Saturday, 25 April 2009

Jesus then opened their minds (Lk 24:35-48)

It is now two weeks after Easter Sunday, and we are most likely over the initial spiritual shock of the transition from Holy Week to Easter Week, and have resumed our normal lives. The Gospel today is again one of the accounts of Jesus appearing to the disciples, this time from the Gospel according to Luke.

I had already written a reflection on this Gospel for the Thursday of Holy week, and this is the summary of it. Again I will try and focus on the reality what it means that Jesus is risen, and especially the difficulty we can have with accepting it and embracing it as an important event in our personal lives.

As we have seen, on initial announcement that Jesus was risen from the death the disciples seem to be far from accepting and understanding this fact. In the first hours, or even days, only a few seem to grasp what had really happened, at first only the woman and the beloved disciple.

This is I think a huge consolation for us who are sometimes struggling with our beliefs, when the empty tomb does not seem to speak as much or clearly to us at it seems to do to others. During these days we learn that to have faith in God is not something that, in most cases, that happens in an instant and overnight.

The disciples would have known Jesus and His teachings, the miracles He performed and they were cheering Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. But then all failed and seemed lost after the Last Supper, the earthly reality, even though with supernatural aspects, does not seem to make have a deep routed effect.

This is however normal as humans, and if we rely on our own human strength we are bound to fail. Here we clearly learn that to understand the mystery of God, and of where and who we are and how this is relevant, we need to have communion with God, we have to let Him into our lives. The mystery of God is not found just in our worldly perception, it transcends this and as such without Gods help we can never fully grasp it.

As Jesus says so often after the resurrection, "Peace be with you" so we need to be at peace with Him, and trust in Him. "I am standing and knock at the door, and when anybody hears me and opens I will share a meal with him" (Rev 3:20), if we allow Him to enter He will open our hearts to understand. The disciples recognised Jesus at the breaking of the bread. On the road to Emmaus He explained to them the scriptures, but it was not understanding the scriptures alone that was enough. It was the communion with Jesus in the breaking of the bread that brought them to full realisation and their eyes were opened.

Today we read that the disciples explained what happened on the road, but then when Jesus arrived they were still afraid, they couldn't grasp it. Jesus asks them why they raised doubts in their heart, and maybe we can take from that that even the disciples who had just met Him before started to doubt again. Is this really true? Can it really be so? And they did not belief out of joy and were marveling...

They could still not belief that He was there and He ate something before their eyes to show in an ordinary way that it was Him in body and spirit and not just a ghost. Only then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures, through His own action, as with the disciples to Emmaus suddenly understood everything even while earlier "their hearts burned within them" (cf. Lk 24:32) when  Jesus explained  the scriptures on the road. At the end of the day we cannot grasp it all by ourselves, but it is God who gives us the grace...

So reflecting on the events as they enfolded during the first days after the resurrection we can try as the disciples to come to understand what it really means that Jesus is risen from the death, not just some spirit, but fully. Let us pray that our hearts will be opened as well by the Lord to understand what this means in our own lives.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Be not unbelieving, but believing! (John 20:19-31)

It is now eight days after Easter as we read in part of the gospel the story of Thomas, who was not with the disciples the first time Jesus appeared to them on Easter itself as we read in the Gospel.

I think I already wrote about the doubt among the disciples in my brief reflection of Easter Sunday and just wanted to put in the quote from the heading: "Be not unbelieving, but believing!" (Jn 20:19-31) as a continuation of the article.

In the last few days I did get the opportunity to go to Rome for a few days to meet a few friends I know who are studying in the Eternal City, and it really ties in nicely on the line "be not unbelieving, but believing!", at least for me!

Last Monday in the Irish College there were two ordinations to the diaconate, of Patrick O Donohue (Diocese of Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora) and Stephen Kelly (Diocese of Meath).
As my spiritual birth is in Galway (I was baptized by Fr. Hugh Clifford who is studying in the Irish College) I joined the group in going to the General Audience on Wednesday morning, as can be seen on the pictures shown here.

It was great to be back in St. Peters Square, an experience that very much moved me the first time I was there two years ago on Palm Sunday.

There is a very positive atmosphere with so many pilgrims together and it really shows that whatever the public opinion is, the Catholic Church is very much alive! You really get a touch of the "more" that there is in our faith!

In a way this atmosphere, and I guess the whole atmosphere of being on a pilgrimage, it that we get a touch of the peace of God, a touch of this presence:  "Peace be with you." (Joh 20:26 RSV)

This then brings us to proclaim as Thomas did "My Lord and my God!" (Joh 20:28 RSV), we realise that our faith is not an empty belief in words of others, but we see it ourselves, we feel and touch it, we experience it and we realise deep in ourselves that it is more!

It was a wonderful week in which I met a few old friends, and also made a few new ones. A week of visiting some of the most beautiful churches in the world, standing in the most Holy Places you can find... it really leaves a sense of eternity behind...


Saturday, 11 April 2009

Easter Sunday: Gospel of John 20:1-9

We have walked our way through Holy Week and arrived at the Easter Vigil! In the Dominican tradition we will go to the Easter Vigil tonight with our black Cappa on (see picture on the right), and throw these off during the Gloria, showing the white of the habit in it's fullness! The light of the resurrection!

However, let us look at the Gospels what the resurrection meant to the disciples of Jesus. Easter can be quite dramatic as an experience on itself, but also quite an anti climax after the whole buildup towards it. This shouldn't be the way, as we are on a continual journey. So how did the disciples of Jesus experience the Resurrection? The disciples did not really understand what Jesus was talking about all the time before now, or how to understand it:

"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise." But they understood none of these things; this saying was hid from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Lk 18:31-34)

What does it means to rise from the death, only now it slowly became clear as the tomb that all is not over as they find the tomb empty, be it is very slowly. There was no sign of a body and only the cloths were there. We read that "the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed" (Joh 20:8 RSV). This was the same disciple "whom Jesus loved [who] said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" (Joh 21:7 RSV)" later on, but on the grand scaler of things the others seem a bit slower. Everything is still quite on a low key, as still "they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead". (Joh 20:9 RSV) and they "went back to their homes" (Joh 20:10 RSV).

In the hours and days to come, slowly more and more will become clear, with Mary Magdalen meeting the Lord after the disciples have gone from the tomb (Joh 20:11-18), the event of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35), the appearance of Jesus at the end of that first day to the disciples (Joh 20:19) etc.

In the time between Easter and Pentacost we are on a new journey, the disciples get themselves together again and started to belief and slowly understand what it meant that Jesus was risen from the death... they reflect and ponder the events and digest everything, but seem in a way to go on with their normal business: "Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." (Joh 21:3 RSV)", even though this was not the labor that they were destined to as "that night they caught nothing. (Joh 21:3 RSV).  It is a time of growing, from Holy Saturday when Jesus is death towards the fullness of life in Christ. It is a time necessary to lead up to the sudden explosion of the message with the Holy Spirit coming on Pentecost...


So Today the Lord is Risen, let us rejoice! We sing Alleluia once more after the silence of the last forty days! We enjoy the celebration of the Resurrection!

Even though we might not grasp imediately what it means, let us rejoice now and after everything calms down once more we can take the time to reflect on the joy of the risen Lord brings to us by being part of our lives. In the coming forty days we can prepare ourselvs for Pentacost, that while we have these past events, like the appostles, digested and pondered in our hearts, we too will explode with zeal and love in our outreach to others as a result...

Holy Saturday: Lk 23:56??

It is Holy Saturday today... there is no Gospel passage for today except maybe that "on the sabbath they rested according to the commandment" (Luk 23:56 RSV) and the passage in which the tomb is made secure by the priests (Mt 27:62). I know that the vigil is tonight, but still liturgically seen (as the vigil is part of Sunday) it is a quite and empty day. Today there is no mass, no celebration of the Eucharist, the only day in the year in which we cannot receive Jesus in the blessed sacrament... a day alone, our friend is in the grave, He has given up His life for us...

This morning entering the Church there was sense of emptiness.... it was silent and still, and I think this is something special we should take in, we should reflect on, ponder in our heart. The Lord is in the tomb, he is not there... It is the Sabbath day for the Jews, a day of rest, a day of silence and of reflection. In a way I guess every Sabbath for the Jews was in like Holy Saturday is for us...


Yesterday was an emotional roller coaster, and it is good that we sit down today and let everything sink in, that we take some time to let all the business of our daily lives pass by... All the dramatic events we experience yesterday can leave us with an emotional and spiritual "hangover", an feeling of emptiness...

From watching with the Lord into the night in the garden, at the alter of repose, our reflections on the tribunals with the high priests and with Pilate, the scourging and the long way of suffering going up calvary ending in the death on the cross... a time of lack of sleep and of distress... today this is all over... it is over...

"Consummatum est" (Joh 19:30 VUL)

As I suggested in my first post of this Tridium,  we can try and reflect on the love God has for us... these events are touching, and show how far God has gone in love for us... During the events yesterday we ask ourselves, was this necessary, all the pain and suffering, and we have to answer YES... "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Mat 26:39 RSV) It was necessary... the cup could not pass...

And as "God is Love" (1 Jn 4:16 ), what God did for is is what real love is... again, reflection on what Jesus did for us might bring us closer to the real and full understanding of what love is... and allow us to life ou this real love in a better and deeper way ourselves...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Good Friday: Gospel of John 18:1-19:42

Today on Good Friday we start the difficult journey to Calvary. Yesterday after the Last Supper, Jesus went into the garden of Gethsemane and asked his disciples to "watch with me." (Mat 26:38 RSV)

Last night in a lot of places people have been "watching" with Jesus, have spend time with Him as He spend His hour in agony. His sweat became like blood and he prays to the Father: "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Mat 26:39 RSV) Going back He finds His disciples asleep, and ask them if they could not watch for one hour with Him... Then going back He puts the final petition to His father, and gives His total fiat: "My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, thy will be done." (Mat 26:42 RSV)

We need to have a filial trust in God... even through we might not know where this can lead us. In my reflection on Palm Sunday I mentioned that sometimes life seems like a roller coaster, one moment everything seems perfect, the next moment everything seems to fall apart. However, we need to belief that everything is eventually ordered to the good, to love. As these days seem utterly pointless, with blood, sweat, betrayal, suffering and murder evil seems to have it's time... However, through full trust in God we come though it and we see the Sunrise on the other side, at the site of the Resurrection even though it might seems so far off at the moment. Also Mary, we have to give our full fiat to God, knowing it will bring joy, but that "a sword will pierce through your own soul also" (Lk 2:35 RSV).

This day is just a day in which words are falling short... it is just a day we have to take in... to walk with Jesus through the events that enfold, and try to comprehend how deep love really goes... it is a day of not many words, a day of silence, with a single cry:
"Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" 

which means, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Mar 15:34 RSV)

We have to trust... and I think we can continue to try and meditate what real love really is... what it asks of us, and where it leads us...

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Canticum de Passione Domini

Canticum de Passione Domini, the canticle of the Passion of Saint Catherine de Ricci. A meditation on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and very suitable for a meditation on Good Friday...

The Last Supper: Gospel of John 13:1-15

Today we really start to get into the last part of the climax of our liturgical year. During the last forty days we have been on a journey towards these decisive moments, all attention in heaven was as it were fixed on the events being unfolded.... even although much of the world did not even notice this decisive moment in salvation history...

The Gospel for Holy Thursday, the institution of the last supper, is taken from the Gospel of St. John which focuses on Jesus' washing the feet of His disciples. The passage starts with the opening phrase "having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." (Joh 13:1 RSV) and this straight away sets the tone, everything is centered on love: "for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son" (Joh 3:16 RSV). Now the time has come that this is going to be fulfilled, and when Jesus is really showing the disciples what real love is for "greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Joh 15:13 RSV). It is a love of complete self abandonment, completely giving yourself for to sake of others.

Maybe it is a good idea to reflect a bit on love during these days, what love really is? The modern definition of love is possibly a very disfigured and diminished idea of what real love is. This is something we have to reflect upon, to think about. It is not a fuzzy feeling, or just a emotional sentiment as the result of a chemical reaction in the brain when we meet somebody of the other sex. It is much much deeper and more beautiful than that, and Jesus shows us that in these days. The only way to discover this is to develop an intimate relation with Jesus for "God is love" (1Jo 4:8 RSV).

One of the things Jesus does when He washed the disciples feet is that He shows them that although "you call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am." (Joh 13:13 RSV) it is to show that it is not about authority as the world knows it, but that it is about love, He is teaching them the real meaning of love. The Jews expected Jesus to be the royal Messiah when He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, but now it becomes clear what He is really about. By washing the disciples feet he becomes the servant of all, and he instruct His disciples to to the same: "if I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (Joh 13:14 RSV).

That is one aspect the Lord is trying to teach His apostles, that love is not serf centered, but being a servant of others, it is to be in communion with each other, in order that "that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one" (Joh 17:22-23 RSV). The Lord is inviting us to discover the depth of this relationship, and during the Last Supper the Lord invites us to come forward, and to come in communion with Him. He invites us into this intimacy that "he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (Joh 6:56 RSV). And so when He says during the last supper He says "Take, eat; this is my body" (Mat 26:26 RSV) and "drink of it, all of you; this is my blood of the covenant" (Mat 26:27-28 RSV) He means it as He is "the bread of life;" (Joh 6:35 RSV) and only through Him can we taste and discover the fullness of life.

A bit later He commands them to love as He loves: "that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (Joh 13:34 RSV) and also that by this "all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Joh 13:35 RSV). He introduces them to the unity which we need, and not the disunity we see so much around us. It can be difficult to grasp the fuller meaning of love, but He says "you do not know now, but afterward you will understand", so we might have to be patient.


Finally there is the point of "he who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not every one of you." I think we can look at this from the point of view that we have to recognise that we are failing regards the call in the above, to love as God loves, and that we constantly need to be washed white in the blood of the lamb (cf. Rev 7:14).

These days, as the days before Christmas, are traditional days in which confession plays an important role. We need to acknowledge our failing before the Lord so His grace can abound in us and help to become better people and to return to unity. By our baptism and choice to follow Jesus we are saved, we are made clean, we are washed in the waters of baptism and as such "he who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over;" (Joh 13:10 RSV). Here we can see that we can choose not to be clean, to accept God's gift of washing us from our sins, as Jesus refers to Judas when He says "but not every one of you".

We need to recognise however that we always have our feet dirty though as we are falling short during our daily lives, we fall short to the love God is calling us to, to love as God loves (cf. Jn 13:34). By recognising our faults and failing the Lord is washing our feet and helping us to be clean once more, and to be reconciled with Him in love.

These days, and especially from tonight till the Easter Vigil, should be a time in which we reflect on what really happened during this time. The most important time in history should not go unnoticed, and it is really during these days that we can profoundly deepen our understanding of the love we are called to. Let us also try to reflect and (re)discover the real way of love during these days, and take time out to reflect on what really happened at this time when all the heavenly eyes were fixed on Jerusalem. Let us be different from the rest of the world who did not have any notion of this great triumph of love when entering the heavenly Jerusalem...

As last note, our Holy Father explained last Sunday to the young people in St. Peters Square that on the cross "Christ defeated sin and death by the total giving of Himself. For this reason", he concluded, "we must embrace and adore the Lord's cross, make it our own, accept its weight as Simon of Cyrene did, in order to participate in the only thing that can redeem all of humanity. ... Become ever more worthy of the cross and you will never be ashamed of this supreme sign of love".

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Lenten talks on Saint Paul: V

The fifth of the series of Lenten talks on St. Paul. This fifth talk looks at the letters to the Colossians, Philippians and the Ephesians. Fr. John Harris OP has given a talk on St. Paul on the Tuesday of Lent in our priory in Dublin.

To see all the talks in this series please click here.

I will try and post all the talks on this blog (http://www.witnesschrist.com) as soon as they available. The talks are about 50-60 minutes long:

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Palm Sunday: the blessing of the Palms

I will not take the Gospel of this Sunday, as it is the passion narrative of the Gospel of Mark (Mk 14:1-15:37). Instead I take the passage which is read with the blessing of the palms as it is more relevant to Palm Sunday and I will reflect more on the passion on Good Friday. So the we take Mk 11:1-10.

We read in this passage about the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem, five days before His death. It starts with the two disciples who are sent out to get the colt on which "no one has ever sat" to be used for His triumphant entrance into Jerusalem. The many spread their garments and palm branches on the ground before him, and those who went before and those who followed cried out, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! (Mar 11:9 RSV). We can easily hear the resounding of the prophesy of Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass. (Zec 9:9 RSV)

It is interesting I think to look at this in the light of the gospel of the Saturday before Palm Sunday, when we are told that the coucil of the chief priests and the Pharisees decided to put Jesus to death and Jesus therefore no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples. (Joh 11:54 NAS)

So there is defiantly an sense in the air of something extraordinary happening here, as after have been at a distance before the feast, and the people even wondering if he would come (Jn 11:56) Jesus suddenly makes His entrance into Jerusalem, boldly riding on a donkey. Something is going to happen it seems...

For our lives this is an interesting concept. The priests seemed to want to kill Jesus, and subsequent he goes away "in hiding". Things seem to go bad, and the people are wondering what is going to happen. Then suddenly he makes a big spectacle during his entry, even though the young donkey was never ridden on and therefore possibly rough and no fancy sadle was available but some old garments but still suddenly there seems to be a spark of hope. Not all is perfect, but something seems to be moving and the people sing "Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!" (Mar 11:10 RSV) their hopes being revived for the iminent coming of the Kingdom of David.

Then however, as we know now, and will explore during the next week, things take a sudden turn again...

Imagine going through this all, it seems to me that it would feel like a roller coaster, going up one moment, going down the next, swerving left and then suddenly right... life can be a bit like that, things might be difficult, but suddenly everything seems to come together, prayers are answered, the excitement is tangible. But then however, even though everything seemed to go the right way, it does not materialize, and after some time of hope and anticipation the excitement wears of and we seem to be back at start, our hopes evaporated and our prayers seemingly unanswered...

However, the above is just our human understanding, and if the above example strikes a cord maybe this Holy Week it would be worth to meditate on what actually happened nearly two thousand years ago. Never mind the human perception, but look at the infinite, the divine perception... as we will travel though the week the human perception shows defeat, failure, betrayal and denial... but the greatest accomplishment in heaven and earth occurs in the middle of this all, unnoticed by everyone bar maybe the few (ex. the mother of Jesus and Jesus himself of course): Jesus purchased for us eternal life!

The world would never be the same again, and even though it seemed like everything was a failure from the outside, in the scope of the bigger picture unalterable changes had occured! So too whould we reflect on our lives, and see the bigger picture and learn to trust on God, as Jesus did...

Friday, 3 April 2009

Come and see...

Just as a brief followup on my post on the Gospel of last week (Jn 12:20-33) in which the Greeks asked Philip is they could see Jesus. In the post I reflected on the theme "Come and see", a phrase central to in initial calling of Andrew and John (Jn 1:39) and Nathanael (Jn 1:46).

The only way to really discover who Jesus is, that He is real and what He is all about is to actually come and meet Him. So now I just want to give a few suggestion on how this "come and see" can actually happen. In order to give a bit of an idea of a starting point I will give a few forms of prayer which were, and are, fundamental when I initially came to know Christianity.

Basically, we need to spend time with God in order to get to know him. This is natural in a way, maybe it does not feel that way from the point of view that we spend time with Jesus, a person who we cannot visible perceive, but in the way that relationships work. In any relationship we need to spend time with the other person in order to build up a friendship, and once a friendship is formed we have to keep it alive and active. And similar it is with God, we need to build up a relation with God by spending time with Him, to "come and see". In Saint John's gospel we read that Jesus himself tells us to do so, as He asked Andrew and John: "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi", "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying;" (Joh 1:38-39 RSV)

So where do we start?
When I initially opened my heart to God I started to do three things:

First, I decided to go into a Church every day on my way back from work, and I was lucky as this church had perpetual adoration. Initially I just poped in for a few minutes, and asked God to open my heart to Him, and to let mje know that He excisted and was activily involved in my life. Then I would often slowly say an Our Father, just as Jesus instructed us: "Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven..." (Mat 6:9 RSV).

These few minutes slowly increased to longer periods as I learned how to pray more, but also when I started to appreciate to be with Jesus in the chapel, and found the peace which only He can give us. However, I am quick to say that this developed over a time of weeks if not months, our relations with God are always slow and not quick as we are used to in our instant society. Eventually I tried to spend an hour a few days a week in adoration, or at least half an hour, in which I might say a rosary, read scripture and, especially when I started to enjoy prayer more, tried to be quite and listen to God.

Secondly, I made a commitment to read half a chapter of the New Testament every night before I went to bed. I said a quick prayer, thanking God for the day and asking a blessing for the next one, and then picked up the "Word of God" and read for a few minutes. I always hold that this was the biggest single influence in my conversion in the initial months, the reading of the Word of God, and the excounter with it as the words kind of lift off the page and become living words which are relevant to ones own personal life here and now.

Then thirdly, I learned to say the Rosary, and started to pray the Rosary on a daily basis, meditating on the life of Christ and in this way deepening my understanding of the mysteries on which we reflect in the Rosary. We can always ask our Blessed Mother to help us to find Jesus in our lives, and she will never disappoint us to show us her son. We don't worship Mary, but we ask her to bring us to Jesus...

So these were just three simple and brief starting points for somebody on the road to meet our Lord, a life changing encounter as I testify to. I am not sure if readers if this blog would be interesting in more and maybe slightly longer reflections on the road to prayer, but if so, please leave a comment on this article, and I will pick up the tread.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Lenten talks on Saint Paul: IV

The forth of the series of Lenten talks on St. Paul. This forth talk looks at the two letters to the Corinthians. Fr. John Harris OP is going to give a talk on St. Paul on every Tuesday of Lent in our priory in Dublin.

To see all the talks in this series please click here.

I will try and post all the talks on this blog (http://www.witnesschrist.com) as soon as they available. The talks are about 50-60 minutes long:

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