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Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Sunday, 26 May 2019
This past week, Wednesday through Friday, the First Reading was taken from chapter 15 of Acts of the Apostle. This passage is known as the account of the first Council of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. The first issue facing the infant Church dealt with the observance of Jewish Law and the new converts from the ranks of the Gentiles. Was it necessary for Gentile converts to be circumcised and keep the observance of the Jewish law or not? Keep in mind that the disciples of Jesus who form the beginning of the Church were Jews and continued to observe the Law, which required all males to be circumcised.
But now the Holy Spirit was being poured out upon Gentile people who after hearing the preaching of the Apostles were being baptized in the Holy Spirit and were manifesting all the same gifts of the Spirit the Jewish Christians had received. A strong faction known as the “Party of the Circumcision” demand Gentles to observe the full Law. But St. Paul and those with him, who where witnessing the mighty work of the Holy Spirit among the Gentiles, stood strongly opposed to the Party of the Circumcision. And so we have here the gathering of the Church leaders to resolve the issue in what became known as the Council of Jerusalem, the first Council.
Throughout the history of the Church major issue with conflicting positions continue to arise, and it has been the work of Church Councils to resolve them. The Church has never shied away from dealing with conflicting issues that arise because of the promise Jesus made to his disciple:
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." Matt. 28:16-20
I find this remark, “… some doubted”, to be very significant here. It will always be a challenge for each generation of the Church to get their head around the full mystery of what God is doing in the church and in the world. But Jesus' final word “I am with you always, to the end of the age”, is key to having a certain and confident trust. Jesus continues to remain in his Church molding, leading, guiding it every step of the way.
Just as there was at this very moment of the “Great Commissioning of the Church” there was some who doubt, the Spirit continues to lead the Church ever forward, protecting it from harmful error, until the fullness of the mystery has been revealed. We have experienced a major or ecumenical council in our time, the Second Vatican Council. But now some are doubting, doubting whether the council was inspired by the Holy Spirit; or whether the Council is now being misinterpreted by some factions within the Church. This continues to be how the Holy Spirit works in the Church, challenging us to an ever-deeper faith. In two weeks, we will celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the Church. We pray as did Pope John XXIII, for new and ever more powerful Pentecost to come upon the Church.
Sunday, 19 May 2019
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He ...will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Rev. 21:1-5
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John, in his gospel account of the events that would take us into the passion and death of Jesus, during the Last Supper, describes this chilling scene, Jesus handing Judas a piece of bread. “So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. AND IT WAS NIGHT.” John 13:30
Night, with its absence of light, is John’s way of describing the human condition without God’s presence and guiding light.
In Genesis 1 we read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And seeing that the light was good, God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.”
Jesus said in John, "As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.” John 9:4
Having a living, active faith in Jesus is often described as walking in the “Light of Christ”. I am the light of the world Jesus tells us. But there are times in our faith journey when a dark shadow overtakes us, and we find ourselves floundering in the darkness of confusion and error.
St. Ignatius talks about such times in his Spiritual Exercises. He points out that when we deliberately choose to sin, we bring such darkness upon ourselves; intentionally cutting ourselves off from God’s grace.
But there are other times when it is God who hides his light from us. He does this so that we will intensify our search for his truth, thus gaining an even deeper faith and a more secure walk with him.
Ignatius directs how we should respond in these times of darkness. First, realize that true peace of heart is not constructed from the things of this world nor the people with whom we interact. True peace comes directly from God and him alone. God wants us to learn how to distinguish between these two realities. People and things are imperfect at the best of times and they can also be the cause of the worst of times.
When we make the things of this world the source of our peace and happiness, we are building our house on sand. “When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”. These are Jesus’ words in his parable in Matthew 7. (We can really appreciate the imagery of this parable today by just by looking at the pictures in the weather reports.)
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because its foundation was on the rock.…”
The rock is Faith, faith built on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Yet so many today have little or no connection to this rock nor do they build their life on it. Today’s second reading tells us that heaven is not on earth. God’s plan is for a new heaven and a new earth, this earth is only for a time.
So, where and on what are you building that place in which your heart will dwell?
Sunday, 12 May 2019
Most of us modern urban dwellers like know very little about raising sheep – their natural behaviour etc. But in Jesus’ time it would be quite different, most people would be familiar with sheep and shepherds and the way shepherding worked. So it would be a natural image for Jesus to use as a comparison to himself – the good shepherd.
Flocks of sheep belonged to different owners but the grazing pastures were common ground, land for many different shepherds to use, all out grazing together. But this had an important benefit, safety for all the sheep – many eyes overseeing their protection.
One practice the shepherds used was at night to herd all the sheep into one common gated shelter to protect them from dangers of the night. But how to sort out the shepherd’s sheep from all the others in the enclosure - sheep all look the same? No problem, the sheep were all imprinted on only their shepherds voice and no other. In the morning each shepherd would stand at the gate and with his distinct voice he would call out to the sheep and only his sheep would come out and follow him.
This was a perfect way, commonly known, for Jesus to teach how important it was for them to imprint on his voice, the message of the gospel. God’s plan for salvation for the world was not to kill off unbelievers so only true believers remained. The plan was to imprint the message of the gospel on the hearts of people and then gather them together and lead them home to the Father.
Is there any better way to characterize this age we live in today, the age of mass communication, endless number of voices calling out to us to follow them just turn on the TV and see right away all the many voices. The question put before us in today’s liturgy of the word, who’s voice am I hearing and following? Jesus wants us to understand there is only one voice that is proclaiming the truth of eternal life – his voice.
Sunday, 5 May 2019
From the Office of Readings: SECOND READING
From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
CHRIST LIVES IN HIS CHURCH
My dear brethren, there is no doubt that the Son of God took our human nature into so close a union with himself that one and the same Christ is present, not only in the firstborn of all creation, but in all his saints as well. The head cannot be separated from the members, nor the members from the head. Not in this life, it is true, but only in eternity will God be all in all, yet even now he dwells, whole and undivided, in his temple the Church. Such was his promise to us when he said: See, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.
And so all that the Son of God did and taught for the world’s reconciliation is not for us simply a matter of past history. Here and now we experience his power at work among us. Born of a virgin mother by the action of the Holy Spirit, Christ keeps his Church spotless and makes her fruitful by the inspiration of the same Spirit. In baptismal regeneration she brings forth children for God beyond all numbering. These are the sons of whom it is written: They are born not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
In Christ Abraham’s posterity is blessed, because in him the whole world receives the adoption of sons, and in him the patriarch becomes the father of all nations through the birth, not from human stock but by faith, of the descendants that were promised to him. From every nation on earth, without exception, Christ forms a single flock of those he has sanctified, daily fulfilling the promise he once made: I have other sheep, not of this fold, whom it is also ordained that I shall lead; and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Although it was primarily to Peter that he said: Feed my sheep, yet the one Lord guides all the pastors in the discharge of their office and leads to rich and fertile pastures all those who come to the rock. There is no counting the sheep who are nourished with his abundant love, and who are prepared to lay down their lives for the sake of the good shepherd who died for them.
But it is not only the martyrs who share in his passion by their glorious courage; the same is true, by faith, of all who are reborn through baptism. That is why we are to celebrate the Lord’s paschal sacrifice with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The leaven of our former malice is thrown out, and a new creature is filled and inebriated with the Lord himself. For the effect of our sharing in the body and blood of Christ is to change us into what we receive. As we have died with him, and have been buried and raised to life with him, so we bear him within us, both in body and in spirit, in everything we do.