My Magnificat

7 Aug

O Lord how great and mysterious your ways,

I come before You with prayer and praise,

Bring the proud low, the fallen lift high,

Douse the desert, the drenched make dry,

Cool the hot, and heat the cold,

Coax the timid, and humble the bold,

Lighten the rich, enrich the poor,

Guide the lost and challenge the sure,

Enthuse the lax, and calm the worried,

Urge the slow,  slow down the hurried,

Release the bound and guide the free,

Make me, the me I really want and ought to be!

Jeff Bagnall

Don’t be so sure

1 Aug

I think there is a trace in all three readings for 19th Sunday Cycle C, of the Jews and the Christians thinking of themselves as special, and I think many Christians still believe that they are favoured by God above others; above atheists and followers of other faiths and beliefs.  Some Christian denominations hold these views more strongly than others.

Many of the stories about Jesus show his regard for everyone as special – as a distinctive creation of God albeit in process – I say in process because God knows that we humans are in a state of becoming, rather than being, completed humans. Indeed the whole universe is in process which is why there are weaknesses in the system and structure of things.  Also there are aspects of every human individuals that are deficient, undeveloped or only in process, not to mention the deliberate ‘mistakes’ or sins that we commit. Christ, of course was aware of this, but also of the potential everyone has.

So I want to bring this understanding of humanity, of each human being with their beliefs, to our awareness.  The Roman Catholic church with its dogmatic statements, rigid rules and authoritative structure, is in my experience, particularly susceptible to a mistaken view of things.  I want to be more acceptable of the beliefs and practices of others from other faiths and none.  I want to recognise the deficiencies or disasters in our world as indications of the ‘not yet finished’ nature of everything or of the deficiencies arising from human’s free choice.  Surely we should so try.

The creed

25 Jul

Because of this opening of our creed it seems almost as though there could be many gods – but we Christians only accept one.  You probably need to think about that because we don’t usually see it this way, we just assume that there can only be one.  If we were sure that there was only one God then why would we need the restrictive word ‘one’ – it does imply there could be many, otherwise we could just say ‘I believe in God’.  Indeed there are other religious systems that accept many deities and this has been the case in the past as well.  In fact some of the early stories from the bible about Abraham and the nomadic tribes read as though a plurality of gods was recognised then – each tribe or place having its own.  Or does the opening phrase of our creed mean ‘ I believe there is only one God?’  Yet I think Christians should mean they trust in, have faith in, dedicate their lives to just one god.

Yet Christians also, as the creed goes on to say believe in a trinity – Father, Son and Spirit.  The creed affirms that this is not three Gods but ‘three persons in the one God.’  We should be quite clear that we do not know what we are saying – we do not know what the word ‘person’ could mean in this context and certainly (this is where we are certain) we do not know what being a person means for them – for the Father, the Son and the Spirit.  We are faced with another mystery.  The Christian belief in Jesus impinges on this complex of unknown realities that the creed affirms.  I could go on but I would rather revert to my original notion, that our belief is towards a mystery – or maybe many mysteries.  What we really need to think about are the implications of this for how we conduct our lives.

Dominus vobiscum

18 Jul

This Latin phase is equivalent to ‘goodbye’  when this is seen as ‘God be with you’.   Nowadays, Christians might be more familiar with the English ‘the Lord be with you’ said during the Christian liturgy.  Of course God is with all of His creation sustaining each according to its nature, and so He is with us at all times not just during our explicitly religious activities.  But this is not how we would use ‘goodbye’ even if it derives from ‘God be with you.’  However whenever we fall short of  how we should live we are abusing the power and presence of God – we are sinning – forgetting His presence.   So the greeting is not really wishing God to be with us so much as wishing that we avoid the falling short that in some way distances us from God’s presence.  The usual reply made in the liturgy is ‘and with your spirit’ or ‘and with you’ in more up to date talk.  It is a wish – or rather reminder – that we should live always in the way that God would have us – even though we have free choice how to live, yet we should not block God out of any of our activity – we should not sin!

Our universe

11 Jul

Is creation pretty well instant as it appears when the Bible account at the beginning of Genesis is taken literally as some would take it?  It is actually more instant than that from God’s standpoint because there is no time with God – He lives in eternity, which is not just a very long time, but no time at all.  What from our point of view might be a very long time, from the beginning to the end of the universe, is already complete from God’s point of view – creation is complete.  This is actually a mystery!

Science tells us and many believe that the universe comes into existence in evolutionary stages.  It is a process over a vast number of millennia.  But my philosophy and my faith tell me ‘nothing comes from nothing.’  And this has been part of Philosophy for a long time.  It is a principle so universal that atheists can use it to disprove the existence of God – where did He come from?  But I believe in God and in the continuous creative influence that He has, maintaining the existence and vitality of the universe about which we, with science, are always learning more about

If we Christians look at the creation accounts at the beginning of the Bible we can see more than a literal truth in them because they were written not for scientific or doctrinal purposes.  They illustrate something about human life.  The first account is a poem that shows the orderliness, the beauty and especially the structure of the world (our universe).  The version we have adds the point about the sacredness of the Sabbath day. The second account ofceation is more in story form and illustrates the weakness of humans – their mistakes and consequent difficulties in human life.  This last is no mystery but is part of the life of all of us one way or another.

Together, these thoughts might encourage us to try to appreciate the beauty of  the people and the rest of creation, might help us with an attitude towards the apparent flaws and disasters in our world and might promote our regard for caring for the world God is creating.

The Process of Thinking

5 Jul

God is still creating and the world is changing: my way of seeing things is also constantly changing. Theology is a process of searching to interpret and express one’s experiences and their significance. A person who thinks that they fully understand the meaning of life has stopped the search, lost the excitement and given up the adventure of living. The adventurer who journeys through life with curiosity and examines his findings critically, he is doing theology. Although we all have very similar paths through common experiences we also have differences one from another. We are much the same in that we all go through birth and physical growth, eating and excreting, experience selfhood and relating to others, undergo pain and euphoria, enjoy sex and sleep, might know ageing and approaching death.  But we have different family connections, there is variety in our food, in culture, in language, in self-perception and with our relations and surroundings, with different attitudes to pain and health, to our sexuality and its acceptance and with different dreams (or memories and interpretations of them) and we don’t all have the same attitude to approaching death and beliefs about the after-life. These differences between peoples and individuals produce different theologies – different ways of trying to express the deeper beliefs that we have.  Listening to others and speaking with them, we can make our own journey, our own personal search – you can do theology as I do my theology: even reading this could be helpful!”

Somewhere

27 Jun

There’s a place for us,                                    Somewhere a place for us.

Peace and quiet and open air                           Wait for us somewhere.

There’s a time for us,                                    Someday a time for us.

Time together with time to spare,                  Time to learn, time to care.

Someday, somewhere                                    We’ll find a new way of living,

We’ll find a way of forgiving,                            Somewhere.

There’s a place for us,                                     A time and place for us.

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there         Hold my hand and I’ll take you there,

Somehow, someday, somewhere.

Someday, somewhere                                    We’ll find a new way of living,

We’ll find a way of forgiving,                            Somewhere.

There’s a place for us,                              A time and place for us.

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there            Hold my hand and I’ll take you there,

An offence against God.

20 Jun

Yesterday we Catholics celebrated Corpus Christi –  the Latin for ‘the body of Christi.’  As expected it was for us the celebration of the real presence of Christi in the bread and wine after the consecration.  But as you might expect from me, I was thinking of God present in every positive reality and hence in every person there is and in everything we do.  Yes, He is there in the Bread and Wine at Mass, but also in every thing and in every action we do.  And I went on to feel the deadliness of sin – when some activity, in so far as it is reality, is in some way the result of God’s activity – when I sin it offends and even involves God!  How serious this is and how much more important to realise and to confess than the presence of God in the Eucharist.  I’m not denying that Sacred Presence, but realising the awfulness of sin and the gloriousness of every good action I do.  I pray that I might become aware of this before anything I do and especially any ‘sinful’ action.  So help me God – help me believe in the real presence of You in everything!

Corpus Christi

13 Jun

The feast is now called’… of the Body and Blood of Christ.’

I am old enough to remember when all the services were entirely in Latin which no one could understand, with the result that those in church at the service just got on with their own silent prayers or thoughts while the priest (with his back to the people) mumbled on as quickly as possible with all the ‘necessary’ texts, away from us on the sanctuary before the altar. I also remember that there were two masses on a Sunday at the early one of which people could ‘take communion’ – receive on one’s tongue the host from the priest – the host in which Christ was actually (really) present (a doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church).

The memory of this old Latin title, Corpus Christi, and its new title make me think of the mysteriousness in Catholic services but also the idea of Jesus’ death on the cross being a sacrifice putting us ‘right’ with God.

If I learnt anything as a child from going to Sunday school, it was that I needed to be a good boy – or else! But also I got the idea that God was very remote (mysterious) but became a human like us in Jesus who died on the cross to atone for all the sins that people commit. The sacrifice of the mass, as it was also called, was the re-enactment of Jesus’ death in some way which saved us from God’s wrath against all our sins.

The change, that has now taken place, to the longer title in the people’s own language, indicates that the Church now wishes to make sense to people and have them participate more in the services (and activities) of the local church – as indeed they do. I think the change of title may also have been influenced by the fact that nowadays people usually ‘take communion’ at every mass they attend (whether they have fasted or not); and that they are now able to drink also from the chalice.  But I do worry that it makes it seem that the host is His ‘physical’ body and the wine ‘His blood.’  Possibly also we might still think that God is ‘cross’ with us and we need to appease Him, and that we must go to mass every Sunday celebrating our salvation from sin and from the wrath of God.  But, you know, it is Jesus’ life here on earth and now in heaven from which we benefit, especially if and when we try to live as He did.

This feast also raises the question of the Real Presence as it is sometimes called. I do not deny this at all, but – and this seems very important to me – the presence of God (Father, Son and Spirit) is present, real and active in the whole of creation, in every one and every thing except sin. Every human being that I encounter, shares in the humanity that Jesus also possesses, and we must treat people as we would treat Him. With the stress nowadays on climate change and the environment, we should also try to be aware that encountering and dealing with our world is meeting and treating with God the creator. I want to take what I celebrate from the service of the mass out into the reality of the world in which I live and move and have my being, especially with all the people that I encounter.

I think we all have treasured things which remind us of important and exciting events or even of people whom we have known and perhaps are no longer with us on earth. These treasured tokens mean more to us than they really are in themselves. The priest says in the central part of the mass “Make holy these gifts … that they may become for us…” just as special things can become more for us than what they are. In a similar way, although God is present in everything except sin, the token food and drink we share at mass from the host and the chalice are special because we recognise this very special person Jesus really present in this token meal – we acknowledge this presence in a very special way – though we don’t always recognise it in all we encounter in our lives outside of mass – but perhaps that is what we should try to do – wherever you are “the Lord be with you!” or as I remember it ‘Dominus vobiscum.’

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Fr Benedict last Sunday quoted “Nisi Dominus frustra” I knew it meant to me something then found this.

Religion of above

13 Jun

I’ve been reading Teillhard de Chardin’s Le Milieu Divine (in English “the divine environment”) … after all, we live in a universe being created by God but allowing us freedom. Teillard, the author, was a rebellious, free thinking Jesuit earlier this century. It’s made me think – even the ‘religions of ahead’ like Marxism and Humanism haven’t formulated a vision of the future to match the biological reality of the convergence of humankind and what this world entails. (Science tends to predict a doomed planet and universe). But the ‘religions of above,’ especially Christianity, sometimes provide a vision of fulfilment (completion) for the universe, yet may be condemnatory of human development and speak in terms of escape from this world, Teillard using the image of the cross [and resurrection] to support this attitudes. But quite differently the Christian reality connects Christian ideas to the evolving world, accepting a genuine incarnation. Teillard couples the ‘above’ with the ‘ahead’ and (amorizes), treats in a loving way, the powers of love and progress and of diminishment and death, using the power of the cross and resurrection as the pledge of the incarnate amorization.