Saturday, February 28, 2015

Loving enemies????? Today's Lent reflection.

FIRST READING  (Deuteronomy 26:16-19)
Moses spoke to the people, saying: "This day the Lord your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day concerning the Lord that he is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his ordinances, and will obey his voice; and the Lord has declared this day concerning you that you are a people for his own possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, that he will set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honour, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he has spoken."

GOSPEL  (Matthew 5:43-48)
"You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

"For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?

"And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."

The Sunday sermon was on "Forgive Your Enemies." The priest asked, "How many of you have forgiven your enemies?" About half the congregation held up their hands. He asked again, and about 80% put up their hands. The third time round, all hands were raised except for one elderly lady.

"Mrs Jones, I'm surprised at you. Why aren't you willing to forgive your enemies?"

"I don't have any" she responded.

"Are you sure, Mrs Jones? Said the priest. I find that very hard to believe! Please come to the front and explain to everyone how it is possible not to have an enemy in the world."

The little old lady tottered down the aisle, and said: "It's easy, Father. I'm ninety-three years old. I've outlived every single one of them!"

Hearts on fire with the Love of God 
(Word of Life Community)

A godly homily for today
(Paul Hinnebusch)

I remember when I was a little girl in Russia during Holy Week every member of my family - father, mother, and all the servants lined up and, beginning with father, bowed low before one another and said to each, "Forgive me for any hurt that I might have inflicted on you." And the answer from the other was, "May the Lord forgive you as I forgive you. Amen." So everyone asked forgiveness from one another, because without forgiveness, which is the greatest sign of love, how can one receive the God of love?

We hurt people, unwillingly and even unwittingly, by the weakness of our nature, so we need forgiveness from our brothers and sisters, and we need to forgive them as well. We cannot enter Holy Week unless we forgive totally, uncompromisingly, and completely. For before our eyes will soon be Jesus Christ himself, who will cry out from the height of the cross, "Father, forgive them."

Since we are baptized into the death and life of Jesus Christ, we should not allow the night to fall on our anger. We should beg forgiveness and forgive every day. Let us pray that we may forgive, because no one forgives these days, nationally and internationally speaking, and perhaps also personally. That is why we have the mess that we have.
Catherine Doherty in the Madonna House Staff Letter #59 
(Reproduced in Grace in Every Season, page 97)

Lord, thou hast prepared a table for me
against them that trouble me.
Let that holy Sacrament of the Eucharist
be to me a defence and shield,
a nourishment and medicine, life and health,
a means of sanctification and spiritual growth;
that I, receiving the Body of my dearest Lord,
may be one with his mystical body,
and of the same Spirit,
united with indissoluble bonds of a strong faith,
and a holy hope,
and a never-failing charity,
that from this veil I may pass into the visions of eternal charity,
from eating thy Body to beholding thy face
in the glories of thy everlasting kingdom,
O blessed and eternal Jesus. Amen.
Bishop Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday of the First Week of Lent . . . Reconciliation and Forgiveness

FIRST READING  (Ezekiel 18:21-28)
Thus says the Lord: "If a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness which he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity and does the same abominable things that the wicked man does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds which he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, he shall die.

"Yet you say, `The way of the Lord is not just.' Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die for it; for the iniquity which he has committed he shall die. Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is lawful and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.

GOSPEL  (Matthew 5:20-26)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.

"So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny."

If, like me, you are around 60 years of age and have been a practising Christian for most of your life, you will have listened to at least 2,500 sermons. What experts we should be in things concerning the Christian Faith! For you as well as for me, however, just a few of those sermons remain in our minds and hearts as if we heard them yesterday. One such sermon bowled me over when I was just 15. It gave shape to my lifelong meditation on so many aspects of God's revelation. The preacher (a retired missionary from China) spoke at the youth fellowship one Sunday night and then preached in church - electrifyingly - about "the scarlet cord" which runs through Scripture, binding it together - the Blood of Jesus which atones for our sins and brings us new life, and in the light of which we should read the Old Testament. Imagine my surprise when recently browsing through Alice Linsley's blog Just Genesis (one of the most worthwhile blogs there is, packed full of orthodox scholarship which is at the same time challenging and devotional) and finding - as if it were a summary of sermon notes made on that Sunday back in 1967 - Alice's post The Scarlet Cord Woven Through the Bible. It is a fitting meditation for this Lenten Friday. I encourage you to go there, and - if you have time - to follow the links in the post, as well.

Be reconciled
(Word of Life Community)

Patience and Impatience
(Mother Basilea Schlink) 

To forgive does not mean to forget what has happened, but to shoulder the weight of another person's frailty or even another person's evil. St. Paul says, "Learn to carry one another's burdens." These burdens are often the failure of each of us to be worthy of our calling - our incapacity to love one another, to accept one another, to serve one another, to help one another on the way that leads to God. Let each of us pass a judgement on our whole soul, on our whole life, judge ourselves honestly, and ask forgiveness not only from God but from our neighbor, which is sometimes much harder than asking forgiveness from God.

We are all frail. We are all in need of support. Do we give this support to one another? Or do we choose those whom we want to support because we like them, because supporting them is a joy, because supporting them means that they also respond to us by gratitude, by friendship? Let us avoid seeking reasons not to forgive.

I remember a man who said to me, "I can forgive every person who has sinned against me, I can even love them, but I must hate the enemies of God." I thought of something which is told to us in the life of one of the saints, in which a priest was praying to God to punish those who betrayed Him by their lives if not by their words. And Christ appeared to him and said, "Never pray for the punishment or the rejection of any one. If there was only one sinner in the world, I would choose to be incarnate again, and again to die upon the cross for this only sinner."

Remember, if we do not forgive our brother, it is not only he who goes away with pain and tears in his heart, but we are wounded. If we do not forgive, we are ourselves not healed. The evil that occurred to us at the hands of another person remains with us, damaging our soul, destroying us.

Let us learn to forgive, so that others may be healed, but also that we may be healed ourselves. Come and bow down before the icon of Christ and of the Mother of God, and then turn to one another with the readiness to be forgiven and to forgive, whatever the cost to us.
(Metropolitan Anthony Bloom of Sourozh from a Forgiveness Vespers sermon given in 1999)

We beseech thee O Lord,
let our hearts be graciously enlightened
by thy holy radiance,
that we may serve thee without fear
in holiness and righteousness
all the days of our life;
that so we may escape the darkness of this world,
and by thy guidance
attain the land of eternal brightness;
through thy mercy O blessed Lord,
who dost live and govern all things,
world without end. Amen.
From the Sarum Breviary of 1085

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The 21 Egyptians martyred in Lybia recognised as saints

Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church
has recognised the 21 mem martyred in Lybia
as saints.

Their names are:

St. Milad (Milad Makeen Zaky)
St. Abanub (Abanub Ayad Atiya)
St. Maged (Maged Solaiman Shehata)
St. Yusuf (Yusuf Shukry Yunan)
St. Kirollos (KIrollos Shokry Fawzy)
St. Bishoy (Bishoy Astafanus Kamel)
St. Somaily (Astafanus Kamel) 
St. Malak (Malak Ibrahim Sinweet)
St. Tawadros (Tawadros Yusuf Tawadros)
St. Girgis (Girgis Milad Sinweet)
St. Mina (Mina Fayez Aziz)
St. Hany (Hany Abdelmesih Salib)
St. Bishoy (Bishoy Adel Khalaf)
St. Samuel (Samuel Alham Wilson)
A Worker from Awr village, name unknown
St. Ezat (Ezat Bishri Naseef)
St. Loqa (Loqa Nagaty)
St. Gaber (Gaber Munir Adly)
St. Esam (Esam Badir Samir)
St. Malak (Malak Farag Abram)
St. Sameh (Sameh Salah Faruq)

O God of love, 
your holy martyrs died 
rather than deny Jesus. 
We ask them to pray for us,
that our lives will bear witness to the Gospel 
and be worthy of their sacrifice. 
Through Jesus Christ, your Son,
who is alive and reigns with you 
and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Family and Complementarity - Revisiting HUMANUM 2014

Just over three years ago (from November 17 to 19, 2014), Pope Francis drew together a colloquium in Rome called HUMANUM. It was jointly organised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Pontifical Council for the Family, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The purpose of the colloquium was to hear presentations and witness testimonies of leading religious figures and scholars representing 14 religious traditions and 23 countries on the subject of the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage. 

The presentations below, from the YouTube HUMANUM website are worth listening to. Anglican speakers Bishop Michael Nazir Ali, Bishop Tom Wright and Archbishop  Nicholas Okoh make significant contributions. And that of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is magisterial. There is a lot to be learned at this point in the sexuality, gender and marriage debate by reflecting on these presentations.