Thursday, November 26, 2015

Who are these two disciples on the road to Emmaus

Luke’s story of this new beginning focuses on a walk, not in a garden but along a road that two disciples of Jesus take from Jerusalem to their hometown of Emmaus. Jesus joins them on the way, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Lk 24:16).

Jesus inquires about their discussion, and they are incredulous that he is unaware of the dramatic events in Jerusalem during the Passover, how the chief priests had handed Jesus over to be crucified. Their conclusion comes with a note of despair. “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21).

Jesus exclaims, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” (Lk 24:25-26). Then Jesus walks them through a Scripture study of salvation history, starting with Genesis (Moses) and all the way through Israel’s Scriptures to the prophets (Lk 24:27).

As evening approaches, they arrive in Emmaus. Jesus appears to be going further, but they beg him to stay, and while at table, Jesus takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to them (Lk 24:30). This is precisely the same description given when Jesus takes the bread at the Last Supper. The disciples’ eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk  4:31, 35).

Once the bread is broken and he is recognized, Jesus disappears. Jesus promised to be present in the breaking of the bread, and now that the bread has been broken with his priestly hands, he is with them, and they no longer need his bodily presence.

Who are these two disciples, so privileged with Jesus’ presence on the very evening of the resurrection? Luke tells us the name of only one of the two disciples, Cleopas; so who is with Cleopas? The answer is simple but easily missed. Who would Cleopas go home with, other than his wife? According to John’s gospel, we know that “Mary the wife of Clopas” followed Jesus and was in Jerusalem for the Passover. Indeed, she was with Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:25). John’s spelling of Clopas follows the Semitic spelling, whereas Luke, naturally, uses the Greek spelling.

Since Clopas/Cleopas was a rare name, and Cleopas is a disciple of Jesus, it is hard to imagine that there is a wife of Cleopas who also is in Jerusalem for Passover, and is a disciple, and is not related to the very Cleopas Luke names. Translators have often assumed both disciples are men, thus translating Jesus’ admonishment in Luke 24:25 as “O foolish men,” when in the Greek it does not mention men at all, but should be read “O foolish ones!”

At the first creation, God walked in the garden amidst a man, Adam, and his wife, Eve. Now, on the first day of the new creation, Jesus walks with a married couple. This couple has lost all hope, and yet by walking with Jesus, their hearts come back alive. When the first couple in Genesis ate the first meal (from the forbidden fruit), “then the eyes of both were opened” (Gn 3:7); as Jesus breaks open the bread at table with the couple from Emmaus, “their eyes were opened” (Lk 24:31). The eyes of the original couple are opened to shame and guilt, whereas the new couple that Jesus walks with to Emmaus have their eyes opened to the resurrected Lord in the Eucharist. The old creation begins with a married couple falling from grace, whereas the new creation begins with Jesus blessing a married couple by breaking open the Scriptures and the bread, where they recognize him in both.

Source: Walking With God – A Journey Through The Bible

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No One Puts New Wine Into Old Wineskins

Scripture Mark 2:22
[22] And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins."

Like all of Scripture there are a number of ways of looking at this.
·         How it relates to Jesus
·         how it relates to your own life and
·         how it relates to heaven and the end times.

Primarily we are talking about this new movement - Christians.

It cannot be contained within the parameters of the old.
And the reason for that is that new wine expands.
New wineskins are the gut of the animal and are pliable and expandable.

If you put this new movement of Jesus that is exploding onto the scene and expanding through the whole world, if you try to contain it within the parameters of the Old Law and the parameters of the Temple and the parameters of old Testament sacrifice and the priesthood it will burst it.
The Old is not able to contain the New.

Source: Jeff Cavins (as guest on Catholic Answers Live radio)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Jesus Heals The Leper

Scripture Mark 1:39-45
[39] And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
[40] And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, "If you will, you can make me clean."
[41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I will; be clean."
[42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
[43] And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once,
[44] and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."
[45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

Would you expect to see a leper in a village in ancient Israel?
No, because they were social outcasts.
They were exiled and could not go to the Temple.
Lepers are supposed to stay away from crowds and cry out unclean and make themselves distant so they don’t infect anybody else with their disease.

The fact that this leper is with Jesus is a surprise.
Word gets out that Jesus is near.
The leper may have known of what Elisha did – how this prophet healed the servant Naaman who had  leprosy. (2 Kings 5)

One of the most surprising scenes in this story is where Jesus reaching out to touch the leper.
For a Jew, to touch a leper would mean you would be made unclean.
When somebody who is unclean touches somebody who is clean, the clean person in turn becomes unclean ritually speaking.

Now we see something different at work.
A dramatic reversal occurs here with Jesus.
When the leper touches Jesus they become clean.

Something very important is going on in the second part of this story as well.
There is a second reversal in this story

Jesus wanted this healing to be kept quiet but what is the result of people hearing about the healing of the leper?
Jesus and the leper have traded places.

The leper was the outcast. He couldn’t go into the village.
He was the one who couldn’t associate with people.
He was on the outside in the margins, exiled.
Now the exile encounters Christ.
Now Christ becomes the one exiled.
He becomes the outcast and the leper becomes the one who can enter the village.
Jesus has taken his place.

Mark tells us that Jesus wants to take our place.
He wants to take our shame, our pain , our sin and bring us back into community.
To restore us back to the Father.

Source: Tim Gray – audio Bible Study – The Gospel of Mark

Ritual Laws in Leviticus

Scripture – Luke 8:43-44
And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by any one, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment; and immediately her flow of blood ceased.

Some atheists try to mock our faith by quoting Leviticus.
Some of their claims include “why can’t I own a slave or sell my daughter or eat shellfish” in order to suggest that we can pick and choose what in the Bible we should abide by.

Touching lepers, corpses and menstruating women, especially, was thought to defile a person and make that person, too, ritually unclean. More generally, the Jews, especially the Pharisees, believed that they were defiled by any contact at all with a broad category of people defined as "sinners."

To explain what Jesus is doing in these healings of word and touch, Matthew employs a formula citation from Isaiah (see Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:4).
Source: Reading the Old Testament in the New- The Gospel of Matthew – lesson extract –

I recently came across an audio sermon which dealt with this topic quite well
Fr Barron elaborates on the event in Luke 8:43-44 or Matthew 9:20-22, as follows.

Everything they expected was reversed.
Jesus didn’t become unclean, she became clean

By healing her physically, Jesus effectively restores her to full participation in the community.

He is healing her at every possible level.

What is more important?
Jesus thereby implicitly puts an end to the ritual code of the Book of Leviticus.

By reversing the expectation of Leviticus that He be unclean, He is implying the identity of the New Israel (which is the Church) would not be brought about through ritual behaviours but by precisely through contact with Him.

Ancient Israel believed that by following the prescriptions in the Book of Leviticus and many others they would discover who they were.

Jesus is saying it is not in relation to the Book of Leviticus, it is in relation to Me that you will know who you are.

Source: Fr Robert Barron - Word on Fire audio sermon July 2012

Becoming Fit For Worship

Scripture Mark 1:42-44 - Becoming Fit For Worship
And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.
And he (Jesus) sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him, "See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people."

Now from the time I was a kid passages like this one, the healing of a leper, in the Gospel of Mark had been interpreted along these lines.

There aren’t many lepers around today but there are a lot of people that we treat as lepers.
People who are social outcasts and pariahs.
Jesus is welcoming and inclusive toward the leper and so we should be welcoming and inclusive toward the lepers “symbolically speaking” in our society.

Now I have got nothing particularly against that way of reading the passage but I have heard that homily so many times.
I am also pretty sure that is not what a first century Jew would have been thinking about as he read this account in the Gospels or meditated on the Book of Leviticus.

What did it mean for someone in that time?

Leprosy frightened people in ancient times as contagious and mysterious diseases frightened people up until the modern period. But more than this, it rendered somebody unclean, ritually unclean and therefore incapable of engaging in the act of worship. It is not accidental by the way that the person doing the examining the patient in ancient Israel would be a priest.

The Book of Leviticus deals with the issue of leprosy. In chapter 13 we see these elaborate instructions on how a priest should examine someone to determine whether he or she had leprosy.

Why the priest? Well he was the person who was monitoring the whole process of Israelite worship, including the question of who could or couldn’t participate in the Temple worship. So that is the focus it seems to me of this whole question of leprosy.

Now flash forward to Jesus time. We have seen that one of the principle tasks of the Messiah of Israel was to gather the scattered tribes. To call together as one all those who had been scattered by exile, by warfare, by sin, by their own rebellion against God. The Messiah would call Israel together because only a gathered Israel could fulfil its mission of in turn gathering the tribes of the world, to what? The true worship of God.

Another task of the Messiah was to cleanse the Temple. To make Jerusalem again a place of rightly ordered praise and we see when Jesus comes into the city at the climax of His life He does precisely that. He interrupts the false worship in the Temple and He seeks to establish right praise.

Now in light of this it is very instructive to revisit many of the healings of Jesus. Think of the woman with the haemorrhage who had been sick for many years and finally reaches out and touches Jesus tassel and is cured. She isn’t simply complaining about her physical malady. The haemorrhage rendered her ritually unclean and hence unable to worship. Think of the woman who is bent over for many years and Jesus allows her to stand up straight. You see standing up straight was the attitude of worship. Bent over she was unable to give God proper praise. Think of the man in Marks gospel with the withered hand. It was the same problem, someone who is so physically deformed was ritually unclean and so the same is true of the leper.

Everyone knew the restrictions laid out in the Book of Leviticus. When this man begs Jesus for a cure he is not simply concerned about his medical condition. He was an Israelite in exile from the Temple. Hence, he was a very apt symbol of the general condition of scattered exiled wandering Israel. In curing him, Jesus was symbolically speaking gathering the tribes and bringing them back to the worship of the true God. He wasn’t just the marginalised in a generic sense, he was Israel incapable of right worship.

That is why Jesus says to the man after He cures him, “Go, show yourself to the priest”. In other words, go back to the temple from which you have been for so long exiled.
Go back to the place of right worship.

I am now going to propose that symbolically speaking the leper stands here, not so much for the socially ostracised, but for those of us who have wandered away from right worship. Those of us who are no longer able or willing to worship the true God.

What is so important about worship?
To worship is to order the whole of ones life toward the living God, and in doing so become interiorly and exteriorly rightly ordered.
When you worship the true God, you have ordered all the powers in you toward the true God.
You become the person you are meant to be.
Mind, will, imagination, body, energies, passions, everything in you ordered to God now become rightly ordered to each other.
More to it, when all of us worship the true God together, we become among ourselves rightly ordered.
We come together around the common praise of God.
To worship is to signal to oneself what ones life is finally about. When you worship you know what you are about, what you are for.
Worship is nothing that God needs.
God doesn’t need our praise, but it is very much something that we need.

Saint Augustine said “We can uncover the nature of a society very easily by asking this one simple question, “What do the people in the society worship?””
He said, in his great text The City of God, where he examined the Roman culture of his own time. He said that Rome had fallen precisely because it had worshipped the wrong god’s. God’s who were vain and petty and violent. So the people became vain and petty and violent. We become unto like what we worship.

Paul Tillich said the key to understanding a person is to uncover his ultimate concern, which is another way of saying what he worships.

What do you worship?
If it is not the living God, you have wandered into the land of exile.
You have become, in fact, unclean.
We become disordered if we worship pleasure, money, power, honour. The things held up by the culture.

You might say, “the Mass is tedious and boring. It doesn’t speak to me, that is why I stay away from it.”
So what! The Mass is not to entertain you, it is meant to order you.
It is meant to straighten you out. It is meant to cleanse and purify you.
The Mass is the place where Jesus even now continues to gather the Tribes around Him.
The Mass is the place where even now the Temple is cleansed.
The Mass is the place where we become rightly ordered in the presence of God.

Keep that in mind as you meditate upon this man who is now before the Lord and asks to be cleansed.

And God bless you.

Source: Fr Robert Barron – sermon Becoming Fit For Worship

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The birth of Christ - Stable and Signs,

We have all read many times that Our Lord was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, and we may have wondered exactly what these are. I post here an answer to some questions on the birth of Christ, which contains a number of very interesting observations from Pope Benedict.
I take advantage of the occasion to wish you and your loved ones a very happy and holy Christmas and a New Year filled with God’s blessings.


I have three questions on the birth of Christ.

1.    Why do we say he was born in a stable when the Bible doesn’t make any mention of this?


2.    What are swaddling clothes?


3.   And what exactly was the sign announced by the angel of a child wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger?



The birth of Christ has a number of extraordinary aspects and your questions touch on some of these. The first is that the Son of God, the King of Kings, was born in such humble surroundings. Surely God in the flesh should have been born in a palace, a castle, or at least a dignified inn. And he should have been laid in a bed or a cot, not in a manger, a feeding trough for animals.


But God’s ways are not man’s ways, and God clearly wanted it to be that way in order to teach us something. From the humble circumstances of Christ’s birth we learn, in the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that “To become a child in relation to God is the condition for entering the kingdom. For this, we must humble ourselves and become little” (CCC 526).
And from the poverty of the stable we learn that the possession of material wealth, with all its attending comforts, is not as important as the possession of God. Mary and Joseph, while poor in the material sense, were truly rich in having the very Son of God, the King of Kings, in their family.
A Stable?
Returning to your questions, why does Christian tradition, and even the Catechism, say that “Jesus was born in a humble stable” (CCC 525) when nowhere in the Scriptures do we find any explicit mention of it?
Indeed, St Matthew limits himself to saying that “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea” and, significantly, when he tells of the arrival of the magi he says that “going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother” (Mt 2:1, 10).
The reference to a house can be explained by the possibility that after the birth in a stable, Mary and Joseph were finally able to find a house in which they lived at least until the presentation of Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem forty days after his birth.
St Luke doesn’t mention a stable either but he does say that after Jesus’ birth Mary wrapped him in swaddling cloths “and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7).
Since a manger is a feeding trough for animals it has always been assumed that Jesus was born in some sort of stable.
The Manger
Pope Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth – The Infancy Narratives, comments on the significance of the manger:
“The manger is the place where animals find their food. But now, lying in the manger, is he who called himself the true bread come down from heaven, the true nourishment that we need in order to be fully ourselves. This is the food that gives us true life, eternal life. Thus the manger becomes a reference to the table of God, to which we are invited so as to receive the bread of God” (p. 68).
We might add that the name Bethlehem means precisely “house of bread”.
Presence of Animals
But why do we associate the birth of Christ with the actual presence of animals, in particular an ox and an ass?
Pope Benedict XVI, acknowledging that the Gospel makes no mention of animals, writes:
“But prayerful reflection, reading Old and New Testaments in the light of one another, filled this lacuna at a very early stage by pointing to Is 1:3: ‘The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand” (ibid., p. 69).
Swaddling Cloths
And what are swaddling cloths?
In ancient times, as often seen in icons of the nativity scene, the newborn child was customarily wrapped round and round with a narrow band of cloth like a mummy. It was thought this would help the limbs to grow straight.
Pope Benedict comments:
“The child stiffly wrapped in bandages is seen as prefiguring the hour of his death: from the outset, he is the sacrificial victim… The manger, then, was seen as a kind of altar” (ibid., p. 68).
The swaddling cloths can be seen too as a reference to Christ’s kingship and his descent from King Solomon, the son of King David. Solomon, in the book of Wisdom, writes: “I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. For no king has had a different beginning of existence; there is for all mankind one entrance into life, and a common departure” (Wis 7:4-6).
A Sign
Finally, why did the angel say to the shepherds, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).
Certainly a baby lying in a manger would be a sign, since this was most uncommon.
But probably, since the angel mentioned the swaddling cloths specifically, this too must have been part of the sign.
So there is much symbolism and much to be learned from these simple aspects of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.

Can You Spot Yourself at the Manger

 Scripture Luke 2:12

 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

Comment: Can You Spot Yourself at the Manger

Of all the scripture passages that resist interpretation, the infancy narratives must lead the charge.

Somehow we manage to sidestep addressing why the obligatory donkey, ox and camels creep into the scene while they remain obstinately absent from the Gospels accounts. 

As for the number of wise ones, the place of birth and questions of whether there was any flight to Egypt, these are all swept aside as we decide where to place the drummer boy.

Yet maybe there is an invitation here to embrace the beauty and simplicity of the nativity scene. 


Which of the characters depicts us as we prepare for Christmas?

Are you a Joseph, feeling the weight of responsibility? 
    Perhaps you are bewildered by the way events have changed so dramatically during the year. Are you looking for security for those you serve, yet experiencing knock backs and closed doors? Have you settled for something other than what you hoped for despite good planning?

Do you feel like the humble donkey? 
    Have you patiently carried the precious gift of God’s community on a long journey this year? Have you finally arrived, feeling worn out yet at the same time fulfilled, knowing that soon your efforts will be rewarded? Maybe you are a bit like the ox, and circumstances have been thrust upon you.

Suddenly your community has encountered something holy at a time and in a way you could never have anticipated. 

Has it been a year of asking searching questions of yourself and others?

Like the wise ones, have you found yourself on a journey of discovery, searching for enlightenment? 
    Perhaps, at times you have taken the wrong advice, as when the wise ones turned to King Herod. Are you eager to share your gifts with the Lord? The innkeeper and Herod are both notably absent from the nativity scene.

Like the innkeeper, have we needed to shut the door, overcome by the amount of need out there? 
    Or have we shunted new initiatives into some back room, only to have them blossom without any real effort from ourselves? Have we locked Jesus away fearful of what he is calling to birth in our own heart? With King Herod, have we felt threatened by something new? Have we been guilty of stifling a fledgling dream because we perceive it may undermine our own agenda?

Have we confused the truth seekers, the wise ones, giving them mixed messages out of our own insecurity?

Are we a shepherd, transfixed with the wonder of what is happening in our midst? 
    Do we feel unworthy of all the attention or clumsy in our efforts to serve?

Or perhaps we are an angel, confidently sharing the Good News to all that we meet.

And then there is the Mary in us, patiently awaiting the birth of Christ who has already found a home in our heart. 
    Are we eager to bring forth the Word to our needy world, despite the darkness of our surrounds, the perceived inappropriateness of the setting? Do we live in joyful expectation, quietly confident that God’s promise will be fulfilled?

Perhaps we are a little of all these characters.
The star beckons, what will we find on our arrival?

Source: 11 December 2012 | Adult Faith News - Fr John Frauenfelder

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Prodigal Son

Scripture Luke 15:20-24

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.


The prodigal son came home empty-handed.
He had no trophies to show his father, no achievements with which to earn his praise, his welcome and his love.

He was a failure, worse – he was a sinner.

He deserved to be punished and he knew it.

Yet punishment was the last thing he needed. To punish him would be like pouring water on a dying fire.
What happened?

When his father saw his lost son coming towards him, his heart went out to him, and the next minute they were in each others arms.

It is an extraordinary experience to be loved in one’s sinfulness.
Such love is like a breeze to a dying fire, or rain to a parched ground.

Those who have experienced this kind of love know something about the heart of God.

Source: New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies by Flor McCarthy SDB

The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

Multiple commentary provided for this parable.
Insights divided into 4 parts

• Luke 15:1-3, 10-12
• Luke 15:12-16
• Luke 15:17-24
 Luke 15:25-32


Scripture Luke 15:1-3, 10-12

[1] Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.
[2] And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them."
[3] So he told them this parable:
[10] Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents."
[11] And he said, "There was a man who had two sons;
[12] and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.


We are drawn into the story. Why should this be so?
I think it speaks so eloquently of who God is and how we get into right relationship to Him.

Who is God?
How do we get into a right relationship to Him?

It is important to attend to the opening lines of this passage.
We hear that tax collectors and sinners were drawing close to Jesus and that Pharisees and scribes were complaining about this.

Keep those two groups in mind.

Jesus had a magnetic power, especially for those who felt excluded from the love of God.
But He also stirred up resentment, precisely by the very graciousness of His style.
The parable is a portrait of Jesus and of these two groups.
In other words it is a portrait of Divine Love and two typical responses to it.
The response of the sinner and of the self righteously religious.

Lets look at the younger son, who symbolises the sinner.

The one in open rebellion against God. the younger son egregiously insults his father.
How? By demanding his inheritance immediately.
Maybe it doesn't strike us as so negative boy it would have struck a first century listener to the story.
In asking for his inheritance now, the son is basically telling his father "I wish you were dead".
You get your inheritance when the father dies, but to ask for it right now is basically to say I wish you were dead.
Can you hardly imagine a worse way to insult your father than that?

Well that father, oblivious to the insult, gives the son exactly what he wants.
The spiritual symbolism here is quite exact.

Many of us want the gifts of God.
We want existence, life , success, health, love but without a relationship to the giver.

We want those gifts but on our terms.
We want to make them our own possession.
That is why it is so powerful when the younger son says give me my share of the inheritance coming to me.
The Greek work for inheritance means" substance" in a more philosophical way, but it also means money.
The money that I can have and put in my pocket.
You see what he is doing - he is taking the gift of the father and turning it into his own possession.
Give me my share coming to me. Three times he says me, me, me.

But see this will never work spiritually.

Source: Fr Robert Barron

In effect, the father impoverishes himself.
Notably, the son has not told his father what he is going to do with it.
Ostensibly, one could think that the son was looking to simply take responsibility of the family’s goods he would one day receive.
(Though, given the fact that son has basically declared the death of his father, his next actions are not at all surprising).
Yet, instead of sticking around and managing the family estate he has been entrusted with, he takes off with it!

Dr Michael Barber


Scripture Luke 15:12-16

and the younger of them said to his father, `Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything.


These gifts come from a giver. They come from a transcendent source. When we wander away from that source, refusing to acknowledge the source, the gifts dry up.

The divine life only exists in gift form. God is the one who gives and that is precisely why the younger son wanders into a distant country (the cora macra) but in the Greek it means the great emptiness. That is exactly where you wander when you wander away from the source.

We hear that he squandered his wealth.
You see, the goods that you have from God when they are divorced from any relationship to the source they will dry up.
That is basic principle of spiritual physics.

When you grab the gifts from God, when you divorce them from the source, they will dry up.

Next we read, a severe famine struck that country. He hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him out to tend the swine.
What an insult for a Jew by the way. He longed to eat his fill on the pods on which the swine fed. In other words he become himself a pig.
But no one gave him anything.
How beautiful.

He is in the Cora Macra - the great empty place. More to it, a famine breaks out.
That is spiritual language about how we dry up and become lifeless when divorced from God.
In fact we become less than human.
One of the keys friends, is that little line at the end of this section – “but no one gave him anything”.

What land has he wandered into?

The land of calculation, of contract, of tit for tat.
I'll give you something, you give me something back.

But it is not the land of graciousness, of gratuitousness. Ahh that is where his father lives. That is his fathers country.

Source: Fr Robert Barron

Not only does he abandon the family, he squanders what he received from his father on debauchery - i.e., “loose living” (Luke 15:13) and harlots (Luke 15:30).
It is interesting that here sexual immorality is linked with the lack of responsibility to family, but here we need to resist an interesting tangent.

Ultimately, the son finds himself without any money in a foreign land.
To make matters, there’s a famine.
He ends up with nothing.

He joins himself to one of the citizens of the country he is in (Luke 15:15) and ends up feeding his swine (Luke 15:16) - which were of course known as unclean animals (Lev 11:7; Deut 14:8; 1 Macc 1:47; b. B. Qam. 82b).

Even the food of the pigs looks good to him (cf. Luke 15:16).
The man has, in a sense, been reduced to the level of the swine - he is among them, one of the “unclean”.

By working for a foreigner, who in all likelihood does not honor the Sabbath command given to Israel, he is essentially completely cut off from his God, his family and reduced to servitude.
It is important to point out that when the famine comes “no one gave him anything” (Luke 15:16).

In fact, the only person who ever gave him anything was his father - the very person he has rejected.

The son opted for the people in this distant land over him, but now that he has run out of money, they have kicked him to the side of the road - or at least, to serve alongside the pigs.

Source: Dr Michael Barber


Scripture Luke 15:17-24

But when he came to himself he said, `How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants."'

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, `Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to make merry.

Comment (3 insights)

The Father is not a blood-thirsty tyrant whose wrath is appeased by the suffering of Jesus.

He is the loving Father in the story of the Prodigal Son who respects his son’s freedom too much to force him to stay, or to send a posse after him once his sins led him to the brink of despair.

The Prodigal Son walked away in arrogance. He would himself have to travel the road back in humility.

Adam, Eve and all of us walked away in pride. We, their sons and daughters, would have to walk back in humility.
Trouble was, we couldn’t, so deeply had we been wounded by sin.
So God became man and walked the road for us, though it turned out to be the way of the cross.

Perfect humility.
Perfect love.
Perfect suffering.

Relentless and undeterred by every conceivable stumbling block and snare that hell could put in its way.
That is what redeemed us and paid the debt of our sins.

Source: Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

At this point we hear that the man “comes to himself” (eis heauton erchosthai). Here Jesus uses an idiom that is found in non-biblical literature. The phrase here does not quite mean “repentance”. In sum, the man has simply “come to his senses” by realizing that his fathers’ servants are better treated than he is.

He therefore comes up with a plan.
He will go back and beg his father to take him back, not as a son but as one of his hired hands.

We should note this dichotomy between sonship and servanthood, because, as we shall see, it is key in the story.
The son realizes that he has renounced his sonship.
But even the servants of his father are better than he is in his present state.

You Can Go Home Again
He thus comes up with a good spiel, which he hopes will allow him to return to his father’s house. He plans to go to his father and say: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18–19). He sets off for home.
His father, however, sees his son “while he was yet at a distance” (Luke 15:20).

It seems the father has been looking off into the horizon.
The sense one gets is that he was looking, just waiting, to see his son return.
One is reminded of the story in Tobit: “Now Anna sat looking intently down the road for her son. And she caught sight of him coming, and said to his father, ‘Behold, your son is coming, and so is the man who went with him!’” (Tob 11:5–6).

His father’s joy at seeing his son returning is immediately apparent. His acceptance of his son precedes his son’s request for reconciliation - a reminder that we do not need to somehow impress our heavenly Father in order to turn his attention towards us. God is always waiting for us to return to him - He loves us far more than we could ever ask him to love us!

In fact, the son isn’t even able to complete the carefully rehearsed speech he has prepared for his father. He says, “I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (Luke 15:21). Yet before he can finish the last lines of his prepared speech (i.e., “treat me as one of your hired servants”), his father exclaims, “‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found’” (Luke 15:22–24).

The son is not welcomed back into the family because of his own clever speech - in fact, the father takes him back even before he can fully get through it.
This is a reminder that salvation is a grace. As St. Paul says, “. . . no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

Source: Dr Michael Barber

Having hit bottom, he decides to return home. And so it goes, and this is good news with many sinners.
Maybe many people listening (reading) this right now are finding them in this place.
You think you have entered the high life but divorced from God you have dried up.
Maybe you have been down that road for a long time, the path of self indulgence.

Perhaps you have reached bottom like the prodigal son.

Talk to anybody who is in a serious addition to sex, money, drugs, power and that is exactly the land where they have wandered into and they will inevitably hit bottom.

Notice too please, the young man has to decide to return.
God is love, right through. God is gracious love, that's true but this God, because He is gracious love always respects our freedom.
You see without freedom our lives wouldn't really be ours.
God doesn't want puppets. He wants friends.
It is decisive. It is absolutely indispensable in this process.

You have got to muster the freedom, the courage, the energy to turn back.
But here is the thing.
Grace floods in, the moment this happens.

Because all this time the father has been waiting and watching and the moment he sees his son he runs.

How embarrassing that was. An older man in this Jewish culture would sit. People would come to him. For the old man to run was embarrassing.

So our God full of grace. He embraces this young man.
He puts a ring on his finger and a robe on him.
God is lavishing his love.
He wants to bring us back into the circle of His grace and this grace is above all joyful.
It involves celebration.

"I have come to bring you joy and that your joy might be complete" That is what Jesus says and that is the attitude of the Father.
He gives and gives and gives.
All he wants if for us to receive that grace and then become ourselves a conduit of it.

That is what God wants.

Source: Fr Robert Barron


Scripture Luke 15:25-32

"Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, `Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.' But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, `Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!' And he said to him, `Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"


Now we get to the older son. Upon hearing that his brother has returned, the elder son refuses to go into the feast and welcome his brother back. His speech to his father is revealing: “‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’” (Luke 15:29–30).

Notice that elder son describes his relationship with his father in terms of a servant—he, in effect, does not relate to him as a son but as a slave. He “serves”, and “obeys his father’s commandments”. Moreover, the reason for his service is not love but self-interest; he resents his father for not giving him anything. In a sense, the elder son, like the younger son, renounces his sonship for slavery.

He even refuses to identify his brother as his brother (i.e., “this son of yours”) - he cuts himself off from the family. He does not want to feast with his family but with “my friends”.

The father however refuses to cut his son off― ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Just as the father is eager to reconcile with the younger brother, so too he continues to reach out in love to his other son, reminding him of his place in his house.

The elder son may cease to identify himself as a member of the family; the father, however, never ceases to call him “son”.

Source: Dr Michael Barber

But as the party gets underway, the older brother we hear is out in the field.

Remember now the two audiences that Jesus is addressing.
This brother represents the scribes and the Pharisees.
He has stayed, in one sense, close to the father. He is not like his brother who demanded his inheritance now.

He is not like his brother who wandered far away but his attitude reveals that he is very far away indeed spiritually from his father. He might be close to him physically but he hasn't gotten him at all.

He broods with anger and resentment at the party thrown for this wasteful brother of his.
So just as the father went out to meet the younger boy, so he goes out to meet the elder.
Listen to older brother speak. It gives away the whole game.

Look, all these years I have served you and not once did I disobey your orders.
See how little he understands his father. Slaving and obeying are not the responses of one who has fallen in love.

He has not caught the fathers effervescent generosity but rather he construes their relationship as one of contract and calculation, slaving, working, obeying.

This is the religious person who is no fun at all. This is the puritan. The censorious critic. The self righteous Pharisee.
The one who is always sensitive to the illegitimate rewards other people are getting. The one who calculates and measures and weighs. That is the older brother.

Listen now to the father.

My son, you are here with me always. everything I have is yours.
There is the language of grace. If only the brother can hear it. Take the gifts I want you to have. Let them surge through you and become gifts for others and then you would be ready to join in the celebration.

Friends, here is the question - a good Lenten question:
Which brother are you?
Let this story wash over you. Move into the dynamics of the story.

Identify where you are spiritually.
Are you ready to enter in to the rhythm of grace?
Are you ready to respond to this Father who wants nothing more than for you to be fully alive?
If you are you have become a saint.

God bless you.

Source: Fr Robert Barron

Reflection - The scandal of grace

Many of us, if we are honest, will admit to a feeling of empathy with the elder brother of the prodigal son (Lk 15). Here he is, the dutiful son, working hard year after year, doing all his father asks without complaint. "I never once disobeyed you." And for what? His renegade brother turns up after 'swallowing up your property with prostitutes', and is he punished? Not a bit of it. The red carpet is put out, the fatted calf killed and a huge party put on for him. 'Yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends,' he bitterly accuses his father.

In Rembrandt's painting, the elder brother stands with his back to his father. You see his anger, even rage, in his stiff posture, his stern unsmiling look. No way could he join in the 'Welcome back' celebrations for this blackguard of a brother.

His bitterness rises like bile and the image of the good and dutiful son cracks as resentment pours out of him. The unfairness of it. He has worked so hard all these years, sweated his life out, managed the property - and for what? When 'your son'- not, note, 'my brother'- returns after his fun and games, you, our father, welcome him with open arms.

With shocking clarity we see the joyless spirit of this responsible man. Yes, he did his duty, he was the 'good' son, helping his father. And all the while, unknown perhaps even to himself, he harboured a seething resentment. How dare his feckless brother come back, even to be a servant! But worst of all, how could his father open his arms to this wretch of a son? His anger boiled over and now, maybe for the first time, he disobeyed him and refused to join in the celebration, refused to share in the joy of his father.

"He welcomes sinners and eats with them" (Lk 12:2). This complaint of the upright scribes and Pharisees, dutiful keepers of the law, is what triggered off the story of the two sons and their father. The scandal of grace. The scandal of really, warmly, welcoming the sinner. No accusations. No pound of flesh. No punishment. 'Quick!' the father says to the servants. Quick. Don't delay. Don't judge. Quick - make him feel at home. Celebrate.

If we feel for the elder son is it because of an unwanted suspicion that under our veneer of goodness lurks a similar pharisaic persona? Little things give us away; our lack of joy, for example when a colleague gets the promotion we felt was our due. The way we smart when others don't appreciate all we do for them. The resentment that rises up when another is the life and soul of the party while we are left slaving in the kitchen. Whinging and whining, even though it is hidden under our 'lovely' smile, we shrivel and our hearts turn to stone.

Let us take a good look at the elder son this Lent. All the years he lived with this wonderful father and yet did not know him. Are we, with all our years of 'goodness' any better? How well do we know the Father? How well do we know Jesus, the beloved Son who will lead us to him? Can we believe the Father when he tells us, 'All that is mine is yours'? Will we believe him today?

Source: Sister Redempta Twomey is a Columban Sister living in Ireland

Thursday, January 24, 2013

All Religions Are NOT the Same – part 3

Scripture John 18:38

Pilate said to him, "What is truth?" ……


What do you say to people who say "all religions are equal" or "one is not any more true than the other"?
"all religions are equal and all that matters is are you spiritual"

This is how I approach it.

I respond by asking "do you agree there is a difference between 2+2=4 and 2+2=6?"
Do you agree there is a difference there?
Yes, one is right and one is wrong
Or at least you gotta acknowledge that they both can't be right.

Put it real simple .

If you look at Islam, in Sura (or Surah) 5 of the Koran, it says Jesus Christ is not the Son of God
We go to the Bible and the Bible says "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son."

They both can't be right and they both can't be wrong.
One of them has got to be right.
Either He is or He isn't.

The point is "It is absurd to say that faiths that present absolute polar opposites (to each other) concerning the truth (can both be right).

Buddhism says there is no God, there is no (atma) soul.
We say there is a God and there is a soul.
Hindu's also believe there is a soul and the Buddhists don't
Guess what - they both can't be right.

We can go down the list.
Judaism denies Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
We acknowledge He is

What we have to do is get beyond the nonsense like that, using simple terms and then what I like to do is turn the discussion to Jesus.

Because if you are going to be a serious student of religion you cannot avoid Jesus Christ.
(Even if someone makes a flippand comment like "all religions are the same - my comment)

Think about it.
The Hindus acknowledge Him as one of the 125,000 avatars.
Muslims acknowledge Him as number 4 of the 5 Great Prophets
Jews acknowledge that He claimed to be the Messiah. In the Talmud they even acknowledge He performed miracles.
They acknowledge Jesus as a historical person.

In Christianity of course, we claim Him to be God.
We need to examine this man Jesus Christ who changed the world.

He is literally the centre of time for us in the West.
You need to examine this man.

and when you do, as CS Lewis said it in his great book Mere Christianity, although I don't agree with the concept of mere Christianity, he makes a lot of great points.

And the thing about Jesus Christ is this, from a historical perspective Jesus Christ really did live.
The life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a matter of history. It is a historical fact.

We have more evidence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than any other event in all of antiquity. In fact, I argue all other events of antiquity combined.

It is attested to not just in the Gospels but by extra-biblical non Christian sources.
Read Pliny the Younger and Tacitus - both Roman historians
Josephus, a Jewish historian.
You have so many different examples of non Christians.

I mentioned the Talmud.
Even the Jewish folk who didn't believe in Him acknowledge that he did miracles.
They claim He did it by the power of the devil both in the Biblical text and in the Talmud.
But folks when you examine the miracles of what Jesus did they can't be explained.

Source: Tim Staples - Are all religions equal,  Catholic Answers -