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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

The Holy Spirit opens our hearts

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Matthew 12:38-42
 
Jonah and the Whale
 
Despite Jesus’ many miracles the Pharisees wanted to see more. But Jesus was having none of it and promised that the only other sign that would be given to them would be the sign of Jonah. The prophet Jonah was called by God to preach a message of repentance to the Gentiles of Nineveh (located in modern-day northern Iraq). 

In the bright constellation of Old Testament prophets Jonah shines (or not) as the most reluctant prophet. He disobediently ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish by boat. The Lord then sent a severe storm that caused the crew of the ship to fear for their lives. Jonah was soon thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish, in whose belly he remained for ‘three days and three nights’ (Jon. 1:15-17).  After the three-day period, the Lord caused the great fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land on. 2‘10). 

Chastened and humbled, Jonah delivered his message of repentance and conversion, and the Nineties responded favourably. In similar vein the Gentile Queen of Sheba went to great lengths (and miles) to hear the wisdom of Solomon and was very impressed (1 Kgs. 10-1—13).

Jesus pointed to these examples to highlight how the Spirit had opened the hearts of Gentiles to God’s message, but now, when one greater than Jonah or Moses — greater because they pointed to him — was among them, the religious authorities had hardened their hearts. 

The message of repentance and conversion is foundational to our faith. The Spirit always leads us towards the grace of repentance because it brings us into a human-divine reality: God is holy and we are sinners. We tend to think of this admission or confession as a sign of weakness but it is the very opposite: when we confess our sins, admit our fault and throw ourselves on God’s mercy, we receive every spiritual grace and blessing.

Lord have mercy upon me a sinner; wash away my iniquity and cleanse me of my sin.

Chris
 
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Have Mercy on me, O God

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Snow-capped mountains and green fields with sheep and Psalm 51 v12
 
 
 
PSALMS 51 (NIVUK)
 
1  Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
 
2  Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
 
3  For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
 
4  Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
 
5  Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
 
6  Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
 
7  Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 
8  Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
 
9  Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
 
10  Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 
11  Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
 
12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
 
13  Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
 
14  Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
 
15  Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
 
16  You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
 
17  My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
 
18  May it please you to prosper Zion,
to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
 
19  Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous,
in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.
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Only God can Forgive Sins

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Matthew 9:1–8
 
The teachers of the law got at least one thing right: by claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God.  And of course we know that he is God, and he does forgive sins, repeatedly.
 
Fr Ronald Rolheiser:

“. . .if the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistkes. If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life. A serious mistake was a permanent stigmatization. We need a theolgy of brokenness. We need a theology which teaches us that even though we can’t unscramble an egg, God’s grace lets us live happily and with renewed innocence beyond any egg we may have scrambled. Every time we close a door, He opens another one for us . . .

"We need a theology that teaches us that God does not just give us one chance, but that every time we close a door, God opens another one for us. We need a theology that challenges us not to make mistakes, that takes sin seriously, but which tells us that when we do sin, when we do make mistakes, we are given the chance to take our place among the broken, among those whose lives are not perfect, the loved sinners, those for whom Christ came. We need a theology which tells us that a second, third, fourth, and fifth chance are just as valid as the first one. We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a lifetime, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable. Finally, we need a theology which teaches us that God loves us as sinners and that the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but to teach us how to live again, and again, and again."

Chris

from Ron Rolheiser

 

 

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Repentance

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Jonah 3:1–10, Luke 11:29–32
 
Lent is a time to be healed, restored and lifted up.  Repentance was for the people of Nineveh the gateway to life, and so it is for us.
 
We follow One who is greater than Jonah and Solomon; we follow Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The Holy Spirit leads us to salvation along the well-trodden path of repentance.
 
The Queen of Sheba was moved by the teaching of Solomon.  The Nineties felt compelled to repent by the teaching of the reluctanct evangelist Jonah.
 
How much more, then, should we be moved and compelled to repent by the teaching of the One who is greater than Jonah Moses and all the prophets, Jesus Christ our Saviour?
 
Chris
 
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Anger, righteous or not

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Matthew 5:17–37
 
 
Jesus teaches with extraordinary clarity that 'everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgement; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, "you fool” shall be liable to the hell of fire’ (v.22).
 
Jesus’s radical teaching on anger sees it as the root of murder.  Angry feelings, if they are nursed and not dealt with, become hatred.  The fruit of hatred can sometimes be actual murder.
 
Jesus does not say that we must not feel anger, express anger or even act on it, but he does say that we do not have the right to hang on to it, nurse it and vent it.
 
We must let anger go so that we can imitate Jesus more closely.  
 
Jesus’s anger never led him to sin.  He was betrayed, insulted, ridiculed tortured and crucified, but he let go any feelings of anger and forgave his oppressors, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:34).
 
Jesus shows us a new way of living.  As his disciples we must emulate him.  Whenever we are angry we must acknowledge our anger but let it go by calling on the Lord’s grace.
 
Christ’s Spirit will give us the power to fulfil his commandment to live as he did.
 
’Be angry but do not sin.’  (Ephesians 4:24)
 
 
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Forgiveness, the Scandal of Mercy

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Luke 19:1-10
 
This encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector illustrates perfectly the ‘scandal of grace’.  It brings to the fore this very important biblical teaching that where sin abounds, grace super-abounds.
 
God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.
 
Through his encounter with Jesus Zacchaeus had an experience of God’s mercy and compassion which touched him and led him to repentance and conversion.  No one is beyond God’s grace and mercy.
 
We are to be a living expression, a sign, a sacrament of this same mercy, kindness and forgiveness.  Learning to forgive others, to hold out the hand of friendship and brotherhood/sisterhood to those we find difficult is not easy.
 
In fact, without God’s grace it’s impossible, but with God’s grace all things are possible.
 
Lord, you treated everyone you met with great dignity and compassion; as persons created in your image and likeness.  May I now go and do likewise.
 
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