Friday, 28 August 2009

All these evil things come from within (Mk 7:23)

Not a very nice title, I know, but I like to put a quote from the Sundays Gospel (Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23) in the title and there was nothing that really jumped out at me. Still being at home on holidays, although almost at the end now, I haven't meditated that much on this gospel yet, and as such take the liberty to go a bit off the topic.

Ussually two things (at least) strike me when I am at home. The first the apparent gloominess of the world when I take "a holiday away from God" and secondly, especially taking to some old friends, the negativity I get regarding Christianity. It always disturbs me, and makes me uneasy... as on the one hand I sense the emptyness of a life without God, which I now perceive is in a way a hell, and it makes me appriciate the difference it makes to know God, to know His love and to have him actively in my life.

I guess it is one of those things you get used to, to have God near, and it is only when you move to a society which is so completely different from the normal cloister life that I really realise this. That is what I often say about prayer (or generally our relation with God), we do not really feel we progress or even that it exists, but we experience and realise the emptyness sometimes only when we cease.

It seems so obvious to me that there is something lacking... and it is all there, given to us as a gift...

But then there is the negativity I get about Christianity, and I realise one of the points of which this Sundays Gospel might speak. If we know Jesus, if we claim to be His follower, we have to life according to this as well. Where is the joy of knowing Christ, where is the charity, the love? Should this not flow forth as a result?

"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men." (Mk 7:6-7)

Jesus says "You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men" (Mk 7-9). Jesus gave us a new commandment, to love as God loves (Cf. Jn 13-34)... so that should be our aim (even though the bar is put high, we can try and live up to it as best as we can). If we are trully followers of Christ, then as in the early Christian era people will see the love which flows forth from knowing Jesus, they will see the joy, experience the charity.

Just going through the motions is not enough, it is our heart God wants, it is our innner disposition that counts. And it is not only God who sees the heart of men, but this disposition also shines through in some way in everything we do. The commends made to me about christians are generally that we are hypocritical, and that is exactly what Jesus is warning us about all the time... "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts [...]" (Mk 7:21), if our dispoistion is not good, our practices will be accordingly. Charitable outward practices and apperances should be the result of our innner disposition...

Well, just some thoughts on this, and I hope the above gives a sense of my musings. It can be so difficult to be unable to share the fire within with others, especially if their hearts are closed because of the withness of us ourselves (and I put myself in the 'us' first of all). The gift of faith is really a treasure...

 "The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field." (Mt 13:44)

Let us treasure it as such and let it radiate out to others...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Do you also want to leave?

Well this, "Do you also want to leave?", might be a question the Lord asks me, as I am having a weeks holiday with my family and didn't really get a chance to write a reflection for this week: "(many of) his disciples returned to their former way of life" :-). I decided that there is no point really writing one at this time, almost the end of the Sunday, and that I will join my family in preparing for a bqq instead, as it is lovely weather here...
But still there were a few passages that jumped out at me this morning at mass:
The people are challenged in their behavior by Joshua:

“If it does not please you to serve the LORD,
decide today whom you will serve,
he gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
decide today whom you will serve,
the gods your fathers served beyond the River
or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are now dwelling.
As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
but they recognize that God has an active part in their lives:

“Far be it from us to forsake the LORD
for the service of other gods.
For it was the LORD, our God,
who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt,
out of a state of slavery.
He performed those great miracles before our very eyes
and protected us along our entire journey
and among the peoples through whom we passed.
Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
In the Gospel the people but eventually the important thing is that we realise like the Isralites that God is active in our lives and that "We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God."

There is so much depth in this Gospel, but I will leave it for now and enjoy the weather...

Friday, 14 August 2009

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. (Jn 6:56)

As clear from my post yesterday evening, I will be heading off to the Youth 2000 Summer Festival  in Clonmacnois straight after class this afternoon. However, I just wanted to post a quick reflection on an aspect the gospel of Sunday (John 6:51-58), to keep in the practice of some kind of a weekly meditation...

We continue the reading of chapter 6, and I hope to get a proper chance to write something coherent about this lovely chapter after the course is finished at the end of next week.

Last week we ended with Jn 6:51, the same we start with today:
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (Joh 6:51 RSV)
Jesus is offering himself to us, he want to give himself to us, so we might have life in us... and this is important. Jesus says "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;" (Joh 6:53 RSV) I guess this kind of makes sense if we think God as the source of life, so if we don't have God in our lives, we miss this life and life without God is death (as a life without love is too).

But what can we do with this? I think we can try and take it as an invitation. In the Eucharist, Jesus is offering us himself, He invites us to become one with Him. When we receive Him, when we eat Him, as "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (Joh 6:55 RSV) He comes into our bodies... and in the natural physical way becomes part of our bodies, as does any food.

Here thought there is off course something much more significant happening. The bread of life does not just nourishes us physically, but also spiritually, it nourishes our whole being. "Not such as the fathers ate and died;' (Joh 6:58 RSV) bread that only nourishes our bodies, but this bread nourishes our whole being, body and soul.

Jesus comes to us and becomes part of us:
"He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." (Joh 6:56 RSV)

and with Him becoming part of us, we become part of Him, and with Him we become part of the Trinity:
As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. (Joh 6:57 RSV)
So briefly said, and I know these are just a few words thrown down, when we are receiving communion we are offered to become more and more part of the Trinity... no wonder grace is flowing...

However, is there is a little "catch", if I can call it this. God is always inviting us into communion with Him. He is always inviting us to become closer and closer to Him, to let go of ourselves and to let ourselves being taken over by His love. In a way He is inviting us to become one with Him, like a drop of water becomes one with the ocean in which it falls... it seems clear to me that communion in the Eucharist seems to offer exactly that...

So the little "catch" is not really a little catch, but just a note on this. In the nature of an invitation is that it is a free choice and as such we need to accept. So it is true with the Eucharist, that we need to be open to God, if we are not open to God the effects of the sacrament will be not have the full effect as St Thomas Aquinas  point out in the Summa. God want to give us all, but it is according to our disposition that we receive. So when we receive we should be aware of what we are doing, we should conduct ourselves properly and prepare ourselves properly, we should remind ourselves that we are not receiving mere bread, but acknowledge the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

So it is an invitation, an invitation to something more, to something beautiful and also to something unknown... but let us embark on the adventure and embrace it, asking our Lord to draw us deeper into His union (especially while receiving Him in the Eucharist) and to try and let more and more of our own will go and "Let thy will be done" (Mat 6:10).

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Youth 2000 Summer Festival

A bit late, but I just want to make a mention of the Youth 2000 Summer Festival in Clonmacnois this weekend... I am going down myself tomorrow, and am really lookingforward to it!
For more info look at the Youth 2000 website.

Some photo's from last year can be seen in the video clip below:

Saturday, 8 August 2009

I am the living bread which came down from heaven (Jn 6:51 RSV)

This week I had a conversation with a few people on the course, and we were talking about the mass, and one of the comments was that in the experience there seems to be something missing, going to mass does not seem to do anything... I try and tie this in to the gospel of this weekend: John 6:41-51

Off course there can be many responses to this reaction, and the first that came up it the way the Mass is calibrated in a lot of places which does not really inspire (young) people. Their response is that there is "something missing". First of all, this is a strong indication that they actually do expect something more than that they are getting, but that this what they are looking for is not there. I found that when I just became a Catholic, that I picked and choose my mass to go to, as in a lot of places I felt exactly the same.

I think it is really important that we think about this and realize that we need to help ourself and others to open up to the full mystery of God. Especially these days contemplating chapter 6 of the gospel of John, where Jesus lays out the doctrine of the Eucharist: "I AM the bread of life" (Joh 6:48 RSV) He is inviting us into communion with Him through the "living bread which came down from Heaven", and it is important that we do help people to tune into the reality of what is happening and what Jesus is really offering us!

I won't dwell to long on this point, but just want to mention it. Young people do want to know God, but we need to help them to open their hearts to the mystery in which we enter as mass, and the trap we are often falling into, as I feel it, might be making it too casual, by too much taking the mystery out of God... if the mystery is gone what is left?

The second reaction is what I often say that we should not expect to sense anything in prayer. However I don't think these reactions are an either/or answer, but a both /and as Fr. Harris OP so often has pointed out to us in class.
It is not that we should not experience the mystery at mass because we are not to expect sensual satisfactions all the time, but rather that once we have engaged in a relation with God, we should not expect to be sensually satisfied all the time.

I belief God always helps us initially to make the step of faith to start a real relationship, and it is my personal experience. God is always drawing us towards Himself, our hearts are always yearning for Him even though we might not realise it and our flesh is weak.

We read in the gospel that "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him;" (Joh 6:44 RSV), the word draws indicates resistance as the lexicon gives drags as a option. The Father makes effort to drag us into communion, He wants us, He loves us, and He helps us to enter into communion.

"Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"" (Gal 4:6 RSV), the desire is there, planted there by God, and when in communion with Jesus, the stronger this relation becomes, the stronger the cry and desire "Abba! Father!".

But to come back to the notion of sensual silence, our relation with God is not based on sensual experiences, it is a more deeper spiritual reality, which takes time to understand, recognize and discern. St. Paul hints as this more developed relation with Jesus when he writes tot he Corintians:
The unspiritual man does not receive the gifts of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1Co 2:14 RSV)
The spirit is dwelling in us, and "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence [...] and become partakers of the divine nature" (2Pe 1:3-4 RSV) We get to really "know" (which is often used as the "knowledge" two people have in marriage of each other) God and He allows us to become partakers of the divine nature!!!

And when does this fore mostly happen? Exactly when we actually receive Christ during receiving Him during Mass: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (Joh 6:51 RSV)

So Mass can never be boring, once we realise what is really happening! God comes down to us as he transforms the host into His own Body and Blood, in order that we may enter in communion with Him when we receive Him into our own body. He becomes part of us, and we become part of Him. Again Jesus is calling us to communion. "Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world." (Joh 17:24 RSV)

Once we grasp this, once we enter into this communion, it does not really matter anymore to what Mass we go. We learn to discern God in the silence of our hearts, and the desire to know him becomes stronger and stronger. But let us try and help others who have not found this gift in their lives yet, the great of gift of God, the gift of Himself, and I feel that one of the places this should be done is exactly in our weekly (or daily) celebration of the Eucharist.

This week I did a lot of meditations on these few lines mentioned above, and it is interesting how they came together (as subsequent some came up in the Office of Readings yesterday and today). So I decided to just throw them out there, even though the reflection is not really a unity, but just a few scattered thoughts...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting! (Ps 62/63)

Slowly the day fades away, until only the flickering of the light of candles remains...
The only sound, the rhythmic ticking of the clock, time passes away...

In the silence, in the depth of the my heart, there it is that God speaks...
Not in words, nor senses, but only silence...

It seems not to matter how long it is, as if time did not exist...
Only the clock indicates something happening, all else stands still...

In the middle of all the turmoil of the day...
It is the desire you place in my heart...

There is nothing else to find...only you...
And there is nothing else to want... only you...

O God, you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting! (Ps 62/63)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

I am the bread of life (Jn 6:35)

This week we continue to read from the 6th chapter of St. John (Jn 6:24-35). Last week we read the begining of the chapter in which Jesus was feeding the five thousand. Afterwards the disciples get into the boat and start to go to the other side of the lake while "Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself" (Joh 6:15 RSV).

When Jesus was catching up with them walking on thew water "They were frightened, but he said to them, 'It is I; do not be afraid.'" (Joh 6:20 RSV) and eventually they end up miraculously at the other side as "immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going." (Joh 6:21 RSV)

These were just some snippets on what has happened so far in the chapter, and indeed it seems like it is a special chapter as I tried to point out last week. Now we continue, as we learn that "[the people] got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus" (Joh 6:24 RSV)

I first like to point our attention to Jesus himself and the disciples. As so often, when the crowds get exited by his miracles he gets away. Jesus is never searching for human credit, but instead seeks the solicitude of the mountains where He prays. I think it is just a small aspect I like to mention on the side, the fact that in following Jesus it is the solitude of being with him that we should be searching, as He was praying to the Father in lonely places, that is where we should find our joy: "where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Mat 6:21 RSV). In our life as Christians sensible spiritual consolations are often far en between, often we have to do just with our faith.

Like the disciples, as "[they] started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them" (Joh 6:17 RSV). Jesus was not there, but they head on anyway even though they do not know where he is. Then in the stormy weather, as we so often experience in our lives, "they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat" and "they were frightened" (Joh 6:19 RSV)

We see that Jesus is actually near, very near to them, but they are so engrossed in the fight with the stormy sea that they do not recognize Him, but then he says "It is I; do not be afraid." (Joh 6:20 RSV) and again "immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going." (Joh 6:21 RSV)... I just wanted to put that down, for people who might feel that what they are doing seems to be out on the stormy sea without any sense of direction, but really trusting on Jesus and not being afraid is the answer... we sometimes have to keep rowing for a few miles, but then He helps us to "immediately" go where we need to go...

But back to the Gospel of this week. The people were seeking Jesus.
Earlier this week when we read the passage in which Jesus describes "the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field" (Mat 13:44 RSV) I wanted to write a quick note on the importance for us to be open to God, to search Him, something that maybe a lot of people nowadays do not really do... But we know that  when "you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul" "you will find him" (Deut 4:29 RSV).

So these people are searching for Him, but Jesus seems to doubt their motivations: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." (Joh 6:26 RSV). So why do we seek God, what are our motives. That is a good question to ask yourself.

Because it will not get our belly filled, and it will most of the time neither let us see miraculous signs. Most of the time it will be being on the stormy sea, Jesus seeming to be away... to be far off. So we should really ask ourself this question... As I was asked when I made my profession: "What do you seek?".

So rightly the crowd asks this of Jesus "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" (Joh 6:28 RSV)  and the "simple" answer is "that you believe in him whom [God] has sent." (Joh 6:29 RSV)

It is trust in Jesus, following Him. Only by finding and following Him will the endless yearning for the "something more" the "somthing that is missing" be satisfied. "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst." (Joh 6:35 RSV)

It is the Lord himself which we should seek, to belief in Him, and to follow Him, to be in communion in Him.  so that as we will read in the coming weeks "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." (Joh 6:56 RSV) Jesus is calling us to Him, to abide with Him and to become one with Him... but is this what we are really seeking?

Again, I am still in the midst of the course, so these are just a few quick lines thrown together without much reflection and thought gone into them...


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