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Worthy is the Lamb

I read somewhere of a non-Christian postulating that if the Catholic Christian truly believed that the bread and wine of the Eucharist was indeed the Body and Blood of Jesus the Christ – God present in the Mass, they would approach reception of this Sacrament on their knees in the profound knowledge of their unworthiness! How could one look upon the fount of all holiness, knowing the extent of one’s own sinfulness?

In fact the nonchalant attitude many adopt when approaching the Eucharistic Table betrays an unawareness or innocence of the real nature of that which is about to meet them. Indeed, were that awareness more acute we should ‘tremble’ in anticipation of love sublime – but our perception is clouded by the cataract of our own humanity.

A common misnomer is to refer to the Eucharistic Meal as ‘representative’ or ‘symbolic’ of what transpired on that fateful night so long ago. The fact of anamnesis does not lessen its reality, it is not an evocative demonstration but is Christ present for all time.

“This is my body”, “This is my blood” says our Lord. [i] “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them” [ii]

Christ, our Salvation from the bondage of sin, make us worthy to approach your most holy table. Give to us the wisdom to understand the nature of your Spiritual nourishment and allow us to approach you in humble adoration.

Amen


[i] Matthew 26:26-28

[ii] John 6:56

How easily these words slip over the tongue at mass each week!

For all petitions for clemency or otherwise, there is an attendant responsibility on the petitioner. You ask for forgiveness but to receive forgiveness, you are also expected to forgive those who have hurt you; this is so glibly said but it becomes a very different ‘kettle of fish’ when we come to put it into practice.

I have learned that sometimes "sorry" is not enough. Sometimes you actually have to change. – Claire London

I had occasion recently, to feel this first hand. Something important to me was ruined; on top of that the circumstances surrounding this ‘accident’ were being fabricated and that hurt!!

It was so easy to feel angry, hard done by – after all this was an impairment to my sensibilities and it didn’t sit well! Suddenly there was an artificial distance between us, a gulf that just seemed wrong and in the end, it only made me feel worse. Had justice now been served?

The Catechism puts it well when it says: ‘In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.’ (CCC 2840)

Is that why so many seem to feel empty, even after they have been to mass?

Our Lord’s love was so deep and so powerful that the Catechism notes it as a love that loves to the end. It would do one well to remember the parable of the merciless servant – ‘…so also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’ We always forget that it is beyond us not to feel or forget offense – it will ALWAYS affect us. However, the Church says: ‘…but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.’ (CCC2843)

So I let go and reconciled myself to the Lord; and it felt good. Now, while the damage is still there, it doesn’t seem at all as bad. As it is so succinctly put by the Church, ‘Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.’ (CCC2844)

What is Truth?

Some years ago, a friend asked me why I was studying theology, to which I answered that I was searching for the truth.

At the time, it seemed rather an innocuous question but as time has passed, it has assumed greater import for me. Faith is a foundational aspect of any belief system, no more so than in mine, but is it compatible with the truth? To borrow from an early writing of mine:

To seek the truth should be one of the fundamental elements in the noble quest of all people, not only of Christians. Christ said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the light…’ He enjoins – ‘For My Way is the way of life, the road that leads to the Father, trust in Me for I am the fount of all that is true and just, for I am the light of eternal salvation and in Me you will find the fullness of life’

In this context, we still need to ask the questions:

–        What is truth?

–        What is the truth that we seek?

–        Are truth, that which we seek and faith compatible?

These are far-reaching questions. For the sake of this work though, let us define that truth as an ultimate reality which exists outside of our own sphere of perception. A reality, which is perhaps best embodied in Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus: Quid est veritas – What is truth? Or rather the rhetorical nature of that question – for as a coincidental anagram of ‘quid est veritas’ would have it, ‘est vir qui adest’ or ‘It is the man who is here ‘!  Christ is truth – God is truth, it is He who is sought by a great many others and me, for He is the path to ultimate reality and truth.

As truth by virtue of the foregoing is difficult to hold to empirical values, that truth becomes faith but not before, we have applied our minds!

As children and in the normal human sense, faith is a product of the trust relationship we have built with others – with our mothers for example. We come to accept the trustworthiness, the honesty of others; consequently, we rely on the previously mentioned relationship as a foundational support in that truth claim.

The faith that derives out of the search for ultimate truth is analogous to the trust bond that we build between ourselves; only it is so much more profound. As children, we gain our religious insight in the same way as we do in the normal human sense, but as we mature and our minds become more critical, we begin to need more. To accept blindly the views of another as the truth, no matter the source or the trust bond that may exist, without adding our own intellectual assent makes that faith irrational; indeed, it is not faith but a gamble! It is also a prime source of personal deception; of trapping oneself into believing only what one wants to believe. Demosthenes said ‘Nothing is easier than self-deceit. For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true’

A human being, in general, is by nature an inquisitive being; this together with his intelligence has, more than most, contributed to his advance in nature – he is always seeking. However, his intelligence has been the interpretive cornerstone of his search and the wellspring for his ideas; it is the support, the foundation to his subsequent belief structures.

Thus, for example, in the apologetic of my own belief structure, my belief is best described as being based on thought, research, logic, reason and experience or spiritual awareness. These are the building blocks, the logical progressions of what I have witnessed, how I have reasoned that witness and which allows me to commit to intellectual assent. This ‘process’ helps lead me to an ever strengthening commitment in those convictions.

It is at this point that I can embrace faith. It has been said that faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation – a trust based on the convictions aforementioned.

So, belief is grounded in the search for truth, a truth we seek in many different ways; through prayer and stillness, through participation in the sacraments but also in study, the study of theology. To me theology is, in essence, the search for the truth.

We have seen the truth that we are seeking and that it is compatible with faith. However, the question ‘What is truth?’ will always be for me ‘The Holy Grail’, the ultimate prize. One that, I believe, I will come to know only when I meet Him to whom Pilate addressed that profound question:

‘Quid est veritas’

Stay The Course!

A meditation on the readings for the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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Stay the course, embrace your destiny!’ seems to be the cry of this parable, ‘For you are here to serve your God to the glory of Him who sent you!’

What a thought provoking reading and one that should sound alarm bells to those who procrastinate over the responsibilities attached to their eternal destiny!

The lesson from this parable has a lot to tell us, especially as we approach a time of good will and charity. Though there are many lessons to be had from this week’s Gospel, two for me are quite profound:

The first is to do with those who believe that attending church every week, is the sum total of their commitment, worse still are the ‘hatch, match and despatch followers – those who are only to be seen on high occasions and then claim the fullness of their duty! Yes, you recognise the gratuitous grace given to you but then you bury it to prevent it being lost. You can return that which was entrusted to you at the time of reckoning; but does the seed grow, germinate, and so produce fruit – No. How can that grace grow, allowing others to learn of your revelation – it does not and clearly, this is a problem! These are the one-talent servants. Those who would not risk their abilities but would rather use them to preserve their own good. Jesus tells us very clearly the deserts of these servants! Are you in this segment of Christ’s servants?

The second lesson has more to do with the talents you have rather than the direct graces that you receive, although I suppose in reality, they are two views on the same thing! Each of us has a talent for something, big or small and in the norm, you use that talent to provide for you and your family and I suppose, rather begrudgingly, sometimes the taxman! The church too has needs, big and small, ranging from service in the diaconate and teaching in RCIA to helping one of the sodalities in caring for the destitute and even just making a cup of tea for the parishioners after mass. Big or small, all are a contribution to the evangelisation of the Word.

So invest those talents, let the Word grow and when the time comes, good and faithful servant, you too can share in your Master’s joy! And what joy that will be!!

A meditation on the readings for the 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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When reflecting on the theme for the readings of the 27th Sunday in Ordinary time, I am reminded of those haunting words from John Sanders’: The Reproaches – ‘O my people, O my people, what have I done to you?’

Today’s reading is the third in the vineyard trilogy of parables as told by Matthew. In this exposition by Matthew, the priests and elders of the temple confront Jesus; they are indignant at His activities and want to know on whose authority He does these things? These priests and elders were less than ideal stewards of their vineyard, the people of Israel; in fact, a common consensus holds that they were rather a narcissistic and opinionated bunch, more interested in their own welfare than that of the people entrusted to them!

Jesus, obviously angry at their hypocrisy relates the parable of the landowner who planted and prepared a vineyard and then entrusted it to tenants. When time came for the collection of the harvest, the owner’s servants were rejected and beaten by the tenants! In a final attempt at rectifying the situation, the owner sends his son, thinking that the tenants would respect his son. However, he too is rejected, cast out of the vineyard and killed.

Typically, the landowner refers to God, the vineyard to ‘the people of Israel and the tenants to the leaders and elders of the Temple. His servants were the prophets gone before and the son, well He is Christ our Lord. Despite having blessed His people with all the goodness from the ‘promised land‘ and more, they still reject Him, ‘they produce no fruit’! Now the owner will take away their stewardship and pass it onto those who will be fruitful and so the mantle is passed on to the followers of Jesus. I do not distinguish here between Jew or Gentile in specific, Jesus was a Jew and Jews (Matthew a case in point) did follow the message of Jesus Christ, the new Covenant of God.

Ironically, the priests and the elders did recognize that the justice emanating from this parable referred to them but of course, in an act of selfish self-preservation they chose to ignore the wisdom they had heard and instead sought to arrest Jesus. Prophetically, the justice described in this parable was to come true 70 or so years later when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, contributing in some way, to the ascendency of Christianity!

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?

The obvious question is what relevance does this parable have in contemporary society? I would posit – everything! Allegorical – perhaps but with so much moral and spiritual relevance, we cannot afford to abandon it to ancient moralizing!

Rather than concentrating on the parable’s corporate relevance, I would rather highlight its significance on the individual. We are all branches of the one True Vine, part of the Body of Christ. Consequently, we are stewards over our branch of the Vine and are expected to produce fruit. This might take the form of many things related to Christian life, but always contributing to His Body.

When the Lord comes to collect His dues – will we equally be found wanting?

A meditation on the readings for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time.

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So filled with pride and self-interest is today’s society, that one is hard-pressed to find any form of moral baseline against which society can take their mark. This has shown itself in recent events in the riots in England and America; riots which were, by and large, committed by the youth, the future of our society. Scenes of rampant looting, anarchy and blatant immoral behaviour without any apparent reason – scenes which a few decades ago, would have been tainted with the stain of moral indignation, instead society is dumbfounded at scenes of apparent insatiable immoral conduct and left unable to understand this senseless behaviour!

Trusted with the preservation of the moral structure in society, the principled leadership of those most susceptible, the young – have we as society failed them?

The readings this week-end underline this dilemma. The Lord rebukes Shebna, the unworthy and unprincipled master of the palace and replaces him with Eliakim who will be as a father to the household – chide and correct when necessary, comfort and shelter as a father should. He will be a steward, invested with the key of authority, acting on behalf of the master of the palace.

Likewise in the Gospel, we see our Lord investing Peter, the foundation of His Church, with the keys to the kingdom of heaven – the symbol of authority to bind and loose. He is entrusting to His Church the moral wellbeing of His flock, that His Church would guide, teach, protect and act as the wellspring of moral rectitude to the people He sacrificed all for!

Yet man in his arrogance and pride, does not feel the need for such moral leadership and is content to stumble along under his own misguided relativistic nature!

However, Paul reminds us of the glory of God, His unbounded wisdom and power and from whom all righteousness originates. God only wants us to choose the path of life, not the road to destruction.

Which path are you on?

‘…He looked out over His children, and He wept! Had He not shown them the way so long ago at Tabgha on the Galilee?’

Jesus stepped ashore and came upon a multitude – He took pity on them, healing their sick, ministering to all who had need. Late in the day, His disciples came to Him and given the hour advised Him to send them away so that they may find food in neighbouring villages. But He said no, you give them food! What little they had, they gave to Him – yet that act of generosity fed a multitude with plenty to spare!

But where have we come since that time? Avarice and self-interest, the diminution of love for neighbour, the all-consuming ‘I’! We all look straight through the hunger of the soul standing at the intersection, as if they weren’t there, consumed in our own self-pity! True, it is impossible to give to all but it is possible to show compassion, to show an interest in the plight of others – after all this is what the master showed us, was it not?

Acknowledging with gratitude the bounty which has been given to you, He asks you to share this bounty with others. For one act of kindness given in the name of the Lord, will radiate out in many ways.

‘Mensa Christi – Table of Christ’ – all are invited in grace and love to the bounty of He who gave everything. We must do the same but do we?

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