Tag Archives: Faith

23 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VI.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 6 Walking humbly in the way

Micah 6:6-8
Philippians 2:5-11

Commentary

Scripture reminds us that we cannot separate our love for God from our love for others. We love God when we feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner. When we care for and serve “one of the least of these,” we are caring for and serving Christ himself.

But we are called to go beyond giving or serving from a position of power, where we maintain our status above the person to whom we are ministering. How are we to emulate Jesus who, though he was Lord of all, became truly the servant of all? What is power, and how are we to use it and to share it in the work of God?

God calls us to honour the sacredness and dignity of each member of God’s family. Caring for, serving and loving others reveals not who they are, but who we are. As Christians, we must be unified in our responsibility to love and care for others, as we are cared for and loved by God. In so doing, we live out our shared faith through our actions in service to the world and we find our true calling as servants of the Servant King.

Reflection

Yours are the power and the glory. 
Yet we see your greatest greatness when you stoop to serve. 
Creator, give us the power to be powerless 
and bestow on us the dignity
of the servant rich in love.

Prayer

Lord of the power and the glory, 
you became for us the servant of all. 
Show us the power and the glory of servanthood
and enable us to minister to your world
according to its needs and our abilities.

Questions

Where in your personal life could you bring blessing by yielding power?

How could the churches in your community share power to become more effective in service?

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A Christmas message from Pope Francis and the Synod.

General Secretariat of the Synod
www.synod.va – media@synod.vaView this email in your browser
Buon Natale!  Merry Christmas!  ¡Feliz Navidad! 
Joyeux Noël !  Feliz Natal!


« …Christmas reminds us that a faith that does not trouble us is a troubled faith.
A faith that does not make us grow is a faith that needs to grow.
A faith that does not raise questions is a faith that has to be questioned.
A faith that does not rouse us is a faith that needs to be roused.
A faith that does not shake us is a faith that needs to be shaken.

Indeed, a faith which is only intellectual or lukewarm is only a notion of faith.
It can become real once it touches our heart, our soul, our spirit and our whole being.
Once it allows God to be born and reborn in the manger of our heart.
Once we let the star of Bethlehem guide us to the place where the Son of God lies,
not among Kings and riches, but among the poor and humble. ».

(Pope Francis, Address to the Roman Curia 2017)

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A chance to learn more about the synod.

We have just received this flyer from the Synod Office. It might be worth investigating the course just to hear Cardinal Grech.

General Secretariat for the Synod
www.synod.va – media@synod.vaView this email in your browser

NEWS RELEASE – 16.12.2022  ESP – FRA – ITA  – POROriginal: ITALIAN
Registration now open for the Multilingual Course on Synodality promoted by the Evangelii Gaudium Centre 
It is with a first introductory lecture entrusted to Cardinal Mario Grech, Secretary General of the Synod, on 17 January 2023 that the multilingual course on synodality promoted by the Evangelii Gaudium Centre of the Sophia University Institute will begin.
 
The course, realised in collaboration with the General Secretariat of the Synod, will consist of four stages: three academic modules and a residential meeting. They will deal with topics related to the synodal process: what is synodality? Is it in line with what is expressed in the Magisterium of the Church and Canon Law? How is it possible to live it in the Church?
 
Addressed to the entire People of God (from bishops to pastoral workers, from priests to consecrated men and women, from seminarians to lay people), the course aims to offer a wide-ranging theological and pastoral preparation with the objective of providing the Christian community with a model for the communal exercise of Christian thinking and acting. The lectures will be held on the ZOOM platform.
 
It is possible to register for the entire course or for a single module. The lessons will be held in Italian, with simultaneous translation into Spanish, Portuguese and English.
 
The course is also aimed at members of the same community (parish, association, friends,..) who will thus be able to gain direct experience of the method of listening, dialogue and discernment at the basis of the Synodal Church.
 
For information and registration contact:
ceg@sophiauniversity.org  
https://www.sophiauniversity.org/it/centro-evangelii-gaudium  
 
Registration
Those who intend to register for the entire course must do so by 15 January 2023. Those wishing to follow one or more modules, on the other hand, have a deadline of:
 4 February for the 1st Module;4 March for the 2nd Module;6 May for the 3rd Module.Links to register:
https://forms.gle/xb1SmD5mYW3zTo1A6

FLYER in  ENG – ESP – ITA – PORCopyright  2022 General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
General Secretariat for the Synod of BishopsVia della Conciliazione, 34Vatican City 00120Vatican City State (Holy See)

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4 December, Advent Light V: In the beginning.

It’s a while since we heard from Fr James Kurzynski, the astronomer and parish priest, scientist and theologian. He’s been reading Pope Benedict and reflects on his reading in this article.

This extract is from the beginning; do follow the link for a most interesting lead.

Reflecting on Genesis 1:20-24, Benedict XVI (writing then as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) begins with a beautiful summary of two, core realisations about the Creation narratives and the Church’s authentic understanding of them.*

We can sum up the first in this way: As Christians we read Holy Scripture with Christ. He is our guide all the way through it. He indicates to us in reliable fashion what an image is and where the real, enduring content of a biblical expression may be found. At the same time he is freedom from a false slavery to literalism and a guarantee of the solid, realistic truth of the Bible, which does not dissipate into a cloud of pious pleasantries but remains the sure ground upon which we can stand. Our second realisation was this: Faith in creation is reasonable. Even if reason itself cannot perhaps give an account of it, it searches in faith and finds there the answer that it had been looking for.

*In the Beginning.: A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Eerdmans New York, 1995, p21.

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25 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, Part II

Yesterday we were reflecting on Luke 9:18f. If you weren’t here, please scroll back and have a look the reflections so that today’s will make more sense to you.

In Luke 9: 18 and following Jesus was praying, and when he stops, he asks the disciples who the crowds think he is. We’re pondering this in light of the fact that in this question Jesus probably wants the disciples to articulate an answer – mainly for their own instruction, rather than his. Given yesterday’s reflections, I now imagine that Jesus already had a pretty good idea of the opinions that were in circulation about him, but let’s listen to what the disciples tell Jesus: ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others again, one of the ancient prophets come back to life’ (Lk 9:19). Did the disciples give an accurate report? Who knows. The disciples only tell Jesus the opinions that were favourable. Were less favourable opinions being circulated as well? Almost certainly. But, even if the disciples had perceived Jesus’ crowd-appeal correctly, crowds are notoriously fickle; maintaining popularity for any length of time is nearly impossible, as subsequent events would overwhelmingly demonstrate. This was something Jesus knew far better than the disciples did. But the disciples have answered Jesus’ question, and now he has another for them – a question which is more closely linked to his first question than I had previously realised.

‘And you, who do you say that I am?’ Peter speaks for all in his answer. “You are the Christ.” That this opinion was shared by the Twelve is borne out by the fact that not one of the Twelve contradicts Peter – and other gospel passages show that the disciples were certainly capable of breaking into an argument, even at the most solemn moments, had they disagreed with Peter. So: excellent. They have grasped Jesus’ true identity. Perhaps it was only in that very moment that this truth comes home to all of them, we don’t know. But it does come home, and Peter voices this for all. Jesus, in other gospel accounts of this episode, is moved by Peter’s courage and perception, and praises him. But more is at stake here even than Peter’s superb answer to Jesus’ question.

In other gospels, Jesus moves quickly into a prophecy of his passion – and Peter, voicing what all the disciples would feel, is horrified, and tries to talk Jesus out of the whole thing. We know how Jesus responds to Peter: he seems shaken, and very sternly calls Peter ‘Satan,’ and commands him to ‘get behind’ him. But, once again, this is about the disciples – indeed, it is about discipleship. We just heard what the Twelve think the crowd thinks of Jesus. Now, the question that is of supreme importance for them is this: are they capable of being faithful to this astonishing truth of Jesus’ divinity in the face of a public whose opinion about Jesus’ identity is favourable enough, but nowhere near as radical as their own? The disciples had sussed the un-heard-of and shocking, even frightening truth about Jesus himself – that he, a man, was the Christ of God. It is now possible to see that there is yet another question that Jesus doesn’t ask, but that hangs in the air over everyone’s head, which is this: “What would the crowds say about you if they knew what you thought of me?”

We’re not quite finished with this passage, but this seems to be a good place to stop and pray. Tomorrow we will conclude our reflection.


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October 27: Dylan’s Birthday

The view from Dylan Thomas’s study, Laugharne.

There was nothing God ever made that Dylan Thomas, the revolutionary, wanted to alter. The careful compounder of explosive imagery believed only in calm … The true tragedy of Dylan Thomas’s death is that he died. Everything else is secondary to that … He had the faculty of immediacy, of making everything present, and of becoming a part of people’s lives almost before he knew them; how much more did he do this when he knew them well.

Vernon Watkins on Dylan Thomas, from Tenby Museum and Art Gallery.

Vernon Watkins was a friend of Dylan Thomas from boyhood, when they encouraged each other’s writing. Watkins saw the man struggling beneath the chaos of Dylan’s life and remained his friend : even after Dylan failed to appear for Vernon’s wedding, when he was chosen as best man.

‘He had the faculty of … making everything present’, as we can gather for ourselves as we read his work. In Elegy he confidingly brings us to the bedside of his dying father, and shares the thoughts coursing through his mind as he keeps vigil, night and day, holding the hand of that cold kind man. Dylan’s faith that his father may grow young again and never lie lost drives the poem. It is truly a love poem.

Elegy

Too proud to die; broken and blind he died
The darkest way, and did not turn away,
A cold kind man brave in his narrow pride

On that darkest day, Oh, forever may
He lie lightly, at last, on the last, crossed
Hill, under the grass, in love, and there grow

Young among the long flocks, and never lie lost
Or still all the numberless days of his death, though
Above all he longed for his mother’s breast

Which was rest and dust, and in the kind ground
The darkest justice of death, blind and unblessed.
Let him find no rest but be fathered and found,

I prayed in the crouching room, by his blind bed,
In the muted house, one minute before
Noon, and night, and light. the rivers of the dead

Veined his poor hand I held, and I saw
Through his unseeing eyes to the roots of the sea.
(An old tormented man three-quarters blind,

I am not too proud to cry that He and he
Will never never go out of my mind.
All his bones crying, and poor in all but pain,

Being innocent, he dreaded that he died
Hating his God, but what he was was plain:
An old kind man brave in his burning pride.

The sticks of the house were his; his books he owned.
Even as a baby he had never cried;
Nor did he now, save to his secret wound.

Out of his eyes I saw the last light glide.
Here among the liught of the lording sky
An old man is with me where I go

Walking in the meadows of his son’s eye
On whom a world of ills came down like snow.
He cried as he died, fearing at last the spheres’

Last sound, the world going out without a breath:
Too proud to cry, too frail to check the tears,
And caught between two nights, blindness and death.

O deepest wound of all that he should die
On that darkest day. oh, he could hide
The tears out of his eyes, too proud to cry.

Until I die he will not leave my side.)

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20 October: Realities that are Unseen, IV.

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

As I ponder this wonderful line from the Letter to the Hebrews and dwell with it, I begin to relearn what faith is about, what the word means.  I think back to the time in my life when faith came alive for me.  It happened over a period of some months when I was a very young adult.  There were stages to this, and the first was that it gradually came home to me that I didn’t know whether I believed in God or not – indeed, I wasn’t even sure what it meant to say that I was a Christian.  I saw that although I was attending church on Sundays I did so only because as an infant I had been carried to church, and ever since then I had not been given a choice in the matter.  But I could see clearly by that time that this was not good enough.  ‘Either figure out what this church business is all about,’ I said to myself, ‘or give it up.  But don’t go on like this, going to church as if you were a believer when you are actually clueless.’   So I decided to give my religion one last chance.  (Actually, I had never even given it a first chance, but in my habitual arrogance I was not really thinking clearly).  Thus the second stage in my relationship to faith began: I undertook to study the tenets of Catholic belief and to find out what it really meant to be a Christian.  

I can see now that this undertaking was itself prompted by God because otherwise it wouldn’t even have occurred to me: there was little true religious belief present in my heart.  Indeed, my ‘faith’ at that time, was faith in the mores and (false) promises of fulfilment offered by our secular culture.  My faith was also faith in myself, rather than in God.  But there was at least a pinch of true faith mixed in with the false; I did, after all, give some sort of homage to the idea that ‘this church business’ might have something worthwhile to offer and I would do well to have a look and see if I could find it.  But, at bottom, I must confess, I thought that my study would end with me dusting off my hands and becoming a completely secular non-believer, pursuing, as did so many of my peers, the allurements of pleasure and materialism which popular culture’s media-driven propaganda constantly advertised.  

But the Lord had something else in mind, clearly, and he who takes the initiative in love, also responds to our smallest overture (and my overture was extremely small) with an overwhelming display of love.   As my study of Christianity continued, some of my smug self-reliance began to give way.  I began to face how deeply needy I was on the spiritual level, and how much I needed God.  And this, in turn, led me into to a deep interior relationship with the Lord.  A whole world was opening up.  I found that ‘the existence of realities that are unseen’ were beginning – most wonderfully – to be proved to me.  The God, whom I barely knew, treated me like the prodigal daughter and ran to meet me with lavish experiences of joy.  At length, not only did I begin to practice my faith with conviction, I also developed an intense desire to give myself to the Lord fully.  And that was the genesis of my vocation to be Benedictine nun.  Decades have passed since I professed vows as a nun, and it is even more obvious to me today than on my profession day that the unseen realities are the most real realities that exist.  

My lectio questions were quickly turning into reasons for joy by now.  These reflections reaffirmed that faith – this love-relationship with the unseen God – does indeed guarantee the deepest blessings.  Faith is not merely a default setting for the times when the great mysteries of religion loom large.  Faith is an all-the-time setting.  Faith has positive content: it is the up-and-running relationship between God the Father and me – God, who is wholly mysterious in essence, but who is infinitely and infallibly real, infinitely and infallibly “there,” holding out the blessings that we hope for.   

Through this lectio journey, I rediscovered that faith is also the word we use to talk about our relationship with God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who really was seen in his lifetime and now, through the Gospel, shows me the way to the Father and challenges me to see him, that I may see the Father; faith is the word used to talk about the mission of the Church as the mediator of Christ to me in her teaching authority, in the sacraments, and in the union of believers when they gather in his name and among whom Jesus promises to be – and is – present.  Finally, faith is something for which I thank God because the word means that God has me and I have him in a relationship of love.  Faith, inseparable from love, does guarantee all blessings; it is about the unseen realities, it reveals the existence of them, and has proved to me that they are real.  

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

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19 October: Realities that are Unseen, III.

Strasbourg Cathedral

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

In our reflection on this passage from Hebrews, we have been pondering the phrase, ‘realities that are unseen’ in light of our desire to understand the nature of faith.  We ended yesterday with the realisation that faith and love are inseparable realities and that faith itself is a loving relationship with God.  As I absorbed this thought I was reminded that our God always takes the initiative in the faith-relationship and expresses his love for us – even his ‘faith’ in us – first, before we make a move towards him, and he does this in ways that make the unseen realities more see-able.  

 Most notably, God’s loving initiative was see-able when he sent his Son into the world.  This was an historical, therefore see-able, event on one level.  But I reflected further that there were people during Jesus’ lifetime who did not see.  Jesus’ enemies were among those. What was lacking was that quality of love-filled faith. There were others who wanted to see, yet felt frustrated by their lack of ability to do so: the Lord’s disciple, Philip, for example, came out with the poignant words, ‘Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied’.  And Jesus answered, ‘The one who sees me sees the Father’ (see John 14:8,9).  I can understand Philip’s perplexity.  Much later, after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit, surely understanding was given to Philip, as it is offered to us.  With over two thousand years of Christianity to draw on, we are perhaps in an even better position than Philip was to know that Jesus himself is the proof of realities that are unseen: if we look at him with the eyes of love-filled faith the unseen Father becomes see-able.  

My difficulties with the text from Hebrews began to ease further; I began to appreciate more deeply that the ‘unseen realities’ of our faith are actually not all that unseen for those with the openness that comes from faith and love.  They have been given to us, they have been proved through Jesus and through the sacred texts of the New Testament that make him known to us.  Therefore, our faith is a response to what God has given us first.  We do not have to concoct faith out of nothing and live it in a void.  Something’s offered to us by God first.  It is not fully see-able through the senses but it is understood through the same capacity we have to recognise love.  Faith is a response to the loving out-reach of God to us.  

Let’s leave our reflection there for a day.  I invite you perhaps to consider the ways in which God has offered something to you.  I hope you will be back tomorrow as we continue.  

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18 October: Realities that are Unseen, II.

A gate from former military land into Canterbury’s Poets’ Estate.

Sister Johanna’s second post in this series.

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

If you weren’t here for yesterday’s post I hope you will scroll back to it to catch up with us.   We’re looking at the relationship between the notion of religious faith and the notion of “proving” unseen realities – it all seemed problematic for me when I first read the verse from Hebrews given above.  “We’re not meant to prove anything; we’re meant to consent to mystery,” I ranted.  

Then, I remembered that frequently when I am doing my lectio, a problem surfaces within the text that seems unsolvable at first.  But after I spend time with the scripture passage, reading and praying, the problem resolves by means of a sort of journey I take into the text, led by the Holy Spirit.  In this case, I now found that the journey involved pondering the words at the end of the quotation given here: ‘realities that are unseen.’  I didn’t know why at that point, but those words seemed important and I kept repeating them slowly in my thoughts.  There is, I find, a balm in this – almost as though my mind craves the nourishment that the words give even before it is able to penetrate to their deeper meaning. 

‘Realities that are unseen.’ As I repeated these words, I began to reflect that unseen realities are not easy to live with, especially for us in our day.  We’re so scientifically minded.  For us, the word ‘reality’ applies mainly to what can be seen or touched or heard; we talk about ‘evidence-based medicine,’ for example–we need evidence that we can actually observe in order to decide on the right medicine.  So, the senses determine what we consider to be reality most of the time.  What is unseen can make us uncomfortable.  We often decide therefore that unseen things don’t exist.

Then it occurred to me that we do live with some unseen realities–constantly and fairly comfortably.  They don’t always discommode us.  Take love, for instance.  Love itself is unseen but we know with every fibre of our being that it is real.  While we know that love is forever seeking to give evidence of its existence through words and actions that are self-giving, even self-sacrificial, we also know that underneath these see-able expressions of love, on a level that is unseen, love exists as a reality.

Faith, I reflected, is like that.  In fact, it is extremely like love, I realised, and is inseparable from love.  Indeed, it is informed by love.  My problem with the scriptural text from Hebrews began to ease as I reflected that although faith is certainly about consenting to the truth of theological propositions that are too mysterious to grasp fully, faith is primarily a loving relationship with the unseen God.  I mentally rewrote the passage from Hebrews: “Only a loving relationship with the unseen God can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.”  I felt that I was moving closer to an understanding of this text.

Let’s stay with these ideas for the day and find out what they evokes in us.  I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our reflection.

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17 October: Realities that are Unseen, I.

Welcome back to Sister Johanna with four reflections on Faith from the Letter to the Hebrews.

The Trinity Window from Berwick upon Tweed Church sets out to illustrate the mystery of the Trinity, but leaves it beyond my comprehension.

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

This verse from the Letter to the Hebrews caught my attention recently as I was doing my lectio divina.  When I read scripture slowly and prayerfully there’s no telling what the Holy Spirit might make me notice.  Passages that I have read many times before suddenly seem to start dancing on the page, saying “Look at me!” A single sentence–or even a single word of a biblical text–can keep me thinking and praying for a long time: days, weeks, years.

So what was it about this line from Hebrews that stopped me?  Well, in a way, the line felt not ‘wrong’ exactly, but there seemed to be a contradiction in it.  More thought, more prayerful silence helped me to pinpoint the cause of my unease.  It came from the way I tend to think of the notion of faith.  I was surprised that Hebrews seemed to be saying that faith could ‘guarantee’ or ‘prove’ spiritual realities.  Guarantee?  Prove?  Those words seemed too empirical, if you will.  Is faith about what can be proved and guaranteed?  Faith, I’ve tended to assume, steps in where guarantees and proofs walk out.  Faith is what you have when you hit against deep religious mysteries that no human mind can fully grasp.   God is Trinity, for example.  No matter how long I ponder this, I will never understand how God is three Persons in one nature.  But I have faith that it is true. The Incarnation.  Jesus is both God and man.  Unfathomable on the intellectual level.  But I have faith in its truth. There are vital elements of our religion that cannot be proved in the way we might prove a scientific reality, or, say, a mathematical construct, or prove something that can be known by the senses.  How does the concept of proof fit with the concept of faith?  I puzzled over this.  I reread the text: 

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

I’d like to leave you for today to continue to ponder this text and these questions.  Perhaps you have other questions.  The Holy Spirit may lead your meditation down a different path.  Explore it.  Tomorrow we will continue our reflection.

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