Tag Archives: disciples

September 13. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, XI: Forgiveness is a nonsense word if …

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Forgiveness is a nonsense word for anyone unaware of being an oppressor. The risen Lord, with the 5 wounds – at once dead and alive – shows that we cannot obliterate or remove what we have done. God is faithful to himself as Creator and will destroy nothing created, but through the risen Lord restores all things to us again, giving us the second chance – to say yes where we formerly said no. This reality of God to keep the past open gets rid of our delusion that oppressive violence has the last say.

God identifies with the victim through his incarnate reality as pure victim – a mature human being who owns no violence, nor seeks revenge, this union of victim and Father – who knows no death – now becomes our memory and our salvation through the Resurrection. Before ever we become conscious of it we are swallowed up by a world saturated with oppressive victimising.

God is the presence to which all reality is present, giving back our memories of our oppressive living because my whole self is in need of redemption, including my past. My self as it is now is what my past is presently doing. It is not acting, deciding independently of where I have been. I am not just a product of my past, I have the ability through memory and reflection to be prompted to transcend – to take another way. While my past is unalterable – it has happened; how can this set me free?

And last, the rending pain of re-enactment of all that you have done and been; the shame of motives late revealed, and the awareness of things ill-done and done to others’ harm; which once you took for exercise of virtue – T.S. Eliot: Little Gidding II.

Forgiveness cannot be abstract – it brings freedom and the recovery of my past in hope. It is seeing the victim as saviour that is crucial. But how does it work? Every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.

The disciples’ first faith in Jesus had to be transformed – when they met him they left their nets and followed him – after Calvary they went back to their nets, as if Jesus had never happened. It is the stranger on the shore – Jesus as he is, not as they think him to be, who shows the way to real living. He is preparing food, he doesn’t need the fish they’ve brought, but invites them to bring it and share – and it is in the sharing that they recognise him.

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He is calling now as he did then – in between is their history of betrayal. His 3 fold questioning of Peter has found many interpretations, but to see it as highlighting Peter’s 3 fold disowning is to miss the whole point. Peter cannot be free without recovering his past, if he is to be the Peter Jesus sees, and no longer the hesitant and fearful Simon. Recalling memory in this positive way is very different from being made to remember what you’ve done.

Matthew’s Gospel sends them back to Galilee, and from there be sent to the whole world – not to return to fishing – I will make you a fisher of men – it is a promise kept. They go back to their origins to emerge in a new way, as Jesus told Nicodemus. They had started as men of hope and found themselves abandoning and betraying. In seeing this in the light of Jesus risen they experience forgiveness and find themselves trusted again. This highlights conversion as being for the whole self, and not simply starting afresh and trying to do better. Peter realises that his betrayal does not cause God to betray.

But simply recovering my past is not, in itself, an experience of Grace – it can haunt and dismay me. When done in the context of Resurrection there is a new perspective. The Lord who has come back risen still wants me as I am and my love. Simon, do you love me is asked in the context of all that he has done and is an invitation to carry on growing. The recovery of pardoned memory is crucial for moving forward in hope. There is nothing about me that God finds unacceptable, including my sin; since God is faithful to me no matter what.

Before the risen Jesus can be preached to the City that killed him, he needs to be back with those dearest to him, and show their part in his death – they had the greatest hope and so the greatest disillusion. They need to see their part in the violence of his death but within the context of the pure victim – back with them and desiring their company. This didn’t just bring a re-think to the Apostles – they are being evangelised by the pure victim risen, betrayed but never betraying. My connection with him led him to the cross, not so his connection with me. To know the reality of my untruthful living, and not be intimidated by it through the Resurrection, is memory restored in hope.austin

He promised that the Spirit would lead us into all truth, and make clear everything Jesus had said – we are being given both a past and a future in an entirely new way. Forgiveness means seeing the victim as saviour and what I can become as a consequence.

AMcC

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September 6. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, 4: Creation and Christ

Croix Rousse large

We have God totally alive, without violence or death; who has revealed himself as loving humanity so much as to give himself to us so that what is God’s life can be ours for the receiving – to live outside and beyond the culture of death – even now. But he reveals something else as well – God is Creator-God.

We have become accustomed to speak of creation and salvation as two separate realities: first there was creation which happened at the beginning; then the fall from grace in which we fell, needing someone to lift us out; God sent Jesus to save the situation. Looking at this model, it doesn’t look as though Jesus has made much difference; so we struggle and wait hoping finally that we’ll get the visa.

This model does nothing to encourage people to take seriously what they might do to improve things for themselves and others – other than treating symptoms by works of charity and overlooking the cause; seeing Christianity as promoting social progress. The problem with creation-fall-redemption-heaven model is not between redemption and heaven, but in the relationship between creation and heaven. There is a very big difference between a factory that makes cars and a garage that repairs them. If creation and redemption are two different realities it makes it difficult to see a relationship between Creator and Redeemer – in this scenario it’s not clear what God has to do with Jesus.

The Apostolic witness tells us there is a clear relationship, and that to say that God so loved the world that he sent is Son is not sufficient. This certainly reveals God as love but doesn’t show how that love has anything to do with creation. The hints we get from the apostolic group that there is something more are to be found in New Testament passages about the pre-existence of Christ, most notably –

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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made – John.1.1-3.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power – Hebrews 1.1-3.

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live – 1Corinthians 8.6.

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross – Colossians 1.13-20.

We must ask: what was it that enabled the apostolic group to see this, to link creation and salvation in such a way that they come to be seen as the same thing? They weren’t asking questions, they were affirming something they already knew, from the Jesus they knew, that he was in some way involved in creation.

It seems that the Resurrection not only changed their perception of God by removing any remnant of violence, allowing God to be understood as total love, but it also brought a change in perception of God Creator. Jesus didn’t just add salvation to the already existing Jewish understanding of God Creator. The human perception of God as Creator is not a simple concept. There are austinmany accounts of gods creating and Genesis seems to suggest creation not from nothing but from a chaos needing to be ordered. This means that God is responsible not so much for creating everything out of nothing as for producing the order of the world. One of the things the Resurrection actually did was to separate God from any link with the order of this world, which has become a violent order based on death.

A McC

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13 April: Maundy Thursday.

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This evening we have the Eucharist; the Maundy or Mandatum, the servant-king washing the disciples’ feet; and we have Christ going out to the garden and his death. This is a Feast that should remind us of the Church’s mission, to love.

I like this reflection, written in wartime by Father Andrew SDC, which reminds us of this truth about the Church which so often is obscured.

The Church is not an organisation managed by men but an organism indwelt by God, and for that reason you should go to Holy Communion on Sundays and great Festivals if you can. Père Huvelin, Baron von Hügel’s confessor, told him to say a decade of the Rosary every day to keep him in the company of ordinary, simple people in the Church. I am sure it is your duty to go as regularly as you can to Holy Communion to keep yourself in the Body of Christ.

Bad as the world is, ‘God so loved it that he gave’ his blessed Son for it.

Bad as the Church is, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’

Bad as I am, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.’

Those are the three loves of God: the world, the Church, the individual.

God bless and keep you in His tender love.

The  Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge shows Christ the Vine – an image he used on this night (John 15:1-8), bearing fruit, giving us the Eucharist, and reigning now he is lifted up. The Mass is a special celebration in Zambia.

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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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1 March: Ash Wednesday. Where am I going?

alltheway

I am driving purposefully, signalling my intentions to cars around, moving forwards towards…

Hold on…where am I going?

I am going entirely the wrong way!

The trouble was the beginning of the journey was part of a familiar route and I’d gone into automatic pilot. I didn’t need to think about where to turn and why. So when I should have turned left I carried straight on – good for the journey I’d made many times in the past but not at all related to where I had to get to today.

Lent is a time for waking from the dream and more consciously thinking about where we are going. If I carry on this way will I come to a place I really want to get to, or am I simply going with momentum – the draw of the familiar. Which way is my life facing and what will happen if I carry on moving this way? There is a sense for many of us that we fall into a path others determine for us – be that to do with job, lifestyle or the roles we play; and there is often much that is good and true and necessary about this. But is this our all?

John of the Cross wrote of how there is an alternative gravity that draws us deep within our hearts – a gravity that those who heard Jesus responded to intuitively. This gravity draws us into relationship with One leads us into meaningful living; it helps us face our lack of wholeness and our entanglement, but gives us hope of integration and freedom.

The soul feels that she is rushing toward God

as rapidly as a falling stone when nearing its centre…

She knows, too, that she is like a sketch or the first draft of a drawing

and calls out to the one who did this sketch to finish the painting and image.

[The Spiritual Canticle, chapter 13]

Mark’s Gospel summarises Jesus’ Gospel this way:

The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.’

[Mark 1:15].

Repentance carries with it this sense of stopping to consider where we are going; do I really want to continue in this way? Or is there another gravity that draws me? Repentance is about desire and direction, not achievement or arrival. Those who responded to Jesus’ call ‘followed him’; they probably had little sense of where that journey would take them but chose all the same to go where he went. They sensed in their own unease the draw of another, inward gravity.

Where am I going?’

CC.

And a nod to Saint David with our illustration!

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September 2: Algeria VI: Pax et Concordia

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In Deo Pax et Concordia

This postage stamp was issued by Algeria to commemorate an international conference on Saint Augustine. It shows a 4th Century Mosaic from the Roman Port city of Tipasa, some 40 miles from Algiers, a work of art from Augustine’s time.

All those fish recall Chapter 21 of Saint John’s Gospel where the risen Jesus tells the disciples, who have been fishing all night and caught nothing, to try once more, and they haul in 153 big fish.

The mosaic dates from before Islam, when what is now Algeria was part of the Roman Empire. It is clearly Christian, with the ChiRo symbol in the top centre. (It looks like an X with a P, the Greek letters K and R, short for Christ.)

The inscription means: In God may Peace and Concord be what we share.

May Peace and Concord be what we share with each other, with every sister and brother. And may Peace and Concord be a mark of Algeria and her people.

 

 

 

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27th June: Doors come in all shapes and sizes

When we were in Scotland last year, this boat took us to Skye. The bow door opens down to allow vehicles to ‘roll-on, roll-off’ between the two Islands of Skye and Great Britain. The Highlands and Islands were both brave new worlds for me but this was an everyday voyage for the crew and many of the passengers.

When we reached Skye, the bus was waiting to take us on, as promised in the timetable; and so it went on, rain and shine, through the two Kingdoms till we were home again. When people work together they can achieve great blessings and mercies for each other.

Once a crew of experienced boatmen were surprised by a storm; their passenger slept through mercylogoit all. They were worried to death; the passenger calmed the storm. (Mark 4:35-41) Our ferries today are  safe, at least in Europe, but those cockle-shells and inflatables used by refugees in the Mediterranean are much less safe than the disciples’ craft on the Sea of Galilee.

Let us pray for God’s mercy that the storms of famine, war and cruelty may be stilled, allowing these people to stay at home in peace to build up their communities. And let us pray for the wisdom to know how best to help them and the courage to do just that.

 

 

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April 8, Station V: Stay with Us!

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…He walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us…’ [28-32]

We can’t help wishing that Luke would have told us something of what the stranger said as he opened the scriptures to them, but he doesn’t. Instead he has him walking ahead, as if to go on, and the disciples begging him to stay. And that really takes us to the heart of what this Gospel is about. The disciples don’t want the conversation to end, while we may feel we are still waiting for it to begin: and the point being made by Luke is that it is not ‘a conversation’ so much as a process that continues, only in a way that neither they nor we could have expected.

‘So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognised him…’ The conversation continues now not in words but in action. Up until this moment they have been listening to a stranger who has slowly been opening their understanding, and stirring their memories. But it is only when he does something when they are at table with him—he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them—that their eyes are suddenly opened and they recognise him in what he has just done. His presence is revealed, and will always be revealed, in the breaking of the bread, in the celebration of Eucharist.

And significantly, no sooner do they recognise him than he ‘dis-appears’: they no longer see him but they know he is present with them. They had begun to sense his presence while they listened to his Word [Were not our hearts burning within us…?], and now in the action of breaking and sharing bread it dawns on them: he is here, This is my body…Do this…

And just as suddenly as they realise this he ‘dis-appears’, at the very moment when they do see and fully grasp what has happened. And yet they are not in the least disturbed when they can no longer see him, because they now know that though he died he is alive in a new way, and they also have been brought back to life, this new life: seeing with new eyes, and driven by a new energy. And they waste no time: That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem.

What is this like for us today?

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Perhaps there are two lessons—or really one lesson in two stages—that we can learn from this ‘Station’ as we try to connect it with our own experience.

  • Our first need is often to talk and listen to one another, read, discuss, argue…but in the end we want to move to action: what are we going to do? And that could be what would make us press the stranger to stay with us…talk to us a bit more, help us not just to understand but to see a way forward.
  • The stranger does stay, but what he now does is to bring words and action together in a powerful symbolic act—the breaking of the bread—which they recognised, and immediately also recognised him. But there is a crucial difference: they now grasp the meaning of the action and recognise in the breaking of the bread the acting out—or better, the living out—of the Word he had been explaining to them: This is my body, this is what I have done and now do again here for you and with you, so that you may continue to do the same, take this bread/my body and do/live for others as I do for you.

JMcC.

The Rood Screen at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, explicitly links the Cross and the Eucharist. MMB.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caravaggio#/media/File:Caravaggio_-_Cena_in_Emmaus.jpg

 

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April 6, Station III: Our Own Hopes Had Been…

Our Own Hopes Had Been… [19-24]

We now come to the account the two disciples give to ‘the stranger’ of what happened. What the stranger/Jesus is doing is listening to their experience of what happened, and as we listen with him—which is what we try to do at this station—we can become aware of several things.

    • The first is that in pouring out their experience it is clear that they cannot understand it, still less accept that it makes any sense at all. It should not have been allowed. The unspoken question, their cri de coeur, is: Where was God? Why did God allow it to happen?
    • That’s not a million miles from the way we might have experienced it if we had been there. All the more reason then to pause a little longer at this Station.
    • If we pay closer attention to what they say we will surely recognise the Gospel story, only it is not ‘Gospel’/Good News! It is their experience of the story, told from ‘a purely human’ point of view, and it is heavy with the weight of failure and ‘loss of faith’.
      • First, there is the failure of the religious authorities [our chief priests and rulers] to recognise and accept Jesus of Nazareth as the prophet he had shown himself to be: ‘mighty in word and deed before God and all the people’. And not only that: They had delivered him up to be condemned to death.
      • And now they admit to a faltering in their own faith: ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
      • They then go on to talk about something else that has happened, something that seems to have disturbed them even more than the death of Jesus, and which has probably driven them to leave Jerusalem: ‘Some women of our company have amazed us’. They say they have been to the tomb and did not find his body but that they had ‘seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive’. Some others [presumably men!] had gone to check for themselves ‘and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see’.
  • It is at this point that the stranger ‘breaks in’, upbraiding them for their lack of faith, so slow to believe. But before going there we should allow ourselves to be questioned also, and to hear what we might say in reply.

What is this like for us today?

  • How do we try to ‘make sense of’ the crucifixion of Jesus, and of the apparent powerlessness of Jesus—and of God—to prevent it?
    • This is not about theology but faith, about trusting and accepting that God’s power, and way of doing things, is very different from ours.
    • Do we believe/accept that? What difference does it make to the way we actually live, and make decisions?
  • When we talk—argue, complain—about what is happening, or not happening, in the Church today do we hear ourselves like these two disciples, telling it as we see it: needing it to make sense [our kind of sense]; and, of course, finding someone to blame [our chief priests and rulers]?

 JMcC.

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April 5: Station II – Jesus came and walked with them.

Jesus came and walked with them,

but their eyes were held and they did not recognise him… [14-18]

 

Notice what is happening here. These two disciples are totally absorbed in what they’re talking about when they suddenly become aware of someone walking alongside them. They have no idea who this stranger is, and if we are to be with them —and learn with them—it is important that we don’t know either. It’s enough to notice the effect it has on them: they stop talking, and when he asks them what they’ve been talking about, ‘the two stood still, looking sad’. That simple question, asked by a stranger, stops them in their tracks and takes them to a new level of awareness—behind all their words there is a deep sadness, which shows in their faces.

That brief glimpse into what they are feeling, takes them to the heart of what is troubling them; it’s not about the surface detail of all the terrible things that have happened, but about what it all means…or does it mean anything? The stranger’s question strikes home in this way, and for a moment they can only stop talking and be silently aware of the weight of their feelings. It is an invitation to them to tell him what they have been talking about, but he will help them to do that in a deeper way, as they re-live the experience and register its personal emotional impact.

What is this like for us today?

What if a stranger came, clearly interested in what we’re talking about but apparently knowing nothing about what’s been happening—or not happening—in the Church? How would we react/respond?

  • Would we be like these two disciples? They were astonished that anyone could fail to know ‘what has been happening in Jerusalem these past few days’. But before that they are suddenly aware of what they’re feeling—what really matters is not what has happened in Jerusalem but how deeply they have been affected by it: sad, angry, confused, near despair… ‘Where is God?’That may be a place where we can stop too. Before saying any more about what has happened, or what it is that ‘makes us’ sad or angry, or whatever, in the Church: let the stranger’s question put us in touch with ourselves.
  • Where am I in this story [of what is happening in the Church]?
  • And what has happened, or is happening in me, as the story unfolds?
  • Why does it bother me so much? Why does it ‘weigh’ on me in the way it does?

JMcC

Milestone, Forth ad Clyde Canal, MMB.

 

 

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