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Friday, 31 January 2014

Presentation of the Child Jesus

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, Mary and Joseph took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord.

He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted —and you yourself a sword will pierce— so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Lk. 2:22

Points for Consideration & Meditation


[...... their purification according to the law of Moses ......]

  • While we see our faith as a deeply personal matter, it belongs to a greater reality, part of a family of believers to which we belong, in who's company our portion of the faith was awakened.
[...... had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit ......]
  • Consider how much we appreciate the guidance of another as we delve into new and hidden things about our lives. In our faith journey, that One is the Holy Spirit. Talk to the Spirit - invite the Spirit into each and every prayer time you begin - "Spirit show me, what should I see, what are you teaching me?"
[.....the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.....]
  • To have prejudged what we think the Spirit has in store for us is likened to one covering their ears, lest they hear. Be amazed. "Eye has not seen, ear heard, or we ever imaged, what God has in store for those who love Him." (1Cor. 2:9) 


Friday, 24 January 2014

New Wine - New Wineskins

In Jesus time, it was customary to ferment and store new wine in containers made from animal skins. The whole animal skin might be used or just the gut. For new wine, a newly made skin would be used. A new skin would be able to expand and stretch while securely containing the fermenting wine. Fermenting done, the skin would continue to serve as a container for the wine, even after it had began to lose its elasticity, since the fermentation had stopped. The skin could be reused to store old wine already fermented, but because it was now stiffened, it was not suitable for fermenting new wine, lest it burst under the pressures of fermentation. 

With this in mind, let us listen to Jesus use this well understood process to illustrate who he was and why he was different from all those who had gone before him, even the greatly revered John the Baptist.


The Pharisees saw (Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners) and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Then the disciples of John approached him and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast (much), but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Mtt. 9:11
[Luke adds] And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, ‘The old is good.’” 

Now we have here three things to consider;
  1. Something New is being offered - you will need to get a new wineskin.
  2. The Old is to be respected - not disparaged - it has much to offer.
  3. Change is always a challenge.
We have a wonderful and clear demonstration of this principle, New Wine / New Wineskin, in Pope Francis. While carefully protecting the old winskin of the Church's doctrinal foundation, he is fashioning a new wineskin - a new model for the mission of the Church in this new age. A new wine, of a new evangelization, one by witness and outreach, to those who have become disconnected from the Church or who have yet to hear its true message is fermenting in the minds of young and old alike. However, as the Lord's words in Luke warned, we see that some in the Church do not like the taste of this new wine and are resisting, continuing to cling to the old and familiar. 

As we begin this new year of grace in the Church, it will serve us well to take a serious look at this subject as it reflects on our personal faith life. Here are some points for consideration and meditation.
  • Have I become too comfortable, even complacent in my prayer life?
  • Do I realize that no one is exempt from this mandate to change and grow, reflected in the Spirit's choice of Pope Francis?
  • The Voice of the Lord stirs in one's heart, am I hearing or not?
  • A new direction must compliment and build on what has been spoken, what was the direction given in my last, "voice of consolation?"
  • Change is challenging, am I seeking to be excused from going forward? What are my excuses, what holds me back?

Speak Lord, Your servant is . . . . . . . .


Monday, 20 January 2014

Baptism In The Holy Spirit

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and remain on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.” (John 1.29-34)


Baptism * Sacrament of Baptism * Baptism with Fire * Baptism In the Holy Spirit.
Born Again * Sacrament of Initiation * Grace of Renewal


These are terms often used when discussing the subject of baptism. How are they different? 

There is an interesting account in Acts of the Apostles which refers to different baptisms. 

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. Ephesians 19:1

At this time, the Jewish practice of ritual washing's was common and they were symbolic of different things taking place. For instance, John's baptism represented a persons repentance and wholehearted intention to be faithful to the practice of the Law and the Prophets.

Following the first Pentecost experience, the followers of Jesus continued to use the ritual of baptismal washing, but now it was symbolic of something new. Repentance, conversion, and a life of faith in Jesus was understood to be the work of the Holy Spirit, entering one's heart, and empowering their faith. Hence Paul's question, "... did you receive the Spirit when you believed?" 

A true, living faith in Jesus is not simply a matter of one liking what they hear and deciding to accept it and follow it. That is why St Paul acclaims in First Corinthians,  "... no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit." 12:3

Perhaps a new take on Paul's question might sound like this; "... have you fully embraced the Spirit, given you, when you were baptized?" Pope John Paul II, speaking of infants, young children, and even adults who received baptism in the Church, points out that the Holy Spirit is truly given, yet, potentially, needing to be awakened and lived out fully. This awaking to the Holy Spirit is what is referred to by Baptism In the Holy Spirit, or the Grace of Renewal

I have explored subject in detail in a thirteen part series called, Baptism In The Holy Spirit. Links to this series listed to the right.

PRAYER FOR GRACE:

Jesus my Lord, I confess to you and to all the world my need for your presence in my life. I am alone and in darkness without you. I am influenced and controlled by the many forces that surround me. Even though I struggle against them, it is sin that so easily dominates my life. Who can save me but you alone, my Lord and my God. Deliver me from the Evil One. Touch my life with that power which flows from your resurrection. Cause your Holy Spirit to be born in me anew. Prince of Peace and Lord of Glory reign now in my heart. Baptize me with your Holy Spirit and Fire. Raise me up to a New Life in you.





Friday, 10 January 2014

Sent by the Spirit




Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region.  He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all. He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke highly of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. Luke 4:14-22


Points for Meditation:

  • To accomplish the works of God, one must be called, given an assignment from God. In what way do you see yourself as having a "calling" from God?
  • Jesus' calling was confirmed at his baptism in the Jordan with John. Is there a moment in time that you would point to as confirmation of your "calling"?
  • Jesus cites the text from the prophet Isaiah to indicate the nature of the Work he is sent to accomplish. In what way has the nature of your "calling" been revealed to you?
  • Do you consider yourself as having the "Anointing of the Spirit"? When did you first experience this anointing?


Friday, 3 January 2014

Epiphany



Feast of the Epiphany


When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.” Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

The three gifts of the Magi are reflective of the threefold ministry carried out by Jesus: 

Kingly Shepherd <> True High Priest <> Prophet of God

Gold
Gold is that gift fit for a king. All authority has been given to Jesus by the Father. But Jesus does not exercise this authority as those who lord over their subjects with a heavy hand. Rather, he cares for his own, like a shepherd, leading them to life giving places where they can prosper and grow.
Frankincense
Incense is used by the High Priest in the sacrificial offerings made on the altar. Each sacrifice offered is a sign of the peoples total and unconditional consent to God's divine plan. The fragrance of the incense, filling the altar, confirms the integrity of heart with which Jesus offered his "yes" to the Father.
Myrrh

The role of the prophet is to be the voice of God speaking to all peoples, revealing God's plan for all creation and man's true purpose and destiny. But every prophet who speaks the truth, must face the wrath of the enemies of truth. The gift of myrrh, which is used to anoint the body for burial, foretells Jesus battle to the death with the prince of all evil and Jesus' ultimate victory over sin and death by his resurrection and ascension to the Father's right hand. 

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


We now have a picture of the three key elements that make up the Christian life, namely: 
WORD <> WORSHIP <> SERVICE

We will see in the threefold temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Satan attacking Jesus in each of these, in order to deceive Jesus and cause his downfall. It will be our experience that we too must undergo the same threefold testing.

For more on the threefold structure of the Christian life go to the page: Praying On A Passage of Scripture


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