Author Archives: lesruhrmund

The Assumption of Mary

The Patronal Feast of South Africa

18 August 2019 (transferred from 15 Aug)

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

On this glorious feast celebrating the Assumption of Our Lady, the patronal feast of South Africa, let me begin with a story or two.

Khanyisa Catholic High School is situated about 2kms outside Mthatha travelling in the direction of Butterworth and East London along the N2. I know the school well because I used the school hall for meetings twice a year for many years when I was still active in business.

Some 30kms further down the road is the small rural village of Qunu, where Nelson Mandela spent his childhood and where he build his home after he was released from prison in 1990. And where he is buried today.

There’s a story that Madiba once visited Khanyisa High School unannounced and that after talking to the staff and learners, he shook hands with every one of them – inspiring many of them and in some cases changing their lives forever.

When Mandela’s mother died following a heart attack in 1968, he was imprisoned on Robben Island and refused permission to attend her funeral. The authorities were afraid that he’d be abducted by foreign powers and given his freedom overseas.

He refers briefly to this painful experience in his autobiography describing his mother as ´the centre of my existence.”

We don’t know much about his mother but we do know that the residents of Qunu continue to hold her in high esteem and about eight years ago, they restored a church in her honour in the village; a Methodist church that she founded in 1960.

Another story.

Some years ago, a young man whose brother was at school with my son, made an enormous fortune in software security and was invited to spend a weekend with Nelson Mandela at his home in Qunu and to join him at a presentation at a school in Mthatha.

The young man was introduced to the school learners in Xhosa which he didn’t understand after which there was wild cheering, singing and spontaneous dance. He was taken completely by surprise by this reception and expressed his astonishment to his host. Apparently a happy, dancing Madiba told him that he had just informed the learners that this outstanding, young, proudly South African entrepreneur had made a donation of R1m to their school.

These and many other stories about Nelson Mandela have as yet not been written down. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen; nor will they be forgotten by those who were there or by those who heard the stories from others who were there.

These unwritten stories tell us things about the man and his life that we otherwise would not know and the stories will be passed on from generation to generation.

That’s what we call tradition. Tradition means ‘to hand down’.

The Church has always taught and believed, from the very earliest origins of Christianity, that the Word of God is found not only in the written word of Scripture but also in the spoken word and witness of the followers of Jesus during apostolic times – the time from the first to the second century; that time before the written word, Scripture, was canonised towards the end of the fourth century.

Sacred Tradition, inspired by God, tells us how the early Christians expressed their faith and what they believed under the guidance and leadership of Jesus’ chosen Apostles.

The New Testament could not have been be compiled without the guidance and inspiration of God through Sacred Tradition.

Without Sacred Tradition we lose much of the humanity, the colour, the emotion and the active practices, beliefs and experiences of the first disciples of Jesus in the hundred or so years following his Ascension; that time when the church was first formed and developed by Christ’s Apostles.

An excellent example of Sacred Tradition is the Assumption.

Even though it wasn’t defined as official Church teaching until 1950 by Pope Pius XII, the Assumption of Mary has been believed (and never doubted) by Catholic Christians since the time of the Apostles.

The Assumption of Mary means that Mary was assumed, body and soul, into heaven by Jesus; an absolute expression of his divine love and a further illustration of Mary’s exceptional and extraordinary role in God’s plan of salvation.

The salvation of the world is made possible only when Mary agrees to carry the son of God in her womb. The Assumption doesn’t glorify Mary; it glorifies God demonstrating the unimaginable power of his love and grace.

Mary never diverts attention from the worship that is due to God alone. Rather, she joins us in giving Him praise because she stands as a powerful witness to the great things that God can do in the life of those who believe.

In the first reading from John’s Book of Revelation we get a glimpse of her place in God’s kingdom:

‘And a great sign appeared in heaven,

A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet,

And on her head a crown of seven stars.’ (Rev 12:1)

The oldest written evidence of Marian prayer comes from a fragment of Egyptian papyrus dating back to about the year 250. On it is written in Greek  ‘Mother of God, hear my supplications: suffer us not to be in adversity, but deliver us from danger.’

Christians have been venerating the Mother of Jesus and seeking her intervention right from apostolic times and that is what we’re doing at this Mass when we bring up our nation flag and sing our national anthem during the Offertory.

We’re offering God not only ourselves and our gifts but we are also offering our country. We’re asking for God’s protection for our country with the intercession of Mary, Assumed into Heaven.

In love and confidence and humility, in the words of the angel Gabriel and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, we should always be proud to pray the words given to us in Luke’s Gospel:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you;

Blessed are you among women,

And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

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Labouring in our Father’s harvest

14th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C

7 July 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

“At that time, The Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him.”

The number seventy was very symbolic to the Jews:

  • That’s the number of elders who were chosen to help Moses in the wilderness
  • That’s the number of judges sitting on the Sanhedrin, the supreme council of the Jews
  • And seventy was held to be the number of nations in the world so perhaps there’s a suggestion here that Jesus was sending out missionaries to take his message to the whole world.

Seventy is a lot of people.

While I find it easy to imagine Jesus teaching and coaching, forming and molding his personally chosen twelve, it’s more difficult to image a group of seventy receiving the same attention. They could not have had the same intimacy with Jesus as did the twelve.

The seventy others would have seen Jesus, heard him and witnessed the wonder of his miracles, but did they really know who he was? They didn’t know the whole story. The full revelation of Jesus’ divinity only became clear after the resurrection.

And yet they trusted him enough to go out in faith preaching the Good News that the Messiah was at hand and lived among them.

Most of us have been baptised and confirmed. We know the whole story. We know what happened to Jesus when he got to Jerusalem, that he rose from the dead, ascended to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide, our comforter, our teacher, our strength to bear witness to Christ.

Surely then we’re as well, if not better, prepared, formed and informed about the Good News than were those seventy others that Jesus sent out?

But how many of us would readily undertake a similar mission?

Translating Jesus’s instructions in more familiar terms, the seventy are asked to go out with no money, no credit card, no cell phone, no protection, no spare clothing, and no food facing the very real possibility of death; lambs in the midst of wolves.

A daunting task and quite remarkably all seventy returned safely having completed their mission successfully – filled with joy.

We may not be called to take on a mission of this immensity but we are nevertheless called as informed and anointed followers of Christ to give witness to the Good News.

To whom is Jesus sending us to prepare them to meet him?

Perhaps it’s someone in our own home; or a colleague, friend or relative? Perhaps a stranger in distress?

The harvest is plentiful. There are many people who are ripe and ready for the harvest; waiting for one of us, labourers and disciples of Jesus, to tell them about the Good News of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We don’t need extra study or training or more time before we respond to God’s call. All we need is trust in the Holy Spirit to do the work through us.

This can seem so formidable and yet it can be so simple.

An example might illustrate this more clearly.

About 25 years ago, long before I was ordained to the deaconate, a work colleague asked me to visit his sister Beryl who had worked for me when we were both much younger and who was dying of colon cancer at St Luke’s hospice.

I hadn’t seen her in over fifteen years. I had an aversion to hospitals; a fear that went back to a traumatic experience I’d had as a child. Beryl’s family were members of the Moravian Church and I didn’t know how they felt about Catholics. I didn’t know what was expected of me and I was scared that I’d let down my colleague and the family or embarrass myself or them.

I sat in my car in the carpark at St Luke’s overwhelmed by fear and anxiety and I remember praying “Holy Spirit you have to do this because I know I can’t”.

When I entered Beryl’s room many of her family were there; her husband, children, parents, siblings. Other than the brother who worked with me, I knew a few of them only by sight.

They greeted me quietly and moved aside to let me be with her.

I hardly recognised Beryl in her emaciated state and I’m not sure she knew who I was.  I don’t remember much of what happened but I know that I sat and held her hand as I read to her, gently, from the Bible that was at her bedside. As I took my leave I kissed her on the forehead and cheek whispering words of consolation and hope. She died a few hours later.

I left her room in a state of shock and wonder at what had just happened and I wept profusely when I got back to my car.

Her brother told me some days later that my visit had brought the family much comfort and a sense of peace. That’s undoubtedly the work of the Holy Spirit.

I’m sure many of us have had similar experiences; experiences that visibly demonstrate the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. And yet our stubborn ego-driven pride continues to get in the way of the Holy Spirit as we rely on our own resources; talents, intelligence, education and experience, to muddle our way through this hostile world.

It’s pride that Jesus is talking about when he says “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” He warns the joyfully returned seventy others not to boast of their accomplishments but to rejoice because they have born witness to him and their place in heaven is assured.

It’s a formidable mission but if we can see past our pride, everything is possible.

We need keep our eyes on Jesus, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide us and use our gifts and talents and education and experience and time to make the reality of the Holy Spirit in our lives, a reality in the lives of all those we touch with our love; the love of Christ.

That’s what it means to labour in our Father’s harvest.

The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost

Year C 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Last Sunday afternoon, I was relaxing in my study reading when my 6 year old Grandson Joshua came bouncing in and out of the blue with very serious intent asked “Papa, where is the Holy Spirit?”

Indeed a pertinent question on today’s feast of Pentecost which brings our Easter celebrations to a close; a grand finale.

Christ’s Passover celebrated 50 days ago is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the full revelation of the Holy Trinity; the birth of the Church.

In the first reading’s account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke is trying to describe an event that is completely outside his experience and frame of reference and he uses strong imagery that helps make the event somewhat comprehensible to his audience and to us. We are familiar with the elements of wind and fire.

Quoting Fr Francis Fernandez, a contemporary Spanish priest and author: “The rushing wind on the day of Pentecost expresses the new force with which divine love invades the church and souls.”

 We cannot see the wind but we can see it’s effect and feel its presence; invisible, sometimes gently and other times extraordinary powerful.

The tongues of fire gave the apostles in the upper room the power to preach and proclaim the news of the Risen Christ in every language “from every nation under heaven”. And the Word spread like wildfire – uncontainable.

In our world today, in our enthusiasm or reluctance to spread the Good News of the Risen Christ, we kindle or kerb the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Coming back to Josh’s question: Where is the Holy Spirit?

We find the Holy Spirit in ourselves and in each other in our actions; in the fruits of the Spirit that we offer to the world and to God.

St Paul writing to the Galatians in chapter 5 (v22, 23) lists nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Where we find these fruits, we find the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.

And so we could look at our lives and ask whether we are witnesses to the power of Pentecost in the ways in which we behaviour, think and treat others.

The first and most obvious fruit is love.

Do we love all of God’s people and creation or do we pick and choose and love only those whom we consider worthy of our love? Perhaps only love those who speak our language or are the same colour or creed? Perhaps we only love those whose lifestyle resembles our own or those who meet our standards of moral behaviour?

Love is a choice, not a feeling.

Where we find unconditional love, we find the Holy Spirit.

The second fruit is joy.

Joy isn’t the same as happiness which comes and goes depending on whether things are going well or not.

Joy is the always present certainty in our hearts that we are God’s beloved and that there’s a place waiting for us in his kingdom when this pilgrimage is over.

Where we find that joy, we find the Holy Spirit.

Then we come to peace.

This isn’t the peace that suggests the lack of war or violence. This is the inner peace amid the turmoil, cruelty, violence and corruption that we find in the world around us; a peace in response to God’s ever present grace in our lives in the certainty of salvation.

Where we find this peace, we find the Holy Spirit.

The next fruit is kindness.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:31) he writes “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as God in Christ forgave you” 

Where we find a kind heart and a compassionate, caring tongue, we find the Holy Spirit.

Goodness, the next fruit, is the opposite of badness or evil.

Paul suggests that goodness doesn’t come to us naturally.  In other words, we find it easier to yield to our human nature in our sexual behaviour, jealousy, envy, selfishness, over indulgence, etc. than we do to emulate the goodness of God.

Where we absence of evil, we find the Holy Spirit.

Faithfulness is another fruit that seriously tests our human nature; particularly in our relationships; with God, our spouses, families, friends, colleagues, neighbour.

Very simply, faithfulness is holding true to our promises.

In Baptism and Confirmation we promise to reject Satan and all his works and empty promises; and yet we are so easily seduced by a world driven by the illusion that when we get just a little more than we have, we’ll find happiness; that our personal pleasure, needs and desires are paramount; and in the process our promises to God and each other are compromised.

Where we find faithfulness, we find the Holy Spirit.

Humility is also a tough fruit to produce.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

Here are a few pointers:

Humility is:

  • Accepting humiliations
  • Obeying legitimate authority
  • Physically kneeling in prayer
  • Thinking of others before ourselves
  • Not looking for recognition for our good deeds
  • Seeking forgiveness and saying I’m sorry to those we have hurt
  • Admitting our mistakes and weaknesses before God in the Sacrament of Confession

 Patience, another fruit, is more than keeping our cool when we are frustrated.

There’s a lovely verse in Psalm 37 that reads “Be still before the Lord; wait for him.”

When we learn to be still we are not controlled by impatience which feeds anger, irritation and annoyance. We often lose our patience because we want to control the situation; we want things to be done our way.

A verse from Ecclesiastes (Ecc7:9) says:   Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

And finally, self-control.

In 1 Corinthians (9:25), Paul plays on the idea of self-control by remarking that, if athletes can exercise discipline—or self-control —in order to win a wreath that will wither, Christians should be able to exercise the self-control required to win the greatest prize of all; eternal life.

We could ask ourselves how we let our lack of self-control influence our lives. Do we eat or drink more than we should? Are we addicted to cigarettes, or alcohol or drugs or pornography or social media, video games, etc.?

Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a gift from God, not something we figure out or achieve by ourselves.

Self-control isn’t always saying ‘ No!”

It also means saying ‘Yes!”

Yes – I will pray more

Yes – I will love more

Yes – I will produce more fruits born of the Holy Spirit.

——————

Divine Mercy

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

28 April 2019

Its 19 years since Pope John Paul II – now St John Paul II – canonised the Polish nun, St Faustina Kowalska and on that occasion in 2000 proclaimed that the Second Sunday of Easter would in future be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It seems fitting that he died on the night of the vigil before Divine Mercy Sunday, in 2005.

Quoting from St Faustina’s diaries written between 1934-1937, she writes that she heard Jesus say:

My daughter, tell the whole world about my Inconceivable mercy. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of my most tender mercy. It is my desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. 

Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.

In her diary, St. Faustina described an image revealed to her of the risen Lord, with two rays shining from his heart: red representing blood and white symbolizing water, with the words “Jesus, I trust in you” underneath.

As beautiful as is the artist’s rendition of the image that she described, apparently on seeing the painting she wept and exclaimed, “Who would paint You as beautiful as You are?” Jesus replied, “Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”

The Feast has become increasingly popular and it’s not uncommon today to see the image of Divine Mercy displayed permanently and prominently in churches and cathedrals around the world.

The devotion to divine mercy is not something new but rather serves to further highlight and animate the virtue of trust in God’s love and mercy that finds its fulfillment in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Faustina was born into a poor peasant family in a remote village in Poland in 1905; the third eldest of ten children. She only had a very basic education and started working as a housemaid in her early teens to help support her family.

She had a calling to a religious life from a very young age and following a vision she had of a suffering Jesus when she was 19 she caught a train and traveled to Warsaw (about 85kms) to join a convent without telling her parents and taking with her nothing but the dress she was wearing.

She approached several convents in Warsaw, but was turned down every time. In one case being told that “we do not accept maids here.”

A kindly parish priest found her accommodation with a parishioner while she searched for a convent that would accept her.

After many weeks, she was accepted into a convent but only on condition that she could pay for her religious habit.

She worked for a year as a housemaid to save money, making regular deposits at the convent towards the cost of her religious clothing until she was finally admitted at the age of 20. She took her first vows when she was 22 and when she took her final vows at the age of 26, her health was already deteriorating (probably tuberculosis).

Faustina spent most of her convent life in the kitchen working as a cook or in the garden growing vegetables. She was 33 years old when she died.

Before her death in 1938 Faustina predicted that “there will be a war, a terrible, terrible war” and asked the nuns to pray for Poland. A year later Poland was invaded by Hitler’s troops marking the beginning of WWII.

The focus of the Divine Mercy image is the Risen Christ’s wounded body; the source of the rays of light being his heart pierced on the cross.  And we find a similar emphasis in our reading from John’s Gospel.

The disciples were only glad to see Jesus on Easter Sunday after he had shown them his wounded hands and side and a week later, Thomas says “Unless I place my fingers in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Can we blame Thomas for his disbelief? The horror and disillusionment of Good Friday had not yet been transformed in his life by the light of Easter.

The mercy of God comes to Thomas as it comes to us through Christ’s wounds.

We are all wounded. We may not necessarily carry visible scars on our bodies but we have been wounded in many ways.

We carry the wounds of relationships that have hurt us, perhaps physical illness or disease, unfulfilled dreams and broken promises; addictions, frustrations and disappointments; wounded by the harsh realities and hardships of life.

When we bring our wounds to Jesus in the sacrament of confession, instituted by Jesus on Easter Sunday, our very wounds become the entrance, the opening, through which flows his merciful love. And we experience the peace and the joy that Christ offers us; the peace that Jesus offered the disciples when he appeared to them on Easter Sunday.

Acts of terror as we’ve witnessed recently in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, incessant religious wars, violence within our own communities and families, sickness, disease and enduring poverty put our faith to the test.

And yet, Easter reminds us that there is something more powerful than suffering and death: the love of God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself our broken humanity.

This is the mystery we celebrate on this Feast of Divine Mercy.

Pope Benedict XVI speaking in 2007 said: “Thomas has received from the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed by meeting him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to us in the trials and sufferings of every human being.”

In the image revealed to St Faustina, Jesus points to his wounded heart and offers us the grace of his divine mercy.

We would be foolish to ignore it.

——

Holy Thursday: Now do you understand how much I love you?

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

18 April 2019

How is it possible to adequately describe or explain the magnitude, the magnificence, the importance and the impact of the events that we are recalling and celebrating in the Sacred Easter Triduum that has started this evening; the start of these three holiest of all holy days.

This is the very core of our faith; the very essence of Christianity and yet many Catholics still think only of attending Mass on Easter Sunday morning having skipped the events of the previous two days. That’s a little like attending only the prize giving at Wimbledon without having actual watched any of the tennis; without having shared in the drama and  events leading up to the finale.

Without the events of Holy Thursday, there would be no Mass, no Blessed Sacrament and no priesthood. At the Last Supper, Our Lord entrusted the apostles with the task of celebrating the Eucharist, and in this very action he consecrated them priests. The Holy Mass as we know it today emerged from the religious practices of the apostles following the Last Supper.

The earliest written description that we have of the Mass goes back to St Justin Martyr written between 153 and 155 A.D; nearly 1900 years ago.

Jesus promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of time. That promise is made a reality in his real presence in the Eucharist.

Quoting from the Catechism: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.  In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.

I’m sure many of us find it almost impossible to even imagine not having the Blessed Sacrament to enrich and nourish our faith and our relationship with God.

Notwithstanding the ugly abuse scandals and shame brought on the Church by some of the clergy that have been highlighted in the media over the past number of years, we should never let this dark shadow dim our appreciation, gratitude and indebtedness to the very vast majority of priests who serve the church faithfully and bring Christ to us in the Eucharist.

We should also pray constantly for new vocations to the priesthood and actively encourage young men to become priests because we need them; without priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass there is no Blessed Sacrament.

What an extraordinary night that was when Jesus met with his 12 personally chosen disciples to celebrate the Jewish Passover in the Upper Room. His own trial, torture and death was merely hours away. And Jesus does something quite shocking; quite unthinkable. He gets down on his knees and washes their feet.

In ancient Palestine people wore sandals or went barefoot and they walked on dirt roads shared by herdsmen driving their animals to market and traders moving goods by ox and camel. Foot-washing was a sign of hospitality but this was a job reserved for slaves. It was one of the most unpleasant and humiliating tasks.

On the days preceding the Passover, Jerusalem would have been heaving with humanity. Many thousands of Jews (some estimates put the number at a few hundred thousand) from near and far including distant countries would have come to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and celebrate Pesach.

The streets would have been congested with people, donkeys, horses, camels and the thousands of sheep and goats for sacrifice – littering the streets with their urine and excrement. The dirty feet of the apostles would not have been an appealing sight.

This sign that Jesus gives them by washing their feet, this mandate to love through humble service would have made an indelible impression on them and most surely influenced their future ministry.

The washing of the feet is a vivid illustration to us of the hardship, the struggle and the enormous challenge in loving even when it’s unappealing and we’re hurting.

Imagine for a moment Jesus taking the feet of Judas in his hands and gently washing them clean knowing that Judas had already betrayed him. And kneeling at the feet of Peter knowing that he would within hours vehemently deny that Jesus was even a friend. Washing the feet of the others who, with the exception of young John, would by morning, be in hiding having deserted him and left him to suffer and die alone.

And now let us imagine for a moment that Jesus is kneeling before us, gently holding our feet in his hands. He knows. He knows what’s in our hearts; our fears and disappointments, our questions and our doubts, our struggles and weaknesses, our hurt, our pain and our loneliness. He knows.

Even knowing the deceit, doubt and dishonesty that were in the hearts of his apostles, Jesus loved them. He loved them and entrusted his Church to them.

He loves us and entrusts himself to us in the gift of the Eucharist; the gift of his Real Presence.

Jesus says to us tonight: Now do you understand how much I love you?

Do as I have done.

————–

Listen to Him

2nd Sunday of Lent Cycle C
17 March 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

And so we start the second week of Lent; our spiritual preparation for the glorious celebration of the Easter Triduum.

For some of us the first week of Lent has passed without much notice, for others it’s been rewarding and for some it’s been a struggle. I’ve struggled.

I’m a fervent reader often reading two or three books at the same time and while I enjoy reading Christian spirituality, I also love a fast paced thriller or a beautifully written novel or a thought provoking biography.

One of my Lenten disciples is to read only scripture and religious books during these six weeks – and after one week, I’m suffering withdrawal systems, longing to get my teeth into an exciting page-turner.

But that’s surely one of the objectives of Lent.

Through our conscious, disciplined denials of pleasure we await the end of Lent with eagerness and yearning; counting down the days to Easter with hungry anticipation.

If we don’t make Lent meaningful, Easter too will have little meaning and pass us by as just another long weekend. And we’ll be no closer to our Lord at Easter than we were when Lent began in the desert.

The Gospel reading describes the Transfiguration of the Lord; a mysterious event in the life of Jesus and I imagine, an exhilarating but terrifying experience for Peter, James and John; a crucial turning point in all their lives.

At the time, his pending death was very much on Jesus’ mind. He had taken the decision to go to Jerusalem and knew an awful destiny awaited him there. In the Transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus was given the assurance that he was on the right road and he was given a glimpse of the glory that would follow the horror of Calvary.

Jesus’ death would also have been on the minds of the disciples because he had told them just the week before that he would be killed in Jerusalem. What Peter, James and John experienced in the transfiguration would give them something to hold on to in the dark days ahead. The voice of the Father confirms for them that Jesus is who he says he is: the Son of God.

This reading has a precious significance in my life

It was while reflecting on the transfiguration that I came to understand and accept my calling to the deaconate.

I had completed three years of theology studies not with a view to becoming a deacon but rather driven by a critical need to sustain my fragile faith. A date had been set for the ordination of nine deacons which included me but I advised the Archbishop that I’d not be part of that group. I was busy building a business and raising a family and wasn’t prepared to take on further responsibilities. I told the Archbishop that I’d consider it later in my life.

A few days after I’d written this letter I went on retreat for the weekend and we were given this reading of the transfiguration as a meditation.

Sitting at the window in my small room at Schoenstatt, on a cold misty Saturday afternoon, not feeling particularly motivated by the reading, I was overcome by a real awareness of God and the Father’s voice “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him” and putting my trust into God’s hands, I was ordained to the deaconate with the rest of the group a few weeks later.

I share this experience because I feel sure that God is talking to all of us in our hearts and Lent is a good time to stop and listen; open our hearts to the gentle voice inside.

Fr Ron Rolheiser in his book “Wrestling with God” writes: ‘Simply put, God lies within us, deep inside, but in a way that’s almost non-existent, almost unfelt, largely unnoticed, and easily ignored.

“However, while that presence is never overpowering, it has within it a gentle, unremitting imperative, a compulsion toward something higher, which invites us to draw upon it. And, if we draw upon it, it gushes up in us in an infinite stream that instructs us, nurtures us, and fills us with endless energy.”

Within each of us is a gentle, insistent voice, a nudge, urging us to listen and respond.

What are we being called to do in these weeks of Lent?

What actions are we being prompted to take?

Perhaps it’s just a nudge to be more generous with the time we give to our relationship with God.

Perhaps there are words that we need to say to someone who is hurting; or a relationship that we need to heal.

Perhaps we have habits we need to temper, thoughts we need to banish, emotions we need to express or control.

Maybe there are acts of charity that we need to embrace: the Archbishop’s Lenten Appeal or clothes, shoes, food supplies that we have in excess to our needs that we could give to people who have so much less than we do.

Lent encourages us to look deeper into our hearts and believe absolutely that within our brokenness, we are nevertheless God’s beloved.

We all struggle. In the words of Ron Rolheiser again:

“We are just normal, complicated human beings walking around in human skin. That’s what real life is all about! The scriptures are filled with stories of persons finding God and helping bring about God’s kingdom, even as their own lives are often fraught with mess, confusion, frustration, betrayal, infidelity, and sin.

“There are no simple human beings immune to the spiritual, psychological, sexual, and relational complexities that beset us all.”

Our personal struggles are not the same but we struggle with similar issues: temptation, bad habits, pride, ego, self-pity, anger, bitterness, hypocrisy, hunger for acceptance and doubt.

Our weaknesses and struggles don’t make us any less Christian; they are a reflection of our humanity, a humanity that was lived by Jesus who loves and died for us in our sinful humanity.

If we were all perfect there would not have been a need for Easter.

Peter, James, and John heard God clearly affirm that Jesus was his Son and that they were to listen to him.

God our Father says the same to us as we follow Jesus, our guide through this Lent.

The Golden Rule

7th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C 2019

24 February 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Last week I visited with my children, Woodside Special Care Centre in Rondebosch East which is a haven for the profoundly disabled – physically and mentally. There are 78 residents ranging in age from 5 to 50 years old, they are all in nappies, only two of them can hold a spoon to feed themselves, very few of them are able to stand or walk because their limbs are so badly deformed and only a small number of them are able to express themselves in understandable words. My children are involved in marketing and digital media and we were there to evaluate what assistance we can give Woodside in raising desperately needed funds.

I think it would be fair to assume that the parents of the disabled residents of Woodside all wanted a perfect child.

We are told that God looked at the world he had created and it was good. A question that comes to mind when one sees these profoundly disabled adults and children is ‘What could possibly be good about this?’

I believe that through such as these, each one of them a precious child of God, perfection is found in the way that the people around them react. They bring out the Christ in us.

That’s the message in today’s Gospel.

Paraphrasing a verse from Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians that we heard in the Second Reading, he says “Just as we bear the image of Adam the man of dust, we also bear the image of Jesus, the man of heaven.”

The Gospel Jesus says ‘If you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Be kind, be merciful, forgive and do not condemn, for the measure you give out is the measure you will receive.’

Jesus is painting a self-portrait. He is telling us how God acts and how he expects us to act. Jesus goes beyond the ‘golden rule’ of ‘do as you would want done’ and says rather ‘do as God would do.’

The very essence of Christian conduct is not as much about refraining from bad things, as it is about whole-heartedly doing good things. And we know all too well in our own brokenness, just how difficult that can be.

It’s much easier to stop ourselves from consciously committing serious sin than it is to consciously treat others, neighbour and stranger alike, with patience, respect, kindness, generosity and love desiring only that which is good for them no matter how they have treated us.

We live in a world that encourages instant gratification summed up succinctly by my three year old granddaughter Ella who walked into the kitchen and said recently “Nana I want a biscuit.“ When Claire asked “And what’s the magic word?” Ella replied “NOW!”

With so much focus in society on ourselves, our personal needs, wants and emotional satisfaction, it’s really challenging to be a good Christian. It doesn’t come naturally.

Christianity is a discipline. Our faith demands of us every day that we should be the visible presence of Christ in the world through our words and in our actions.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta was someone who understood this completely.

Once when she was staying with her community of sisters working with the Aborigines in Australia, she visited an elderly man who lived in total isolation, ignored by everyone.  His home was messy, dark and dirty.

She offered to clean his house and wash his clothes but he told her that he was just fine with everything as it was and she should leave him alone. To which she replied “Yes but you would be even better if you allowed me to do this” and he relented.

While she was cleaning the house she discovered a beautiful lamp covered with dust which obviously hadn’t been used in years.

Mother Teresa asked him if he ever used the lamp and he told her that no-one ever came to visit him and there was no reason to light the lamp.

To which she asked ‘Would you light it every night if the sisters came?”

“Of course” he replied and from that day on, the sisters visited him every evening.

A few years later, back in Calcutta, Mother Theresa received a message from the old man “Tell my friend that the light she lit in my life continues to shine still.”

That’s what it means to be a Christian: to give, to bless, to stop judging, to stop condemning, to serve and to start lighting lamps.

Christianity is an action not an emotion.

We may feel emotionally fulfilled after a wonderful liturgy of great music, song and prayer but if that does not motivate us to bring the light and love of Christ into the world through our actions, then our prayer and worship are little more than an extension of our focus on our own gratification.

Preparing an action plan for the week ahead we could start with our words.

Language is one of our greatest gifts allowing us to know each other, understand each other, express and share our thoughts, our love, our hopes and our fears but language is also an instrument of immense destruction inflicting untold pain and suffering (often on those we love most) and fermenting ideas that cause division and wars.

In the week ahead, we could take conscious action to use language to express love, hope, forgiveness, kindness and encouragement and avoid saying, posting or tweeting anything negative , critical or derogatory to anyone; refrain from saying that would cause pain, doubt, anger, anxiety or the dispersion of rumours, gossip and innuendo.

This one action of deliberately using our words to build the kingdom rather than undermine it can have profound consequences of good in our lives and in the lives of the many we touch through language.

Hatred can be defeated only by love; injury can be healed only by forgiveness; evil can be restrained only by goodness.