Thursday, 29 March 2012

Exploring the Meaning of Life with the Alpha Course

I think it is fair to say that most of us want our lives to be meaningful.
I think it is fair to say that most of us, when we get out of bed in the morning, that there is a purpose to the things we will do in our day, that there is a purpose to our lives as a whole.

Yet, for many people, this "purpose," this "meaning" is never found.

You can have the best social life in the world, and there will still be something missing inside of you.
You can have the nicest house or car in the world, and there will still be something missing inside of you.
You can be the best at your job or a particular sport or activity, and there will still be something missing within you.
You can have the best spouse or partner, the best children or grandchildren in the world, and there will still be something missing within you.

Many folk will try, over their lifetime,  to fill their emptiness inside with going from distraction to distraction, only to be left unfulfilled in the process. And in the end, to have no answer to the question: What has been the meaning and purpose of my life?

Christians suggest that the most full and  complete answer to the meaning of our lives in found in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I certainly believe this to be so.

I know that there is an emptiness within the human experience of life.
I also know that coming to know who Jesus Christ is will fill that emptiness, and make your life more complete and whole. To come to know who Christ is, will give the meaning and purpose to your whole life that you are seeking.

On Monday, April 23, the Parish of the Resurrection in South River Newfoundland, will be offering the Alpha course. It is a 7 week course that begins with supper at 6:30pm. During the 7 Monday nights, you get to learn more about the Christian faith and who Jesus is, you get to experience the Love that is God, and you get to make new friends in the process.

The Alpha is a wonderful course, and it is an absolutely wonderful opportunity to explore the meaning of Life.

Why don't you think about coming?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Need for Encouragement

What a beautiful word.
What a beautiful thing to do for another.
What a beautiful thing to experience.

It means to give support, confidence, or hope to someone; to give advice so that they will do or continue to do something; and to help stimulate or to develop.

It is also interesting to notice that "encouragement" is a verb - an action word. Something that has to be done, acted on. Like life, it is something one does.

Living life, a good and satisfying life, is not easy. At times we get tired and feel like giving up. Therefore, all of us need others to encourage us in all the various areas of our lives. At home, at work, and in the community.

Some of us will know how life-giving it is when encouragement is offered to us by another person.
Some of us might not know what it is like to be encouraged. That is a shame.

But being an encouraging person does not come easy. It is a practice that has to be nurtured and developed.

Encouragement in fact is a fruit of the Spirit of God.

There is a biblical story from the Book of Daniel, where 3 Jewish men would not conform to the society around them. So the king had them thrown into a fiery furnace. It can be very discouraging to feel like a minority being forced to conform to a larger society with practices you don't agree with. But these men stuck with one another, and encouraged one another. And more than that, they didn't loose their focus on God's Presence with them. It was the Spirit of God that protected them and kept them from giving up.

We need encouraging people around us to help us live a more full and satisfying life.
We need to cooperate more with the Spirit of God that is already within us, that we may be sources of encouragement to those around us.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Heart

Lent about the Heart!

Our heart for the Lord, and our heart for one another.
A journey away from focus on self, and into the heart of God.
Lent and Life is a journey of the transformation of the HEART.
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus”
To see Jesus is to see the heart of God, to see Jesus is to see the face of Love.
To See Jesus is to see less and less of SELF.
In order for us to “see” Jesus, in order to see the truth about Life and Love, we must learn to die to self.
“unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies it produces much fruit.” 
“Whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.” 

It is the “ruler of this world” (evil, the ancient enemy to humankind) that seeks to keep us focused on our selves, preferences and petty opinions.
It is the “ruler of this world” that beacons us away from the freedom of God to the slavery of self-centeredness.
But the Lord Jesus desires to draw us into the new Life of the Resurrection.
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”
The way of the Cross is the way of centering on Jesus, of seeing Jesus.
The way of the Cross, of our Lenten journey, is the way of the heart, of a purified and transformed heart.

We cannot create this spiritual heart by ourselves; only the Lord can purify our hearts and make us more fully human & divine, more fully alive, more full of love.
Let us surrender our hearts to the Lord, that we may see less of self, and more of the face of Love, Jesus…
That we may see the face of Jesus in the face of every human being we meet.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Those who hear will live


All of us simply want to live and experience life in its fullness.

But what does it mean to live life in fullness?
Does it mean cars, houses, toys, vacations, sports, recreations, clothes, even health?

Of course we need food and shelter, and the capacity to play is important. But many of us know that material things don't satisfy our deeper needs and desires.

The fullness of life that we all need and desire deep down, regardless of our varying contexts and changing circumstances, is given in Jesus Christ.

In John's Gospel we read that "The Son gives life to whomever he wishes." And "Anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life."

In the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is revealed to humanity that there is no longer any impediment, any barrier to our union with God's Divine Life. That we are free to claim and own the Love and Life that we are, and that is eternal.

We are made in the image of God. We are made for open and fully encompassing awareness that are one with God's Life.

Regardless of our context, regardless of the changing circumstances of our lives, regardless of pain, sorrow or loss, we are free to know and cooperate with the Divine Love.

To know Jesus is to know the way to the fullness of Life.
To not know Jesus is to short change yourself out of what your life could be and was meant to be.

"...those who hear will live."

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

How to Better Love One Another

One of the books that I am currently reading is "The Monastery of the Heart," by Joan Chittister. It is a book about Benedictine Spirituality, or about how to live life being open to God in the ordinary routine's and chores of daily living.

In the book she says "the way we deal with whatever happens to us on the outside, will depend entirely on what we have become on the inside."

This is so true.

Over the years, as I have been getting older (and a little greyer in the beard!), I've come to recognize with sensitivity and compassion that a persons behaviour - especially when it affects others adversely - is probably the result of some past experience or experiences of brokenness that is in need of healing.

All of us are in need of healing, because there is brokenness in all of our lives.

And healing is a process. It takes time. And it requires an inner or spiritual approach, where we learn and practice journeying within to the place where the Lord of Life resides. The Lord who heals, makes whole, and gives life and love.

Saint Leo the Great says "The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment on their attitudes of mind and heart. If they find some store of love's fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God's presence within them. If they wish to increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering love."

It is only the Love that is God that can fully heal us and make us whole.

It is only the Love that is God that can make us more loving, compassionate, and yes, even happy and joyful people.

In the Gospel of John the Lord says: "In this will all people now that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other." In a letter of the same apostle we read: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God; he who does not love does not know God, for God is love."

Through the ministry of the Church, let us learn how to allow God to love us more and more over our lifetime.

And in turn, let us love one another on the inside, and on the outside.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Born Again

What does it mean to be “born again”?
It is the discovery or awakening to the inner life of Divine Love.

Getting to this place of "discovery" or "awakening" has everything to do with the Cross of Christ.

“…so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Christ is crucified in order to set us free from sin and death.

With this freedom to turn toward LIFE, we can become more aware of the Holy Spirit, we can become more aware of the Love of the Father who has created us.

To know and experience the Holy Spirit is to know and experience eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

This verse captures the entire Gospel!

God’s love is for YOU.
His Love keeps us from perishing.
To know His love is to be drawn into a life without end.
Lenten Journey into Love
Lent is a journey to the life and love of the Resurrection.
Lent amplifies the spiritual nature that should be inherent throughout the whole of our lives.
As we enter more deeply into the mystery of the Lord’s Love, as a church, let us strive to become more effective in drawing others into that very same Love and Life.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

I like you

I really enjoy being around people who are positive and loving.

I also like being around people who are funny, people who are wise, people who are learned, people who are compassionate, people who are understanding.

Truth is, I like being around PEOPLE.

Not all folk can have all the good qualities that we enjoy seeing and experiencing in others. That's one of the reasons why community is so important - we benefit from the different gifts that different people have. St.Paul teaches us that the church is one body, with many necessary parts.

But if I had to choose which kind of a person or people I would like to spend time with, it would be people who are positive and loving.

There is more than enough negativity around us all, and love is often lacking. So I need people around me who influence me to also be positive and loving.

When the people of Israel were coming out of their slavery in Egypt, there was a lot of negativity, frustration and struggle. If Moses was going to be effective in leading them out of their bondage and darkness into the freedom and Light of Life, he needed to spend time with the Lord of Life.

Moses regularly spent time with the Lord in prayer, and the Lord showed Himself to Moses. And the people saw the difference. Moses radiated light, his faced beamed with the love and holiness of God - this experience influenced and encouraged others.

If we want to be loving and positive, and to influence others in being loving and positive, then we need to spend time in the Presence of Love and Life - Jesus.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

How many times should I forgive another?

I remember a clergy person saying to me some time ago that they'd like to go to a church "where there were no people."

Wow! What a statement to make.  Obviously the person, who is a very good person, was making light of the real difficulties inherent in being community.

If we are honest, we would have to admit that it is a big enough challenge trying to live with ourselves!

Add just one person to our number, and the challenges are compounded, and so on as our relationships and community grow. Therefore it is not easy being family, community, church, organization, work environment. This is a fact because of our human brokenness and fallenness.

As humans, we are wounded with psychological, emotional, and spiritual pain; and we are burdened with our sin and imperfection. These human realities are relational factors when we seek to be in meaningful community with other people.

Should the obstacles and challenges to being in community with other people keep us from trying and persevering? Absolutely not!

We are Trinitarian people, made in the image of God - God the  Father who comes forth from Himself in the continuing act of Creation, God the Son, and Who reconciles and returns to Himself with the Divine movement of God the Holy Spirit. God is One.

We are made for relationship with God and with each other. We are made to be One. This is our purpose in life, and it alone will give us true happiness and joy.

But the only way for us to persevere in relationships and in being community and in being church, is to practice forgiveness.

Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother or sister, 7 times? Jesus said no, not 7 times, but 70 times 7.

People nor communities are perfect. Yet we need both. The only solution to healthy communities is the practice of forgiveness. God's forgiveness, demonstrated fully in the Cross of Jesus.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Danny Bhoy: That's no Joke

My wife and I sometimes watch "Just for Laughs" on CBC. We know the importance of humour, and enjoy laughing and playing. One of the comics we saw on the program and liked was Danny Bhoy. CBC sensors the show, and what we saw was good and funny.

We heard Danny Bhoy was coming to St.John's, so we got tickets and went to see his show last night.

It wasn't sensored.

There was some language, some vulgarity, neither of which was over the top. Yet his show would have been just as funny without it. That's beside the point I want to make.

Some of his best material, I thought, was the stuff that came out of his experience. He could see the humour in his life - which is very good.

What I didn't like about his show, and it seems fairly normative in comedy, is to make jokes of Jesus and the Church.

In addition to a few "Jesus" jokes, Danny Bhoy said that he questions whether there is "eternal" life, and that he could never be part of organized religion.

Although Danny has some funny life experiences that we can all laugh at, it is too bad for him that he lacks the deeper experience of what Life is.

We all have funny life experiences that we can share and laugh at together.
But human life is of course a lot more than that.

In the stillness and silence of my heart, as I centre on the Word and Love that Jesus is, I encounter the Source of Life.

We all share this Source of Life, the Divine. It is what makes us equal and united as human beings.

The Church's role is to help facilitate, encourage, and support this spiritual and inner journey.
As this journey is shared with others, the Church's role is to organize people, to identify needs within the community, and to respond with love and compassion.

Freedom, equality, democracy. These all come directly out of the Christian religion, and over the centuries, and across nations and peoples, have formed the democratic society that we enjoy in Canada today.

There is eternal life.
There is an absolute need for organized religion.

That's no joke.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

House Cleaning

If we are to live a more purposeful life,
a life with meaning,
a life that satisfies,
a life that is loving and relational,

then we have to learn to identify the different voices within us that call us in different directions,
directions that are not always life giving.

That's what happened to Jesus when he was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the enemy to life.
Jesus had to choose which voice he was going to listen to: the voice of death or the voice of life.

There is a spirituality to such inner recognition and choice.
It is a spirituality that needs to be learned and practiced.

But that's only part of the story.

In order to listen for the voice of Life and Love, we need to clear away the clutter and distractions that are also within us.

Inner noise, clutter and distraction may seem harmless enough, but if it is consuming all of our consciousness, then there is no room left for us to be aware of the Love that is God, and to cooperate with that Love in how we relate to others.

We are actually temples of the Holy Spirit.
We are made in the image of God.
Made to be in open and intentional relationship with God and every other person.

Such intentional relationship is the purpose of our lives.
It is at the heart of the mission of the Church.

In order for us to cooperate with God's Divine Life within us, we will need to do a little house cleaning.
Jesus cleanses the temple of the idols that do not reflect the will of the Father.
Likewise we need to put aside the unimportant things that are taking up too much of our heart and mind and leaving us tired and grey.
And then to focus on the Love which alone can brighten our day and give us life.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

2nd Sunday of Lent

Lent 2, 4 March 2012
Mark 9:2-10, The Transfiguration
Today’s Gospel is about that mountain experience of the human with the Divine.
It is to encounter a love that transforms us.
It is to encounter a love with which we love the world.
We all have an interior mountain that we need to learn to climb in order to draw nearer to the Transforming Love of God.
Moses’ Mountain revealed God in the burning bush, and later the 10 commandments.
Elijah’s Mountain revealed God in the still, small voice.
The Apostles Mountain on Tabor reveals God in Christ, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
These are mystical experiences that since Pentecost, the whole people of God are called to enter into.
Notice that the Word of God is at the center of each Divine experience
  • Moses and the Burning Bush (“I AM sent you”)
  • Elijah and the still small voice.
  • Jesus’ Temptations (Jesus quotes Scripture in response to the tempter)
  • The Transfiguration (Moses and Elijah, Law and Prophets)
The Sacred Scriptures are at the heart of our Lenten journey to the Promised Land of Resurrection
We need to learn to center on the Word of God in order to be consumed by the burning bush of God’s love, to hear God’s still, small voice in holy silence, to know and abide with the Risen Christ.
Acts of Justice on behalf of others are some of the consequences in drawing near to God
  1. After the burning bush, Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery.
  2. After the still small voice, Elijah returned to his people and led them out of the errors of a culture turned from the living God.
  3. After the Transfiguration and Resurrection, the apostles lived and proclaimed Love, forgiveness and liberty in Jesus Name to the entire world.
As we are transformed in our relationship with God in Christ, we as the Church, have a natural responsibility and desire to reach out to those around us trapped in darkness and despair, not knowing the transforming love of Christ.
Sharing in the ministry of Salvation
Our Lenten pilgrimage is not just about renewing and deepening our own knowledge and experience of the Divine, it is about committing ourselves to the Church’s mission to reach out to, meet and draw others into the Promised Land of Freedom, the eternal life of Love in Christ Jesus.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Forgive them, for they know not what they do

Human beings have an absolute need for forgiveness.
Although sharers of God's nature, we are not God, not perfect, therefore we make mistakes, we fall short, we sin.

The medicine for sin, the cure for our mistakes, is two fold - forgiveness and repentance (or change of attitude and behaviour).

How wonderful and powerful it is to receive forgiveness when we have done something wrong and offended another.

How freeing it is, to all parties involved, when we can offer forgiveness to another who has wronged us.

When Jesus, who is like us in every way yet without sin, was being nailed to the cross, he prayed "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Saint Aelred, in his "Mirror of Love," writes "Who could listen to that wonderful prayer, so full of warmth, of love, of unshakeable serenity—Father, forgive them—and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love?"

Whether the one who has offended us desires forgiveness or not, our freedom is in our forgiving anyway. The behaviour needs to be addressed, but we are not to be held in bondage by the offence - like Jesus, we are to be free and forgive, and to be open to Love even in the midst of darkness. 

Saint Aelred reminds us again that "If one wishes to savor the joy of brotherly and sisterly love with greater perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love."
The way for us to love our enemies, to love even those who injure us, is to keep our inner, spiritual eyes fixed on the Risen Love that is Christ, that neither sin nor death can keep down.