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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Collect for 25th Sunday of Year:

The Collect for the 25th Sunday of the Year reads as follows:

  "O God who founded all the commands of Your Sacred Law
upon love of You and of our neighbour,
grant that, by keeping your precepts,
we may merit to attain eternal life.

In making this prayer tangible for during the week, the following reflection questions emerged:

1.What are the commands of God's sacred law?  Do I know them?
2. How might I get to know God's commands more during this week?
3. What is the cost/benefits of keeping the precepts and commands of God's sacred law?
4.  Reflect upon my life right now- am I ready for eternal life ?  
5.  What aspects in my life do i need to change to be ready for eternal life?


Normally in my posts in this series, I reflect upon the Gospel of the Day.  However, today I would like to reflect upon the Responsorial Psalm.  The response in psalm 53 for Mass is:

The Lord upholds my life.

I would like to focus on these words.  Of course read the whole psalm meditatively.  However, let's examine these words and make them our own this week.

The question arises do I believe these words in my heart? Is God first place in my life? 
We can believe these words when our lives seem to be going well.  Yes, it is reasonably easy to say then ''The Lord upholds my life"' or we can be tempted to think that we have created our own success at work, buying the new house/ car, getting a promotion/new job.  It is even possible to let God slip from our lives. We might even say we dont need God- I am creating my own success.  However, as we know none of this is possible without God. He wills for our lives since we are His children. He is upholding our lives when things are going well. We need to keep Him first place and praise Him constantly for all the good He is doing in our lives.

However, what happens to us when things are not going well. We feel stressed and we can even blame God or we might even say  ''God, where are you or why dont you care God''.  However, God does care and He upholds our lives in the difficult times.  He helps us  through the difficulty and gives us courage to face our enemy (addiction, people who bad mouth us, financial stress, loss of business, health issues etc).  What is your enemy right now? Name it and take it to God in prayer and ask Him to help you to realise in a deeper way that He is upholding my life.  During the day when we are facing the difficulties, we need to stop and say in our hearts'' The Lord upholds my life''. We may say it many times.

The question remains though- do you really believe these words for my life both in the fortunate and difficult times?  Maybe we do but our faith in them is weak. That is fine. God understands. Start with that.  Think of a time when things were going well and then something happens unexpectedly to make it better or you thought you had everything sorted and planned and then God steps in and provides you with an unexpected situation which took the good to great for you.  That is the Lord upholding your life.

Think of a time when things were difficult and somehow you got through this difficulty. Things turned around  when you least expected it and not in the way you expected.  That is, the Lord upholding your life.

So keep God first place this week ( and every week) and know that He loves us because we are His children.  He wants to uphold our livesGive Him the praise and the honour and  sing in your heart through a strong personal belief 

                                     ''The Lord upholds my life.''









Thursday, September 20, 2018

12 Step Catholic Spirituality- Step 1: To admit we cannot live our fullest potential by a life of selfishness. ( Part 1).

Welcome to my 12 Step Catholic Spirituality Series.  This series is based on the 12 Steps of AA and could have easily been called 12 Step Christian Anon programme.  However, I prefer to think of it as a 12 Step guide to Catholic spirituality. I have used the word ''selfishness'' to cover a range of sins/ addictions/ behaviour patterns. You may wish to choose your own word suitable to your own situation since we are all individuals with different issues.
Let's explore step 1 over 3-4 weeks.

Let us begin with Step 1: We admit that we cannot live our fullest human potential by living a life of ''selfishness''. 

Why do we not experience our fullest potential?
There may be a huge number of answers to this question. However in essence Christian theology and human experience shows us that the key reason why we do not experience joy is that selfishness perverts our noblest striving and  motivations. Sin therefore separates us from God and from one another. Its effect is that it does just that.

Contrasting this is a healthy self love which enables us to strike a balance between overestimating and underestimating our talents. Self love requires a truthful acceptance of ourselves in all our strengths and limitations.  Selfishness deprives us of self-love in its fullness because it blinds us to truth and acceptance by keeping us in an state of unhealthy desiring.


Through our first parents Adam and Eve, sin came into the world when they chose to say no to God and used their free will for a rebellious act. We too can in our selfishness say no to God  in many ways. Perhaps we can relate to St Paul when he says:
''I do not do what I want to do but what i hate''(7:15).  However, we too can feel encouraged as St Paul and all the saints were human like us but strove to name and eradicate their selfishness in their lives. It is a life time process.  


God created a ''hierarchy'' in which humans were higher than the animals which were lower. This is because human nature has free will whereas the animals operate under instinct.  When we allow ourselves to  live according to the dictates of our lower selfish nature, we actually become lower than the animals since we have lost our dignity.
Our true self longs for beauty,truth, love, justice and wisdom and we possess a capacity for consciously realising these values in our lives. These spiritual qualities need to be experienced and if we are not experiencing them to any degree of intensity, it may mean that our selfish side of us has the upper hand and the balance is out of perspective to what God planned for us.  You may wish to review what St Paul writes in Galatians 5:19-21) which describes some of the  ways in which selfishness manifests itself.



We may identify with some of these selfish qualities but we may also ask why do I fall for these traps. The answer is that selfishness has some alluring payoffs such as pleasure, esteem and security. The problem is that the payoffs often have a short lived life within themselves, but we allow our feelings to want more and then we create an ongoing cycle of sustenance. The other problem is that these payoffs also diminish considerably our capacity to hold  the spiritual qualities alive. They wane in our lives as we pursue a life of selfishness. God in His goodness allows them to remain in us ( however faint) so that we can turn back to Him when we acknowledge these  areas of selfishness. It stunts our spiritual growth when we live a self indulgent life, engage in selfish behaviour and giving in to the payoffs over the spiritual qualities.

The laws of society are there to help us as individuals not clash with society and provide a harmony among people. Staying out of trouble is a necessary first step, but on the spiritual level for disciples of Jesus, as Catholics, it is no where near enough.

ACTION FOR THE WEEK:

During this week you may wish to start to identify your selfishness.  Be gentle with yourself particularly if having a stock take of your self is something you have done in a while. It can be confronting and perhaps even depressing for some people.  So, give yourself time, be kind and gentle to yourself as God is to you and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you.  This is just a start of the programme, so dont worry if you do not have a thorough spring clean of our selfishness the first time around. Being aware of our selfishness and the ways it manifests itself is the most important step forward.  You may wish to write these thoughts in your journal.  Since a journal is a very private object, remember to keep it in a safe place so that your privacy is respected and that you will be able to write freely- only you and God can see it.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:
1. What does the word admit mean to you? What do you feel?
2. In your life generally, do you think of admitting something as a sign of weakness? ( in yourself/in others).
3. When you read the first step- what reaction do you have? write your reactions both positive and negative or even no reaction in your journal.  This is useful information.
4. What does living  your fullest human potential mean to me? What would it look like- describe it.
5. How have you been living a life of selfishness ( Name it/them). Areas to consider: Physical, Emotional, Cognitive, Social, Spiritual. Remember to be gentle with yourself as you consider these areas or other areas you wish to nominate. Why- Jesus loves you.  

FINISHING YOUR SESSION.
R
emember after you have written in your journal and you are ready to move forward with your day/night, to say a prayer of thanks to God ( eg Glory be, Our Father) and ask Him to hold any emotional impact until you meet with Him again. This way, God is holding you and your discoveries shall not be negatively impacted upon you.  Some people find that when they do interior work, they feel more tired or can be grumpier with others.  This is why it is important to ask God to hold the impact for you. In this way you will be able to continue the work without it negatively impacting on you or others. It then is a positive process between you and God. 

Next week:  We will reflect upon the Rich young man Gospel parable (Mk10-17-22). We will also explore more about our human longings.

Monday, September 17, 2018

A way of the Cross: Mark Series Chapter 8:34:9:1

During the remainder of 2018, each week, I will write a weekly  post about the Gospel of Mark, as I review and explore each of the 16 chapters and how it may be applied in our daily lives. My goal is to understand and pray the Gospel of Mark. I hope you will join me on this journey as we travel through the liturgical season.  In today's post we explore chapter 8:34-9:1 which is called the way of the Cross.

Jesus calls both the crowd and His disciples, an indication that something important is to be said.  He has spoken openly of His eventual failure and final vindication, and Peter ( and the other disciples) failed to grasp His meaning.  Would we have grasped it if Jesus had said to us?  Do we grasp His meaning now in our lives?

Jesus however corrects Peter's misunderstanding and gives a new teaching.  His way is a way of the cross, that means losing one's life to find it again in a new way (8:34-35). It is thought by scripture scholars that other teachings of Jesus have been included by Mark in this episode as well.

The of Jesus to deny oneself is much more than a call to do penance. It is a call to a radical turning from self-centredness to God-centredness, which is possible only through the Gospel power of God Himself. It is the ''metanoia'' of personal conversion of heart which Jesus can effect in us though the His gospel.

To carry one's cross is more than accepting patiently suffering. The cross was an instrument of terrible torture bringing death. It meant the total rejection of society-social unacceptability especially in the person's values, way of living and a warning to others who may hold the same values/way of living. You too will be unacceptable to society.

To be a disciple of Jesus means putting other things, one's comfort, reputation, business or social interests in God's perspective where power, prestige, pleasure ( whilst good in themselves) are not the purpose of the Kingdom. Jesus invites us in this teaching to strip away and kill our false self and become all He wants us to be- to find our real person in Him.

In our journal and/or our discussion group we may wish to reflect on this passage as follows:

  • Name the key points that you have learnt about the person of Jesus in this passage of scripture?
  • Imagine that you are one of the disciples  What do you see and hear and feel. What can I learn from this?
  • What is reading the Gospel passage with the eyes and ears of disciple mean to me?
  • What are the areas in my life I need to lose/kill to be a true disciple?
  • Am I willing to be a true disciple of Jesus in the light of this teaching and face loss,social rejection for the sake of the Gospel? 
  • How will I kill these areas in my life? What will I say/do? 
  • In the light of  this passage, how will you respond to Jesus as a true disciple?
  • How do you carry the cross in your life? Examine a time in your life when you carried the cross for Jesus? What impact did it have on yourself/others and how did you ''gain your life'' from it?
  • What way has this passage spoken to you personally?
  • If you were to meet a fellow parishioner who was interested in reading gospel of Mark, what would you say to him/her about this passage?
  • If a fellow parishioner had read this passage, what might he/she say about this passage?
  • In the light of this Gospel passage what positive change will you adopt in your life and in your spiritual life.  How will you implement these changes?

To conclude this reflection, you may wish to listen to these hymns/music which complements this gospel teaching.

2. How great Thou Art (especially 3rd verse).











    Sunday, September 16, 2018

    24th Sunday Year B: Collect and Gospel Reflection from Mark 8:27-33

    Gospel of Mark 8:27-30The Collect for the 24th Sunday of the Year reads as follows:

    ''Look upon us, O God,
    Creator and ruler of all things,
    and that we may feel the working of Your mercy,
    grant that we may serve You with all our heart.''

    In making this Collect tangible for my life during the week, the following reflection questions emerged:

    1. How does God being Creator and ruler of all things sit with my view of God?
    2. What image/s arise in my heart when I hear this Collect read at Mass? 
    3. How will those images impact my spirituality this coming week?
    4. How do I feel the working of Your mercy in my life?
    5. How will I help my family, friends, parishioners, work colleagues, strangers to feel the work of His mercy through me this coming week? (Name a person/ area/ task to accomplish it through God's grace).
    6. How will I serve God- Creator and ruler of all things in my life this coming week?


    Before I share my Gospel reflection for today's Gospel from Mark, the last line from the Collect spoke to me.  In our fast pace world and even with the best of intentions, we can get distracted from a core value/belief and we may even ask or someone may even ask us in frustration, sadness or hopelessness " What is the point of living- God does not even care''.  In these times when we feel dispirited, it is good to be reminded of what God's purpose is for us on earth.  The Compendium of the Catholic Church ( no 1) answers this succinctly as follows:


    ''God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness
    freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life.''

    In other words God's purpose for us is to know, love and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him for ever in eternity. So with these reflective thoughts, how will you serve God with all your heart this coming week.

    Today's Gospel from Mark 8:27-33 asks an important question that each of us needs to answer: "Who do you say I am?" You can read a reflection on this Gospel from my Gospel Series of Mark 8.27-30 and Mark 8.31-33 by clicking on these links.

    Before we answer this question, let us think about this for a moment.

    Think of a person you would say that know (such as a family member, friend, parishioner, work colleague). Do you know them or do you know about them? In every relationship, we learn about a person- their likes, dislikes, what colours they like, what music they listen to, what art they prefer etc, but as the relationship develops, we can say that we know them, although we never really know a person fully. There is always more.

    Now as we ask the Who do you say I am question now in relation to God and our relationship with Him- would we say that we know about God or do we know God- are we in relationship with Him?
    If we answer in our hearts that I know about God- this is a great start. We need to know about God to help us come to know Him better. It also helps us to share our relationship with Him with others since we will not be giving them any false teaching. However, God asks us to come closer and know Him and be in relationship with Him. Why not take it to the next level.

    So let this week be an opportunity to reflect and consider our relationship with God. How will I come to know more about God and how will I come to know God this coming week?

    Perhaps you might like to consider the way you will serve during the week
    as you sing/listen to this .song.


    Wednesday, September 12, 2018

    The First Passion Prophecy- Gospel of Mark Series:8:31-33

    During the remainder of 2018, each week, I will write a weekly  post about the Gospel of Mark, as I review and explore each of the 16 chapters and how it may be applied in our daily lives. My goal is to understand and pray the Gospel of Mark. I hope you will join me on this journey as we travel through the liturgical season. 

    SECTION 5 JESUS FORMS HIS DISCIPLES.
    In today's post, we begin Section 5: Jesus forms His disciples Mark 8:31-10.52.Let us begin as we explore chapter 
    8: 31-33 which is called The first Passion prophecy.

    This and the following episode are the core of Mark's Gospel. Peter sees Jesus as the Messiah, but he still has not learned what kind of Messiah Jesus really is and the way He will show Himself as God's Son.  Peter and the disciples need, like the blind man, to be touched repeatedly by Jesus to see clearly.

    The teaching which Jesus now begins to give to His disciples is about the kind of Messiah He will be, and is a formation  in the way He wants His disciples to follow. Until now Jesus has astonished and challenged His disciples, but in this episode and the next He begins to prepare them to imitate Him. 

    The teaching of Jesus is grouped by Mark around 3 brief summaries of His future suffering and His vindication by God.  These summaries are generally known as passion prophecies, but they are just as much resurrection prophecies too.

    After this first passion prophecy, just as after two later passion prophecies, it is clear that the disciples fail to grasp what Jesus says (8:32b-33). He describes Himself as one who will suffer and rejected,  as of no value by the political,religious and intellectual leaders of the people.  He will finally be put to death in disgrace, but soon rise again.

    This rising again, has no impact on the disciples.  Their attention is fixed on the first part of His prophecy.  How can the lift of the Messiah of God end in failure and disgrace?

    Peter takes Jesus aside and rebukes Him.  How can Jesus expect to keep His disciples when He speaks like that!  Jesus, looking around and seeing His disciples, in return rebukes Peter.  He calls him a Satan, one who opposes the plans of God.  Peter's way of thinking is merely human.  He still needs to be formed as true disciple of Jesus.


    In our journal and/or our discussion group we may wish to reflect on this passage as follows:

    • Name the key points that you have learnt about the person of Jesus in this passage of scripture?
    • Imagine that you are one of the disciples  What do you see and hear and feel. What can I learn from this?
    • Imagine that Christ says to me what he said to Peter.  From my own experience of Jesus, what name would I give to Him?
    • What is reading the Gospel passage with the eyes and ears of disciple mean to me?
    • How do I respond in my life when Jesus speaks to me something that I do not want to hear? Am I fixed like the disciples on what I want or what Jesus is saying to me?
    • How do I rebuke Jesus in my life? What do you say/do? 
    • In the light of  this passage, how will you respond to Jesus as a true disciple?
    • Why did Jesus rebuke Peter? Examine a time in your life when Jesus rebuked you? What impact did it have and how did you ''rise again'' from it?
    • What identity do I give to Jesus as Messiah?
    • Reflect on my relationship with Jesus and this teaching in the light of this gospel passage. 
    • What impact does Jesus’ teaching have on you (8:31-33).
    • How has this passage spoken to you- what does it say to you personally. 
    • If you were to meet a fellow parishioner who was interested in reading gospel of Mark, what would you say to him/her about this passage?
    • If a fellow parishioner had read this passage, what might he/she say about this passage?
    • In the light of this Gospel passage what positive change will you adopt in your life and in your spiritual life.  How will you implement these changes?







      Sunday, September 9, 2018

      Collect for 23rd Sunday of Year B

      The Collect for the 23rd Sunday of the Year reads as follows:


      O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
      Look graciously upon Your beloved sons and daughters,
      that those who believe in Christ,
      may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.

      In making this prayer tangible for during the week, the following reflection questions emerged:


      1.What does it mean to me to be redeemed?
      2. What difference will being redeemed make in my life this week with my family, friends, colleagues, strangers?
      3.What does it mean to me to receive adoption from God?
      4. What does it mean to me this week to be a beloved son or daughter of God?
      5. If someone asked you this week why do you believe in Christ?- what answer would you give him/her?
      6. What do you consider true freedom to be? Is it similar to/different from God's true freedom?
      7. How can i examine my life ( or one area) of my life in the light of everlasting inheritance?  What can I change/improve this week?


      In today's Gospel, we hear how Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak.
      You may wish to read my thoughts on this gospel from Mark (7:31-37).  There are a couple of key areas to consider as we hear this Gospel read. They are as follows:


      • Jesus heals the ears first and then tongue- we need to hear the word of God first before we can proclaim it.
      • Healing of the deaf and dumb man is also me at any time.  I need to be healed from the deafness that I have allowed to permeate my life.  I need to be healed from  dumbness- of  not speaking out to help a neighbour/colleague at work when injustice has occurred.  Listening to this Gospel invites us to consider our deafness and dumbness. 
      • Jesus healing is miraculous for the deaf and dumb man. The crowd acknowledge it  and say "' He does all things well''.  We may think that there are no miracles in our life. Everyday when we wake up is a miracle and blessing- God is providing us with another day to know, love and serve Him.  Everything we do and say and even not say can be a miracle for another person. A kind word here or a smile there can light up another person's world- it opens them up to hearing the world from a God perspective and the chance for them to share it with others.  This is just with a smile or a kind word. What miracles do we hear and speak of in our own lives? Do we say "God has done all things well'' in gratitude.  
      • It invites us to think of those who experience physical deafness: with hearing aids, it makes it easier for the deaf person to hear. However it is not easy for the deaf person - it is not the same as having one's own physical hearing.  Perhaps we may wish to be more patient with  someone who suffers hearing loss.  We may wish to thank God for our physical hearing.
      • It invites us  to reflect seriously on our own spiritual deafness and dumbness.  Here we can come to Christ in reconciliation and ask for healing. In what ways am I spiritually deaf and dumb? How well  do I hear Christ when He speaks to me?
      • It invites us to think of the emotional impact of being physically, emotionally and spiritually deaf and dumb can have on our lives and the lives of others.

      EXPERIMENT/CHALLENGE TO LISTENING and COMMUNICATION.

      1. Have a  short 1 minute ( or less) conversation with spouse/ family/friend/colleague/parishioner.  Listen to the person. 
      2. Then  in your own words tell the person what you heard them say.
      3. Ask the person what  you did not hear- what was left out. How well did you listen? How did the other person feel when they were heard/not heard.
      4. Invite the person to share the experience.
      You can even tape it if you wish to really hone your listening skills or if you want to try this experiment/challenge on your own.  You can talk about something for a short time, write down what you think you said and then play the tape- what is the outcome? How well did you listen to yourself?


      You can even try the listening challenge with Jesus in your prayer time. How well do we listen then?



      COMMUNICATION.
      1.  Imagine you are dumb.  You are wanting to express how you feel.  Imagine you are feeling sad- not depressed at the bottom of the emotional pit but sad and give it a number out of 10.
      2. You are going to communicate with another person this level of sadness.
      3. The other person needs to establish what the emotion is and its intensity.

      How well did you communicate and how well did the other person understand your emotion and its intensity?

      In today's society we often take our senses for granted.  They are a gift from God. Perhaps today our prayer of thanksgiving can be:
                               
                                     ''God does all things well'' Thank you.God.

      We may even like to pray this hymn as we listen or sing"Open our ears Lord''  or this well known hymn ''Open my eyes Lord''




      Tuesday, September 4, 2018

      12 Step Catholic Spirituality Series. Introduction to Series.

      WELCOME TO MY 12 STEP CATHOLIC SPIRITUALITY SERIES.

      Welcome to my 12 Step Catholic Spirituality Series.  This series is based on the 12 Steps of AA and could have easily been called 12 Step Christian Anon programme.  However, I prefer to think of it as a 12 Step guide to Catholic spirituality. 

      This series can be used in whatever way it suits you. You may decided to initiate a group in your parish or prefer a personal journey with the Lord. However, to be able to complete Step 5 another human being needs to be involved. More about that later, but you might like to think about who that special priest/spiritual director might be.

      This programme can be completed over 12 weeks if you wish to complete each step every week. You may prefer to journey along with the series, since I have chosen a monthly process for each step with the new step being introduced on the 2nd Tuesday of each month. I have used the word selfishness to cover a range of sins/ addictions/ behaviour patterns. You may wish to choose your own word suitable to your own situation since we are all individuals with different issues.

      So what are the 12 steps? They are as follows:

      1. We admit that we cannot realize our fullest human potential by living a life of ''selfishness''.
      2. We confess that Jesus Christ can lead us to the fullness of life.
      3. We decide to term our lives over to Jesus Christ.
      4. We make a searching and fearless moral inventory.
      5. We admit to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
      6. We declare ourselves ready to love God, remove all our defects of character.
      7. We humbly ask God to remove all our shortcomings.
      8. We make a list of all persons we have harmed, and determine to make amends to them.
      9. We make direct amends to those we have harmed, except when to do so would injure them.
      10. We continue to take personal inventory and promptly admit when we are wrong.
      11. We seek through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry on.
      12. Spiritually awakened  as a result of these Steps, we are determined to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all areas of life.
      These steps might seem daunting at first, but day by day, step by step with God''s loving assistance, these steps become a great tool towards deeper spiritual growth. We cannot successfully embark on this journey without 
      • asking God's assistance as we start and progress through these 12 steps.
      • spending time with Him asking Him to shed light on our darkness/selfishness.
      • setting our personal goals on what we hope we might achieve before we embark on this journey.
      • reviewing our goals as we progress through the 12 steps.
      • realizing that these 12 steps are an ongoing journey- so in one sense we never quite complete the programme.  However we can make every effort to complete it to the best of our ability where we are at this present moment in our lives.
      To prepare for step 1, we may wish to
      • Get a journal where we can record our journey. We may need to decide on a safe place so that it is between God and myself only. Putting a journal where we know other family members can find it is unwise and unhelpful.
      • Pray to God this week for assistance as we prepare to start this journey.
      • Write down your goals of what you hope to achieve through these 12 step journey. You may wish to choose a particular issue/ difficulty/ sin/pattern of behaviour that you specifically wish to work on during these 12 months and chart your progress.
      • Reflect on during the week how Step 1 speaks to you.
      Now there is a framework, we will journey along for the next 4 weeks on step 1.

      Happy preparation for the journey.