Feb 27, 2021

Sanitizer for Your Eyes


Just think of it, we spend so much time sanitizing our hands against a virus we cannot see, what could we be able to see if we could sanitize our eyes - sanitizing them from flat screens, smart phones, painted, dyed or digital colors?

There is one line from today’s opening prayer of the Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent, the Collect as we call it, that captures everything that we have just listened to in the Gospel. It reads, “With spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory”.

What would we be able to see if our spirit sight was pure? 

We would be able to see, with our actual eyes, the divine nature, unfiltered!

I reflect first on our Blessed Mother, Mary - Mary Most Pure. What did she see when she held her child Jesus for the first time and looked upon His little face? She could see in her plain sight, as clear as day, the glory of God shining through every fiber of His body. No one else could. But because her spiritual sight was pure, Mary always saw the glory of God in Christ. She always rejoiced. 

And even when Mary lost Him from her sight for three days, when she arrived at the temple she only had to scan the crowd of thousands and she could instantly see where the tiny figure of her Son was hiding. “There He is,” Mary would have said to Joseph pointing into the mass of people. “I see Him. There He is. There, in the middle of that crowd”. “I’m looking! But don’t see Him,” Joseph replies. “All I see is people. They all look the same!”. But Mary most Pure, was able to see and behold the one person alone who shone brightly with the glory of God. That’s probably why she, herself, went into the crowd of people and took the young Jesus by the hand, and brought Him home, not without a few words of her own!  

But, to everyone else, Christ appeared to them as just another man. When they looked at Him, some saw Him as a teacher, or a performer of miracles. Others, when they saw Him, only could see a Jewish rabbi with long hair and a beard, a good inspirational speaker, a great teller of stories, a wandering holy man. When Pontius Pilate looked at Him, all he could see was a criminal. Only with spiritual sight made pure, can anyone of us see the glory of God.

Interestingly, when the devils looked at Christ, because demons have also pure spiritual sight, they screamed in pain and agony!

But what about Peter, James and John we hear about in the Gospel, how were they able to see the glory of God shining through Christ’s body?

By themselves, they couldn’t. They had to be led up to that mountaintop by Jesus Himself. He gave them, but just for a little while, the gift of the spiritual purity of sight. In that moment, they were allowed to see what angels and heavenly beings could only see. Their reaction? They were dumbfounded, tongue tied, mesmerized. But, sadly, their eyesight would quickly return to its familiar way of seeing Jesus as they saw Him before - a Jewish rabbi, albeit one worthy of a monument with His name upon it.

The season of Lent that we have entered into offers us an opportunity to renew the purity of our sight, to help us see clearly where the glory of God is, and where He is not. 

The disciplines of Lent, especially Confession and almsgiving, if entered into with faith, can allow us, not only a new insight to ourselves and a new way of seeing those around us, but will help us to see God, with our very own eyes.

For many of us, we are blind to the glory of God, often because we are too busy looking at ourselves, more concerned about how we are seen by others, how we appear in public, wanting to be admired.  You can spend a lot of time, energy and money maintaining and polishing your own image, exaggerating your own importance and achievements, insisting on the best of everything to look good and be admired. But, what does this do? Instead of drawing others attention to the glory of God, I am drawing their attention, for whatever reason, to the glory of “me!”.  You are guilty of breaking the first commandment - “You shall not put other gods before Me, says the Lord.” 

And what is the first casualty of self-fixation? Relationships - blindness to the feelings and needs of those around you, a total lack of compassion.  

It happens to the clergy, when we want to be the center of attention, or praised for good works or insist on titles and privileges.

It happens between spouses and friends, when one makes no effort to share in the suffering or hardships of the other.

It happens in family life, when no one really talks to each other because everyone’s too busy working, studying, watching movies or updating their profiles.


It happens to even single people, when they try to get noticed by others or try to become invisible or not noticed.

This is why the practice of almsgiving is so important for the Christian. We do it, not to feel good about ourselves, or we are back to looking at ourselves in the mirror. No, we do it because we seek to see the glory of God, shining in our neighbor, the poor, the lonely, the forgotten, even the one who is suffering because they think that God is nowhere to be found in their life.

When St. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, by Christ appearing to him transfigured in glory, he fell to the ground and became blind. On the third day, he was baptized and instantly regained his sight, but now with a clearer vision of what God was asking of him. 

Is that not where our journey to Easter also leads us? To the waters of baptism, renewed and cleansed every time we go to Confession. 

So that, as the opening prayer reminded us, “With spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold [God’s] glory”.

Feb 19, 2021

God’s Dare. Go deep.



I having been hearing Confessions for nearly 30 years. I have been regularly receiving this Sacrament myself since the age of 7. In the broad spectrum of Catholics, the sense I have is that many of us fall into two camps - 

1. Those who are too afraid, embarrassed, don’t know where to begin or dismissive of the need to go to Confession. 

2 Those who find themselves confessing the same sins again and again.

Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum let me be up front by first saying that the actual confessing of sins is the easiest part of this Sacrament. Any Catholic of the legal age of reason can confess, whether they are prepared or not, sincere or not, or even sorry or not. Whether the Sacrament will be effective, wasted or fruitful in one’s life depends on the active collaboration with God’s grace. That takes both faith and work.

And maybe that’s often where the difficulty usually is - not in the actual confessing of sins, but on our ability to use our God-given minds to reflect on our lives and to see our relationships objectively. And then doing something. 

Often we spend so much time reacting to, recovering from, or distracting ourselves from the demands or the responsibilities of the world we actually live in.  I suspect many people who have begun reading this, will not get to the broken line below.

Why? We increasingly rely on programs, apps, shows, websites, experts, commentators etc. (saints and sinners) to do all our thinking for us. It’s very easy to simply react or hide behind them. If we habitually do so, over time we stop doing our own thinking, or we get lost in an avalanche of thoughts coming from every direction at once. 

I have to be careful here by what I am now sharing. I do not want to force anyone to go to Confession or into making an Examination of their life. Nor do I want anyone to presume they need not to. Instead, all I can offer is an opportunity to stand back and, with fresh eyes, personally seek out the truth about yourself and the relationships you are engaged in and, without fear, allowing the Holy Spirit to guide one to gratitude and/or repentance and a necessary change in attitude and behavior afterwards.

As a pastor of souls, I suggest this examination exercise. Before you do so, you are going to have to do something courageous. Copy, paste and print out the following text and switch off all your electronic devices. If you are stuck using a smart phone, switch it to airplane mode and set your alarm or timer for 30 mins. If you can not do any of these, I suggest you stop reading now and make a commitment or reminder to do so when you are in fact ready. If you continue reading unprepared, or just out of curiosity, you will probably give up after the first short reflection or read it through and forget it afterwards!


———————————————————


Examination

Using God’s Ten Commandments as a guide, simply draw out their implications in your life and lifestyle. Think, reflect, ponder and see yourself in your relationships


1:  I am the LORD your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve. Do you give yourself a lot of attention, concerned about how you appear, what others think about you, wanting to be beyond criticism or praised? Do you live your life through your phone, your work, your children, finances, politics, your job, your personal interests, sports or cravings?


2.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. How do you use the name Jesus or Christ in conversations or your thoughts? When you say or hear His Name, does it lift your mind up to God, or does it simply pass without attention?


3.  Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. What is your attitude to Sunday? Is it primarily a lazy day, only a free day to catch up on errands or family business? Do you make excuses not to attend church, or only attend church simply to be seen or meet with friends. Do you have anything in place that actively keeps Sunday holy unlike other days?


4. Honor your father and your mother. Do you give them at least respect and allow them to offer advice? Do you give them time, opportunities for visiting or pray for them by name? If they are in true need, do you try to help them as best you can? Do you see their value only in terms of their assets or their weaknesses?


5. You shall not kill. Have you deprived the defenseless, innocent and vulnerable of their life or potential livelihood - an unborn life, child, adult, the sick or elderly? Have you ignored the injustice of abortion or facilitated acceptance of this evil?


6.  You shall not commit adultery.  Have you remained faithful to your spouse in body and spirit, through your words and who or what you look at? Have you sinned against the Covenant of Holy Matrimony by sexual relationships outside of Marriage or are willingly accepting of non-biblical definitions of marriage? Have you entertained sexual feelings alone, anonymously, by seduction or manipulation?


7.  You shall not steal. Have you willfully taken something not belonging to you against the presumed wishes of someone else? Have you purposefully not given your employer the expected value of your work and time? Have you wasted time through laziness or invested your time in idle pursuits? 


8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Have you purposely lied, damaged the reputation or presumed the guilt of someone else? Have you hidden behind an online profile, a position or manipulated circumstances to serve your own needs? Are you quick to make rash judgements?


9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s spouse. Have you allowed your thoughts, actions or habits to look at another person, real or imaginary with lust or obsession? Have you acted out of jealousy or envy to damage someone else’s relationships? Have you ignored or taken for granted your own responsibilities to a spouse, family or friends?


10.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.  Do you actively appreciate and care for the things you own? Do you spend a lot of time shopping, browsing, imagining having items you can truly live without? Do you harbor resentment for the apparent success of others? Are you selfish with your time, resources and blessings?


Now what? 


A. Repent and Believe in God’s Forgiveness and seek to be assured of this personally through the Sacrament of Confession.

B. Stay as you are and accept the consequences that God has promised.

Feb 18, 2021

Outside, inside, inside out!

 



"He, (that's Christ), remained outside in deserted places and people kept coming to him from everywhere." There is a sense of irony here in this last line from the Gospel passage we have just listened to. Christ, who so often would be preaching inside synagogues would now forced to stay outside, while these who where suffering from the contagious disease of the leprosy virus, once exiled to these places, were now back inside the synagogue.

Because of the pandemic, were forced offer Mass outside, then we where inside for a bit, then outside again, and hopefully now we are, for the most part, inside for good! I hope and pray that the Lord can keep up with us. 

Our experience as Christians and the Gospel for this Sunday should help us to stand back and, maybe, reflect on what sickness and disease look like - not from the perspective of the Center for Disease Control, or from a doctor’s perspective. But from God’s perspective.

What is Christ's attitude to sickness and disease? Our modern English translations say that Christ was "moved with pity". The older more literal translations say that Christ was "provoked with anger' this is at the core of what we mean by the word "compassion". "Com" means "with" - compassion - with passion - that same passion which moved Christ to throw out the moneychangers in the temple. It is along these lines that we identify crimes of passions with anger.

With a person contaminated with leprosy, Christ is moved with anger for he sees before him an example of how the beauty and nobility of man has been distorted and ruptured by sickness and disease (which were never intended by God for humanity). Christ is moved with anger at how this son of Adam has been cast into the wilderness by his brothers and sisters when God had declared, when he formed Adam, that it was not right that man should be alone.

Today’s Gospel was first read to the early Christians of Rome who were being persecuted by their fellow citizens, who treated them harshly like lepers, outcasts. Might we be reminded, maybe as the early Christians were, that to be a Christian is to often go against the trends and attitudes found or taken for granted in our society, that in many ways we do not fit in, any more than Christ himself who was cast out of the city and abandoned on a cross. It was there on that cross that Christ took upon himself that sickness and disfigurement of all humanity – that of sin and death.

Like a leper Christ was stripped down and hung on the cross, and most of his disciples kept their distance from him. As he did so in the gospel this Sunday to the man who asked for cleansing, through the sacrifice of the Mass, and as he does so in the healing of the soul offered in Confession, Christ stretches out his hands from Calvary, touches us all, and from the cross says to us, "Be cleansed", not with hand sanitizer, but with his healing touch and mercy. But we have to have the courage to go to him.

“Let us consider here, dear friends, if there be anyone here that has the taint of leprosy in their soul, or the contamination of guilt in their heart. If anyone has, let them adoring God, say, “Lord if you wish, you can make me clean”. (Origen) May each one of us be able to hear Christ's reply, "I do will it. Be made clean".

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Feb 6, 2021

The Helping Hand of God

 


The Gospel passage we have just listened to is very simple and, because it involves Our Blessed Lord, it has value and relevance for us today as it has been throughout the ages. The Lord went into Simon Peter and Andrew’s home. They first tell him about Peter's mother-in-law who is sick and with a fever. Jesus took her by the hand and raised her up and she was healed. The fever left her and she immediately set about serving them.

Within this one episode we can see the whole mission and ministry of Jesus portrayed. Jesus enters into our lives, visits our homes and finds us sick, consumed with fevers of various illnesses. Our fever comes in many different forms, for we can be found consumed with pride, envy, anger, lust, laziness, gluttony and greed, Through the sacraments of confession and the Holy Eucharist, the Lord gives us his hand, lifts us up and heals us.

When we are strengthened by the grace of God, we are better able to serve him. In the Gospel passage we heard today, we note that, after she was raised up out of her bed, Simon Peter’s mother-in-law immediately began to serve Christ and to be available to all who are now, whether she planned for it or not, a part of her home and life.


Jesus stayed overnight at Peter's house, but the Gospel also tells us that Our Lord “rose before dawn while it was still dark and went out to find a deserted place to pray”. Although by nature he is divine, Jesus also has a human soul. What does that mean? It means, like us all, Jesus thirsted for communion with his heavenly Father. In his prayer, Jesus united his human soul with all of humanity’s hunger to be one with our father in heaven.


Jesus had learnt to pray as a child from his mother Mary, from the prayers of his own people in the synagogue at Nazareth and the Temple of Jerusalem. Yet the uniqueness of Jesus’ prayer was found in his self-awareness that he was the one and only, true Son of God. When he prays to his Father in heaven, he does so in the unique and intimate relationship he enjoys with his heavenly Father. 

Everything that Jesus is, his miracles, his preaching, his life and his love, his obedience to the will of God, flow out from his own continuous communion with his heavenly Father. It is into this Father/Son relationship we are invited. “No one comes to the Father except through me”, the Lord will remind us.


In this way the passage of the Gospel teaches us as Christians, that Christ must be at the center of our homes and our lives. If he is not, the fever of a life without God will consume us.


“Therefore, let us ask the Lord to grasp our hand. ‘And at once the fever left her’. Immediately as her hand is grasped by the Lord, the fever flees” (St. Jerome). May we never be afraid or too proud to reach out to Christ who stands before us and to grasp his hand, knowing that he alone can bring us back to true strength, enabling us to respond to the Gospel message not just for our own salvation but for the sake of a whole world still hungry for God.


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gardening Kingdom

  We often hear this phrase, “The Kingdom of God ''.  We even pray, “Thy Kingdom Come”.  This “Kingdom” was the hallmark of Our Lord...