Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

 

Advertisements

Christian love & family divisions

Our Lady Of The Flight Into Egypt
Cycle C February 2019
Colossians 3:12-21;
Matthew: 2:13-15; 19-23.
Rev Tony van Vuuren

One of the noticeable things about the opening chapters of the gospels is that Mary and Joseph say so little. Neither of them spoke a word, for example, in the passage from Matthew that we have just heard. Both Matthew and Luke prefer to show us what they were like through their actions: their search for a safe place for Jesus to be born, their efforts to protect their child, fleeing into Egypt while King Herod is looking for him to kill him; their efforts, later on, to bring Jesus up with a deep and sincere devotion to God.

Traditionally, Mary and Joseph have been seen as prime example of parental care and love, But at the same time it has to be said that the bonds of love that derive from marriage and family-membership, are things which belong to every time and every culture.

So for Christ; our ties to each other as individuals devoted to God have a priority over our family relations – and this is all the more true if perhaps our faith in God comes into conflict with our membership of our family.

What we have to remember, I think, is that the kind of love Jesus preached about, and revealed in his own life and ministry, wasn’t identical with the ordinary bonds of affection and care and so on that we have for the members of our own family, or for our friends and the people we like.

The kind of love which was the heart of Christ’s message was the love he showed when he was prepared to go to his death for the sake of mankind, and when he turned round and asked for forgiveness for those who had plotted to kill him.

And what St Paul is recommending to the people he’s writing to, is that they should imitate that love which Christ showed, in their relationships with everyone.                                                                                  “You should be clothed in sincere compassion,” says St Paul, “in kindness, and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as the quarrel begins. And over all those things, to keep them together, put on love”.

In a Christian perspective, the family – he says is the place where we should learn to bear with each other’s failings, not where we should expect to experience perfection. It’s the place where we should learn mutual tolerance and patience, not where we’re served up with a seamlessly happy life.

It’s a sad fact, but I think it’s a fact of life just the same – perhaps even more so at the present time – that very often, for all sorts of complicated reasons, the people whom we end up seeing as our enemies, the people with whom we have the most bitter disagreements and who stir up the most violent emotions, are the members of our own family.

When divisions occur in families, they usually run deep. But when these divisions arise, or when there’s a breakdown in the relationships between members of a family, it’s in those circumstances most of all that we need to appeal – not to conventional ideas of family bonds and affection – but to those aspects of Christian love that St Paul is talking about.

Very often in a situation of conflict we can’t be responsible for other people’s decisions and other people’s behaviour. We can only be responsible for our own. And while we shouldn’t feel obliged to allow ourselves to be treated as a doormat, or to remain totally passive in the face of unjust treatment or manipulation, what we often have to do is at least to keep a careful guard over our own motives and our own actions. So that if we are caught up in a bitter dispute, especially in our family, we’re not reacting out of hatred and a desire to win at all costs.

It may turn out that it’s precisely in situations of great stress or breakdown in our families that we come up against the challenge to respond with the values that we profess as Christians. And we’re always doing the right thing if we try to look at the situation in a Christian perspective and try to act out of these motives of gentleness, patience, kindness, and love as far as we possibly can – regardless of the behaviour of the others who are involved, even though it might be very difficult and demand a lot of us.

That is the reflection I would like to offer on the Pauline reading for today’s feast. I don’t think it’s any good conjuring up a trite or sentimental picture of the Holy Family. We have to think of what it means to apply the idea of real holiness to the circumstances and reality of family life in our own time, which is often also very fraught. We have to try and see how the different aspects of Christian love that St Paul talks about are even more relevant to us if we’re caught up in some argument or division with individuals who, in an ideal world, are the people we would be closest to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pope Francis once asked us “to remember the 3 key phrases for a life of peace and joy in the family: excuse me, thank you, and I’m sorry.

Saviour of the World

3rd Sunday Ordinary Time
Cycle C
27 January 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The Gospel reading opens with the first four verses of Luke’s Gospel in which he explains that while there are numerous other accounts ) about Jesus, after thorough investigation, he has compiled an accurate and orderly narrative about Jesus which he dedicates to a man called Theophilus.

We know little about Theophilus except that he was a person of high status and in all likelihood a convert to Christianity.

The reading then jumps to an excerpt from Luke chapter 4 describing the beginning of Jesus’ ministry after his baptism and 40 days in the desert, closing with Jesus’ homily in the synagogue; a startling nine words “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

In this liturgical year, Cycle C, which started with Advent, four Sundays before Christmas, we will be hearing from the Gospel of Luke on most Sundays and I thought it would be worthwhile saying something about Luke’s Gospel as we get into our stride in this new year.

Luke was born in what was the Greek-speaking city of Antioch in Syria (today the modern city of Antakya in Turkey about 20 kms northwest of the Syrian border) and he is traditionally identified with Luke whom Paul mentions as one of his co-workers in his letter to Philemon and with “Luke the beloved physician” mentioned in Colossians.

The four Gospels were written at different times, in different places, for different audiences, for different reasons and each writer presents Jesus to us in his own distinctive, characteristic way.

If we think about it it’s almost impossible for any one writer to fully capture the life of another person in a book; let alone the life of Jesus, the Son of God.

In our own times for example there are at least 12 biographies written about the life and sayings of Nelson Mandela and more than 20 about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Each is well researched and based on true events and people with a good measure of cross referencing but each presents a different aspect of the truth of that person’s life.

Luke is clearly writing for a Gentile audience who would not have had the background of the Jewish scriptures with the expectation of the Messiah.

He stresses the blessing of salvation brought by Jesus and is concerned in his Gospel and in his sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, to show how God’s plan of salvation, began with Israel, is fulfilled in Jesus and that it embraces all God’s people, Gentiles included.

Salvation is not extended exclusively to the Israelites as it is not extended exclusively to some Christian denominations who would claim salvation only for themselves.

Luke’s original audience did not usually read his Gospel but listened to it being read aloud at a gathering of Christians, perhaps for the Eucharist; as we have gathered here.

The Gospel comes to life for us in two stages.

First, its words come to life when, as 21st century Christians, we gain insight into the original first-century meaning and context of scripture. Then, as followers of the risen Jesus, we can be inspired to apply that gospel message to our lives today.

And so what is the gospel message today?

The message is in Jesus’ words in the synagogue:  “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus is referring to Isiah’s prophesy about the Messiah and tells them that he is the fulfillment of that prophesy; that he is the Messiah and he lays out his plan of action around which the Gospel of Luke is constructed..

Jesus brings good news to the poor and lowly, sight to the blind, freedom to those who are in bondage to sin or disease. He opens the doors of salvation to everyone and reveals the unconditional love of the Father.

Jesus is the saviour of the world. That’s the message.

Sometimes we can be a bit blasé about being Christians; we take our salvation for granted as we do tomorrow’s sunrise.

Pope Francis uses a powerful image to describe the reality of our salvation:

“It’s one thing when people tell us a story about someone’s risking his own life to save a boy drowning in a river. It’s something else when I’m the one drowning, and someone gives his life to save me!”

Jesus is our saviour.

That’s the message that should be at the centre of our very being as Christians.

And yet we so easily lose sight of this in the busyness our lives and our addiction to instant communication, email and social media dominating our daily agenda and defining our priorities.

It’s hard to stay focused on God through the day but conversely we’re hardly true to our discipleship if we put our Christian identity into a one hour slot once a week.

Being a Christian is not something we do, it’s who we are.

In the year ahead, we could try to develop the habit of keeping Jesus in our hearts and minds through the day.

The early Christians had a prayer for this purpose they called the Jesus Prayer the roots of which can be traced back to the 5th century.

The prayer is simple: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Just 12 words, but if we make them part of our daily routine they can change the rhythm of our lives.

In the car and traffic, while walking or perhaps standing in a queue at the supermarket we could pray:  “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

When we’re frustrated or filled with doubt or anxiety, try saying: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

When we’re grappling with temptation or weighed down by our own sins or the sins of others, we can pray: “Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Jesus has come to save us, to give us God.

In this Mass as we prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist, we can pray deeply in our hearts: Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

The Baptism of the Lord

Cycle c

13th January 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

We could ask ourselves on this Feast of the Baptism of the Lord why it’s important or relevant or indeed whether it was even necessary for Jesus to be baptised.

Jesus didn’t need baptism as we need baptism but this marks the start of his public ministry rooted in his identity as the Son of God anointed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus was baptised into our humanity, so that we can be baptised into his divinity.

All four Gospels relate the Baptism of the Lord by John the Baptist but Luke’s account is different from the others which imply that the Holy Spirit descended at the moment of Jesus’ baptism, while he was still in the water. That’s the way this scene is often depicted in religious art; Jesus and John standing waist deep in the water with a dove above Jesus’s head representing the Holy Spirit descending from heaven.

But Luke says, “Now when all the people were baptised, and when Jesus also had been baptised and was praying, the Holy Spirit descended upon him.” From this we might assume that Christ was out of the water and alone when the Holy Spirit appeared and he heard the voice of the Father. Did anyone besides Jesus actually witness these events?

The Gospel of John answers that question. He tells us that John the Baptist gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptise with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One” (John 1:32-34).

Luke wrote his Gospel primarily for Gentile Christians; non-Jewish people who have been baptised. He is telling them that their baptism means the same as Jesus’ baptism; that they, through baptism, are God’s daughters and sons. The same is true for us over 2000 years later; through baptism we are children of God calling God, our Father.

Jesus preached that you and I can have the same personal, intimate relationship with God that he has.

At that time this was a most radical and outrageous idea; a blasphemous idea that would certainly have upset the Jewish authorities and contributed enormously in their decision to have him killed. They taught that our relationship with God is like the accused before a judge, and God, therefore, is distant, stern and righteous rather than a loving, caring, compassionate and forgiving Father. Even today, Muslims consider it blasphemy to attribute fatherhood to God.

Our relationship with God as our Father is central to our Christian faith.

Christianity is not about being a good person or doing the right think or having a heart of gold – as wonderful as these attributes are. Anyone can have those qualities irrespective of their religion.

To be a Christian is to be grafted onto Christ; to become a member of his mystical body – sharing in his own relationship to the Father. Jesus is the Son of God by nature; we become sons and daughters of God by Baptism. And hopefully the fruits of our baptism will see us living as good people, doing what is right with generous and loving hearts.

Just as we take on life through birth, so our supernatural life is born in baptism; we are born again into spiritual life with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; God’s magnificent gift of grace revealed through Jesus.

Baptism is our most ecumenical sacrament uniting almost all the world’s Christians in Jesus Christ.

The sacrament of Baptism is the gateway to the other sacraments; it’s the power that makes the other sacraments effectual. As an analogy, imagine that the other sacraments are devices in the kitchen; toaster, microwave, kettle, stove, fridge, etc. Until they are plugged into a source of power, they are useless and ineffectual. Baptism is the source that powers all the other sacraments.

St Paul saw baptism as the fulfilment of the ancient Hebrews ‘practice of circumcision on the eighth day of life; in his words baptism was “a circumcision without hands”.

In the Jewish faith, through circumcision an infant boy enters into God’s covenant with the family of Abraham.

In the Christian faith, through baptism we enter the new covenant into the family of God as sons and daughters, calling God, our Father.

From the very beginning the Church has welcomed infants, children and adults, male and female, into a covenant relationship with Christ, through the sacrament of Baptism.

We are reminded of this covenant every time we enter a church and dip our hands into the water font and make the Sign of the Cross.

The sign of the cross is the most common prayer of Christians and has been since the founding of the Church.

Tertullian, the notable North African theologian writing in the second century (in modern day Tunisia), wrote: “In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down and sitting down, whatever task occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”

We make the sign of the cross as a public profession of our faith, a reminder of our baptismal promises and our resolve that evil will have no place in our lives.

It is a physical reminder of God’s love for us and the greatness of our human dignity that flows from this love.

Let us always be mindful of the powerful significance of this simple prayer and make the sign of the cross over our bodies purposefully and thoughtfully with care and sincerity.

And in our hearts let’s be conscious of the Father’s voice:

“You are my beloved one. In you I am well pleased.”

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

How Blessed We Are!

4th Sunday Of Advent
Cycle C
23rd December 2018
Luke 1: 39-45
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Words uttered by Elizabeth greeting her young cousin Mary. The same words that are to this day recited by millions of people night and day when praying the Rosary. You could say that the central theme of the Gospel is the blessedness of those who believe.

All of Jesus’ preaching had as its aim to elicit faith in people’s hearts. However, it is not simply a matter of believing, but of believing and acting on that belief. It is a question of hearing the word and doing it—taking risks on it, and making sacrifices because of it. Remind ourselves that; “we should not bother proclaiming that we believe unless we act accordingly.” We sometimes hear people say, “It’s easy for you; you have great faith.” But it’s not like that. Faith doesn’t always make things easy.

In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. It’s because one has faith that one refuses to give up. Faith impels us to persevere, to struggle on, often with no guarantee of a happy outcome. A person with faith never gives up.

Mary is blessed because she not only believed, but also acted on her belief. Immediately after the visit from the angel Gabriel, she went with haste to visit Elizabeth. A long and hazardous journey. From this we see that her religion was not a matter of mere sentimentality. It was something she converted into deeds. Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus. That is why the Church proposes her as a model for us. We too will be blessed if, like Mary, we hear the word of God and act on it.

We are a couple of days away from celebrating Christmas. Christmas can be a great help to our faith. Dare I say that somehow we find it easier to believe that we are in touch with God at Christmas than at any other time, maybe because we feel that God is very close to us and very loving to us at this time. Our celebration of Christmas has many layers. The top layer is the hustle and bustle of the consumer Christmas from which there is no escape even if we don’t go near a shopping centre.

Next is the Charles Dickens layer. The decorations, the laden tables of delicious food. Good will to all men. Gifts given and received. And then everything goes on as before. The third layer is the Nativity scene, which depicts for us what this is all about. The school nativity play; the nativity scene here in church; reminding us of the first Christmas celebration of the birth in the stable. The fourth and deepest layer is the spiritual one. The story of this baby; God’s son, who was born and took our nature upon himself and entered our world in weakness and in love.

There is sometimes a tendency to dismiss or even condemn the first three layers and see the spiritual layer as the only true one when celebrating the birth of Jesus. This is based on the supposition that the spiritual and the material are opposed to one another. But this is not entirely so. Christianity includes matter and spirit.

There can be no such thing as a purely spiritual Christmas. What we have to do is find a connection between the secular market place and the spiritual content of the feast. Much of the buying and selling that occurs at this time results in giving and receiving gifts; good works, joy and affirmation of family ties. An opportunity of sharing the priceless gifts of Love, Gratitude, Honesty, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Mary did not withdraw from the world to treasure the gift she had received. We learn from Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth to go out to meet another in need: share with them a gesture of welcome, care and love.

Judging from Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting today such encounters are potential moments of grace, blessing and joy. Before Christmas arrives is there someone we should visit? Is there someone we have been avoiding and need to spend a little time with?
This approach helps us to see the close kinship between the spiritual and the material; between heavenly and earthly things.

We must learn how to integrate the two. The core religious problem is: how to reconcile spirituality and materiality, flesh and spirit, the inward and the outward.

There are those who insist on a clear division between the divine and the human, the sacred and the secular. But we won’t find that in Christmas. At Christmas these are so interwoven that they seem to be one and the same thing.

Now is a time for us to stop focusing on how stressed we are and remind ourselves how Blessed we are. It is when we serve others that we encounter Jesus Christ. It is when we give ourselves in love that we find that we are loved!

Prepare the Way

2nd Sunday of Advent Cycle C
8 December 2018
Prepare the Way by Deacon Les

We are already into the second week of Advent.

Was the past week any different in our hearts from the week before? Did we spend time thinking about the meaning and relevance of Advent in our lives as we prepare for the celebration of Christmas? The answer for many of us is ‘Probably not’.

It’s very difficult to make Advent meaningful in a society that is focused on the synthetic glitter of commercialism and the anticipation of the holiday season.

All the more reason why our liturgy during Advent should be noticeably different from other seasons to remind us, if only once a week in our worship, that Advent is a time of quiet reflection in anticipation of Christmas; no flowers, no “Gloria”, purple vestments, and music kept to a minimum and noticeably subdued.

It’s quite likely that our time and energy over the next few weeks will be consumed by a sense of nervous anxiety; gifts to buy, preparing for Christmas lunch, a list of things to be done before the holidays start, concerns about money, perhaps some apprehension about spending time with difficult family, in-laws or friends, etc.

If we want this Advent and Christmas to be more meaningful, we are going to have to make that happen. If we do nothing, Advent will fly past without notice and Christmas will mean little more than an expensive meal and an exchange of gifts.

We could use today’s Gospel as a guide for some action to make Advent and Christmas more meaningful.

Luke tells us that “the word of God came to John (the Baptist) in the desert.” And John’s message was:

  • Repent and
  • Prepare the way for the Lord:
    • Make crooked roads straight
    • Fill in the valleys
    • Level the hills
    • And smooth out the rough paths

Let’s look at John’s urgent call in terms of our lives today.

Repent.

Repentance as we’ve heard many times before is not about being sorry; it’s about a determination to change.

I’ve recently read Tara Westover’s astounding memoir “Educated.”

She was born in rural Idaho in the northwest of the Unites States in 1986 to radical survivalist Mormon parents. She didn’t get a birth certificate until she was nine. She never went to school and she was seventeen the first time she entered a classroom. Remarkably within 10 years she’d earned a PhD from Cambridge.

As a girl and young woman she was repeated beaten and abused viciously by an older brother who was always really apologetic and sorry afterwards. He was always sorry but he never repented; he never changed his behaviour.

In our relationship with God and with our friends and family, where do we need to repent? What are the behaviours that we need to change?  Is it the words we use or perhaps the words we don’t use? Is it something we repeatedly do or fail to do?

When we are ready to say ‘I’m sorry” and are determined to change, we should seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation to give us the grace to do better in all our relationships.

How do we make the crooked road straight?

There’s a delightful animated movie called ‘The Star’ which tells the story of the nine months leading up to the birth of Jesus through the eyes of a donkey. A telling of the Nativity that is as appealing to adults as it is to children. I’ve been cajoled by my two Grandchildren (3 and 6 years old) into watching this movie with them umpteen times in the last few weeks.

We’re more likely to walk in a straighter line if we keep our eyes on “the star” that leads to Bethlehem.

When we take our eyes off the Star, we’re easily side-tracked and soon find ourselves wandering in the wilderness rather than kneeling at the manger.

How do we fill the valleys and level the hills?

Perhaps our valleys would be the times when we are discouraged or unwell or facing hardship or spiritual drought. We could try and fill these valleys with hope and trust; trust in God. Focus on our blessings rather than our burdens.

The hills might be those times when everything is going well and we feel on top of the world. We need some temperance here as well and again to give thanks for our blessings rather than bask in our accomplishments.

And finally, how do we smooth out the rough paths?

We could start by identifying the bumps in the road; the spiritual potholes.

What are the obstacles in our relationship with God and other people? When we look into our hearts, what do we see there? Are we honestly able to see the potholes?

Is it selfishness; wrapped up in our own world of needs and desires? Is it fear of commitment; perhaps a fear of putting our trust in God and giving up some control? Is it laziness or lack of self-disciple; perhaps inertia or apathy? Is it a cold heart that can’t forgive or get over past hurts?

Without conscious effort, nothing will change, nothing will get repaired. If anything, the potholes will multiply and the path to God will become bumpier.

We could try and fill a few potholes over the next 2 weeks of Advent:

  • Talk to God; frequently every day about everything
  • Do a frank examination of conscience and commit to making a good confession
  • Share some time and bring some joy into the life of someone who is lonely or depressed or seriously ill
  • We could share some of our things; raid the wardrobe and generously give away clothes that are in excess to our needs. Children could raid their toy baskets and give away toys that they no longer use. Donate generously to the Advent Appeal, buy vouchers for the poor, buy a gift for an underprivileged child.

There are many ways to smooth the rough path.

The only thing that is holding us back from repentance is ourselves.

If we choose to, over the next two weeks of Advent, we can bring about small but meaningful changes in our lives that will bring us closer to the Lord whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

————

Words

 

33rd Sunday
Ordinary Time
Cycle B
18th November 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

When biblical writers want to get our attention, shake us out of our lethargy and give us hope, they write in the apocalyptic literary genre. We see evidence of this literature in today’s readings from the book of Daniel and from Mark’s gospel. The word “Apocalypse” comes from the Greek and means “to lift the veil.”

Apocalyptic literature suggests what we think we see as true and as reality, in fact, may be obscured by veils. We think we see — we don’t. We think we know the truth and the
way things are — but we don’t. We need vision; we need the veil over our own eyes lifted so we can clearly perceive God’s presence and God’s future coming into our world.

This literature has often been misunderstood by fundamentalist interpreters and preachers. Its startling images of the passing away of the present world were not intended to describe how the end will come; its essential message was an assurance that God’s designs will be fulfilled, despite all appearances to the contrary.

Jesus preached on the coming of the final reign of God; so it’s not surprising, therefore, that He used some of the images and expression of this literature – as He does in today’s Gospel; the final section of a long passage that gathers together recollections of this teaching of Jesus.

Thanks to the writers of the Gospels, the words of our Lord remain with us to this very day. Still with us to teach us, to guide us, to inspire us, to comfort us and to challenge us. It is up to each one of us as to how well we listen to His words; and how hard we try to practice them in our lives.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Words of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel.

In the course of a lifetime we hear a lot of words, and also speak a lot of words. Though we may forget most of the words we hear, some do remain with us. In fact, certain words can burn themselves into our memory, so much so that we will probably remember them to our dying day.

We will hear words that comfort us, and remain to inspire us.

Unfortunately words are said that can be very hurtful and inflict deep and lasting wounds. However, sometimes it’s not the words themselves, but the way that they are said that does the damage.

Words are very important and very powerful. Once uttered, they can take on a life of their own, for good or for bad! They can bring a blessing or a curse, healing or wounding, life or death. Words can continue to harm us or help us for many years after they have been spoken. Hence, we should be careful how we use words.

I am sure you are all familiar with the saying, “you cannot put the toothpaste back into the tube once you have squeezed it out.”

When we are angry, it is better to remain silent. Words spoken in anger can cause deep hurt and make reconciliation very difficult. Choosing a blessing instead of a curse often starts by choosing to remain silent, or being careful to choose words that open the way to healing. Sometimes loving someone means keeping quiet and letting them be! Adopt the philosophy of the salesman, which is “the customer is always right!”

The world in which we live is a very uncertain one. It seems to lurch from one crisis to another; causing great fear and anxiety. In the midst of this uncertain and changing world we need something solid to rely on. For a Christian that can only mean one thing: faith in God. Today’s psalm simply says: “I keep the Lord before me always; with Him at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” And of course we have the words of Jesus:  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

This is all we have and all we need; but for all that, they will benefit us little unless we act on them.

In comparison with faith, there is nothing sure or lasting in the world. The Gospel is the handbook of every Christian. Our opinions are rooted in appearances and can change from day to day; but the words of Jesus do not change or pass away.

We would do well to build the house of our life on His words.