Of Change & Transformation

Matt16:13-19

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

What do the people of today say Christ is? Answers are varied, as varied as  there are points of view. A good number still do call him The Christ, Son of the Living God; but not all with equal conviction and faith. An increasing majority in the world now see religion as a narcotic-induced delirium. They prefer worship before the image of the golden calf, “Secularism”. Their house is built on the shifting sands of “Morality”. Values and codes become as changeable as the fashions of the day. Today it is “Political Correctness”. Tomorrow? It may be all brought on its head by a new invention, or feeling, rendering this “correctness” redundant. How many of us, living to a good age, have seen ethical standards shift under the continuum of change. 

Not that I have any difficulty with “Change”. Like Tennyson, I believe, “the old order changeth; yielding place to new. And God fulfils Himself in many ways, lest one good custom should corrupt the world.” I believe that Jesus came to bring freedom and change to the world. His mission has renewed the face of the earth! Why do we find one form of change rejuvenating and acceptable, while we criticise others? Mainly because of our human nature; we all need recognition of our individual points of view. At a deeper level, all objects are inherently dualistic. They carry within themselves contradictions, opposing poles, “ Yin and Yang”. Opinions and cultural beliefs are conditioned by the primacy of dominant social factors. If I say I do not like some manifestations in “Society”, it is because I come from a background that upholds values and moral attitudes of a particular religious consciousness. I do not judge Secular positions; but I hate interferences into what I hold most dear and are the sustenance of my life. We are all God’s people on a journey together. Respect for others would be mutually ennobling, and the world in all its diversity, could continue to unfold in the magnificence and glory of its Creator .  

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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

Stumbling But Pondering (Mark 8:22-26)

“ I stumbled when I saw”  …     (Gloucester in ‘King Lear’)
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Shakespeare continues to provide evocative openers and insights into the human condition. Jesus, before him used words and actions that still stand as beacons in human history.

Jesus performs the miracle on the blind man – in stages. First he puts spittle on the man’s eyes and asks if he can see anything. The man replies that he did not see very clearly. What he saw was a distortion of reality. His cure is not complete; he sees images through the yeast of Herod and the Pharisees. A fake image built upon generations of distortions and oppressive manipulations of history, myths and traditions. The people of the time had a fixed view of who and what the Christ would represent in the eyes of the Select. Truth had been revealed as to children ( St Paul would call it ) in the words and manner understandable to children. To be righteous, one had to accept the word as children. Leaving the shelters of Eden, the ancestors moved by steps, following their curiosity. But, the Lord did not abandon them. He continued to reveal himself, made covenants, and encouraged organic development; extending freedom that comes with greater awareness. At the start, there may have been punishing storms, fire and brimstone; counter balanced in rich tangible rewards. The rules of reward and punishment, were continually reinforced with storys of kings and queens; much as Santa Claus and the Boogieman capture the imagination of modern children.

Jesus completes the cure by touching the man again. Now he sees clearly. It is as though a veil had been lifted, and he sees the bridegroom before him in his glory. The invitation is to deny the yeast of this world, for a kingdom of God that has its own sets of values and discernments. What is offered is more than righteousness based on the fear of eternal punishment. It is a fair barter of life with him, for life without Him. The eternal graces are extended right away, and there is hope; based not on our own merits, but on the will of a merciful, compassionate and loving Father. It is a mature choice set before us; we may accept or reject the kingdom of God. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Sight is restored for us to see, to accept and do His Holy Will.

Acknowledgement: Carmelite Lectio Divina ( www.ocarm.org), Mark 8:22-26.

Pondering Mk 7:1-9

“You nullify the word of God in favor of your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many such things.”

The word of God is continually being “nullified” in our daily life. We call Jesus our teacher; yet we cling to the words of “elders” in preference to the message of Scriptures.  It seems right and just to follow the lessons taught by people we respect in parental roles, or those considered “learned”. It is tradition handed down through the ages.  It’s misuse was shown by the Pharisees.  

In early times, when questioning was rude and slavish obedience was associated with the Commandments, it was natural to think that the parents knew best. It seemed natural then to accept the words of authority. In an age where we feel all grown-up and rebellious toward all things traditional, there remains a tendency to take “celebrities’  words at face value. Despite the obvious burden of  negativity, there remained the overriding compulsion to adopt new and “unorthodox” pronouncements slavishly – ingrained lies the habit of accepting the words of “experts”. A new tradition spawns to enslave the vulnerab

Jesus took on the form of a slave to invite humans into the “Kingdom of God”. He offered to heal humanity of its many diseases, and to liberate it from all forms of slavery and the shackles of soulless traditions. In our pride and stiffness of heart, we turn divine covenants into man-made  burdens, hard to bear: devoid of inner grace. Divinely inspired “Commandments” splintered into hundreds of “laws” that only few understood. Knowledge became a powerful tool, and the servants became masters – each good custom corrupted the world. In Jesus’ presence the disciples did not fear the consequences of breaking the human traditions regarding purifications, fasting and like observances. In his life and teachings  Jesus testified that the Lord does not take pleasure in hollow sacrifices and trivial tinkering with outward acts of celebrations. The Word of God is love; it is the commandment above all other commandments. Acts of piety and purification must be centred around the love for God and neighbour. Failing in that, worship is an empty act that nullifies the Word and stunts spiritual growth.

Lectio Divina: Mark 6:14-29

Pope Francis ( may God bless you papa), stirs up the imagination. Some see in him John the Baptist; some St Francis of Assisi; some as one of the prophets. We can see him as an apostle for the Twenty-first century. His apostolic ascent marks a distinctive change, from the old to a new; a draining of old wine turned sour, and its replacement by new wine in a new flask.  With introspection, in many areas there is a new awareness of what discipleship means. The ocean is filled with souls, in a rich diversity, craving salvation through Christ. Groups under empirical modernism, secularism, LGBT rights, harsh fundamentalism, cyclic poverty, marginalised minorities, find themselves isolated and captives of their consciences. His leadership of the “Mission”, has been remarkable – the poor and the widows have found a voice and a home; shackles made of fake consciences are falling before the light of recovered Mercy.
His teaching is more attuned to modern demands for satisfaction based on logical thinking. While he encourages traditional forms of devotion, he also urges us to think like adults. People find it challenging when he asks us to question the way we pray the Lord’s Prayer. He is really asking the faithful is to understand and pray in a meaningful way when they recite even formulated prayers. When Jesus says we are to adopt a child-like attitude to faith he was not demanding childish blind faith. As we grow older, he calls us to think like grownups and to act as grownups. In his parables he wants us to be filled with wonder at God’s creative force, just like children. And, to understand, with a mature attitude, the great mystery of the kingdom of God.
Each effort at reform is challenged by negativity. People quote scriptures and tradition to protect their tenuously held positions of power and patronage. Like Herod, Antipas, they are willing offer a sacrifice on a silver platter to please the power of Mammon.