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The Water and the Light
6th October, 2017

THE WATER AND THE LIGHT

In the Gospel of John, we find a famous saying of Jesus: He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus cried these words out “on the last and great day” of the feast of Tabernacles. Why did Jesus speak of water? Was there anything in the celebration of Sukkot that was connected to water that would explain Jesus’ use of this image?

In the days of the Second Temple, the height of the Sukkot celebration was the water libation ceremony. Sukkot is the beginning of the rainy season in Israel, and the libation of water was performed to invoke God’s blessing on the year’s rains. During the ceremony, a large procession ascended to the Temple, led by a priest who bore a special golden vessel filled with the sparkling spring water. The water was then poured onto the altar. During this ceremony, the lamps were lit in the Temple courtyard as a sign of the festivities. It was a very joyful procession, indeed.

The sages of Israel testify to the celebrations of the water libation from the days of the Second Temple, and the description of this ceremony can be found in the Mishna. The Talmud states that “one who has not witnessed the Festival of the Water Drawing (held on the nights of Sukkot in the Holy Temple) has not seen joy in his lifetime!” Jesus uses the images of this celebration, to illustrate his words. Once we understand this context – once we understand that the Light and the Water motif played a significant role in the celebration of the Feast Tabernacles – the words of Jesus acquire a more profound and rich meaning. It is in the context of this celebration, while the procession with water was walking through Jerusalem, that Jesus says His famous words about “living water”. It is in the context of this celebration, while all Jerusalem was glowing with the light from the Temple, that Jesus also spoke these words: “I am the light of the world.”

https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com

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Nativity of Blessed Virgin Mary
1st September, 2017

Saint of the Day for September 8

The Church has celebrated Mary’s birth since at least the sixth century. A September birth was chosen because the Eastern Church begins its Church year with September. The September 8 date helped determine the date for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8.

Scripture does not give an account of Mary’s birth. However, the apocryphal Protoevangelium of James fills in the gap. This work has no historical value, but it does reflect the development of Christian piety. According to this account, Anna and Joachim are infertile but pray for a child. They receive the promise of a child who will advance God’s plan of salvation for the world. Such a story, like many biblical counterparts, stresses the special presence of God in Mary’s life from the beginning.

Saint Augustine connects Mary’s birth with Jesus’ saving work. He tells the earth to rejoice and shine forth in the light of her birth. “She is the flower of the field from whom bloomed the precious lily of the valley. Through her birth the nature inherited from our first parents is changed.” The opening prayer at Mass speaks of the birth of Mary’s Son as the dawn of our salvation, and asks for an increase of peace.

Reflection

We can see every human birth as a call for new hope in the world. The love of two human beings has joined with God in his creative work. The loving parents have shown hope in a world filled with travail. The new child has the potential to be a channel of God’s love and peace to the world.

 

 

excerpt from https://www.franciscanmedia.org/nativity-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/

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Transfiguration in Life.
4th August, 2017

This Sunday in the Liturgical Year celebrates the Transfiguration of the Lord.

I have always found that the interpretation of the Transfiguration by the Redemptorist priest Fr Denis McBride a very moving interpretation that speaks greatly to me. I would like to share some of his insights that he writes in his book, Jesus & the Gospels (2002. p. 135)

“Transfiguration is not a solitary event in the Gospel, but one that happens over and over again. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus transfigures many people – the broken, the wounded, the wayward. He calls to the deepest part of people; he sees in teh afflicted more that  others see. Jesus whole healing ministry is transfiguring the broken through the power of God’s love . The power that transfigured Jesus is the same power that works through him in transforming others.”

The experience of transfiguration can be interpreted as one where Jesus grows closer to who he really is. And we all grow closer to who we really are when we hear our name called in love! When that happens we become radiant and we are better enabled to face the future – whatever it holds.

Would would it take to transfigure you?

Who could transfigure you?

Who calls our name in love?

Whose name do we call in love?

Images sourced from Creative Commons

McBride, D. (2002). Jesus & the Gospels. Hampshire, England: Redemptorist Publications.  

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The Power of Story
18th July, 2017

Elizabeth Pike in her book The Power of Story begins by saying: “I firmly believe there is power in story. A culture’s mythology is its living spiritual beliefs and is born within its stories; their loss is always a moral catastrophe.” (2011, p. 1)  Before the books of the Bible were written down, they were spoken. In other words, behind the print there is a long, long oral tradition that comes through in the written text.

In our own time there are some who believe that the great stories have had their day. Most people even believe that only the facts count. For them, only perceptions of what’s directly visible form the basis for scientific views and world-views. Above all people who live by common sense know that there are only hard facts. The rest is fantasy, fiction; at most an amusing distraction. Nevertheless, storytellers and poets can be closer to experiences and feelings and in an important way express what a ‘fact’ is .

Ronald Rolheiser draws attention to what is all  but lost today, namely the fact that reality is more that just physical, that it has layers that we do not perceive empirically, that there is more mystery within the ordinary life than can be measured. The mystical imagination is not only as real as the scientific imagination; it reveals what science on its own could never tumble to – the many grace-drenched and spirit-laden layers of reality, even inside the law of gravity, that are not readily available to the senses.

Andrew Greely maintains that story, meaning biblical stories and their spinoffs- is the reason why Catholics stay in the church. He says it’s the poetic, metaphorical, and ritual dimensions of our faith that is so captivating and possessing.

Thomas Long expresses it this way:

The odd thing about biblical stories is that there are so many of them. There are battle stories, betrayal stories, stories about seduction and treachery in the royal court, stories about farmers and fools, healing stories, violent stories, funny stories and sad ones, stories of death and stories of resurrection. The claim that the Bible is a story book is  not far off the mark (Preaching and the Literary Fonts of the Bible).

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Pike, E. (2011). The Power of Story. Mulgrave,Vic: John Garratt Publishing.

Bausch, W.J. (1989). In the Beginning there were Stories. Mulgrave, Vic: John Garratt Publishing.

 

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Happy Shavu’ot
1st June, 2017

To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Shavu’ot (Pentecost) is not originally a Christian festival.

The Hebrew word Shavu’ot means weeks. In Jewish tradition 7 is the perfect number (the number of creation) and 7 times 7, even more so. It is a week of weeks or 7×7 which is 49 days.

In ancient Israel, the number seven represented divine perfection. It was considered a powerful, unbreakable number because it could not be divided by common small numbers which people used to count on a single hand. The word for seven in Hebrew- sheva שֶׁבַע– is linked to shevua שְׁבוּעָה– an oath. When someone wanted to make a very strong promise, they would take an oath as though to say: “let the divinely perfect number seven be my witness that I…” (http://lp.israelbiblicalstudies.com)

This weekend we celebrate one of the three most important festivals on the Jewish calendar, Shavu’ot (The Festival of Weeks or Pentecost)—the other two being Pesach (Passover), and Sukkot (The Feast of Tabernacles).

At the time of Jesus, pilgrims would travel to the temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice on these three festivals. In fact, as we will hear in the first reading this Sunday, that’s why all of Jesus’ followers were gathered together in the upper room, to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot:

“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other languages, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” —Acts 2:1–5

To some it may come as a surprise to learn that Pentecost is not of Christian origin. The roots of Shavu’ot—both agricultural and historical—lie in ancient Israel.

Shavu’ot commemorates the time when God gave the Israelites the 10 Commandments, the way by which they were to live their lives. It is on that day that the Hebrews became a nation.

For the first Christians, Pentecost was the day they received the Holy Spirit, which dwells in the hearts of all believers, commanding the way they are to live their lives. Pentecost celebrates the unity of the first Christians and the birth of the Church.

adapted from http://www.massexplained.com

How do you celebrate Pentecost?

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Why the Ascension of the Lord Matters!
25th May, 2017

Bishop Robert Barron explains the Ascension of Jesus in this way:

The Bible  speaks indeed of “heaven” and “earth,” but it sees these two realms as interacting and interpenetrating fields of force.

Jesus’ great prayer, The Lord’s Prayer, which is constantly on the lips of Christians, is distinctively Jewish in inspiration:

“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Notice  that this is decidedly not a prayer that we might escape from the earth, but rather that earth and heaven might come together. The Lord’s prayer recapitulates and raises to a new level precisely what the prophet Isaiah anticipated: “the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth, as the water covers the sea.”

The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit down through the ages, is meant to be the privileged place where this coming-together happens.

In good preaching, in great Christian art, in the architecture of our churches and cathedrals, in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the lives of the saints,
and perhaps especially in the liturgy, earth and heaven meet.

Bishop Robert Barron states that, “the Ascension of Jesus has nothing to do with a literal journey into the stratosphere, for that would involve simply a transfer to another position within “the world.” The Ascension is Jesus’ journey, not to another place, but to another dimension. But this dimension to which he has gone is not alien to us. It is instead a source of inspiration, power, and direction. And this is why the angels (denizens of heaven) who appear to the disciples just after Jesus’ departure say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” What they are hinting at, none too subtly, is this: under the influence of Jesus’ spirit, get to work! Do all that you can to foster the marriage of heaven and earth! Get on with the mission of the church!”

www.wordonfire.org/

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Amen: an extraordinary word
23rd May, 2017

Pentecostal preachers shout it. Monks chant it. Most Christians end every prayer with it. But what does “Amen” really mean? Is it just a pious way to “log off” our dialogue with God?

Amen is the Bible’s supreme expression of assent. By saying amen, we mean much more than simple agreement. It is a remarkable word because it allows us to succinctly articulate “Praise the Lord” and “I agree”. For example, Jeremiah agrees with the words of Hananiah, a fellow prophet, by saying: “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord fulfill the words that you have prophesied” (Jer. 28:6).

This powerful word comes from the Hebrew root אָמֵן (a-m-n) that is also related to the Hebrew word אֱמוּנָה (emunah) which means “faith”. Interestingly, Amen is classified as an adjective which describes states and moods. This word is not another “Yes” or “No”. When a person says Amen, they commit themselves to a state of conscious agreement, judgement and faith. In the Bible, having faith is not just a question of being spiritually awake, but of being firmly committed to one’s religious identity.

Israel Biblical Studies 

This implies, of course, that we are not just to accept God’s truth intellectually, but to build our life around it, to let our future depend on it, to make sure our actions flow from it. It implies that true biblical faith involves placing our trust in God and committing ourselves to living out what we claim to be our convictions.

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Two Roads – Master or Disaster
4th May, 2017

Through the Door

If we knew the future, very few of us would make foolish decisions. But very few of us make decisions in the first place. Many people prefer to be carried along by other peoples’ decisions and by the circumstances of life.

But wise people make decisions.

And they make these wise decisions without knowing the future.

Instead, they look at their past, their present, and where they would like to end up.

And then they choose.

This choice does not have to be a leap…sometimes it is just a step.

When making decisions, it is rarely wise to “leap”.

It is much wiser to take a step, assess, and discern the next step.

What is your experience of this process? Is it too complicated…too simple?

God in Real Life

 This week, make decisions with wisdom by asking whether a decision is good, open, wise, and one you want.

To the Heart

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.” ~James 1:5

adapted from:bulldogcatholic.org

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How to do Holy Week
12th April, 2017

path through the woods

Holy Week is a solemn week of extra prayer and fasting. It involves the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. During those three days we recall—and through our prayer participate in—Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, his arrest, trial, and execution, the long day of silence (Holy Saturday) while his body rested in the grave, and his Resurrection on Easter. The many readings of Scripture surrounding the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ give us a lot of material for reflection and prayer.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not stop or slow down to give us extra time for all this liturgy and church attendance.  But daily life continues, and our minds spin with scores of other stories that threaten to obscure the Jesus story.

How can we maintain some realm of holy quiet?

How to “do” Holy Week, especially if we will not be participating in all the special church liturgies at this time?

Here are just a few suggestions from Ignatian Spirituality . I hope you’re helped by at least one or two of them.

Spend a little time each day listening to music that helps you slow down. It doesn’t matter what kind of music—hymns, jazz, folk song, symphony pieces, songs with meaningful words, or pieces that are instrumental only—as long as the listening helps you breathe more slowly and go to a place deeper in your spirit.

Prepare at least one meal with special care for the people in your home (or, if you live alone, for you and a guest or two), and make certain all of you sit down together to eat it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Maybe there’s a  recipe from Great-Grandma, or a certain homemade bread that sets the tone by sending fragrance through the house.

Choose one of the Passion narratives—from any of the four Gospels—and read it aloud to yourself over the course of the week. Don’t try to learn anything new or have a profound experience; simply read the story, asking God to help this story live in you better this year than it ever has before.

While you’re sitting—maybe at the end of the day, trying to unwind in front of the television or in a favorite chair—try drawing aspects of Holy Week. Use whatever paper and pen(cil) is available and express something about symbols that are meaningful to you: cross, lily, bread, chalice, table, garden, hands, faces, a road…

 

Finally, you might find some time this week to reflect on  the video below.

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