Tag Archives: devil

April 5. Before the Cross XXI: The power of evil is poured out on Jesus

I think Jesus might be dead… Or extremely close to death. The thought of His lifeless body growing cold terrifies me. Or of struggling to hear if He’s still breathing. Or hearing Him struggling to breathe. He has become nothing but weakness and pain and death. He has united Himself to us, even in our weakness and pain and death, even our oppression and victimhood. If you are united to the oppressed, you share their oppression.
Jesus is completely naked. He is left with nothing hidden, no protection, nothing off limits. His last possession, His final mark of dignity, is stripped from Him. Here He is. The authorities were trying to expose Jesus as a fraud, as a pathetic, weak, failure. What they did instead, was expose the fullness of His love, in giving absolutely everything, absolutely all of Himself, to His wife, the Church. Nothing at all has been held back from His beloved.
His mother is there, in the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, at the foot of the Cross. The blood from Jesus’ feet has run down onto her; she shares His death by her love; if He is bloody, she is bloody. In the icon, we can see the child Jesus: it is the same Jesus and same Mary, when Mary held Him in her arms, and when she stood at the foot of His cross. He is her child.
Why have an icon of Mary in the image, and not just Mary? Because Jesus told us, “Behold, your mother”, and the icon is where we do that. Behold her. She is our mother, the mother of the New Creation in Jesus Christ. And at the foot of the Cross, in her sufferings she is giving birth to us, the Church. Behold your mother: know her and love her.
Behind the cross we have the Church, led by Pope St. John Paul II (the Pope when it was painted, and also a great saint of the cross). The Church is at the foot of the cross, because that is where Jesus is. He gives His life to us on the cross, and that is where we must go to receive it. He unites Himself to us in our sin and suffering, and unites us to Himself in His obedience and glory. He offers Himself and us to the Father, and we must let Him. He unites Himself to us by sharing our death, and we must unite ourselves to Him by sharing His.
Then there are the many crosses. The cross has gone forth through the world, and through it, the sufferings of the world are being united to Jesus and offered to the Father. Through the cross, the sufferings of the world are becoming love, and being borne with the hope of resurrection. The world is being divinised through its suffering.
Jesus is either dead or nearly dead. He is pinned down so He can’t move. He is bleeding all over. He is physically torn apart by His own gravity. He is mocked openly by His enemies. He is stripped naked and put on display. He is annihilated. Evil has won.
But it doesn’t have the last word. This image seems to show Satan’s victory. On the cross we see God fully under evil’s power, but in this, evil is overcome, because He transforms it into His own love. All of the power of evil is poured out on Jesus, and all of it is overcome by being transformed into Jesus’s self-gift.
This post is from Ignatius, an old friend of Agnellus. Ignatius went to Poland for World Youth Day in 2016. This painting is from the Stations of the Cross by Jerzy Duda Grasz at Jasna Gora in Częstochowa, Poland. As Ignatius says, this is not a risen Jesus, but these stations, like Ignatius’ reflection, do end in resurrection. You can find the full pilgrimage of stations here.
I am very grateful to Ignatius for this reflection. There is room for us all before the Cross.
WT.
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11 January: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XLV: The Temptations of Brother Ruffino, 2.

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Yesterday we read how Francis was made aware of Ruffino’s belief that he was damned, and his subsequent misery. We take up the story when Brother Masseo has called Ruffino to visit Francis. Francis emulates the father of the prodigal son and then gives some very earthy advice!

Saint Francis seeing Brother Ruffino coming from afar off, began to cry out: “O thou miserable Brother Ruffino, in whom hast thou believed?” And when Brother Ruffino was come up to him, Saint Francis recounted to him in order all the temptation that he had had of the devil within and without, and showed him clearly that what had appeared to him was the devil and not Christ, and that he ought in no wise to consent unto his promptings. But when the devil should say to thee again: “Thou art damned! do thou answer : Open thy mouth, for I fain would void on thee! and this shall be to thee the sign that he is the devil and not Christ; for as soon as thou shalt give him this answer, he will flee away incontinent.

Moreover by this token shouldst thou have known that he was the devil and not Christ, in that he hardened thy heart to all goodness, the which thing is his own proper office; but Christ, the blessed One, never hardeneth the heart of the faithful, nay, rather he softeneth it, as he saith by the mouth of the prophet: I will take away the stony heart and I will give you a heart of flesh”. (Ezekiel 36:26) Then Brother Ruffino, seeing that Saint Francis told him in order all the manner of his temptation, touched to the heart by his words, began to weep bitterly, and fell down before Saint Francis and humbly confessed his fault in having kept his temptation hidden. And thus he abode altogether consoled and comforted by the admonishments of the holy father, and wholly changed for the better.

Then at the last Saint Francis said unto him: “Go, my little son, and shrive1 thee, and relax not the zeal of thy wonted prayers: and know of a surety that this temptation will bring to thee great profit and consolation, and very shortly shalt thou prove it.” So Brother Ruffino returned to his cell in the wood, and continuing in prayer with many tears, behold the enemy came to him in the form 0f Christ, as to outward semblance, and said to him: “O Brother Ruffino, have I not told thee that thou shouldest not believe the son of Peter Bernardoni, nor shouldest weary thyself in tears and prayers, seeing that thou art damned? What doth it profit thee to afflict thyself while yet alive, and then when thou shalt die thou wilt be damned?” And straightway Brother Ruffino made answer to the devil: “Open thy mouth, for I fain would void on thee.”

1Confess your sins to a priest
End Paper of The Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

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29 March: Maundy Thursday

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The Maundy Thursday stripping of the church:
a haunting sign of all that has been lost,
what chill descends, what void, what restless search,
to grasp what sin has wrecked, what grace has cost.

My God, no less a personage than he –
our Lord himself, Jesus, Beloved One –
was murdered not by their iniquity:
I am the murderer of God’s own Son.

So I am haunted on this night by sorrow
inside a church that ritual denudes.
I mourn tonight God’s death upon the morrow,
yet still, the meaning flies, full truth eludes.

My mind is darkened still by Satan’s lies.
But three nights hence I know: my God will rise.

SJC

[Painting of The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century]

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19 May: The Great Lie.

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Reading for Sext

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3: 27-28)

I loved books as child and read my way through the whole of the children’s library in my local village. As the day of my adult membership came nearer I marked in my mind the books on the adult shelves I was going to read first. I had a mind that loved all things supernatural and as a child read about faeries and goblins and witches; traditional tales of Hans Christian Anderson that still make me weep and sci fi. Oooh I love sci-fi but also classics like Jane Eyre, the Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner.

One book has stayed in my conscience and I recollected it recently after MOAB was dropped by the US in Afghanistan. It was a sci fi story and I cannot remember author or title – not a well-known one, I think – about an Earthman who was called to investigate a growing darkness spreading across the galaxy like a dark finger. All planets in contact with this darkness went utterly mad. He witnessed the madness but could not fathom its cause. It was utterly destructive. In frustration, he went to the Central Planets and awaited the inevitable doom of the people whom he had come to love and respect. He asked them to steel themselves and prepare for the worst, but they ignored him and carried on joyfully and peacefully with their lives, as they had always done. He was tearing his hair out as the darkness consumed one planet after another in the solar system, getting ever nearer this special place. The darkness enveloped the planet, yet nothing happened. No madness, no wars, no mental breakdowns. All went on as before.

Puzzled, he went to talk to the beings who had commissioned his service in the first place and realised what had happened. The inhabitants of the planet immune to the darkness were uninfluenced by the one thing that had destroyed all the other planets. They paid no attention to lies. The darkness was The Great Lie.

Christ calls Satan the Father of All Lies and perhaps the humble sci fi writer from the 1950’s used this as inspiration to suggest to us, in the form of a simple story, to pay no attention whatsoever to what is not truth. To do so means we need to clothe ourselves in Christ, so we may discern truth from lies.

In this era of fake news, tragedy and frightening weapons, maybe we can take heart from these simple, joyful beings who pay no attention to anything that is not of Christ. Oh, yes, we have them living among us – Franciscans! May the force be with you.

CW.

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31 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: VI, Scandal.

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Dear BBB,

There is, of course, an elephant in the room. Has anyone ever said to you something like, ‘Your priests are all child molesters.’ It’s not true of course, but

The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But he that shall scandalise one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:1-6.

It is not just non-Catholics who are scandalised. I once got chatting to a visitor to Saint Thomas’ in Canterbury, totally thrown off balance by learning that his beloved parish priest had been convicted of viewing and storing child pornography on his computer. The institutional church has to regain our trust. 

As a parish minister, working with children, there came a day when I had to submit my name for a police check that I had no record of abusing children. I felt violated that it had come to this. I don’t need to be told that those who suffered abuse from trusted priests and other adults had far more reason to feel violated, but we are one body in Christ. What violates my brother or sister violates me. And if my sister or brother walks away, I am the poorer: if I don’t feel the poorer, something is wrong with me.

You, dear BBB, not only noticed their absence, you drew it to our attention. Thank you.

Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast [the demon] out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:19-21.

It will take time for many to take our message seriously so long as we are not seen to be loving one another.

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Just Say No!

Adam&Eve (391x640)

A homily worth reading!

Just say No

Follow the link to Fr Christopher Shorrock’s wake-up call as we start Lent.

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2 October: Guardian Angels

If it were not Sunday, this would be the feast of the Guardian Angels.

People who are sceptical about angels should bear in mind scientists’ speculation about parallel – or is it intersecting universes? Talk of angels as ‘pure spirits’ and I’m lost; if they exist in some parallel universe, they are almost completely different to us. Almost, but not quite. If, as Jesus tells his disciples, children have guardian angels, they must have ways to relate to their charges.

See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 18:10

Fr Gerald Scriven M.Afr. wrote a series of children’s books, now very dated, about an apprentice guardian angel nicknamed Wopsy. His first posting was to a small boy somewhere in Africa. One sentence struck me as worth sharing today:

Wopsy wasn’t a bit afraid of devils, for whom he had a great contempt, quite out of proportion to his size.

From: Wopsy, Adventures of a Guardian Angel, at http://www.thepelicans.co.uk/mc11.htm

Whether you believe you have a guardian angel or not, pray for the courage to face evil or sin, however it presents itself, and the wisdom to know what to do about it. And thank God for the times you’ve been kept safe in body, mind or spirit, perhaps well against the odds, as humans see things.

For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone. Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk: and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Psalm 90.

And pray that, unlike Cain, (Genesis 4:9) we may be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers or indeed guardians.

MMB.

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Pope Francis talks about the Trinity of Love

 

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The Eucharist is like the “burning bush” in which the Trinity humbly lives and communicates. MMB.

From Pope Francis’s Angelus address, Sunday, 15 June 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, which leads us to contemplate and worship the divine life of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit: a life of communion and perfect love, origin and aim of all the universe and of every creature: God. We recognize in the Trinity the model for the Church, in which we are called to love each other as Jesus loved us. Love is the concrete sign that demonstrates faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And love is the badge of the Christian, as Jesus told us: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). It’s a contradiction to think of Christians who hate. It’s a contradiction. And the devil always seeks this: to make us hate, because he’s always a troublemaker; he doesn’t know love; God is love!

We are all called to witness and proclaim the message that “God is love”, that God mercylogoisn’t far and insensitive to our human affairs. He is close to us, always beside us, walking with us to share our joys and our sorrows, our hopes and our struggles. He loves us very much and for that reason he became man, he came into the world not to condemn it, but so the world would be saved through Jesus (John 3:16-17). And this is the love of God in Jesus, this love that is so difficult to understand but that we feel when we draw close to Jesus. And he always forgives us, he always awaits us, he loves us so much. And we feel the love of Jesus and the love of God.

The Holy Spirit, gift of the Risen Jesus, conveys divine life to us and thus lets us enter into the dynamism of the Trinity, which is a dynamism of love, of communion, of mutual service, of sharing. A person who loves others for the very joy of love is a reflection of the Trinity. A family in which each person loves and helps one another is a reflection of the Trinity. A parish in which each person loves and shares spiritual and material effects is a reflection of the Trinity.

True love is boundless, but it knows how to limit itself, to interact with others, to respect the freedom of others. Every Sunday we go to Mass, we celebrate the Eucharist together and the Eucharist is like the “burning bush” in which the Trinity humbly lives and communicates; for this reason the Church placed the feast of Corpus Domini after that of the Trinity.

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trinity window, Berwick-on-Tweed (610x640)

Were we going to mark the Feast of the Trinity with Love, Hope and Joy, as advocated by T, Alfie and Ajax in their summing up yesterday, or with a head-scratching examination of the doctrine of three Persons in one God as illustrated by this window from Berwick-upon-Tweed parish church?

One night I lay in my bed – I was 11 years old – and worked out the doctrine of the Trinity to my satisfaction. Naturally, come the morning, I’d completely forgotten my train of thought! Forgot it, forget it!

The Trinity is rather an expression of love, as Pope Francis reminds us.

MMB.

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April 11th – Reflections on Freedom and Responsibility IX

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Light and dark on the Devil’s chair, Shropshire. MMB.

St Irenaeus, in the second century, writes this on the relationship between our capacity for freedom and for evil:

The light does not force itself on any man against his will; nor does God constrain a man, if he refuses to accept God’s working.  Therefore, all who revolt from the Father’s light, and who transgress the law of liberty, have removed themselves through their own fault, since they were created free and self-determining [Against Heresies ].

Origen, around the third century, says similarly: ‘It is laid down in the doctrine of the Church that every rational soul is possessed of free choice and will; and that it has to struggle against the devil.’

There is simply no way around it: we cannot possess our freedom by giving free reign to our every desire, no matter how selfish.  Pope Emeritus Benedict has written,

[The human person] is called to greatness, but his freedom can allow the contrary temptation, that of wanting to be great over against God….  Sometimes we feel like saying to God, If you had made man a little less great, then he wouldn’t be so dangerous.  If you hadn’t given him his freedom, then he should not be able to fall so far.  And yet, we don’t quite dare to say it in the end, because at the same time we are grateful that God did put greatness into man.’

 SJC

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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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