Ouch 🤕 the standard of judgement is high!

Twenty-second Sunday

Luke 14:7-14

Once again Jesus uses something very ordinary to teach us about Heaven.

This time he’s observing people at a dinner.

So he takes just that – people at a dinner – and he uses it to describe Heaven.

Heaven is like a wedding feast.

Insights like this – and Jesus supplies so many – are useful in helping us address the mystery of death. Jesus is saying that what comes after death is like a wedding feast.

What else is he telling us about Heaven?

He tells us that in God’s presence, in Heaven, we are merely guests.

Guests don’t decide where they sit!

This is the real force of the teaching – we ought not presume that we know our place or that we’re already in!

The best bet is humility. Besides there’s only humility in God’s presence. Nothing else can exist there.

It will be our host – God – who’ll decide where we sit. In other words there’s judgment. My friend move up higher or to our embarrassment, we are moved to a lower or even the lowest place.

But it’s the piece about inviting guests who can’t pay us back that really puts the knife in!

Here we’re given the standard that God will use to determine where we’ll be sitting!

Ouch!🤕

The only disciple is a tough disciple!

Twenty-third Sunday

Luke 13: 25-33

Great crowds accompany Jesus.

But Jesus turns and says stuff that could easily drive them away!

Why though, why did Jesus do that?

Because he knows us too well and he knows that life itself will break the faith of many… so he urges caution ⚠️

We’re all familiar with people who’ve fallen out with God because of some suffering or loss, the death of a loved one, yes?

Often, we’re rattled ourselves.

When he tells the story of a man who started to build but couldn’t finish he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away.

When he talks about a man who marched out to war with 10,000 men without considering if he could stand up to the other advancing against him with 20,000 men he’s talking about us, about that struggle, specifically about all who fall away – the 20,000 men being life, cancer, diseases of one kind or another, disappointment, the tough stuff… and even the soft stuff, like our love of money, possessions.

And what’s really happening when we fall out with God because of some suffering or death, because of the tough stuff?

According to Jesus we’ve put ourselves or our loved ones before Jesus. There’s the knife!

Jesus understood that we’re inclined to think that God will somehow spare us suffering if we’re good and he knew this is nonsense, a recipe for disaster.

So when he saw the crowds he tried to warn them.

He’s just turned to you now and done the same!

In the end our choices are a very big deal!

Twenty-fifth Sunday

Luke 16:13

Jesus says that one or other – God or money – will win out.

So what? What’s the big deal? Well, here’s the big deal and it is a very big deal.

God always respects our freedom.

Our choices are the most fundamental expression of our freedom.

So God always respects the choices we make… our choices may grieve Him but he will respect our choices.

He has to, otherwise we’re puppets, muppets!

So we’re free to choose money over God – and many people do – but if we do, then at the time of our death we end up looking at money and asking it to raise us from the dead. That’s what we’ve chosen!

If I choose hurling over Jesus – and I love hurling – then I end up asking a hurl to raise me from the dead. That’s what I’ve chosen… it’s my choice.

If I choose a wife, husband, son or daughter – anything – over Jesus then I end up looking to that person, that interest, to raise me from the dead.

And that’s not going to happen.

So, in the end our choices are a very big deal!

Put dishonesty in Heaven and you’re creating Hell!

Twenty-fifth Sunday

Luke 16:10-12

Again, the teaching of Jesus is profoundly simple.

If you cannot be trusted in little things how can you be trusted in great things?

The little things mean the stuff of this world like money… all the stuff that you and I think is our life!

The great things mean Heaven and the things of Heaven.

If you give Heaven – even the tiniest piece of Heaven and the powers of Heaven – to a dishonest man, you’re creating a demon.

If you put a dishonest man in Heaven he’ll begin turning it into Hell.

So, dishonesty doesn’t – cannot, just cannot – enter Heaven, it’s impossible.

It has to be purged first, burned out of the person (soul) before entry.

Simple.

The joy is great because the loss is eternal!

Twenty-fourth Sunday

Luke 15:4-7

Once again Jesus uses something very simple – an everyday thing – to teach us about eternity.

An animal – a sheep 🐑 – is lost.

The lost sheep 🐑 – wherever she’s got to, that place where she’s lost is actually the road to Hell. Until that sheep is found by the shepherd she’s in grave danger. The shepherd knows that unless he gets to the sheep quickly she’ll be killed by a wolf 🐺, a predator. She won’t last long, so it’s time sensitive. So there’s real concern, a sense of urgency. If the sheep is killed there’s no undoing it, it’s final, a finality that means Hell, eternal loss, it’s an irretrievable loss.

And that’s precisely why there’s so much joy when the sheep is found in time, before tragedy strikes.

So in the simplest of terms, using a shepherd and a sheep that’s got separated from the shepherd, Jesus teaches us about God, about the nature of God and affirms not just the existence of Heaven, but the existence of Hell too.

Pentecost: Making things a little too black and white!

This is so simple.

It’s nearly too simple for many of us. I suspect it’s much too black and white!

The Spirit arrives into our lives in a very ordered way – remember it’s the Spirit that brings us into intimacy with God.

There are ordered steps and each step builds on the previous step.

If you love me – that’s the first step; if you love ❤️ me… look how he’s phrased it; if

If you love me, then the second step; you’ll keep my commandments. So the second step is keeping his commandments but you’ll never have one without the other.

Then Jesus repeats himself, making the same point but in a slightly different way.

And then to really push the point home he states that the reverse is true: “Those who do not love me do not keep my words.” Few of us are comfortable with this, typically we’d say; much too black and white!

So, the Spirit does not enter every life, only the lives of those who love Jesus (God), and keep his commandments, his Word.

So we’re given a reason for lack of intimacy with God.

Finally we’re told something of what the Spirit’s presence does; it causes us to remember Jesus teaching, his teaching becomes part of who we are, my identity, your identity, our identity.

Confirmation Session 5: Avoid offending God and when we have offended God, apologize

There’s stuff that we do – being dishonest, unfaithful, selfish… stealing – that offends and hurts God.

Stuff that hurts God is called sin.

When we offend God it’s like offending any other person.

Imagine loving the person who has offended or hurt you…

We don’t usually do that. We’re much more likely to avoid that person, to back away.

Can you imagine God backing away in much the same way?

So let’s try to imagine that instead of backing away you walk toward the person and hug them, forgive them. Do you think that’s difficult to do?

This is how it is for God too but for God it’s on a much bigger scale.

Imagine hugging human offence on a global scale… imagine the cost!

5.1 Jesus taught us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to lend without any hope of return, and lots more difficult stuff too.

He was really just saying: Be like God.

Check it out: Luke 6:27-38 but read it as a description of God.

If we lived like this, as Jesus taught us, as God-like, it’d take every bit of us, we might say it’d crucify us!

This is how God loves us and we see the cost of it in Jesus Christ crucified.

Imagine always seeking to love the person hurting you, offending you, always seeking to love your enemy and enemies, always turning the other cheek, always lending* without any hope of return, imagine the cost!

For God it’s crucifixion and lasts until the end of time or for as long as God loves us, as long as God is merciful.

When we offend God we’re causing this suffering.

When we apologize, tell God we’re sorry… we’re easing this suffering.

Simple as that.

So, when you offend God, apologize, and commit to live like him.

5.2 But also – and this is very important – if we’re dishonest, unfaithful, selfish, then God can’t give his gifts to us because God’s gifts are really little bits of Heaven and if God gives Heaven (or even a tiny piece of Heaven) to a dishonest or unfaithful or selfish person he’s actually creating hell, turning Heaven into hell.

It’s a bit like a business owner promoting a dishonest employee… disaster, the business will be lucky to survive.

So, the bottom line here is if you’re offending God you just can’t receive Heaven or God’s gifts 🎁

No, you must change your ways first.

Repent!

*God lends life without any hope of return, always, until the end of time.

Confirmation Session 4: Mass

Mass is everything.

On earth there is nothing greater than Mass… at least in God’s eyes!

Padre Pio once said that it’d be easier for the earth to exist without the sun than for the earth to exist without Mass!

Mass is Heaven’s greatest gift 🎁

Mass is Jesus and all that he has done for us.

Imagine trying to hug the person who has hurt you. It’s so hard… sometimes impossible.

Well that’s what it’s like for God. When God loves us he’s also loving us as people who’ve offended him and that’s so hard to do.

When we look at Jesus on the Cross we’re looking at how hard it is for God to love us as people who’ve offended him. We can see it in a way that makes it more than just words.

Mass is this love ❤️ offered to us personally. It’s personal. It’s Jesus himself.

God packages everything he’s got – love – and gifts it to us in the person of Jesus who unites himself completely with us in Communion. God actually comes from Heaven and enters inside us in Jesus when we receive Communion.

If this is true… that Mass is God’s love for us, nothing less than Jesus himself leaving Heaven and entering inside us, then we should prepare for Mass very carefully.

If Mass is Jesus… and in Jesus we see how hard it is for God to love us as people who’ve offended him, then we should be really careful to not offend him even more in Mass and especially in receiving Communion.

Try to understand Communion from God’s side…

He’s loved us as people who’ve offended him to the point where it’s crucified him, to the point of giving his life, and it’s all packaged up and gifted to us in Mass and Communion.

It follows that Mass and Communion matter a great deal. I can’t stress this enough. It may not matter to us but it matters in Heaven.

The bottom line here is; when we celebrate Mass and especially when we receive Communion, depending on the state of our souls – if we’re pleasing or displeasing to God – we may be consoling him or we may be adding to his suffering.

This is the reason the church says we should always apologize to God for our offences before receiving Communion.

In fact, the church (who got this in the first place from men and women who were very close to God) says we should tell God we’re sorry in Confession before receiving Communion.

Equally though, given that it costs God so much to embrace us, our little sufferings freely offered to him in Mass serve to take away a little bit of his suffering and give him great comfort. In these moments we make God feel like his work in Jesus is worth it! In fact, God delights in us when we freely accept and offer him our little sufferings.

So, I’ve tried to explain how Mass is experienced in Heaven… how God experiences Mass.

If this is God’s understanding of Mass then how does God feel when we don’t go to Mass?

Are our usual excuses for not going to Mass received in Heaven as little more than further insult?

What’s it like for God when we go to Mass but our minds and hearts are elsewhere? Well… what’s it like when you’re talking to someone and they’re not paying any attention to you? That’s how it is for God.

In truth God is grieved by our unbelief and indifference toward Mass.

If all that I’m saying is true then we’re probably offending God on a scale we haven’t even begun to understand.

Still, God will seek to love us, always. It just costs him much more!

Confirmation Session 3.2: Prayer 🙏 and the Holy Spirit

Caution ⚠️ from here on I may be describing spiritual experience that goes over lots of heads!

Please don’t let this put you off… instead treat it as a map of the path to intimacy with God.

The Spirit has only one purpose – to bring you with her… to bring you back into the Holy Trinity (God is three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit = Trinity)

In fact, the Spirit can’t do anything else but return to the Father and the Son. She’s come to you, started the process of making you hers, but she will want to go back to the Father and to the Son, back home so to speak, it’s where she belongs, and since you now merit her presence she’ll bring you with Her – like being collected by a parent to bring you home!

When this happens it feels like you’re still on earth but with your heart ❤️ and more besides already in Heaven.

For the spiritually advanced this half on earth half in Heaven heart and mind space, this soul space, is quite painful. It’s a longing that the soul realizes can’t be truly fulfilled in this life.

Overall this is how we become God’s possession.

Bear in mind though that at any point along the way you can drive the Spirit away from you (traditionally known as the effect of mortal sin)

Once we’ve made it possible for the Holy Spirit to breach our personal space and provided we remain faithful to the four essentials she begins to melt us and mould us and a new person is formed – St. Paul’s new man or woman – and this new man or woman will always manifest clearly identifiable qualities, characteristics, traits… which are in fact the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit fully developed.

But God won’t leave it there. No, there’ll be other gifts bestowed which will be given primarily to help the recipient bring others to Jesus.

To give some idea of the breath of gifts that God might bestow it is necessary to look to the lives of the saints.

So, as an essential part of preparation for Confirmation I recommend reading at least one of the many written accounts of the life of Padre Pio.

You don’t have to do this now, or pre Confirmation, but at some point in the coming months.

Confirmation Session 3.1: How to pray

Create the space and the time.

In prayer speak to God as you would to another person, as you would to a friend using your own words. What do you speak about when you meet your friends? When you’re on a sleep-over? When you meet a friend for coffee or lunch? That’s the stuff of prayer, talk to God as you would to a friend.

Don’t be afraid to speak audibly (out loud) if it helps.

Tell him all that’s going on in your life… in your own words. Adults might like to tell him all the gossip… then watch your attitude change!

It may help if you’ve got something to focus on, an image or a statue, or from wherever you are situated, to turn toward the tabernacle in your local church and empty out your heart and mind… over time this will lead to a profound silence in which the soul and God communicate without and beyond words.

When using images remember there’s an order, Jesus first, Mary second; an order that Mary herself respects.

For this reason I recommend turning toward the tabernacle in your local church although this orientation doesn’t exclude the use of a statue of Mary in your prayer space, it just means that if you’re asking Mary for something at least you can look away from her toward her Son because this is the totality of all that she can do in response to you asking her in the first place.

You see anything Mary obtains for us, she obtains by praying to her Son, so as we move our gaze away from her and toward her Son we’re uniting our gaze with that of Mary, a combined look toward her Son.

In prayer it’s vital to grasp that God has shown himself in Jesus and all that God wants us to know is to be found in Jesus.

Therefore we must pay close attention to the teachings of Jesus which are found in the four books of the Gospels.

A convenient way to access the teachings of Jesus is by paying close attention to the Sunday Gospels – a good reason to go to Mass on Sundays!

Read them over and over, sit with them, through them Christ will teach you about the inner workings of Heaven, of God Himself.

If we persist in prayer God will begin to trust us with himself and his inner world, with Heaven, and even a few scraps from Heaven are worth more than everything the world has to offer!

When you’ve learned to speak with God in your own words you will find it easier to pray using the traditional formulas.

Remember, the traditional prayer 🙏 formulas were once someone’s own words based on their experience of God.

Now go make that experience your own!