Monday, September 17, 2012

Surrender!

Scripture - Mark 14:35-36


And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Comment - Surrender!

Surrender!
Don’t you hate that word?
You should if it means I’m defeated and I give up.

Surrender for a Christian means I am laying down my life for other people.
That is our whole relationship with God.

To lay down our life and love for Him who laid down His life and love for me.
We have got the God of the universe.
If someone says “I am not willing to lay down my life for Jesus”, I think are you stupid?

You are going to die.
We all are.

You can be dust forever
OR
You can surrender to the God of the universe.

When you surrender to Him, He surrenders to you.

Everything you ever wanted or desired, He is the one who created it.
So with God you have everything.
Without God you have nothing.

Source: Surrender! The Life Changing Power of Doing God's Will by Fr Larry Richards.
Text transcribed from his guest appearance on Life on the Rock www.ewtn.com

God Loves You

Scripture:


2 Tim 2:15
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Proverbs 13:4
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Comment

God made you strong to protect the weak.

Think of a coach.
“OK, Coach, what do you want me to do?”

If the coach said:

“I like you just the way you are. Just show up at practice, sit there for 45 minutes and have good thoughts about the game”, you’d say “What sort of coach are you?”

You want a coach to challenge you to be the best and say things like:
“Be at practice everyday”
“Miss practice and you won’t play in the game”
“Do this, this and this”
“Any whinging that you don’t want to do it, then get off the field”

But when it comes to Church, we might hear “God loves you just the way you are”.

God loves us the way we are, but He challenges us to not stay there. He wants us to be the best.

We respond best when we are challenged to be the best we can be.

You can give more!

Source: Surrender! The Life Changing Power of Doing God's Will by Fr Larry Richards.

Text transcribed from his guest appearance on Life on the Rock www.ewtn.com

Eat My Flesh

Scripture John 6


51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world."

52 The Jews quarrelled among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us (his) flesh to eat?"

60 20 Then many of his disciples who were listening said, "This saying is hard; who can accept it?"

63 It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh 22 is of no avail. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

66 As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

67 Jesus then said to the Twelve, "Do you also want to leave?"

Comment

The pronouncement of Jesus being the bread of life, is a critical moment and a turning point in his public mission.

Jesus challenged his listeners by saying that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

That shocking statement was intended, “to disenchant the crowds and especially to push his disciples to make a choice.

In truth many among them, from then, chose to no longer follow him.”

Pope Benedict


Today’s Gospel reading, from the conclusion of John 6, records how dissent from the teachings of Jesus took place in the very first century.

This, revealingly, is the only instance in the Gospels of disciples leaving Jesus over a matter of doctrine.

There is little doubt that St. John, in describing that tense scene, also had in mind Christians of the mid and late first century who struggled to accept the shocking words of the Lord.

It is sometimes tempting to think of the early Christians as a homogenous group of loyal heroes and willing martyrs.

But they, like those of us living in the twenty-first century, struggled with doubts, fears, and temptations.

Fr. James T. O’Connor

http://insightscoop.typepad.com/2004/2012/08/doctrine-dissent-and-the-eucharist.html

Teaching The Faith

Scripture John 6:66


As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.

Comment - Teaching The Faith

We may pray “Yeah Lord, keep my kids in the faith”

You know one of the great struggles of good catholic parents is what happens when your kids become adults and leave the faith.

With this brings a mixture of guilt and questions like “Where did I go wrong?”, “What didn’t I see?”, “Was I not holy enough?”

Now, I want to ask you (Marcus) 5 questions and I want you to answer Yes or No.

• Is there a God?

• Was Christ God?

• Could He perform miracles?

• Was He sinless?

• Did He have a perfect understanding of human nature?

Now a follow up question.

• Could He get most people to follow Him?

And then I look at the parents and go “Who do you think you are?”

We have got to keep that reality, God himself couldn’t get the majority to follow Him.

Source: interview by Marcus Grodi with clinical psychologist Dr Ray Gaurendi on The Journey Home www.ewtn.com

Preacher Jailed for Speaking Out on Marriage

Scripture: Mark 6:17-18


17 zFor it was Herod who had sent and seized John and abound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 zFor John had been saying to Herod, b“It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Comment: “Preacher Jailed for Speaking Out on Marriage”

We celebrated the birth of John the Baptist on 24 June 2012, a great saint and biblical character who led a very difficult life and ministry.

In hindsight, the conflict that led to his demise and death has a strangely modern ring to it: he was jailed by Herod Antipas for speaking out on marriage (Mark 6:17-18). Specifically, John the Baptist held to the principle of one man, one woman, for life—a theology of marriage founded in Scripture (Mal. 2:13-16) and reflected in the Essene movement at Qumran and in the teachings of Our Lord (Matt 19:3-12).

This got him into trouble with the nation’s chief executive, Herod Antipas, whose own views on marriage had evolved: he had wed Herodias, his divorced ex-sister-in-law, who was also his niece. John the Baptist said the marriage was unlawful. Herod invoked executive privilege to have John arrested and detained for expressing his intolerant and partisan views on marriage in public. Eventually, Herod had him beheaded at the request of his wife Herodias’ daughter Salome, who gave a “hot” hip-hop performance for the king and his cabinet that earned her a political favor (Mark 6:14-29).

There is really nothing new under the sun. John the Baptist was a political failure but a great spiritual success, a champion of faith and fortitude who still lives and is praying for us from heaven. The readings for his feast day also provide us hope and encouragement:

Be that as it may, the “desert” also has a spiritual sense. Despite all the glorious things said about John and the remarkable events surrounding his birth, his life was not easy. It was one of self-denial and mortification. It’s true, his preaching was popular and he received public acclaim—for a while. But from a certain perspective, he was a glorious failure, a big flop. His run-in with the government ended badly and his “movement” fell apart, even if there were still a few “fans” left years later (Acts 19:1-3).

But that’s only from one perspective, an external and material one. A certain prophet from Nazareth had a much different evaluation of the success of his ministry: “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist” (Mt 11:11).

Like John, if we speak about God’s truth boldly and continue to point toward Jesus, we are going to provoke opposition in this world from those who don’t want to hear it because it doesn’t suit their agenda. It may mean the loss of income, employment, possession and life. We’ve got to maintain an eternal perspective: God has a plan for each of us that began before our birth and extends beyond our death. The goal is not visible success in this life. It’s covenant fidelity (hesed) toward the one who is greater than us, whose sandals we are not worthy to tie, but nonetheless promises to “raise us up on the last day” (John 6:40).

Source: John Bergsma - http://www.thesacredpage.com/2012/06/preacher-jailed-for-speaking-out-on.html

Surviving The Furnace

Scripture Daniel 3:19-26


Then (king) Nebuchadnez'zar was full of fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he ordered certain mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their mantles, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were cast into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king's order was strict and the furnace very hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnez'zar was astonished and rose up in haste. He said to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered the king, "True, O king." He answered, "But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." Then Nebuchadnez'zar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego came out from the fire.

Comment – Surviving The Furnace
The deathcamp Auschwitz became the killing centre during WWII where the largest numbers of European Jews were murdered by the Nazis. One Christian man who died here became a martyr to the truth of evils of Nazism - a true hero for our time, a saint who lived what he preached, total love toward God and man ...

http://auschwitz.dk/Kolbe.htm


Maximilian Kolbe studied philosophy, theology, mathematics, and physics.

During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations by the Freemasons against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV.

In 1918, Kolbe was ordained a priest. Kolbe left Poland for Japan in 1930, spending six years there.

During the Second World War, he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalan├│w.

On 17 February 1941, he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz as prisoner #16670.

At the end of July 1941, three prisoners disappeared from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter further escape attempts.

"There is no greater love than to give up your life for your friends" (Jn 15, 13).

When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, "My wife! My children!", Maximilian Kolbe who was not one of the 10 chosen to be executed, offered himself to die in the this man’s place. The commander of the concentration camp accepted the exchange.

In the starvation cell, he celebrated Mass each day and sang hymns with the prisoners.

Each time the guards checked on him, he was standing or kneeling in the middle of the cell and looking calmly at those who entered.

After two weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe remained alive. (I understand it is rare to survive more than a week without water – Gary)

He was taken out of the gas chamber only to be put to death by injection.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximilian_Kolbe


Thursday, April 12, 2012

What is Significant About Christ’s Resurrection?

Scripture 1 Corinthians 15:17
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.


Comment
What is significant about Christ’s resurrection?
St Paul said "If Christ has not been raised our faith is in vain"
It couldn't be clearer.

Without the resurrection, Christianity collapses.
Sadly, in recent years too many theologians and spiritual writers have tried to domesticate the resurrection.
"Oh, it just means that the cause of Jesus goes on"
"It just means now we are going to bear His presence to the world"
"It means that we remember Him fondly"
"It means that He has gone to God"

You see, the trouble with this is that those things could be said about any great and admired figure.
The members of the Abraham Lincoln Society could gather and read Lincolns speeches and say "Lincolns spirit goes on"
or even
"We think Lincoln was such a good man that he must be with God"

Well heck, if that is all it means then Christianity falls apart and Christianity devolves into one more cult of personality.
"We remember this hero from the past"

The resurrection is not simply something that happens to the disciples.
It is something that happens to Jesus.

His Father raises Jesus from the dead and He shows himself bodily present to His disciples after His death.

Simply resuscitated?
No, the way Lazarus was or the way the daughter of Jairus was.
No.
Not simply resuscitated and returned to this world.

But Christ is transformed.
He has conquered death.
He now lives through the power of the Father and in the dimension of God but bodily present to His disciples.

I think that is what the resurrection means and that event took the disciples breath away. That event grabbed them by the lapels and shook them and sent them around the world with the message.

When St Paul talks about the Good News, the Gospel, that is what he means first and foremost.
Jesus is bodily risen from the dead.

Everything else in Christian life flows from it.

If Christ has not been raised then his death is the death of a good man.

Tragic. Sad.
Maybe we would write songs about it. Remember it fondly. Wasn't He a good man and done in by evil forces.

But raised from the dead we now see that Jesus is the one who has conquered death.
Raised from the dead we now see that Jesus is the one who has conquered sin.
And if you take those things away you take Christianity away.

That is why the resurrection is the hinge, it is the corner stone of Christian faith.

Source: Fr Robert Barron

The Rosary

Why Pray?

Only with those we talk to or communicate with can we build a relationship. Prayer is building a personal relationship between you and God. The Rosary allows us to enter into that relationship with God – one on one.

The purpose of the Rosary is to help keep in memory certain major events or mysteries in the history of our salvation, and to thank and praise God for them.

The Christian life needs prayer. Prayer is like air to a Christian

What is it?

The word rosary comes from Latin and means a wreath of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Virgin Mary. Each prayer is like a rose so in a sense our Rosary becomes a beautiful bouquet of prayers sent to heaven to Jesus through Mary.

Also known as the Rosary of the Virgin Mary, the Rosary is a very old, very popular and very effective form of meditation. The Rosary has been around for centuries but gained resurgence when God sent Mary to earth in 1917, during the First World War, to appear to three children in Fatima, Portugal. (Note: this Church approved apparition is the only one ever to be prophesised with a specific date and time. It was reported with photographs by anti catholic newspapers O Dia and O Seculo. Not all 70,000 that were in the field that day saw the same thing but neither did those around St Paul experience the same thing on St Pauls life changing Road to Damascus journey - Acts 9:7,27) Mary’s message was to pray the Rosary for peace in the world. Great saints have called the rosary beads a ladder leading up to heaven. It has also been called a chain of hope.

In one sense praying the Rosary is like taking a journey through the Bible, where you concentrate on one of the 4 different stages of Jesus’ life.

Each stage:
1. When He was born,
2. His public ministry,
3. His suffering and death, and
4. His Ascension into Heaven
has 5 mysteries surrounding that stage.

On this journey in pilgrimage you are joined with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, along the Way of Jesus from before He was born to after He ascended into Heaven.


Is it a type of Meditation?

Meditation is an important part of Christian spirituality. The Rosary exercises this spirituality and becomes a true doorway to the depths of the Heart of Christ.

It is not the only form of meditation used within the Church, but the Rosary is one that is simple, takes about 15-20 minutes to complete (one decade or mystery takes only about 3 minutes to pray), is very Biblical, can be practised anywhere and can be practised by anyone (even non catholic Christians pray the Rosary).

To think of it another way, one thing the Rosary does is that it stops you doing everything else. Our lives are filled with distractions – TV, music, computer, sport etc. This is our opportunity to stop and reflect for 15-20 minutes a day. It is your chance to achieve an inner peace for a short time each day and that inner peace will slowly start to change how you live the rest of the day.


Why the Repetition?

Repetition is normal. We like to say important things over and over again, such as “I love you”.

The format and repetition of the Rosary allows us to meditate on a theme. We meditate by focusing on one point/story/theme of the life of Jesus. To get the best out of it you should be in a comfortable position and do your best to remove all distractions and noise. The repetition provides you with a background on which to build your thoughts and reflect on the life of Jesus and how you can relate to him.

When you rush through anything you miss many things and will never get much out of it. Try watching a movie on fast forward and see if you got much out of the movie. The same goes for praying. If a person merely recites the prayers, whether vocally or silently, they’re missing the essence of the Rosary.

If you say the prayers without meditating on the mysteries, the Rosary becomes like a body without a soul.


The meaning behind the Mysteries

We call them mysteries because there is more to them than meets the eye. Praying these mysteries becomes a lot easier and meaningful if you have a picture of the mystery as you begin to meditate on it.

There are different ways to “look” at these mysteries.

One unique feature of Jesus Christ is the repeated promise in Holy Scriptures of his coming. The Messiah of Israel was proclaimed by Old Testament prophets. For example, Jesus is the new Adam, the new King David and the new Moses.

The New Testament needs the Old Testament and so the whole Bible points to Jesus. Scripturally speaking, in each of the mysteries we can find Old Testament prophecies and prefigurements that relate to each event.

For our own lives, we can probably find some connection too in these same mysteries, as Jesus experienced every human suffering so He knows personally what we go through.

Some examples include:
Before He was born there was an attempt on his life,
His mother almost became a single mother,
His family then became refugees,
They were homeless when Mary was due to give birth.
Later in life He was betrayed by a friend,
He was falsely convicted,
His friends ran away, He felt utter abandonment and loneliness.
He was physically assaulted,
Lies were told about Him,
He was humiliated and mocked.

Our God knows what it is like to suffer.

Another way to meditate on the mysteries is seeing how you can apply it to your life. For example Mary was pregnant with Jesus growing inside of her when she visited Elizabeth. Elizabeth felt different once in Mary’s presence. With Jesus inside of us, have we made someone’s day?

Now What?

This is your chance to form a good habit. Remember you don’t need to escape to a mountaintop to meditate.

You may struggle at first but maybe this is because some of the “noise” you currently have in your life is addictive. These addictions are a form of slavery, that you can escape from for just 15 minutes a day proving to yourself that you rule and not the “noise”.

It has been said that if you pick up the Rosary to help you to get rid of a particular sin, one of two things will happen. Either you will give up the sin or give up the Rosary.

You will also find that many issues of the day may invade your thoughts while praying the Rosary. This is normal. As you try to still yourself, hand these issues or problems to God while in prayer and see if an answer comes to you.

Should you expect an instant change? Probably not.

Overtime, the aim is not to pray in a mechanical fashion where the prayer solely a prayer of the mind, but it is where we unite body and soul to make it a prayer of the mind and heart.

You can think of it like this. When you carry the Rosary, it consists of five decades and you may think it won’t make a difference to anybody’s life. There was a boy in the Gospels who carried around five loaves and he may have done this exercise many times, whenever he saw a crowd. When he saw the crowd of 5,000 he thought at least 5 people will get some food. He, like us, thought small. In other words, all my gifting and talents, my education, who I am, plus plus plus come out to five loaves. That's it.

But we have to do Gods maths - all of our talents and gifts equals five plus God is infinity.
Five times X.
That is what we forget.
We don't know the heavenly algebra.
That is the problem.
That is what the disciples had to learn and so do we.

The Rosary is a great place to start learning.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bethlehem - Where Heaven Meets Earth

Scripture
Luke 2:15-16When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Matt 2:1-2[1] Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying,
[2] "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him."

CommentSomething marvellous happened in history and it happened in a cave.
A cave in Bethlehem.

A place where extremes meet.
It is where heaven meets earth.

God comes to make a home in the world and finds himself homeless.
Religion and philosophy come together for the first time
The kings and shepherds kneel down together before a manger in Bethlehem.

Men of different tastes, cultures, lands, education and aspirations all find what they are looking for in the same thing.

The shepherds find their shepherd.
The kings find their king.

It is a story like no other.
The coming of the man called Christ changes everything.

Source: GK Chesterton – The Everlasting Man

Why did Jesus have to go through this terrible ordeal?

Scripture Matthew 16:21
From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.


Comment

Why did Jesus have to go through this terrible ordeal?

What is the meaning of His death?

The question of Jesus death has echoed up and down the centuries.

Let me get at it this way.
Jesus comes as a warrior.

CS Lewis says Jesus came the way He did, a little baby born in a distant outpost of the Roman empire because he was being snuck clandestinely behind enemy lines.

Jesus came as God's own self but entering into a dysfunctional world, a sinful world.

Therefore as He emerged preaching and teaching and performing miracles and radiating the divine presence, He awakened opposition.
We hear that up and down the Gospels from the very beginning.
He's opposed.
Herod tries to stamp Him out and He has to go into exile.
From the minute He appears in the public scene, some cheer, others are opposed to Him.

It comes to His climax of course in the passion.
When you read these great passion narratives in the Gospels, it is as if though all forms of human sin and dysfunction come to meet Him.

We hear for example of the explicit betrayal by Judas.
That you would turn your back on your friend and mentor.

But you also see the more subtle forms of resistance and denial when Peter denies he even know Him and the other disciples fall asleep at His moment of truth.
That sloth in the presence of the good.

You also see the great disorder and injustice of the Sanhedrin.
You see Pontius Pilate who knows the truth but won't follow through on it.
You see the incredible brutality of the Temple guards and the Roman guards as they torture Him and then lead Him out to crucifixion.
You see something even most terrible in those who mock Him even as He hangs dying on this instrument of torture.

It is as though all of human darkness and all of human sin comes out.

It is as though He draws it out by His own goodness and His own perfection and the radiance of His life.

And He's overwhelmed by it. Jesus dies. He really dies.
Not just apparently. Not just as play acting. He dies. Crushed by the evil of the world.

Then in the resurrection, God's love conquers that evil.

He took it on but then in the resurrection what we see when Jesus says shalom to those who had abandoned Him.

He says peace to those who ran from Him, to those who had fallen asleep in His hour of need.
When He says shalom it signals that God's love and forgiveness can swallow up all of the sin of the world.

What you see in the Cross of Jesus is the sin of the world.

The author of life came, Saint Peter said, and you killed Him. That means all is not well with us.
It means you can see in the very wounds of Jesus the dysfunction of the world but now all that sin, all that dysfunction has been swallowed up. It has been conquered by the ever greater forgiveness and love of God.

And that is why in Romans, Paul can say I am certain that neither death not life, nor angels nor principalities... can separate us from the love of God.
Paul knows it because we killed God. We threw all the dysfunction of the world at God and God still loves us.

God can swallow that up in His forgiveness.
That's Christianity.
That's why the Cross of Jesus was necessary.
That's why the Cross of Jesus saves us.
That is why we hold it up on Good Friday and say there is the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world.
We know we are saved.

We are saved precisely through that terrible Cross.

Source: Fr Robert Barron

The Statue Dream in Daniel

The Statue Dream in Daniel 2:31-46
Below are my thoughts about how to interpret the Statue Dream in Daniel 2:31-46 (full scripture text below).

It has been suggested the kingdoms referred to in the text are as follows:



What is the kingdom represented by the Feet?

At the outset the feet represents a joint kingdom of Rome (a carry over from the previous kingdom represented by the legs) and another group represented by the clay.

What does the Bible tell us about clay?

For me to understand the “clay” aspect of the Feet part of the Statue Dream as written in the Bible, I go first and foremost to the Bible to see the context of the word “clay” as found elsewhere in Sacred Scripture.


Gen 2:7
the LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being

Isaiah 64:8
Yet, O LORD, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou art our potter; we are all the work of thy hand.


I consider the Bible is a good starting point to help me understand other parts of the Bible. So in the above two verses “man” is the clay and God, being the potter, created us. Isaiah clarifies the word “clay” to represent the Jewish people.

The theme continues in Daniel

Daniel 2:41 speaks of the clay as the potters clay – within the Biblical context I suggest this refers to the people of God – the Jews of the OT?

[41] And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay …..


When Daniel wrote this it would be fair to say he knew the above verses in Genesis and Isaiah.

It is also no accident that in the dream, all of the above materials are metal that represent kingdoms except the last one which is a poor mixture of iron and clay with the iron being the continuing “leg” kingdom which was Rome.

In Daniel, verse 41 and 43 we read the iron and clay is “a divided kingdom” and “they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.”

So the Romans may form a marriage of convenience for a specific purpose. The Roman kingdom formed a marriage with the Jewish people but it was a marriage that did not last.

If the stone cut out of the mountain in Statues Dream represents Jesus and it is this stone that smashes on the feet of iron and clay then it makes sense to me that this represents the Romans and Jews that joined together to put Jesus to death.

When
* the Stone (Jesus)
* and the feet of iron (Rome – Pilate and his soldiers) and clay (the Jewish leaders)
“clash” at the Crucifixion of Jesus, history was changed for ever.


What happened was the beginning of the end of the Roman empire and the “clay apocalypse” that was predicted in Mark 131-2 came to pass when Rome destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD (the marriage of Iron and Clay was over) and the stone became a great mountain that filled the whole earth, as per Jesus’ instruction in the Great Commission.


Mark.13: 1-2
[1] And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"
[2] And Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down."


The Great Commission
Matthew 28:19
[19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,


Daniel 2: 26-47
[26] The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshaz'zar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?"
[27] Daniel answered the king, "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery which the king has asked,
[28] but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnez'zar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:
[29] To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.
[30] But as for me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living has this mystery been revealed to me, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
[31] "You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.
[32] The head of this image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,
[33] its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
[34] As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it smote the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces;
[35] then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
[36] "This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation.
[37] You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory,
[38] and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the sons of men, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the air, making you rule over them all -- you are the head of gold.
[39] After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
[40] And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
[41] And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the miry clay.
[42] And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
[43] As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.
[44] And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever;
[45] just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure."
[46] Then King Nebuchadnez'zar fell upon his face, and did homage to Daniel, and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.
[47] The king said to Daniel, "Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Made God?

Scripture: Genesis 1.1
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth


Question - If nothing can come from nothing, where did "God" come from?

Extract from the following webpage
If nothing can come from nothing, where did “God” come from?

J. Ray

Dear J. Ray,

The problem of something coming from nothing arises out of realities which require at least three kinds of realities which require a cause for their existence. One, realities that have a beginning; two, realities which are conditioned in their existence (dependent for their existence on something else – the fulfillment of other conditions); and three, realities that are conditioned by time.

I am restricting my comments here to realities which have a beginning. If you are interested in conditioned realities, read chapter three of my book “New Proofs for the Existence of God,” and if you are interested in realities conditioned by time, read chapter five of the same book.

Returning to realities which have a beginning, if a reality – say, our universe – has a beginning, then that beginning point represents the point at which the universe came into existence (including its physical time). Prior to that point the physical universe did not exist – in other words, it was nothing – absolute nothing. Now HERE is where the problem of something coming from nothing appears on the scene. If the universe was truly nothing, and if from nothing only nothing can come, then the universe needs something beyond itself to cause it to exist – to bring it from nothing to something. Without this transcendent cause (Creator), the universe could not bring itself from nothing to something, because it was nothing.

If a reality doesn’t have a beginning, if it is not conditioned in its existence, and if it is not conditioned by time, that reality does not have to have a creator – it does not have to have a cause for its existence, because it was never nothing (as our universe was prior to its beginning) and it was not dependent on anything else for its existence. It is its own existence – indeed, it is existence or being itself. Such a reality is not contradictory – it is, in the words of many philosophers, necessary.

There is nothing in the world of logic that requires every being to have a creator or a cause. The only beings that require a creator or a cause, as I said above, are those which have a beginning, those which are dependent on something else for their existence, and those which are conditioned by time.

Now let’s return to your question. God is defined as a being that does not have a beginning, that is not dependent on anything for its existence, and that is not conditioned by time, and so God does not need a cause. Indeed, if you read chapters three and five of “New Proofs,” you will see that God must exist, because there must exist at least one reality which has no beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.

The short reason for this (which is explained fully in the book) is as follows: if all beings have a beginning, then all beings will have been nothing prior to their beginning, but this means that nothing will ever come into existence. Why? Let’s say our universe is nothing without the existence of a prior reality, but that prior reality is nothing without the existence of another prior reality, and so forth ad infinitum. Then the whole of reality is nothing without prior realities, but we have no end to the prior realities (which are nothing).

In short, the sum total of all the realities which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing without other realities, which are nothing… is NOTHING. Zero added to itself an infinite number of times is zero.

You can read the full explanation in chapters three through five of the book. If you do not have at least one “reality which is NOT nothing prior to a beginning” (like God), then you have no reality at all.

Now it just so happens that there can be ONLY one reality that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything else for its existence, and is not conditioned by time. The proofs for this are in the book, and it will take too long to explain them here. The ultimate conclusion is there has to be AT LEAST one “beginningless being” – and there can be ONLY one “beginningless being” – and this is what we mean by “God.”

Now let’s return to your question – the reason we ask the question “why does the universe have a cause?” or “why do we have to explain how the universe came from nothing to something?” is because there is an increasing amount of evidence from physics, the philosophy of mathematics, and metaphysics that imply and even require that the universe has a BEGINNING. You can see some of this evidence on our Physics FAQ (or chapters one through five of “New Proofs”) – the Borde-Vilenkin-Guth 2003 theorem, entropy, the Borde-Vilenkin 1993 theorem, etc. These questions don’t come up with respect to God because there is not only NO EVIDENCE that God had a beginning, or is dependent on something for its existence, or is conditioned by time. Indeed, as noted above, there must be at least one being – and only one being (i.e. God) – that does not have a beginning, is not dependent on anything for its existence, and is not conditioned by time.

I hope this helps you with your query. If you want a more complete explanation, please read “New Proofs for the Existence of God” or our “Physics FAQ,” available for download at www.magisreasonfaith.org.

Sincerely,

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Luke 10:29-37 - The Good Samaritan

Scripture Luke 10:29-37

[29] But he (a lawyer), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

[30] Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
[31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
[32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
[33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
[34] and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
[35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'
[36] Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
[37] He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."


Comment
When we hear about the story of the Good Samaritan we think it is wonderful parable, it is about the moral life, it is about taking care of those who are suffering, even those who are our natural opponents or enemies.

Certainly, that story does have that moralising sense but the Church Fathers saw something and it is reflected in the Chartre Cathedral window in France which shows the story of the Good Samaritan and the story of the Fall of Man intertwined. They saw something at a deeper level and which is evocative of the great story of Christian faith. What I mean by that, is the story of our fall and of our redemption.

True hero of the parable of the Good Samaritan is Christ, symbolised by this outsider who had compassion.

Let us look at this story in light of this interpretive key.

How’s it begin?

A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

In the literal sense, even today people will tell you that the road to Jericho literally goes down and of course Jerusalem is built on Mount Zion but it is a dangerous twisting road.

In Jesus day it was full of robbers and threats.

Now lets read it spiritually.

This man goes down from Jerusalem.

Jerusalem in the Bible stands for heaven, peace, reconciliation with God. It is the City of the Lord, the Holy City.

He went down from there to Jericho. This is a spiritual symbol of our fall from Grace.

Jerusalem stands for our union with God on the Holy Mountain.

Jericho is the place of perdition, the place of sin.

This wanderer is everyone, all of us who have fallen from grace to sin.

Isn’t it wonderful too – he fell victim to robbers.

Christians, when we walk the path of sin, when we go from Jerusalem to Jericho we are robbed of our spiritual powers, our peace, our sense of purpose, our centeredness. When we walk the path of sin we are robbed of the life that God wants us to have.

More to the point, we are beaten up and left half dead, as this man was.

That is a wonderful spiritual symbol.

What has sin done to us?

It hasn’t killed us spiritually. We haven’t lost our image of God.

We haven’t lost our spiritual powers but we have lost the likeness unto God.

That is to say, we have lost our friendship with God.

Sin has literally beaten us up and left us half dead, unable to save ourselves.

Think of sin here, as a kind of quagmire.

A condition we have fallen into and we can not extricate ourselves from it.

In fact the more you struggle to get out of the quagmire or quicksand, the quicker you go under.

So this is a picture of us, all of us.

Spiritually lost, unable to save ourselves.

Beaten up and left half dead.

What happens next in the parable?

A priest happens to be going down that road and when he saw him he past by on the opposite side.

Likewise, a Levite came by and when he saw him he past by on the opposite side.

The priest and the Levite.

Two officials. Two representatives of the religious establishment of the time.

Important figures. Powerful figures.

Those who embodied for the Jews of Jesus time all that was best in their own tradition.

And they can’t save him!

I want to put the stress on can’t rather than won’t.

I think at the heart of this story is the claim that they can’t save him.

Christians, when we are caught in the grip of sin, we are in the quagmire of our spiritual dysfunction.

What can save us?

Nothing or nobody who is in the same quagmire with us.

If we were up to our neck in quicksand, the one person who can’t help you is the person right next to you who is up to their neck in the quicksand.

A basic intuition of the Bible is we all have sinned.

Saint Paul say that, we all have sinned and fall and short of the glory of God. There is no one righteous. Not one.

That means, we are all caught in the web, in the quagmire of this dysfunction.

I don’t care how exalted a poet you are.

I don’t care how insightful a scientist you are.

I don’t care how bold a social reformer you are.

You can’t save anyone from sin.

GK Chesterton said “we are all in the same boat and we are all sea sick.”

That is the human condition. We are all caught in it.

The fact that the priest and the Levite can’t save this man is symbolic of this fact.

Now is this all bad news?

The fact that the priest and the Levite can’t save this man is symbolic of this fact.

Now is this all bad news?

No, because now comes the saviour.

A Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

This outsider, this half breed.

Of course, the Samaritans were the descendents of those Jews that stayed behind during the exile and intermarried with non Jews.

So they were seen by Jews as second rate, as half breeds.

And this is the one who has compassion and gets down off his beast of burden and cares for the man who is left half dead.

Who is the only who can save us?

No one in the quagmire.

But listen now.

Only someone who is humble enough to into the quagmire with us and yet powerful enough to draw us out of it.

In other words, only that half breed, who is both human and divine.

Low enough to reach us, strong enough to rescue us.

Christians, this is the heart of our faith.

We are all in sin.

No one can save themselves.

We can’t save each other, but yet one comes who is both weak and strong enough, both low and high enough to save us.

And this is symbolised beautifully in this Good Samaritan, this half breed, this outsider.

He is the one who has compassion on him.

All of us are caught in the web of sin. We are all a kind of dysfunctional family. Nobody from within a dysfunctional family can save the family from the dysfunction because they are all too tainted by it. It is only when someone comes from outside of the dysfunctional family that there is a real possibility of resolution. So in our spiritual dysfunction of sin, we need an outsider - Christ, who is both divine and human.

He poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.

That’s terrific.

Oil and wine symbolises the whole sacramental life of the Church.

Oil that is used at Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders

Oil is the sacramental life of the Church, which is a participation in the being and power of Christ.

He pours wine into his wounds. That is the wine of the Eucharist.

When we drink the blood of Christ and we take His life into us.

The sacramental life of the Church is our way of participating in the salvation that Christ offers us.

Isn’t it wonderful how it heals us of our wounds?

What are the wounds of sin?

The darkening of the mind – we don’t see things right.

A weakening of the will – we choose all the wrong things.

Selfishness, violence, hatred.

They are all the wounds of sin.

What do the sacraments of the Church do?

They heal us. Christ pours these in and then He bandages the wounds.

You want to be healed.

Then He lifted him up on his own animal.

That’s a great detail.

He lifts him up and places him on his own beast of burden.

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

What does Christ do?

He bears our burden.

Sin is a kind of burden. It weighs us down.

It keeps us from being fully alive.

We can’t lift it off our own shoulders.

We can’t save ourselves.

But the good news is, this one who is weak and strong enough has lifted us up onto his own beast of burden.

Christ bears our sin.

He bears the weight of our dysfunction and thereby saves us.

He takes away the sin of the world.

There is a wonderful final detail in the story.

Finally, he took out two silver coins and he pays the inn keeper to care for this man.

We speak of Jesus as Saviour.

We also speak of Him as the Redeemer – which comes from a Latin word which means “to buy back”.

Sin is a quagmire. Sin is a sickness. Sin is being wounded. Sin is also “being held for ransom”.

The ransom was paid.

We were imprisoned in sin but now in and through Christ that ransom has been paid.

We have been redeemed.

Bought back. Paid for.

And so in this story He took out two silver coins and He pays the innkeeper, liberating us from sin.

Christians, what sets up this story?

Remember it is the man who asks who is my neighbour?

Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself.

Well who is my neighbour?

In response to that question Jesus tells this story.
In light of this interpretation which I have given, which is a very old one, the neighbour is Christ.

He is the one who has emptied himself out of love for us.

He is the one who put us on His own beast of burden. Who paid us back.

Who emptied Himself that we might have life.

The whole point of the Christian life is to be a neighbour to others as Christ is a neighbour to us.

Everything else is commentary.

God bless you.

Source: Fr Robert Barron audio sermons www.wordonfire.org
Scripture Luke 10:29-37
[29] But he (a lawyer), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

[30] Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
[31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
[32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
[33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
[34] and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
[35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'
[36] Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
[37] He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Comment
15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 10:25-37

The Parable of the Good Samaritan contains the narrative of salvation history, beginning with the Fall of Adam and continuing through the founding of the Church even until the Second Coming of our Saviour and the Day of Judgment.



The following interpretation is based on the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas (Luke 10:29-35).

Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.

A man, this refers to Adam (the name means man). Fell victim to robbers, this is the fall of Adam, which was hastened by the temptation of the evil one. Likewise, all who have sinned since Adam, fall to the temptation of Satan and his wicked angels who are robbers. Adam is said to have fallen as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, for Jerusalem is a symbol of paradise, Jericho a symbol of the fallen world. Jerusalem is a sign of sinless-ness and immortality, Jericho signifies mortality and death. Adam first turned away from God, thus he was unable to resist the temptations of the evil one.


They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

Adam is said to be left half-dead, for our nature was not entirely corrupted by sin, but was left in such a state as to be unable to raise itself to justification before God. Thus, fallen man is not yet dead, but is half-dead.

A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

The Priest and the Levite represent the Law and the Prophets. These came before Christ and were unable to bring salvation. However, they did make man to yearn for a savior, manifesting our sinfulness (for the Law makes man aware of sin), yet unable to heal our wounds. Thus they passed by on the opposite side; for the Old Covenant did not bring man salvation.

But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim,

Notice that the Priest and Levite happened to come upon Adam, they do not proceed to him with intent. The Samaritan, however, came upon him, indicating that he voluntarily approached the victim.

poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them.

The Samaritan, that is Christ, brings that healing which the Priest and Levite could not effect. For the forgiveness of sins comes only from the New Law. Christ poured oil and wine over his wounds, this signifies both softness of mercy (the oil) and sharpness of constraint (the wine). Or oil and wine signify Christ’s union with our humanity (the oil) and his union with the divinity (the wine).

Then he lifted him up on his own animal,

The animal signifies the humanity of Christ, which was an instrument of his divinity. It is by the humanity of Christ that we find salvation.

took him to an inn, and cared for him.

The inn signifies the Church, for none are saved outside the Church of Christ.

The next day

He speaks of the next day referring to his Resurrection, the “day that the Lord hath made.” Christ must make provision for redeemed man, since he was to depart from us and ascend to his Father.

he took out two silver coins

The two silver coins signify the love of God and love of neighbor. Or they signify baptism and the Eucharist.

and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction,

The innkeeper signifies the apostles and their successors.

'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.'

One is said to spend more when he works tirelessly for the faith, even spending his own life in the service of the Gospel. To such a one, Christ will indeed give the reward of eternal life. On my way back, here Christ foretells his Second Coming and the Day of Judgement

Source: http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2010/07/jesus-good-samaritan.html

Luke 10:29-37 - The Good Samaritan

Scripture Luke 10:29-37

[29] But he (a lawyer), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

[30] Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

[31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.

[32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

[33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,

[34] and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

[35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"

[37] He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Comments
Verse 29
Just like a lawyer, he wants all the terms accurately defined so that he will be sure of eternal life. It could be that the question stems from debates about who belongs to Gods people and therefore is an object of neighbourly love.

Verse 31 and 32
It could be that the priest and the Levite were afraid to approach the man because they thought they would be defiled if they touched him.

Verse 33
His love was spontaneous.

Verse 37
The lawyer can’t bring himself to say Samaritan.


Source: St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS

http://www.scborromeo.org



The parable of the Good Samaritan provides us with a beautiful image of how to love others. This love goes beyond feelings and cultural and religious boundaries to reach out to whoever needs care along the way. Recently, the ABC's 'Australian Story' featured a man who suffered from severe depression after witnessing atrocities during war time. He unleashed his pain and anguish on his family and came to believe that his life was no longer worth living. It was in realising that there are people worse off than him that he decided to give his time to supplying groceries to farmers affected by drought. This turned his life around.

The Samaritan story invites us to care for whoever needs our support, no matter who they may be. But underneath this is another story, that to care like this for others is to experience the grace of God in our lives, to know the blessing of being able to give without return, to be able to empathise, to be privileged to serve.

Source: Daily Prayer Online

The prayer of a servant:

My Lord God, I confess that I am the priest and the Levite. Not only did I walk past, I walked away. I was too busy, too frightened, my heart was too cold. In my own abundance, I was too poor in spirit to bear the cost. In my own comfort, I was too complacent to suffer any inconvenience. It was the Samaritan, a man despised and without pride of position or parentage, who was faithful and loving and who gave of himself sacrificially.

Father God, in your mercy, say that it is not too late for me. Another may have borne the burden, but I can go to the inn and sit with the traveler while he heals. I can bathe his wounds and feed him and lighten his spirit until the Good One returns.

Grant me the grace to do that little service with a grateful heart; please stand with me so that I will not walk away and shun the greater service the next time.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner. Amen.

Source: http://newmillenia.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/reflection-on-the-good-samaritan/

Luke 10:29-37 - The Good Samaritan

Scripture Luke 10:29-37

But he (a lawyer), desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."



Reflection on the Gospel of the Good Samaritan

The Parable of the Good Samaritan must be one of the most reflected upon and written about Gospel passages. Yet in our church’s liturgical cycle, we hear it just once in every three years at Sunday Eucharist.

This story of Jesus can be viewed through the lens of an act of kindness, compassion and generosity. Such a response is vital and a constant call on our being. Yet, I believe also that this story calls for a very deep inner conversion of attitude and cultural bias out of which I can define human relationships. We can unwittingly place all sorts of limitations on our relationships.

The Jews and the Samaritans had defined each other on ethic and cultural grounds. They seemed to instinctively know what each other could expect from the other. They had in a real sense ‘boxed’ each other in to a predetermined set of expectations and enmities. In the eyes of a Jew, a Samaritan could not do good.

The parable, as the Word of God is like ‘a two edged sword piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.’(Heb 4:12). It invites me to cut deeply into my own heart and to identify where any prejudice, bias or resistances to love may reside; where I might be unprepared to open up and to be changed by the Word of God.

Perhaps a question for today is

“Who is not my neighbour and why?”

Who are those excluded from my love?

Who are those, whose perceived unacceptable behaviours might irritate me and so I leave them out in the cold? Against whom do I discriminate and why?

The parable in this context also has a societal dimension. At the present time our Australian society is confronted by the continuation of dramatic disadvantage and poverty of our remote indigenous communities. No doubt other countries have their experiences of exclusion and disadvantage. I concur with the recent statement from the Australian Bishops of 7th July 2007, that we need to demand that any community or government response is always “respectful of Indigenous culture and identity.” Institutional racism cannot be acceptable. We as a nation cannot continue to allow a “rejection of difference (that) can lead to that form of cultural annihilation which sociologists have called ‘ethnocide’ and does not tolerate the presence of others except to the extent that they allow themselves to be assimilated into the dominant culture.”

This parable is part of the prophetic tradition of the scriptures, which calls each and every one of us to allow God as the Kind Samaritan to heal our hearts and our minds from all discrimination, prejudice and cultural bias, so that we can receive our neighbours in just relationships and with integrity of heart.

Sr Clare Condon SGS

Source: Good Samaritan Sisters, http://www.goodsams.org.au/spirituality/spirituality.htm

John 14: 2-6 - Jesus is the Way

Scripture John 14: 2-6
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

And you know the way where I am going."

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.


Comment
The Scottish theologian William Barclay explained how Christ walks with us in this way:

Suppose we are in a strange town and we ask for directions. Suppose the person says: “Take the first to the right, and the second to the left. Cross the square, and go past the church, and take the third on the right and the road you want is the fourth road on the left.” If that happens, the chances are we will get lost before we get halfway.

But suppose the person we ask says “Come, I’ll take you there.” In that case that person is to us the way, and we cannot miss it.

That is what Jesus does for us. He not only gives us advice, He takes us by the hand and leads us.

He walks beside us, strengthens us, and guides us every day.

He does not tell us the way, He is the way.



Source: The Trouble With Paris by Mark Sayers

Moses and Amalek - An Icon of the Church

Scripture
Exodus 17:8-13
8 1 At Rephidim, Amalek came and waged war against Israel.
9 Moses, therefore, said to Joshua, "Pick out certain men, and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle. I will be standing on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand."
10 So Joshua did as Moses told him: he engaged Amalek in battle after Moses had climbed to the top of the hill with Aaron and Hur.
11 As long as Moses kept his hands raised up, Israel had the better of the fight, but when he let his hands rest, Amalek had the better of the fight.
12 Moses' hands, however, grew tired; so they put a rock in place for him to sit on. Meanwhile Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset.
13 And Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.

Footnotes
1[8] Amalek: the Amalekites were an aboriginal people of southern Palestine and the Sinai peninsula. Cf Numbers 24:20

Comment

What is blocking a lot of people with their relationship to the church.
The number one problem I have found when talking to people outside the church and trying to get them to think about religion is the problem of religion and violence.

All of this has been exacerbated by the events of September 11, where some religious people performed this great act of violence. It stirred up a very old idea, namely that religion is irrational and therefore violent. If religious people disagree with each other and they can't make good arguments about their point of view, all they can do is fight.

Well, people who are influenced by this view now go back through the Bible and what do they find?
They find lots of examples of violence in the Bible where God seems to be commanding all sorts of terrible things. Many atheists know these passages very well. They can run right to them. Even for people inside the church this is a serious problem.

What do you do with these texts that seem to be pretty dire and pretty violent. God or God's people doing terrible things.

Let me give you one perspective on this.

Here is the principle.

The whole Bible, for a Christian, should be read from the standpoint of the Book of Revelation and I mean now a particular image within the Book of Revelation (Rev 5)

Up in the heavenly court and we see the Scroll which is sealed with seven seals.
The Scroll stands for the Scripture. You might say too it stands for all of history.
It is sealed with seven seals. That means it can't be read yet.
The question is heard then "who will open this Scroll?" and there appears a Lamb, a wounded Lamb and He is able to open the seals. Who is the wounded Lamb, standing as though slain?

That is Christ, the Son of God, the crucified Lord.

The point is, it is in light of the crucified Christ that we properly read the whole Bible. He is the one that opens the seals to the whole of Scripture.
That is why the worst thing you can do is take a passage out of context and say "that is what the Bible says".
The whole of the Bible should be read through the lens of the non-violent, crucified and risen Christ.

With that in mind lets go to a reading in the Book of Exodus that has to do with a battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites.
This is the period where the Israelites are making their way out of Egypt and they are coming toward the Promised Land but they are facing opposition.
It says "in those days Amalek came and waged war against Israel. Moses therefore said to Joshua "pick out certain men and tomorrow go out and engage Amalek in battle".
The passage ends this way "and Joshua mowed down Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword"

A lot of opponents to religion know this passage and say "who is this God who is commanding basically this genocide against the Amalekites. Who are these so called holy people who are engaging in this war?"

Let's read it though in light of the Book of Revelation. Let's read it in light of Christ crucified.

Amalek, like the Philistines, like the Egyptians, like the Assyrians, like the Babylonians, like the Greeks and like the Romans stand in the Bible for all those powers that are arrayed against God.
Don't think of Amalek here primarily as an ancient middle Eastern tribe.
I mean if this is just a story about a skirmish against ancient middle Eastern people, why should we be bothered listening to it.
It is in the Bible precisely because it is teaching us a profound spiritual lesson.

Amalek, like all the other opponents of Israel, stand for hatred, violence, self absorption, racism.
It stands for all those powers that are arrayed against God.

What is the command from God?
You must eliminate this power.
You must engage Amalek in battle and destroy him.
Now you know what comes to mind is in a few books later in the Bible we have the command of Yahweh to Saul to put the ban on, again mind you, the Amalekites.
Putting the ban on someone meant you kill every man, woman, child and animal.

Why is Yahweh mad at Saul? Because Saul didn't put the ban, but kept some of the Amalekites for himself and in fact he kept the king of the Amalekites Agag.
Samuel the prophet comes forward. He's bitterly angry with Saul and then it says he hacked Agag to pieces.

Again, people will say what is this terrible violent text doing in the Bible and why is God it seems countenancing this activity.
Again, you have got to read it in light of the Book of Revelation.
You have got to read it in light of Christ crucified, who opens the Seals.

The Amalekites in that Saul storey stand for the same thing. They stand for all those powers that are arrayed against God.
What is Saul doing in that story?
He is not seriously engaging evil, rather he is playing with it.
You see friends, this is a really important theme.
Very often in our struggle with evil, we play around with it.
We battle it to some degree but then we keep a little bit for ourselves.

That is exactly now symbolically speaking what Saul is doing with Agag the king of the Amalekites. He is keeping a little bit of evil for his own purposes.

I will give you a couple of examples.
Suppose you go to your doctor and he has diagnosed cancer and you go in for surgery.
The doctor afterwards says "Don't worry about it, I got in there and I got about 90% of the cancer out"
Would you be satisfied with that?
Would you be happy with that?
Of course, not. 90%? I want you to eliminate the cancer because the cancer is going to come back.

Suppose a husband came to his wife and says "Honey I love you so much and our marriage is going so well and I want you to know that I am faithful about 85% of the time"
Would she be happy with that?

There are certain forms of evil and disfunction that simply have to be eliminated. They have to be opposed.
Saul put the ban on the Amalekites.
Now read it symbolically.
If it was an ancient story about an old battle, who cares?
But it is about us now.

Suppose somebody is in a 12 Step program struggling with alcoholism and they say to their sponsor "I am doing great I only take one drink a week", would he be happy with that.
No. You have got to eliminate alcohol from your life.
You have to put the ban on it.
You have got to hack it to pieces.

You can't play around with it.

So Israel battling it's enemies. Yahweh commanding Israel to put the ban on their opponents is not a capricious cruel act on the part of God.
It is a profound and sobering spiritual truth.

You see friends, that is the battle of the church up and down the ages.
That is the church's task.
We are the New Israel.
We must battle Amalek up and down the ages, which by the way is precisely what you find in the Book of Exodus.
That mysterious line "Israel must battle Amalek up and down the ages" (Exodus 17:16)

You see why would we be talking about this if it is an ancient middle eastern tribe? Who would care?
We are not battling some ancient middle eastern tribe but we are indeed, we today now, the New Israel we are battling hatred and violence and darkness and self absorption.

And our task must be of that of Moses and Saul, although Saul didn't obey that command.
We must put the ban on it.

With all this mind to look back on this story it starts opening up all sorts of interesting ways.
Moses says to Joshua, "pick out certain men and engage Amalek in battle

Well who are these now?
Think in terms of the church today.
There are certain people who are out there directly involved in the battle. Directly involved in the struggle.
They are battling against injustice, against hatred, against self absorption etc..
People directly involved in the battle.

But then we hear that Moses goes up on the hill and he holds his hands up in prayer and as long as he is holding his arms up the battle goes well.

Who is he?
All those members of the church now who are engaged in prayer.
Who supports the direct battlers, who supports the soldiers in their struggle but all those "prayers" in the church. I mean monks, I mean sisters, I mean priests, and I mean lay people who are dedicated to prayer.

But then we hear that Moses arms grow tired and so Aaron and Hur come along to assist Moses and they hold up his arms so that the battle goes well.
Who are they?

Well, who supports people in their prayer?
Think of all the donors and all the benefactors who make the work of monasteries and convents possible.
Who are these but those who are holding up the arms of the church as it prayers for those directly involved in the battle against Amalek.

You see friends, this is an icon of the church. It is a picture of what we are doing here and now.
So don't be put off by these ancient texts that seem at first blush so problematic especially in our post September 11 world with all this religious violence.
Think of it now in terms of the spiritual struggle.

Friends reread these text in light of the Book of Revelation, in light of the Lamb standing as though slain who opens the seals and then in your own way, according to your gifts and your own state of life enter in to this great struggle against Amalek and God bless you.

Source: Word on Fire - Fr Robert Barron
Sermon 510 - Moses and Amalek - An Icon of the Church