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Sunday, 31 March 2013

EASTER - Part One


VOICES of EASTER

The Resurrection of Jesus. When the Sabbath was over, a Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go and anoint him. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed. He said to them, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him.   Mark 16:



CONSIDERATIONS FOR MEDITATION
  • Of all the claims of certainty in this life, it is here, at the grave, where they all meet. The famous and the infamous, the powerful and the poor, great minds and simple, nonbeliever and believer alike, all come to this final place where everything known is sealed behind the stone. 
  • "Who will roll away the stone?" The stone, the last word of human certainty. Is there More?
  • Three woman know what neither seats of power nor circles of learning can know with certainty.
  • Is it the stone rolled back? The guards assembled with the elders and took counsel; then they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’ And this story has circulated among the Jews to the present day. Mtt. 28:11
  • It is the VOICES you hear from witnesses: The angel said  “Do not be afraid! .... you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said.
  • It is the VOICE of your own heart: Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.
  • It is the VOICE of Jesus coming in grace: ... And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid."
  • And so there three:
           1. the voices of witnesses - 
           2. the inner spiritual voices calling -
           3. the encounter with Jesus entering in and speaking to your heart -  
               grace without cause.

Each day of the Easter week is the one Easter day. Many are the voices to hear. listen attentively and watch as they role away the Stone.


........................................footnotes......................................

Review again the structure of this approach to prayer:
  • PLACE: choosing a place with a measure of quiet and solitude.
  • PRESENCE: entering this prayer expecting to be guided by Grace.
  • PETITION: asking for the graces that will make this prayer fruitful.
  • PASSAGE: preparing a passage of scripture for reflection.
  • PRAYER: entering the passage, looking, listening, imagining you are there,    focusing on various persons, collecting your thoughts, feelings, reaction. 
  • PRAISE and thanks: closing with a prayer formed in your own words, as one speaking face to face to another; expressing your gratitude for the blessings and guidance received in this prayer time.

Friday, 29 March 2013

HOLY WEEK - Part Five


Our focus for this posting is the Voices of the Passion of the Lord. 



The Agony in the Garden

Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples,

          “Sit here while I pray.” 



He took with him Peter, James, and John, and began to be troubled and distressed. Then he said to them, 

          “My soul is sorrowful even to death. Remain here and keep watch.” 

He advanced a little and fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour might pass by him; he said,

          "not what I will but what you will. 

When he returned he found them asleep. He said, 

          “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch  
           and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but  
           the flesh is weak.”, 

The Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him. Jesus said to him,

             “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

 And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards and elders who had come for him, 

          “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day
           after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize
           me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said,

           “This man too was with him.”

But he denied it saying,

          “Woman, I do not know him.”

A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.” About an hour later, still another insisted,
          “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” 

But Peter said, 

           “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” 

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him,

           “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times. He went 
            out and began to weep bitterly.

Jesus before the Sanhedrin
When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, 

           “If you are the Messiah, tell us,”

But he replied to them,

          “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not  

           respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the  
           right hand of the power of God. 

They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them,

          “You say that I am.”

Then they said, 


          “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his  
           own mouth.”


The Death of Judas. 

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying,

          “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.”

They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.



The Trial before Pilate.

So Pilate came out to them and said,
         

          “What charge do you bring [against] this man?” 

They answered and said to him,
         

          “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” 

At this, Pilate said to them,

          “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” 

Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him,

           “Are you the King of the Jews?” 

Jesus answered,

          "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong  
           to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being 
           handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” 

           So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” 

Jesus answered,  

          “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the    
           world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth 
           listens to my voice.” 

          Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” 

Once more Pilate went out and said to them, 

          “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find 
           no guilt in him.” 

So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, 

          “Behold, the man!” 

When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, 

         “Crucify him, crucify him!” 

Pilate said to them, 

          “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” 

The Jews answered, 

          “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them,  
           “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no 
            king but Caesar.” 

Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. The Crucifixion. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left. Then Jesus said, 

          “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” 

They divided his garments by casting lots. Above him there was an inscription that read, 

          “This is the King of the Jews.”

 Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, 

          “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.” 

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, 

          “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same  
           condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the 
           sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has 
           done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you 
           come into your kingdom.” 

He replied to him, 

          “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”


Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, 

          “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your 
           mother.” 

And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, 

           “I thirst.”   

There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, 

           “It is finished.” 

And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.


Thursday, 28 March 2013

HOLY WEEK - Part Four

    

    The Lord's Supper ....... Passion  of the  Lord ...... The Lord's Resurrection

We enter now the most sacred time in the Church's liturgical worship, the Sacred Paschal Triduum; Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Their voices give us a rich resource for our personal prayer. We begin with The Lord's Supper.

Brothers and sisters:
I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you,
that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over,
took bread, and, after he had given thanks,
broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

It is the second reading, in the description given by St. Paul, that we hear the account, of the institution of the Eucharist. It takes place at the Passover Meal, commemorating the night before the Exodus, when the Lord spared the Israelites who's doorposts were marked with the blood of the Pascal Lamb. 

Through his servant Moses, the Lord was about to free the people from slavery and lead them through the parted waters of the Red Sea into the promised land. Only those who passed through the sea would inherit this promised land. but what of those who would be born after this time, how were they to pass through the sea? By reenacting this ritual of the Passover Meal, those who shared in this meal would be transported, as it were, back in time, to join with those who first passed through the sea.

But now, the Lord Jesus, the "new Moses", is about to bring about the real salvation, by freeing the people from their slavery to sin and eternal death. And how is this to be accomplished?  By his perfect YES to the Father, and his humble surrender to his passion and death on the cross, Jesus breaks the chains of gilt that Satan has used to enslave the people. Now Jesus invites the people to unit their yes with his YES; and by their accepting a sharing in his passion and cross, as he will lead lead them through death into eternal life. 

Once again, it will be by partaking in a sacred meal. consider these words of Jesus recorded in John's gospel.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Mn and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” 
             


Jesus gives us an instrument of "Communion" with himself. You bring your "yes" and truly lay it on the altar of sacrifice, to be united to Jesus YES. That is why the Mass is both sacrifice and meal. Jesus YES cost him his passion and death. Our "yes" means we too will accept what ever sacrifice we must face because of it. You seal your "yes" by partaking in this sacred meal of the Eucharist.

 Considerations for the next time you come to Mass:
  • ... As you enter the church, you are coming to the "place of decision", where you will enter into a covenant, (a contract) with God. 
  • ... As the scriptures are read, you hear the terms of this covenant.
  • ... As the bread and wine are brought to the altar, they contain your unconditional "yes" to this covenant.
  • ... As the words of consecration are pronounced, your "yes" is taken into the presence of God, by the High Priest, Jesus, by nailing it to his Cross.
  • ... As you take communion, you seal your "yes" with love.  
.................................... footnotes ....................................

O God,
who have called us
to participate in this most sacred Supper,
in which your Only Begotten Son,
when about to hand himself over to death,
entrusted to the Church a sacrifice new for all eternity,
the banquet of his love, grant, we pray,
that we may draw from so great a mystery,
the fullness of charity and of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
– Amen.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

HOLY WEEK - Part Three

There are many voices to hear during Holy Week, and many different characters in the drama of these days. We will be drawing on these for the focus of our prayer. We will focus on the: 
  • The Voice of Jesus
  • Voices From the People
  • The voice of Satan (speaking through various people)


.................... Journey to Calvary ....................

In our previous Post, we heard this chilling account in John's gospel:

          “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”
          “It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.”
           So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas,
           son of Simon the Iscariot.
           After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.
           So Judas took the morsel and left at once. 
           AND IT WAS NIGHT.



 Once again we take up these events in Matthew's gospel.

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,


          “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?”

They paid him thirty pieces of silver, and from that time on he looked 
for an opportunity to hand him over.

When it was evening, Jesus reclined at table with the Twelve.
And while they were eating, Jesus said, 

          “Amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Deeply distressed at this, they began to say to him one after another,

          “Surely it is not I, Lord?”

He said in reply,

          “He who has dipped his hand into the dish with me is the one who will betray me.
           The Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him,
           but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.
           It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”

Then Judas, his betrayer, said in reply,

          “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”

Jesus answered,

          “You have said so.”

Points to consider in your meditation:

  • Satan enters one's heart, through the mind, as of an open door, unlatched from within, granted access freely.
  • It is the mind that reasons what are the highest values to spend one's life on.
  • Satan enters the discussion as a friend, with only your best interest to propose.
  • He found wealth and power highly regarded in Judas' mind.
  • Satan argues that neither wealth nor power will be achieved by following Jesus.
  • He argues, abandon Jesus now, and gain favour with the powerful; and money.
  • The argument bought, the latch is opened, Satan freely enters and the heart fills with the darkest of reasoning, "... and it is NIGHT.
Consider:
  • ... your own history, the things you bought into because they seemed so reasonable and appealing to you at the time; things that you now regret. 
  • ... how your turning to prayer and seeking to know the Lord and his will for you is changing the way you approach making decisions.  
  • ... that much more is to come as you seek to put on the mind of Christ.
Remember there are two knocking at your door. Who are you letting in?



.................................... footnotes ....................................


O God,
who willed your Son to submit
for our sake to the yoke of the Cross,
so that you might drive from us the power of the enemy,
grant us, your servants,
to attain the grace of the resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

HOLY WEEK - Part Two

Many are the voices we hear during Holy Week, and many different characters appear in the drama of these days. We continue these posts for holy week as we  focus on the: 
  • The Voice of Jesus
  • Voices From the People
  • The voice of Satan (speaking through various people)


.................... Journey to Calvary ....................


We find ourselves at table with Jesus, at the Last Supper.


The Voice of Jesus: Reclining at table with his disciples, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

“It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot.


After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him.          
So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” So Judas took the morsel and left at once. 

And it was NIGHT.

Consider:
  • ... that you hear, Jesus speaking, and revealing that his heart is "deeply "troubled" - even the heart of Jesus does not escape the Dark Night.
  • ... that now you are looking at the exact place where the battle between Jesus and Satan takes place - in the HEART; that the elements of this physical world, are where Satan fashions the weapons he uses; the cross, the thorns, the scourge, the nails, the lance, and all the other physical sufferings we experience.
  • ... that Satan entered Judas; that is was NIGHT - the absence of light of truth, when evil carries out its designs.


The Voice of Peter & Jesus: Peter said to Jesus, “Master, why can I not follow you now? 
I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me?
Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow
before you deny me three times.”


“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”


Consider:

  • ... that any number of people in the world say that they believe that there is a God; but this is not true faith. No one knows that God exists, better than Satan; he knows for certain and trembles at His Name. 
  • ... that faith begins by hearing and seeing and recognizing that Jesus is really and truly who he says; as seen in the gospels, as told by the witness of others.
  • ... what the mind knows to be true, only becomes living faith when the heart embraces it  unconditionally.
  • ... that the heart has many treasures to which it clings. Satan knows them all, he knows which ones to use against the heart, which ones to threaten to take away, in order to separate the heart from its commitment of faith in Jesus. 
  • ... that Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Mtt. 6:21


.................................... footnotes ....................................


PRAYER FOR THE RENEWAL OF FAITH

With St. Thomas I now cry out, “my Lord and my God!” Yet like St. Thomas I have doubted you and questioned my faith in you. I too have been scandalized by the world, troubled by my problems, confused by my sufferings or those of others. I was tested and found wanting. Even though I vowed as did St. Peter, “Lord, I will never deny you”, Satan has sifted me like wheat through his fingers and I fell away. In my thoughts and in my words I said, “I do not know the man.” In my actions I denied my faith before everyone. While I was denying you, you were suffering and dying for my sins. You broke Satan’s hold over me by your passion and cross; you won forgiveness for my sins. What mercy you have shown by entering into my death and bring me back to life again. Now heal me as you healed St. Peter on the shores of Tiberias Sea. Ask me now, as you asked St. Peter, “do you love me?” Yes Lord. You know everything, you know that I love you.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

HOLY WEEK - Part One

There are many voices to hear during Holy Week, and many different characters in the drama of these days. Drawing on these, I will structure the next blogs as resource for prayer. We will focus on the: 
  • The Voice of Jesus
  • Voices From the People
  • The voice of Satan (speaking through various people)


 .................... Journey to Calvary ....................

We Find Ourselves At: The Anointing at Bethany. Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They gave a dinner for him there, and Martha served, while Lazarus was one of those reclining at table with him.

Mary took a liter of costly perfumed oil made from genuine aromatic nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and dried them with her hair; the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. John 12:1
Consider:
  • ... all that Mary's heart has experienced in these days. The words of Jesus drew her to place herself literally at Jesus' feet, awaking in her a deep and trusting faith in Jesus and everything he said. 
  • ... how her trust was shaken when Jesus seemed to fail them when her dear brother Lazarus fell gravely ill and died.
  • ... how the raising of Lazarus demonstrated that Jesus is Lord of all, even life and death, 
  • ... that the faith Mary now has can not be broken, not even by death itself.
  • ... that there are three stages in the birth a living faith, (as seen in Mary's experience):
  1. Awaking of faith in the person Jesus. Evangelization.
  2. The Purification of faith by the testing of the world, the flesh, the devil.
  3. The Infusion of Living faith, the direct work of the hand of God; sanctification; gift of the Holy Spirit.  
The Voice of Satan: Then Judas the Iscariot, one [of] his disciples, and the one who would betray him, said,“Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” He said this not because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions.
Consider: 
  • Satan is speaking though Judas. His tactic is his signature one. If he is to draw souls away from Jesus, he must appeal to values that seem to come from Jesus, here, caring for the needs of the poor.
  • Caring for the needs of the poor, is not a substitute for devotion to Jesus, it is something that flows from the Devout Life. 
  • One might argue that atheistic communism was a product of the same reasoning that Judas puts forward.
  • Fruit must have a tree to produce it. Good fruit can only come from a good tree. The tree that produces the fruit of true Christian works, is the Cross of Christ.

The Voice of Jesus: So Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Consider:
  • In a world wounded by ignorance of God's truth, and deceived by the lies of Satan, injustice, neglect, and poverty will always remain. The greatest danger in all the world is the loss of communion with Christ.
  • Each believer must prepare for the "Dark Nights" of the spirit, when faith is tested.

Voices from the People: So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will  come and take away both our land and our nation.” 

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, 

but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.

So from that day on they planned to kill him.  

Consider:
  • ... that no earthly authority can be master over the reign of Christ and the life that flows from his Kingship, that is his merciful grace. Your communion with his kingship can never be taken from you; only that you choose to give it up.
  • ... that the stronger your communion with Christ grows, the stronger will Christ's enemies oppose you.
  • ... that if Satan had defeated Jesus on the Cross, none of us would even know of this communion we live and the peace it brings.

Friday, 22 March 2013

VOICES of Lent - Part Eleven


We begin this post with the continuation of a theme begun in the previous Post, Part Ten, "Entering the Week of  Decision". Again we are structuring the Post as a dialogue.

.....................................................................................................

Good Spirit: Dear Soul, you must ready yourself, for the days leading up to the Cross of Jesus grow fewer. There is an important decision that awaits you.

Soul: Good Spirit, what is the nature of the decision that is before me?

Good Spirit: Will you offer in sacrifice to God, the one true possession you own, that is exclusively yours, to do with as you alone so choose. Will you offer it as a sacrifice and unite it with Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross? 

The possession of which I speak is your "Will", your unconditional "Yes"; to truly and freely take up and sacrifice, give back, surrender unconditionally and irrevocably, to exchange your will for the will of the Father. 

Hence forth, you will forsake the fruit of "The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil", that is, deciding on your own, what is good or evil; rather you will seek out, in all matters, what the Father has ordained as good or evil, and to do so, no matter what the cost to you. Are you willing to unite your voice to that of Jesus as he says, "Father, ...  not my will, but yours be done." Luke 22:42

Jesus' willing acceptance of his passion and death on the Cross, is his perfect "Yes" to the will of the Father. Adam and Eve were given but one thing to which they were to assent, not to be the authors of what was good or evil. God alone would be the author of truth, of what is good and what is evil. But to this, with the seduction of Satan, they said "No" to God. They took with them the fruit of their decision and departed from God's presence. 


From that day on, man's relationship with God was distorted by man's ignorance of the Truth. To win God's favour, man fashioned religions built on offering sacrifices; offering from their possessions, gifts meant to appease what they believed to be God's anger toward them. They took from their crops, their animals, even the lives of people and immolated them on altars in sacrifice. 

But it was in God's plan to send a New Adam, who would reveal to the world, the one thing God wanted from man, his yes to God's perfect truth. The new Adam is his Son, Jesus. God begins his plan by forming a people who are chosen to be the first to experience God's plan unfolding. God chooses Abraham to be the father of these people, from whom this new Adam shall spring.

Soul: Did not God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac on an altar?

Good Spirit: This was God's way of teaching Abraham, and all human kind, that he does want Abraham's unconditional "yes", but that he does not want humans sacrificed to him on altars. (Read Genesis 22:1ff.) Perhaps it is best summed up in Palm 51:16 ... 


Certainly you do not want a sacrifice, or else I would offer it;
you do not desire a burnt sacrifice.
The sacrifices God desires are a humble spirit –
O God, a humble and repentant heart you will not reject. 

Dear Soul, take this passage from Matthew's gospel for your prayer and meditation, as we move forward to Palm Sunday


 "Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.

When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.

Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.'
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?"
They answered him, "He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times."

Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes'?

.................................... footnotes ....................................

Consider from this passage that the:

  • ... land owner is God
  • ... vineyard, this world of opportunity
  • ... hedge, God's design for truth
  • ... wine press, God's will for all people
  • ... tenants, mankind 
  • ... vintage time, judgement
  • ... servants, prophets, old and new
  • ... son, Jesus
  • ... inheritance, to rule the world their way
  • ... thrown out, a world without God
  • ... killed him, the Crucifixion of Jesus
  • ... other tenants, true believers 



Tuesday, 19 March 2013

VOICES of Lent - Part Ten


We continue with this series of postings entitled, VOICES of Lent. I present these posts in the form, as it were, of a dialogue between the soul at prayer, and the guiding Spirit. It ends with a footnote section with additional suggestion.

.....................................................................................................

Good Spirit: Come with me now dear Soul, for we are about to enter the WEEK of DECISION. 

Soul: Good Spirit, why do you call this week the WEEK of DECISION?

Good Spirit: This is the final week before you enter Holy Week. Listen carefully to the Voice of Jesus as he lays down this challenge.

"Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Lk. 9:23

Soul: Does this me that the Christian life is a life of daily suffering? Is there no hope of healing, of joy and happiness? Does Jesus mean for us a life of misery and suffering?

Good Spirit: The Cross and the Christian Life are one and inseparable. This is a great mystery, deep in meaning. To understand this mystery, first you must have a fuller understanding of the word, "suffer". To suffer is derived from ancient words that mean, to bear-up-under, to support a weight, having the strength to carry. When your Father created you, a soul, he formed you in a human body, and placed you in this physical world. From the moment of your birth, you felt the weight of your physical existence, with its countless needs and imperfections. You cried out for comforting, and so began your life.

Soul: Do we know why the Father created us in this way? Could the world not have been made a more perfect place to live in?

Good Spirit: When God created the angels, they were glorious beyond imagining. But soon pride in their glorious nature caused some to consider themselves equal to God. They rebelled against God, and so were banished from God's presence. When the Father came to create human kind, it was his intention that they too would share in his glory. But before they were to enter the Father's glorious presence, they must fully understand their own humble nature, lest they too fall into the same pride that caused the fall of the angels.  They must come to realize that this glorious existence, to which they are destined, is pure gift, that their glory to come is but a reflection of the Father's glory, given to them out of the Father's love for them. 

And so dear soul, as you make this short journey through your life in this world, you wear the imperfection of your life now, as one clothed in humble attire, while you wait to put on the glorious attire that the Father has planned for you. You wear, you accept, you bear-up-under, you carry your humanity, justly, peacefully, truthfully, faithfully; rejecting every prideful thought, you surrendering your will, your only true possession, to the will of the Father, giving it back as an act of love. This is what it means, "to take up your cross daily".

There are many causes of human suffering. People may find themselves in conflict with the natural order itself. A simple misstep can lead to a fall, resulting in injury and thus causing human suffering. A chance encounter with a predator, could bring harm, even death. There are great things falling from the ski, or a mishap in the ordering of cells in the human body that can cause suffering. 

But perhaps, the greatest human suffering is caused by man himself. Motivated by selfish pride, people inflict great harm on one another. The cross itself is an invention of men to cause suffering and death. Even though there are any number of remedies available to alleviate suffering in the world, people fail to employ them. Suffering has caused people to be confused about God, questioning, is there even a God at all. How can there be a kind and loving God in the light of so much suffering? 

It is into this imperfect and confused world that the Father sends his Son. In Jesus is revealed the answer to these great mysteries. The miracles of Jesus show that there is a God who is greater than creation's imperfection. He teaches that life in this world is a schooling in humility, preparing people for a glorious life of perfection, in the Fathers presence, for all eternity. By embracing fully, the vulnerable, human condition, even the evil brought against him by the pride of others, Jesus teaches,"The Way", the Way of the Cross, the way that leads to man's glorious destiny, the Way of humble obedience to the will of the Father.  When you take up your cross, you forsake every deviation from the Father's purpose, no matter what the cost, so as not to loose the glory that awaits you.


.................................... footnotes ....................................


PRAYER FOR THE GRACE TO WALK THE WAY OF THE CROSS

         My Lord Jesus, the night before you took up your Glorious Cross to carry on your shoulders the full weight of my sins, you entered the garden to pray.  This is the garden from which Adam and Eve were banished because of their sin and so we have all been banished with them.  Now the Heavenly Garden of Paradise will be opened for us   by the merits of your passion.

          On this night, you invite us to come with you to watch and pray. You warn us as you did your disciples, that Satan desires to sift us like grains of sand through his fingers. We must stay awake in prayerful vigilance, lest we too fall into the sleep of unbelief as so many have done.

          Jesus, our loving savior, grant us now to walk in prayerful meditation along the Way of your Cross.  Help us to understand that it is our sins that you carry, that it is our guilt which merits this punishment, this passion that you so loving suffer in our place. Satan is now ready to carry us off in the chains of our guilt, to cast us into the fires of Hell for all eternity.  

          But your suffering and death on the Cross merits for us the forgiveness of our sins, and the removal of all our guilt. You alone, the innocent and pure One, could carry such a Cross.  May we be inspired to take up our crosses and walk with you now the way of humble obedience, the way of perfect love, the Way of your Glorious Cross, which leads from this garden into paradise. by Fr. Curtin


Friday, 15 March 2013

VOICES of Lent - Part Nine

We continue with this series of postings entitled, VOICES of Lent. We present these posts in the form, as it were, of a dialogue between the soul at prayer, and the guiding Spirit. It ends with a footnote section with additional suggestion.


...................................................................

Good Spirit: Dear Soul, let us return to our previous text and hear again these words of Jesus.

"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.”

Soul: How is it possible that something could prevent Jesus from accomplishing his work? And, what is this "Night" that Jesus is speaking about?

Good Spirit: "Night" verses "Light" is an important image and theme found in John's gospel. Consider the characteristic of night. The sun has set, light is absent, darkness has descended. In the darkness of night, a person is vulnerable to all manner of hazards. Stumbling blocks, and predators lay hidden, unseen and waiting, like a trap. But it is in the night, hidden by the cover darkness, that people of evil intention seek out their victims. Because of this, people end their activities as night approaches, and seek the shelter and protection of their homes, behind locked doors.

For John, "night" is the absence of Jesus in the life of a soul. Jesus is the "Light" shinning (revealing) the light of truth about all things in the world. Without the light of Christ, the soul is stumbling through life, reduced to being its own light, creating its own truth. Seen from outer space, at night the cities of the world appear to be ablaze of light throughout a darkened planet. Yet, within these cities of man-made light, all manner of deeds of darkness are undertaken in the name of truth. 

Most important of all, night refers to Satan and his works. In heaven, before his banishment from God's presence, he was Lucifer, angel of light. Now he has become the prince of darkness. But his darkness is unlike the darkness of the natural world. His darkness appears as light, deceiving souls into thinking they are in the light of Christ. Lucifer's so-called light is devoid of all truth, having within it only lies. That is why he is called the Great Deceiver. 

And so there remains but two choices, to walk in the light of Christ, or to walk in darkness. To walk in the light of Christ begins here, in prayer. We are entering the final two weeks of Lent. As you listen to the voices in the scriptures which are the readings for these days to come, you will hear people speaking against Jesus, convinced they are speaking with the light of truth in them. Listen to the voice of Jesus. Make the Word your daily bread and your prayer a time of listening and dialogue with Jesus. In this way you will learn, more and more, how to distinguish between the so-called lights of this age and the true Light of Christ.


.................................... footnotes ....................................


For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6



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