Sunday, 26 July 2009

A start of chapter 6 of John's Gospel

This week I post just a note to calibrate that I am half way through the course! I had the opportunity to accompany Fr. John Walsh OP Saturday to Newbridge College and took this opportunity happily to have a change of scene and to try and to refresh a bit to hit the next set of four weeks...

As I am only back now I feel it is a bit late to write a reflection on the gospel we had today (and off course I haven't done my homework for tomorrow, but am not even going to think of that, it is Sunday!).

The Gospel is taken from Chapter 6 of the Gospel of John (6:1-15). One of the important messages of these few verses is that faith in Jesus is the important thing, and that even sometimes we might be tested in our faith as "this he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do." (Joh 6:6 RSV).

However, I would like to draw your attention to a few verses earlier, where the tone for the chapter is set as it were. We read that a multitude is following Jesus and that "Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples"  (Joh 6:3 RSV). Jesus went up the mountain, the place to teach his followers as he did in the sermon of the mount (cf. Mat 5:1). Then he sat down, the traditional way of teaching with authority. When a Jewish Rabbi was teaching he was often walking around or standing, but when he was teaching officially, he sat to teach. This is a first sings that something important is going to happen. Next it is mentioned that "the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand" (Joh 6:4 RSV), the Jewish feast of the unleavened bread...

We get the multiplication of the loaves, but this is only to lead up to a much more important teaching... a teaching which can and should have a big impact on our daily lives. Hopefully I get a chance next week to reflect on this point more next week as we will continue to read from this chapter, and in the meantime, it would be very good to read ahead this week and meditate on the 6th chapter of John's Gospel, as it is very deep!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Is religious life just "hard work"?

In light of a comment recently made on one of my articles, concerning the balance between work and Grace, one of our Dominican Contemplative Sisters wrote a short reflection on their blog. Please have look:  Is religious life just "hard work"?

(And just want to make the side note, that I would read this in a wider context, it not only being valid for religious life, but for anybodies life)

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while (Mark 6:31)

I just want to say something about one line of the Gospel which I think is very relevant to what I tried to express yesterday evening late. It is "[Jesus] said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while." (Mar 6:31 RSV). In our hectic days it is always to remember that particular. I don't take rest here as going for a snooze or so, but as the "rest" in Genesis (Gen 2:15, נִּחֵ֣), man being put in the garden to rest in the presence of God, and so here, the disciples take rest with Jesus, to spend some time with Him to recollect in the busyness of the ministry.

To link it to yesterday, I think this is essential even if the business around us is pressing in upon us. I often try to revere to the fruits of prayer as the "desire" in our heart, as any sensible consolations are most of the time not noticed. It is then when we start "neglecting" God that we notice this desire and this attraction even stronger. I experience it I think like the feeling of the negligence of a good friend, or the longing of seeing for example ones family after a long time away...

And even then, when we read that there is already a crowd on the shore we might still get a hint of encouragement, even if it is pushing the interpertation a bit. "[Jesus] had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things" (Mar 6:34 RSV).

But it is Jesus that starts teaching them... not the disciples. So maybe we too should try and trust on that, that we need to have our lives grounded in resting in the Lord, and even when we take this necessary "rest", as again I take rest as a rest/being centered in God, the Lord will still work through us, even if it means that we spend time in private prayer in your room (cf. Mt 6:6), or even "into your inner room" (Mat 6:6 NAS, the cell of ones heart? But this is a whole different reflection). It is only later "when it grew late, his disciples came to him" (Mar 6:35 RSV)...

Like I said, maybe pushing it a bit, but it gave me some direction fort he week to come... let see if it will work out!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The course is taking its toll!

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I am doing a quite intensive summer course, and it has reached the point that I won't be able to do anything beside focusing on the course... as such I won't have my usual few lines on the Gospel of this Sunday.

It has however been a very interesting three weeks so far. The course itself, but also the dynamic around it. Trying to juggle the contemplative life with making the trips six days a week to the university and working your way though the homework has proven to be a challenge... but a nice on in a way!

The interaction with the other students at the course has also been very interesting, especially when faith matters come up. There has been barely a day there is not some kind of a discussion concerning the faith... and it might be that those conversations do not do a lot to others, they give me a lot of things to bring to by meditations in the evening before I hit the sack!

I have defiantly leaned that prayer cannot be replaced by anything, God is always at the center of our lives if we allow Him. Always being the silent companion, especially in prayer but also through the rest of the day, always helping to just keep up with the pace... it sounds maybe cheesy, but I really feel that what I have been trying to express on this blog to work in my own life... this encounter with Jesus, the encounter which nothing else can compare with, an encounter which in itself is indescribable The touch of the divine which leaves it invisible mark on our soul. The silent consolation, even though we don't notice it (in my case prayer at night after a long day can be experienced as very difficult indeed) The fruits though and the gift is always the yearning in our hearts for Him. The gift of Himself, the gift of the yearn of our hearts to be united with Him...

Well, time to go to bed!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Lord, why do you put my heart on fire...

Lord, why do you put my heart on fire,
giving me the desire to share you Word.
While the blood starts rushing through my veins,
but when expressing you friendship only to makes it stop.

Sitting silently to ponder you Word,
in your presence to listen to the whispers of your voice.
Time is passing by without notice,
as words to describe your love are always falling short.

The light is dimming, another day is over,
again it all seems in vain to try to convey the mystery of your love.
I realise that once more I have been a failure to do you any service,
but all I can do till the end is trust.

It is in the silence of my hart that I seek you presence,
deep down in my soul I know you are there.
Again I ponder you marvelous working, in the depths of your silence,
I will always want to stay with you till the end!

So they went out and preached that men should repent (Mk 6:7-13)

This Sunday the Gospel of Mark (6:7-13). In the Gospel we read about Jesus sending out the twelve apostles to preach the Good News to the people, he "gave them authority" (Mar 6:7 RSV) and "they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them" (Mar 6:13 RSV). There is already a lot in those few lines to dwell on, but I picked out the following line: "So they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV)

Recently there was a comment on one of my articles that it seems to convey that I proclaim that we work our way towards Heaven, and that the spiritual life in Christ sound like one perpetual endurance test which is achieved , not by grace. As the comment painted a picture exactly opposite of what I belief, I have to review how I am writing. I guess I have tried to give a balanced reflection on this blog, aimed at a large audience, my desire is to help others also to find some of the depths of our faith, the love of Christ, in their lives. Maybe I have not painted a complete picture.

I picked the line "So they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV) out of the gospel to try and briefly illustrate the point of "action" and my idea about this, or more what the result of Gods action is. The disciples went out to preach to the people "that men should repent", or "so that they might repent".

An encounter with God has an effect on a person. In my eyes it is not possible to truly encounter Jesus, to be able to accept His love, and live an immoral life. But we have to accept Jesus, we have to be open to His invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Rev 3:20 RSV) This relation, as any, is an interaction, not something passive....

It is not that we do something and as a result God gives us something as a "reward" for this. That is not the case: "we love, because he first loved us" (1Jo 4:19 RSV) The fullness of communion with God is love, and love is a gift. God as the source of everything and is the source of love. So it is all a gift, it is a gift of grace, everything is given to us. However, "love does not insist on its own way" (1 Cor 14:4), God does not force us to enter into this communion with Him. It is a gift, and a gift needs to be accepted. It does not mean that we work our way towards it, that we earn it (as we don't earn/deserve it) but only that we have to come forward to be embraced by the invitation, as the father embraced the prodigal son who came back to him (cf. Luke 15:20).

But now back to how this influences our lives... when we accept the invitation, when we open ourselves up to the grace of God, God starts to work in us, our hearts are slowly conforming more and more to what true love really is. I have often mentioned the importance of silence in our lives, time for some private prayer, some reflection, or just some time to spend with God. This is not so we work our way towards God, but to be in some kind of way passively, but also actively, present as Gods love slowly purifies our soul.

So when we enter on this road, and we enter in this conversation with Him, our lives change. The disciples preached so that "so that they might repent". The encounter with the Good News is one of repentance, it is one of changing our ways to become more acceptable to God. With the encounter of pure love a flame is enlightened in our own hearts too.
"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends;" (1 Cor 14:4-8)
These are the fruits of encountering pure love, of encouraging God as "God is love" (1 Jn 4:16). Accepting God in ones live sadly often means that we need to change something, and that might actually often be a problem. The Gospel sets you free from slavery, it sets you free to fully enjoy life, but this sometimes means we need to make changes in our way of live as sometimes we decide to not fully give ourselves but to hold back, and as such reject part of the gift.

I guess, that that is why a lot of people might have problems with the Church teachings, as it challenges their live and they do not want to change, but I firmly belief that these teachings are there not to annoy us, but to lead us to freedom... sometimes we need help in seeing how we can make our life better, help in unclouding our vision of what is true and false, sometimes we need to help in finding the real Truth... and again it brings us back: "so they went out and preached that men should repent." (Mar 6:12 RSV), it is the preaching of the desciples, I guess the preaching of what now is the Church...

"And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (Joh 8:32 RSV)

Maybe not a great end, and maybe the start of a continuation... but I better get back to my Greek...

Finally, maybe I back again of working ourselves up to God? If I am, tell me as it is not my intention, the intention is to give an open invitation to just accept the gift that is gives to us, and to enter into this relation which can only grow beyond your wildest imaginations!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Dominican Vocation: Different aspects of our life

A short video in which some brothers of the Irish Province of the Dominicans share on different aspects of our Dominican Vocation:

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Where did this man get all this? (Mk 6:1-6)

At the moment I am in the middle, or rather beginning, of a course which will last for another seven weeks, so my reflections will be a bit briefer, and I might just only throw out one of two idea's... but hopefully there will also be a short video with some ideas about the Dominican Life in the pipeline as a compensation :-).

First of all the Psalm (Ps 123:1-4) caught my attention. I guess this week was rather busy, and psalms always seem to catch me in those times, this time is was the first line "To thee I lift up my eyes, O thou who art enthroned in the heavens!" (Ps 123:1).

If we are running around and are trying to get everything done that has to be done we can rather feel a bit stretched, like to little butter on a piece of bread. The first thing that comes under pressure in my case are probably my prayers, as that just seem time that does not directly help towards fulfilling all the duties we have to do and it rather just seem to take a lot of time...

But it is exactly then, in busy times, that we need the time to recollect ourselves! It is very easy to "save" time by not spending time with God and to keep busy with what we are doing. But "saving" this time will only help on the short term, it only helps with what has to be done now. However, often we are running a marathon, not making a sprint, and we have to keep that in mind: "let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus" (Heb 12:1 RSV)

So especially when it is busy, I think it is very important to be "be constant in prayer" (Rom 12:12 RSV) and "to thee I lift up my eyes, O thou who art enthroned in the heavens!" (Ps 123:1)

The Gospel this week is from Mark 6:1-6, but first just a curios remark. My eye fell on two different options in the translation in the second reading: 2 Cor 12:7-10. St. Paul is saying that to prevent him from exalting himself he was given a thorn in the flesh. Whatever this exactly means we do not know, I usually read this as it is translated in the RSV as an "it"; when St. Paul asks "that it should leave me". I looked at it as a physical impediment, but maybe it is a person who is in his company and who humbles him, either in a positive or negative way. It could reference back to the "a thorn was given me in the flesh" (2Co 12:7 RSV), but also to "a messenger of Satan" (2Co 12:7 RSV), indicating a person.

Like I said just a remark, but I can just envision it actually being a person who is bothering St. Paul, and he prays that he will leave the company they are in, but the Lord refuses... it shows again that life for St. Paul was not some walk in the park, but an turmoil and roller coaster as most lives are. Here we can see that sometimes in our homes or working environments we might come across people who are really annoying us. It is sometimes much harder to deal with problems with people than any other inconveniences. But here we learn that maybe St. Paul had exactly to same situation, and we read in a way the little encouraging response "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2Co 12:7 RSV): Get on with it!

Now I shortly like to connect St. Paul being humbled with the Gospel, in which Jesus is rejected by the people in His native land. First of all, it is very humbling if you are very excited about something, for example God, and the people close to you do not seem to pay even the slightest interest in the matter. There is, I think, something of the same into this story of Jesus' going "home". As "many who heard him were astonished" (Mar 6:1 RSV) they still just see Him as He was when He was when He grew up among them and they wondered "Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him? What mighty works are wrought by his hands!" (Mar 6:1 RSV). They don't seem to realize what is actually happening around them, they see it, but cannot shake off the idea of Jesus being more than the little boy they knew, they cannot see the mystery that is enfolding before them.

This can be very difficult if we experience it, we can try to do all the best we can to convey our beliefs, but it seems like we are speaking to deaf mans ears. But then we just have to remember to always trust in God, and keep trying to be an good example, keep doing what we are doing, trusting God will work through us, even if in a hidden way. So in those situations, at home, at work or with close friends, we should keep uplifted and trust in God to work the apparent miracle that seems to be needed to open their hearts to His love.
(I know this was terrible!)

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Vocabulary for JACT's Reading Greek

Update: I now have an iPhone/iPad/iTouch App in the AppStore, which makes it very easy to practice vocabulary. It includes Latin, Greek and Hebrew: iTunes App Store

For anybody studying Greek using the "Reading Greek" series published by JACT, especially my fellow students at the Greek Summer School in UCC, I created a vocabulary set with all the words used in the book. It works with the program Vocabworks. The set is not flawless, and contains some (or a lot) typing mistakes but it is up to yourself to correct them if you like!

To use it, download an install Vocabworks. Then Download and the following two files, one the vocabset and one the setting, into a directory (e.g. "My Documents/My Vocabsets/Greek Summer School").

Files:
"Greek Course Wordlist.tst" (Settings)
"Greek Course Wordlist.vcb" (Words)

Start Vocabworks and open the Vocabset ("Greek Course Wordlist.vcb"). It is handy to have both the Vocabset and the settings, as it will make it much easier to get off the ground first.To start practising, just simply click the "V" button and then select "Confidence" and then "run". At the moment it is set to start with all Vocab for unit one.To change which vocabulary it uses click instead of "run", "edit" and tick the chapters you want.

The program will stop asking words that are answered about 5 times right, as it works with a percentage system, starting with 50% and increasing by 10% for every right answer. However on a wrong answer 15% is subtracted, en by an "pass" 5% is subtracted. The "Problems" setting in the practice menu shows all words which are less than 50%.

Good Luck!



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The Irish Dominicans have a website called Dominicans Interactive with online resources. We also have an iPhone/iPad App, which can be found in the iTunes App Store.


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