With good reason, Corinthians 13 is commonly associated with weddings or funerals, works really well on a Hallmark card or a doormat and many will pick as their favourite bible quote. It is poetic and lyrical in the way it is written, and makes no confusing references such as cedars of Lebanon. It is so vivid in the way that it is written that for a long time, I never thought it needed much more unpacking.
This scene from Bruce Alimighty is one of my all time favourites. It takes love and prayer directed towards another, away from the self and away from the abstract, but directed to the one who is loved.
We come to the line “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”. On a worldly level, I take this to be read as love one another and that is all that matters. Definitely a good idea, and wouldn’t send someone the wrong direction in life. But there is far more to the story. It is a description of the beatific vision and the perfection of love through eternal life in God. In Paul’s writing here, he is describing our ultimate destiny. Using the beautiful words of St Therese of Lisieux “The world is thy ship not thy home”. What Paul describes is beyond this world. Faith and hope are ultimately superseded by love because in the eternal life, we no longer need faith, for we God face to face, we no longer live in the hope of the resurrection because it has become present to us, and therefore what remains is love. Ultimately love is all that will be left.
The Transfiguration and House of Cards
So we are into Sunday of Lent, and for those of you who have joined us on TheLentenJourney, things are very much in motion. As a quick update there are approximately 170 people on the journey now. From an operational perspective this week, had a few hiccups in terms some messages coming out a but late but overall looking good. No changes in how the messages will be sent this week. Looking forward to the journey taking some interesting turns. Below is a reflection on Transfiguration Sunday and should set us up well for the week
So full disclosure, I am writing this post while watching House of Cards, so if things get a little dark, there is a reason for it.
The Transfiguration scene should be taken as read in the context of the experience of the disciples. Peter himself has only just worked out that Jesus is the…
View original post 390 more words
So the year is well underway and Lent is almost upon us. Ash Wednesday starts this week and most are trying to work out what to give up for the next 40 days. Whether it be chocolate or booze, there is a value in giving something up for this Holy time. However this year, we saw that it was a time to grow as a group, to build ourselves up and bring the transformation that the season can bring. We should be giving up the things that are drawing us away from God, take up action that improves our value and contribution to the world in which we live, but it is also a time to grow in holiness and truth. For many of us who work each day, and struggle to find to take out some real time with God each day, this is not easy.
Life is a journey. We dont want it to be a random journey. We want to aim towards something. What should we aim towards?
The world tells us to focus on what we do. It starts early – What will you be when you grow up? It continues – Are you successful? And later – What have you done with your life? What have you achieved? The world measures us mostly by property, wealth, public recognition, achievements.
God tells us to focus on who we are. Or more accurately who we are becoming. At its’ essence all aspects of faith and scripture encourage us to become more like Christ. The measurement of how we are going is how our life demonstrates the presence of: Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. This Lent, lets forget doing anything, and lets take some time to focus on the kind of man we are becoming….
So, instead of giving up something or going on a glorified diet this Lent maybe you can make this your Lenten commitment – to finish Lent a better man.
Make the time to read, reflect, and pray, and let the word of God do its’ work in you.
So a mate of mine Dave Dowling had the idea that we share a daily reflection. I have done these before, but after a couple of days we would start ignoring the emails, or tried to do the reflection while watching youtube videos. I found it a little infrequent, and while I was reading, I was not really reflecting about anything. So now we are going to try something a little different. It will just take 10 minutes out of each day. I will admit it is slightly tailored for guys, but I think everyone would benefit. Here’s how it works:
Nominate a time in the morning that you want to start. The options will be 6:30am, 7am, 7:30am and 8am. we may make one for those tradies that get up at the crack of dawn as well if there is enough interest. Here is an emaple of how it works. I used this Sunday’s reading to give you a feel of how this will work.
I have nominated 7:30am. I will receive the scripture at 7:30am. I’ll get 5 minutes to reflect on this. I will read the reading, read it again. I might go back to my bible or the other readings of the day to put the reading in a bit of context. I’ll probably use my journal to note down some thoughts on this.
5 minutes later, I’ll receive a series of reflective questions. I’ll have another 5 minutes to ponder these and add some more comments
And then 5 minutes later, I will receive the final prayer. Will finish off the coffee and get on with the day
In the evening, we will also send out a text at 9pm to everyone to recap the day
Share this with all your friends. To join up, send a text message to 0416138766 with your nominated time slot. The whole thing is free and there are no hidden SMS charges.
We have seen some extraordinary days here in Australia, filled with moments of terror, sadness, joy and hope. The tragic deaths of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, mother of three Katrina Dawson and cafe manager Tori Johnson in incredible circumstances has shaken people all over the country and the world. The response of the public has been overwhelming, in particular the response on social media led by the #putoutyourbats and #illridewithyou campaigns. The public displays of emotion from the Australian cricket team at the Adelaide Oval and the flowers at Martin Place are images that will last for generations.
I myself had significant reactions to both events. For the death of Phillip Hughes, it was that I never even considered death as the way it would end. For me, like many others, just expected that at some point he would come to and he would be alright. That following Saturday night I was at the Sydney Derby, where there was a minute silence and applause in the 63rd minute of the game. It was like no other experience at a sporting match and one I will not forget. In the case of the Sydney siege, I again felt somewhat ignorant of the worst outcome, once again expecting that at some point there would be a timely resolution and it would all be okay. At the same time I also rolled along the emotional rollercoaster that started with anger. “Not in my city” was my reaction. As I woke on the morning of Tuesday 16 December, I was shocked by the news, and was part of the sombre mood of the day.
For those of you interested in my comments on terrorism in a previous post We are more than conquerors.
Completely unrelated, the Newsroom had its final episode on Sunday/Monday. This series has been coming to a head, and a couple of weeks ago, a confluence of storylines come together and culminate in this scene. For those who have not seen it (not sure why), I won’t do any spoilers, but during this beautiful rendition of Ave Maria by Katie Boeck, the main character Will Mcavoy (Jeff Daniels aka harry from Dumb and Dumber), is confronted by a moment where he is challenged to take a moment of reflection. “Do you want to pray with me?” Unlikely something many of us are asked daily
This is where I believe we have found ourselves this Christmas. While Phil Hughes was in a coma, and during the Sydney siege, a country lay in wait to hear of news. For a world where we are so used to being a position to change any given situation, to make some contribution that could affect an outcome, all was in the hands of doctors and the police. For hours, we were glued to TV screens that quite frankly had very little to report except for a handful of dramatic seconds. What we saw in these moments was perfectly human, a realisation that we have limitation, but at the same time we seek to make sense of a situation. Our sense of curiosity and need for understanding does not allow us to let go of a situation. It is in these moments that we are challenged to look beyond. We start asking questions, but the answer is not in our head, because we have never known it. But this will not stop us asking nonetheless. In Psalm 4:1 “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
Prayer in this instance is our recognition that we have neither control nor comprehension of all things. Today we reflect on sad moments, but there will be other days where we also reflect on moments of great joy. St Therese of Liseaux speaks of prayer in an appropriate way. Prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven, it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus. St. John Chrysostom says that prayer is the place of refuge for every worry, a foundation for cheerfulness, a source of constant happiness, a protection against sadness.
And so we are given a chance to stop and ask each other, “Do you want to pray with me”. There are so many reasons to say yes. Today they are prayers of sadness, but tomorrow they may be of joy and thanksgiving. We are filled hope, where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
My prayers be with Phillip Hughes, Katrina Dawson, Tori Johnson, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos of the NYPD, the 8 children of Cairns, over 130 students of the Army school in Peshawar, the 537 who dies on the MH17 and MH 370 respectively, Lauren Langrell and Kevin Hore just to name a few, and their family and friends, including Sean Abbott.
So I leave you with this. It is one of the greatest Christmas scenes that I have ever seen put on TV. This is from “The Christmas Episode” from another Sorkin show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, featuring musicians from New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina. It is simply beautiful
One of the most fun new segments on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is called “I’ve got good news and I’ve got good news”. To counter all the bad news being reported around the world, The Tonight Show asked local NBC news anchors across the U.S. to report stories that make us happy.
Obviously this video is there for fun than anything else. But in a time when there is conflict all over the world, disharmony in our communities, challenges and struggles for our friends and families, and torment in our own lives, we default to a state of self pity, remorse, ignorance and disillusionment. I often am reminded of an episode in the Simpsons. “How are we going to get out of here…Dig up stupid”
I see in many Christian people a defeatist attitude towards the world. We have a fixation on the issues that is seen as bad news to the world, and even within our own church. People are focussed almost exclusively on bad news issues ranging from religious persecution through violence and death, the hurt of sexual abuse, the access of abortion, rampant pornography, the LGBT political agenda, the championing of atheism, even liturgical correctness. It is naive to ignore any of these. However issues are not the centre of the Catholic faith. even churches are not the centre of the faith. It is Jesus to whom we should fix our eyes and around all Him all things move.
The reality of the faith is that we have the good news. It is good news. It will always be good news. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Cheer from the top of your lungs the words of Isiaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!” Give thanks to God “who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14).
We often complain about how the culture of the world is against the culture of our faith. Fair point, but it seems that’s all people keep whinging about, and as a result, they take no responsibility in leading the charge to evangilise the world. Even if our faith is countercultural, so what? Last time I checked, we have seen the Risen Christ! We live in hope that our lived experience . In 1 Corinthians 15 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In life there are endless challenges along the road that we are faced. While we are required to deal with what is in front of us, we need to be looking beyond to the greater vision of hope, and living in the knowledge that at the end the good news that Christ was tiumphant over evil will. In Christ we have heard the good news, now let us broadcast the good news to the world, a constant reminder of the joy and celebration of what it means to live the Christian experience. Our whole lives must be an expression and reflection of what God has done in all of us. Our lives should be an expression of God’s love for us. We should take responsibility for the future of the Church and it starts with the way we look ourselves and the way in which we live our day to day lives. Every moment of the day my life will be a witness to Jesus Christ, and every action that I make take should be a reflection of His goodness
The religious persecution of Christians in Syria is nothing short of despicable, and unfortunately is nothing new. My prayers be with the courageous Christians all over the world who live in persecution and have little else but trust in the Lord’s deliverance.
So many things make me angry about this situation. It is not just the horror of the unabated murdering of innocent civilians, Christian or otherwise, but the lack of outrage shown by the international community, particularly in light of the tragedy of the MH-17 and the war in Israel and Palestine.
Sunday’s mass readings appear more providential than appropriate for this moment in time. As I try to comprehend all that goes on around us, we were given words of hope.
Tonight we heard this in Romans 8:35: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In times of crisis and challenge, so often I am drawn to the thought of overcoming and conquering adversity. I become angered at the cause of the evil, or frustrated when things are not going my way. What comfort and joy we are given in these words. Similarly in 1 John 4:4, we hear “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world”
So simple is the words of God here and so clear. It is a word that stands regardless of whether our lives are put directly under threat or we are in the comfort of home. God walks with us all the way. He is the ultimate conqueror who defeated death. We have nothing more to conquer, rather we merely particpate and rejoice in this.
So I once again pray for all persecuted Christians, but I join in the hope and joy of their journey with Christ.
One of the key issues in our church today is that we are disconnected. Regardless of whether the church is full or its empty on a Sunday, most of the attendees hardly say a word to the people next to each other.
Much of St Paul’s epistles are spent documenting the growth and life of the Church. He is very specific to comment on the community of the faithful. In St Paul’s writings, it is clear that the growth of the early Church was very deliberate. It was filled with action and purpose, with a vision of uniting in faith and sharing the praise of God.
This is how the early Church lived. In Acts 2:44-47 “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In the last few months, I have made a bit more of an effort to meet a few people at my parish. Some have been a tipoff from other friends of people to look out for, others people who I have crossed paths with once upon a time. Some of these people I have seen many times over the years, but never actually spoken to. Others have been there all along, but I have never even noticed. Either way, this is clearly not good enough. Many of these people are living a Church life of anonymity. They live in the unknown, where they have no means to live their faith out with other Christians, nor do they have the opportunity to share their lives with others. How could we live like the early Christian church, when we know nothing about the person sitting in the pew next to us.
If we are to realise our potential as a Church, we must bring the faithful out of the shadows. This is not just those not going to church, it is also those who attend each Sunday, but are not actively engaged and living the reality and fullness of the faith. The signs and indicators are there. They may turn up late, hide in the corner or the back, leave after communion or exit without even looking at another person. And these are included in the minority that are considered as ‘practising Catholics’.
There are many things in the world of which we as Christians have limited control over that is affecting the way in which people perceive the Church. Commonly we hear lies and misrepresentations of the Church by outlets such as the media, educational institutions, internet forums, celebrities, politicians, other religious beliefs and from within the church itself. Despite lofty ambitions and good intentions, there is limited opportunity for most individuals to do much about this. However the decision to reach out to our neighbour from within the Church is completely within our power. There is nothing but fear that stops us from reaching out to our neighbour, and bring light the fullness of the Catholic faith. There is an abundant joy in sharing the love of God with another. It is so rare among Catholics that we smile and rejoice in the life that we have been given. This is what Jesus saw in humanity when he called on them to share Christ with the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven”
The engagement with the anonymous Church is purposeful and deliberate. It requires us to make a decision to reach out to someone each week. Many people we see at church do it as a routine, with varying degrees of why they are there. We are working on a scale of a cultural or habitual practice to a deep and engaged faith, and many many people in between. The disruption to this is us. The words of the mass are predominantly consistent, the message has not changed for centuries. It is for us as missionaries to go out and disrupt the normalcy of the faith and reinvigorate it through God within us. When we reach out to people in our church, we are unveiling the face of the church and representing Christ to people in a real and personal way. The distant God becomes present and comes alive through human interaction. It creates an opportunity for the faithful to join in celebration and praise of God in a meaningful way.
It is our decision to bring the Church to life. It is time for us to raise the veil of anonymity and bring to light the love of Christ. “Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you”. It is within our power to take Christ to the world. Let us rise, for we can choose to live this way: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”