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Chris (email link at the bottom of each page)

Faith with Humility and Trust in God

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Jesus was amazed at the centurion's faith. Nowhere in Israel had he found such faith as in this Gentile, a representative of a hated foreign oppressor. What was it in the centurion's behaviour that so impressed the Lord? The disposition with which he approached Jesus can be summed up in two words: faith and humility. He had complete confidence in Jesus's ability to heal his servant, and he was so humble that he did not consider himself worthy to have Jesus come into his house.

What did the centurion see in Jesus that gave him such faith, when many of the Jewish leaders were not open to Jesus's message? He was a man in authority and recognised Jesus’s absolute authority over sickness and evil. But this was not just his own shrewdness; only the work of God's grace in his heart could have brought him to such a position of faith.

It's with these same two attitudes that we should approach Jesus during this season of Advent. We need to be humble enough to see our weaknesses and neediness, and we should have complete faith in the power of Jesus to heal us and cleanse us from our sins. So perfectly do the centurion's words sum up the way we should approach Jesus that they have been incorporated into the liturgy. We say them just before our most important encounter with Christ, our reception of his body and blood. Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ into our lives in a special way, and we can take these words to heart as we begin this season.

The same is true for us: only God can bring us to see who Jesus really is and our need for him, and we must be open to his work within us. If we approach Jesus with faith and humility this Advent, inviting him into our lives, we shall find that he will work powerfully within us and give us far more than we imagined. Let us be expectant that he will do great things for us in the coming weeks.

Lord Jesus, we are not worthy to receive you, but we know that if you say the word we shall be healed.

 

lsaiah 2:1-5 • Psalm 121(122):1-9 • Matthew 8:5-11

Chris 
 
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The Kingdom of God – Jesus

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Heavenly background, “Come Lord Jesus"

Wisdom 7:22–8:1 • Psalm 119:89–91, 130, 135, 175 • Luke 17:20–25

 

Paul taught us that the kingdom isn’t about rules or regulations but about our interior life of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17).  And St Anthony of Egypt said, “There is no point in our travelling to find the kingdom of heaven . . . As the Lord has already told us, God’s kingdom is within you.”

Jesus turned the idea of God’s kingdom on its head.  the Jews were expecting a political Messiah who would overthrow their Roman oppressors and re-establish the Davidic line and dynasty.  They rejected Jesus as a result of their expectations.  God’s kingdom was breaking into their world but they were too preoccupied with their own concept of the kingdom to recognise it.

God’s kingdom, manifested in Jesus, is first and foremost a spiritual reality rather than something earthly (vv. 20–21; John 18:36).  The kingdom is not even a place or a way of life but a person:  Jesus is the kingdom and the kingdom is Jesus.

Reflecting on the Our Father, Cyprian of Carthage wrote, “ ‘ Thy kingdom come’ . . . Christ himself is the kingdom of God, whom we day by day desire to come, whose advent we crave to be quickly manifested to us.  For since he is the resurrection, because in him we rise again, so also the kingdom of God may be understood to be himself, because in him we shall reign.

The closer we are to Jesus, the closer we are to God’s kingdom.  Also, the closer we are to Jesus, the more we will pray for his return, because we long to see the ones we love.  We manifest God’s kingdom to the world by showing that we know Jesus, through our witness of peace, love, joy and righteousness in the power and the grace of the Holy Spirit.

“Let the proud seek and love earthly kingdoms, but blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (St Augustine)

 
 
Chris
 
 
Image from https://www.faithgateway.com/pray-come-lord-jesus/#.YYzAqi-l1pQ
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The Sower

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Image from http://www.luciasblog.com/2017/10/the-implanted-word-of-god.html
Man sowing seed by hand
 
Luke 8:4–15
 
The Parable of the Sower is the “parable of parables”.  Jesus taught that understanding this parable is the key, or gateway, to all the others (Mark 4:13).
 
One way of looking at the Parable of the Sower is to understand the soil as our mind.  As the word of God engages with our mind a number of things can happen.  The devil (like a bird picking up seed) may steal away the seed that was sown; or as soon as we hear the Word of God the distractions of the day overwhelm us and it is gone.
 
Or we receive it at first with great joy and happiness but the busyness of the day and the testing of life dissipate it and we do not hold on to it.  The problem is that if we don’t hold on to the Scripture that we have read we fail to mature as Christians and to fulfil our vocation.
 
When the soil of our mind is good, though, receiving and valuing the Word of God, we are able to persevere, riding out the ups and downs of the day and meeting each circumstance with a bold proclamation of God’s truth.
 
Father, by the grace of your Holy Spirit, teach me to be good soil and so to bear fruit for your kingdom.
 
Chris
 
 
1 Timothy 6:13–16 • Psalm 99(100) • Luke 8:4–15
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When the Storms of Life Assault Me

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Matthew 14:22–36
 
Jesus retired to a private place to pray.  He knew the importance of refreshing himself in communion with his Father.  During the night he walked across the water to meet his disciples and calmed the storm.  We face many storms that frighten us and which threaten to overwhelm us, but when matters seem at their worst Jesus is with us saying, “Do not be afraid.”.  It brings us peace.
 
It is typical of Peter’s impetuosity that without thinking he got out of the boat and walked towards Jesus.  It is also typical that his faith wobbled as he focused on the power of the storm and not on Jesus.  He began to sink.
 
Peter called on the Lord for help.  We can identify with Peter’s humanity, his love for Jesus, his sudden fear and his call to Jesus to help him.  Peter’s actions here exemplify many of our experiences in trying to live the Christian life.  When Jesus call us we are attracted to him and try to step out in faith to reach him.  If we keep our eyes and mind fixed on him all is well, but when storms and crises arise we are distracted from our faith in the Lord.  But Jesus will still any storm and deliver us from any situation when we have faith.
 
It is at times of trial and challenge that we most need to turn to the Lord.  Focusing on our problems leads to darkness and to despair, but keeping our mind focused on Jesus will lead us to safe harbour and peace.  Jesus does not promise to make our problems disappear, but he promises that he will be with us through them all, and that we will be able to find peace and calm in him – instead of being overwhelmed by life’s tumultuous waves.
 
Jesus, increase my faith in you, so that when the storms of life assail me I may put my trust in you to lead me safely to my heavenly home.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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I believe Jesus is the Son of God

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Jesus incensed the Pharisees by claiming to be one with the Father, in effect claiming to be God (v. 33).  Since stoning was the punishment under the law in cases of blasphemy, they picked up their stones. Appealing to the authority of Scripture, and quoting from Psalm 81(82) verse 6, Jesus argued that if in  this psalm men could be called 'gods', how much more appropriate was it that the one whom the Father had set apart and sent into the world should be given this title? He provoked them further by inviting them to believe that the Father was in him and he in the Father (v. 38). Despite the hostility of the leaders, many came to believe in him.

The essence of Jesus’s mission was to reveal his Father and to fulfil his will. Each of us is on a pilgrimage back to the Father, who loves us totally and unconditionally.  It delights the Father when we worship his Son, and the Son rejoices when we worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  Each day we can rediscover and be renewed in the love the Father has for us.

Speaking of the depth of the relationship between the Father and the Son, St Irenaeus said: “No one can know the Father apart from God's Word, that is, unless the Son reveals him, and no one can know the Son unless the Father so wills. Now the Son fulfils the Father's good pleasure: the Father sends, the Son is sent, and he comes. The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but he is known by his Word, who tells us of him who surpasses all telling.  The Son performs everything as a ministry to the Father, from the beginning to the end, and without the Son no one can know God. The way to know the Father is to know the Son: knowledge of the Son is in the Father and is revealed through the Son.”

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are God's only Son, sent by the Father to redeem us. I believe you are in the Father and the Father is in you. I believe not just because of the miracles, blessings and grace in my own life, but because of who you are.  Lord Jesus, I believe in you, and my heart sings with gratitude for the gift of faith I have received.

Jeremiah 20:10-13  • Psalm 17(18):2-7 • John 10:31-42

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Our Father – Jesus taught us to pray

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Matthew 6:7–15 St Polycarp (Commemoration)

Jesus’s teaching on prayer is warm, clear and direct.  In teaching us about prayer he reveals his Father. Jesus wants us to relate to God as our Father – to cry out, Abba, Father'.  The greatest privilege and joy we have as Christians is that we can address God in this intimate and loving way:  The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son (St John Chrysostom).  The Father we worship transcends all time and space; he is the source and end of all things.  We bow down before him. 

When we pray, Jesus urges us to go to the Father with our needs, requests and petitions.  Let us look afresh at the prayer he gave us.  The first request is that the name of the Father be acknowledged and revered as holy in our daily lives in our words, our actions and our thoughts.  As we understand the holiness of God, we shall radiate life to all those around us.

Jesus wants us to be bold and confident in praying for the coming of God's kingdom – since we live now in the age of theChurch we can eagerly pray for the return of the Lord.

Jesus calls us to pray that God's will should prevail over the earth as it prevails in heaven: God wills only that which is good, loving and perfect.

Jesus says we need to ask each day for our daily bread: for the daily sustenance we receive from the Father as our spirits are fed and nurtured within us by reading his Word and celebrating the Eucharist.

Jesus reveals that unless our hearts forgive, then we in our turn will not know the joy of forgiveness: forgiveness and prayer go together:

Finally, Jesus shows that each day we face a threat from the evil one, who seeks to lead us into  confusion and away from the Lord.  Each day we need to pray: “Lord, deliver me from all evil.

We can be encouraged by St Teresa of the Child Jesus's experience of prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

Father just as St Polycarp laid down his life, may I too lay down my life in love and service of you and your kingdom.

Chris

from Bible Alive

 

Isaiah 55:10–11 • Psalm 33(34):4–7, 16–19 • Matthew 6:7–15

 
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First Sunday of Lent 2021

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Mark 1:12-15 First Sunday of Lent (B)

The Spirit led Jesus into the desert for forty days to be tempted and tested. During Lent we too are led by the Spirit into the mystery of Jesus's time in the desert. By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert (Catechism of the Catholic Church 540). We too, during this holy season, can expect to be tempted and tested.

Mark informs us simply and straightforwardly that in the desert Jesus was "tempted by Satan" (v. 13). The name Satan means "adversary". In the book of Job we are given a vivid picture of Satan in God's heavenly court, along with all the other angels, where he has the role of accuser or prosecutor (see 1:6ff.). The Scriptures identify Satan as the serpent in the Garden of Eden who tempted Adam and Eve (Gen. 3) and, therefore, as the origin of sin and temptation. What the Scriptures and tradition make clear is that humankind has a mortal enemy who, although a finite being created by God, is in a desperate struggle to overthrow God's reign, usurp his Lordship and lead his creation into darkness and death. On Easter Sunday each of us will recite our baptismal promises and in doing so renew them. Bear this in mind as we move through Lent because, as you will be aware, a renewal of our baptismal promises involves us actively, freely and voluntarily rejecting Satan.

Lent is also a time for us to discover anew and afresh the gospel, the 'Good News’, which Jesus began to proclaim immediately after his time of testing. What is the Good News? The Good News is a message of two parts: the first part is to repent and the second part to believe the gospel. We walk together on this road marked out for us by the Church and take up our call to stand firm and resist the devil knowing that he will flee, and embrace freely and with love the gospel, which is Christ with us and in us, the hope of salvation. 

In these days, therefore, let us add something beyond the wonted measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his  own free will in the joy of the Holy Spirit." (St Benedict)

Chris

from Bible Alive

Genesis 9:8–15 • Psalm 24(25):4–9 • 1 Peter 3:18–22 • Mark 1:12–15

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Take Courage

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Mark 6:45–52
 
Jesus appears on the water to a boatload of men
 
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells us, “Take courange! . . . Don’t be afraid.” (v50, NIV).  The remedy for fear is love, faith and courage.  God’s love for us is so intense, so prolific, so all-forgiving that we should never be burdened by guilt or bound by fear.
 
In God’s love we can become like infants, blissfully and safely asleep in his arms, where nothing else matters.  Do we ever feel like this?  If not, or not frequently enough, we need to remind ourselves of the truth that, however helpless or unworthy or frightened we feel, Jesus felt that we were worth dying for.
 
Lord, help me to experience the love that you have for me, the love which drives away fear and which equips me with faith and courage.  From my place in your arms show me how I can face my fears and how my worries will look so much smaller.
 

Chris

from Bible Alive

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Our goal, destiny and purpose

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field and sky with figure

Luke 21:34–36

Jesus understood the human: condition with all its weaknesses, inclinations and peccadillos. He counsels us to be careful or our hearts will be weighed down with three things: dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and ‘that day’ will close unexpectedly on us like a trap. The day the Lord was referring to is the day of his coming, the day of judgement but also the day of our death. We know for sure that these things will come upon every person who lives on the face of the earth (v. 35).

Since the beginning the Christian faith has encouraged the idea of keeping watch, being vigilant and in constant prayer in anticipation of the coming of the Lord. In this we are united to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish faith, who pray and long for the first coming of the Messiah in glory and honour. We pray for Jesus’s second coming, for we believe he is the promised Messiah, and returns in glory and honour after securing our eternal salvation.

However, truth be told, if we can resist being dissipated and drunk, most of us succumb to being overwhelmed by the anxieties and cares of life. When this happens, we  are easiiy  confused, lose clarity and are consumed with the things of this world. The real challenge for all of us is keeping our goal, destiny and purpose to the forefront of our minds and hearts.

What is our goal, destiny and purpose? To be with God, to share in the joy of heaven, to know the resurrection life – these are the end realities for which we long and pray and which one day will be a reality. For sure we need to strive, for sure we need to apply ourselves and work, but more, much more than this, we need to turn humbly to the Spirit who helps us in our weakness.

Tomorrow the season of Advent and Christmastide begins and we enter a time of waiting, longing and hoping as the liturgy makes present to us the events, the drama and the grace of Jesus’s first coming, while looking forward to his second, his return in glory but also to his coming into our lives in a new, exciting and dynamic way.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. With eyes of faith we see his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.

Chris 

From Bible Alive

 

 Apocalypse 22:1—7 •  Psalm 94(95):1–7 • Luke 21:34–36

 

 

 

 

Photograph ©2020 threeshoes photography

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Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, come

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Clouds, low sun, rays, Come Lord Jesus

Luke 21:20-28

The disciples’ admiration and appreciation of the beauty of the temple has prompted Jesus to make a long discourse about the destruction which he foresees will happen to Jerusalem, and which in fact did happen when the Romans marched on the city and destroyed it in AD 70. As is typical in prophecy, Jesus presents the events of Jerusalem’s fall and the end of the world side by side. At one moment he is describing the fall of Jerusalem in graphic detail, at the next his thoughts have turned to the end of the world. The suffering and destruction of the earlier event mirror the suffering and destruction of the much-larger-scale catastrophe which will signal his return to this earth.

We need to take Scriptures like today’s reading very seriously indeed. The same Luke who recorded the beauty of the nativity scene also gave us today’s apocalyptic vision of the end of the world: people fleeing to the mountains, nursing mothers being warned of a time of dread, many falling by the sword, nature in a state of uproar and tumult, and grown men fainting from sheer terror. lt will be a time of great chaos and suffering; it will be a time of great testing and trying

The Church today teaches that this time will indeed come but we do not know when: “The Church Will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom Will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 677).

Jesus warns that these events will cause the faith of many to be shaken. But in forewarning of these events, his purpose is to assure his disciples that they are part of God’s overarching plan for the world. When they see these cataclysmic events taking place, they will know that his plan is being fulfilled and that Jesus will soon return. Jesus wants us to rest assured in the knowledge that God is in control and his purpose is being fulfilled.

Lord Jesus increase my hunger, thirst and longing for your return. Join my prayer to the prayer for your Church, the Bride: ‘Come, Lord ]esus come.”

Chris 

From Bible Alive

Apocaylpse 18:1—2, 21—23; 19:1—3, 9 • Psalm 99(100):2—5 • Luke 21:20—28

 
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