18th Sunday Ordinary Time – 2016
When you hear the word vanity you most often think of fashion gone over the top or that cupboard under the bathroom sink. But in today’s first reading it has a much broader meaning. The word in Latin is “vanus” meaning empty, without substance, that which is futile, even absurd.
So the first reading begins: “Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!”
The book of Ecclesiastes, with its deeply pessimistic view of life, was compiled in the third century B.C., when Judea was under the oppressive domination of Hellenistic kings from Egypt. These kings were highly efficient in their ruthless exploitation of the land and people. God seems remote and uncommunicative, who people cannot hope to understand, much less influence God’s activity in the world. The average Jew felt a sense of powerlessness and inability to change things for the better.
So in despair the author asks, “What is the meaning of life after all?” No matter how one’s life may unfold good or bad, all that remains are a grave and nothingness. He writes:
I undertook great works; I built myself houses and planted vineyards;
I made gardens and parks, and in them set out fruit trees of all sorts.
And I constructed for myself reservoirs to water a flourishing woodland.
I also owned vast herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, more than all who had been before me in Jerusalem.
I amassed for myself silver and gold, and the treasures of kings and provinces.
I accumulated much more than all others before me in Jerusalem; my wisdom, too, stayed with me.
Nothing that my eyes desired did I deny them, nor did I deprive myself of any joy; rather, my heart rejoiced in the fruit of all my toil. This was my share for all my toil.
But when I turned to all the works that my hands had wrought, and to the fruit of the toil for which I had toiled so much, see! – All was vanity and a chase after the wind. There is no profit under the sun. you die and someone else gets it.
It is important to realize that the people of the O.T. had a much different understanding of what comes after death. Basically for them there is nothing after death, so all that matters is this life. By Jesus time there where two principle ways to see this, the Pharisees taught that God would bring the righteous back to life, here in this world, giving them new bodies to live in. The Sadducees taught that death was it, end of story, nothing more to come.
I find there is an interesting comparison today with this pessimistic view of life and the decline of positive faith, coupled with an increase of an atheistic, agnostic world view. It shows up when questions of age and health and the productivity of life come up – evidenced by the recent doctor assisted suicide legislation our federal government passed.
What exactly gives life its meaning and value then? The answer to this question put forward in the first reading is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus. All life is sacred. It comes from God and belongs to God. Jesus’ words from the Cross, Father, I place back into your hands the life you gave me, I have completed the purpose for which you sent me. (paraphrase)
We do not invent life nor do we define its purpose. Only God gives life and to every life God gives a purpose. It is God’s loving plan that we should participate in the very life of God, that we be holy like God is holy in all we say and do; to be the custodians and guardians of all life, and finally to live eternally in unimaginable delight in God’s presence.
Our part now is to accept or reject this purpose for life. Anything else is vanity. Our acceptance of this life with God is proven by the life we live now, and by never letting anyone or anything take it away from us.
The Book of Ecclesiastes [ ... LINK ... ]
Reading for 18th. Sunday [ ... LINK ... ]
Bishop Robert Barron [ ... LINK ... ]
Today's 2nd Reading
Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
2 Col 3:1-5.
* * *
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Saturday, 23 July 2016
Monday, 18 July 2016
At the Beginning of Prayer
When Strangers meet for the first time they are naturally guarded in how they reveal themselves. An atmosphere of trust is yet to be built. Certainly there are many things that one keeps hidden, especially things one is not proud of.
So on the surface a dialogue begins as they explore the degree to which they will be open to each other.
This is no less true of how people often approach personal and meditative prayer. We feel the need to appear pious and spiritual; using the language of form prayers and various religious conventions. Believing we must impress, we take the role of initiator of the direction this prayer time will take. It's the head that gets a workout while keeping well-hidden things we believe would invalidate the very integrity of our praying.
But all the while, as this struggle to get a good start at prayer unfolds, He waits - waits with loving patience for an opening to take his part. As the one praying approaches "in fear and trembling", (burdened with the expectancy of devotional correctness. Lk. 10:41) the Lord awaits to take him/her up into his arms with loving tenderness.
May I suggest that one begins with a careful and audible reading of Psalm 139.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Thursday, 14 July 2016
By God's willing it so, we live in a material world that God has designed and created. God also gave us intelligence by which we are able to investigate this material world and to discover its complexity. But what does it all mean?
The great minds of religion, philosophy and science, have all pondered this great question through the ages and we turn to them looking for answers. But why not ask the One who created it all in the first place?
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Cor.2:9
Great minds may be helpful in pointing us in the right direction for our search, but only God knows what he has planned for each one.
But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Cor.2:10
God has a vast vocabulary and can speak to us in many ways. It is the Spirit who translates for us, enabling us to understand the message God is speaking to us.
We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 1Cor.2:12
The more we listen the better we become at hearing and understanding what God is saying to us personally. But if we are not tuned in (prayer of contemplation) we are on our own, trying to make sense of it all.
The natural man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. For they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man judges all things, but he himself is not subject to anyone’s judgment. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:14
Speak Lord, your servant is listening.
The Vocabulary of God
When and Ways God Speaks
Sense of the Faithful
Inner Peace / Unrest
Prayer / Insight
Lives of Saints
Manifestations of Charity
Bishop Robert Barron has an interesting talk on the subject of Hearing God's Voice and the role of conscience.
Sunday, 10 July 2016
Fifteenth Sunday of the Year – 2016
So here is a question for you. Does God speak to you? Does God speak to you person-to-person? In today’s first reading we see that God spoke to Moses and gave him the Commandments to live by. Moses then tells everyone that these commandments are meant for all of us know, and learn, and live by.
Then Moses goes on to say that learning and knowing the Commandments will not be difficult – why - because God is teaching them to us in our hearts.
"For this command that I enjoin on you today is not too mysterious and remote for you . . . . no, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out." Dt. 30:10
So the Commandment teaches us what is right or wrong. Our conscience tells us, personally, how well we are doing with that Commandment and its teaching.
But over time, the Commandments became bogged down by a lot of add-ons, - interpretations and commentaries that various teachers of the law were adding to the commandments.
In the gospel story of the Good Samaritan, one such teacher of the law wants to know what Jesus has to say about moral living and eternal life. He frames it in a question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus answers by pointing to the Commandments – you will find the answer there Jesus tells him. Then Jesus asks him, “What have you learned from the law?” The lawyer answers:
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus replies, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live. Now remember this is a lawyer talking to Jesus and their heads are full of “What if’s - an's - and but's …” questions, like “who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answers with this beautiful parable – a man falls into the hands of robbers and is left on the road half dead … three men come upon him, a temple priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan … The priest and the Levite see him, and maybe in their conscience they feel sorry for him, but in their heads the rules forbid them dealing with blood which would make them ritually unclean and so unable to function in the temple as Priest and Levite. So they ignore their conscience and obey the rules, and leave him dying.
But the Samaritan, who is not all tangled up with temple rules, is free to follow his conscience – he stops and rescues the wounded man. Jesus asks the lawyer, who fulfilled the command to be his neighbour? He answers, the one who showed mercy – to which Jesus replies, "go and do likewise".
In St. Peter’s letter we read; “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Pt. 1:15
In this year of Mercy, Pope Francis is reminding the whole Church that we must have in us the same mind and heart that is in Christ. We must shape our consciences by observing and imitating that conscience we see at work In Jesus. Our calling is to be holy. God’s name is Mercy.
The world we live in today is trying to reshape our conscience with a morality that excludes any mention of God. That is why our communion in the Church is so vitally important today. It is in the Church that Jesus is seen and heard; where the “Imitation of Christ” is priority number one – where we strive to shape our conscience to resemble that of Christ.
Perhaps a good ending to these remarks is St. Paul’s words to the Church in Corinth.
St. Paul writes; examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (the sign of peace)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Cor. 13:5&11
* * *
Wednesday, 6 July 2016
A suggestion I once heard to help us with the element of "presence" in our prayer was to place another chair with ours as we begin our time of prayer. We are not alone when we pray; "...And remember, I am with you each and every day until the end of the age." Mtt. 28:20
Image if a friend comes into the room where you are sitting and you act as if he is far away. You take out some letters he wrote to you and you start reading them over again, wishing you could asks him about what he meant by this or that.
Ask Him, he is sitting right there in front of you!
Prayer is not a question of, 'is the Lord with you or not', rather it is how are you responding to his presence. So you might take up one of the gospels and read a section and then ask, "... Lord, what did you mean when you said ...?" Now you listen to his response, because he is right there with you.
When two persons come together, each is responsible for their own conduct, their own response to the dynamics created by their being together. These dynamics include: a time and place to meet, a conducive setting, where to sit, greeting, agenda, speaking/listening - remembering all the while, that you control only do your part, they control theirs.
Now you might question how this works when you neither see him nor hear his voice; where is there something tangible so I can know it's more than just my imagination at work?
There is more to presence and communication than merely seeing and hearing. Consider this, you have a dear friend that you visit frequently and your friend is unable to see or hear. You enter his room, and even though he does not see you or hear you, he begins to speak your name. You touch his arm in confirmation and he touches your hand in reply. How did that person know it was you?
Often, when I was called to the bedside of a seriously ill person in the hospital, who has been restless and agitated, and even though they are not perceptibly conscious, as soon as I entered the room with the sacraments, they would begin to be calm. Nurses often remarked how this has taken place.
There is more to communication than the optic and auditory nerves of the human body. True you could experience an apparition, as some saints have, but that would be extraordinary. The Lord starts us off in a much simpler way - with a gentle touch to our inner self.
So we have settled the question, "... is the Lord present..." - yes, he is always present when we seek him. Now we must learn how to identify that gentle touch, the various ways the Lord makes his presence known, how we are to hear his voice in a new way, beyond our ears. Some call this prayer experience the Prayer of Contemplation.
Suppose you decide to take up flying an airplane. There are two important and essential things you will need; an airplane and an instructor. For the Prayer of Contemplation these two essentials are, a Prayer-time, and the Lord's instruction. There are many helpful resources on how to pray, but in the end we must climb aboard with our instructor in the next seat and start flying.
Praying On A Passage Of Scripture [... Link...]
Saturday, 2 July 2016
The gospel for this Sunday has Jesus speaking these words;
"I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven."
There are two other texts that contain a similar reference:
It may surprise us to realize that the call to Evangelization is a call to warfare, to a spiritual warfare, to be fought here and now in our daily lives. This may be hard to get our heads around given that we are being anesthetized by a growing secularism in our society that has lost all sense of the reality of the spiritual. 'Follow your dream, whatever makes you happy, that's all that matters. Truth is subjective', so it goes.
It's like we are sitting in our rec-room sipping a coffee and munching a cookie, watching T.V. while in and out of our house stretcher bearers are bringing in the wounded on stretchers, as a fierce war rages on outside, and we take no notice, oblivious, continuing watching our program.
The casualties I refer to are those who are loose their faith, their connection with the spiritual life, their connection with the communion they had with their spiritual home; loosing their union in the Spirit with the Father and Jesus - this especially true of the younger generation. They are being dragged down into a world without God.
I recommend you read chapter 12: of the Book of Revelation; its imagery helping us to see what Jesus is seeing.