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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Into the boat, to the waves and the wind

In today's Gospel reading (Mt 14:22-33), ".. Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side..
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. ..
Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it.
During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea."

The commentary from dailygospel.org on this is from Origen, where he suggests "What was this boat into which Jesus forced his disciples to embark? Would it not be the struggle against temptation and difficult circumstances?... " This jumped out at me: to think that such challenges in life are somehow prepared by God, at least for these men, but perhaps for everyone else as well? Probably not in all cases, but in a sense, it doesn't matter if it was direct intervention or not: Jesus did command us to take up our daily cross and follow him. What does that mean then? These tribulations are part of God's plan. In Origen's thinking, it is part of how we are perfected:

"if we are ever in the grip of inevitable temptations, let us remember that Jesus forced us to embark. It is impossible to reach the other side without bearing with the trial of contrary waves and wind. Then, when we see ourselves surrounded by numerous and painful difficulties, worn out by sailing through their midst with the poverty of our means, let us think that then our boat is in the middle of the sea and the waves are trying to “make shipwreck of our faith” (1Tim 1,19)… Then let us be sure that towards midnight, when “the night is advanced and the day is at hand” (Rm 13,12), the Son of God will draw near to make the sea calm for us by walking on the waters."

May I suggest, and borrow from a phrase that's been going the rounds in the past few years at least: intentional discipleship. It is important to know from the outset what we face, what is expected, what is promised: the cross, faithful perseverance, and the grace of God in Jesus Christ. Time to sober up!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Catholic Answers Radio Club Drive until Monday August 19, 11:59 pm

Catholic Answers
Shameless plug for Catholic Answers drive: shameless because I cannot currently afford to contribute monthly (and I'm trying to work out what I can contribute for now -- and it won't be enough for the free gifts. For those who can, I cannot recommend it more highly. Apart from the free gifts, Catholic Answers is a very effective vehicle of evangelization.

The Transfiguration of the Lord

Thursday 6 August, 2014 is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. I've included three links for reading and/or prayer on this important feast that may not figure as high up there as Easter and Christmas for most of us, but is pretty important in itself. The icon here is linked from the Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Monastery, and it is wonderful to see that they celebrated the feast at the same time as Rome does.

First, Jennifer Gregory Miller blogs briefly about the feast itself, including a bit of history (Source: CatholicCulture.org). Second, Jimmy Akin briefly explains the event's significance. Third, Universalis.com provides a very brief primer on the feast as well as links to the day's prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours.

Finally, I wish I could link to the Lectio Divina last night with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, which was made even better by the Eucharist he celebrated last night with other priests of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I'd love to blog about what was said but would not do it justice. There was so much content to unpack, even considering the moments of silence and prayer that interspersed the hour. I'm hoping that the Archdiocese will release a video!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If not us, then who?

Listening recently to the song with that first lne in its Chorus, it occurred to me that a deeper question needs asking. Perhaps because I was recently listening to the excellent debate between the late Christopher Hitchens and William Craig at Biola University back, the question raised in my mind was this: if the good fight to right wrongs falls on whomever is so enlightened and inclined to it, there remain the crucial details of what exactly is the right thing to do in particular situations. Did God throw us into the fray to work out whatever system of ethics we wish to live by? What if we have serious and sincere disagreements about them? Is abortion wrong or not? Should the elderly and disabled be encouraged and aided in taking their own lives? Are these matters unnecessary to clarify and nail down? Even well-meaning people come from different, opposite sides in these and other important matters. Did God not intend any guidance that everyone can follow, even within their immediate communities?

The line from Elijah after he showed up the prophets of Baal struck me as apt and challenging: "How long will you go limping along with two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. (1 Kings 18:16-40)"

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Seeking pardon is a positive

Scott Hahn posted this quote from St. Augustine n Facebook recently:

"Let us never assume that if we live good lives that we will be without sin; our lives should be praised only when we continue to beg for pardon."

My immediate reaction was "Oh, how negative!" But that's Man's thinking, not God's, because, come to think of it (by God's grace), such thinking is most positive indeed. How so? Well if one would instead say "when we continue to consult our life coach" or "accountant" or "fitness coach" and so on, we can see that such recourse makes sense if we admit our limitations while seeking help and pushing ourselves as far as we can go. Begging for pardon throughout our lives is seeking a remedy to what we know to be a constant in our lives: bad choices, rash judgments, selfishness, excess, neglect of our loved ones, shirking responsibilities, sloth, pride, a bit of this and that throughout our days and months and years. This brings to mind something that I am only recently learning to appreciate: God's mercy goes far beyond his pardon. His love is so gracious that, when he pardons, he moreover heals and makes more resilient. In bringing our weaknesses to him, he grants us strength.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Now reading: Dark Night of the Soul

As with my previous reading, this one hits me unexpectedly, where I had no idea I needed attention. For example, what St. John of the Cross calls "spiritual gluttony", i.e., (as I understand it, seeking emotional consolations). And once again I get the same message as in other sources, of recent reading or experience: smaller bites, slower pace, patience, please.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Time to Give up a Dangerous Security Blanket

I've always maintained a certain confidence in the idea that I can see even those hidden signs of God's plans because I had faith. But the penny dropped here:

.. there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!

From The Joy of the Gospel:

Now that I reconsider it, I must now admit that it is far more reasonable that what I cannot see is far more than what I can see. It is, come to think of it, a perilous delusion to maintain such a source of security, like walking in the wilderness assuming that I'll never get lost. I can, and do, and the way out is not always clear to me. But there is true freedom from anxiety if I trust in whom is truly trustworthy, without the limitations that I do have. So much like.. a child simply trusting his/her Father rather than assuming that he/she, the child, must think of everything before proceeding. The latter sounds like how I feel too often, and so one has occasion to throw a tantrum and even an old Macbook Pro (thus cracking the screen)!

I do not ask to see the distant scene, one step enough for me. -- Bl. John Henry Newman.

Sunday, June 22, 2014