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Faith and St Teresa of Ávila

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Luke 12:1–7 • St Teresa of Ávila (Memoria!)

 

Fear of God is not a virtue we often come across nowadays, but it was cherished by the ancients and seen as the beginning of wisdom. This great virtue needs to be recovered in our own time and lives.

What does it mean to fear God? Consider that he – who governs the sun, moon, oceans, earth, stars and cosmos – also knows when a mere sparrow falls down. Consider that the power of the Almighty – revealed in tumultuous waves or the shifting of tectonic plates – is also the One who counts all of the hairs on our heads. God is worthy to be both loved and feared.

We are called to fear God, which leads to a reverence for our neighbour. St Teresa of Avila points us in the right direction. She was a great woman of prayer, and was so full of the life of God that she would often lose consciousness of herself and become 'one' with God. This mystical union is the highest form of existence, and indicates our infinite value. In his Letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of living to the 'praise of his glory' (1:14). Our destiny is therefore for us to be brimming with God's fullness.

For St Teresa, the “Way to Perfection” – as she described the union with God – was not possible without taking up the cross in a life of prayer and penance. 

She was also very human. Once, when her coach overturned and landed in the mud, she questioned: “Lord, why did you do that to me?" On hearing the reply, “That is what I do to all my friends”, she retorted, “It is not surprising then, Lord, that you have so few of them!"

We may think that the mystical life is unachievable for us. But as a Doctor (i.e. Teacher) of the Church, St Teresa guides and inspires our prayer life, so that we eventually come to be united with God, to the praise of his glory!

We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can - namely, surrender our will and fulfil God's will in us.' (St Teresa of Ávila)

Chris
 

Romans 4:1–8 • Psalm 31(32):1–2, 5, 11 • Luke 12:1-7

 

 

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The Sign of Jonah and Repentance

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http://www.ingodsimage.com/2016/04/the-sign-of-the-prophet-jonah/

Luke 11:29–32

On several occasions the Jews demanded miraculous signs (see Matt. 12:38; Mark 8:11), but Jesus rejected these requests because their motives were wrong.  In today’s passage Jesus says that those who demand a sign would indeed be given one – but only the sign of Jonah (v.29).  Jonah spent three days and three nights buried in the belly of a whale, just as Jesus would spend three days and three nights buried in the belly of the earth.

Jesus goes on to say that if the Queen of Sheba had responded positively to the teaching of Solomon and the people of Nineveh to the preaching of Jonah, how much more should the Jews respond to his ministry, as he is infinitely greater than either Solomon or the Queen of Sheba?  How did the people of Nineveh respond to the teaching of Jonah?  The repented.  Repentance is the only correct response when we come to embrace and accept God’s Word.  We need to cultivate an “incarnational awe” or an “incarnational adoration”, whereby, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, we can grasp more clearly who is Jesus.

Jesus was and is God’s revelation of himself.  Pope St John Paul II reflected, “The whole of Christ’s life was a continual teaching: his silences, his miracles, his gestures, his prayer, his love for his people, his special attention for the title and the poor, his acceptance of the total sacrifice on the cross for the redemption of the world and his resurrection are the actualisation of the word and the fulfilment of revelation.”

In the same way that a Roman coin would have displayed different images for the Emperor Caesar and then his son and successor, so in Christ we meet the living Scriptures – the Word made flesh.  Fidel Castro once said: “I’ve always considered Christ to be one of the greatest revolutionaries in the history of humanity.”  He was right, but in fact Jesus was so much more than a revolutionary, so much more than a king of a prophet – because Jesus is God.

“Although Christ was God, he took flesh;  and having been made man, he remained what he was, God.” (Origen)

Chris
 

Romans 1:1–7 • Psalm 97(98) 1–4 • Luke 11:29–32

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Guardian Angels

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 Photo by Zoltan Tasi on Unsplash

Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Today we celebrate the feast of the Guardian Angels. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.  Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and persons united in God” (para. 336).

Are you comfortable with this teaching? Do you think it's a spiritual reality that is relevant to our daily lives? For sure, in our post-modern and post-Christian society, belief in angels and their opposite, demons, can be – for many – hard to accept and embrace. The Church, however, has always stood firm in its affirmation of this doctrine of faith because angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation.

Therefore, when confronted with aspects of our faith that we find hard to accept, we are encouraged by Jesus to adopt the disposition of a child (Matt. 18:4). What does this mean? After all – as every parent and guardian knows – children do not always display the qualities of a saint, which is why they need their parents. And also, as is self-evident, the nature of life is to grow and mature into adulthood. When we were children, we thought and acted like children, but now as adults we think and act like adults (see 1 Cor. 13:11). Jesus, of course, is referring to a fundamental disposition in children: an openness, a trust, an innocence, which, when adopted by Christians, becomes the impulse of faith which puts all their hope and trust in God.

Greatness then, as far as the kingdom of heaven is concerned, is to do with the heart and our interior disposition. The child of faith in us can easily and readily accept that we and all believers have a guardian angel. Armed with this attitude we pray to our angel, asking for every spiritual blessing and for a pouring out of God's grace upon our lives.

 

'Angel of God, my guardian dear, 

to whom God's love commits me here,

ever this day, be at my side, 

to light and guard, rule and guide. Amen.

 

Chris
 

 

Baruch 4:5–12, 27-29 • Psalm 68(69):33–37 • Proper of Saints: Matthew 18:1–5, 10

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St Jerome Memorial

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‘ “Like the deer that yearns for the fountains of water, so my soul is yearning for you, O God." As those deer, then, yearn for fountains of water so it is with our deer: they have come out of Egypt and left the world, they have slain Pharaoh and all his army in the waters of baptism. Now, after slaying the devil, they yearn for the fountains of the Church: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

‘That the Father is a fountain is related in Jeremiah: *They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water:" We read elsewhere of the Son: “They have forsaken the fountain of wisdom." Again, of the Holy Spirit: "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him, there will rise up in him a fountain of water welling up to eternal life." Straightaway the evangelist explains that the Saviour was speaking of the Holy Spirit.

‘These quotations clearly demonstrate that the three fountains of the Church are the mystery of the Trinity. The soul of the believer, of the baptised person, yearns for these fountains, and he says: "My soul has thirsted for God, the living fountain." See, what they asked for has come to pass: they have come and stood before the face of God; they have appeared before the altar and the sacred mysteries of the Saviour. Admitted to the body of Christ and reborn in the life-giving fountain, they speak with confidence and say: "I will go to the place of the wonderful tabernacle, even to the house of God." The house of God is the Church, this is the wonderful tabernacle: for in it is the voice of exultation and praise, and the sound of those who keep festival." (St Jerome)

'You who have now put on Christ and follow our guidance are like little fish on the hook: you are being pulled up out of the deep waters of this world by the word of God.’

(St Jerome).

 

30 September 2021 readings: Nehemiah 8:1–12• Psalm 18(19):8–11 • Luke 10:1–12

 

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Who do you say that I am?

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Haggai 1:15–2:9 • Psalm 42(43):1–4 • Luke 9:18–22

image from http://heartsofcompassioninternational.blogspot.com/2012/08/how-to-hear-from-god-part-1.html

A Chinese proverb says that a person who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, but one who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. There are a number of key questions in life which we ignore at our peril. What is the purpose of life on earth? What happens after I die? Is death the end or is there an afterlife?

In today's Gospel reading we encounter another important question, the answer to which sheds light on each one of these existential questions. It s the question that Jesus put to his disciples and continues to put to every man and woman on the face of the earth. He asks you and he asks me: “Who do you say that I am?" (v. 20). The answer to this question is the gateway to unravelling the meaning of life and to solving the mystery of what happens after we die. The answer to this question is crucial for our lives on earth and our eternal destiny.

When Peter uttered his famous declaration that Jesus is 'the Christ of God', Jesus realised that a Watershed had been reached in the disciples' understanding of who he is.  It was  recognition that Jesus is more than a prophet; he is more than a great teacher: he is the Son of God.  What revelation has made known is that Jesus Christ was God made man.  The very Lord, Creator and King humbled himself by becoming a human being: he was made one of us, became one of us, and lived like one of us.

To be able to grasp this truth and allow it to shape our lives requires a grace of revelation – mere flesh and blood, the power of our own reasoning, cannot grasp this most sacred and profound of Christian truths. The following words were spoken by St Augustine many centuries ago, but they still have a tremendous impact today: “[Jesus] was created of a mother whom he created. He was carried by hands that he had formed. He cried in the manger in wordless infancy, he the Word without whom all human eloquence is mute.”

Jesus assumed our humanity that we might become God. (St Athanasius)

 

 
 
Chris
 
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The Sower

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Image from http://www.luciasblog.com/2017/10/the-implanted-word-of-god.html
Man sowing seed by hand
 
Luke 8:4–15
 
The Parable of the Sower is the “parable of parables”.  Jesus taught that understanding this parable is the key, or gateway, to all the others (Mark 4:13).
 
One way of looking at the Parable of the Sower is to understand the soil as our mind.  As the word of God engages with our mind a number of things can happen.  The devil (like a bird picking up seed) may steal away the seed that was sown; or as soon as we hear the Word of God the distractions of the day overwhelm us and it is gone.
 
Or we receive it at first with great joy and happiness but the busyness of the day and the testing of life dissipate it and we do not hold on to it.  The problem is that if we don’t hold on to the Scripture that we have read we fail to mature as Christians and to fulfil our vocation.
 
When the soil of our mind is good, though, receiving and valuing the Word of God, we are able to persevere, riding out the ups and downs of the day and meeting each circumstance with a bold proclamation of God’s truth.
 
Father, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, teach me to be good soil and so to bear fruit for your kingdom.
 
Chris
 
 
1 Timothy 6:13–16 • Psalm 99(100) • Luke 8:4–15
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Love whom?

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First Reading: Colossians 3: 12-17

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins.  The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same.  Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love.  And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body.  Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.  Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom.  With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 150: 1-6
Response: Let everything that breathes give praise to the Lord

  1. Praise God in his holy place,
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
    Praise him for his powerful deeds,
    praise his surpassing greatness.
  2. O praise him with sound of trumpet,
    praise him with lute and harp.
    Praise him with timbrel and dance,
    praise him with strings and pipes.
  3. O praise him with resounding cymbals,
    praise him with clashing of cymbals.
    Let everything that lives and that breathes
    give praise to the Lord.

Gospel: Luke 6: 27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’

 

Lord, teach me to love those people in my life whom I struggle with.  Rid me of hate and resentment, which so easily fester in my heart.  Amen

 

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Jesus tells us always to be ready

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Matthew 24:42–51

We do not know when we are going to die, or when the Lord is coming again, or even what will happen today or tomorrow.  We live in time but walk on the cusp of eternity.  We forget – or put out of our minds – how brief and fragile is life and that we have an eternal destiny.

Jesus wants to shake us out of this kind of self-deception.  He captures a very common experience in the aftermath of a crime: regret and recrimination.  The householder is left wishing that he had kept watch, and this is something to which we can all relate.  Victims of crime speak of being violated, exposed and humiliated.  Those who have been negligent or forgetful in securing their property experience guilt.  This often gives way to resentment and anger and a profound sense of loss (particularly if what was taken is irreplaceable).

We guard and protect those items that we value, but Jesus is challenging us to reflect on how much we value his life within us.  Just as we guard our material goods, so should we protect our spiritual possessions.  We need to cultivate our relationship with God through prayer, reading his Word and drawing ever more deeply from the riches of the Eucharist.  But we should also guard our hearts, to understand life’s  brevity and to long for Christ’s return.

We could do no better than to reflect on today’s Gospel and to consider the insight of Thomas à Kempis, who said in The Imitation of Christ: “How wise and happy is he that labours to be in life as he is in death.  A perfect contempt of the world, a desire to go forward in virtue, the love of discipline, the toil of penance, the readiness of obedience, the denying of ourselves, and the bearing of any adversity whatsoever for the love of Christ, will give us great confidence and we shall die happily.”

Lord, fill me with a true longing for your coming.  By the power of your Holy Spirit living within me, may I always be alert for the signs of your life and love in the world around me.

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

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Mercy

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Matthew 18:21 – 19:1
 
Our world is crying out for mercy, but it does not realise it.
 
In today’s parable, Jesus invites us to consider how the two qualities of forgiveness and mercy work int he human heart.  The servant is a classic example of one who, despite being the recipient of great mercy, fails to change his heart.  His behaviour towards the servant in debt to him is reprehensible.  The parable is intended to invoke our sense of moral indignation.  “How shocking and scandalous!” we cry.  And this is how we are supposed to react.
 
Then the penny drops – as the light of the Holy Spirit shines – and we realise that we are just like this servant.
 
We have been forgiven the huge debt of our now sin, but we easily hold on to grudges, nurse resentments and find it hard to forgive.  The formula we must understand and live out daily is that since we have received mercy, we should show that same mercy to others.
 
By God’s grace we can be ambassadors of God’s mercy.  We can live it, we can witness to it and we can pray for it.  The world needs men and women who will witness to God’s mercy because it is God’s mercy which melts hearts, converts sinners and reveals his love for every human person.
 
”Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand alongside the the mountain of the mercy of God.”  (St John Vianney)
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When the Storms of Life Assault Me

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Matthew 14:22–36
 
Jesus retired to a private place to pray.  He knew the importance of refreshing himself in communion with his Father.  During the night he walked across the water to meet his disciples and calmed the storm.  We face many storms that frighten us and which threaten to overwhelm us, but when matters seem at their worst Jesus is with us saying, “Do not be afraid.”.  It brings us peace.
 
It is typical of Peter’s impetuosity that without thinking he got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus.  It is also typical that his faith wobbled as he focused on the power of the storm and not on Jesus.  He began to sink.
 
Peter called on the Lord for help.  We can identify with Peter’s humanity, his love for Jesus, his sudden fear and his call to Jesus to help him.  Peter’s actions here exemplify many of our experiences in trying to live the Christian life.  When Jesus call us we are attracted to him and try to step out in faith to reach him.  If we keep our eyes and mind fixed on him all is well, but when storms and crises arise we are distracted from our faith in the Lord.  But Jesus will still any storm and deliver us from any situation when we have faith.
 
It is at times of trial and challenge that we most need to turn to the Lord.  Focusing on our problems leads to darkness and to despair, but keeping our mind focused on Jesus will lead us to safe harbour and peace.  Jesus does not promise to make our problems disappear, but he promises that he will be with us through them all, and that we will be able to find peace and calm in him – instead of being overwhelmed by life’s tumultuous waves.
 
Jesus, increase my faith in you, so that when the storms of life assail me I may put my trust in you to lead me safely to my heavenly home.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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