HE LEADS TO FRESH WATERS

In what passes for calm in the current norm, I ponder. And, I wonder at God’s mighty wonders. He who created all things did so in an instant word of His divine love. Love that spreads and permeates all things. It is the cardinal principle of His divine grace. When He created and gave life, He did so, not as a dictator (as was His right), but as a loving father; the essence of Love. Plants and all living things were engendered with their own nature. To His crowning glory, our first parents, he gave intellect and the freedom of choice. He offered them the choice between “Life” and “Knowledge”, with no provisos – no “Thou shalt, or, shalt nots”. They were free to move through the Garden of Eden, and taste its fruits. All they needed was to respect and abide by the natural law of “Cause and Affect”. The dynamic that held things in balance, and extended through to consequences. If they ate the fruit of Life they could have had life, perpetuated in their existing state. But, they chose the fruit of Knowledge, making them aware of good and evil. Bringing with it the consequences of good and bad, decisions. For the first time they saw both the beauty and dark sides of the universe. And, they were ashamed because they were naked. Through the history of the Jewish people, reflected in The Bible, it’s the recurrent story. People sin. God forgives and the people continue on their arrant ways. But, the love of God does not change. He who created all, and found it all very good, continues to allow his creation to evolve freely uninterrupted, gathering all into a grand and diverse mass, progressing towards a predetermined point of fulfilment. Where, The Son will finally decide what is to be the end of things.

All religions have been founded on principles of love and peace. How we have strayed from those founding principles! The Lord when He created the world saw it at peace and in harmony. “The lamb snuggled with the lion” and so forth. His fatherly love moved over all things and when he communicated with the humans it was in a spirit of love and respect. He did not tell the man “You shall do this or that”.
His instructions came with open ended invitations, offering alternatives. The Lord respected His humans’ dignity and the supreme gift of liberty. Why then do we, less perfect, prescribe action dressed with an air of authority? “Do this or there will be punishment”. Somewhere in history God’s servants embraced two masters: The Lord Himself and the ruler of the realm. With the complicated relationships, the priests became increasingly authoritative. What began as a loving fatherly relationship became a ruling rod. Moses himself had an intimate encounter with Yahveh, but in his turn passed on The Lord’s word predicated with “Thou shalt” and “Shalt not”.
The simple Way shown by Christ to simple fishermen became ( through the association with nobility down the ages), an auger that could bring princes to their knees. Power corrupted, and to fight its influence there were successive Reformations, Protestantism, several Councils within the Church. Yet the clay hangs on, using devises and traditions to manipulate arguments.

Little wonder that labels of Heresy, Anti-Christ etc are thrown at The Good Shepherd’s image now in Rome. When Pope Francis sees the historical Church falling into ruins, just as St Francis of Assisi had earlier, by his example the Pope tries to rebuild with his own sweat and blood. His voice is gentler and fatherly. Unlike Popes in history he does not rule by fiats; but a gentler form of cajoling, exhortations and persuasion. Looking deep into his message we find nothing new, heretical or subversive. He only shows fresh light on truths using current terms and imagery. A lot had already been covered in Vatican II, when it tried to open out dusty libraries to the fresh air from the world outside. The old Church Militant brooked no dissent, often resorted to abominable methods to rule and sway. We have progressed from those dark ages into a more sensitive and humane chapter of our history. We need leaders that can read the signs and save souls in the current turbulent times. Pope Francis has the learning and the spirit to be our shepherd. His flock know his his voice as he leads them to fresh pastures. He falls back to pick up the weak, to carry it on his shoulders. None are left behind.

Liberty!

Liberty! Sweet Liberty! How many sacrifices are made in your name. How much pain endured. Yet. Maggot-driven egos can subvert the message and the goal. Seeming to uphold the Civic Rights of some; how easily are the rights of others wronged. Cries of “Slash, Burn!” Counter-productive to the cause fill the air with a blinding haze. If it is peace we desire, let us hear the wisdom of people like St Ignatius:

“Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.”

Belief And Beliving

The irony of Pilate’s throw away line, “What is truth?”, still lingers after two thousand years. It has, no doubt, been the subject of more serious discussion from the dawn of civilisation. For some it remains “a sacred cow”, only to be considered by scholars in the context of words uttered with finality at some time, to be locked away in miles of compactors to collect dust for ever after.  Some argue of its transient nature, something to suit the convenience of time and place. Arguments go on ad nauseam among scholars. 

  There is another breed of thinkers that consider it in the context of the evolution of the cosmos. We humans are not the only species evolving, but are parts in a constant state of metamorphosis. All things are constantly evolving towards a goal on the far end of a receding horizon. They do not believe that human’s “superior” sense of consciousness makes them the only players in the mastery of creation. Evolution is an organic process permeating all things, great and small. In this sense we can believe that the Creator of all could demolish entire civilisations with a choice of brimstone, fire or flood. He could speak to humans through burning bushes, from clouds on mountains, and through His prophets. In my own tradition I believe that it is possible for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle, because Truth (himself) has said that it is possible, if difficult.

What then is the nature and function of Truth? It is part and parcel of our human consciousness that is evolving with the rest of the universe. If it were a constant factor, and if we had not challenged given situations, we may have remained as some sort of hunter-gatherers. Challenging things is as perennial as our motivations to work, to stop and to wonder. To challenge is to question. To question is to find new grounds of belief. Grounds of belief that are essential to our understanding. Understanding values human history, cherishes and learns from it. It is essential to our continuing march forward. Our goal is a state of perfection (however we see it). Truth like the Northern Star that guides and sustains us in all sorts of weather. It is not buried under a bushel in forms of do’s, don’ts, edicts or commandments. It is a natural part of our being, linking us with past experiences, it has been renewed and energised through Christ’s exhortations to question and refine. We do not need to be constantly looking back, nor should we use it as a tool of convenience in a game of relativity. It is the sanctity we carry forward as we progress (humans and creations) toward that goal of perfection.

Smile Boys That’s The Style

Lucifer, from time-to-time, does reincarnate himself. Seen, in compelling personalities, such as Nero, Stalin, Hitler, PollPot, Idi Amin and others. He blindens the week with dazzling promises of liberty and new life. In moment, the darker side asserts itself, dashing hopes in fogs of misery and confusion.

Like volcanos, they dazzle sending up flames and molten lava. Then, subside weighed down under ashes and created rubble; to be silent till the next incident (and opportunity) to dazzle and seduce again. Work over, Lucifer withdraws behind his black cloak, sniggering, “You ain’t seen anything yet”. History’s time-line continues uninterrupted.

Rosary: New Luminous Mysteries Put Our Lady Aside – Dominican Priest… 

I take exception to the proposition that The Luminous Mysteries are designed to “put our Lady aside”. My response is based on the following understanding:

  1. Pope JohnPaul was devoted to our Lady. This was a practical expression of that devotion.
  2. If the mysteries highlight Jesus’ work on earth, they should be meditated on in the light of the Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries where traditionally Our Lady seems absent from the events. I would say this rounds off the Jesus’ life on earth. And, this would not have been possible without our Lady’s “Yes” to the Paraclete.
  3. Our Lady remains the centre and mediator through the prayers before and after the reciting of the rosary. We need her intercession to make our prayers holy before the Lord.
  4. I am saddened by the freedom exercised by clerics to vent their opinions on VTII, and all that it represents to make the Church relevant in an increasingly secular and anti-Church environment.

A Daniel Come To Judgement

There have been speculations about what Jesus wrote in the sand while the crowd awaited his response to the woman accused of adultery. Was it a list of the sins of the elders? Whatever. The time he took also cooled down the charged atmosphere, and created an air of anticipation – making it possible for the response that could be heard and understood by all. Similar pauses are used by orators before making an important point. To the silent and curious gathering Jesus quietly replies, “ Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. The silence must have been palpable. To people expecting a straight forward rebuttal or agreement, this would be perplexing. This oblique parry and thrust were not expected. What could they say? How could they hide their own hypocrisy? In shame they withdraw, led by their elders.

That is the first moral of the story. But, in it there is an allusion to a case in the Old Testament. Remembering how the Old Testament foreshadows things that are more fully revealed in the New Testament, let’s stretch the string to the story in the Book of Daniel, where elders (Judges), accuse and sentence the beautiful Susanna to be stoned. The Judges were the custodians and interpreters of the Lord’s covenant. Yet blinded by lust they seek the death of one of their own daughters. What may have started as a benign diversion, soon took over and clouded rational thinking. From the admiration of a beautiful woman their thoughts drift to covetousness, and deeper to lust and adultery. Then lying and bearing false witness seemed natural. Eventually, they scheme to kill an innocent person. The elders, misused their authority as judges; till they themselves became the judged.

From the nervous isolated woman Jesus adds a further lesson. He places himself, not as a judge but along with those sinners who did not condemn her. Justice had been done. But, Jesus always has more. He goes on to tell her, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again”. Jesus offers unctions not only for the sins committed, but also reassures her that she can be released from from the burden of guilt, if she listens to his word. Holistic curing. 

The Grain of Wheat


“ The hour has come

For the Son of Man to be glorified.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

It remains just a single grain; 

But if it dies,It bears much fruit.” John12: 20 – 33


Reflecting on the passage, Laurin J Wenig*, says, “The grain of wheat must sacrifice its existence as a seed if it is to become a new shaft of wheat, a new form of life. God calls us again and again to sacrifice, to die to ourselves, in order to come alive to others, to produce much fruit.”

The season of lent is a period for dying into ourselves, to break with the status quo, taking chances to lay bare our weaknesses to be transformed by grace. Unless we undergo change we cannot fully enter the dawn at Easter. 

Like the Son we must divest ourselves of all earthly attachments. On Calvary they stripped Him of human vestiture; mocked Him to deprive Him of dignity; Crucified Him and drained all His blood. Then, He who took no home or bed for rest, was laid in a stranger’s tomb. He entered the final darkness of earthly death. He surrendered Himself with complete helplessness: one cannot imagine the physical pain and abandonment that Jesus suffered. When done, He said “It is finished”. 

All this for what? To be a mockery to the gentiles and a stumbling block to those He came to “save”. Why Lord, was it necessary to undergo this humiliation and suffering? Was it for me? But, I am not worthy that you should come down to me and enter under my roof – a mere spec of dust in the vast expanse of an ever expanding universe. Yet you love me enough to suffer such torment for me. You wish only a humble and contrite heart in return. In your ultimate act of sacrifice and obedience you joyfully accepted the “Cup”, The Father had set before you. Lord, can I not do as much and share in my cup your own extreme sacrifice – fulfilling my Baptismal charism, and acceptance by The Father, as your brother.

*  “Forty Days of Grace, Lenten Prayers and reflections”, Lauren J Wenig, Twenty-Third Publications.