Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Hey Stephen Fry! I’ll stick with hanging on to Jesus Christ.

Second Sunday of Lent, Year B, Mark 9:2-10, The Transfiguration.

Abraham is prepared to give his own child (First Reading Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18). It’s one of the most savage scenes in the bible. The only redeeming factor being that it’s a test and God is not going to allow it to happen.

Stephen Fry tells Gay Byrne what he thinks of God!

Stephen Fry tells Gay Byrne what he thinks of God!

But for some parents, tragically, it’s happened, not that they were given a choice, rather it was forced on them, and is being forced on them, day after day, as they struggle to reach some kind of acceptance.

From the First Reading we move to the figure of Jesus, taking Peter, James and John with him, climbing a high mountain where they could be alone.

The revelation that occurs on the mountain will not be given to the other nine. Jesus takes Peter, James and John – not the others. We need to accept that God doesn’t give the same spiritual experiences to us all – for whatever reason.

Neither is the revelation given to the crowds taking an interest in Jesus of Nazareth. The vast majority among the crowds are not so much interested in discipleship – in giving up their lives for Christ – as in being cured of some difficulty so that they can get on with their lives.

Revelation always happens when we withdraw from the world, it happens away from the crowd. The world listens to talk, debate, voice after voice, but the follower of Christ listens to a single voice that’s heard only in silence.

Revelation happens when we’re in the company of Jesus. In the company of Jesus the disciples glimpse something much greater, something much more beautiful than ordinary experience.

Revelation happens after the effort of climbing the mountain. Climbing a mountain is always symbolic of the journey to God which brings “heightened consciousness” and “heightened awareness” (Fr. Robert Barron) and unrestricted vision.

Climbing a mountain is a difficult task, full of danger. Some of us will crawl on our hands and knees as we near the top, breathless, exhausted, perhaps bruised, cut and bleeding because we’ve fallen on the way up, because the ascent has been brutal and it’s taken a toll. Some of us may conclude that the ascent is too high a price, not worth it, because we can’t see beyond the immediacy of the suffering involved. There’s nothing like suffering to restrict our vision. Think Stephen Fry!

It requires self-sacrifice to climb the mountain of life and reach our true destination. It’ll cost us. On the way there may be unthinkable losses. Such is life anyway. But the teaching of Christ leaves no room for doubt – I’m worth the loss of everything! The spiritual experience is far more beautiful than anything in ordinary everyday experience.

Revelation doesn’t happen antiseptically, in a make believe world, it happens in this world, this real world, with Christ.

On the mountain top revelation happens – the earthly human Jesus is transfigured, significantly Mark makes the point of telling us that “his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them.” It was a glimpse of the other world; “dazzingly white” – transcendent illumination! People long dead, Moses and Elijah could be seen again. Peter wanted to stay. That’s us! That’s what we’ve done with Lourdes. We build tents (hotels). We crave this beauty. This is what we’re all looking for if we could only dare to believe, if we could only get past human suffering.

We might think that for Peter, James and John, the memory of this event would be enough to carry them through the passion and death of Jesus. But it wasn’t – at least initially – and that’s significant. In the immediacy of Jesus suffering and death even this memory fades, at least for a time. That’s how it is for us too, that’s how it is for Stephen Fry.

There is no way around or past human suffering. There’s only a way through it – by hanging on to Jesus Christ come what may!

Lent: Hey world leaders! Don’t you get it? The kingdom of God is for the future of the earth and its inhabitants.

Hey world leaders! Don’t you get it? The kingdom of God is for the earth. It’s God’s programme for the future of the earth and its inhabitants. Let me explain.

Is Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God? What do you think?

Is he the Saviour of the world?

We believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God who is profoundly interested in our welfare, not just as individuals but as the human race – the body of humanity on the face of the earth at any given time. He’s interested in us collectively, as we evolve.

He came to give us a future. Most of us will think of that future as eternal life – somewhere to go in the end. So religion gets pushed out, worse still, so does God!

But God is equally interested in the human race as we live out our lives on earth. It’s the daily living out of our lives together that’ll decide the future, both temporal and eternal.

This is the significance of the kingdom of God. In Mark’s Gospel (today’s Gospel Mark 1:12-15) Jesus begins his public ministry with the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in human hearts, in human affairs. Only when God rules our hearts and our affairs – collectively – can we be sure of a future on earth that won’t end in ruin, in disaster. Thus Jesus call to repentance. The kingdom of God is about peace on earth, it’s about true prosperity. What other purpose could the Incarnation possibly have?

So, we must decide. Is the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, the son of the living God? Is he the Saviour of the world?

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in human affairs, the guarantee of our collective future. It's the politics of God!

The kingdom of God is the rule of God in human affairs, the guarantee of our collective future. It’s the politics of God!

If he is, then, logically, the removal of Christ from Irish public life can only mean that the perceived progress associated with his removal is nothing more than the illusion of progress. It’s progress that’ll end in disaster. The kind of progress that came disguised as the Celtic Tiger. All in the name of a republic! There’s no darkness worse than the darkness that comes disguised as light! “if then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!” (Matthew 6:23)

Unless, of course, this Saviour intervenes again.

Now that’s an interesting thought. That’d be quite a task! Look what the world wants to do with his original intervention!

It’s Lent; time to decide: Who are we really following?

Fatima: God is very democratic!

Pope Benedict XVI visits Fatima, May 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI visits Fatima, May 2010.

I’ve always been fascinated by the details of Fatima.

While watching the various DVDs about Fatima it becomes very obvious that this attempted intervention of God in human affairs caused great suffering; for the children and their parents and for the local ecclesiastical and civil authorities.

Having watched the DVDs it’s the trauma caused by the apparitions that jumps from the screen. What was it all for? What did Our Lady and ultimately God want to achieve? The answer takes most people by surprise.

Firstly, Our Lady asked that people stop offending God. So much trouble just for that! One must conclude therefore that offending God is a very serious matter.

Secondly, as if to emphasize the point, Our Lady then went on to request reparation, the repair of the hurt caused to the heart of God by human offences.

How are we to do that?

Papa17This is very striking. We are to appreciate Holy Mass. We are to partake of the Eucharist, to believe, adore, trust and love her Son Jesus Christ truly present there. Fatima clearly indicates, without room for doubt, that neglect of Holy Mass and the proper worship of the Blessed Sacrament amounts to neglect of the person and the work of Jesus Christ, and causes great suffering in the Heart of God. When working with children (using an animated DVD) I always remind them that when the Angel came to visit the children in Fatima, the Angel didn’t come with a can of coca cola and a bag of crisps! No, the Angel came with the Sacred Host and a Chalice. Why? Because that’s how God decided to remain with his people. In the message of Fatima the Eucharist is central because God intended Eucharist to be central until the end of time. The Eucharist is God-self and God’s work in Jesus Christ – it can’t be any more central than that!

Furthermore Our Lady taught the children to offer sacrifices (particularly the difficulties and sufferings of life) in reparation. This is a common theme in the lives of all the great Saints – they offered their sufferings in reparation while working tirelessly to relieve the suffering of others.

Reparation sounds difficult but it’s not – not even for children. Again, when working with children I ask them to imagine if one of them clobbered me. Then I ask them to imagine another child apologizing on behalf of my attacker and offering to make a cup of tea for me; one child is hurting me, the other is making reparation, trying to repair the damage.

But the full meaning of Fatima goes much further and connects the state of human affairs directly to humankind’s relationship with God.

During the apparition of July 13th Our Lady said that if people do not stop offending God another and more terrible war will break out – obviously meaning the Second World War.

We understand the Second World War to have been the result of Hitler coming to power in Germany. However, Our Lady suggests that the Second World War happened as a result of people offending God. In other words, when we choose against God we choose to put in place a chain of events that eventually, ultimately, causes great suffering to ourselves, to the body of humanity.

Thus during the 20 odd years between the world wars people are given ample opportunity to change or set the course of world events. This of course makes God very democratic – certainly not a dictator or a tyrant. We’re free to choose life or death, good or evil. We make the choices. At the very least Fatima implies that humankind’s well-being depends on an intimate Communion between the creature and the Creator.

Now, if offending God or otherwise determines our common human future then there arises a critically important question; what kind of a future are we creating for our children?

Indeed we might ask; what kind of a future are we creating for Irish children when a religious ethos is considered to have no place in the schools of a modern republic?

More generally, what hope is there for a culture that attempts to exclude religion from public life?

Encountering Christ – learning from the leper.

‘Spirit’ Confirmation Programme 3.

The single most important question you guys need to ask and answer (your parents too) is; if Confirmation wasn’t part of school life would you be approaching your local Church to look for it?

Candidates for Confirmation participate in the first 'Spirit' Workshop.

Candidates for Confirmation participate in the first ‘Spirit’ Workshop.

Still, whether you know it or not, God is calling you guys through the very fact that Confirmation is a part of school life. He’s calling you through the ‘Spirit’ programme, through the adults who’ve given so freely of themselves, through all of us gathered here, through your teachers, and even through me!

But the greatest call is the call that comes from the direct encounter with Jesus Christ in his Word and in his body and blood offered to us in the Eucharist – although what I’m calling the ‘direct’ encounter is still being mediated through the Church!

I think the leper in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:40-45) can teach us much about Confirmation, about your Confirmation, about the Christian life in general.

The leper goes to find Jesus.

Without the effort of going out to meet Jesus – and we’re not told how much of an effort the leper had to make but it’s likely to have been significant – nothing would have changed for the leper. There’d have been no encounter with Christ and there’d have been no healing. Same old, same old, same old life!

Confirmation presumes you’re making the effort to go out and meet Jesus. If there’s no effort on your part then Confirmation – and remember what Confirmation is; the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Divine-self – will be like throwing seeds on patches of rock where there’s little soil.

Incidentally Pope John Paul II used to love to ask people: What did you do with your Confirmation? Well, what do you think?

The leper can teach us other things too about life with God – or life without God!

Generally, like the leper people won’t go looking for God until they have a need. Confirmation presumes you have a need for God. Do you have a need for God?

When the leper encounters Christ – when Jesus stretches out his hand and says: “Of course I want to! Be Cured!” – the lepers life is changed. Yes, his life is made better, enhanced, which is what the presence of Christ always does in a life, but that life is also changed, radically.

The radically changed life is something we often miss and I’m not sure whether we miss it through simple ignorance or if it’s a very deliberate attempt to make the teaching of Jesus suit us. When Jesus stretches out his hand, whether to the serious sinner or the seriously ill, a real change is effected in their lives, sinners, outsiders, the marginalized start putting right what’s wrong – often what wasn’t considered wrong before the encounter with Christ – and simultaneously they enter a deeper experience of the kingdom of God. Indeed, the change is the proof that the kingdom of God is present.

As Christ is encountered, things that didn’t seem wrong are suddenly seen to be wrong. As Christ is encountered, the catechism is encountered. The more the kingdom of God takes hold of us the more we’ll understand even the difficult teachings of the Church, things that just seemed like nonsense before our growth in Christ!

Finally, do you know where to go to encounter Christ?

Well, in truth, it can happen almost anywhere, but there’s one very privileged place. Where is it? It’s the reason your teachers constantly remind you that there’s to be no talking in the Church. God has given one particular place that is the unequaled place of encounter: Mass, and as a result of Mass; the Tabernacle and Adoration.

You guys probably pass a Church many times every week. How often do you call in to speak with Jesus present in the Tabernacle?

You guys change that – start calling in for 10 minutes every day and just talk to him – and he’ll change your whole life, from the inside out, and it’ll be a much better life than the one you’ll make without him!

God is calling you – by name!

But can you hear it? Can you see it? Or will your Confirmation remain unused, an unused key to an unknown kingdom?

Your choice. You choose.

Our actions will always harmonize with what’s inside us.

‘Spirit’ Confirmation Programme 2.

We’re asking you today to witness to the Spirit. Actually, that’s not right. You’ve chosen this, didn’t you? So you’re telling us that you’re going to witness to the Spirit.

'Spirit' Workshop No. 2. Candidates for Confirmation viewing video footage of how people witness to the Spirit.

‘Spirit’ Workshop No. 2. Candidates for Confirmation viewing video footage on an iPad of how people witness to the Spirit.

The visit of Annette McCarthy to the school on Friday together with the workshop this morning will have given you real examples of witnessing to the Spirit.

Here’s another way that you might witness. Sometimes as people get older they can become invisible. People don’t see them any more. So, here’s what I want you to do. You can make older people visible – all through your life – by just smiling and saying ‘hello’.

Still, I do not want you to get the idea that witnessing to the Spirit is just about being a ‘good’ person or a ‘nice’ person. Sometimes even our goodness is a witness to ourselves rather than God, my spirit rather than God’s Spirit, and merely carries the mask of witnessing to God. This – reducing Christianity to being a ‘nice’ person – is something we’ve been doing within Catholicism for most of my lifetime, and it’s directly related to the slow decline of Catholicism.

Catholicism is first and foremost a well-trodden path to a real and ongoing encounter with God. This ongoing encounter with God is what gives our lives joyful and lasting security. This is basic Jesus-speak! He never tires of telling us things like “…a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs” and “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” (Luke 12:15, 12:20)

There’s a desperate human need portrayed in today’s First Reading (Job 7:1-4,6-7), the kind that must surely precede suicide. There’s similar human need portrayed in today’s Gospel (Mark 1:29-39) but in the Gospel the need encounters Jesus Christ and is transformed. I heard an elderly man say recently – a man who’d lost both his wife and his son – “Life? It’s nothing in the end!” He’s right. Without Jesus Christ, it comes down to nothing in the end. It’s the encounter with God that causes us to witness. Witness is not a dry demand!

This encounter with God is not imaginary. Its development is marked by clearly defined stages, every bend on the road to God, every junction, every cul-de-sac, every obstacle, and every contour is documented. Catholicism is first and foremost a ‘how to’ manual, how to encounter God, and for the purists it’s an experiential ‘how to’ manual produced by God. So, before you walk away from Catholicism, read the life of at least one saint. It’s an interesting question to ask those who’ve already abandoned Catholicism: Did you read the life of at least one saint before walking away?

So, I do not want to be asking you to witness to a Spirit that you do not know. That’s to do violence to you. We can only witness to God’s Spirit to the degree that he’s present within us.

When we try to witness to Gods Spirit when he’s not inside us – when he’s not a real living force in our lives or when he’s diminished to the bare minimum for human life – we get fed up, bored, we fall away, and worse, we may even resent this imposition. Religion without the Holy Spirit quickly becomes a burden and even tyranny!

Sooner rather than later, our actions will always harmonize with what’s inside us.

I’ll give you an example using one of the gifts of the Spirit: Piety, or as you’d call it; Reverence.

pope-francis_2541160kPiety (Reverence) is a gift of the Holy Spirit which means that it doesn’t belong naturally to human nature. It’s as it says on the tin – a gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s an instinctive-like affection for God that makes us desire to worship him. Pope Francis described it as indicating “our belonging to God and our profound bond with him, a bond that brings meaning to our lives.” He said this bond is not “a duty or an imposition” but “a living relationship with the heart… our friendship with God, given by Jesus.” (Catholic World News, June 04, 2014). Where it is present religion is never boring, where it’s absent everything about religion is boring!

So, the gift of Piety (Reverence) alone, or its absence, can explain so much about our behaviour around religion, about how we witness, or don’t witness!

 

Fifth Sunday, B.

If radical discipleship is not found in the priesthood today, then where will it be found?

Mark 1:14-20, Third Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year B.

James and John leave everything. For a moment let’s picture their father Zebedee left in the boat with the men he employed. No doubt the father had built up the business with a view to his sons future. Now they’re gone. They’ll never really return.

It’s said that the departure of his sons caused Zebedee to go ‘ballistic’. He lost the head so to speak. That’s understandable. It’s said that in turn Jesus gave the name ‘sons of thunder’ to James and John, Mark 3:17.

At any rate, this following Jesus is portrayed as decisive, radical, life changing. The priesthood is modeled on these guys, downing tools, taking off after Jesus, staying with him, not returning. Whatever the historical roots of priestly celibacy even if several of the apostles were married, it’s not without considerable foundation in the teaching of Christ. It’s there, if we can hear it.

So when we start thinking about abolishing celibacy or making it optional – or countless other issues in the Church – we need to think about it from Christ’s perspective and those closest to him, rather than our own, because our understanding of these matters, indeed life itself, is very often a little out of sync – and that’s being generous – with the understanding that flows from the teaching of Christ.

"I had never believed. I had always known that the interest all around me in security, money, power and status was greater than any love of God or belief in his mercy" Colm Toibin, The Sign of the Cross

“I had never believed. I had always known that the interest all around me in security, money, power and status was greater than any love of God or belief in his mercy” Colm Toibin, The Sign of the Cross

Colm Toibin captures this ‘out of sync-ness’ perfectly in his book “The Sign of the Cross”. Writing about his experience as a child growing to adulthood here in the Cathedral in Enniscorthy he says – and this is both harsh judgement and profound observation – “I had never believed. I had always known that the interest all around me in security, money, power and status was greater than any love of God or belief in his mercy.” I’m afraid too often that’s us.

This is the reason we need to really listen to God’s Word, to the Gospels in particular, because only when we really listen can we begin to ‘sync’ with the message and the teaching of Christ. Often our treatment of the Word is like meeting a person and asking ‘how are you?’ when we really haven’t time for the answer, or worse, we really don’t care! Instead, take the time to look into the other persons eyes asking ‘how are you?’ and wait for the answer. We need to listen to the Word like that. Only then can we begin to move from Toibin’s “security, money, power and status” and into the “love of God” and “belief in his mercy”. This is particularly true of the priesthood.

When we think of the priesthood we need to remember Zebedee left behind in his boat, the family business and his life’s effort for his sons welfare discarded, thrown aside, abandoned. We need to wonder – and wonder is all we can do because the sources are so scant and often contradictory – about the wives of these men, if any. What happened to them?

My sense in all this is that through the apostles, married and unmarried, Christ was calling those around him and future generations to a radical discipleship, to leave everything, even marriage, Mark 19:12, 19:29 and so many other passages throughout the Gospels. It’s my sense but it’s not without foundation in the teaching of Christ. In fact, I suspect the more we ‘sync’ with the teaching of Jesus found in the Gospels the more we’ll see this possibility.

Let me put it this way: Why can’t James and John keep the family business and follow Jesus, as well? That’s what we’d do. It’s a bit like asking: Why can’t a man be a priest and marry, as well? That’s what we’d do. My sense is that Christ is calling some to a much more radical discipleship, to leave absolutely everything, to rely on him alone, and if this radical discipleship is not found in the priesthood today, then where will it be found?

Twenty-seventh Sunday: Life is a tenancy; it’s not ours to do with as we please.

Here in Matthew 21:33-43 Jesus summarizes the history of salvation, the history of Gods efforts to rule the human heart. He starts by going back long before he was born of Mary (more than 1500 years before the incarnation). Remarkably in a single parable Jesus summarizes the whole Old Testament and his own life too!

There was a man, a landowner, (the landowner is God – this is a description Jesus loves to use) who planted a vineyard. The vineyard is the faith of the Jewish people, the Jewish religion. He fenced it round (it’s got clear boundaries and what’s inside belongs to God). He digs a wine-press in it and built a tower (it’s ready to produce a harvest, it’s all set-up). Finally he leased it to tenants (the Jewish people and their leaders) and then went abroad (God is in heaven!) But in the vineyard everything is ready to produce new wine. It’s easy to apply the same parable to the Church.

When vintage time draws near God sends some servants to the tenants to collect his produce. These are the great figures that we read about in the Old Testament but when they arrive (when each is born into history) there’s not much produce to collect – they find the people’s religion hasn’t been producing much! Worse still, the tenants are demanding to do as they please with the vineyard, with what doesn’t belong to them!

This happens repeatedly over many generations until finally the vineyard owner (God) sends his own son – the son being Jesus Christ.

But when the tenants see the son, what do they think? They’re moving even further from God, they think; if we can get rid of the Son then we can take over his inheritance. Then we’ll be free to do as we please with the vineyard… we can redefine everything! Isn’t this the struggle that we’re seeing every night on our TV and radio talk shows? Isn’t this really the cry of secularism?

There are some things I’d like you to note.

The human condition is probably best understood as a tenancy, a stewardship. Everything we have is entrusted to us, even life itself. Life truly belongs to God and is entrusted to us only as tenants that we might deliver his produce to him at harvest time. This changes everything.

It means that life is not ours to do with as we please. From this starting point we can begin to glimpse the spiritual foundation of the Church’s moral law, particularly the more contentious teachings. Abortion is morally wrong because life is not ours to do with as we please. So too Euthanasia, likewise human sexuality is not ours to do with as we please. Consider reviewing Humanae Vitae from this starting point, so too the redefinition of marriage. In fact, this starting point changes everything.

Here too we stumble across the Christian understanding of life; my life is not about what I get out of it, it’s about what God gets out of it! Here all the spiritual riches of heaven are hidden.

Finally the question is asked what’ll God eventually do with the tenants? “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end…” and take the vineyard from them and give it to a people who will produce its fruit, comes the reply.

Now here’s a whole new way to interpret life in the Church. Perhaps in our ignorant spiritual bliss we fail to see that it’s not so much that people are leaving the Church or that the Church is dying but that God is taking the kingdom from us and giving it to a people who will produce its fruit. For every crisis in the Church (and perhaps in the State too) is in fact the failure to produce the appropriate fruit in due season.

Besides, what would you do with a vineyard that continually fails to produce a harvest?

Twenty-sixth Sunday: The compassion of God didn’t leave sinners where they were

God is at work because tax collectors (extortionists) and prostitutes are changing their way of life.

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus compares the people he’s speaking to – the Jewish religious leaders – to a son who says he’ll go and work in his father’s vineyard but then doesn’t go. Jesus accuses them of partaking in religion but in a way that doesn’t lead them into the kingdom of God (the kingdom of God is nothing more than God ruling your heart).

So here Jesus reveals the purpose of religion; that our hearts are ruled by God. This is the most important detail about every person’s existence; that each enters the kingdom of God.

On the other hand Jesus compares the tax collectors and prostitutes to a son who says to his father; “no, I will not go and work in your vineyard” but afterwards thinks better of it and goes, and the proof is clear for the Jewish religious leaders to see – the very public sinners were changing their lives; Zacchaeus declares to Jesus that he’ll pay back those he’s cheated four times the amount (Luke 19:8) and the woman “who had a bad name” sat weeping at his feet before kissing and anointing them with oil (Luke 7:36-38).

Jesus says this alone should have been enough to convince the Jewish leaders that God was working through him and indeed through John.

Here Jesus gives us the ultimate test to establish if God is present or not in a person’s life – “you will be able to tell them (true disciples) by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Where God is present certain types of behaviour follow, where God is not present other types of behaviour follow. But who decides what’s in and what’s out?

The present generation has great difficulty with some of this and wants to change it – much of it a sure sign of living outside the kingdom. Changing this is the spiritual equivalent of changing the laws of physics! It’s impossible.

When a man (or woman) begins to enter Gods kingdom (remember the definition – God ruling our hearts) he discovers the reality of sin, he doesn’t need convincing, more importantly his own sin begins to bother him, and if he continues to make his way into Gods kingdom he will change and be changed. It’s actually entry into the kingdom of God that decides what’s in and what’s out. The more you enter the more the Catechism makes sense.

This is what happened to the tax collectors and prostitutes. The compassion of God didn’t leave them where they were – and it didn’t want to leave the religious leaders where they were either. Too often today people understand the compassion of God to mean the acceptance of sin!

The compassion of God is grace or graces that change us inside (interior) and as we are changed inside we are changed outside (exterior) – our behaviour changes from the inside out. It’s precisely because we’re becoming a new person that our lifestyle choices change.

The religious leaders should have known this, they should have known that wherever the kingdom of God is present, there you find repentance and conversion. That they didn’t recognize this means that they had not entered the kingdom of God themselves.

This is a problem that persists to this day – too many speak of religion and God from a position outside the kingdom of God. The result is the blind leading the blind!

The Holy Trinity: Everything we need to know about the future of the world can be found in the figure of Christ crucified.

Holy Trinity Icon

“The three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are pictured at a table with a space vacant at the front for the believer; for you and me.” Fr. Billy Swan

Today’s Gospel (John 3:16-18) moves from the personal and the private to the public… from the salvation of the person to the salvation of the world, and back again to the personal and the private.

In our day there is a determined effort to confine religion and therefore the person of Jesus Christ to the private.

The wisdom of the day suggests that there should be no place for religion and therefore no place for the person of Jesus Christ in education, in health systems… anywhere in public life.

It’s absolutely impossible to reconcile this privatization of religion and the message of today’s Gospel which clearly states that the person of Jesus Christ is the key to personal salvation but also to the salvation of the world.

Now, I need to explain the meaning of salvation precisely because when we think about salvation we’ve already privatized it and we never think of salvation as having anything to do with the future of the world – here and now.

So what does salvation mean? It means nothing more than human well-being individually and collectively. Happiness. It means the well-being of the world – the old missioners would have said the temporal and eternal well-being of humankind.

This means that we can have all the economic policies we want, all the education policies, all the health policies… but if they’re not founded on God they’ll eventually turn and bite us!

The world is set on a path that says we don’t need God; we’ll do it our way, yet “God sent his son into the world… so that through him the world might be saved.” I trust you can see the contradiction?

So what’ll happen? This is what I think will happen; the world will persist on this path, the world is not for turning (there are very good reasons for that; historical reasons) and only from a point of collapse will the world return to God.

That’s what a generation will see and experience; a collapse. But let’s go deeper; spiritually it’ll look like the Evil One has taken everything from God and when it looks like Evil has triumphed God will act.

Go deeper again; in other words it’ll look like the period of time between Christ’s death and resurrection when even the disciples thought everything was lost.

Go deeper still; in other words what happened to Christ (what we celebrate every Easter) is what’ll happen to humanity.

The rejection of God always leads to the figure of a crucified humanity, to the point where everything seems lost. But God will not abandon his creation.

The future of the world is there before us in the figure of Christ crucified. Everything we need to know about the future can be found there.

Sixth Sunday of Easter: How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

Sixth Sunday of Easter Image“In a short time the world will no longer see me…”

The short time is his death (Good Friday), resurrection (Easter Sunday) and ascension (next Sunday).

After these events the “world” no longer sees him but Jesus makes a distinction – those who love him do “see” him.

How terribly discriminatory of Jesus!

So how is it that some “see” him and others don’t?

He promised to come back, to show himself, to enter into our lives and he achieves this through the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost Sunday).

Have you ever noticed how it’s impossible to get inside another person’s life, how the other person is always totally other. This is not so with God, God is Spirit and thus able to enter our bodies and provided we co-operate the Spirit then draws us deeper and deeper into God. “On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.”

But we must co-operate. He says there are some, those whom he calls “the world” that can never receive him. Jesus, you’ll get yourself in trouble speaking about secular society like that!

In other words there are conditions attached to receiving Jesus Christ – shock, horror – that’ll send a few over the edge! It troubles me when I hear religious people speak of God’s unconditional love. It indicates they know little about the spiritual life. If by unconditional they mean God’s love is always offered, always available, that’s fine, no problem there. But God’s love is of little use to us if it’s always offered, always available but always out there and remote. We need him within. But if they mean by unconditional that there are no conditions to receiving Jesus Christ, that’s nonsense. Rubbish! Of course there are conditions, otherwise everybody would know Jesus Christ!

Jesus clearly states two such conditions in today’s Gospel. Indeed the whole teaching is prefaced by the conditions.

1. If you love me – for many that means a radical reorientation of life.
2. If you love me you will keep my commandments – the experience of receiving Jesus Christ through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is simultaneously experienced as a call to a moral standard that simply cannot be detached from the person of Jesus Christ.

“If you love me you will keep my commandments, (and then) I shall ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate…”

A word of caution: this is not instant, it requires spiritual growth over many years.