Tag Archives: resurrection

Lenten Conferences at St Thomas’ Church, Canterbury.

water-stone-chapelWe are very pleased to announce that our own Fr Tom Herbst OFM will be leading three evenings of reflection this Lent at St Thomas’ Church Hall, Iron Bar Lane, Canterbury.

We are invited to join those who are to be baptised at Easter and those who are to be received into full communion in the Catholic Church (RCIA Group).

Tuesday 27 February, 7 p.m. : The Woman at the Well (John 4: 5-52)

Tuesday  6 March,      7 p.m. : The Man born Blind        (John 9: 1-41)

Tuesday 13 Mach,       7 p.m. : The Raising of Lazarus.  (John 11: 1-45)

Take our word for it: these evenings will be well worth turning out for!

Maurice.

Photograph by CD, from the Minoresses’ chapel, Derbyshire.

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January 31, Aberdaron IX: Fire.

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Sometimes a candle can speak where words cannot.

As here in Canterbury Cathedral, on a cake, or at a memorial site.

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December 2: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxxii – Francis could not fall very far, but he was free.

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The second half of life usually consists of what we have denied in the first half – our shadow; which is not some form of addiction, but failure. We can’t entertain the powerlessness of loneliness, impoverishment, boredom and generally not being in charge. We settle for a kind of pleasure that lacks joy, and even involves denial of joy. We can’t imagine being happy without money, without many options. We have replaced freedom of spirit with freedom of choice.

Why did Francis move into a life of non-power, non-aggression and sine proprio? He was so close to the bottom of life that he could not fall very far, but he was free. He knew that God doesn’t look at our faults and failings, but at the many ways we have been determined to try and say yes [which is what parents hope for seeing their children]. Once experiencing being fully alive we will never fear death, because we will know that we have not just lived but have come alive, and that such life is eternal and another form of it is waiting for us. Which is what Paul urges: reproducing the power of his Resurrection – Phil.3.10.

If I have not lived fully, death will terrify me, not knowing that this is not the end. Working in Zambia showed me a village people who lived – by our standards – with next to nothing. The children played, parents scratched a living from hard ground; but they had something we lack. An attitude with no room for cynicism. When they came together their singing was spontaneous – no hymn sheets; and they smile, with nothing to smile about. Like loving, smiling enjoys its own justification, is not dependent on having a reason to smile.

What do we think about when all else is gone? What did those victims who had no access to computers and phones on the aircraft speak about before the aircraft hit the twin towers? The language we heard was love, nothing else mattered. Life’s only purpose is to live lovingly by choice, and die in the same way. How can this become life’s norm? Be careful of a too ready recourse to detachment. Those victims were far from detached from what mattered. Life’s purpose is not to become detached but attached. For this to be real, other things have to be gently set aside.

AMcC

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November 27: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvii – Incarnation is about being adult

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A crucial issue about creation is the emphasis we tend to put on the divine coming into the world as a helpless baby – but the Incarnation is primarily about being adult, not being a child. The Incarnation of the divine in human existence happened 2000 years ago. Says who? The human species has been on earth for over 6 million years – and the 2000 years has tended to distort this. Incarnation did not begin with Jesus’ earthly dwelling 2000 years ago. It began 6 million years ago when the human species first evolved. The first 5 million happened in what we know as Africa.

Thus far our human unfolding has been largely of a biological nature, it has taken that long to bring our biological development to maturity. Biological development has reached a high point, we can’t evolve much further. The future will be spiritual development rather than physical growth, which we call the Kingdom of God. The days of hard graft with the focus on the material is changing; the future is about growth in mind and spirit. Which is what Jesus promised: if I do not go I cannot send the Spirit to lead into this fullness. Resurrection means humanity refashioned in the direction of the spiritual rather than the physical.

This transformation is global, not confined to the Christian religion. Because all religions suffer the desire for control, all have developed notions of incarnation that are alarmingly exclusive. None of them – including Christianity – have fully appreciated what unconditional love means. There is no such thing as a master species, each is unique in its capacity to give, and is equally co-dependent. Humanity has the responsibility for drawing forth the conscious dimension of creation especially through evolution which is crucial for our understanding of universal life.

This brings out the capacity for wisdom, necessary to keep us on the way to universal love. This is where things have gone wrong – wisdom became rational and mechanistic, serving the love of power rather than the power of love. Learning to love unconditionally is crucial if we are to have meaningful relationships; there can be no love where there is no justice. Sadly, many religions work hard at installing love – but too often neglect justice. Justice translates ideals into action, and engenders hope. Justice means holding no one and no thing in disregard. Mistakenly we link justice with just wages, just rights [rarely speaking of responsibilities]. Justice is all about fostering right relationships – a way of life that means empowering the powerless. Right relationships cannot exist where rivalry rules; where economies, health and education are based on competition.

Justice should be taken out of religious systems, because religions are tainted by association with oppressive regimes. Justice needs to be primary. We need to learn to think differently in order to see the bigger vision. Thinking should always be inclusive – we are expected not to think ourselves into a new way of living; but to live ourselves into a new way of thinking. Put simply, everything and everybody is included – no exclusions whatsoever. Indeed there are obstacles, we have been brainwashed about who to like and who to dislike, who to love and who to hate – all that has to be left behind.

Equally important, the Kingdom is not just about people – it’s also about systems and structures. The Cosmos is the womb of belonging – things either belong or they have no existence. Relating in the Kingdom is not possible without recognising we belong to the whole of creation – from where everything starts. In creation everything has its place and space, awaiting the warmth of hospitality; which allows for all kinds of possibilities.

As we have seen, God didn’t create a perfect world, but a world able to become what it was meant to be by the way it is lived in. For thousands of years we befriended creation in its birthing forth bringing new life through growth and decay – all this was spoiled when missionaries came and caused confusion by insisting that we were wrong to worship nature – when all we were doing was being at home with it. We need to recover awareness of the enormity and complexity of our beautiful world; only then do we have any hope of walking in tandem with Evolution.

Church is never to be equated with Kingdom. When it comes to Church we need to recall what Paul told us after visiting those infant Christian communities; that we relish what we have been given and don’t be over-concerned about structure and procedure. We must rid ourselves of all aspects on imperialism, with its regalia and pomposity and the accompanying legalism. The Kingdom is all about right relationships, not just in a religious or church context, but in fidelity to the wonder of and enjoying belonging. Every human structure needs to be called to give account of its stewardship.

AMcC

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November 26: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxvi – Jesus’ risen life wasn’t more real

 

Creation is one – which is a reminder that there is no separation between the dead and the living – we share the same Creation but at different levels. The realm of the dead is not some distant place from where we will escape through resurrection. Life and death belong in the one reality. Jesus’ risen life wasn’t more real than his ordinary life – he is the fullness of reality – yet it is certainly more enduring.

There is one Creation in life, in death and beyond death. Creation is forever undergoing death, resurrection and transformation. Resurrection is not just about Christ; it is about all of us and all creation. Jesus was not just 3 days older, with wounds healed by God, but was present as one simultaneously alive and dead. Not that the Lamb slain has recovered. Resurrection has emptied death of its power; by showing the shape of death – the mortal wounds – without its content.

This presence is always present as death overcome. Resurrection is a new way of being human, or a rereading of the original human story that had been obscured by death. God’s affirmation of Jesus’ living and dying is Resurrection. Jesus Risen did not simply reveal information as yet unknown, but shows a reality as yet unobserved, because clouded by death. The Revelation is not that there is Resurrection from the dead [this was known at the time of Maccabees].

It is not in being human that we rise from the dead, like the next step on a journey, we rise from the dead through association with Jesus Risen, it is an entirely new way of being [as Jesus told Nicodemus]. Prior to Resurrection the disciples couldn’t understand what he was saying or where he was leading – now they see something new about him, about God and about themselves. Incarnation means coming in the flesh. The body is the creative medium through which Spirit flourishes.

AMcC

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November 25: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxv – Final Journey

crososososo1450655040Lampedusa Cross

It is important that Jesus’ death be seen not just as an isolated, individual event, but the death of religious system. The time had come to set people free to worship in spirit and in truth. The significance of riding the donkey mustn’t be lost – this kind of king doesn’t ride horses! A king riding on a donkey was a step too far for the imperial set-up. Kingship now belongs to ordinary folk who ride on donkeys every day.

It was a similar story with the Temple, when he overturned the money-lenders tables. But as this was Passover the military was on hand and he was arrested and removed. The real meaning is Jesus’ life, not his death. It was his way of living that was found to be too provocative. By the time of Calvary it was far too late – the new way was already here, the seeds sown were seed of new life, not death.

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But there was a hesitant period – after his death it was a bit touch and go, the survival of the new way hung in the balance; even those who were with him fled – good men, but when the going got tough… Thank God for the good women – they stayed, right to the end. They came to anoint his body when the Sabbath ritual allowed it, and found the empty tomb. Interesting that Mary Magdalene’s recognition had nothing to do with expressing belief in the Resurrection. It was simply the plain fact that nobody but him spoke her name like that. Where his earthly dwelling ended, his enduring Spirit took over. Yes, he was gone – yet they knew he was alive; alive in a seemingly more real way than before. This was enough to bring back the faint-hearted.

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November 13: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xiii – ‘Resurrection is the affirmation of a life fully lived.’

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He is risen!

 

Little by little, slowly and gradually, the process of dis-covery [uncovering] is worked out to the subversion of the persecutors when the innocence of the victim becomes more and more evident: Joseph, Job, and Songs of Suffering Servant in Isaiah – when God is distinguished from the violence of the gods, and clearly on the side of the victim.

This is the genius of Judaism, having nothing equivalent elsewhere. This is what we call Revelation, God’s self-revelation by means of the innocent victim. We never reach the full revelation of this in the Old Testament, nor a full revelation of the innocence of the victim, nor a separation of God from involvement in the sacred self-deceiving violence. Such fullness occurs only in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

If we diminish the significance of Jesus’ death are we not undermining the very essence of the Resurrection? If we honour, as did Jesus, the primary role of the Kingdom, life radically lived to the full, then resurrection is not so much about the vindication of his death as about the affirmation of life fully lived. Resurrection belongs to life rather than death, an affirmation and celebration of what fully alive means.

Following Jesus has become synonymous with belonging to a denomination, and inevitably came to see Jesus as a ruling Lord – with scant reference to the freedom and empowerment of the powerless which is his hallmark. By the time of Emperor Constantine the Kingdom of God was clothed in the imperial system of Rome. Whereas the freedom Jesus brought would happen not by intervention from above but by empowerment from the ground up. The one and only time Jesus approved of them calling him king was when he chose to ride on a donkey – he embraced kingship but turned it on its head.

AMcC

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November 7, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: vii – “Christ is everything and is in everything”

 

The Incarnation means God identifying with the human species. There is the Christic structure in all of us. Everything is open to infinite growth because God’s being, in whose image we are created, is love, communication, infinite openness. This total communication is called “Son” or “Word” in God. It means that creation possesses the structure of the Son in as much as everything communicates itself, maintains an external relationship, and realises itself by self-giving. The Son is active in the world from the very moment of creation. This activity becomes concentrated when the Word became flesh in Jesus and finally spread throughout the cosmos through the Resurrection: “Christ is everything and is in everything“- Colossians 1.17.

It took concrete form in Jesus because he, from all eternity, was thought of and loved as the focal being in which God would be totally manifested outside God. The Incarnation finishes the complete inter-weaving of God and humankind, in a total unity. Jesus is the exemplar of what will happen to all human beings and the totality of creation. He is the future already realised.

Again, in the Book of Genesis, God gives us the task of naming Creation for God, and tells us that is the name by which it will be known. Considering our track record, it seems that God was backing a loser! Unless – God always intended to become part of Creation. But looking around at the mess the world is in – the fear, the evil, the injustice, the abuse – we could be excused for asking will it ever happen, will Creation ever achieve its purpose of becoming one with the divine?

It already has achieved its purpose – in Jesus we have what is uncreated and what is created totally one. What is in Jesus will be in the rest of Creation by the way those who believe actually live in the world. I used to wonder about all the names we are supposed to think up to name Creation for God, until I found Francis of Assisi – and he tells us the names by which Creation is known are sister and brother, because God is Abba for all of us, through friar Christ.

The coming of Jesus marks not the beginning of a uniquely divine enterprise but its completion. Chardin points out that in the biological part of our existence we could not evolve much further, God has achieved what God set out to achieve; and the coming of God among us in the biological embodiment of Jesus affirms this.

But Jesus is more than a biological creature; as divine he is the transforming of the biological state into which humans will now evolve – with new powers of mind and spirit – which reaches its highest expression in Jesus Risen. To reduce the human story to the past 2000 years diminishes God’s role in the whole creation story. Putting Jesus on a divine pedestal leaves no room for a radically new way of being human.

AMcC

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November 2, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: ii- Jesus Knew the Way

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All of us search for moral truth – and we find ourselves in agreement with folk of other faiths on values like peace with justice, truth and honesty, with respect for human life and above all – the primacy of love.

Jesus came as one who appeared to know the way to all this; and the Resurrection told them he had succeeded. Relief and excitement followed – he’s found the way out! This is the Good News – the Lord is risen! Jesus has entered the new life where death and sin are not there; and he offers the same invitation to all – come and see.

When those first disciples proclaimed Jesus is Lord, they were saying they had witnessed the moment when all this became clear. They had seen him suffer and die, they had been there at his burial – but now he is here, fully alive. What was reassuring was he seemed to be simultaneously dead and fully alive – he carried the marks of death yet was fully alive – death had been stripped of its power to frighten. The Son of God “loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation, (cf. 1 Peter 2:21; Matthew 16:24; Luke 14:27) He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning. (GS.22)1

To believe Jesus is Lord means that life is no longer hovering on the brink of absurdity. No goodness is wasted and there is no ultimate defeat of human values. They are the building blocks for making all things new, to be transformed, as was the peak of human endeavour, in the Resurrection. This is what makes Christianity unchangingly always new, he has found the way through – the Lord is risen! What they were saying was some of them had seen him, walked and talked with him. Yahweh had kept his promise in this one man, who was saying to everyone – come and see.

This is telling us that the deaths of people like Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero… are only tragic in the way Calvary is tragic. With Easter morning death has lost its sting. The Resurrection reveals the divine intention with regard to everything that is good, anything that reflects the full human response to God is doing the Father’s will – i.e. creating the kind of world of the Messianic promises: peace with justice; coming to the help of the poor and powerless; universal fraternity and the freedom to worship the one God in whatever way is appropriate.

AMcC

1Gaudium et Spes – Joy and Hope – is the Second Vatican Council’s Document on the Church in the Modern World. http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_gaudium-et-spes_en.html.

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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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