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Still I Stumble

Opening Prayer from The Carmelite Lectio Divina (www.ocarm.org), Mk9:2-23.

Lord our God,
when Your Son was transfigured
You gave eyes of faith to the apostles
to see beyond appearances
and to recognize Jesus as Your beloved Son.
This vision gave them courage for the hour of trial. When our faith and trust
seem to desert us in dark moments,
let Your Son take us up to the mountain
and give us a glimpse of His light,
that with fresh courage and generosity
we may see where He wants us to go.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen

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We Are Thus or Thus

Grace the golden orb 

Beams into primeval flame, 

That shoots

Coded desires

To the rounded mask

(Teeming with ideas 

High aspirations 

And multitudes of emotions).

 

The darts, selectively coupling

with fraternal correlatives, 

Slip to the darker side. 

At measured pace

The orb rotates

Capturing to itself a myriad marriages. 

At appointed point

There’s a stop and stillness; 

Obverse stands nakedly, 

In bright rays 

Illuminated,

A meshwork 

of Cause and Affects. 

 

Transformed by appetites

For gold, frankincense and myrrh,

The orb dull-drifts to recesses of darkness;

But is saved by the unions transcendental

That counter pull to warmth of the primordial Source-

Directed  by its own discernments, 

Attractions

Selections

Volitions, 

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Peter’s Principle

Drippingly

Awashed 

in glittering ripples

I wade deeper by paces

Unmindfully,

As the clouds grow darker.

Below the surface 

Jocund schools of fish

And denizens of the deep

Approach,

Curiosity sweeping aside inhibitions

While

Darting between swaying weeds 

And shelter of rockery.

The waters get deeper and darker,

Darker still the sunless wells,

Threatening 

Compelling curiosity;

The weeds too seem changed,

Stronger 

They menacingly

Wave intruders away.

Gasping,

I break the troubled waters,

As darkness covers the sky.

In Desperation

I cry,

“Help me Lord, I sink!”

Helped by his firm,gentle grip,

I surface;

The clouds drift away,

The sea’s calm and peaceful again.

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When Things Are Thus or Thus

Well might one ask, “What need’s truth? We already  have the truths we need; precisely put down, with proofs and principles, by prominent people. No more need for blind faith. With  practical application  and a measure of human ingenuity, we could construct fulcrums and would lift the world. No more fantasies about the man in the moon: now it’s only a body of craters and dunes waiting for someone to stomp on. What need of an invisible deity? We, on our own, are able to travel to Mars – even colonise distant galaxies!” It has been a long journey for the species to reach this assured consciousness. It has been so long, that we forget where we began; and the myriad stages in between. At so many stages we thought that we had reached the zenith of our creativity and achievements – but there has always been room for more progress. 

When we can make and do so many things, we also have the intellectual ability to decide what is good for us: what is right and what is wrong. We do not need axioms brought down from mountains, the entrails of caves, or churned up from the depths of the oceans. For a most of the time, elders believed and practised what they were told. There were  obvious exceptions, and at times very subtle changes, to designed for convenience.  Generations have decided their own parameters of social behaviour, each setting aside the “morality” of the predecessor. With the stroke of a pen years of tradition and ideologies have been relegated to the dustbin of the history. Like a new suit, morality has been consonant with the fashion of the day. Within living memory we have seen radical changes in social behaviour. Arguably, these changes have made us better, more sensitive, and more enlightened than ever before.

Do these attributes and attainments make us better than sheep or goats; two-legged things that strut and fret; drop off, and then just disappear? I think not. For then, roses and green fields would be only fodder. I think not, for  then empathy and sharing in another’s joys and sufferings would be no more than expressions of our gregariousness. Then, all sublime expressions would be just dabbling and babbling  in indolence. To me, these and other noble expressions of humanity, are connects with a transcendent state that’s the sum-total of human consciousness; the essence of all beauty and the perfect form of all perfection. Therefore, I can say, “I believe in the One I belong to – my model and all that I aspire to be.”     

 

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Jubilee?

Reclined in a deck chair

letting an evening breeze, touch,

sooth and refresh

the tired brain and assorted aches and pains

 

the Opera House’s sails majestically 

carry an argosy 

of culture trinkets and symphonies  

toward the harbour bridge

where rainbows 

cascade

into a sullen sea

children laugh and clap

at each sulphuric spark

that mushrooms and pops 

 in a sparkling display

 

tired

this brain wanders off 

the celebration

settling on 

the mute twinkle 

above the vanishing horizon

a constant sentinel at its post

 

What charts and instruments

weighed

measured mass

circumference

distance and composition?

what lightyears were travelled 

to tease

and confound intellects?

 

was a notional starting point 

vacated

by this travelling glow-piece

(product of a disintegration) 

millions of light years ago

presumably 

in another galaxy?

 

all will be answered

and the world will accept  

till

fresh intellect and instruments

prove void

the labour and hypothesis.

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Being Right Isn’t Always Right: A Moral Case

What good’s a liberty gained by depriving others the same right? Belligerent attitudes now dare weak politicians, to subvert the laws that give basic rights to simple folks, to live simple lives in the traditions of their ancestors. One battle after another has been won by the same modus operandi; with the growing certainty that one day the war will be won.

Religious groups have not done themselves any favours. The sins of leaders are to be worn by the unsuspecting followers. Most Faiths are easy targets, and their defences weakened by a loss of morale, and a feeling of hopelessness under the incessant pressure of “Secular” forces. The lifestyles and misuse of power, by a few, further weakens  the will of those confronting compelling empirical evidence posed in the fluid environment of commercialism and technology. Persistent arguments and the hammering of guilt, have led to self-doubts and a turn to other diversions for solace and personal dignity.

It is easy to pursue a campaign against religious thinking that is nebulous and cannot be proven in sensual terms. Just a manipulation of the meaning of “Secularism”, offers, virtually, unbridled liberty. The argument becomes, “ Faith against Science” – and such epic allusions. With insufficient “evidence” to prosecute an argument, the weak submit to stronger arguments; fearing associations being made with superstitions and mediaeval hangovers. In vain, traditionalists turned apologetics, quote chapters and verses from texts made obsolete to this new rationalism. A myriad set about dismantling the fabric of faith, hope and a living Love. 

The LGBTI movement began, legitimately, to empower males and females to assert their sexuality. It is a fact that people with sexual preferences outside the norm, had long suffered vilification, discriminations and were criminalised by all parts of society. It has been a long hard slog for them to gain acceptance and the respect of the community. So, increasingly people are “coming out” in the community. Institutions that have been building bridges of reconciliation must be congratulated.

Problem comes when one group tries to debunk and  overpower the other. Each group’s expressed freedom needs to be respected and acknowledged by all. Institutions should show flexibility and an enlightened approach in their interactions with twenty-first century sensitivities. It does not mean that they should surrender their entitled rights to flourish in freedom and to practice  their cherished beliefs. Whether or not (and how) these differences are accommodated, is a matter for individual consciences and the respective institutions. But, to compel a school to accept students and staff, holding opposing stands to the institution’s values and mission statement, would tantamount to bullying, and an unacceptable form of behaviour. Morally, those who say they stand for human rights, cannot demand rights over the rights of others. The armed forces have some exemptions under the discrimination acts. When I do not like a particular TV programme I am free to switch channels. So, I feel that to force an institution (against its moral code) to accept individual/individuals philosophically opposed to them, is ethically improper as it amounts to undermining the very grounds for their foundation.    

Rosary: New Luminous Mysteries Put Our Lady Aside – Dominican Priest… 

I take exception to the proposition that The Luminous Mysteries are designed to “put our Lady aside”. My response is based on the following understanding:

  1. Pope JohnPaul was devoted to our Lady. This was a practical expression of that devotion.
  2. If the mysteries highlight Jesus’ work on earth, they should be meditated on in the light of the Sorrowful and Glorious mysteries where traditionally Our Lady seems absent from the events. I would say this rounds off the Jesus’ life on earth. And, this would not have been possible without our Lady’s “Yes” to the Paraclete.
  3. Our Lady remains the centre and mediator through the prayers before and after the reciting of the rosary. We need her intercession to make our prayers holy before the Lord.
  4. I am saddened by the freedom exercised by clerics to vent their opinions on VTII, and all that it represents to make the Church relevant in an increasingly secular and anti-Church environment.

Nanny State or Adult Kindergarten

On a daily basis we are fed doses of truths/half-truths/, about who addressed whom inappropriately, causing hurt and angst. Like four year-olds, there is much finger pointing, and reports of “he/she said”, so-and-so. Our journos ferment and encourage the behaviour like protective parents, willing (and indeed keen) to join in the fray. The other night we had an opinionated “jock” wring the last drop out of the lemon of “Heaven and Hell”. All to no other purpose than to enhance his own narcissism, and to feed the “demands” for sensationalism  and conspiracies. Demands created by the media in the first place.

I remember my father had a strict rule of never carrying home tales from school. And, we never did. Of course, these days there is the natural dread of “Bullying”, in all its forms. It is not to be condoned. But, there are natural bullies (for whatever  reason), and there will always be copy-cats who consider bullying an expression of some macho trait that makes the bully superior to “weaklings”. Therefore, the bully measures his/her superiority by the power he/she can assert. It seems a natural pathway for adult bullies and other undesirables.  

The point I wish to make (despite my limited understanding of human behaviour), is that pointing fingers at obnoxious behaviour does not solve anything. “Political Correctness” and legislated measures are no more than band-aids to symptoms of deeper social maladies. It would be a risky and unpopular exercise to get to the bottom of the problem(s); for the cause and affects would be too close to home. Rather than see ourselves as deficient role models and physicians, we tend to blame others – civic authorities are convenient targets because they do not bite back. I suggest that if we want true reform, we must look at our own behaviour as peers, parents, siblings and members of the community. If we can change our own behaviour, we may be able to improve the behaviour of others. 

A Daniel Come To Judgement

There have been speculations about what Jesus wrote in the sand while the crowd awaited his response to the woman accused of adultery. Was it a list of the sins of the elders? Whatever. The time he took also cooled down the charged atmosphere, and created an air of anticipation – making it possible for the response that could be heard and understood by all. Similar pauses are used by orators before making an important point. To the silent and curious gathering Jesus quietly replies, “ Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”. The silence must have been palpable. To people expecting a straight forward rebuttal or agreement, this would be perplexing. This oblique parry and thrust were not expected. What could they say? How could they hide their own hypocrisy? In shame they withdraw, led by their elders.

That is the first moral of the story. But, in it there is an allusion to a case in the Old Testament. Remembering how the Old Testament foreshadows things that are more fully revealed in the New Testament, let’s stretch the string to the story in the Book of Daniel, where elders (Judges), accuse and sentence the beautiful Susanna to be stoned. The Judges were the custodians and interpreters of the Lord’s covenant. Yet blinded by lust they seek the death of one of their own daughters. What may have started as a benign diversion, soon took over and clouded rational thinking. From the admiration of a beautiful woman their thoughts drift to covetousness, and deeper to lust and adultery. Then lying and bearing false witness seemed natural. Eventually, they scheme to kill an innocent person. The elders, misused their authority as judges; till they themselves became the judged.

From the nervous isolated woman Jesus adds a further lesson. He places himself, not as a judge but along with those sinners who did not condemn her. Justice had been done. But, Jesus always has more. He goes on to tell her, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again”. Jesus offers unctions not only for the sins committed, but also reassures her that she can be released from from the burden of guilt, if she listens to his word. Holistic curing. 

The Grain of Wheat


“ The hour has come

For the Son of Man to be glorified.

Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,

It remains just a single grain; 

But if it dies,It bears much fruit.” John12: 20 – 33


Reflecting on the passage, Laurin J Wenig*, says, “The grain of wheat must sacrifice its existence as a seed if it is to become a new shaft of wheat, a new form of life. God calls us again and again to sacrifice, to die to ourselves, in order to come alive to others, to produce much fruit.”

The season of lent is a period for dying into ourselves, to break with the status quo, taking chances to lay bare our weaknesses to be transformed by grace. Unless we undergo change we cannot fully enter the dawn at Easter. 

Like the Son we must divest ourselves of all earthly attachments. On Calvary they stripped Him of human vestiture; mocked Him to deprive Him of dignity; Crucified Him and drained all His blood. Then, He who took no home or bed for rest, was laid in a stranger’s tomb. He entered the final darkness of earthly death. He surrendered Himself with complete helplessness: one cannot imagine the physical pain and abandonment that Jesus suffered. When done, He said “It is finished”. 

All this for what? To be a mockery to the gentiles and a stumbling block to those He came to “save”. Why Lord, was it necessary to undergo this humiliation and suffering? Was it for me? But, I am not worthy that you should come down to me and enter under my roof – a mere spec of dust in the vast expanse of an ever expanding universe. Yet you love me enough to suffer such torment for me. You wish only a humble and contrite heart in return. In your ultimate act of sacrifice and obedience you joyfully accepted the “Cup”, The Father had set before you. Lord, can I not do as much and share in my cup your own extreme sacrifice – fulfilling my Baptismal charism, and acceptance by The Father, as your brother.

*  “Forty Days of Grace, Lenten Prayers and reflections”, Lauren J Wenig, Twenty-Third Publications.

The Power Of The Word


Why the hurry,

Noble Roman?

Why the strident steps among excitement?

What word have you heard

That revives primal times, 

When it raced in silence over chaos,

Creating all?

Have we not heard it all?

Maybe the humdrum of daily chores

Within the chaos of mending, bending and erecting,

Distractions and some useful things;

Hustle and bustle shutting out whisperings of immortality. 

You heard, you came,

You beseeched and returned a believer,

Turning a millennia of obsequious obedience on its head; 

A tyrant’s brow humble in humility – 

Just for a servant’s sake.

Orders used to being obeyed, obey  

The word of a vassal of no fixed address.

Accepting the authority of the word 

You changed the system

That built empires and successful successions and accessions. 

Immortalised, your words resonate

Among those who accept the word with due diligence.

Mere Christianity?

How do we identify ourselves?  Is it by the association with a string of “Thou Shalt and Shalt-nots”? Is it as people who celebrate Christmas, St Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day and “Good Friday”? Or, is it as a people who can have given to the world the most influential political and judicial systems? Indeed. We can justify these claims, and even more – the aggregate of these social systems. But, even together, they form only one aspect of our collective presence. There’s more.

I owe Christianity gratitude for the nurturing family of elders, siblings and other relatives. I owe the education system for the knowledge, skills and attributes that have helped me develop positive and constructive relationships within my self, with others and the rest of the world. I have been welcomed into a community that shares common values and beliefs. I am by definition happy. But, there’s more. I could not live on bread alone. 

Christianity is not just another way of life. Were it so there could be some sense in challenging it as a threat or an alternative. To us it’s the essence and conduit to our life source – our alpha and omega. It makes us who we are. Our outward forms are just vestiges of how we wish to be seen by others in our social and cultural interactions. Some call them our false selves. It is, however, by relating to ourselves and others as branches of one vine that we realise that we are more than flesh, blood, and an assembly of gregarious entities. In transcending the visible we see a reason for our being (for everything). God  gave us the power to name things, and we have given names to all of them. We can sense and experience birth, growth, pain, sorrow, joy, elation – the whole range in conditions and human emotions. And, we have named them well with the grace of God. Compassion and empathy with kindred souls are not just humane reactions, they are offerings to and in imitation of the One who is perfect in all respects. It’s through selfless acts and mindfulness of our Saviour’s grace and promises that we show our Christianity. One can ask no more

Pondering Perfection


We are invited to be perfect “as the Father’s perfect”. But only the Father is perfect. This “unrealistic” reaching for the impossible is a stumbling block for many. How can sinners become perfect? Perfection thus is seen a fixed state, which is different from seeing it as being progressional. The stimulus then becomes its own gratification . To be received into the kingdom of God, the young man who had kept the commandments all his life, was counselled by Jesus to sell off all his riches, give the proceeds to the poor, and then become a follower. It was a big ask, yet possible for one wanting to serve one master. Jesus is always asking for that extra effort: to walk that extra mile: to turn the other cheek: to forgive seventy times seven. The disciple, like a super athlete trains to break a record. Once achieved, the bar is raised higher for the next aspirant. There is no resting on laurels in this constant quest for perfection. When one mountain is surmounted, there is another ahead waiting to be climbed.

To those daunted by the challenge, Jesus has the answer, “All things are possible for God”. With His help we can ask a mountain to be removed, it will be moved. A plant tended to by humans during the day grows mysteriously during the night. So too with God’s help a camel may walk through the eye of a needle – if we believe.

Our spiritual life is the co-related organic dimension of our earthly presence. When our muscles and physical structure grow so too do awareness of history, the environment, and that uncanny ability to speculate on the future. Concurrently a spiritual growth also takes place (whether we recognise it or not). St Ignatius would say, just as the body needs exercise and nurturing, so does our spiritual life. By ignoring it we dumb it down, or, leave it stunted at some childhood level. Thereby, exposing it to misconceptions and unbalanced ridicule. 

Perfection of all that’s perfect, my Lord and Master! Teach me to walk in the way of perfection. You, who remain hidden from the learned and frustrate the proud, hear my prayer. Smile upon me, gather me in your arms, and give me the grace to seek earnestly, with humility, for that priceless pearl for which I would give up all desires and riches, and follow you.