Tag Archives: covenant

20 August: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXXII. Gatherings of the faithful.

“The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World” is the theme chosen by Pope Francis for the 9th World Meeting of Families.

Families and others from all over the world will gather in Dublin from August 21 – 26, 2018 to celebrate their lives together, to share their experiences from different parts of the world, to reflect on the different challenges they face and to grow together in faith.

As we thank God for our families and pray that this week in Dublin will bring grace to many, here is an extract from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis telling about the Chapter of the Rush Mats, when many friars gathered for a big conference, and attracted many local people who wanted to join in. These pilgrims for World Youth Day in Krakow were not dampened in spirit, rather inspired by the great company they were among.

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No-one was wearing hi-viz jackets to restrict numbers in Saint Francis’s day! Here’s the extract.

They either prayed, or said the office, and bewailed their sins or those of their benefactors, or discoursed concerning the salvation of souls. In the camp were roofs of willows and rush-mats set apart in groups according to the brothers of diverse provinces; and thereby was this chapter called the Chapter of the Rush-mats; their bed was the bare ground, and for such as had it a little straw, their pillows were stones or logs of wood, For the which cause so great devotion towards them was felt by whoso heard or saw, and so great was the fame of their sanctity, that there came many counts, barons, and knights, and other gentle folk, and many country folk, and cardinals and bishops and abbots with many other clergy, for to see this holy gathering, so great and so humble, such as the world had never seen before, of so many holy men together: and chiefest of all they came to see the head and most holy father of that holy band, the which had robbed the world of such fair prey, and gathered together so devout and fair a flock to follow in the foot-steps of the true Shepherd Jesu Christ.

The chapter general being then all assembled, the holy father of all and minister general, Saint Francis, in fervour of spirit set forth the word of God: and preached unto them in a loud voice as the Holy Spirit made him to speak; and as argument of his sermon he set forth unto them these words: “My little children, great things have we promised unto God, much greater far hath God promised unto us, if we observe what we have promised unto Him; and of a surety shall we behold what hath been promised unto us.

Short-lived is the joy of the world; the pain that follows it is everlasting; little are the pains
of this life, but the glory of the other life is infinite.”

And on these words he comforted the brothers and to command hearts into obedience and reverence for Mother Church, and unto brotherly love, to God for all men, and to have patience in adversities of the world, and temperance in purity, to observe modesty and angelic charity and to have peace and concord with God with men and with their own conscience, and love and practice of most holy poverty. 

Frontispiece from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis; pilgrims to World Youth Meeting in Krakow, another big gathering.

 

 

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19 July, What is Theology Saying? XIX: The Eucharist 6, A Call to Simplicity

winchester crucifixWhen Jesus began his ministry he didn’t expect it to lead to this – it wasn’t the goal of his mission. What he challenged us with was totally radical – the way of non-violence, of not needing someone to blame. His death reveals both the compassion of God and the reality of sin. Faced with Jesus, his contemporaries, chosen as hearers of the Word – panicked. The Gospels don’t present the leaders as particularly evil; they used arguments we are still using ourselves – prudence, common sense, self-defence… This is why sin is so appalling, showing how our normal and accepted ways of living are so corrupt that they crucify the innocent – legally.

Some would argue for a proper distinction to be made between religion, politics and social living. Jesus didn’t invite people to be poor, but to be poor in spirit – detached enough from whatever possessions to notice the poor man at the door. There is no love for a hungry person which leaves the person still hungry – it is pointless to show how much is being spent here and there – when the poor remain unfed, unclothed and unhoused. The very point of the Eucharist is to free people from the oppression of such evil. It is naïve to think we help poor people simply by becoming poor ourselves. Our call is to simplicity – simple means uncomplicated, and is not synonymous with easy.

We come to the Eucharist to be involved in ways of everyday living that will bring change. We have the gift of the Sacraments to help us do this. It is easy to miss the point of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by seeing it as a very special ceremony celebrated in but distinct from everyday living. There can be no intimacy with God without seeking the well-being of others – we are told the Second Commandment is like the first; which cautions about eating and drinking unworthily – 1Corinthians 11.27.

Grace is not a commodity God has to give to those who do what they are told to do. In fact, it is not something – it is relationship. It is an invitation to intimacy along with the gift of courage to say yes. Grace cannot be seen but gracefulness can, in heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. We can love our own family to the exclusion of others, likewise for one’s country – but such is not love since love knows nothing of exclusions. Love means openness – no matter who no matter where. See this expressed in the way the local folk in Germany turned out to welcome the migrants. This is Eucharist beyond the table. We relate to God as community, because it is only in community [no matter how small] that relationships happen. We have little experience of covenant relationship with God when so many human hungers go unnoticed.

AMcC

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August 23: K is for Kyle of Lochalsh

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From a junction, yesterday, to the end of the line today! Kyle of Lochalsh station is out of sight to the right of the photograph.

I’m not necessarily in favour of fixed links where ferries used to ply, but they do make life easier. We have the Channel Tunnel between Kent and Calais while Skye has the Skye Bridge linking it to the Scottish mainland. Its echoing of the rainbow when we were there helped reconcile myself to it, as did the fact that the tolls were abolished some years ago. Our plan to walk across from Kyleakin on Skye to Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland were washed out. The rain was fierce, but there was a bus we were not too proud to catch.

The Isle of Skye’s website says that Kyleakin used to be choked with cars, lined up for the ferry; it’s quieter now but still the hotels do good business.

We were amazed by the quantities of baggage carried by the French coach tourists who shared our hotel, and the mistrustful refusal to accept assistance in getting the cases through the automatic lift door. What a burden for the mind! It is good to travel light whether to Skye or beyond the sky.

And I hope I won’t always need a rainbow to remind me of how beautiful the world is. Even those bits of it engineered and built by mere humans can reflect the beauty of God’s creation.

MMB.

 

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15 December: Accept God’s invitation to change.

15th-december

There is an aura of joy about today’s readings; in the first, the people are told to: “Shout for joy” and mourn no more, for salvation was coming.  Isaiah was prophesying about a time when the people had repented and returned to God, and He had forgiven them, making a “Covenant of peace” with them which would never be shaken.  His only requirement was that the people had faith in Him.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus commends John, who had been the “greatest of all the children born of women”, because he had known what God wanted and had not been afraid to preach it.  He had been the person bridging the gap between the Old and New Testaments, showing people the first step of the new order: repentance and baptism.  Yet, those coming after who accepted the teaching of Jesus would be in a greater position than John because they had faith, having learned the truths of the Gospel, and were to benefit from the Sacrifice of the Cross.

The reading ends with a warning to the Pharisees, who had been too proud and too convinced of their righteousness to receive baptism from John. They had not realised that this was how God was leading His people at this time; they were “Thwarting God’s plan”.

Let us pray that we will always be open to change our ideas to do whatever God asks of us.

FMSL

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July 15: Saint Bonaventure

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Saint Bonaventure at St Anthony of Padua, Rye, SX.

Someone should mark the feast of the  Seraphic Doctor, Saint Bonaventure. He is shown above with book and quill and two lamps, no doubt for burning the midnight oil in his studies and writing. His head is bathed in heavenly light, suggesting he is inflamed by the Holy Spirit. In this passage from ‘The Mind’s Journey to God’ he tells us, paradoxically for a researcher, to seek for God not in daylight but in darkness, not in research but in sighs of prayer.

This reminded me of the poet Dylan Thomas, for whom darkness was a creative space, even as a child. He tells us that at day’s end in A Child’s Christmas in Wales, ‘I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.’[1] And remembered, for thirty years.

And so to Bonaventure, writing poetically with many  images:
Christ is both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages. A man should mercylogoturn his full attention to this throne of mercy, and should gaze at him hanging on the cross, full of faith, hope and charity, devoted, full of wonder and joy, marked by gratitude, and open to praise and jubilation. Then such a man will make with Christ a passing-over. Through the branches of the cross he will pass over the Red Sea, leaving Egypt and entering the desert. There he will taste the hidden manna, and rest with Christ in the sepulchre, as if he were dead to things outside. He will experience, as much as is possible for one who is still living, what was promised to the thief who hung beside Christ: Today you will be with me in Paradise.

For this passover to be perfect, we must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. Hence the Apostle says that this mystical wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit.

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervour and glowing love.

 

[1] Dylan Thomas: ‘A Child’s Christmas’, pages not numbered.

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April 18, Jerusalem II: No Tame God.

The prophets insisted that the Temple was the place of God’s presence, not just the national shrine of Israel or Judah. Before a stone could be laid upon a stone, Nathan was sent to forbid David from building a house for the Lord (2 Samuel 7). God wanted it clear that he was the one God, and not to be tamed like a Canaanite god by offering sacrifices to force blessings from his hand; nor was he open to trickery like Zeus, who was taken in by Prometheus’ theft of fire;[1] no, he was:

‘Exodus’ terrifying concept of unbearable beauty and power, God known in the thunderstorm on Mount Sinai, God who warns Aaron not to come within the Holy of Holies improperly dressed, lest he die.’[2]

 

            This God sustained a Covenant relationship with Israel. He it was who took the initiative and sent down fire upon the landmark sacrifices of Abraham’s vigil or Elijah’s watch on Mount Carmel (Genesis 15; 1Kings 18). He would do the same for his fledgling Church at Pentecost, when the disciples were transformed, not destroyed, by fire (Acts 2:3); a few years later the fire of the Spirit was passed to Paul’s ordinand, Timothy, bringing him into the eternal life of the Trinity (2Timothy 1:6–11) .

May our light burn brightly so that our lives may point those we love and those we meet to that eternal life.

           MMB.

[1]    Paul Cartledge: ‘Olympic Self-Sacrifice’, in  ‘History Today’, 50, 10; October 2000,
Paul Cartledge, Olympic Self Sacrifice .
[2]    Mary Douglas: ‘Leviticus as Literature’, Oxford University Press, 1999; p 34.

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3rd March: ‘O that today you would listen to his voice’

Picture Thurs wk 3
Image from thecatholiccatalogue.com

(Jeremiah 7:23-28, Psalm 94, Luke 11:14-23)

God is calling the Israelites a stubborn nation. A nation that he calls his own. A nation that he LOVES and gave away other nations so as to keep it. We can recall the wonders that He worked in the land of Egypt for the sake of the Israelites. God is telling them “Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people”. Think of how it feels when you are telling someone that you so much love to please listen to you. Instead, you are being wrongly accused, as they are accusing Christ in the gospel reading today, of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul.

What is that can make us turn our backs on God? Romans 8: 35 says: ‘Who shall separate us from the Love of God? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, or hungry, or destitute, or danger, or when we are threatened with death?’

God is able to shoulder our problems with us and make our burden light if only we are able to listen to his words today. The Psalmist is telling us” O that you today, you would listen to his voice! “Harden not your hearts”. If we listen to his voice today, we will hear Him calling us in different ways, for He wants us to GATHER with Him and not to SCATTER.

May God give us the graces of inward listening so as to hear Him and respond to Him for He Loves us more than we can imagine. May our Lady, the first woman to hear the call of God and respond without looking back pray for us and work with us in this journey of life. Amen.

FMSL

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March 2nd: Called by Love, for Love

Picture Wed 2nd March

(Image from quotesgram.com)

 

(Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9), (Matthew 5:17-23)
With the journey from Egypt completed, Moses makes his farewell speech. Forbidden to enter Caanan himself, he encourages the people to occupy the land God had promised long before and prepares them for their new life by reminding them of God’s laws and renewing the covenant.  Moses urges Israel to obey God’s law.(Deuteronomy 4:1-14). The law is God’s regulation of the life of God’s people, affecting their relationship with Him and with each other.The book of Deuteronomy (meaning ”second law”) is all about the people’s relationship with God. God and His people are bound together not just by a treaty but by love.

Love led God to choose the children of Israel, rescue them and bring them to the Promised Land.  The people of Israel are called to love God in return and to show their love for one another through obedience to the detailed laws governing every aspect of life.
Love led God to give His only begotten Son to save the world.(John 3:16). God calls us again through Jesus, Who is the fulfilment of all the laws and prophecies, to be in loving relationship with Him: ‘

“As the Father has loved me so I have loved you. Now remain in my love (John 15:9). If you love me you will obey what I command. (John 14:15). My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”’ (John 15:12)

Love and obedience are inseparable, like two faces of a coin. ”LOVE” is the deepest expression of God’s nature.  God’s love is fully revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Jesus, the face of the Father’s merciful love, breaks Himself on the altar at each Holy Eucharist.  The All-powerful God becomes vulnerable out of love for us. Because of this, at each Holy Communion we can experience God’s presence in our hearts.

How can we better care for Him in our hearts during this holy season?

FMSL

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17th February: The Wedding Feast: I.

Adrian and Carolyn get Married.

Marriages, throughout history, have been celebratory. In the Old Testament we read of lavish post-wedding parties and celebrations lasting a week, or even longer. Indeed today, if we press someone to describe a recent wedding they attended, more often they speak of the reception rather than the ceremony or ritual marking the couple’s union.

The bride and groom have always been the stars of the ancient wedding feasts, and this holds true for modern wedding receptions. The happiness of the married couple is apparent to all in attendance. The event is a celebration marking the beginning of a long and blissful life together. The parents of both the bride and groom are bursting with joy and pride, happy the bridal couple have been joined, and for the prospects of the couple to be together forever. And, all those invited, rejoice in the happiness of the bride and groom, and their families.

And, so it will be at the close of the age, of which St. John to wrote, “Blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” The blessed will celebrate Christ claiming the Church as his bride, to live happily together for all of eternity.

God calls us to both celebrate marriage and to honour the covenant made between man and woman to live the rest of their lives happily together. This is yet another example of man being made in God’s image; our marriages are modelled after the marriage of Christ and his Church.

DW.

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8th February: The Temple of God’s Presence

 

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Image from http://www.animamusic.co.uk/catalogue/temple-of-the-heart

We all enjoy celebrations, times when we rejoice at something good.  During celebrations, despite our problems and difficulties, we celebrate the good and look to the future with hope.

The Hebrews had a lot to celebrate. Today’s reading, 1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13, telling how the Ark, containing the Tablets of the Law, was brought into a temple built for it, was a celebration of God’s love for them, the people He brought out of slavery and chose as His own out of all the nations.  The temple would be a sign of God’s presence, a focus for their worship and sacrifices. This sign of God’s presence helped their faith.

In the Gospel, Mark 6:53-56, we see a different picture.  Times were bad again; the Hebrews were now oppressed by the Romans.  Their only hope was that God had promised, through the prophets, to send His Anointed One. They believed this Anointed One was Jesus of Nazareth, who had now come to this very shore.  Jesus would be the new sign of God’s presence, the new temple. He related to them in a personal way, teaching them about God, showing that He was the fulfilment of the Law, and healing their diseases. They delighted in and celebrated His presence, just as their ancestors had celebrated the Ark coming to the temple. Jesus was to become the Sacrifice of the new temple.

In 1 Kings, the Word of God was present in the two tablets of the Law.  In Mark, he was present as the Word made Flesh. He promises to be even closer to us today: The Word made Flesh wants to become flesh in our hearts through the faith of those who believe in Him.  He promises to be with us always, to the end of time. Surely this is the best reason of all to celebrate.

FMSL

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