Tag Archives: Jesus

Good Friday; our words are approximations of eternity.

Before we begin… a few pointers to help you get the most from our celebration of Good Friday.

Firstly, it’s not just the person of Jesus that’s rejected, it is God’s truth! He is Truth in human flesh. It’s also Truth – absolute Truth – that’s rejected.

Secondly, I’d like you to notice in the opening lines of the Gospel that when they go to arrest Jesus they don’t know who they’re looking for. He’s not a big name in society!

Thirdly, I’d like you to notice that the State and the religious leaders do their best to get rid of Jesus, but in their best efforts to get rid of him they’re actually fulfilling God’s will! The wisdom of man is foolishness to God!

Image of Christ crucified 7But most of all I’d like you to notice that Jesus suffering is redemptive. If you redeem something you give something away to get something back. God gave his Son to get us back… “to ransom a slave you gave away your son!” (Easter Proclamation: Exsultet).

This is the Mercy of God. Mercy is the heart of God and it’s the heart of the Gospel. Mercy means that there is ultimate Justice! For only if Justice has been transgressed can anyone be merciful. To put it in legal terms; only if a ‘law’ has been broken can anyone be merciful. So if God is merciful then there is an absolute law, God’s law, by which we are all judged.

If we think of what it means to be merciful ourselves we know that to be merciful costs. It’s difficult. Perhaps some of us are so hurt that we cannot be merciful, and if we are to be merciful it will be like crucifixion. There you have it… there you have it in your own experience; the seeds of the eternal. Therefore if God is to be merciful, God must suffer. Only if we live in a meaningless universe can it be otherwise – only in a world where words are empty and meaningless, meaning only whatever we want them to mean at any given time. But unknown to ourselves our words are approximations of eternity.

Here’s a way to get inside God’s Mercy. He died without sin for you. He died without sin on your behalf. Therefore you will die without sin if you allow Jesus Christ to ‘wash’ you. If he died without sin for you, that means you’ve done it! Put it this way: If you owe a debt and can’t pay, what happens? Now supposing someone else pays the debt on your behalf, what happens? You’re free! Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? How does he take them away? By taking them on himself.

Here’s an exercise for those who struggle with guilt and at the same time a lesson for those who think that there’s no sin at all – two extremes to be avoided, everything is a sin (broadly equates with the past) and nothing is a sin (broadly equates with the present): Focus on the figure of Christ crucified on the Cross… Now imagine him calling your name… “Paddy, Paul – whatever your name – I did not die on the Cross for you to bear the burden of your sin.”

When that comes as grace, you’ll cry!

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent: Jesus answers the Greeks and Stephen Fry too!

"If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too." John 12:20-33 / Caviezel, Passion of Christ

“If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.” John 12:20-33 / Caviezel, Passion of Christ

In the Gospel today (John 12:20-33) we find Jesus turning toward Calvary.

The position he’s faced with equates to something like a diagnosis of terminal cancer without a morphine pump – without any kind of pain relief, comfort or consolation, nothing but the reciprocal love of his Father!

He takes the tsunami of human suffering that’ll soon crush him, and he uses it to teach us. All that’ll happen to Jesus is not just about him, it’s equally about us, it also represents human suffering and ultimately the death of every single human being.

The first thing Jesus does is place death in a far reaching context. Jesus describes death in terms of the necessity of a wheat grain falling on the ground and dying before it can reach its full potential. Death is not final but the necessary door to fulfillment.

Next, he says that if we serve him we must follow him. It’s easy to miss the brutal quality of this command. Jesus issues it while speaking of his suffering and death; “wherever I am my servant will be there too.” It’s as good as saying; you’ll have your share of human suffering, you’ll have your agony in the garden, your scourging at the pillar, your crowning with thorns, your crucifixion, you’ll follow my path – and children will get bone cancer! Thus the Greeks who “should like to see Jesus” get their answer, as does Stephen Fry; you’ll see me but don’t expect that you’ll be spared suffering and death.

Next, he echoes the cry of every person facing suffering and death but he does so while adding the extra dimension that places death in a momentous context. He puts this human cry in the form of a question to God: “What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour?” After all, I’m only 33 and there’s much I still want to see and do. He answers his own question: “But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.” He presents us with the inevitability of death, with the necessity of death if we’re to reach the fullness of our potential. Significantly he then adds, “Father, glorify your name!”

The Risen Christ. "If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too."

The Risen Christ. “If a man serves me, he must follow me, wherever I am, my servant will be there too.”

This is a question we all face. What if we cure everything that brings death; what’ll we do then? Where will we go? How will we control the population of the earth? State controlled fertility and euthanasia? Most importantly how will we cope with living endlessly?

Imagine if time can’t reach fulfillment. We’ll go mad.

The message of Jesus is that time does reach fulfillment, for each one of us, through him, with him and in him, and the door to this fulfillment is death, death in him.

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?

The Holy Family: Nothing is more important than the family

The family is the foundation of society. It’s the basic unit of society – the most important. It’s the place where we learn how to love or more generally, how to be in the world.

The launching pad from which we’re all sprung.

The bow from which the arrow is fired.

It’s so important that it’s how God became flesh – in a family.

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” John Paul II

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” John Paul II

Everything – economics, markets, Governments, States – must be made to serve the family.

The family begins in the love of a man and a woman, although that’s now being questioned.

To love another person is to seek that person’s good, it’s to desire that the other person becomes the best version of him/herself, to desire that the other person becomes the person that God intended him/her to be. This is the work of the family.

Nothing is as difficult as love. I’m serious. Primarily because we reduce it to one of it’s constituent parts, namely physical attraction. So let’s throw love around a little. What is it?

Actually to love is to become a moral person. Love is not just attraction. Try living in love without faithfulness. It’ll tear your heart out. Suddenly love also means faithfulness. What’s love without justice? I love you, but I’ll walk all over you! Suddenly, love includes justice, acting justly. What’s love without self-control? I’m angry so I’ll knock your head off! Suddenly, love now includes self-control. What about trust, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, truthfulness (honesty and personal integrity), forgiveness? Love is made of many different parts – virtues. Relationships don’t just fail, they fail because people don’t grow in virtue. To love is to become a moral person. A child, tomorrow‘s adult learns the art of love in the family.

In the family we learn to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and mean it, we learn to say ‘please’ or as Pope Francis says we learn to ask “may I”, it’s where we learn to say ‘thank you’, to say ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘forgive me’, where we learn respect for ourselves and for other people, for other people’s property. It’s where we learn to be a father or a mother. It’s where we learn to be moral people – before and above everything else we are moral people; our primary identity – moral people who can choose. Unless we’re moral people we’ll wreck everything! This is what distinguishes us from the animals, this is what makes us human.

Where these qualities are in short supply the family might survive outwardly, but inwardly it’s already a broken family and the people involved may be broken, they may not be whole within and they may reproduce the brokenness wherever they go, not always, but very often, not always because although at great personal cost we can still choose to be otherwise.

Nonetheless, as the family goes so will society go.

Nothing is more important than the family. We’ve got to get this right, and everything must be made to serve the family.

Eighteenth Sunday Year A: Pursuing Jesus on foot without a packed lunch!

The first thing I should say about the multiplication of the loaves and fish is that it’s not about sharing – as though the real miracle was people shared. That’s a lazy interpretation. It’s a miracle of multiplication, plain and simple.Buy 2 get 5000

It’s one of the great signs given by Jesus and intended to cause all those present to ask; who is this man that he can feed thousands out of almost nothing and still have plenty left over?

Like all Jesus’ miracles the feeding has a much deeper meaning. If he can satisfy the physical hunger of thousands out of five loaves and two fish then he can satisfy humankind, full stop!

It points to a much deeper satisfaction and the Church with the benefit of hindsight (apart from its obvious connection with Moses) understands it as prefiguring how Christ satisfies his followers by sharing himself with them in the Eucharist.

Sadly many people – many Catholics among them, particularly cradle Catholics – do not understand the deeper meaning that Jesus can satisfy the human heart. Actually it’s an over-abundance of satisfaction symbolised by the baskets of scraps left over after “they all ate as much as they wanted…”

Thus they look at the Church, particularly the Mass, the summit of the Christian life and like the disciples looking at the loaves and fish they look at the bread and wine and think there’s not enough there, we must go elsewhere – corresponding to the disciples “send the people away and they can go to the villages…” Is this not the root of the vocation crisis?

But Jesus says “there is no need for them to go…”

There are just a few more points to note.

The people were fed because they pursued Jesus relentlessly, even out to a lonely place; “he withdrew by boat to a lonely place… but the people… leaving the towns went after him on foot.” But they didn’t just go after him, they stayed with him, time was lost, “the time has slipped by so send the people away” before they fall down with hunger! They were so taken in their pursuit of Jesus that they never thought of taking a packed lunch!

Does your participation in the Eucharist look anything like the participation of the thousands in this Gospel passage?

When you and I start following Jesus like that he’ll start feeding us too!

The cover of Mike Aquilina’s book ‘The Mass of the early Christians’ pictures a mosaic found in the remains of a Byzantine church in Tabgha, Israel. It’s a fifth century mosaic of the loaves and fishes which was a favourite symbol of the Eucharist in the Patristic era.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The spiritual life is littered with big holes that carry the name ‘looks like’ and multitudes fall down them. It looks like the Church is dying but it only looks like it. Actually the near death experience of the Church will allow other events to happen in the world. We live in a very ordered universe. It’s a war for God’s sake!

 

God’s unconditional love; don’t confuse it with salvation.

Prayer is the condition attached to getting to know Jesus better.

Prayer is the condition attached to getting to know Jesus better.

I don’t like using ‘unconditional’ to describe God’s love – if I use it I always qualify it. Of course that sounds like a condition, doesn’t it?

Here’s the problem:

If God’s love is unconditional then there was no need for Christ’s work of salvation. There was no need for the incarnation, no need for the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. No need for Pentecost or the Church. Everything is flat-lined and Jesus becomes not the Christ, but a nice guy!

Don’t confuse the message of Christ with psycho-babble!

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” John 3:16

The condition is belief in him.

“If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

The condition is keeping his word because we love him.

“As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, but must remain part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” John 15:4

There’s a condition attached to bearing fruit.

If God’s love is unconditional it doesn’t matter how we live, not a jot! There’s no need for prayer, repentance, conversion – nothing! Ultimately it means there is no such ‘state’ as hell – there can’t be, certainly not if God’s love is unconditional. That’s not basic Bible theology, that’s psycho-babble!

People often think that God’s unconditional love and salvation are the same thing, indistinguishable. That’s what I’ve been doing here, confusing the two! So, let’s get it right. 

To say that God’s love is unconditional is to say that God always holds out the possibility of salvation – his mercy – to every man and woman even though they may be living in the depths of depravity.

In other words God’s unconditional love is the very possibility of salvation, it offers humankind the opportunity to be saved but God’s love doesn’t save us without our co-operation. God’s unconditional love requires our free response if it is to fulfill its purpose.

God can’t save me without me and I can’t save me without God!

This seems to be the only reasonable sense in which God’s love can be considered unconditional.

A Lenten exercise inspired by St. Patrick.

Homily Notes. Luke 10:1-12,17-20

Today’s readings are about bringing Jesus and the Gospel to others – going out. The psalm captures it well: Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News.

Today’s Mass Preface tells us that St. Patrick did just that:

For you drew him (St. Patrick) through daily prayer
in captivity and hardship
to know you as a loving Father.
You chose him out of all the world
to return to the land of his captors,
that they might acknowledge Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.

We all need to be a little bit like St. Patrick.

However, I’m always amazed by our reluctance to be missionaries – by the ability of the baptised to place the Church outside themselves.

Why did he baptise you (he – meaning Christ)?

He wants you to be his missionary, his eyes and ears, hands and feet.

We need to get this – as God’s baptised we no longer represent ourselves and our own interests, we represent Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. In every encounter, in every person we meet, in every transaction, in every detail of our lives you and I represent Christ.

IMG_0746We’ve got to take this call seriously – don’t wait for others, not even me!

So let’s do something really practical. This week, pick one day, and deliberately represent Christ in every detail of your day. Focus on it – you’re no longer just working for yourself or your employer, you’re working for Christ.

Say to yourself: Today, I represent Jesus Christ and the Gospel.

Second Sunday of Lent: It’s wonderful to be Catholic; I’ll make tents so we can stay!

Homily Notes. Matt. 17:1-9

Peter, James and John glimpse ‘something greater’

Of course, it wasn’t the first time. With Jesus there’s always ‘something greater’ to be experienced.

That’s our first lesson – the disciples are always in the company of Jesus, stuck to him, and in his company their hearts are opened out to ‘something greater’

Significantly, they climb a very high mountain before they glimpse this ‘something greater’. This too is instructive – if we’re going to develop spiritually it’s like climbing an interior mountain. But the higher we go the more beautiful and dangerous it becomes. Many don’t make it.

While on the mountain-top they glimpse another world, Jesus is transfigured and he’s talking with Moses and Elijah, two great men of God long since dead.

This suggests continuity. Jesus is the continuation of a line through history and if we care to look the line is marked by individual holy lives shining brightly in the midst of corruption – it’s not just anybody Jesus is talking with as he is transfigured! But do you seriously think the line stopped with Jesus? Jesus is the pivotal point, the line flowed to him and flows from him, to this day, and it will remain until the end of time a line marked by holy men and women shining brightly in the darkness.

Where’s the line? Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that line?

Peter wants to stay on the mountain top – he suggests making tents – but we can’t live on a mountain-top, we have to come back down the mountain.

When we have a spiritual experience it is grace that’s doing the work, God is doing the work, carrying us. At some point God is going to put you back down and say; now you do it, walk the walk yourself. If you’re really advancing he’ll put you back down and withdraw his favour for a time. If you survive you’re well on the way to becoming a Saint.

Of course, Peter is going to come back down the mountain; big time! In the face of the suffering and death of Jesus he’ll crack, denying Jesus; mountain-top to the valley of tears. It’s all our lives.

But at some point Peter is going to remember the mountain-top experience. At some point the memory will click-in and it’ll carry him through the valley of tears.

Which brings us to something that really troubles me. I have seen a massive exodus from the Catholic Church in my lifetime – for many reasons. I have also seen many peoples’ faith crumble in the face of difficulty and it leaves me wondering if the people abandoning the Church and faith have ever been to the mountain-top with Christ within their Catholicism, have they ever known ‘something greater’ within their Catholicism – if they had they simply wouldn’t be exiting!

No, they’d be saying with Peter, it is wonderful for us to be here, to be Catholic, we’ll make some tents so we can stay!

Twenty First Sunday (C): Jesus was tolerant only in so far as it served Mercy!

So what have we got this weekend?

Basically we’ve got two sides – on one side there was the religious people (the Jews) and on the other, atheists, agnostics and sinners all thrown in together. Broad strokes, of course.

Into that dualism arrived Jesus Christ – no less than God Himself!

He spends his short earthly life calling both sides (not just one side) to repentance. Very interesting.

We’d expect that he’d call sinners to repentance, to change. Or would we? Is there sin anymore?

On this point – the reality of sin – Jesus never waivers. He never denies the reality of sin. On the contrary His life is an argument for the reality of sin and for ultimate justice.

Jesus wasn’t so much tolerant as merciful. Tolerance suggests almost anything is acceptable, there are few laws, almost everything can be collapsed into tolerance, almost everything is grey, there’s no black and white, nothing is definite. In broad strokes it’s the world we live in.

But Jesus didn’t bring tolerance. He brought Mercy. He was tolerant only in so far as tolerance served Mercy. That’s a totally different reality. Mercy implies that there are definite laws, an objective order. Besides, mercy is painful. Think of a husband’s, wife’s, partner’s unfaithfulness. Now think (feel) forgiving that unfaithfulness. What do you get? A kind of crucifixion for God’s sake!

But tolerance is not so painful because it doesn’t matter, nothing matters, there are no absolute laws, there is no ultimate justice, whereas Jesus says it does matter, there is ultimate justice. There’s always a price to be paid. It matters that you are saved. Me too!

Now, as Jesus calls sinners to repentance (unbelievers to belief) the religious people start to object – they start to fight with Him, they actually start to resent God – thus the first move to be last, and the last move to be first.

How dare you they say, this is not fair!

A kind of religious / spiritual pride!

Can you see where the religious people are wrong?

They are religious but their religion is about them rather than God! It’s religion without the heart of God. It’s a religion that really doesn’t understand what’s at stake. A man (or woman) can be lost! That’s what gave rise to parables like the lost sheep, the prodigal son.