Thursday, March 19, 2015

His Gift Our Choice, 4th Sunday of Lent


Today I want to talk about Gods free and open Invitation to each of us and our freedom (also a gift from God) to choose wither to accept his invitation or decline it.

I want you to keep in mind the parable about the king who threw a great feast and invited the usual cast of characters. He thought they all would accept his generous offer, but they did not.  Each had something better to do, more pressing, more important or it was just to much effort to go. Disappointed at the lack of interest the king ordered that everyone and anyone was to be invited; worker, beggar, thief, leper and outcast all were invited, and of course they came, and were rewarded with an abundance of good things.

 

In the first reading we hear - In those days they (Israel) mocked the messengers of God (those that did the inviting to Gods feast)

Infidelity upon infidelity, we are told, poured forth from the nation.

The whole power structure of Israel turned its back on God and his invitation to relay on him, to trust him. They decided instead to trust their wealth, power and arms and not God.

In time they found themselves let down by earthly power and might.  They were despoiled, walls were torn down, fields were destroyed, the temple left in ruins and their princes exiled.

By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept. The psalmist laments.  Tears stream from those who learned too late what it means to be unfaithful to God.

But, the good news (proclaimed by the prophets and Jesus himself) is that God, in the face of our infidelity, beyond all human reason, is always the faithful, loving father.

He is infinitely merciful and forgiving when we ourselves are not deserving of it.

St Paul declares God who is rich in mercy because of his great love he has for us, even when we are dead in our transgressions.

We are loved as children, unruly and defiant children, by a father who knows us better than we know ourselves.

Even in the shadow of sin, sin that we create in our lives, Jesus reaches out to each of us to bring us into the light, back home to our rightful and appropriate place as good faithful children of God.

This is an invitation to the gift of faith. 

We are not entitled to it, we cannot earn it or buy it, but, we can accept the invitation or we can turn our back to it.

God gives life.  It pours forth as Spirit, light and truth. 

But, he also gives us the freedom to choose to love him or not.

 Choose him, not with empty Sunday promises and sweet platitudes but with a real human heart, full of Spirit and alive, lived out in thanksgiving, gratitude and charity.

John sums up this gift in 27 famous words

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life

I could end here, perhaps I should, and give us 5 mins of silence to reflect on the fact that God, despite all the wrongs we do to each other and ourselves, despite all the pain and suffering we cause, despite our turning away from him, even denying him, God is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner for he is forever loving and faithful.

God is so in love with us that he sent his Son (not to condemn, which he had every right to do), but to save, to dwell among us, as one of us, to love us, to proclaim the Good News, and in the end, pour out his life for us.

We simply must believe.  Believe Jesus is our only Way, our only Truth, and our only Life.

Because, St John tells us whoever believes in Jesus will not be condemned.

Through our belief, we live in faith, hope, and charity.  We are driven by the same Spirit that drove Jesus, to be better people (better spouses and parents), we endeavor to be good without counting the cost or seeking the limelight.

We seek another kind of light.

 Faith (in Jesus), hope (in eternal life with God) and charity (reaching out beyond the pews) driving us into the world to evangelize in the joy of the Gospel.

But, here is the rub In St Johns words whoever does not believe has already been condemned.

Because many of us by choice already live estranged lives, dictated, not by love, but by self-centered desires, ever changing motives, driven not by the Spirit, but by; greed, envy, pride, anger, and fear.

We do not cling to God, but we cling desperately to what the world offers only to find it is an illusion and a lie and even this lie is not enough or good enough, we forever thirst for meaning in darkness when we could be satisfied in the light of truth.

 last week we heard that only Jesus can satisfy us.

Jesus is the stream of living water, sustaining and refreshing, giving depth and meaning to our lives as nothing else can.

So we end up back at the beginning.

 We are invited by God to his great wedding feast, but so often we rather not be bothered, at least not now.

St John says

And this is the verdict, the light came into the world but the people preferred the darkness to light.

This is the startling truth We choose to condemn ourselves!

Judgment is now and it is ongoing.

We do it to ourselves with no one else to blame.

We choose - darkness or light.

God always invites. He invites us again and again.  The Holy Spirit is determined that

we (clothed and in our right minds) can finally choose to accept the kings invitation.

 

 

 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

3rd Sunday of Lent


From the creation of the cosmos to this very moment and until the end of time, God in his infinite love and fidelity has given us every gift and blessing.

He has revealed himself in surprising and profound ways and never more so then in the law, given to Moses as the Ten Commandments and most completely in the fulfillment of that law; the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In both the commandments and Jesus God gave us the way and the means to our salvation.

 

The Ten Commandments  (three for love of God and seven for love of neighbor) are so well known that we sometimes take them for granted.  They have become trivialized either by making them saccharin platitudes or narrowly defined goals, but they are neither.

 

The Ten Commandments are not the end of our obligation to God's covenant, but the beginning, the groundwork, of our daily ethical and moral life, it is our daily response to God's call to love him more deeply and to love another more unreservedly, especially the poor and the marginalized.

 

These ten things are not facts to memorize or a list to keep in order, they are not rules to confine us by their narrow observance, they are to expand us as we live them in their deepest and widest aspect. God never restricts us, but gives us opportunity upon opportunity to grow ever more human.

 

Jesus taught that the commandments are an invitation to turn the table on what the world expects of us. They surprise us and compel us to act beyond our complacency or the ok routine we fall into. They remind us that faith is not settling in and locking the doors behind us, but opening them wide to all in need.

 

The Temple in Jesus' time had become more of a gate keeper, hiding God within and keeping those that searched for God outside.

 

Jesus knew that the law and the temple was not about restriction and exclusion, but about possibility and inclusion. He showed this in his life by touching the untouchable, table fellowship with tax  collectors, forgiveness and friendship with prostitutes, hanging out with fishermen and not Pharisees.

He spoke clearly about expansion and inclusion of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount when he said you have heard it said, you shall not commit murder, but I tell you shall not be angry with a brother or sister.

 

The Temple system had become the sign of this narrowness and exclusion. It had become spiritually bankrupt and caught up in the precision its cultic practices. 

The of course, Temple worship was correct and fruitful in its way.  Each group of worshippers had their proper place or court; men, women, the Gentiles.

The sacrificial system ran smooth with its money changers, turning Roman coin into Temple currency, and its sellers of approved sacrificial animals.

But, in all this hustle and bustle something was lacking or forgotten or ignored. It was too much business as usual.

 

Jesus, as a sign of this complacency within God's own house choose to physically disrupt that routine business of worship. In the Spirit (the same Spirit that drove him into the wilderness" Jesus drove off the money changers and the sellers.

 

Those in authority asked Jesus what was the meaning of this. What gave Jesus the right to interfere with the temple. Show us a sign.

Jesus tells them destroy this temple and in three days. I will raise it up.

 

Nobody understood what he meant.  They thought he meant the concrete temple.

 It would not be until the resurrection of Jesus that the disciples in the Holy Spirit that they had received from Jesus, remembered that day the event and understood he was speaking about his body.

They came to believe after Easter that the temple was no longer the house of God.

God was and is present in Jesus himself and now, through the Holy Spirit, in his body, the mystical Body of Christ, the Church. 

Not in the brick and mortar church. God is present not in cement, in her sacraments, and in her choices and actions, aligned to the fulfilled commandants.

And, because the ordinary and the routine is not good enough, not nearly good enough a response to God's gift of his Son for our Salvation,

not a good enough response to the commandment, to honestly love God and selflessly love neighbor ( including our enemies, if we believe Jesus)

We must go beyond the expected and routine to respond to God's love for us.

Nothing less than a total commitment to love, by our committed lives of Faith, Hope and Charity.

 

 

We as Church, in our liturgies and in our community, and individual Christians, in our daily lives, should imagine Jesus not only cleaning out the Jerusalem temple, but also cleansing our own inner temple, challenging us to expand our idea of faith and embrace kindness and mercy as the norm, to go beyond the routine obligations to find the deeper meaning of what it means to be loved by God and what our human response should be to that amazing infinite gift.

 

We need to realize that the Law of Moses, even the Church herself, as important and essential as she is not the end point is only the beginning.

She is not where we rest on our laurels, but where we roll up our sleeves to do the necessary work.

Jesus always reminds, gently and not so gently, that it is not the routine habit that matters but the depth, the truth that lies beneath and beyond the ordinary response -

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so we might have life.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Driven by the Spirit, 1st Sunday of lent


We hear today that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.

The Spirit drove is a very Lenten idea. 

Lent is a time of being driven to remember that human life is short and we have much to prepare for.

It is a time to be driven by the Spirit to a new openness, true repentance and to ongoing conversion.

It is a time that the Holy Spirt drives us forward often into unchartered territory, sometimes even into the wilderness. We are driven, but never abandoned.

 

After Jesus's baptism and anointing with the Spirit, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast, and to pray and to be deeply tested by 40 days of confrontation with physical hardship, and bodily and spiritual temptations, and even with evil itself.

That time for Jesus was preparation for the wilderness of the human experience, its fears and anxieties, its fragile and flawed nature, it's hardness and unfairness.

 

We know the story! Jesus came through his own wilderness experience, battered and torn, hungry and tired, but not broken and he proclaimed, and I like to think staring straight into the eyes of Satan

"The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news"

Believe the Good News - that even in the heart of the devil's own wasteland, God is near to those who are willing to be saved.

 

Saved by turning away from what is sinful and towards an encounter with the Lord.

Placing yourself at the service of God's kingdom, by doing his will for the good of others.

 

Jesus' victory over the world was a sign that the Kingdom of God had broken into the world, the very world Satan thought he had under his thumb.

 

But, we must remember the Kingdom of God is not a shiny place or a thing - it is truth and life.

It is the sharing of devine life in the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ, and it continues, most visibly as the Church, which in the face of sin and evil, still proclaims the Good News and calls for repentance and conversion and reaches out in charity and service.

The Church is for you and I and countless others, the great vehicle, the life raft, the new ark of our salvation.

 

The first ark, Noah's ark, was built to save those who took refuge in it.

St Peter says in the second reading that eight human lives were saved.

Not so many.

But, to Noah and those precious few God gave a promise, he made a covenant with them, that never again would his wrath destroy the world.

 In the light of God's covenant and blessing the flood revealed a new potential for the world,

a world that would be sustained by Gods creative love.

And Noah, in gratitude, gave glory to God.

 

Noah's Ark saved what would become the seeds of renewed creation, but our fallen humanity, like some parasite, was hidden within those few, somehow evil hitched a ride.

 

And we know our story, how quickly humanity fell back into its evil ways.

A new ark was needed. A metaphorical ark of; Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Incarnation, the Risen Christ and now, in the time of the Holy Spirit, the ark of the Church.

 

As the devine vehicle of the Spirit, the Church is perfect in its goodness, truth and holiness.

As the human vehicle of the People of God, not so perfect, not always so good, not always so truthful.

 You and I, our brothers and sisters in faith, are imperfect passengers, fragile and broken, self-serving and self-loathing.  To various degrees, we are all beaten and torn by the wilderness, whatever shape that wilderness takes.

 

 We cling together, as Church, not because we are just, or pure, or better than those outside, but because we are not, we are far from it.

 

We take refuge within the ark of the Church bringing our goodness that is the human heart and human spirit, but we also bring our self-righteousness, fear, pride, greed, all manner of corruption and sinfulness.

 

We cling to Mother Church as human beings; all of us, saints and sinners, repentant or not.

 

And we need to hold on tight, never letting one of us (not even the least worthy of us) slip overboard for the crossing can be rough.  Love one another.

 

When Jesus, came out of the wilderness, after facing down evil he proclaimed

 "repent and proclaim the Good News", it is an invitation and a promise to all sinners to climb on board, take refuge in him as Christ the savior, and in his Spirit, who will be with us even to the end of time and in his Church, the body of Christ, the People of God -

together; shoring up the sides, caulking up the cracks, and manning the deck of our beloved ark..

Indeed, Lent is a reminder that the Spirit drives us forth and we have much work to do:

 

We are driven by the Spirit to sacrifice the self through; fasting, prayer and alms giving, and loving one another but, we are also driven to renewal, transformation, thanksgiving and joy.

 Lets never forget that Lent is the promise of Easter.

 

Let us remember, in the Spirit, that even in the wilderness we can proclaim the good news and give glory to God, as Noah did on the deck of his ark.

Because, we too have taken refuge in God and

his promise, made visible in the rainbow

"this is a sign I am giving all ages to come, of the covenant between you and me and every living creature" 

 

 

 

 

Openess to healing, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time


We continue with Jesus demonstrating (by his signs and deeds) that the reign of God in the world had begun. In Jesus, the Good News is preached, captives are set free, broken hearts and bodies are healed and demons are cast out.

And we see the dynamics of those receiving new life from Jesus being compelled to share this new life in witnessing to others the Good News that cannot be kept silent.

 

In the first reading we hear that the Levitical priests had the responsibility for the well-being of the people of God. They dealt with matters of impurity, both moral and ritual.

A moral impurity is adultery or murder and these are sinful acts.

 Ritual impurity is like the physicality of childbirth, the time of menstruation or the ins and outs of dietary laws, these are, of course, not sinful.

Leprosy is a ritual impurity.  The leper is not sinful but unclean and, so by no fault of his own, a person without a name, an outcast and removed from the fellowship of the community.

 

On the surface this was all about the physical health and well-being of the community.

It was their duty to quarantine those who could infect others.

But, ritual purity was also a reminder that God, in the Ark, was within their camp.

This closeness of God required communal purity; wholeness of body and community.

 

Of course, the notion purity implies impurity and everything in between, the good and the not so good, the broken and the unbroken, the hodgepodge of human lives.

 

In the second reading St Paul reminds us that those very messy human lives, all of it, what we do or not do with our body, mind, and spirit matters, everything we are or do brings us closer or further from God. It is our choice not his.

 

Paul says be aware, everything matters. Be intentional in what you do, do not sleepwalk through  your life.

He says whatever you do, even as mundane as eating and drinking, do for the glory of God.

Even what is impure, broken or sick begins to be purer, less broken, and healthier when we realize that it is the whole person that God loves and we begin to surrender what is not so good up to God to correct and make better, even perfect.

Then, in thanksgiving, we offer up this new, better life, to God in acts of charity and love.

 

Today's Gospel story is one of being made whole through faith. 

A leper, ritually impure, without home or community, comes and knees before Jesus. Think about the risk this man took coming to Jesus. The staring and ridicule, the fear and hatred that would surround him. 

He is not known by his name, but by his condition - the leper.

How desperately strong he must have been.

How much did he know about Jesus? Had he followed Jesus at some distance? Had he been in Capernaum when Jesus healed and drove out demons? Had others in the loose ring of  outcasts told him about Jesus? We don't know. 

What we are told is that in boldness and confidence (isn't this a sign of faith) this unclean man comes to Jesus and cries out

"If you wish, you can make me clean"

Clearly not a demand. Not a list of reasons why Jesus must act. This was a surrender to faith alone and a openness to be healed!

If you will it, Lord, it will be done.

 

Immediately, Jesus in a compassion, that heals and transforms lives, 

reaches out and touches the diseased body .  Think about this action the leper, a human being,  had not felt the touch of another person for; 10, 20, 30 years.  What must it felt like., that kind loving, healing touch.  Also, by touching the leper Jesus himself becomes ritually unclean.  To heal another puts himself outside the community, beyond the pale.

"I do will it, be made clean"

This is the power of love that breaks boundaries and transforms a life.

This is a sign that God is present. Even in the life of a leper.

 

Jesus sends the healed man off to show himself to the priests so they can proclaim him clean and he can re-enter the community.  The man is now whole in body by the healing of his wounds, in spirit by his encounter with Jesus, and now in fellowship by his re admittance to community. This is wholeness.

 

But Jesus first tells him, dont tell anyone? It is like Jesus said what is done is done let the priests do their work and get on with your life.

But, of course, he cannot keep silent. Out of joy and gratitude for new life the new man  proclaims the good news that is Jesus.

 

The Joy of the Gospel always leads to witnessing Jesus is Lord and thanksgiving to God who saves and a heart felt desire to reach out in charity and service to others.

 

 The encounter of the leper and Jesus demonstrates we are both in need of healing and but we can also be agents of healing.

 
We are like the leper, sick and broken in so many differe

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Calling, 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


This is a story as old as humanity itself.

From the anxieties of the human condition, man searches for meaning and truth outside himself in a God he does not know.

And God and from the transcendent mystery that is God, reaches out to us, calls out to us individually to know him and love him and be in relationship with him.

This is a story of endless possibility or missed opportunities.

This is a story of the unexpected invitation and the decision that must follow.

 

Samuel was sleeping.

And in the darkness and forgetfulness of sleep the Lord called him.

Samuel wakes and runs to his teacher, the prophet Eli, who Samuel mistakenly thinks called him.

Eli tells him it wasn't him and he sends Samuel back to bed.

Again, the Lord called Samuel, and again the same mistake.

A third time God calls, but it is Eli who understands what is going on and he tells Samuel  next time don't hesitate say

"Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." 

Grasp the unexpected, seize the moment Eli is telling Samuel and, of course, Samuel did.

Now the prophets were special to God, but God looks for encounter and relationship with each one of us.

For many of us, God's reaching out goes unnoticed.

Like Samuel we mistake what we experience of God as something else.

We miss the moment of grace because we cannot believe God is in that moment.

Even when we hear God, in the depths of our heart or conscious, we decide not to answer because we are afraid of what that "yes" will mean.

We might be called to leave the safe, the comfortable and the known.

In our human insecurities we fear the transformation an encounter with God would bring about.

How many  opportunities have I missed - countless.

 Missed moments of kindness and generously, moments of forgiveness, moments of love?

 

God calls us in many different ways. Sometimes directly, in a whisper or a bolt of lightening, but more often (but just as grace filled) he calls us through others, our spouses, family and friends, teachers, and even strangers.

 

The baptist heard God's call and he answered the call to be the lone voice in the wilderness.

In today's Gospel John the Baptist sees Jesus along the banks of the Jordan and he again points him out to Andrew and the unnamed disciple - there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

He used the term Lamb of God to indicate that Jesus is from God and is the instrument of our redemption; saving each one of us through his own self sacrifice.

Andrew and the other disciple (compelled by some force of Spirit) turn from the Baptist ( their teacher) to Jesus (the giver of life) and so began their journey of faith.

 

They must of been following Jesus at a discreet distance (don't we all follow Jesus at some discreet distance), wondering what to say or do.  Jesus acts and engages them first.

 He turns and invites them to encounter. "What are you looking for" he asks them.

This is a question that goes beyond the immediate inquiry,  it infers transformation - a new direction, a new shape and scope of one's life.

Jesus invites them to come and see to be a part of his life and to share the great adventure of salvation.

Jesus' - come and see - is the same invitation to mystery, as was the Lord calling  Samuel.

Those two disciples that day (like Samuel and John the Baptist) answered yes to God's call.  They followed, they saw, and they gave glory to Him.

 

Jesus, invites us to wake up from our sleep and to journey with him on a life affirming and life changing journey.

Sure, it can be unnerving to our sense of well being, and it will go beyond our comfort level, it will stretch us thin.

But, it is a call, not a plan, it is a direction, not a roadmap. It is an invitation - not to the possible -  but to the impossible. It is free falling with only God to catch us.

Samuel, the Baptist, Andrew and the mystery disciple, Simon/Peter, the twelve, and countless others  did not know what the Lord would say or command them to do.

They did not know what life with him would be like, but they all were open to the call and all trusted his goodness and fidelity.

 

I want to end with the trivial and the model.

I love the bit of detail from today's Gospel "it was about four in the afternoon"

This specific time rings as a detail that comes to us from the earliest oral tradition, a detail too precious to leave out.

It implies that this was an actual encounter remembered.

It also reminds us of our own encounter with Jesus.

The moment when God's call got through and we woke from sleep.

 Or when we first noticed a subtle transformation in our character, a little extra kindness, a bit more generosity or loving a little more selflessly.  We would remember that time.

 

 The model.

Andrew, was always second fiddle, his brother Peter was the star, Andrew's greatness was bringing others to Jesus.

Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, he brought the boy with the loaves and fish to Jesus and the Greeks seeking to speak with Jesus.

Like the Baptist, Andrew always points to Jesus.

And this is how we can be; answering the call from God with a yes, following faithfully (not a some discreet distance) and bringing others to Jesus.

This is our story

We have every opportunity in the world to hear and accept the Word of God.

We have every opportunity to follow the Way of God in truth and love.

We can bring others, by our words and action, to God.

And we can always point beyond ourselves to Jesus and confess to the world that we have found God.

 

 

 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

4th Sunday of Advent


"It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first came to believe "  St Paul told the Romans

 

NOW is the hour - for salvation is closer than you think - this is the spirit of Advent.

There is a tension in Advent between waiting, alert and joyful and our journeying in confidant trust towards the Lord's second coming.

 

At Advent we look backward at the joy of the nativity when God becomes man - humble and gentle - born of a virgin and we look forward to our Lord's coming again in majesty and glory to judge the living and the dead.

 

Throughout These last couple of weeks we have been called, reminded and prodded by the Spirit of Advent; the first Sunday of Advent, was a wake up to the call to God' judgement that will come, the 2nd Sunday we were called to live authentic lives and to make the crooked straight within ourselves and in those we touch in preparation of the coming of the Lord,

and last week there was the joyful confession in he who is coming to baptize not with water for the repentance of sin, but with the Holy Spirit to bring about new life of faith.

And today we are reminded that nothing is impossible for God and we are shown the model of humility and trust in Mary's surrendering to the impossible in her yes to God.  Advent isn't just another passing season.

 

In the first reading king David thought he had a plausible plan.

- to build an appropriate house ( a temple) for God.

This was a good and noble plan but it wasn't God's plan.

God's plan was bigger and grander than anything King David could even imagine.

What would be impossible for David to build in stone was surly possible for God to create in the womb of a virgin.

God, through Nathan the prophet, reminded David that he began his life a shepherd  of his father's flock.

God tells David not to bother with building him a house (for who can house God?).

Build your people up instead, love them and care for them as a good shepherd of my flock.

Do this and your kingdom will last for ever.

David's kingdom, a sign of God's kingdom, will last beyond brick and mortar, for it is never what we build of stone that lasts.

We know that David's historical undivided kingdom did not last beyond his grandson.

The kingdom God speaks of crosses the boundaries of time and place and extends to the ends of the earth as well as the end of time itself.

 

In the second reading Paul describes the extent of this new impossible kingdom as "being made known to all nations" and it will be achieved only - through faith in, him who can strengthen you, Jesus Christ.

 

In today's gospel reading we see how God will go about this grand enterprise of salvation.

God's messenger the glorious and sublime angel Gabriel reveals to a young, betrothed virgin, the shape of the plan. It is a story of angelic majesty meeting human humility.

"Hail, full of Grace" is Gabriel's  greeting to Mary. Clearly, she is already blessed by her chosen-ness, her immaculate conception and sinless life and she will be further blessed by what is to come.

"The Lord is with you"  emphasis that Mary has been chosen to be the Lord's instrument and his bearer.

Now this is all too much, to overwhelming for a young girl to get her head around.

"Do not be afraid" Gabriel comforts a uneasy Mary.

 This is a promise that only goodness, beyond understanding, comes from the Lord.

Gabriel goes on to reveal to Mary the impossible future.

You (he tells her) will be the mother of the redeemed and the redeemer!

You will conceive a child - Emmanuel (God with us). You will call him Jesus,

 

But the world (some day) will call him Son of God and he will rule over God's kingdom  comprising of all nations in faith and he will rule this kingdom forever.

The shear force and magnitude of this revelation must of weighed  heavily on Mary

 and she asks Gabriel how this can be.

Gabriel says - God will do this, for nothing is impossible for God.

He will do this through the Holy Spirit who will overshadow you. Which means the Holy Spirit will consume completely and changes her and we must remember that Mary was overshadowed not just at divine conception, but for her whole life. Through all the joys, the anxieties, even through suffering and sorrow Mary was always full of God's overshadowing Grace, which is fully realized at her assumption into heaven.

 

Mary's response to the impossible, changed the world and inspires us down to our very day by its humble and trusting acceptance of God's will.

 "May it be done according to your word", she tells Gabriel.

This acceptance doesn't come from understanding or reason.

Mary hasn't figured it out. She doesn't get it.  She surrenders to the unreasonable, the mystery of God.  This is her faith, a  simple (but profound) trust in God.

And this is the mystery of Advent, nothing is impossible for God, not in Mary's life or in our own.

We must hold on to this Spirit of - openness to mystery -  to something bigger then ourselves.

Too often we look for God with our own ideas about what that means, our own images and assumptions about Him and so in the end - we only find ourselves.

We meet the reasonable, the expected, the humanly possible, but never the Devine impossible.

But, Our Blessed Mother (without preconceived ideas) was open to encounter the overshadowing mystery that is God. She was open to embracing the impossible.

And She would wait for it to unfold in hopeful and joyful expectation.

 

Advent reminds us of this.

What we wait for should determine how we wait.

What we journey towards should govern our effort to get there.

Our lives, forever changed by the incarnation, should mirror our faith in Jesus the Christ.

God breaking into our world was not impossible.

God's coming kingdom fulfilled is not impossible.

Living in the Spirit now - as Christ bearers - is not impossible.

Eternal life through Jesus is not impossible.

Advent is a time, that as Christian believers we wait, alert and joyful.

And we journey forward, as one people, in faith, hope and love.

We look back to the incarnation with its sweet tenderness that pierces our hearts

and we look forward to his coming kingdom.

Advent, always and everywhere rings out

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

 

 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

God dwells here, Dedication of the Lateran Basilica


There is an ancient, millennial old, question - Where does God dwell? And there is a newer, but linked question - What is the Church?

Ezekiel , the first prophet to prophesy outside of Israel to those in exile, describes in a vision, the new temple where those with a new heart and a new spirit will worship -

"The angel brought me to the entrance of the temple and I saw watering flow out" he says.

This new temple is not static, rigid and inert, rather it flows to renew, sustain and sanctify life

Ezekiel continues to describe the inclusive scope of the new temple 

every sort of creature will be found there and on the banks of this river (this flood of grace) every kind of fruit tree shall grow. Their fruit shall be food (because it will ease hunger) and their leaves shall be medicine" (because it will ease suffering).

This new temple is not some place to go to (and passively sit). It is a force of Grace and Blessing that is active in transforming the world.

St Paul bluntly tells the Corinthians. - "You are God's building".

In the second reading he describes that he has laid the foundation of faith, the living temple, not with brick and mortar, but according to the Grace he has received, which is Jesus Christ.

In his faith Paul laid the groundwork, which others, in their faith will build upon.

This living church is alive and evolving, it is not stone but flesh, it is not courtyards but community, it is not architecture it is the Body of Christ.

This is where the Spirit dwells, this is where God is present and is where holiness pours forth like some magnificent river sweeping aside all injustice.

Both Ezekiel and St Paul have a vision that God's house that is not a building.

 It is not someplace, but is every place where Spirit and Truth abound.

Jesus knew this.  In fact, Jesus is the new temple.

In Johns Gospel we hear that the Passover was at hand and Jesus did what all good Jews should do, he went up to Jerusalem. Specifically to worship at the temple - his father's house.

 He found, in the courtyard of the temple, a day like any other day, business as usual.

Money changers changed Roman coin to temple coin appropriate for offering and sellers of sacrificial animals advertised their product hoping to turn a decent profit.

Jesus sets this all on its head and he creates quite a rumpus, by his forceful actions.

This is the house of my Father, he yells, not a marketplace.

His words echoes Ezekiels own words "there shall no longer be traders and sellers in the house of the lord"

Jesus is simply reclaiming the house of God.

And this leads to anger from those who profit (not just monetarily) from the status quo.

 Jesus, whose very existence disrupts unjust power.  He confronted it directly until it became a life and death struggle with the authorities.

They cry out - what gives You the right to do what you do? They want to know in whose name is he acting ?

They want proof, some sort of evidence.

"What sign can you give us" they demand.

Jesus responds, (in spades)

"Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up"

This is insane they think. Here is a madman. No one has that kind of power.

Of course, they think he is talking about the temple complex, the concrete and marble place, in which they now stood - an edifice of power that had become a prison for God and a marketplace to profit from his imprisonment.

There was no further argument recorded, but you can imagine the bewilderment and anger that followed that encounter.

 Instead, the narrator simply adds (showing us exactly what kind of power Jesus has) -

"he was speaking of his body"

 

A body, made holy by a holy life, that after his resurrection becomes glorified as the Body of Christ - the risen and ascended Jesus along with all those who believe in him and are baptized, in the Spirit, into his death and resurrection and who will join him to become one body.

This is where God dwells in freedom and truth and where he can never be imprisoned, not even by death.

"Destroy this temple (of flesh and spirit) and see it rise (in glory) on the third day"

Later the disciples, in the Spirit they had received, remembered the temple incident and Jesus words and his raising on the third day - and they believed. They became the Church.

Today, Mother Church has many names, but pride of place belongs to - the People of God,

who through their individual encounter with the Lord respond to the Lord's own desire that we have  " a loving heart and knowledge of his ways".

You and I, here and now, as Church, humbly and generously help each other as we all stubble forward "climbing the Lord's mountain so that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths." 

This is the living Church reaching out to bring sanctifying light to every dark corner.

And this Church, Gods house, is always identified with justice and mercy, love and hope not with power and profit margin.

The living Church is identified as Gods presence flowing from its members as kindness and generosity, patience and humility, as loving service to all those in need wither that be within the family, the parish, or community.

The ecological slogan think globally and act locally" takes on an expanded and sanctifying meaning within the community of believers as acts of charity and stewardship.

Ezekiel, Jesus and St Paul, all remind us that the living temple (where a God dwells) should not be profaned or lessened by routine and habit.  We cannot reduce our faith to a specific building or a specific time and day. The Lords Day, is every day.

And must remember that the sacramental life of the Church, is never "old hat", never routine, it is always new, precious and nourishing and is always Gods grace flowing out as a river.

And we, the People of God, must not let the Church within us, the Spirit dwelling within, to be dulled, made indifferent, trivial and cheap by self-centeredness, routine participation and thoughtless living.

By our selfishness, indifference and thoughtlessness we become like those on the steps of the temple doing everything else, but worshiping (and living) in truth and love.

But that is not who we are.

When the world asks us - where is your Church we can simply say - here!

When the world asks where does God dwell we can answer by its negative where doesnt God dwell?
  But, to show the world where God dwells is to show them the quality of our love