Saturday, 30 April 2011

Pope John Paul

Tomorrow Pope John Paul is to be beatified in Rome. Some believe it is too soon. Whatever you think about that there is no doubt this man, totally dedicated to the Christ, was used by the Lord to touch many, many lives.  Here's an example I came across recently.

'World Youth Day' saved my life", said the Canadian woman. 'I was 24 years old and had being living on the streets since I was 15. I had become an alocholic and a heroin addict.' Here she rolled up the sleeves of her blouse to reveal the scars of the needles. 'And I had become a prostitute to support my habit. I was dying, and I wanted to end it all.

The kids from a parish group who had always been nice to me, took me in, cleaned me up and invited me to come to Toronto with them to the World Youth Day. And there I met an old man who has changed my life. This old man told me he loved me. Oh, a lot of old men told me they loved me, for 15 minutes in the back seat of their cars. This old man meant it.

He told me God loved me, and that I'm actually God's work of art.

He told me that God who made the stars actually knows my name.

He told me God enjoys me so much he wants me to spend eternity with him, and that he sent his Son, Jesus, to help me get there.

This old man told me I actually share God's own life deep inside of me. This old man made sense. This old man got through to me. Now I want to live!'

That  'old man' was, of course, Pope John Paul. God's love was revealed though him and that poor young woman found new life in the divine goodness that liberates and gives us new beginnings.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Our Empty Graves

I once got a card at Easter that wished that there would be "many empty graves" in my life.  Not the usual greeting! But it carries a deep truth.

 As I reflected I realised that again and again throughout my life the Lord's saving love has lifted me out of the graves of sin and shame, of failure and disappointment, the graves of pain and hurt, of loss and bereavement.  I have constantly found renewed hope and courage in the Risen Christ.

With the Lord there is always the possibilities of fresh starts in our lives.

With Christ every moment can be a new beginning.

This is what it means to say that he is our resurrection and our life.

The resurrection is not simply a past event in the life of Jesus. Nor is it simply a future event we look forward to in faith. Here and now, indwelt by the Spirit of the Risen Lord, the resurrection is meant to be a living power, a divine energy, in our lives.

What grave are you in now? What darkness entraps you? The darkness of fear or regret, of sin or bitterness, of  loss or of shattered relationships.

To believe in the resurrection in our lives means our hearts and spirits can now experience what our bodies will one day undergo.

May the Easter life flowing from the Lord pierce our darkness,  touch our weakness, and revive our deadness. Yes, indeed, may there be many empty graves in our lives.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Easter Light

We participate in his light and life.
We are busy here getting ready for the Easter Vigil tonight. One thing is clear - Easter is not simply a happy ending to the story of Jesus. If the resurrection was just that we would not be celebrating it with such joy. 

The wonderful truth is that all that Christ has done - he has done for us.  All that he has gained - he imparts to us. The Victorious Lord shares his victory with us, as  a free gift.

At the beginning of our celebration tonight the Easter Candle, a symbol of the Risen Jesus, will be carried into the darkened chapel. But we will not just look passively at that single flame. No, we will light our candles from the one candle, the light will be shared and spread out until the whole church is bathe in light.

So it is by participation we share in the new life of the Risen Lord. In Baptism we, as it were, lit the flame our souls from his one splendid flame. It is the whole flame we receive. In our oneness with the Lord we are gifted with his fullness - grace upon grace.

That is why Baptism is at the very heart of Easter. For it is through faith and baptism we enter into this new reality. Throughout the world tens of thousands of people will be baptised during the Vigil tonight. Some years ago, in our few Franciscan missions and parishes in Zimbabwe alone, some 700 adults were baptised during the celebrations of the Easter Vigil.

For us already baptised, tonight sprinkled with the sacred water, we choose again to live from Christ's Resurrection life. May his light so permeate our souls that we exult anew in Jesus as the sure hope for our world and the sure joy of our hearts.

Have a blessed Easter. 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

GOOD Friday!

Have you ever thought like me: GOOD Friday! Why in God's name do we call this day of all days GOOD? Surely what happened on that Friday on a hill outside Jerusalem made it the blackest day in human history.

When I reflect on it I realise that this day is good because of the astonishing goodness of God that was revealed, and because God has turned our greatest evil  into our greatest blessing, an unending source of goodness for us.

Some mystics have used an image that I have found helpful in deepening my understanding of what happened when Jesus died. The image is that of a poultice - a home-made remedy placed on a festering wound to draw out the puss.

On the Cross it is as if Jesus willingly and with inexpressible love laid himself on the awful, foul, raw wound of this world's sin and anguish and bottomless sorrow. He took into himself all the dark evil this world could offer and he overcame it with love. To the horrific end he kept on loving, kept on forgiving, kept on praying, kept on trusting in his Father. There was no hate or desire for revenge, no self-pity in his great heart.

Like the healing poultice Jesus draws out the poison and gives goodness in return for hate,  mercy for vicious cruelty, light for darkness. The Lord's love unto death sets us free.

The Cross shows our sin at its worst and divine love at its best.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Passion in Jesus' Heart

Jesus went to the Cross with a fire and a love we simply call the Passion. But the heart of the Passion of Jesus was the passion in the heart of Jesus for each of us.

You and I - all of us - can say with St Paul: 'He loved me and sacrificed himself for me."

He gave himself for me, totally and freely!

I can't I get my mind around that. If I live to be 600 I can never grasp the full meaning of the love revealed on Calvary, what it meant for Jesus and means now for me and the world.

To be honest with you - sometimes I almost regret that he loves me with such a passion. How can I be causal about my relationship with him when he has sought me with such lavish goodness - this Hound of Heaven whose love has brought him so far for my sake?

 He has literally gone to hell and back for me.

Sometimes I wonder:
How could my poor, mediocre life  draw such love from him?
How could I  mean so much to him?
How could I have such value in his eyes?

This Holy Week, with the community of the Church, I gaze once again with faith on Christ Crucified, ponder his love and allow it to go deep, where it needs to go now in my life.

And, please God, my response to his passionate love will be joyful, free and wholehearted!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Misunderstandings about forgiveness.

As I said in my last blog, I discovered last week yet again that the topic of forgiving others is a hot one. People can have very strong opinions about it. One thing becomes clear when there is any discussion about letting go the hurt others have caused us is that people have various misconceptions about what Christian forgiveness involves.  These mimisunderstandings frequently block people beginning the process of forgiving others.

Forgiveness is not pretending something did not happen. Ignoring a deep hurt means that it festers and can poison the heart.

Forgiveness is not pretending that I have forgotten. The line: "Forgive and forget" is not found in the Gospel! We remember but we still choose to put down the heavy burden of bitterness; we make a decision to forgive. Forgiveness is not primarily about the past, but about the future - my future lived without resentment.

Forgiveness is not pretending I was not hurt. It deals with the reality of hurt and anger; it is not about denial, a covering up of the impact of an other's actions.

Forgiveness is not condoning destructive behaviour. We can be definite about what is and what is not an acceptable pattern of interaction. Forgiveness does not mean becoming a punch bag! It does not mean living with abusive behaviour.

Forgiveness does not presume reconciliation. If this happens it is wonderful. Forgiveness may heal the person who wronged us. It may heal the relationship. But it will always heal us. The truth is that the forgiving person benefits most. Forgiveness happens to the person doing it. It may or may not affect the person being forgiven.

Forgiveness of a serious wrong is hard. Only with the grace of God at work in us can we truly let go.

The only thing harder than forgiveness is the alternative - living with a bitter heart, trapped in the past.

Monday, 4 April 2011

God's Word always at hand.
One of our missionaries back in Ireland after over 40 years in South Africa keeps me supplied with emails with various reflections and quotes. This is his latest one.... some 'fodder to chew' as he says.

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our mobile phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we flipped through it several time a day?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it when we traveled?
What if we used it in case of emergency?

This is something to make you go....hmm...where is my Bible? Oh, and one more thing. Unlike our mobile phone, we don't have to worry about our Bible being disconnected because Jesus has already paid the bill.

Makes you stop and think where are my priorities?

'Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.'