Jun 24, 2017

Fear No One

"Do not be afraid of the past. If people tell you that it is irrevocable, do not believe them. The past, the present and the future are but one moment in the sight of God, in whose sight we should try to live." 

12th Sunday in Ordinary time

We often think of religion as a set of rules and commandments - directives as to what to believe and how to live our lives.

But if there is any one command that comes down from God, a commandment that is repeated in the Bible 365 times - in other words, an order to be followed for each day of the year, it is this - “Do not be afraid”. This simple divine directive should always be at the forefront of our minds, when we are trying to live our Christian discipleship in the midst of the everyday battlefields of life. “Do not be afraid”, God assures us.

But you might say that, looking out into the world, there is so much to be afraid of. Not only do I sometimes fear for myself, but also I fear for my family, the future generations, my nation - I am afraid of what the world is turning into.

Of course, these are concerns. But listen carefully to why Our Lord tells we should not be afraid.

He doesn't say that we need not be afraid because we will not experience pain or suffering or even that He will quickly come to our rescue. Instead we should not be afraid because, “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known”.  

In other words, there is no need for you to be afraid - why? Because every hidden thought you have, every email you have sent, every webpage you have browsed, every secret conversation you have had, every dream, every feeling, every word and every action you have every made, in public, private or secret, will be brought to light!

Oh dear! - now I am really afraid!

We all have been wounded in battles and conflicts. Our scars might be hidden from public view, but our memories of past conflicts still have the power to haunt us. But what are we afraid of? We are afraid of the world, the world’s judgement, opinion, whether I will be liked or not, whether I can meet its expectations or not.  Often I am more afraid of my ego being damaged or how I will look in a photograph that can easily be deleted, than being afraid that my soul, which will never die, might be lost and damned for all eternity.

But if I allow all my sins to be brought to light, that is to God’s light, His light is gentle, purifying, healing - if I have repented of my past sins, opened my wounds to the healing power of God’s mercy and forgiveness, particularly through the Sacrament of Confession, and have done my penance and resolved to sin no more, I have no need to be afraid- not even to fear God.

Of course, this is easier said than done. So we need to be constantly reminded not not sell ourselves to the world but to instead offer our bodies and our souls willingly to God the creator of all that is.

Do not be afraid to reveal your fears and anxieties to our loving Father and trust in His grace
He gives strength to the humble and repentant soul.

Do not be afraid to get down on your knees and trust in the power of our loving Father -
He gives strength to the body so that through it, we can give public witness our Christian discipleship, even if we are pushed around a bit, bruised a little or even hung upon a cross.

Of course, we bring all our fears, our hopes and our gifts to the Altar of the Lord, so that uniting them to the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, we can likewise be assured of our invitation to rise from the dead with Him who now lives and reigns, beyond the reach and judgement of this passing world.

Jun 17, 2017

The Body and Blood of Christ

Today’s great feast day of Corpus Christi, reminds us that the bread that he gives us, is not the stuff that fills our stomach. Christ feeds us through his eternal priesthood – by the sacrifice of his body and blood he offers to his Father on our behalf. This is what priesthood is ordered towards and does – offering sacrifice.    

The bread and wine that we place on this altar, counts for little – it is little.  But in the hands of Christ the eternal priest, it becomes his own life-giving body and blood – Christ becomes our food in the wilderness of the world. 

This is by no means allegorical, or a metaphor. Time and space as we experience it, blocks our vision of what angels and the saints of heaven perceive. From our perspective, we have only a temporal reference point to look towards - our bread and wine. But when we do what the Lord commanded us to do at his Last Supper, God reaches out through eternity and touches our offerings of bread and wine, bringing them into complete and perfected union with the resurrected and eternal Christ. In such a unique encounter between heaven and earth, between time and eternity, our bread and wine have no choice but to become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ who in all his power and glory intercedes for us before the throne of our heavenly Father. 

Even though from here, we can not see, nor taste this heaven on earth, when we eat and drink of the Eucharistic elements, our frail and broken bodies are guided, locked into communion with Christ's. This can be as painful as it is beautiful. Painful, because Holy Communion alerts us to our unworthiness, our sinfulness - we are imperfect, unfinished. It is beautiful because the gift of Holy Communion gives us hope that we, and all of creation, will be brought to our finality in Christ himself.

In the meantime, as a people of faith and hope, as children of Abraham we journey through this world with the expectation that it will blossom with new life. As we do so, let us be ever more conscious of humanity's deepest hunger for the Bread that feeds and satisfies angels and heavenly saints - the Bread of Eternity, Christ himself. As the Lord gives us His Body and Blood to nourish and sustain us, if we have been feed by Him, your own body and blood, now feed, nourish and sustain your brothers and sisters, through Christ our Lord.

Jun 10, 2017

Within God

The Most Blessed Trinity

During these past 10 days our parish has seen two of our sons ordained into Holy Orders - one as a deacon, the other as a priest. During each of their ordination Masses much attention was given to the ritual of the liturgy, the choice of Scripture, the power of the prayers, the laying on of hands, and the vesting with the sacred robes of office. However, one sacred action, very personal to each one of them, not only brought them to their knees - it ensured that each one of them would would literally collapse into the very gentle hands and the most loving embrace of the Almighty God.  

Before being ordained, both Deacon Chuck and Father Nathan had to lie face down before the altar - they had to abandon themselves completely to the overwhelming power and purifying love of God - and to do so, trusting - not in some cosmic or supernatural higher power - but trusting their lives in the hands of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit - a God who is Fatherly, a God who has a human heart, a God who is a secret intimate friend.

Of course, in our theological language, we identify God as a Trinity. "What" the Almighty is, is one God. "Who" the one God is, is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. We can draw diagrams, use symbols and offer allegories to help explain the three distinct persons united in one God. But that's as far as we can go. Human language and imagination will never understand or fathom this divine mystery.

But, the Good News is that because our minds can only go so far, little by little, God gently reveals Himself to us, slowly unfolding for us the pattern of His unimaginable thoughts (Proverbs 8:22-33). We don’t have to be theologians or philosophers. Through the language of harmony and beauty that we sense in the universe, we gain some insight that God is the perfection of harmony and beauty, but so much more than our perceptions. (Psalm 8:4-9).

But proving his existence or trying to understanding what God is, is not our goal.  Experiencing God, is. Christ is God's very own self-portrait! But more than that. A portrait can be looked at from a distance. God, through Christ's humanity, from that first instant of His conception in the womb of Mary, brings us into direct union with Him. 

God, allowed Himself to be mothered (for our sake). God allowed himself to live in the limitations of flesh and blood, God with us, reaching out to us, wanting to draw us closer and closer into his divine life, talking to us directly with words we can understand, lives with us intimately in a love that we can experience, sharing in our joys, in our sorrows, in our pain and also our suffering. To know Christ is to know the love and compassion of God.

Christ is God being personal with you and me, inviting us even into His own experience of being God - the love between Father and Son.  Of course, our experience of this type of relationship is limited to our own experience or only as great as our best imagination. But Christ invites you and me into His very own perfect relationship that He enjoys with the Father - a relationship of the most perfect love between two persons that can ever exist, not contained or constrained by time itself. 

Christ invites all of us, all humanity, through His Body and Blood, into the very "divine life" of the One He dares to call “Father”, “Abba”. And that Divine Love - is not a force or a feeling - it has It's own personality - the Holy Spirit. A Christian, in that same Spirit also dares to call God, Father - "Abba".

So, don't try to get your head around this. Instead, get your heart around Christ and you will find and experience the greatest intimacy, the closeness that God desires to share and draw us into.

This is relational, not conceptual nor imaginative.  It is insufficient to simply bow down or even kneel before God. Like Deacon Chuck and Father Nathan on the day of their ordination, we too, and every day, must have the courageous faith to simply abandon ourselves into the very life of God, trusting in His power, His Heart and His life-giving love, on earth as it is in heaven!

Jun 3, 2017

Come Holy Spirit

"El día de Pentecostés (al término de las siete semanas pascuales), la Pascua de Cristo se consuma con la efusión del Espíritu Santo que se manifiesta, da y comunica como Persona divina: desde su plenitud, Cristo, el Señor (cf. Hch 2, 36), derrama profusamente el Espíritu.... La vida moral de los cristianos está sostenida por los dones del Espíritu Santo. Estos son disposiciones permanentes que hacen al hombre dócil para seguir los impulsos del Espíritu Santo... Los siete dones del Espíritu Santo concedidos a los cristianos son: sabiduría, entendimiento, consejo, fortaleza, ciencia, piedad y temor de Dios.”

For forty days after his resurrection from the dead, Our Blessed Lord showed himself, at various times and at various locations, that, not only was he alive, but that his work was not over - his mission would continue

And even though he would enter into heaven to take his place there at the right hand of his heavenly Father, he promised that he would be with us always, accompany us on our journey, until the end of time. How? Having prayed for his disciples, he promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would teach and guide them and keep them united in the truth about God.   

The Holy Spirit we talk about is not a spiritual force. In the same way as we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we likewise acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is God, distinct from the Father and the Son, but of the same God-substance. We address the Holy Spirit as Lord. The Holy Spirit is personal. And as God, we worship the Holy Spirit as we do our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Let’s put the Holy Spirit in Context.

When the earth was formed, He was the breath of God the Father that swept over the first waters of the earth pollinating the great seas with life. The Holy Spirit filled the lungs of Adam and so breathed the first man. And in the gospel we read that Jesus, the New Adam breathed the Holy Spirit into the apostles, so that they might be his presence in the world. 

It is that same Holy Spirit who has been given to us when we were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What we now call Confirmation, seals us with the Holy Spirit we have received in baptism so that, in this sacrament, we become a new creation. 

And as such the Holy Spirit gives us strength and power to become authentic witnesses to our Catholic and Christian faith. As such, we can identify at least seven supernatural gifts in particular that the Holy Spirit gives us, supernatural gifts that are sealed securely and planted firmly in our Christian character. We identify them from the words of Scripture. The prophet Isaiah spoke of them as the identifying characteristics of the future Christ/Messiah (Isaiah 11) . As these characteristics will be given to you, you will be identified with the spirit of Christ - you will be His witnesses, his representatives to the world.  And what are those 

1. Understanding 2. Knowledge 3. Wisdom 4. Right Judgment 5. Reverence 6. Courage 7. Fear of the Lord.

1. Let me start first with Fear of the Lord. Not every fear is good. But when the Holy Spirit prompts us to turn away from sins because we can see and are afraid of the consequences of sin – that type of fear is holy and good. When we fear losing God, the Holy Spirit is at work in us.

2. The Holy Spirit’s gift of courage.  We need this divine gift of fortitude, of strength and courage to help us battle with sin, with evil and when our faith is tested or attacked. We would be fools to think that we can defeat the enemy of our souls and our faith by our own natural abilities. We need the divine armor of courage so that we might not cave in under intimidation. St. Paul reminds us of this when he boldly states, ‘I can do all things in him who strengthen me”.

3. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of reverence, sometimes called Piety. Reverence is not simply formal respect for what is holy. Anyone can be respectful of sacred buildings and beliefs. Piety can also often be mistaken for attention to detail in religious devotion. This, of course can be self-motivated. Instead this gift of the Holy Spirit allows us to appreciate closeness to God as a son or daughter of our heavenly Father. It is in places such as a Church building we become aware of our sacred relationships with God and others through what we see and sense around us – that God is not distant. This gift allows us to sense the mysterious presence of God. So we give him his place and trust him more and more, even though he is shrouded in mystery.

4. And from this mystery the Holy Spirit can also give us the gift of understanding how God is truly involved in our lives and world. To Understand God, our souls must first be purified from sin so that our view of the world is not distorted. The Holy Spirit allows us to understand why God loved the world so much, why God loves me despite my sinfulness and resistance.

5. With this gift comes also the gift of Knowledge. The Holy Spirit can allow us to truly discern what there is in this world that brings us closer to God and to know also what gets in the way. By this gift, the Holy Spirit as an appraiser of the things we hold on to and teaches us not to be afraid of letting go, to be humble and to accept the true values of the things around us.

6. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of Wisdom. Wisdom does not come from books. It is when God enlightens our mind and we can see the world from his perspective. To be truly wise is to be truly at peace trusting that God’s plan ultimately makes sense.

7. And finally we will also pray that the Holy Spirit will renew in us the gift of right judgment, so that we can make decisions that are right and true, even when doing so demands sacrifice. We ask the Holy Spirit to help us come to the knowledge of the truth through the formation of our conscience so that with the Holy Spirit’s help, our minds will always see clearly in order to make the right decisions about the direction my life must take.

The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit – let us pray that these gifts will be kept strong in your lives, confirmed and sealed with the Holy Spirit!  

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