Tag Archives: Saint John

11 March, Human Will VII: The Will of God

 

 

What do we learn about the will of God for humanity when we ponder the sacred texts of scripture?  We find first in Genesis that we were created by God to share his life: this is his will for us.  We find that by sin we opposed God’s will and placed our will against God’s.  In consequence, we lost our closeness to God, we lost the harmony of our being, we became disordered within ourselves, and our relationships with each other became fraught and conflicted.  Our will, rather than being oriented toward God, turned in on itself.

Then began the long, long process by which God, without ever violating the freedom of our will, would lead humanity back to himself.  Scripture shows the stages in this process: the covenants with Noah and Abraham; the Exodus and journey to the Promised Land; the Law revealed to Moses; the growth of Israel’s identity as God’s chosen people, the organisation of Israel’s religious life, the building of the Temple.  In the midst of these stages, a theme emerges: God is faithful but the chosen people are wayward, contentious, fickle, heedless of God’s will, prone to idolatry.  The prophets and the psalms lament this.  Nevertheless, a new covenant is promised in which God will make possible a new depth of relationship with himself:

Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel, but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke….  No this is the covenant I shall make with them, Yahweh declares.  Within them I shall plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. 

(Jeremiah. 31:31-34) 

 

The other great theme that emerges in tandem with this is the prophecy of an individual man who will inaugurate this new covenant in his very person.  He will be the messiah.  He will be a king, yet he will also be a servant who will suffer.  Above all, he will be the faithful son that Israel, in her sinfulness and waywardness, had not been.  He will come for the poor and humble of God, and will himself be gentle and humble (see Isaiah 11:1-9, 42:1-9, 61:1-9; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Psalm 72; Zephaniah 2:3).

Jesus himself said that he was the fulfilment of this hope in Luke 4:16-21:

 

Jesus came to Nazara… and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

            The spirit of the Lord is on me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted. 

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them, ‘This text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.’

Christianity is built on the belief that what Jesus said in the synagogue that day was true, that he was the anointed one of God who would be, in his very person, the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy, and indeed of all the prophecies.

Christians see that the truth of Jesus’ claim is subsequently borne out in his public ministry, in everything he said and did, in his death, resurrection and ascension.  Where Israel had been a faithless and fickle son, Jesus remained faithful to the will of God, even unto death.  He, and he alone in all history, did his Father’s will.  And his own will?  It was completely united with the Father’s will, so much so that Jesus could say, ‘My food is to do the will of the one who sent me’ (John 4.34).

Jesus, by his life and his very being, shows us the love with which he unites his will to the will of the Father.  Through his Spirit, we are able to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, a relationship written on our hearts, by which we journey to the Father.  We cannot fully fathom Jesus’ love for us in this life, but we can love him in return.  We can strive to follow him.  We can give him our will.  To do this is to do the will of God.

SJC.

 

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Review: The Methodist Art Collection comes to town.

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When we were first married we worshipped in a village Methodist Church near Margate; an austere little chapel it was, whitewashed walls and uncomfortable benches. Thank God we did not have to sit under hour long nineteenth century non-conformist sermons, but were fed with wise words from Fr Martin Symonds, of Ramsgate Abbey.

That was more than a few years ago, but the austere image of Methodism is fixed in my mind, which expects churches to be bathed in coloured light from stained glass windows and peopled by statues of the saints who have gone before us.

Not all windows or statues in English Catholic churches would merit inclusion in a travelling art exhibition.

The Methodist Church has built up a collection of modern art, largely looking at Jesus, in one way or another. You can view the works here: http://www.methodist.org.uk/prayer-and-worship/mmac/index . The website will lead you to videos and other resources around these images.

Instead of hanging on church walls, the collection is sent out to proclaim the Good News in its own way; through exhibitions around the UK and in the future to Dublin, Rome and beyond. Until Saint George’s Day 2017 it is in Canterbury’s Beaney Museum.

Not all the images inspire me to ‘prayer and worship’, but I am hard-wired to David Jones, represented here by a delicate woodblock of The Three Kings, passing a David Jones signature passion-resurrection image: a war-blasted tree-cum-cross, sprouting new growth. The Magi approach a starlit Bethlehem amid Welsh hills that bring to mind a woman’s torso and raised knees at the moment of childbirth: the star’s rays beam down like a searchlight upon the haven where the Child lies, under the hill within his Mother’s womb.

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Next to Jones’s tiny, monochrome image hangs The Dalit Madonna, a big, bright work by Jyoti Sahi. While this glorious work picks up themes from Eastern and Western European tradition, such as the sun and moon in the sky, and the Babe blessing from the womb, the artist integrates these with his own Indian culture. The sun is represented by a marigold; the moon by a crescent, including Hinduism and Islam in this birth. Then the Infant is seated within an oval reminiscent of the traditional mandala of Eastern icons, yet despite his foetal position and naturalistic drawing, he is clearly blessing the viewer; he is strong but clearly dependent on his mother, who bends her body in worship and protection, her breast ready to comfort and nurture. Many Catholic preachers would tell you that Mary, who conceived Jesus before her marriage, would have been considered an outcast; an untouchable like this Dalit mother, a radiant human being who clearly loves her son, the centre of her world and being. And how many unwed mothers were condemned by the Catholic Church in recent times?

The one Old Testament story on view here is that of Cain and Abel. We could be among Jones’s Welsh hills, or the Lake District, or even the Downs of the Isle of Wight where John Reilly lived and worked. Cain is a stocky, almost Calibanesque figure, at work within the pale he has set around his neat, well-ordered, smallholding. He pauses in his digging to stare up at his brother, a slim, radiant type of the Good Shepherd, who like Abel would be killed by his own. Suddenly that spade looks menacing: a ploughshare about to become a sword. And yet one cannot help a twinge of sympathy for one who wants his world to be under control, without any disturbing incursions from his brother’s nomadic flocks; that brother who stands nearby with eyes for the far horizon, not for him.

The Lord’s eyes, too, are on a far horizon in Christ writes in the dust – the woman taken in adultery by Clive Hicks Jenkins. In a nightmare of blues, Jesus is almost cartwheeling as, with arms outstretched as on the Cross, he looks away from the scene, away from the woman and her accusers, away from us bystanders looking on. The woman, with her Magdalenesque red hair, high heels and little black dress, is bound, as Christ soon would be, a halter around her throat.The light that glows upon her skin is reflected from Christ, apart from the tiny white triangle of her underwear, visible beneath her skirt which she cannot pull down with her hands tied behind her back. It takes a few moments to see that her accusers already have rocks in their hands, awaiting the moment when Christ’s assent to her killing is given. A moment that never comes. Would we back these men up, if we were there? Were these the men who stoned Stephen? Was Paul among them? Was this the first step on the road to Damascus?

Go and sin no more, Jesus told that woman. A good motto for the Christian life.

Even in the first two pictures reviewed here, the effects of sin creep in: the tree from Flanders, the outcast mother. We see the sin in Cain’s illusory self-sufficiency and his inherent jealousy; loud and clear in those shadowy, self-righteous stones, poised for murder. But like Jones’s three kings, each of us can follow the star, which leads us to a fleshly, humble place. The damage of our sinfulness will not prevent the Cross from being the tree of Life.

If you get the chance to see this exhibition on its travels, do spend some time with a few of the works. Others among them may speak to you louder than these four have done to me. Stop, look, listen.

MMB

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Wednesday 8 March, Ex Corde Lecture: Saint John in Bonaventure’s thought.

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Ex Corde Lectures

Johannine Dimensions of ‘The Word of the Cross’ in Bonaventure’s Thought.

Wednesday 8 March, 7.00 p.m. to 9.30 p.m.

at the Franciscan International Study Centre, Giles Lane, Canterbury,      CT2 7NA.

 

The famous passage from 1 Corinthians 1:18 – ‘For the Word of the Cross is to those who are perishing, foolishness but to us who are being saved it is the power of God’ – speaks eloquently of the salvific nature of Christ’s death in the thought of Saint Paul. The same is true for the great Franciscan mystic, Saint Bonaventure, who links that action of the second Person of the Trinity to the personalised experience of Francis’s stigmata and a perception of a Cross that ‘illuminates’ and is the source and summit of Christian contemplation. In this Ex Corde lecture, Father Tom Herbst OFM will relate Bonaventure’s treatment of the Pauline theme of the ‘Word of the Cross’ to his exegesis of the Gospel of John.

 

Father Thomas J. Herbst received a BA in History at the University of California at Santa Barbara, an M.Div. from the Franciscan School of Theology?Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. He obtained a D. Phil. in Theology from the University of Oxford in 2001.

All are welcome. An opportunity to ask questions will follow the lecture. We ask for a small donation to cover costs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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25 February: “If We Live in the Sacred Heart”…

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More from Father Andrew, SDC; written in war time.

If we just live in this world we do have tribulation, but if we live in the Sacred Heart we are able to be of good cheer though we are in the midst of that which is cheerless, for He Who told us to be of good cheer is Himself in the midst of us.

I shall indeed keep you in my heart and my prayer, my dear Child.

God Bless and keep you.

The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, p 120. Edited Kathleen E Burne, Mowbrays, 1948.

And God bless and keep you all, all our readers. Thank you for being with us.

MMB.

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24 February: Saint Matthias

 

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We remember the story of Judas Iscariot well enough: the betrayal, the suicide, the purchase of the Potter’s Field; but also his constant presence with the Lord, his care for the material goods of the infant church, the easy temptation to despise and condemn the extravagant gesture of Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive perfumed oil (John 12:1-8), the concern for the poor… Not a bad man, but one lacking wisdom and humility.

judasWithout him, the Church was an Apostle short. Jesus did not replace Judas – I agree with the artist at Strasbourg Cathedral who has the Lamb of God releasing Judas from his tree, an Apostle still in Jesus’ eyes – but the Apostles decided to make up the dozen again. They wanted to strengthen their group by adding an eyewitness:

with us all the time that the Lord Jesus came in and went out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, until the day wherein he was taken up from us, one of these must be made a witness with us of his resurrection. And they appointed two, Joseph, called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. Acts 1:21-23.

Matthias was chosen by lot, as the two men were equally worthy. And then we hear no more of Matthias, either in Acts or in the Epistles. Why? Well, along came Pentecost, and the Apostles scattered to tell the Good News to the whole world. Matthias is believed to have ministered around the Black Sea in Georgia and to have been martyred there.

The Church faced new challenges in those early days. First to make up numbers to maintain the structure of twelve Apostles set up by Christ, but then to abandon that structure, for most of the twelve to abandon Jerusalem, and to establish new structures in Egypt, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Italy, Georgia …

Which structures are we being called to renew, which to abandon? Which new ideas are we called to nurture? Let us pray that the Spirit, who came down on Matthias with the rest of  the Apostles and more than a hundred other women and men, will fill the hearts of us the faithful and kindle in us the fire of love and wisdom.

MMB.

Pentecost by TJH

 

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11 February: Our Lady of Lourdes

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‘And now these three remain: faith, hope and love…’ 1 Corinthians. 13:13

St. Paul pointed out the three enduring virtues in Christian life.  Mary is full of these virtues.

Mary is a model of faith.  When the angel appeared and gave her the news of God’s plan for her, she accepted without knowing what would happen in the future.

She is a model of hope.  Mary knew that Jesus came down from heaven.  When he died on the Cross she stayed beside him and hoped until the end.  Even after His death, she continued to hope in God’s promises, which were fulfilled when he rose again.

Mary is the model of charity.  It was at the foot of the Cross that Jesus instructed John, his beloved disciple, to take care of his mother Mary as his own mother.  Mary followed him and the other apostles to live their common life: sharing things, praying, fasting, praising God.  So, she is found with them at Pentecost.  She did not give up her vocation after Jesus went back to heaven.  She went on loving as a mother.

As Mary is full of these three enduring Christian values, so she is a model for all Christians.

Mary full of grace, pray for us.

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1 February: A week with Rabindranath Tagore: IV

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I cannot choose the best.

The best chooses me.

Stray Birds XX

I cannot always explain why a particular picture ends up with a post on this blog. Yesterday’s picture of the shadows was one I had on file, waiting for the right words. They came. Today’s jumped out of the file as I flicked through. ‘Of course! It’s about mercy!’ I said. The best chose me, even when I was not feeling at all capable of choosing the best. 

So, take courage. When all was about to fall apart, the best told his disciples:

You have not chosen me: but I have chosen you; and have appointed you, that you should go, and should bring forth fruit; and your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

John 15:16.

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16 January: Laudato Si: Can Spring be far behind?

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photo by Andreas Trepte

The question is Shelley’s and finds its answer in what has gone before in the Ode to the West Wind:

……..O thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth … 

Spring is here already, waiting for the moment to blow her trumpet announcing new birth and rising.

Shelley cannot avoid Biblical reference: the seed must die to bear fruit (John 12.24) and while Shelley’s chariot may be borrowed from Donne, it refers to Elijah’s whirlwind departure from this earth:

And it came to pass, as [[Elijah and Elisha] still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

2Kings 2:11

For me Winter arrived when I saw my first redwing of the year, come over from Scandinavia to spend the winter eating berries.

The watchful tree (a very early cherry) is flowering for Christmas in the park in Canterbury. (Jeremiah  1:11) Birds, trees, wind, whatever takes your eye; always look out for the signs of the times.

WT

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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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