Tag Archives: Mission

November 8: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: viii – ‘ A radically new way of being human.’

50.40. pilgrimage

Putting Jesus on a divine pedestal leaves no room for a radically new way of being human.

Why are we preoccupied with the divinity of Jesus? Presumably we believe this enhances our faith. But is this what Jesus wanted to bring? Was the salvation of the immortal soul his prime concern? The Synoptics, Matthew Mark and Luke, interpret Jesus as a divine figure – corresponding to their contemporary expectation of a divine liberator from Roman oppression. But what was in Jesus’ mind? He certainly promised liberation and new life; was this freedom the expected liberation, or was it a great deal more than that?

I was asked on numerous occasions do I believe in the divinity of Jesus – but never once: do I believe in his humanity. Jesus was offering a radically new way of being human – one totally disconnected from a way dominated by the thirst for power. We know from the Gospels that the disciples had problems with this – preoccupation with messiah-ship became a series of obstacles to seeing what Jesus was really about. Ignorance of the great human story meant they were unable to see the human face of God revealed in that story, reaching its apex in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

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Relishing and appreciating the full story, and appreciating God’s creativity at its core gives us a more credible and authentic appreciation of Jesus’ divinity – insisting that we attend much more to the new way of being human that this inaugurated, of which Jesus is the first disciple. We condemn Jesus to divine captivity – so divinely holy and remote – that his new way of being human is seriously compromised. Our preoccupation with his divinity is a distraction from knowing the real Jesus.

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We picture Jesus as a loyal and faithful Jew, whereas the sources suggest something different; and the following of Christ was seen as fidelity to divine rules and laws. The Jesus story came to be known as a set of facts around which his life was written. Yet this shape doesn’t figure strongly in his life and mission – his stories testify to this: he defied convention, social and religious – and flaunted the hopes of the establishment by calling for equality based on inclusiveness.

AMcC

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November 1, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: i – Creeds, Codes and Dogmas

relief-1Chichester Cathedral

Reading the Book of Acts we see clearly how different was the Apostles’ sense of mission to that of today’s Church. We have Creeds, Codes and doctrines – systems to follow to preach the Word – they had none of this. They went out and shared their experiences of living with Jesus, especially after the Resurrection; what it was like to be with him. This mission hasn’t changed, though how we go about it has. We no longer have people to listen to who lived with him – nor even do we know of people who were with him.

We are weighed down with centuries of doctrine and speculation. The theologian speaks a language strangers do not know. So much of what is said and written seems far removed from everyday life. Can we do anything to recapture the powerful simplicity of those early days? The answer is the same – it is Jesus whom we share. The first Christian profession of faith was not I believe in God… but Jesus is Lord! Is this my experience, or is it what I am told to say? The Jesus they shared was a man they had known and lived with – they had experienced his enthusiasm, witnessed his frustrations. He enjoyed his life, along with him they knew excitement and disappointment – he wept on hearing of a friend’s death; and died violently while still a young man – with hope seemingly shattered and promises gone.

But here was not just a young man, full of promising potential – here was the reality of what being human means. Made in the image of God, the perfection of the human consists in the degree to which it truly reflects its origin. He claimed to be one with the Father, indeed he said to see him was to see the Father – he didn’t simply reflect divine perfection, he is this perfection. His disciples – even on Good Friday – knew they had seen the premature death of a man in whom they saw no trace whatsoever of evil. They saw the question all of us ask – even the best of lives must end, even the most special people must die, is life meant to be so absurd? Are our ideas, hopes and visions a promise of something wonderful to come or is it all a delusion?

These questions were answered by the Resurrection. This man, who had lived an exemplary human life, trusting himself entirely in the providence of Abba, was not deluded; and the chasm of death was no longer impassable. His friends remembered how they first met him, when he invited them when they asked him where he lived – come and see, he said. We may not know what they actually saw, but we know what they discovered from his passing from this life into a new world was not for him alone, but a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth – Ephesians 1.10.

Just as his death asked the vital question about the meaning of life; so the Resurrection provided the answer. God’s saving plan has finally earned the response in the most perfect way possible. The human Jesus has shown the fidelity which is the only reply God was waiting to receive. Now the human race began to be glorified through one of its members entering in to the new heaven and new earth. The way was clear for the disciples, our destiny and how to achieve it is wide open to anyone sharing the same humanity. Hopes and longings were always present for some kind of happiness beyond death – but God’s plan was recognised only in vague ways. Like a group of weary and hungry people lost in a forest; hopes were occasionally raised by some who set-out to find it, but there was no news of how they got on.

AMcC

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September 19: The reality that is proclaimed

chris-preaching

Austin’s reflections, Constantina’s art, the Zambian Poor Clares’ dance that we saw on St Clare’s Day; these reflections too: all are intended to bear witness to – what exactly? I think we need to remind ourselves often what is the Gospel we proclaim. I was about to throw out a scrap of paper this afternoon, but held off till I’d copied this.

When preaching takes place, the ‘reality’ that is proclaimed, the crucified and risen Christ, is made present for the preacher and the hearer alike and is imparted to those who hear the preaching with faith.

Thus writes Fr Gerald O’Collins.*

He is developing an idea in Ad Gentes 9 the Vatican Council’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church.

By the preaching of the word and by the celebration of the sacraments, the centre and summit of which is the most holy Eucharist, He (God) brings about the presence of Christ, the author of salvation. But whatever truth and grace are to be found among the nations, as a sort of secret presence of God, He frees from all taint of evil and restores to Christ its maker.

‘A sort of secret presence of God’ – it sounds almost like Francis Thompson! (see post on August 9th)

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Tis ye, tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendoured thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Let’s pray for the wisdom to know how to share the many-splendoured thing, and the humility to perceive Jacob’s ladder pitched on our own pavements – and the unlikely characters shining as they ascend!

MMB.

*Vatican II and the Liturgical Presence of Christ in irish Theological Quarterly, 2/2012.

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19 July: G is for Valley Gardens

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Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a  factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.

Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.

I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.

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Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.

I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.

There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even  those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.

Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.

Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!

 

 

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Wednesday 12th July, 2017: Instruments of Peace

syrian-gathering

L’Arche Syria

By virtue of my Baptism, I am called to participate in the mission of Christ here on earth. That mission is to love and to serve. To be a true witness in a world whose values are different from those of the gospel is an uphill task, yet I am called to do it. By following the example of Christ, I will be ready to give up everything, including my life if demand is made for it because of the gospel.

I am called to be an agent of reconciliation in word and in deed; to be an ambassador of mercy and love.

I had the privilege of meeting a person who had been disappointed by someone whom she trusted. Every time we had the opportunity of meeting and talking, she kept mentioning that she would never forgive the person. When I saw I could not convince her to change her mind, I prayed to the Holy Spirit to intervene in the situation.

When we met again after some time; she said the unforgiving spirit she had been carrying all these years has been lifted. I couldn’t but be happy for her.

From this experience, I learned there could be so many people hurting but with no one to unload their burden onto because of fear of being judged. It challenges me to be more sensitive to my environment, to love unconditionally, to try to share peace and joy wherever I find myself.

FMSL


 

 

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17 April, Easter Monday: “Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”

Easter Monday

Image from http://breakopenword.blogspot.co.uk/

“Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”

Matthew 28:8-15

These are usually God’s instructions to the prophets. Jesus is giving the women a mission as the first prophets of the Resurrection. These women looked after him in Galilee and followed him to Judea to continue caring for him. They were the ones who stayed closest to Jesus in His darkest hour and even prepared him for burial. Now, by God’s design, they are the first to see Jesus after his Resurrection.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent taught the woman a lesson that she passed on to the man – to trust her own will more than her Creator. That message caused both man and woman to separate themselves from God. So, from Genesis onward, generations of people blamed woman for the Fall of humanity. She was treated as inferior to man, who dominated her.

In the garden of the Resurrection, God entrusts to women a message for men that will save all humans and reunite us with our Creator: Jesus has undone death and is coming to be with you again.

Later, Jesus will have to reproach the apostles for refusing to believe his chosen messengers.

I pray that I, like those women, may remain faithful to Jesus, trusting in his will and eager to carry it out.

FMSL

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An Ash Wednesday message from Bishop Patrick Chisanga OFM Conv, former student at FISC.

 

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From the Missionaries of Africa Website.

Bishop Patrick leads the diocese of Mansa in Zambia and was recently a student at FISC.

Spiritual Warfare against Evil Intensified: Ba Minshioni Ba Lelo Nifwe.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

  1. On 1st March we begin the Season of Lent – the intensive 40 days’ spiritual journey towards that great summit of our Christian faith and worship: the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead, the ultimate victory of good over evil.
  2. The Word of God that is proclaimed during the liturgical celebrations of the subsequent five Sundays (Year A) have a particularly rich pedagogical character that guides catechumens towards the waters of baptism and general Christian Initiation on the Easter Vigil. All the faithful must equally endeavour to draw maximum benefit from the wealth of these carefully selected passages, in view of their own solemn renewal of the baptism promises during the same Easter Vigil and in order to be spiritually recharged for the ongoing battle against temptations and sin.

The Sunday Gospel passages that will lead the way during this Lenten itinerary include: (1) The Temptations of Jesus – Matthew 4;7-17, (2) The Transfiguration of Jesus – Matthew 17:1-9, (3) Jesus’ Encounter with the Samaritan Woman at the Well – John 4:5-42, (4) Jesus’ Healing of the Man who was Born Blind – John 9:1-42 and (5) Jesus’ Raising of Lazarus from Death – John 11:1-45.

As you may notice, the last three passages from the Gospel according to John are quite lengthy. However, with adequate preparation, these Readings may be proclaimed using the role-play format, as is done on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. The priest and selected faithful could take the respective roles of Jesus and other individuals in the passage. By so doing and, when done diligently, this manner of proclamation enables the congregation to follow with greater attention.

I invite all priests to carefully meditate upon these Readings during this whole period of grace so as to be able to deliver a fitting message to the faithful during the celebration of the Eucharist. Furthermore, in view of the so many Centres that still do not have priests on Sundays, I ask all parish priests to ensure that there is sufficient prior preparation of the prayer leaders and/or catechists who are selected to comment on the Word of God during the Sunday worship in their respective outstations.

In addition, I enclose, with this letter, the Lenten homily notes that the JCTR has graciously shared with us. Let them be further distributed to the Small Christian Communities (SCC), Lay Groups as well as individuals for further reflection and appropriate action that is inspired by the Word of God.

  1. This year’s Lent coincides with the Pastoral Theme in our Diocese according to which we celebrate the ministry of the pioneer missionaries and declare that “We are the Missionaries of Today” (Ba Minshioni ba Lelo, Nifwe). Let us recall the sacrifice, availability and pastoral zeal of our gallant pioneer missionaries and in turn make a commitment to the effect that their works will live on through each one of us. Indeed, the Church, in Mansa Diocese, shall continue to announce the Good News to all creation, in obedience to the great commission of our Lord Jesus (Mark L6: 15).
  2. To rekindle this missionary zeal, the Lenten Season offers us the instruments of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving according to the guidance of Jesus, as proclaimed in the Gospel passage of Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6,16-18). These three pillars of Lent, when taken seriously, have the capacity to bring about lasting positive change in our lives, especially in overcoming the sinful habits that we repeatedly struggle with. I invite each one of you to pray, fast and give alms with the intention of being liberated from any such demeaning slavery.

Furthermore, in order to intensify our spiritual warfare against evil through combined effort and, in response to the appeals made during the Pastoral Council Meeting last October, I again invite the faithful in all our parishes to observe the “24 hours for the Lord” on the Friday to Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent (24 – 25 March). Let this day be flooded with prayers, songs, Eucharistic adoration, catechesis and actual celebration of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. lt would be fitting that this special day concludes with the joyful Eucharistic celebration of the solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord on Saturday, 25th March.

I implore you, my dear brothers and sisters in the Diocese, to take the invitation seriously and spare this ’24 hours’ exclusively for the Lord. Bring to this special period of intense prayer the needs of our society and individual members for healing from anger, guilt, unforgiving heart, drunkenness, sexual immoralities, pride, selfishness, etc. Through this prayer, let us also invoke Divine intervention to end the ongoing violence against the sanctity of human life, the values of marriage and family as well as the integrity of God’s creation.

  1. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you. I wish you a fruitful and grace-filled Lenten Season 2017.

Given on this First Day of March in the Year of the Lord 2017, the Ash Wednesday

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Algeria IV: 31 August: The Eucharist in Algeria.

 

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The Eucharist in Algeria: Gabriel Piroird, Bishop of Constantine, at the Synod of Bishops, 2005.

We are unique churches, very much in the minority in a world where Islam has stamped its mark on the culture. Our communities are dispersed across the vast spaces of our dioceses, and it is unavoidable that many live far from any sort of priestly presence, so that they can only participate in the Liturgy very infrequently. This situation has led us to deepen the link between the Eucharist and Mission:

– Our thanksgiving is joined to that of our Muslim friends who also praise God for his work of creation and mercy. Spiritually we incorporate their prayers into our Eucharist.
– We are filled with wonder at times to witness that our Muslim friends are somehow associated with the Paschal Mystery. Whenever we come to add our lives to the offering of Christ, we also add, in a certain way, the lives of our friends.

– In so far as they cannot participate in the Eucharist celebration very often, certain Christians give more time to Eucharistic Adoration where they rediscover a palpably real presence that strengthens their daily lives.
– Our Eucharistic celebrations, all unseen, gather in a people who are yet absent: those who seek God in the honesty of their hearts.

Any particular Church must find a way to live out the Eucharist that is not divorced from its history among the people to whom it has been given by the Lord.

Original French text on Vatican website

Photo by Fabrice Blaudin de Thé

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Inter-Galactic Discoveries: Epilogue

 

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A few in Margate – mainly taxi drivers and some pensioners with a lot of time on their hands and a penchant for gazing out of their bay windows – eventually noticed the absence of the unobtrusive middle aged man with his pair of Chihuahuas. Certainly the junkie living on the dole next door to the now-empty flat would remember the trio and treasure the odd memento given to him one day by ‘T’.

tokenWhen asked for some money, ‘T’ had shrugged and, rummaging in the pocket of his tweed jacket, produced a transit token from the home world of the Confederation and gave it to the bemused petitioner in lieu of ‘spare change’. For his part, the dolester, who also played a kind of part-time shamanistic role among others of his kind, had a keen eye for an exotic commodity and accepted the gift with a knowing wink.

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The fact-finding mission had been deemed – at least by the three embedded Ossyrian agents – as a great success. Immediately upon entering the massive ship that would ferry them across the vast gulf of space separating Earth from the planets of the Ossyrian Confederation, ‘T’ and the two Chihuahuas, Alfie and Ajax, had (almost reluctantly) reverted to their natural forms – long necks, short legs, thick waists, and large domed heads. Each now sat in expensive, hugely comfortable swivel chairs upholstered with state-of-the-art synthetic Kamu leather (hunting another creature would have been unthinkable in the Confederation), pale green flagons of lightly chilled Gola Squash raised in a triumphant toast. ‘To Earth and her intrepid inhabitants!’ the Director intoned. ‘To EARTH!!!’ echoed Droghmirrxz and Bogmerl, and each beamed with bright smiles that seemed to stretch from ear to pointed ear.

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Four and a half (terrestrial) years later the sleepy, somewhat tattered, East Kentish seaside town of Margate made world news. As talking heads jostled for perfect sound bites and the gobsmacked population of the planet looked on in unison (thanks to that technological marvel known as television), ‘first contact’ with an alien species was finally achieved as a formal Ossyrian delegation touched down in Cecil Square. Nothing would ever be the same again; certainly for the raucous, often fractious, inhabitants of Earth…but also in, perhaps, subtle but also quite powerful, ways for the Ossyrians as well.

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