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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Faith with Humility and Trust in God

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Jesus was amazed at the centurion's faith. Nowhere in Israel had he found such faith as in this Gentile, a representative of a hated foreign oppressor. What was it in the centurion's behaviour that so impressed the Lord? The disposition with which he approached Jesus can be summed up in two words: faith and humility. He had complete confidence in Jesus's ability to heal his servant, and he was so humble that he did not consider himself worthy to have Jesus come into his house.

What did the centurion see in Jesus that gave him such faith, when many of the Jewish leaders were not open to Jesus's message? He was a man in authority and recognised Jesus’s absolute authority over sickness and evil. But this was not just his own shrewdness; only the work of God's grace in his heart could have brought him to such a position of faith.

It's with these same two attitudes that we should approach Jesus during this season of Advent. We need to be humble enough to see our weaknesses and neediness, and we should have complete faith in the power of Jesus to heal us and cleanse us from our sins. So perfectly do the centurion's words sum up the way we should approach Jesus that they have been incorporated into the liturgy. We say them just before our most important encounter with Christ, our reception of his body and blood. Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives in a special way, and we can take these words to heart as we begin this season.

The same is true for us: only God can bring us to see who Jesus really is and our need for him, and we must be open to his work within us. If we approach Jesus with faith and humility this Advent, inviting him into our lives, we shall find that he will work powerfully within us and give us far more than we imagined. Let us be expectant that he will do great things for us in the coming weeks.

Lord Jesus, we are not worthy to receive you, but we know that if you say the word we shall be healed.

 

lsaiah 2:1-5 • Psalm 121(122):1-9 • Matthew 8:5-11

Chris 
 
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Jesus's Love

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Jesus loved the people of Jerusalem and wept over their rejection of him.  But he wasn’t weeping for his own sake: these tears expressed a tender love for them.  These language of tears offers us a wonderful insight to the very heart of God.  Jesus’s tears were not only for Jerusalem but also for all who reject God and rebel against him.  This is not a harsh or vindictive God but One who weeps warm tears of love.
 
St Thérèse of Lisieux wrote beautifully of the depth and extent of God’s love for us:
 
“My God, everywhere your love is misunderstood and cast aside.  The hearts upon which you are ready to lavish your love turn away to earthly pleasures instead, as if happiness could be found in more material attachments.  They refuse to throw themselves into your arms and accept the gift of your infiinite love.
 
“Must this rejected love of yours remain shut up in your own heart?  If only you could find souls ready to offer themselves as victims, to be burnt up in the fire of your love!  You would lose no time in satisfying their desire.  Thus you would find a welcome outlet for the pent-up force of your great devotion.
 
“Jesus, grant me the happiness of being such a victim, burnt up in the fire of your divine love."
 
1 Maccabees 2:15–29 • Psalm 49(50): 1–2, 5–6, 14–15 • Luke 19:41–44
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The Parable of the King's Ten Servants

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A slightly different account of today's Parable of the Talents appears in Matthew's Gospel (see 25:14-30).  Matthew mentions only three servants, whereas Luke has ten, and there is a substantial difference between the sums of money involved.  Furthermore, in Luke's version the servants are given an equal amount, whereas in Matthew's a differentiation is made.

Luke is explicit about Jesus’s motive in telling his parable.  As verse 11 makes clear, he wants the people to understand that the fact that he is approaching Jerusalem doesn’t mean that the kingdom is is close at hand.  The man of noble birth must go away “into a far country to receive a kingdom and then return” (v. 12).

In the meantime, his servants are given responsibilities that they must fulfil. The servants – in other words, we as disciples – are not to put their feet up (so to speak), relax and rest on their laurels.  Instead, they are to devote their lives to the building up of God's kingdom on earth (see Acts 1:8-11).

The bottom line of the parable is that from those who are given much, much is expected.  The servants who produce a return from what they are given respect their master and understand his importance as king. On the other hand, the servant who fails to provide a return has a faulty or disordered understanding of his master, fearing him and seeing him as  “ . . . a hard man. You take up what you did not lay down, and reap what you did not sow” (v. 21).

We who have been blessed with so many graces must produce much in return. If we cultivate a healthy understanding of who God is, we will produce a rich harvest.  If, however, we have a misguided or wrong understanding of God, and see him as judgemental, harsh, unforgiving, unloving, etc . . ., our return will be small.

Lord God, may I serve you with all of my heart, soul and strength, and produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

 

2 Maccabees 7:1, 20–31 • Psalm 16(17): 1, 5–8, 15 • Luke 19: 11–28

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Wisdom

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Wisdom 13:1 – 9
 

1 But all men are vain, who are not under the knowledge of God, and who, from these good things that are seen, were not able to understand he who is, nor, by paying attention to the works, did they acknowledge he who was the artisan.

2 Instead, they had considered either the fire, or the air, or the atmosphere, or the circle of stars, or the great sea, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.

3 If they, being delighted by such sights, supposed them to be gods, let them know how great the Lord of them is in splendour. For he who created all things is the author of beauty.

4 Or, if they wondered at their power and their effects, let them understand by these things, that he who created them is mightier than they are.

5 For, by the greatness of the creation and its beauty, the creator of these will be able to be seen discernibly.

6 Yet, up to this point, the complaint about this is lesser. For perhaps they made a mistake in this, while desiring and seeking to find God.

7 And, indeed, having some familiarity with him through his works, they search, and they are persuaded, because the things that they are seeing are good.

8 But, then again, neither can their debt be ignored.

9 For, if they were able to know enough so that they could value the universe, how is it they did not easily discover the Lord of it?

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The Kingdom of God – Jesus

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Heavenly background, “Come Lord Jesus"

Wisdom 7:22–8:1 • Psalm 119:89–91, 130, 135, 175 • Luke 17:20–25

 

Paul taught us that the kingdom isn’t about rules or regulations but about our interior life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).  And St Anthony of Egypt said, “There is no point in our travelling to find the kingdom of heaven . . . As the Lord has already told us, God’s kingdom is within you.”

Jesus turned the idea of God’s kingdom on its head.  the Jews were expecting a political Messiah who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and re-establish the Davidic line and dynasty.  They rejected Jesus as a result of their expectations.  God’s kingdom was breaking into their world but they were too preoccupied with their own concept of the kingdom to recognise it.

God’s kingdom, manifested in Jesus, is first and foremost a spiritual reality rather than something earthly (vv. 20–21; John 18:36).  The kingdom is not even a place or a way of life but a person:  Jesus is the kingdom and the kingdom is Jesus.

Reflecting on the Our Father, Cyprian of Carthage wrote, “ ‘ Thy kingdom come’ . . . Christ himself is the kingdom of God, whom we day by day desire to come, whose advent we crave to be quickly manifested to us.  For since he is the resurrection, because in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, because in him we shall reign.

The closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to God’s kingdom.  Also, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we will pray for his return, because we long to see the ones we love.  We manifest God’s kingdom to the world by showing that we know Jesus, through our witness of peace, love, joy and righteousness in the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

“Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (St Augustine)

 
 
Chris
 
 
Image from https://www.faithgateway.com/pray-come-lord-jesus/#.YYzAqi-l1pQ
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The Love of Money

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Luke 16:9–15
 
In Jesus’s encounter with the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, the gloves were well and truly off.  He knew that they loved wealth, possessions and status (v.14), and that by addressing the issue of being trustworthy with money or property he was striking a sensitive chord.  He would go on to condemn them for being greedy and self-indulgent.
 
Let us be clear, however, that Scripture does not condemn wealth in and of itself; it’s the love of it that’s wrong.  Jesus was addressing the heart of the matter, not the practical reality of how we handle currency or the simple fact that some have more than others.
 
St Francis de Sales put it like this: “Pharmacists have almost all kinds of poison for their use, as circumstances may require, but they are not poisoned, because they keep their poisons not in their bodies, but in their shops.  In a like manner you may possess riches without being poisoned by them, provided you have them for use in your house or in your purse, and not by loving them in your heart."
 
The danger we run is of turning the spotlight on the Pharisees rather than on ourselves, on our attitudes, thoughts and ways.  God wants us to be generous and kind to others – not mean, spiteful or self-indulgent.  We should use our wealth to build the kingdom, to promote the Gospel of life and to do our utmost to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor of this world.
 
We are born into this world naked, we leave it without a penny and are buried with our inheritance.  (St Ambrose).
 
Chris
 
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