Tag Archives: Kingdom

September 16. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, XIV: True Religion is not Nostalgia.

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Why did Christ have to die, if God afterwards resurrected him? In asking this question the early communities had not yet realised the actual saving character of the death of Jesus, that it is an integral and necessary part of salvation, and not just an unfortunate event. There were many attempts to answer this question. All interpretations were unanimous in saying that Jesus did not die because of his own sins or guilt.

The fact of Christ’s death was determined by hatred and ill-will. But Jesus did not allow himself to be determined by the priorities of others: they hated him, he did not hate them in return. He died alone so that no one else need ever do that again: whenever isolation and injustice is thrust upon people, they are in a place already visited by God, one which is part of God’s experience. If Jesus is to set us free from whatever binds us, he must set us free from death. As he redeemed life by living, so he redeemed death by dying. He died in the manner in which we must die. He chose neither the time nor the circumstances of his death.

Because of the universal rejection of Jesus and the dismissing of the call to become Kingdom, which is meant to have cosmic dimensions, it could only now be realised in a single person, Jesus of Nazareth. This means that a path was opened up for the church, this is when the church became necessary, since the offer brought by Jesus must persist for all time and must be made in the same way, through a quality of presence which matches that of Jesus and, little by little, to universalise the Kingdom. As well as furthering the call of Christ, the church is obliged to make the values of Jesus present wherever the church is present: mission and evangelisation are entirely about experiencing life as abundant.

Above all the Resurrection ensures that true religion is not nostalgia. It celebrates a present emerging from a past enroute to a wonderful future; a future able to be anticipated in many ways in the present. The Resurrection represents the total realisation of human potential: capable, through grace, of intimacy within God.

What will Resurrection mean? Paul answers: the dead will rise up, imperishable, glorious and powerful, in a human reality filled full with the Spirit of God. The human body, as it is now, cannot inherit the Kingdom. It must be changed; “to have what must die taken up into life“. When Paul speaks of “body” he does not mean a corpse, or a physical-chemical combination of cells, he is speaking of the consciousness of human matter, or the spirit manifesting and realising itself within the world. The Resurrection transforms what we mean by our corporal-spiritual “I” into the image of Christ.

Already, in its terrestrial situation the human being-body is a giving and a receiving of giving. It is the body that allows us to be present one to another. But as well as enabling communication it also gets in the way of it. We cannot be in two places at once, and communication uses codes that can often be ambiguous and misleading. All such impediments disappear in the Resurrection, when there will be total communication with persons and things; the human being, now a spiritual body will have a cosmic presence. The object of Resurrection is the human being as body, totally transfigured open to universal communion and communication.

By faith and hope, commitment to Jesus Christ, welcoming and celebrating the sacraments, the seed of Resurrection [the real presence of Christ] is present within the human body, and it is not lost in death: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life“. To be clothed with Christ is to be made new. Being in Christ is the start of Resurrected living, and death is a form of being in Christ. Just as death is a passage to eternity where there is no time, so too complete communication will be realised, with the setting free of all that is fully human. The corpse will stay behind, our true body – characterised by “I” [something much more than physical-chemical matter] will participate in eternal life:

…we do not know how all things will be transformed. As deformed by sin, the shape of this world will pass away. But we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place and a new earth… The expectation of a new earth must not weaken but stimulate our concern for developing this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age… On this earth that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower – Gaudium et Spes 39

AMcC  austin

Thank you Austin, I’ve enjoyed revisiting these while preparing them for publication. I shall return to Part II of Jesus Beyond Dogma in a couple of months’ time.

Maurice.

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September 15. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, XIII: A structural change in the foundations of the world

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Jesus brought a structural change into the foundations of the world, and he called it the Kingdom. A very grand statement for one who ended up isolated and abandoned, nailed to a cross – with “My God, why have you deserted me?” on his lips.

After three days a most unexpected and unheard of event happened. God raised him up. He came to his disciples, not as one back from biological death, but as one who, though obviously Jesus, showed himself fully transfigured, in whom all the possibilities for the human and the divine were now fully realised. Not the revitalisation of a corpse but a radical transformation of the earthly reality of Jesus, this is what we mean by Resurrection.

Jesus is revealed in a life no longer under threat. The Resurrection is the realisation of his message of total freedom. It is direct evidence of what the Kingdom is meant to be: “Death is swallowed up… Death, where is your sting now?” If Jesus is not risen: “your believing is useless… we are the most unfortunate of people”. But a door has been opened for us into an absolute future, hope is real: God really does have the power to achieve in us what was always promised [this is what Hope means]. Faith cannot be sustained without this, for this is the only foundation of Christian faith.

Historians cannot help much at this level. The Resurrection is not an ordinary historical fact [though it is an historical fact]; since it is a fact available only to faith. No one saw the Resurrection actually happen. What we have are appearances and an empty tomb. On the basis of all these, the disciples came to the conclusion: “The Lord is risen and has appeared to Simon“. If we are to do what Peter recommended: “Have your answer ready for people who ask the reason for your hope“, we should have a brief look at what is involved.

The Gospel does not present the empty tomb as evidence of the Resurrection. Instead of giving rise to faith it caused fear and fright. Mary Magdalene saw it as evidence of theft. For the apostles it was simply rumour. By itself the empty tomb is an ambiguous sign, capable of various interpretations, only one of which might have been Resurrection. It is only with the apparitions that the ambiguity is resolved, and the empty tomb can now become a sign of the Resurrection of Jesus. As such, the empty tomb makes people think, it is no more than an invitation to faith, it is not yet faith, and something more is required.

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He is risen!

The “something more” is provided by an angel: “Jesus of Nazareth is risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him…” The sepulchre is empty, not because someone has stolen the body, but because he is Risen. This interpretation by the women is held to be a revelation from God. It is expressed in the language of the day as being a message from an angel [God].

What finally got rid of the ambiguity once and for all was the fact that the disciples saw Jesus, spoke with him; they spent time with him and he ate with them. The oldest Resurrection formulation, Chapter 15 of First Corinthians and Acts 2-5., with marked absence of pathos, suggest that these accounts are more than subjective visions, products of the faith of the community, but real and trans-subjective, a witness to something imposed from without and not conjured up from within.

How many apparitions were there? 1Corinthians 15.5. contains 5 apparitions. Mark.16.1. has none, but says that Jesus will be seen in Galilee. Matthew.28.16. refers to one. Luke.24.13. refers to two. John relates three, and all of them happen in Jerusalem! There are two tendencies evident: Mark and Matthew are interested in Galilee; Luke and John concentrate on Jerusalem, emphasising the bodily reality of Jesus and the identity between the Risen Christ and Jesus of Nazareth.

Exegesis tends to show the appearances in Galilee as being historically certain. The appearances in Jerusalem are the same as those in Galilee but transferred for theological reasons to Jerusalem, for in Scripture Jerusalem possesses a unique place in salvation history: “Salvation comes from Sion [Jerusalem]“. Jesus’ death, Easter and Pentecost occurred there.

Details of the appearances: they are described as a real experience of the Jesus they knew. He eats, walks and talks with them, allows himself to be touched. It is so normal that he is confused with a gardener or a stranger on the shore. Alongside this there are strange phenomena too: He appears and disappears; he goes through walls, the bruised and battered state of Friday has gone.

Eventually it was asked: Is the Jesus of glory the same person as Jesus of Nazareth? Assertions are made: Christ is totally transfigured, he is not a spirit, nor an angel. The one who died and was buried is the one who is risen. This is why there is preoccupation with, as well as emphasis on the wounds, and the fact that he ate and drank with them.

This helps clarify things a little: The Resurrection is not a theological treatise put together by an enthusiastic follower. Faith in the Resurrection is the direct consequence of the impact on the apostles of the apparitions of Jesus Risen. Without this they could never even dream of preaching a crucified Lord, itself an abomination to a faithful Jew, without this event there could be no church, no worship in the name of Jesus.

What is being asserted through faith like this is not just that Jesus is risen, but that this says something about the possibility of the total realisation of the whole of creation. This is a scandal to many. The early church proclaimed the significance of the Resurrection for us as hope of a future life; what is now for Christ will be the now for us. The Resurrection makes it possible to read reality very differently: the past, present and future take on a new significance.

Christ told the apostles that they would all lose faith in him. Now all this is changed: they return toaustin faith in him, this time no longer as the Nationalist liberator, but as the “Son of Man”. They believed that the Resurrection began the end times. The language is deliberately Apocalyptic. The end will be the Resurrection of the rest of the human race. The very same Spirit by which Jesus was resurrected is now given to everyone.

AMcC

 

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June 10: Justice VI: Justice, Gratitude and Religion

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Abbey of Saint Maurice, Switzerland.

We have not yet talked about justice expressed toward God, but we need to. It is of crucial importance. The Catechism’s definition of justice mentions God as the principal recipient of our justice. Why should that be so? God does not need anything from us! Isn’t justice about responding to need?

Yes, justice is about responding to need, and about paying our debts. But justice is not primarily a virtue by which we learn to add up the numbers and pay the bill. On a more fundamental level, justice is the virtue by which we become increasingly sensitive to our indebtedness. The distinction is subtle, but important. There can be a grudging quality that goes with paying a bill, as we know when we see our hard-earned money vanishing so quickly.

But, a grudge does not belong in the virtue of justice as it relates to God. In being sensitive to indebtedness, we realize how much we have been given by God. In him we have received something far beyond what we have strictly deserved – the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field, the very kingdom of heaven, as Jesus expresses it.

Even if we do not acknowledge God as our loving Father, and the creator of the universe, it is hard to avoid admitting that we have been given gifts in our lifetime that are of vital importance to us, that have helped us to become ourselves. This gives us a recognition, simply put, that someone has loved us, and has shown it, and our life has changed for the better because of it. When that Someone is acknowledged as God, then we need a way that allows us to make some sort of response. Tomorrow, we shall reflect on this.

SJC

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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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26 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: I, Christianity cannot die.

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I invited Doug to respond to BBB’s blog, ‘Is Christianity Dead?’ which you’ll find re-blogged here. In the next few days I’ll follow Doug with some reflections on particular points raised by BBB, who is one of our most faithful readers. Over to Doug.

Will.

I recently read the thought provoking lamentations of a concerned Catholic writer who raised the question “Is Christianity dead?”  Despite a litany of bad news ranging from a half empty church at Christmas Midnight Mass, to Pew (no pun intended) Research findings of decreasing church attendance, prayer, and living the faith, she answers her own question with a resounding, yet less than inspiring, “No”.

Her contention is that, “Christianity is not dead. It is alive in our hearts. In our homes. In our prayers.”  But while she concedes Christianity is not dead, she doesn’t seem convinced that it might not be gravely, or even terminally ill.  She sees inviting others to fill the empty parish seats as one way to save Christianity from certain death.

No, Christianity (A.K.A the Church and the Body of Christ) is not dead, nor is it dying.  It cannot, and will not die.  Christ told Peter (Matthew 16:17), the Church was built upon on the rock of Peter’s faith, “and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it”, and as the Prophet foretold about the strength of the Church entrusted to Christ (Isaiah 22:22), “…what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open.”

While evangelizing is the baptismal obligation demanded by God, if we fail at this mission because of our fallen nature, God will still prevail and the Church will not die.  Take comfort in the fact that our heavenly father has “set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed…”  (Daniel 2:44).

DW.

 

Pilgrims in the rain, Krakow, August 2016.

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2 January: Mary, Queen, Mother of Mercy

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Picture from Missionaries of Africa, West Africa Province.

This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers.

We pray, ‘hail, holy  Queen, mother of mercy.’ Here we see a queen crowned and wearing the gold collar-necklace associated with West African Kings. That crown would be impossibly heavy in real life, but she is erect, neck straight. The serene half-smile suggests that Shakespeare’s words ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ do not apply to this Lady, Our Lady.

And why is she a queen at all? True, she was of David’s line, but the crown, like the British crown, bears the Cross as its crest – not a serpent as in ancient Egypt, the only African country we know she lived in. She is under her Son’s protection but she knows suffering and it does not weigh her down.

Those open hands could be welcoming a child running home from the playground or school (a place that sometimes can feel like an exile from home). Her hands are open, a gesture of peace.

Mary’s eyes are looking down at whoever is approaching her, but her whole being is under the sign of the Cross. What does she tell us?

‘Do whatever He tells you.’

And if you do, signs of his Kingdom will be seen. (John 2).

Mary was the catalyst for a great sign at Cana; what will people discern when they listen to us and observe us this year? Will they see us, or will they see him, or perhaps, like the wedding planner at Cana, they will see something marvellous but not take it in. But we are children of Eve, not glorious unless by reflection: non nobis Domine!

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11 December: Gaudete!

 

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Matthew 11:2-11

In the Gospels, Jesus often points to His works as evidence that God has sent him.  His presence transforms people’s lives, healing and bringing new life to all who will accept Him.  As a disciple of Jesus Christ, how could my daily life and work point to the presence of God’s Kingdom?

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10

Exult…rejoice and bloom, …rejoice and sing for joy, ‘Courage! Do not be afraid.’

…leap like a deer …sing for joy …shouting for joy, everlasting joy…joy and gladness …sorrow and lament be ended.’

James 5:7-10

do not lose heart… . Do not make complaints.

Matthew 11:2-11

Good News …do not lose faith

Today’s Scriptures tell me that signs of the presence of God are joy, courage and trust.

Is this the spirit in which I serve and work?

The tendency to lose heart and make complaints is all too strong, faced with the messes in my life and in the world.  But I cannot convey good news with a gloomy face.  Only by holding onto a deep faith in Jesus’ promises will I have the strength to show joy and courage, even in the midst of troubles.  This should be the sign in my life that accompanies the Good News I am called to share – the news that God is with us and will never fail us.

Emmanuel, during this Advent, let me not forget that your life and work gives me a reason to be happy.

FMSL

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November 3: Saint Martin De Porres

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Today is the Memorial of Saint Martin De Porres. (Dominican Religious)

Scripture readings: St. Paul to the Philippians 3:3-8; Psalm  104; Luke 15: 1- 10.

St Paul says writes: “Because of Christ, I have come to consider all the advantages that I had as disadvantages.” Paul had everything and every qualification as a Roman citizen. He was fastidious in keeping the Law of the Jews but something was lacking.  He did not know Christ. When Christ was revealed to him, he gave up everything to preach the Kingdom of God.

The same thing could be said of St. Martin De Porres. As a young man, he learnt the profession of a dispenser of medicine. He was comfortable in life. But he found something was lacking in his life as well. He then joined the Dominican Order and used his skill to work for the poor for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven.

Today, in my comfort and advantageous life, what am I doing for Christ? I can do something where I am no matter how small it might be. Even if it means looking at someone on the street with MERCY.  What am I giving away for the sake of Christ? What am I considering as disadvantage for the sake of the Kingdom of Christ?  It is possible for any of us to make a U-turn back to God. Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke 15:1-10 that ‘”there is joy among the angels of God over one repentant sinner.”’

FMSL

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19 August: Pigs and the Baby

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tamworth pigs

There would be a few minutes before lunch arrived at our table, so twelve-month old Abel went to see the piglets, closely followed by his adults. The mobile noses fascinated Abel, and the bristly backs that he could touch through the wire. He soon learnt to throw a handful of pellets down for the ever-hungry beasts. Great fun!

He also perfected a realistic piggy grunt through his nose, and now employs this at any opportunity. His parents are beyond embarrassment at such accomplishments, but laugh and rejoice with him.

I am reminded of two verses:

‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.’  (Isaiah 55:8) and

‘I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3).

What does Abel do? He enjoys the pigs as pigs, even if he cannot put this thought into words. He shares his enjoyment  with those he loves, and gives them joy as well.

Sometimes our thoughts are too wordy, our prayers are too wordy. We can pray with our bodies (indeed, some of us have the graceful gift of dancing!) as well as our tongues.

Time for me to be quiet. Laudato Si!

WT.

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