Thursday, April 20, 2017

Marcus Loane on Luke 24 (the Road to Emmaus)



One of the loveliest things about Eastertide is to hear Luke 24 read in church - the account of the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, whose hearts "burned within them" as he explained the Scriptures, and who eventually recognised him "in the breaking of the bread."

Among my treasured books is Marcus Loane's "Life Through the Cross", published in 1966, the year the author became [Anglican] Archbishop of Sydney. Sir Marcus died in 2009 aged 97, having continued to minister to the glory of God throughout his long retirement. He did not set out to write an "original" commentary, or to break new ground in Biblical scholarship; his sole purpose in "Life Through the Cross" was to beckon the gaze of his readers to the Man of Sorrows who died for our salvation and rose to share his victory with us.

As always, Sir Marcus did it so movingly. A "literary hack" like me is reduced to wonder just by the rolling beauty of his turn of phrase. He was an artist who painted with the English language, a real wordsmith, precise and poetic at the same time. I loved hearing him preach. Indeed, I remember - as if it were yesterday - the sermon he gave at my Confirmation in 1964. An old-fashioned evangelical and evangelist, his dislike of Anglo-Catholicism failed to diminish his very real fellowship with and respect for those individual Anglo-Catholics he felt loved the Lord and preached the Gospel. He was, for example, a friend and admirer of Archbishop Philip Strong.

I share with you today, from "Life Through the Cross", Sir Marcus' reflection on Luke 24:

Luke proceeds with a brief reference to the speech that followed: "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself."' Cleopas must have remembered the words in which the Lord began with a clarity which time could not diminish, but he could not quote in detail all that ensued. It is enough to know the drift of that conversation; the journey was sweetened by a fascinating exposition of all that the prophets had spoken. The Son of Man had been saturated with the knowledge and the teaching of the Scriptures; He was at home in its language and its spirit as no other had ever been. He could quote from the law and the prophets with an insight and an application which amazed His hearers, and the last words He had uttered before He bowed His head to die had been words of Scripture. He had felt no hesitation in His reference to the words of prophecy and in His claim that they were now fulfilled before men's eyes (Luke 4:21). But there is no record apart from this momentous occasion of a sustained exposition of all that the Scriptures taught with regard to Him Who was the Christ. It was for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that He took the key of David and set out to unlock all the Messianic teaching in the Old Testament Revelation. He did for them what He was soon to do for their companions who were still in Jerusalem: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:45, 46).

"He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." There were many fingers of a prophetic character which all pointed forward to the Christ that should come. He was the seed destined to crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15; 1 John 3:8); He was the lamb God would provide as substitute and sacrifice (Genesis 22:8; John 1:29). He was the true Paschal victim whose blood would be shed for many (Exodus 12:13; Matthew 26:28); He was the great High Priest who would enter into the holy of holies once and for all (Leviticus 16:2; Hebrews 9:12). He was like the smitten rock from which there sprang a stream of living water (Numbers 20:11; John 7:38); He was like the brazen serpent that was lifted up for life and healing (Numbers 21:9; John 3:14). He was that star out of Jacob which shone as the herald of a new day (Numbers 24:17; Revelation 22:16); He was that great prophet whom God promised to raise up like unto Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22). The Psalms had told how He would come to do the will of God (Psalm 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10: 7), and how the nails would pierce His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:35). The Prophecy of Isaiah had made it clear that He would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17), and that He would be led like a lamb to the place of slaughter (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32). It was through Him that a fountain would be opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah 13:1; 1 John 1:7); it was in Him that the sun of righteousness would arise with healing in His wings (Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78). He was prefigured in the symbolic character of things like the pillar of cloud by day and the column of fire by night, the blood of sprinkling and smoke of sacrifice, the seamless veil and mercy seat; He was foreshadowed in the personal history of men such as Joseph and David, Jonah and Jeremiah, Daniel and Mordecai. There were indeed countless signposts to show that Christ was in all the Scriptures and that He was no other than Jesus of Nazareth.

This fact was so significant that it formed part of the apostolic witness from the outset: "Let all the house of Israel know that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). The Son of Man had been impregnable in His appeal to the testimony of the Scriptures; they were the rock on which He had taken His stand against all the storms of controversy. "Ye search the Scriptures," He said for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me: And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:39, 40). They sat in Moses' seat, yet they did not believe Him of Whom Moses wrote: "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me," He said; "for he wrote of me" (John 5:46). Men who knew the letter of the Law had no real insight into its truth, and could make no reply to His devastating criticism. Had they never read what Moses wrote? (Mark 12:26). Had they never read what David did? (Mark 2:25). Nothing is so final as the statement which He ascribed in parable to Abraham: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16:29). But there was a plausible argument which was meant to turn the edge of these words: men would be more likely to repent if one were to visit them from the dead. Then He declared in words of absolute finality: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Thus a solemn appeal to the Scriptures bears out the claims of truth with the most far-reaching authority: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43).

Thus a seeming stranger to the course of events in those days at Jerusalem passed from Moses to Malachi as He talked with them by the way and "opened . . . their understanding" (Luke 24:45) in the Scriptures. He showed them how the law and the prophets had all foretold that the Christ would suffer before He could conquer; then He showed them how all that they foretold had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

- Life Through The Cross, M.L. Loane, 1966, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pages 240-242

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The road to Emmaus and the New Testament reinterpretation of the Old Testament


And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)

One of the textbooks I thoroughly enjoyed in my student days, and to which I have returned many times, is An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (SCM Press, 1969 ed.) by Alan Richardson (1905-75), Dean of York, Professor of Christian Theology in the University of Nottingham and Canon of Durham Cathedral.

There are some truly memorable passages in this book, and it deserves to be better known among today’s theological students. One such passage occurs in the first chapter ("Faith and Hearing") in which Richardson explains his assumptions with regard to how the New Testament uses the Old Testament. Richardson asks the question, "Whose idea was it to reinterpret the Old Testament idea of redemption in this way?" He writes:


. . . Many . . . details . . . elaborate this basic conception of Jesus as himself the New Israel who accomplishes and brings to its conclusion the role which the Old Israel essayed but did not complete. Where the Old Israel had failed, the New Israel conquered. The Scriptures were fulfilled; the story of redemption was concluded. 

Since the rise of modern biblical scholarship the question has been asked, Who first thought of this way of setting forth the significance of the historical life of Jesus? 

Every conceivable kind of answer has been given. It could not have been the Evangelists who first thought of it, because St Paul knew it long before St Mark’s Gospel was written. It could hardly have been St Paul, if we may trust the evidence which he himself supplies, including, of course, his own protestations of loyalty to the Gospel which he had received. Could it, then, have been the community at large, the Church into which St Paul “was baptized?” Some scholars have assumed that the early Christian community collectively worked out the theology of Christ as the fulfilment of the Scriptures. Such a conclusion, however, is not convincing, because communities do not think out such brilliant reconstructions as this uniquely original reinterpretation of the OT plan of salvation. 

There must have been some profoundly original mind which started the whole development on its course. Are we to assume that some creative thinker, whose name and whose memory have perished, is the genius behind the NT theology? Such a conclusion would indeed be an argumentum ex silentio.   

There remains only one other possibility: the mind behind the NT reinterpretation of the OT theology of redemption was that of Jesus himself. Could any solution be more probable? It was the Lord himself who first suggested, as much by his deeds (signs) as by his words, the fundamental lines of the theology of the NT. 

One gains the impression from reading the Gospels that the disciples were slow to understand what Jesus was trying to teach them during his historical ministry (e.g. Mark 4:40f.; 6:51f; 8:16-21; 9:32, etc.; cf. Luke 24:25; John 14:9, etc.), and that it was not until after the crucifixion and resurrection that the clues which he had left with them began to shape in their minds a coherent pattern. After the resurrection of Jesus they themselves were conscious that they were being guided by the Spirit of the living Lord into all the truth concerning him (John 16:12-15); the things which the historical Jesus had said to them were now brought vividly to their remembrance through the activity of the Holy Spirit in their midst, and now they understood their inner meaning (John 14:26). 

This is the hypothesis upon which the argument of this volume is based, and it is our contention that it makes better sense of the NT evidence than does any other; its validity will be attested by its success or failure as a foundation for a coherent and soundly historical account of the theology of the apostolic Church.

Alan Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament (SCM Press, 1969 ed.), pages 22 to 23.








Chesterton on the Lord's Resurrection



G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936), philosopher, commentator and Christian apologist suggests in The Everlasting Man (1925) how news of the Lord’s resurrection might have been construed as it filtered through to Rome: 

The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. One incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. 

They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. This might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to eat him and drink his blood. 

According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. 
pp. 295-6 


And this, from the same book, a piece on Easter Sunday as the first day of the new creation: 

They took the body down from the cross and one of the few rich men among the first Christians obtained permission to bury it in a rock tomb in his garden; the Romans setting a military guard lest there should be some riot and attempt to recover the body. There was once more a natural symbolism in these natural proceedings; it was well that the tomb should be sealed with all the secrecy of ancient eastern sepulchre and guarded by the authority of the Caesars. 

For in that second cavern the whole of that great and glorious humanity which we call antiquity was gathered up and covered over; and in that place it was buried. It was the end of a very great thing called human history; the history that was merely human. The mythologies and the philosophies were buried there, the gods and the heroes and the sages. In the great Roman phrase, they had lived. But as they could only live, so they could only die; and they were dead. 

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night. What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.
p.345

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Maundy Thursday word to parishioners and friends

Dear parishioners and friends:

The church has been described as: “that body of disciples who believe in Jesus as their Saviour and who have come to know through him the triune God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit . . . The first disciples gradually came to know how much they needed Jesus. He was the water and bread, the light and life that human beings long for in the depths of their hearts and souls . . .” 
(William Henn OFM CAP in The People of God, p.18)

We tend to use the word “church” to describe buildings like St Lukes. But the "church" is not the building; it is the community of faith and love that gathers regularly to worship God IN the building. Since the very beginning, Christians have believed that by doing this we are joined, not just with each other, but with the WHOLE community of the Lord's people in heaven and on earth - not to mention the choirs of angels and archangels in glory around the heavenly throne. Merging our praise with theirs, we sing, we pray, and we listen to sermons encouraging us from the Bible to find God’s love in the ups and downs of everyday life. Furthermore, coming to Mass and acknowledging Jesus as our Lord, we gain strength that enables us not to be limited to our own resources in facing the challenges of daily living. And we we share with our brothers and sisters in Christ as we grow together.

At least some who read these words will be going through a time of inner restlessness and perhaps deep dissatisfaction with life. You find it hard to work out what is missing. You might be able to look back to a time when you were very aware of God’s loving presence, but the cares of life and all the things that have happened since those days have caused you to drift. Or maybe you've never really been aware of his love.

What better time than Holy Week to dip your toe in the water and reach out to God. You will find a real welcome in our church’s Holy Week services.


WHAT DOES THE DEATH OF JESUS MEAN?
There are different ways of looking at what happened on that first Good Friday when Jesus died on the Cross. All Christians see the Cross as the greatest demonstration there could ever be of God’s love. Some concentrate on Jesus dying to be the sacrifice of love that makes up for our sins and takes takes them away. Others see the death of Jesus as a cosmic battle in which darkness and evil are conquered. Each of these ideas of what God did on the Cross come from the Bible.

I find it really helpful to see the Cross as God’s way of sharing with us in the anguish and pain we know only too well, not just “helping us through it”, but somehow, mysteriously, pouring his love and strength into our lives. from WITHIN what it means to be human. Bishop Kallistos Ware puts it so beautifully:

“ . . . there was a Cross in the heart of God before there was one planted outside Jerusalem; and though the Cross of wood has been taken down, the cross in God’s heart still remains.  It is the Cross of pain and triumph - both together.  And those who can believe this will find that joy is mingled with their cup of bitterness.  They will share on a human level in the divine experience of victorious suffering.”

The Cross is God’s way of “loving the world back to himself.” 


HIS JOURNEY AND OURS
The traditional services of HOLY WEEK are ​life-changing. They are ​the focus of the Christian year. By means of Scripture,​ ​prayer, music, ancient symbols and hallowed rituals, they draw us into the saving events at​ ​the heart of the Gospel, enabling us to know the Lord more deeply, as we share the​ ​“fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

Last Sunday (“Palm Sunday”) we joined with the people in Jerusalem 2000 years ago in welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. Tonight (“Maundy Thursday”) we are with him in the Upper Room where he gives us the Mass and washes the feet of the apostles. We follow him to the Garden of Gethsemane where he struggles in agonising prayer. Tomorrow (“Good Friday”) we tread with him the way of sorrows to the hill of Calvary, where we stand with Mary and the others, witnessing - and sharing in -the pain and the victory of the Cross. Then at the Easter Masses we celebrate - with greater joy than ever - the rising of Jesus from the dead and the new life he gives to us.

It is a great privilege for me to be leading you through Holy Week this year. I encourage you to use these next few days as a pilgrimage into the heart of God. You may have been through 70 or 80 Holy Weeks. Or you may be treading the way of the Cross for the very first time. If you do so - however falteringly - with sincerity of heart and openness to God, you will reach the Empty Tomb and experience the power of the Lord’s resurrection.

And if you’ve been away for a while, getting back to church for these special services will help you put the world’s problems and tragedies in perspective, and make a little more sense out of your own life. We look forward to welcoming you. God bless.

- Fr David


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Today's readings and reflection



FIRST READING (Isaiah 50:4-9a)
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be smitten, that you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and bleeding wounds; they are not pressed out, or bound up, or softened with oil. Your country lies desolate, your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence aliens devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by aliens. And the daughter of Zion is left like a booth in a vineyard, like a lodge in a cucumber field, like a besieged city. If the Lord of hosts had not left us a few survivors, we should have been like Sodom.


GOSPEL (Matthew 26:14-25)
O one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?”

And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.

And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the passover?” He said, “Go into the city to a certain one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at your house with my disciples.’” And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the passover.

When it was evening, he sat at table with the twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful, and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me, will betray me. The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who betrayed him, said, “Is it I, Master?” He said to him, “You have said so.”


REFLECTIONS
The tragedy of the betrayal - Servants of the Word

How do we prepare to celebrate the days ahead?- Pope Benedict XVI


FURTHERMORE . . .
Yesterday and today, the Church has forced us to consider Judas, who betrayed Jesus. Surely one reason for this is to help us recognize the Judas we have within and repent.

Jesus loved Judas. Even when Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Jesus called Judas his friend (Matthew 26:50). At the Last Supper, Jesus gave Judas the select morsel of food (John 13:26). Nor did Jesus embarrass Judas when he announced that one of the apostles would betray him, for when Judas left the Last Supper, some of the other apostles thought Judas was going to “buy what was needed for the feast, or to give something to the poor” (John 13:29). Jesus loved Judas so much that he had obviously not drawn attention to his stealing from the common purse (John 12:6).

We sometimes feel a bit snooty toward Judas, forgetting that we, too, betray the Lord often through the paucity of our witness, the lack of desire for sanctification, and our bullying treatment of others. Let's examine our hearts to see what we should confess and put right with him. 

Sometimes we have been betrayed by other people whom we have trusted and loved - even within the Church - and those experiences have left scars and wounds that impact on us years (and even decades) later.  Let's open our hearts and minds to the healing love of the Lord Jesus who suffered do much for us, and who along can renew us deep within. 

Jesus loves each one of us with tenderness and mercy. He sees the Judas in us, convicts us of our sins, and calls us to repentance so that we will receive his love and healing. Jesus loved Judas, but Judas pushed his love away. Jesus loves each of us. Will we allow ourselves to be drawn deeply into his love, or, as with Judas, will his death for us be in vain?


PRAYER
O Gracious Father,
we humbly beseech thee for thy holy Catholic Church;
that thou wouldest be pleased to fill it with all truth, in all peace.
Where it is corrupt, purify it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where in any thing it is amiss, reform it.
Where it is right, establish it;
where it is in want, provide for it;
where it is divided, reunite it;
for the sake of him who died and rose again,
and ever liveth to make intercession for us,
Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord.
Amen.
Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645)



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Today's readings and reflection



FIRST READING  (Isaiah 49:1-6)
Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the Lord, and my recompense with my God.”

And now the Lord says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honoured in the eyes of the Lord, and my God has become my strength - he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”


GOSPEL  (John 13:21-33, 36-38)
When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.”

So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?”

Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.”

So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.”

Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times.”


REFLECTIONS
Betrayal and faltering loyalty to Jesus - Servants of the Word

Love & Envy: exploring the psychology of Judas - Alexander Lucie-Smith

One of you will betray me - Fr Erbin Fernandez 
During the Passover meal, Jesus made a solemn declaration that one of his own disciples would betray him. Reclining at table (the Greek style of dining of the day), John leaned his head on Jesus’ chest in anguish. Just as Jesus reposed in the heart of the Father, the disciple abided in the bosom of the Lord. Although Judas was preparing to betray him, as a last gesture of love Jesus handed him a morsel of bitter herbs dipped in salt water (a symbol of the tears shed by the slaves in Egypt). Judas took the offering and quickly departed. To illustrate Judas’ dark deed, John wrote poignantly, “and it was night” (v.30). Jesus warned Peter that he would also betray him by denying knowledge of him. Peter protested that he would lay down his life for his Master, but Jesus knew that Peter would fail him. It was left to Jesus to make this final journey alone. Am I able to reconcile with someone whom I have hurt or who has injured me? Lord Jesus, forgive me for the many ways I betray your love.

This scene of the gospel is replayed in every Eucharistic celebration over and over again – is it not? Some of us come to the Eucharist without clearly discerning whether we eat of the bread and drink of the cup worthily. I am not here just referring to the situation of being in a state of sin to some extent we are all in a state of original sin that marks us for life. But rather have we discerned the call to be at the Eucharist as followers of the Lord who will `Do this in memory of Him`. This is the more important consideration for us do we feel the pain of the people of Syria who are being killed in a most gruesome manner by chemical attack. Does it weigh heavy on our hearts as we receive the Eucharist that we are called to serve them in some way – if not we betray the Lord. If you did not serve the least of my brothers and sisters, you did not serve me. Or have I become too over -confident like Peter and I am not aware that I need to lean on Christ. Either position is untenable for us as Christians. Let us humble ourselves like John the Beloved in this Holy Week.


FURTHERMORE . . .
We cannot reflect on the passion, the suffering of Jesus, or the meaning of the Cross without bumping into Judas. We would rather not - but he’s unavoidable. He is at the heart of the story: Judas the betrayer, Judas the enigma. The Lord chose him, along with the other eleven disciples, after spending a whole night in prayer. Judas lived and travelled with Jesus and the other eleven every day for three years, hearing all that amazing teaching, and witnessing Jesus’ miracles of love. He was there in the upper room when Jesus washed their feet - HIS feet! Jesus loved Judas without reservation. After all of this, Judas betrayed Jesus.

This was in fulfilment of Scripture. Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9. David, the Psalmist, had a lot of people who hated him and throughout his life he experienced many hardships. But in verse 9 he says “even my close friend, the one I trusted and shared my bread with has lifted up his heel against me.” This is the deepest pain of all. Not just an enemy but a close and trusted friend.

There are many dimensions to the story of Judas. There are many mysteries too. But one thing is clear, and certainly not trivial. Betrayal is a massive part of the human experience, undoubtedly the ugliest aspect of human relationships. Sooner or later we all experience it. Jesus is our great High Priest, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” - ALL the infirmities a broken sin-sick world can throw at us - including the pain of betrayal.


PRAYER
My Father, 
I abandon myself to you.
Do with me as you will.
Whatever you may do with me I thank you.
I am prepared for anything.
I accept everything,
provided your will is fulfilled in me
and in all creatures.
I ask for nothing more, my God.
I place my soul in your hands.
I give it to you, my God,
with all the love of my heart,
because I love you.
And for me it is a necessity of love,
this gift of myself,
this placing of myself in your hands
without reserve in boundless confidence,
because you are my Father.
Amen.
Charles de Foucauld (1858-1916)


Monday, April 10, 2017

Today's readings and reflection



FIRST READING  (Isaiah 42:1-7)
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.

"He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. "

Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."


GOSPEL  (John 12:1-11)
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him.

Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.

But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?"

This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.

Jesus said, "Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me."

When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came, not only on account of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus also to death, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.


REFLECTION
Extravagant love for Jesus - Servants of the Word 


FURTHERMORE . . .

"Before the triumphal procession moved towards Jerusalem, Jesus stopped at the home of His friend Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. There were two persons at the supper that distinguished themselves by their behaviour: Mary, the sister of Lazarus, and Judas, the disciple of Jesus, whose surname was Iscariot.

"Mary, sensing somehow that the earthly ministry of Jesus was drawing to a close, takes a pound of pure and expensive alabaster and anoints the feet of Christ, wiping them with her hair. The house was soon permeated by the sweet fragrance of the alabaster.

"Judas, however, always acutely conscious of the monetary value of everything, censured the pious act of Mary, charging her with the wanton waste of that which 'might have been sold for much, and given to the poor' (Matthew 26:9). We then see Jesus in His role as Defender of the poor and the oppressed. Chrysostom remarks that the piety of Judas here is certainly hypocritical, as is his condemnation of Mary.

“St. Paul tells us that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (II Corinthians 11:14). Judas is unsuccessful at hiding his real motive; he would have liked to have stolen the ointment, and sold it for his own personal profit. Many of us today are guilty of this sin of Judas, particularly those that would rob the church of its liturgical appointments, condemning them as luxuries. Not that they would steal from the church; but whenever a new chalice is needed for Holy Communion they will object that the money is being squandered foolishly, and the same with vestments, icons, and even with Bibles for the Sunday School. Any money spent for religious purposes, and especially for bringing others to the saving faith of Christ, is, according to these people, not necessary. It would be superfluous to comment upon the spiritual condition of these avaricious souls.”

". . . anointing with such expensive oil was the traditional practice reserved for the deceased, the dead. But Jesus was not dead yet, he was very much alive. Then why did all this happen now, you may ask? Mary was foretelling the crucifixion of our Lord on the cross, and His burial in the tomb by her simple actions motivated purely by love. Our Lord specifically states that 'she (Mary) has kept this for the day of My burial.' (John 12:7). Here the actions of Mary teach us that Jesus was already dead to this world and to His human temptations. We too who attempt to live a life in Christ must also be dead to this world if we ever want to receive Christ.”


PRAYER
Alone to sacrifice thou goest, Lord,
giving thyself to Death
whom thou hast slain.
For us thy wretched folk is any word?
Who know that for our sins this is thy pain?
For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds.
Why must thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer in thy Passion, Lord,
that very suffering may thy mercy win.
This is the night of tears, the three days' space,
sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
and hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.
So may our hearts share in thine anguish, Lord,
that they may sharers of thy glory be;
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
to win the laughter of thine Easter Day.
- Peter Abelard (1079-1142)


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday - We are at war!

Father Alexander Tefft is the priest at the Antiochian Orthodox Parish of Saint Botolph, London, U.K., as well as Chaplain and Tutor at the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies at Cambridge. Here is the sermon he preached for Palm Sunday 2010. 

Like the children 
with the palms of victory, 
we cry out to Thee, 
O Vanquisher of Death … 
(Troparion of the Entry of Christ into Jerusalem) 

We are at war: so choose your sides, now! No one is neutral. No one stands idly by and says: This war has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with you! Do you know what is at stake? Your home, your freedom. Your family and all your loved ones. All that you have, or ever had, or ever will have. Everything you treasure is at stake. The enemy is everywhere, there is nowhere to hide. Wherever you flee, you run straight into his line of fire. His bombs are planted where you least expect; his landmines, wherever you set your foot. His gun is pointed at your gut.

This enemy wants more than victory. He wants to watch you whimper, to see you crawl on all fours and plead for your life. He prolongs your agony until you curse the hour you were born. You can never buy him off – you can never frighten him away. Try to negotiate with him: you will only hand over the ones that you love, straight into his hands. The only question is: Will you collaborate? Or will you resist? In this fight, there are no neutrals: whoever is not with us, is against us. So form ranks, now! The oldest war you have ever fought, you are engaged in; the oldest enemy you have ever known is at your throat. You have been fighting this enemy from the hour that you were conceived in the womb. 

The enemy … is death. 

How can you recognise him? A masked figure in a black cape, lined with scarlet? Death is subtler than that. He creeps up behind, like an assassin. He infiltrates all your lines of defence. He stirs up a panic. He strikes and retreats, wears you down until you lose the strength to resist. Worst of all, he places his allies all around you. Biologists, professors of the public understanding of science tell you: ‘Death is natural. Your heart stops, that’s is it’. Professional atheists, sipping port in the members’ common room, saying: ‘When you die, you decay. No harps, no angels, no nothing. So stop bothering our high society with your fairy tales about life after death’. So-called bishops in stiff clerical collars join in and tell you: ‘Jesus never rose again in his body. His Resurrection means that his moral teachings live on forever’. The allies and accomplices of death never need to form ranks at all. Young atheists are too full of themselves to think about death; old atheists are too full of irony to notice, they are dead already. But make no mistake. Whoever denies the Resurrection is the accomplice of death: above all, if he (or she?) wears a clerical collar.

He collaborates: he negotiates to hand over your loved ones to the enemy. He holds the door open to death and says: ‘Come on in!’ ‘Sell all the candles, the robes and the ritual ointment’, the atheist shouts. ‘Give it to the poor!’ That is what Christianity is about, not fairy tales about rising from the dead. 

But, if you have ever watched a loved one die, you know death isn’t natural. Death does not begin when your heart stops. Death begins as soon as you give him the victory. The enemy, the obscene, unnatural monster, yawns in front of you. He opens the black pit of his throat, until you give him the last word. Today, we deny him the last word. 

This day, Palm Sunday, we declare war on death. Death in all his forms. Your baby, too weak to move in his incubator. Your husband or wife, your father or mother, wasting and confused: a mind demented, a body darkened with sores, slipping like sand out of your hands. A child left to bleed in the street. The black pit of death opens up before us – and Christ, the enemy of death, stands at the pit and calls inside. His voice echoes in the pit, in the dark. Yesterday, he stood at the mouth of the cave and called out: ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ Now, his friend Lazarus sits at table with him. Mary, the sister of Lazarus, anoints his feet with the most costly ointment. Already, the accomplices of death complain: ‘Sell the ointment, give it to the poor’. But the ointment is for more than anointing the dead. It is the oil of a wrestler, preparing for combat. ‘Kill Lazarus!’ cry the accomplices of death. On account of him, the crowds begin to see why Jesus has come. This is no carpenter’s son, teaching morals on a mountain top. This is the final Vanquisher of Death. He does not ride into Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. He rides out into the field of battle. This is the final showdown. This is the conquest of death. 

The crowds that surround him throw branches of palm trees on his path. They shout out ‘Hosanna to the Liberator! Hosanna to the King of Israel!’ They await his final showdown – but they mistake the enemy. This is no freedom fighter, seated on horseback to meet the Romans face to face. He wears no armour, no helmet or breastplate. He rides on to victory; but it is no ordinary victory, in no ordinary war. If the enemy is everywhere, so is he; if the enemy is ruthless, he is more ruthless; if the enemy prolongs your anguish, he absorbs that anguish into himself. This day, he rides right into the line of fire. Yesterday, he stood at the mouth of the cave and called Lazarus forth; in five days, he will ride into mouth of hell. He will plunge into the throat of death. He will stand firm, like the stubborn colt of a donkey that he rides into Jerusalem today. He will stand his ground – and the fire of his divine being will burn out the enemy from inside. Death will groan in agony: ‘What was this flesh I swallowed up? A mangled, tortured body, a body abandoned by his friends: I swallowed it, and met God face to face! I took what I saw and crumbled at what I could not see. Now, I surrender all the dead’. This Sunday, death opens its throat to swallow us live – and Christ rides in, on an ass’s colt. By the eve of Friday, he will cut death open from inside. On Saturday, he will burn out the chambers of hell. On Sunday, death will vomit him out; and, with him, all the dead will arise. 

Brothers and Sisters in Christ: this is not a piece of folk art in my hand. It is a weapon. A token of the worst that death can do. Two bars of wood, hoisted up from the ground in a desolate place. A victim, stripped naked, his hands and feet nailed into the wood; then, exposed to sun and wind, flies and birds – left to die a slow, obscene death. But every death is obscene. Every death is an insult to a creature made in the image of God. But see! This cross is not made of wood. It is woven from palm branches, strewn on the streets of the Holy City. Branches, trampled under the foot of a donkey; just as the One who rides on that donkey, will trample down death by death. Everyone here who has lost someone he or she loved; everyone here, whom death has robbed: let him go forth into the battle this day. This is the final showdown. Christ enters the Holy City, on his way to win back your loved ones. He rides down the throat of the monster. This day, carrying palms of victory, we cry out ‘Hosanna!’ to the Vanquisher of Death.


Palm Sunday High Mass, All Saints’ Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, 2003



Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
at Evensong on Palm Sunday,
All Saints Wickham Terrace, Brisbane, 2003




Saturday, April 8, 2017

Today's readings and meditation



FIRST READING (Ezekiel 37:21-28)
Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.

They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

“My servant David shall be king over them; and they shall all have one shepherd. They shall follow my ordinances and be careful to observe my statutes. They shall dwell in the land where your fathers dwelt that I gave to my servant Jacob; they and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there for ever; and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

“I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; and I will bless them and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.

“My dwelling place shall be with them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary is in the midst of them for evermore.”


GOSPEL (John 11:45-57)
Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.”

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if any one knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.


REFLECTIONS
They took counsel how to put him to death Servants of the Word 

Standing on the threshold of Holy Week - Passionist Nuns of Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky, U.S.A. 

Jesus foreshadows his death and resurrection Reverend Peter Stravinskas 


FURTHERMORE . . .
Supposing you were at the gate of death and Christ stood there and said: “Do you want to come back?’ And you said: “Yes”, - doesn’t it imply that you are coming back on absolutely new terms? Think of the rising of Lazarus. He had died, he had had the total experience of death and then he was brought back. Do you think that he possibly could return to the life he led with all its smallness, all the things that were not worthy of what truly a human being is, of the greatness of man? Of course not. And again in small it is the same with our illnesses. We come back to health and this health is a new birth, it’s a new beginning, it’s an offer given us by God to start life again. Physically and mentally it does come to this. I know that in my small experience, for about fifty years I have had a dislocated back. The moment this back was put right a few years ago I felt new life was given and that this life, this back of mine was to be used to the full, was to be used in a way in which I could not use the old one, the broken one, the dislocated one. And this does apply to all conditions in which healing comes to us.

I think we must realise that when we speak of healing in Christian terms we do not speak simply of a power possessed by God or by His saints or by people who being neither saints nor God are possessed of a natural gift to restore health for us to continue to live in the way in which we lived before, to remain the same unchanged. God does not heal us in order that we should go back to our sinful condition. He offers us newness of life, not the old life which we have already lost. And the new life which is offered us is no longer ours in a way, it is His, it’s a gift of His, a present. It was Mine to give, take it... And it seems to me that thinking in spiritual terms, it is true. Because what is sin? We define sin all the time as moral infringement but it is much more than this: it is the very thing of which I was speaking, it is the lack of wholeness. When you think of yourself - or perhaps, I think of myself if you are that better than I which I doubt, - if we think of ourselves: I am divided - mind against heart, heart against will, body against all the rest. We are all not only schizophrenic, but schizo-everything, we are just like a broken mirror and so that is the condition of sin: it is not so much that the mirror doesn’t reflect well, it is the fact that it is broken that is the problem. You can, of course, try to take a small piece of it and see what you can see, but it is still a broken mirror. And this brokenness of ours within corresponds to a brokenness in our relationships with other people. We are afraid of them, we are envious of them, we are greedy, what not. So it creates a whole relational sinfulness and indeed it applies supremely to God because it all results from our having lost our harmony with God. The saints are people who are in harmony with Him, nothing more, nothing less, simply that. And as the result of being in harmony they can be in harmony within themselves and with other people.
Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh - excerpt from a talk


PRAYER
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast won for me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly:
for ever and ever. Amen.

St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)


Friday, April 7, 2017

Today's readings and reflection



FIRST READING (Jeremiah 20:10-13)
I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! “Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” say all my familiar friends, watching for my fall. “Perhaps he will be deceived, then we can overcome him, and take our revenge on him.”

But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, they will not overcome me. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonour will never be forgotten.

O Lord of hosts, who triest the righteous, who seest the heart and the mind, let me see thy vengeance upon them, for to thee have I committed my cause.

Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers.


GOSPEL (John 10:31-42)
At that time: The Jews took up stones again to stone Jesus. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?”

The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken), do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,’ because I said, `I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

Again they tried to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.

He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there he remained. And many came to him; and they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.”

And many believed in him there.


REFLECTIONS
I am the Son of God - Servants of the Word

Rejection for speaking the truth Howie Kalb, SJ

Think about how you wear the Cross Pope Francis


FURTHERMORE . . .
John the Baptist was obviously not as great as Jesus was - he performed no signs like Jesus did. But he did serve his purpose to point people to Jesus.

What a testimony - everything John said about Jesus was true.

John had been beheaded; was gone, but his teaching lived on. May people say about us when we are gone that everything we told them about Jesus was true. May neighbours and co-workers and friends say that we spoke the truth of Jesus in love.

May our kids and relatives and fellow believers know we’re committed to knowing and sharing God’s truth revealed in his Word and in Jesus. And may many believe in Jesus through our testimony as they did there where John had ministered. I pray that you want that kind of legacy - a legacy of loving proclamation of biblical and Christ-honouring truth.

But you will not have that legacy unless you discipline your mind to understand and communicate truth clearly to people of every age.

You may have a legacy of being a nice person, even a caring Christian who did loving acts of service. But you may not leave enough truth behind you for anyone to follow in your footsteps. Please discipline your mind; open your mouth to speak truth to other people.

You will fumble and fail and have to correct yourself and even have to seek forgiveness for wrong words at times. You will even face opposition like Jesus did, but it is worth it. It is worth the joy you’ll have - the love you’ll share. It is worth the effort for the glory of God; the good of others. Be like Jesus; make biblical arguments out of love for souls.

And today, if you are a soul who has never come face to face with the exclusive truth claims of Jesus, then hear him today. He healed all kinds of incurable diseases and afflictions to show his divine power and love. He spoke with undeniable authority and wisdom. He was God in flesh. He lived on earth and then He died to receive the punishment for sin for all who trust him. Then he rose again to prove he conquered of sin and death. So believe; entrust your life to him.
From Blasphemy or Deity? By Mark Vaughan


PRAYER
O my God, I beseech thee, by thy loneliness,
not that thou shouldst spare me affliction,
but that thou not abandon me in it.
When I encounter affliction,
teach me to see thee in it
as my sole Comforter.
May affliction strengthen my faith,
fortify my hope,
and purify my love.
Grant me the grace to see thy hand
in my affliction,
and to desire no other comforter but thee. Amen.
- St Bernadette of Lourdes (1844-1879)