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.

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.
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

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.


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.

* 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."