Favourites

I recommend these ones. I like these ones best.

The flesh of God

I really wanted to write a perfect post for Christmas. I wanted to condense the mystery of the Incarnation into one short post, to blow minds and set hearts on fire. And every time I approached the mystery, I thought, Ah! Now I’ve got it! Only to find my words still fall an infinite distance short of the reality I was beginning to see.

I was trying to do the impossible, because the mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of the Word made flesh, and cannot be expressed except by that flesh. So instead, I invite us to come close to His very flesh. His flesh is the Word we must listen to. No fact about His flesh, no concept of His flesh, but His very flesh.

Where can we find the flesh of Jesus? In the Eucharist, in our neighbours in their poverty, in the Church by Her love, and in our hearts by our faith. These are the places we must go to this Christmas, to find and adore our new born king. These are the places we must touch God’s flesh, and so hear His Word.

Happy Christmas and God bless you!

Advertisements

The River of Tradition

‘In protestantism, the believer is always looking to the fresh rain of the scriptures, but in Catholicism, the believer looks to the fresh rain of the scriptures, as well as the great torrents of the river of reflection and consideration by the saints upon those same scriptures, going back to their source in the incarnate Son of God. To take this analogy a step further, the puddle corrupts and muddies the water it receives far more than the fast flowing river.’

I wrote this in a post a couple years ago, and I just wanted to post it again on its own.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

God bless you!

WYD 2016: The Time of My Life (so far)

Opening mass

(The Opening Mass)

I really don’t know what to tell you about WYD 2016 in Krakow, except that it was the best time of my life. Please bear with me as I ramble a bit, about just part of what it meant to me.

Welcome

Before going to Poland, me and my friends from uni joined with a group of about 300 pilgrims from around the World for a “pre-encounter” in Hungary, organised by Verbum Dei. We listened, we talked, we prayed, we had mass, we joked and sang and danced. But in the most incredible atmosphere of love and friendship I’ve encountered. Everyone was a friend. Everyone smiled and said hello to everyone. And I felt embraced by an inexplicable love. I really experienced the joy of the gospel, and the Kingdom of Heaven.

A good example, is when in the evening, we all learned Hungarian folk dance, and had three hundred of us dancing around the hall in these great circles and lines, soaked in sweat, jumping about, and smiling like madmen. It’s an image of Heaven.

Adoration

My highlight of the pre-encounter came at adoration. Even amongst such love, I was somehow able to start feeling alone and unlovable again. It wasn’t too strong a feeling, but I did feel cut off…

Then, some of my friends began a beautiful piece of theatre/prayer, centred around mercy and removing masks to be loved. At the end of this, the Eucharist was brought out for a time of adoration. A screen blocked me from seeing Jesus as He began proceeding from the tabernacle, and as I tried to prepare myself to see and adore Him, I didn’t feel any closeness to Him. I didn’t feel like He was really present at all, and I worried what this meant.

Then He came past the screen, I saw Him, and I knew it was Him, right there, in love for me. I felt His loving gaze, and it broke me apart. I cried a lot, and didn’t wipe away the tears, because I didn’t want to lose a thing. I kept repeating ‘Jesus, you love me` and ‘Jesus, I love you`. I desired nothing but to belong entirely to Jesus, to love Him and be loved by Him, at any and all cost.

God loved Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss

The first thing we did in Poland was to visit Auschwitz. The above sign really struck me. The idea that there was any more blood spilled at Auschwitz after the war, filled me with sadness. The thought of any more hatred, and killing, and saying that people aren’t worthy of life; or of the blood of the innocent and the wicked being mingled, horrified me. The war was won, but where was the peace?

I remembered that God loved Rudolf Höss, and even went to the cross for him. He was incredibly inhuman to his prisoners, because he didn’t believe they were truly human. But the response to this was to see his evil deeds, and say that he wasn’t truly human, that he didn’t deserve life. But God loved and created Rudolf Höss, not for the monster he made himself, but for the human being, capable of love, that he simply was.

It was humans that perpetrated the holocaust. It was humans like you and me. It was us.

As I continued around Auschwitz II- Birkenau, the horror kept growing within me. I felt the need for us all to repent for what the Nazis, and many others, have done throughout history. I felt terrible anger, followed by sorrow and pity, for the perpetrators of all our atrocities.

The more I saw of Auschwitz and human evil, the more clearly I saw that the world desperately needs mercy. There is no other solution.

Welcome pt 2

The People of Krakow (and Wadowice, where we were staying) gave us an incredible welcome. Our host families made us feel truly at home, despite every barrier of language and culture. And our fellow pilgrims too, were all incredibly friendly and welcoming.

I didn’t understand before this trip, just how crucial being welcoming is to being merciful. But how can we ever be merciful if we don’t welcome others? And how could we welcome those who most need it, if not for mercy?

On our long march (about 14km in the heat) to Campus Misericordiae, families who lived along the way came out of the their homes, and out of the sheer kindness of their hearts, gave us cold water. And on the long way back, in the pouring rain, one family came out offering us hot coffee. It was pure grace.

Friendships

So many friends, old and new! And the new, are so close, that they really feel like old friends already. I feel incredibly close to them, because we shared our lives, and our deepest life (Jesus) for this two weeks. In each of them, I discovered incredible depths and beauty I couldn’t have imagined, and each of them showed me Jesus that much more.

I really can’t express my gratitude enough. They’re in the depths of my heart forever now.

Papa Francesco!

Seeing and hearing Papa Francesco was amazing. I think he exudes the love and mercy of God in a very special way.

His speeches and homily were very powerful, and made clear to me how greatly God loves us, and how God wants to use us. How God wants you and me to go out and change the whole world, to build a world of love, mercy, and fraternity. How God dreams of our true happiness, which is not “a good couch”, but a life of love and action!

Holy Communion

As I queued for Holy Communion at the final mass, I was overcome with God’s love for me again, and I began crying once more, desiring for every part of me, from the biggest to the very smallest, to be given to Jesus in love. I didn’t want anything held back. I wanted his light in every last crevice in the depths of my heart. I realised I’d rather God’s love and nothing, than everything except God’s love. And then I realised, that since everything is each moment created out of God’s love, apart from God’s love there is nothing, and within God’s love there is everything, and so I found myself surrounded by God’s love on every side.

The entire World Youth Day was one big Holy Communion, in which I found Jesus over and over and over again. We were all there together, being made one, by the one body, the one love, of our one Lord.

Catholicity

The Church is the unity of humanity :)

Now, the real challenge begins: to take God’s mercy home with us and out to the world…

 

God bless you and pray for us!

Your religion is mine, and my religion is yours

I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I’m not putting that in quotes, because this is my own profession, not someone else’s. It’s not just the faith of the Church, it’s my faith, and I take a great deal of delight in it. So, please let me elaborate on this beautiful aspect of my faith.

What this means, in the most simple terms, is that your religion is mine, and my religion is yours. The religion of John the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene, Ignatius of Antioch, Clare of Assisi, Anselm of Canterbury, Catherine of Sienna, Ignatius of Loyola, Therese of Lisieux, Maximilian Kolbe, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Pope Francis, is all mine!

We are united in our relationship with Jesus. We relate to Jesus as one. All the theology, all the spirituality, all the life of the entire Church, belongs to me! We are truly one body; the Body of Christ. Every time we approach God, in prayer, sacrament, or service, we do so as one, in the one love of Christ.

Here is the authority of Church: that because we are one in Christ, we can never reject the religion of our brothers. If I refuse your relationship with Christ, I have become a schismatic and a heretic, and have rejected Christ Himself. Heresies aren’t born from creative insights, but from narrow-minded and prideful rejection of the divine mysteries that the Church lives. Every single time, without fail, heresy has belonged not to the inquisitive or open minded, but to the proud, judgmental and closed minded.

But how is this to be enacted and maintained throughout the world and across the ages? By the Apostolic succession of the Bishops, who have been entrusted with the whole of the Catholic faith, to guard and pass it on in its entirety. It is the incredible task of the Bishop to contain within himself the entirety of the Church. If that seems impossible, remember that the entirety of the Church is contained in the Holy Eucharist, the Body of Christ, and in the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bishop is, in simple terms, the reference point for the Church. They are the ones entrusted with the faith by Jesus, and they deserve our complete trust too.

So the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. She is one: united in one religion, who is named Jesus Christ; she is Holy: by the holiness of Jesus Christ that she shares in, and that is the source of all she is; she is Catholic: by accepting the wholeness of the truth of Jesus Christ, the truth of God, as found in the whole of the Church and the whole of the world; she is Apostolic: authorised and sent out by Jesus Christ, who was Himself sent by the Father, and by His authority she goes out to whole world, preaching and practising unity, holiness, and wholeness.

Pope Francis Holds Weekly Audience - May 22, 2013

Pope Francis: the Successor of St. Peter

Father, let us be one, as You are one with Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen

 

God bless you!

How is Scripture to be read?/What is Scripture?

This question has kept on cropping up for me, whether I consider Catholic interactions with protestants, other faiths, or complete non-believers. A common issue in all such dialogues, is that they consider our Scriptures differently.

An easy example is a non-believer laughing at how, in the Genesis story, the character known as “God” doesn’t want us eating some random apple (which was actually the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”). But this is to read it as a mere story, when it is far, far more.

I think a large part of the blame lies with the protestant dogma of Sola Scriptura, saying that the Bible alone has authority. The basic issue with this is, that no interpretation of the Bible can then have authority, and without interpretation, the Bible literally means nothing. Of course, you can’t read the Bible without interpreting it, so they end up either abandoning any idea of certainty in belief, or only accepting the interpretation that seems to involve the least interpretation (though often this will be ignorant of the nature of what it is supposed to interpret). They must swing between liberalism and fundamentalism; between uncertainty and narrow-mindedness. There is no room for mysticism.

But Scripture is made to be interpreted! I’d go so far as to say that it’s made to have many (true) interpretations. The Scriptures are all, to varying degrees, art. At the time of writing, I believe the distinction had yet to be made between “mere art” and “mere fact”. Indeed, within a theistic universe, such a separation is incoherent! Truth cannot be separated from beauty, nor beauty from truth. All things are thoroughly a part of the whole, and all things must be understood in terms of each other.

the_starry_night_van_gogh_1889

‘I have put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.’

I believe Scripture is the inexhaustible artwork. The Church with one heart and mind has been meditating upon it for near 2,000 years, and is still finding new depths! You may have found some yourself. The works of Shakespeare or Van Goph or Tolkien or Mozart may move us deeply, reveal truths even the artist didn’t perceive, and even transform us, but each has its end. Even if it might seem inexhaustible to us, nothing but Scripture can be meditated upon by a whole society (the Church in this case) for millennia, and consistently surprise us with its depths.

Another way to put it, is that all artwork is a window into a mind. The craftsmanship of the artist determines how clear or opaque the glass will be, and the contents is everything of their mind they open to us. Its worth noting that the artists don’t know or understand everything in their minds, and so are often more profound than they know.

Scripture, then, is a window into the Mind of God. It is mediated through the minds of men, and so is also a window into the minds of its authors, and of the cultures they lived in. But thankfully, these are also God’s creation, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit their minds provided a special window in God’s Mind.

“The Mind of God”… What does this actually mean? I would equate it with the Wisdom of God, the Word of God, the divine Logos: Our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the complete and perfect revelation of God. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

All of Scripture serves primarily to reveal the person of the Son of God/Son of Mary. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He is brought to us, even as by the same Holy Spirit He was incarnate of the Virgin. And by the exact same Holy Spirit, He is to be conceived in you and me.

So, how is Scripture supposed to be read? As a Christian. As a mystic. As personal encounter with God. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God can be opened to us. It is only by the light of Christ that we see Christ.

There is no objective, “scientific” manner of interpreting the Scriptures as Scripture. Not even a little bit. Any doctrine gleaned in such a lifeless way, might or might not be correct… But either way, it will bring the reader no profit, no knowledge of the Truth. We should not read Scripture as a non-believer would (except for God’s grace intervening).

Theology must always be subject to mysticism. Every time this rule is refused, a heresy is born. How do we subject theology to mysticism? By always listening in humility for the Word of God, especially in His body, the Catholic Church. It is through the apostolic Church that Jesus desired to give Himself to the world, and it is there we must seek Him. The Church that is called to encounter God, is simultaneously called to be the encounter with God.

When we read the Scriptures, or do any theology, the only rule is to listen with humility to Jesus, wherever He is speaking to us. The powers of our intelligence are welcome, but they must sit at Jesus’ feet.

 

God bless you

The guards vs the women

And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
(Matthew 28:2-8)

Something I love in this passage, is how the angel completely ignores the armed guards to speak to these faithful women. I find it beyond wonderful that these representatives of the power of Rome and of the Sanhedrin are nothing to the angel.

I imagine the angel sitting on the stone with the biggest, most childish grin you have ever seen. He swings his legs for the fun of it, or has his legs crossed and leans forward over them in his eagerness. His every word seems like it is holding back, or perhaps just holding, a whole flood of laughter. He has no time and no care for these mortal men standing guard over death.

And notice how different their reactions are: the guards are so shaken, so frightened of him, that they are like dead men; the women on the other hand, are filled with awe and great joy, coming quickly away from the tomb and running to tell the disciples. The women are afraid in a completely different way.

What are they both afraid of? Life. Of course, no one likes death. But it is, well… comfortable. We know death, it’s predictable, it’s easy. But life! Life goes off in a million different directions according to its own whims! Life can’t be predicted or contained, except by death. And now even death has been conquered!

image

Jesus is a weed, breaking through the concrete of death

For the women, this means the hope of absolute life. It means the story of Jesus saving the world is only beginning. It means love is and always will be victorious.

For the guards, this means they are rendered powerless. They have failed to control a corpse! No amount of violence can ever defeat the freedom of the children of God!

God bless you and Alleluia!

I showed Jesus my wounds

At yesterday’s Good Friday liturgy, I rolled up my sleeves for the first time this year. So what? Well, my left forearm has some scars on it, and in these scars, open wounds on my mind and soul are visible.

In rolling up my sleeves, I wasn’t just responding to the beautiful weather; I was bringing my wounds, and so myself, before Jesus crucified. He is wounded to enter my wounds, He died to enter my death. He is naked before us: how could I hide myself from Him?

We have to let Jesus enter into us, through our wounds, our sins and our death. How? Through faith in Him and through His holy sacraments. In these, Jesus comes to us in our sins, our struggles, and our suffering, and brings us His life that conquers death.

When we give these up to Him, and let Him enter into them, something mysterious occurs. As He touches them with His mercy, He fills and transforms them with His self-sacrificial love, and in doing so, we find them united to His Holy Cross. Our wounds are united to His.

And His wounds have been glorified by His resurrection from the dead.

 

God bless you, and Happy Easter!
He is risen!

san-damiano-cross

I love the San Damiano cross. Jesus’ arms are open wide in a priestly gesture, of offering, gift, and welcome. The Cross is an act of love and freedom.

Life, choice, and freedom

Here are some thoughts, looking at two ways of understanding freedom, and so viewing the world. The two ways are life and choice (do you see where I’m going here?).

The freedom of life, is when the thing in question, be it a seed, a goat, a mother or an unborn child, is given the space and opportunity to go out of itself, growing, giving itself away, revealing the secret of its nature. To be free, is to be youwith all that that entails; to live out your gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weakness too. To not be free, is to have not-you imposed upon you, whether by violence or deception.

Freedom of choice on the other hand, considers matters as external to an individual you which is an abstract notion of an arbitrary will. It looks at all things as essentially separate from you, and with no inherently correct choice. Freedom, then, is to have as many options as possible, or equivalently, to have as much subject to your own arbitrary dominion as possible. To not be free is to have fewer choices. (Note that freedom here is always finite, with the constraints of nature an obstacle to your freedom.)

Freedom of life views the world around us as wonderful and bursting with life, each part valuable and dignified in and of itself, in intimate relationship with ourselves, and deserving of our care and respect. It sees it as our freedom to coexist joyfully with all others, sharing freedom as we ourselves are free. My freedom complements yours and yours complements mine.

Freedom of choice views the world around me, including my own body and being, as an obstacle to be conquered by my will, with no value besides what I myself assign to it at each moment. Everything and everyone is fundamentally cut off from me, and their freedom of choice naturally competes with my own. Everything is objectified.

image

Where eyes of life see a great jungle, with a cacophony that’s a symphony that’s a theophany, eyes of choice see a menu, with various prices and deals for various products for consumption.

Paradoxically, this “freedom of life” makes demands on us. But each of these demands, is not coming from outside of us, but from the truth itself, the truth of our reality within each situation. The demand comes from our deepest depths, and not from outside. In each situation, the demand is always to live as fully as possible, to be what and who you truly are within that situation. From time to time, this means heroism and sacrifice: that is life.

And as a far greater contradiction, the “freedom of choice” that tries to demand so much from the world, always ultimately enslaves me, because it makes my desires of the world, and so I am made subject to the world. In considering a matter as a mere choice, I am putting its options up for sale. Perhaps not to people, but at least to circumstances. And in the end, what am I selling but myself?

 

We have a real and inherent obligation to every creature, from algae to giant redwoods, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, from the beggar to the prisoner, from the newly conceived zygote to the terminally ill, and to ourselves too. And we are asked to fulfil this obligation insofar as each one is our neighbour, that is, as each is within our reach. It is the obligation to live and to give life, or equivalently, to love.

God bless you