without the Spirit) will lead to a bucket full of fishy smelling ideas. 

More on this in the PAGE: Praying On a Passage of Scripture.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Yeast and the Spirit

The Bible is a book of words. But what is their purpose, what is their meaning, what do they tell us? For some, the Bible is a study into the origins of the Jewish and Christian religions; an object of academic study. For others, the Bible is a record of God’s revelation to man; a book meant for the instruction of believers.

Jesus’ parable of the yeast and the wheat flower provides us with image that will help us to see how the Bible becomes the living Word of God when it is engaged as an instrument in the hands of one who prays.

Wheat flower in the hands of a baker becomes a pasty mass of dough. Before it can rise up to a loaf of delicious bread, yeast must be kneaded into it and then baked.

The words of the Bible, in the hands of one praying, will rise and expand into the living Word of God when the “yeast of enlightenment” is kneaded into it by the Holy Spirit.

More on this in the PAGE: Praying On a Passage of Scripture.

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