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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

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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Forgive me, O Lord

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Matthew 9:1–8
 
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Our Lord's Prayer

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Matthew 6:7–15 

Much is written about prayer but only one thing is needed. Much is said about prayer but only one thing is needed. The one thing that is needed is to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him, for he is the Teacher and he is the Master of prayer. Today, we do just this: we sit at the feet of our Lord, our Master and our Teacher and learn from him, for he is gentle and humble of heart and we will find rest for our souls.

Jesus’s teaching on prayer is revealed supremely and definitively in the Our Father, because in this prayer we learn all we need to know. Could it be that simple? In a word, yes. St Augustine said: “If you run through the petitions of all holy prayers, I believe you will find nothing that is not summed up and contained in the Lord's Prayer.” St Thomas Aquinas taught, “The Lord's Prayer is the best of all prayers. All prayer requires five excellent qualities which are found here. A prayer should be confident, ordered, suitable, devout and humble.” The Our Father, then, is the fundamental Christian prayer. It reveals that our prayer is directed to God who is Father of us all, connecting us all as brothers and sisters who pray to the one God and Father. Jesus is the One who has revealed his Father, and we are blessed and privileged to be invited by the Son to call God “Father”.

The danger with the Our Father, if we can speak in such terms, is that we have become too familiar with it. We almost need to step back and ask the Lord for a renewed and fresh appreciation of it. If we will learn to recite the Our Father more slowly than we normally would, deliberately pondering and reflecting on each phrase, we will allow the Holy Spirit to teach us and reveal its deeper meaning.

The Lord's Prayer is the most perfect of prayers..In it we ask, not only for all the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. This prayer not only teaches us to ask for things, but also in what order we should desire them. (St Thomas Aquinas)

Chris

from Bible Alive

2 Corinthians 11:1–11 • Psalm 110(111):1–4, 7–8 • Matthew 6:7-15

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

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The Body and Blood of Christ

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Mk 14:12-16, 22-26

 

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

What is the source and summit of the Christian life? Is it feeding the poor and alleviating world poverty? Is it a holy life or the witness of a saint? Is it a life dedicated to self-sacrifice and service of others? The Christian life is many things and it is certainly all of these. However, the source and summit of the Christian life is the gift of the Eucharist. It is this act of worship that reaches the very height, the very essence, the pinnacle of what the Christian life is. This is because the Christian life is Jesus Christ. In the Eucharist we receive Jesus and Jesus receives us. We consume him and he fills us. The Eucharist is food: food for this life and food for the next. We are a unity of body and soul. Just as food feeds our physical bodies, so the Eucharist feeds our souls. 

As human beings we have profound needs: we need to know we are loved; we need to have meaning and purpose in our lives; we need to have hope in a destiny and future beyond the grave. The Eucharist answers these deep questions about human existence because the meaning of life is to know Jesus. In the Eucharist we meet him in the most real and authentic of ways. Unlike mountaineers who strive with every fibre of their being to reach the summit of towering peaks, we simply receive the Eucharist as a gift. We can't earn it, we don't deserve it: it is God's greatest gift to us.

Our faith demands that we approach the Eucharist fully aware that we are approaching Christ himself. It is precisely his presence which gives the other aspects of the Eucharist as meal, as memorial, as an anticipation of Christ's return – a significance which goes far beyond mere symbolism. The Eucharist is a mystery of presence. In the Eucharist supremely we meet Christ himself. We commune with him, we take him into ourselves in the deepest way possible, we pray to him and we lay our life before him.

Each one individually and all of you together are united in one and the same faith in Jesus Christ . . . breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death which gives eternal life in Jesus Christ.' (St Irenaeus of Lyons)

Chris

from Bible Alive

Exodus 24:3-8 • Psalm 115(116):12-18 • Hebrews 9:11-15 • Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

 

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

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The Holy Trinity

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Photo by Thaï Ch. Hamelin / ChokdiDesign on Unsplash

Sunday 30 May (B) (Solemnity) The Holy Trinity. Matthew 28:16-20

In today's reading Jesus confirms that there are three Persons in one God. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. We are sent out as evangelisers, as apostles and witnesses of Christ because we are baptised into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some protest that they can't get their mind around the Trinity. Thank God, we never will! As St Augustine once said: If you can fathom it – it's not God. Having said that, we can, the essence of faith, the heart of with the help of the Holy Spirit, get our minds into the Trinity and penetrate the mystery, light and wisdom of the Godhead.

Paul encouraged the believers at Ephesus to do just this – perhaps we could adopt the prayer he gave them as our Trinity Sunday prayer: 

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19). “

What a powerful and utterly wonderful prayer! God wants us to enter into the mystery of who he is. The essence of being a Christian is knowing God; when we know God, we want to love and serve others. The Trinity is not a dry, unreachable, ancient dogma – no, on the contrary, it is belief. God wants us to get excited today about the mystery that God is Three-in-One.

In a profound and moving hymn of praise Dionysius the Areopagite wrote:

Trinity! Higher than any being, any divinity, any goodness! Guide of Christians in the wisdom of heaven!

Lead us up beyond unknowing and light, up to the farthest, highest peak of mystic scripture, where the mysteries of God's Word lie simple, absolute and unchangeable in the brilliant darkness of a hidden silence. Amid the deepest shadow they pour overwhelming light on what is most manifest. Amid the wholly unsensed and unseen they completely fill our sightless minds with treasures beyond all beauty.

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 • Psalm 32(33):4-6, 9, 18-20 • Romans 8:14-17 • Matthew 28:16-20

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