Wednesday, 9 April 2014
King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods, and that you refuse to worship the golden statue I have erected? When you hear the sound of horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, or any other instrument, are you prepared to prostrate yourselves and worship the statue I have made? If you refuse to worship it, you must be thrown straight away into the burning fiery furnace; and where is the god who could save you from my power?’ Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your question hardly requires an answer: if our God, the one we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, he will save us; and even if he does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.’ These words infuriated King Nebuchadnezzar; his expression was very different now as he looked at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave orders for the furnace to be made seven times hotter than usual, and commanded certain stalwarts from his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar sprang to his feet in amazement. He said to his advisers, ‘Did we not have these three men thrown bound into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ ‘But,’ he went on ‘I can see four men walking about freely in the heart of the fire without coming to any harm. And the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’
Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: he has sent his angel to rescue the servants who, putting their trust in him, defied the order of the king, and preferred to forfeit their bodies rather than serve or worship any god but their own.’
To the Jews who believed in him Jesus said:
‘If you make my word your home
you will indeed be my disciples,
you will learn the truth
and the truth will make you free.’
They answered, ‘We are descended from Abraham and we have never been the slaves of anyone; what do you mean, “You will be made free”?’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
everyone who commits sin is a slave.
Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured,
but the son’s place is assured.
So if the Son makes you free,
you will be free indeed.
I know that you are descended from Abraham;
but in spite of that you want to kill me
because nothing I say has penetrated into you.
What I, for my part, speak of
is what I have seen with my Father;
but you, you put into action
the lessons learnt from your father.’
They repeated, ‘Our father is Abraham.’ Jesus said to them:
‘If you were Abraham’s children,
you would do as Abraham did.
As it is, you want to kill me
when I tell you the truth
as I have learnt it from God;
that is not what Abraham did.
What you are doing is what your father does.’
‘We were not born of prostitution,’ they went on ‘we have one father: God.’ Jesus answered:
‘If God were your father, you would love me,
since I have come here from God;
yes, I have come from him;
not that I came because I chose,
no, I was sent, and by him.’
In the Gospel the listeners of Jesus emphasise they are descendant from Abraham. Our faith is based on a relationship with Christ and through Him we have entered the community of love , The Blessed Trinity.
That relationship has an effect on our lives. Like the three lads in the first reading, sometimes those decisions can bring us into difficult situations. Yet through their persistence in following God's Law the three lads change the kings attitude.
We, too, can have a similar effect on people. At times we may feel that we are alone, but like the lads in the fire, we will always have God and His angels with us. Through our faithfulness to the ways of God we too can change attitudes in people and bring about conversions.
Today we pray that we may deepen our relationship with Christ and allow that relationship to be seen in our everyday life.
Tuesday, 8 April 2014
The Israelites left Mount Hor by the road to the Sea of Suph, to skirt the land of Edom. On the way the people lost patience. They spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in this wilderness? For there is neither bread nor water here; we are sick of this unsatisfying food.’
At this God sent fiery serpents among the people; their bite brought death to many in Israel. The people came and said to Moses, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you. Intercede for us with the Lord to save us from these serpents.’ Moses interceded for the people, and the Lord answered him, ‘Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live.’ So Moses fashioned a bronze serpent which he put on a standard, and if anyone was bitten by a serpent, he looked at the bronze serpent and lived.
God has given His people so much, He has brought them out of slavery in Egypt, He has worked mighty deeds for them, namely, dividing the Red Sea, allowing them to walk through it and then allowing the Egyptians to die in it. He has led His people by day as a cloud and at night as fire. He has fed and watered them. Yet they have turned from Him. God has punished them with the snake bite but out of love He has also given them the remedy, a bronze serpent raised up.
God has given us so much yet at times we can be like the wandering Hebrew, we turn from God. We can drift into sin which leads to the snake bite and the poisoning of our soul . We to have a remedy, not a bronze serpent raised, but Christ Himself raised on the cross.
Through His death and resurrection Christ Himself has become our healer through the sacraments. He comes especially to heal our sins through the sacrament of confession.
We can also use the passion of Christ as a preventative measure in overcoming impatience or boredom with God. We ought to meditate on the passion of Christ frequently. We should get into the habit of meditating on the Gospels passion scenes at least weekly.
By meditating on the passion we are constantly reminded of how much Jesus has suffered for us, how great His love is for us. Meditating on the passion helps us to keep the kettle of love on the boil, it helps increase our fervour and strengthens our zeal.
Meditating on the passion of Christ will help us overcome sin and when we do sin, help us to repent.
Friday, 4 April 2014
The godless say to themselves, with their misguided reasoning:
‘Our life is short and dreary,
nor is there any relief when man’s end comes,
nor is anyone known who can give release from Hades.
Let us lie in wait for the virtuous man, since he annoys us
and opposes our way of life,
reproaches us for our breaches of the law
and accuses us of playing false to our upbringing.
He claims to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a son of the Lord.
Before us he stands, a reproof to our way of thinking,
the very sight of him weighs our spirits down;
his way of life is not like other men’s,
the paths he treads are unfamiliar.
In his opinion we are counterfeit;
he holds aloof from our doings as though from filth;
he proclaims the final end of the virtuous as happy
and boasts of having God for his father.
Let us see if what he says is true,
let us observe what kind of end he himself will have.
If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part
and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies.
Let us test him with cruelty and with torture,
and thus explore this gentleness of his
and put his endurance to the proof.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death
since he will be looked after – we have his word for it.’
This is the way they reason, but they are misled,
their malice makes them blind.
They do not know the hidden things of God,
they have no hope that holiness will be rewarded,
they can see no reward for blameless souls.
Jesus stayed in Galilee; he could not stay in Judaea, because the Jews were out to kill him.
As the Jewish feast of Tabernacles drew near, However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went up as well, but quite privately, without drawing attention to himself. Meanwhile some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Isn’t this the man they want to kill? And here he is, speaking freely, and they have nothing to say to him! Can it be true the authorities have made up their minds that he is the Christ? Yet we all know where he comes from, but when the Christ appears no one will know where he comes from.
Then, as Jesus taught in the Temple, he cried out:
‘Yes, you know me
and you know where I came from.
Yet I have not come of myself:
no, there is one who sent me
and I really come from him,
and you do not know him,
but I know him because I have come from him
and it was he who sent me.’
They would have arrested him then, but because his time had not yet come no one laid a hand on him.
As we come closer to the end of Lent, the division between Christ and His enemies become greater. Their hatred of Christ intensifies.
While the Gospel will brings us to the climax of Holy Week, the Old Testament readings will, in a way, supply the reasons for the antagonism towards Christ.
In the first reading we see the attitude of those who are against the virtuous man, Christ is THE man of Virtue, You and I are baptised into Christ so too we are Christs in the world.
The attitude of the world to us will be the same as their attitude to Christ. They would rather be rid of us and how that happens they do not really care. You and I will, in various degrees, suffer in some way for being Christians.
Christ is the light and we shine that light into the world. Christ is also Life and we too bring life to the world. The followers of the world prefer darkness The world prefers death. We see that clearly in the west, as belief in God has decreased the laws bringing about death have increased, abortion euthanasia, contraception. Way back in the 60's when people starting looking to legalise abortion , they said it would only be in extreme cases. Pro lifers at the time where ridiculed because they predicted an extension of abortion and also euthanasia. Yet that is what exactly happened in many countries and is continuing to happen. Children who are considered non viable whether pre born or born are considered fair game. Children over 12 can now legally be killed in Belgium, The same country has never prosecuted any of the doctors who have confessed to killing sick children.
All things thing have happened before, whether it is anti life measures like abortion of euthanasia, whether it is anti family like contraception, divorce or same sex marriage, none of these are new.
The Church was born in the midst of one such culture, the Roman empire. Christians were hated then because of their stance on such issues. Through out history these things have come and gone, the only constant in the last 2000 years had been Christ and His Church. Empires have come and gone, civilisations will come and gone, but Christ is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.
You and I are christs in the world we bring light to its darkness, we bring life to its death. We do so because we follow Him who died and rose again. Jesus has already had the victory, He triumphed over death and His light shines in the darkness. Yes, we may at times have to suffer, but through that suffering we come to the resurrection. The passion of Christ leads to the resurrection. Good Friday becomes good, because of the resurrection.
Today then we pray to recommit ourselves to the Lord and His Church, to seek to bring His Light and Life to the world no matter what comes our way.
Thursday, 3 April 2014
The Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Go down now, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have apostatised. They have been quick to leave the way I marked out for them; they have made themselves a calf of molten metal and have worshipped it and offered it sacrifice. “Here is your God, Israel,” they have cried “who brought you up from the land of Egypt!”’ the Lord said to Moses, ‘I can see how headstrong these people are! Leave me, now, my wrath shall blaze out against them and devour them; of you, however, I will make a great nation.’
But Moses pleaded with the Lord his God. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘why should your wrath blaze out against this people of yours whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with arm outstretched and mighty hand? Why let the Egyptians say, “Ah, it was in treachery that he brought them out, to do them to death in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth”? Leave your burning wrath; relent and do not bring this disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, your servants to whom by your own self you swore and made this promise: I will make your offspring as many as the stars of heaven, and all this land which I promised I will give to your descendants, and it shall be their heritage for ever.’
So the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.
Jesus said to the Jews:
‘Were I to testify on my own behalf,
my testimony would not be valid;
but there is another witness who can speak on my behalf,
and I know that his testimony is valid.
You sent messengers to John,
and he gave his testimony to the truth:
not that I depend on human testimony;
no, it is for your salvation that I speak of this.
John was a lamp alight and shining
and for a time you were content to enjoy the light that he gave.
But my testimony is greater than John’s:
the works my Father has given me to carry out,
these same works of mine testify
that the Father has sent me.
Besides, the Father who sent me
bears witness to me himself.
You have never heard his voice,
you have never seen his shape,
and his word finds no home in you
because you do not believe in the one he has sent.
‘You study the scriptures,
believing that in them you have eternal life;
now these same scriptures testify to me,
and yet you refuse to come to me for life!
As for human approval, this means nothing to me.
Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you.
I have come in the name of my Father
and you refuse to accept me;
if someone else comes in his own name
you will accept him.
How can you believe,
since you look to one another for approval
and are not concerned
with the approval that comes from the one God?
Do not imagine that I am going to accuse you before the Father:
you place your hopes on Moses,
and Moses will be your accuser.
If you really believed him
you would believe me too,
since it was I that he was writing about;
but if you refuse to believe what he wrote,
how can you believe what I say?’
In the first reading the people have turned from God and created their own god , the golden calf.
God has given these people so much, He took them from slavery, killed off their enemies, fed the people everyday. Yet they are not satisfied..
In the gospel we see that there are those who will not believe in Jesus, despite what Scriptures says, despite the testimony of John the Baptist. They simply will not let go of the image of God that they have.
How have these two situations come about. Christ Himself answers this: you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from the one God.
One can imagine the scene in the first reading. Some are restless and become agitators. The majority out of fear of losing face follow like sheep.Those in the Gospel are like the people in the desert they have created their own golden calf and worship it. Like the people in the desert they too can hold onto these beliefs because of fear of what others might think.
We too have received many blessings from God, we have studied and pondered the scriptures, received out Lord in the sacraments. Yet we too can bend the knee to the golden calf. We follow the mob rather than God. We fear what our neighbours, families and friends will think. In doing so we miss many encounters with Christ in our daily life, We miss out on deepening our life in Christ.
It is essential for you and me to pray everyday and to ask the Holy Spirit to give us courage. This courage will help free us from the tyranny of what other people think. This courage will help us seek God's approval. It will give us the strength to do God 's will everyday in our life. Courage enables us to meet God in His Word everyday
Wednesday, 2 April 2014
Thus says the Lord:
At the favourable time I will answer you,
on the day of salvation I will help you.
(I have formed you and have appointed you
as covenant of the people.)
I will restore the land
and assign you the estates that lie waste.
I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out’,
to those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’
On every roadway they will graze,
and each bare height shall be their pasture.
They will never hunger or thirst,
scorching wind and sun shall never plague them;
for he who pities them will lead them
and guide them to springs of water.
I will make a highway of all the mountains,
and the high roads shall be banked up.
Some are on their way from afar,
others from the north and the west,
others from the land of Sinim.
Shout for joy, you heavens; exult, you earth!
You mountains, break into happy cries!
For the Lord consoles his people
and takes pity on those who are afflicted.
For Zion was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the Lord has forgotten me.’
Does a woman forget her baby at the breast,
or fail to cherish the son of her womb?
Yet even if these forget,
I will never forget you.
Jesus said to the Jews, ‘My Father goes on working, and so do I.’ But that only made them even more intent on killing him, because, not content with breaking the sabbath, he spoke of God as his own Father, and so made himself God’s equal.
To this accusation Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
the Son can do nothing by himself;
he can do only what he sees the Father doing:
and whatever the Father does the Son does too.
For the Father loves the Son
and shows him everything he does himself,
and he will show him even greater things than these,
works that will astonish you.
Thus, as the Father raises the dead and gives them life,
so the Son gives life to anyone he chooses;
for the Father judges no one;
he has entrusted all judgement to the Son,
so that all may honour the Son
as they honour the Father.
Whoever refuses honour to the Son
refuses honour to the Father who sent him.
I tell you most solemnly,
whoever listens to my words,
and believes in the one who sent me,
has eternal life;
without being brought to judgement
he has passed from death to life.
I tell you most solemnly,
the hour will come – in fact it is here already –
when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God,
and all who hear it will live.
For the Father, who is the source of life,
has made the Son the source of life;
and, because he is the Son of Man,
has appointed him supreme judge.
Do not be surprised at this,
for the hour is coming when the dead will leave their graves
at the sound of his voice:
those who did good will rise again to life;
and those who did evil, to condemnation.
I can do nothing by myself;
I can only judge as I am told to judge,
and my judging is just,
because my aim is to do not my own will,
but the will of him who sent me.’
Isaiah is encouraging those who have already returned to the promised land or who are thinking of returning. God has not forgotten them and has in store for them something great. He is a compassionate God who loves His people and will care for them.
The people are returning to Zion after their captivity.
Our Zion is Jesus Christ Himself. Christ is compassionate and all who follow Him will have life. This life is eternal. We are exiles when we sin, in order to return to the land of Zion we enter through the sacrament of confession. Sin brings about death and confession restores life.
Lent is a time to examine where we are in our relationship with God, are we in exile or are we citizens of the new Zion. This lent we search our souls, see where we are distant from God, allow Him to love us in the sacrament of confession and restore life to us.
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
The angel brought me to the entrance of the Temple, where a stream came out from under the Temple threshold and flowed eastwards, since the Temple faced east. The water flowed from under the right side of the Temple, south of the altar. He took me out by the north gate and led me right round outside as far as the outer east gate where the water flowed out on the right-hand side. The man went to the east holding his measuring line and measured off a thousand cubits; he then made me wade across the stream; the water reached my ankles. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across the stream again; the water reached my knees. He measured off another thousand and made me wade across again; the water reached my waist. He measured off another thousand; it was now a river which I could not cross; the stream had swollen and was now deep water, a river impossible to cross. He then said, ‘Do you see, son of man?’ He took me further, then brought me back to the bank of the river. When I got back, there were many trees on each bank of the river. He said, ‘This water flows east down to the Arabah and to the sea; and flowing into the sea it makes its waters wholesome. Wherever the river flows, all living creatures teeming in it will live. Fish will be very plentiful, for wherever the water goes it brings health, and life teems wherever the river flows. Along the river, on either bank, will grow every kind of fruit tree with leaves that never wither and fruit that never fails; they will bear new fruit every month, because this water comes from the sanctuary. And their fruit will be good to eat and the leaves medicinal.’
There was a Jewish festival, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now at the Sheep Pool in Jerusalem there is a building, called Bethzatha in Hebrew, consisting of five porticos; and under these were crowds of sick people – blind, lame, paralysed – waiting for the water to move; One man there had an illness which had lasted thirty-eight years, and when Jesus saw him lying there and knew he had been in this condition for a long time, he said, ‘Do you want to be well again?’ ‘Sir,’ replied the sick man ‘I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I am still on the way, someone else gets there before me.’ Jesus said, ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk.’ The man was cured at once, and he picked up his mat and walked away.
Now that day happened to be the sabbath, so the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; you are not allowed to carry your sleeping-mat.’ He replied, ‘But the man who cured me told me, “Pick up your mat and walk.”’ They asked, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Pick up your mat and walk”?’ The man had no idea who it was, since Jesus had disappeared into the crowd that filled the place. After a while Jesus met him in the Temple and said, ‘Now you are well again, be sure not to sin any more, or something worse may happen to you.’ The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had cured him. It was because he did things like this on the sabbath that the Jews began to persecute Jesus.
Ezekiel gives us an image of a renewed temple. From it flows life giving water. Wherever the water flows it brings life both within and without. A renewed temple, the centre of Judaism, can bring renewed life to the people.
You and I have something greater than the Temple, we have Jesus Christ. When he died upon the cross, blood and water flowed from His pierced side, symbols of the Sacraments. Through the waters of baptisms we have been given new life. This life is constantly renewed by the sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.
Yet there are many today , like the man at the pool, who have not been renewed by the life giving waters of Christ. They have no one who will help them.
You and I give thanks for the gifts of the sacraments. We know in our own lives how fruitful they have been. We have known the life giving power of the sacraments. Today then we thank God for His gift of the sacraments to us.
Yet we realise there are many not as fortunate as we are. We want to help them reach the pool of the sacraments. Today we thank God for the Sacraments and ask him to give us the courage to bring the faith to those who have left our faith or who have never encountered our faith. Give us the courage to help people reach the life giving waters.
Sunday, 30 March 2014
Readings 1 Samuel 16:1,6-7,10-13, Psalm 22:1-6, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-41
In the first reading, Samuel is searching for a King. He still sees the world through human eyes and is blind to the way God sees. Eliab, the first son, is shown to Samuel and he thinks yes I have the king. In the world eyes Ehiab is just the guy, tall strong and handsome. In a world like to today where superficiality reigns he would fit in well in politics or reality TV. Samuel goes through all the sons, none are the chose one of God. Lastly the runt of the family is brought forward. He is young and, we can deduce, he is not as tall or as handsome as his brothers but he is God's chosen ones.
God's ways are different to ours, He sees things differently. Samuel would have chosen the tall, handsome, Eliab based solely on appearance, thinking that good looks and physique are an outward sign of an inward reality.
God chose David because David is a shepherd. It is hard for us to imagine the life of a shepherd. When one is a subsistence farmer, the flock you have, is all you have. It literally is your life. In order to protect their sheep, shepherds tended them 24/7. In the summer the shepherd moved with the sheep to higher pasture land and would spend all their time on the mountain with their sheep. The sheep become so used to their shepherd they knew his voice and followed him around. They know once they are with their shepherd they are safe.
God chose David because this was the style of king He wanted for His people. David would be a shepherd, guiding, feeding, protecting the sheep.
Jesus is also a shepherd, indeed He is the Good Shepherd. He wishes to lead His flock to pasture green where they can drink still water. It is as a shepherd that Jesus is concerned for the blind man. Through Jesus the man not only gains his physical sight but also the sight of faith.
Jesus is still the Good Shepherd and still has concern for His flock. He works through us. We are the body of Christ on earth. Through baptism we were all baptised into Christ , priest, prophet and king. As we have seen the kingship of Christ is the Shepherding king. You and I are not only the sheep but we share in the shepherding.
We are to bring the sheep into the new pastures, that is the Church.
How did Jesus cure the blind man? By using something every day, something very common, muck.
Christ in a way is re enacting the beginning of the Bible. God picks up the clay from the ground, fashions it, then blows into it and creates Adam. Adam is a play on the Hebrew word Adamah meaning, muck , clay. Jesus picks up the muck , adds spittle and puts the paste on the mans eyes. What can be more ordinary or common that muck.
Jesus takes something very ordinary and bring about something extraordinary. He still does this today. In the sacraments of the Church, Jesus takes ordinary everyday things and brings about something extraordinary. In baptism He uses water and brings about a rebirth in the human soul, a cleansing from original sin in a child, and actual sin in an adult. In confirmation, through the laying on of hands and what essentially is olive oil, seals the soul with the Holy Spirit. Through the simple gesture of laying on of the priests hand, He cleans a soul from sin. Again through oil and laying on of hands He strengthens a soul suffering from illness in the Sacrament of the sick. In holy matrimony he takes human love and makes it divine. In holy orders, through the imposition of hands, He takes an ordinary man and gives him extraordinary powers. These sacraments are the still waters in today's world. The sheep are nourished at the pond of the Divine.
You and I , as shepherds need to lead people into pastures green , the Church, and let them drink from the still water. We do this in the same way as any shepherd, by being with them, letting them get to know us and by doing so, trusting us. We bring Christ the good shepherd with us where ever we are, in the family, workplace, shopping centre, school . We not only bring Him but we are HIm.
In today's world there are so many blinded. They suffer like the man in the Gospel. Their blindness prevents them from being who they really are, it prevents them from living a full life. They need our healing touch to bring their sight back. We need to reach out to them and cure them.
We can lead them back to the Church and with the mud and spittle of the sacraments cure their blindness.
This lent think of someone you know who has left the faith or has never known the faith. Pray for them, fast for them, give alms in their name but above all reach out to them. Through your love, friendship and your way of life, lead them to the pastures green and let them drink from the still water.
Cure their blindness so that they too can say Lord I believe.