Advent: Week 4

Luke 1:39-44 

39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechari′ah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Commentary

I think Mary and Elizabeth knew just how ridiculous their situation was – two women, one too old to bear a child, one so young she was not yet married, yet called to bear children of promise through whom God would change the world. And they probably knew how little account the world would pay them, tucked away in the hill country of Judea, far from the courts of power and influence. And they probably knew how hard life was under Roman oppression.Yet when faced with the long odds of their situation, they did not retreat, or apologize, or despair, they sang. They sang of their confidence in the Lord’s promise to upend the powers that be, reverse the fortunes of an unjust world,and lift up all those who had been oppressed. When you’re back is to the wall,you see, and all looks grim, one of the most unexpected and powerful things you can do is sing.

Singing of light in a world of darkness is, indeed, nothing short of an act of resistance.

 “We light the Advent candles against the winter light,. not “because of,”or “during,” but “against,” reminding us that the light of Advent, like the light of Christ, is a veritable protest to and resistance of the darkness that gathers all around us.

Given how much the darkness seems to have grown in recent weeks, perhaps we might give time to singing the hymns of both of Advent and Christmas. The hymns of both seasons manage to combine the realism of our world with the promise of Christ, and in this sense provide such a needed counterpoint to the dread headlines to which we’re subjected via news outlets,on the one hand, and the falsely cheery “Christmas songs” blared across the cultural airwaves this month on the other.

Caught between the false dichotomy of despair and optimism, Mary and Elizabeth remind us that of another way, the way of hope.Hope, you see, implies circumstances that are dark or difficult enough to require us to look beyond ourselves for rescue and relief so that we might hear again and anew God’s promise to hold onto us through all that might come and bring us victorious to the other side.

However you may celebrate this Fourth Sunday in Advent, give thanks for your voice raised in song and proclamation, announcing that Jesus Christ is the light of the world, that light that shines on in the darkness, the light the darkness has neither understood nor overcome. It is a song worth singing yet again

David Lose

The archangel Gabriel has extended his astounding invitation. Mary has given her astonishing yes.Now she is alone—suddenly, entirely, dangerously alone—save for the unlikely child she now carries.

She flees: toward her kinswoman, toward refuge, toward sanctuary.

In the home of Elizabeth, in the company of her cousin who is herself pregnant in most unusual circumstances, Mary finds what she most needs. Elizabeth gathers and enfolds her. Welcomes her. Blesses her.

In response to Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary sings. And how she sings! She sings of a God who brings down the powerful, who lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things.Strangely, wonderfully, Mary sings of a God who not only will do these things, but who has done these things. She sings as if God has already accomplished the redemption and restoration of the world.

O my friends, this is what a blessing has the power to do. The blessing that Elizabeth speaks and enacts through her words, her welcome, her gift of sanctuary: such a blessing has the power to help us, like Mary, speak the word we most need to offer. Such a blessing gives us a glimpse of the redemption that God, in God’s strange sense of time, has somehow already accomplished. Such a blessing stirs up in us the strength to participate with God in bringing about this redemption in this time, in this world.

Where will we go, like Mary, to find and receive such a blessing?

How will we open our heart, like Elizabeth, to offer it?

Jan Richardson

www.textweek.com

Advent: Week 3

Luke 3:10-18 

10 And the multitudes asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than is appointed you.”14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

15 As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ, 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Commentary

Last week, Luke introduced us to the adult John the Baptist, taking pains to anchor John’s preaching in the historical context of the day. We noticed that Luke was audacious enough to believe that the events and people he described – last week John’s ministry, this week John’s message,next week the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary – were as important on the stage of world history as were any of the mighty rulers Luke names.

This week covers the second half of Luke’s account of John’s ministry and we discover that, according to Luke, John is a fairly “old school” preacher who can’t resist a three-point sermon. The first point is eschatological warning of the coming end of time. The second revolves around ethical exhortation, instructing hearers how to prepare for this end. And the third point is the announcement and expectation of the coming messiah.

What’s striking about these points is that, put along sidethe drama of the eschatological warning and messianic expectation, John’sethical exhortation seems rather mild, even a bit lame. I mean, in response to the crowds understandable reaction to John’s warning — asking the prophet “What shall we do?” — John basically tells them that they out to be honest (“Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you”), be kind (“Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise”)and to work hard (“Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”).

Come on, John, I’m tempted to ask, is that really all? This is pretty much what we learned in kindergarten. Is this really all it takes to avoid eschatological judgment and enter into paradise?

Apparently, according to John, the answer is, Yes!

Or more accurately, perhaps it’s more that everything –from warning and expectation to ethical exhortation – looks different in lightof the coming Christ. Jesus’ coming, John implies, affects every dimension of our lives, including how we regard each other and our ethical obligations to one another and the world. The kingdom, that is, doesn’t show up only in grand actions or heroic deeds. Rather, in the simple acts of sharing what we have,being honest with each other, and working hard and resisting the urge to be bullies, we are helping to usher in the kingdom that Jesus will soon announce.

Okay, look, I know that we don’t bring the kingdom; God does. But it seems like one of the chief ways through which we can witness to God’s coming kingdom is to actually live like it’s here, like we believe it’s really coming, like we think it actually matters.

Which means that we have opportunities all around us to be the ordinary saints John calls us to be. And lest we think our everyday actions of being honest, kind, and hardworking don’t matter, ask yourself this: What would it look like if the political candidates running for president acted this way? What about our elected leaders? Or our law enforcement officers? I suspect our world work a whole lot better.

But let’s not stop there. Let’s get more personal: What would it look like if we went out from church looking for opportunities to be honest, kind, and hardworking? What if we determined to seek out such opportunities because we’ve heard that extraordinary acts of grace are within the reach of ordinary people. What if we believed – and acted on the belief – that being honest, kind, and hardworking in a culture that is impatient, immature, and fearful really makes a difference.

Keep in mind where we’re at. Not just two weeks shy of Christmas, but living in a nation and world constantly afraid that the next terrorist crime or random act of violence will happen around our street corner.And because of this fear we change how we live and, at times, even risk forgetting who we are. And when we do that, the terrorists win. So what might happen if we pledged that in light of the dangerous world we live in we intended to redouble our efforts to be honest, kind, and hardworking, meeting the needs of those around us, reaching out to help those who struggle, and in all these ways witness to our confidence that Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection make a difference? I think what would happen is that we would not only have a demonstrably better world but also a more vibrant church, one animated by John’s conviction that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

What John offers them, that is, is entirely within our reach. It may not be easy – we get accustomed to getting what we want and hoarding what we have – but it is still possible. Nor does John ask us to leave our current stations. The day after hearing John preach, presumably, the tax collectors are still collecting and the mercenaries still soldiering. But they are doing it better, dong it differently, doing it with the needs of their neighbours before them.

Which is interesting, when you think about it. I mean,caught between eschatological judgment and messianic consummation, the crowds hear John speak of a role in the coming kingdom they can play. It demands neither monastic asceticism nor spiritual pilgrimage. John invites them to participate in God’s coming kingdom wherever they are and whatever they may be doing. All they need just enough faith to God at work in and through the ordinary and mundane elements of our lives.

This is a promise that we are all invited into. Wherever we may be and whatever we may be doing. In business? Conduct it fairly and with the community in mind. At home with children? Raise them to love God by loving their neighbours. Teaching? Do so with patience and hope. Looking for work?Don’t underestimate the good you can do others even without a job. Studying at school. Learning everything you can and put it to work to make this world a better place. Caring for those with special needs? Remember that of such is the kingdom of heaven made (and give yourself a break when it’s hard to remember).And the list goes on.

Yes, this is a promise that we are all invited into. Or, to put it another way, this is a promise for those living “in the meantime.” We too, you see, are caught between judgment and hope every day of our lives, even when we don’t name it that way. The judgment may not feel eschatological; it may just be not living up to others’ or our own expectations. And the hope may not always be messianic; it may just be the deep desire that things will get better. But wherever we are, John has a message for those living in the meantime, struggling to be faithful in the time between the giving of the promise and its being kept once and for all.

I know all this can seem like small potatoes when the whole world feels at times like it’s falling apart. But I think that’s part of John’s message – and Jesus’ witness – that precisely because God has promised to redeem all creation in due time, we are free – here and now – to tend the little corner of the world in which we find ourselves. There are, according to John and Jesus, no small gestures, but rather varied – and contagious! – acts of both random and intentional kindness and honesty that really do make a difference in the world, particularly when caught up in the faith that in Jesus, God has drawn near to shower us – all of us – with the good news of grace, mercy, and redemption.

David Lose

Advent Week 2

Luke 3:1-6 

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tibe′ri-us Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturae′a and Trachoni′tis, and Lysa′ni-as tetrarch of Abile′ne, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Ca′iaphas,[a] the word of God came to John the son of Zechari′ah in the wilderness; and he went into all the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be brought low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways shall be made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Footnotes:

3.2 See note on Jn 18.13.

Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. � 3�� 3� 3�4�4�$

Commentary from http://www.textweek.com

Today’s Gospel begins not with the Baptist’s ringing call to repentance, but with a long and detailed list of rulers. Luke’s litany of imperial, regional, and religious authorities does more than date John’s ministry to 28 or 29 CE. It also contrasts human kingdoms with God’s reign. The claims to authority that Tiberius or Herod or the high priest may make are not ultimate. God’s people owe allegiance first and foremost to God. And it is God’s word that sets John’s ministry in motion. John has been commissioned to prepare the way not for lord Caesar or any earthly lordling, but for the one true Lord.

Preparing the Lord’s path toward peace requires overturning the world as we know it. Preparing for God’s arrival means rethinking systems and structures that we see as normal but that God condemns as oppressive and crooked. It means letting God humble everything that is proud and self-satisfied in us, and letting God heal and lift up what is broken and beaten down. The claims that the world’s authorities make often conflict with God’s claims. Paths that seem satisfactory to us are not good enough for God. John calls us to let God’s bulldozers reshape the world’s social systems and the landscape of our own minds and hearts.

Judith Jones

I just love Luke’s audacity!

He is, as you probably know, of all the Evangelists the one who identifies most self-consciously as a historian. (Not a twenty-first century historian, mind you, but a first century one!) For this reason, Luke writes a formal introduction to his Gospel, the only one of the four to do so. This also explains Luke’s concern with naming various political leaders on the scene in Luke 2:1ff. and in today’s reading. As a historian, he wants to anchor the events he describes in the larger political and historical scene of the world.

And that’s where his audacity comes in. Because, quite frankly, most other historians would probably think Luke is crazy. Consider: John the Baptist is an itinerant preacher doing his ministry out in the wilderness – you know, the place nobody goes, at least not by choice. And so the “event” Luke describes would hardly count as an event at all to other historians.

So what’s John doing among Luke’s veritable list of “who’s who” in ancient Palestine? Well, according to Luke, John – a “nobody” by all other historical accounts – just happens to be the one to whom the Word of the Lord came. John. Not the Emperor, or governor, or various rulers, or the high priests of the day, but John.

God chose a nobody, in other words, to prepare the way for God’s own Son to come amongst us. And that happens to be a particular theme of Luke that might be worth identifying: that God regularly chooses people whom the world sees as insignificant through whom to do marvellous things. John the Baptist, Mary the illiterate unwed mom and teenager, the no account shepherds at the very bottom of the economic ladder who serve as the audience for the heavenly choir. Again and again, Luke confesses, God chooses people the world can easily ignore to participate in God’s world-changing, world-saving activity.

I suspect that there are any number of folks who feel that they don’t hold any particularly important position that would warrant being included in anyone’s “who’s who list” and yet whom God may be eager to use to do wonderful things.

Might we therefore awaken to the possibility that we don’t have to be celebrities or rulers or among the rich and powerful to be used by God? Might we remember that God is eager to use our talents and abilities and gifts to change the world, if even in what seems like very small ways that are, of course, not small at all to those who receive such gifts? Might we see God at work through their relationships, jobs, family and civic life and more to make this world more trustworthy and good?

If so, then we are each called, I think, to be audacious historians in the pattern of Luke. We are each called, that is, to remind each other that God is at work in and through our lives for the sake of the world God loves so much.

We need to see God present in our lives and at work in our activities. And this might be a great week to do that, as each of us has the potential to be a local “John the Baptist,” a veritable nobody to whom the Word of the Lord came and through whom God prepared the way for the coming Christ so that, indeed, all people might see and receive God’s salvation.

God in Christ comes for us, and God also uses us to care for this world.
David Lose piry”: 1550396800.015353, “mode”: “force-https”, “pkp_include_subdomains”: false, “pkp_observed”: 0.0, “sts_include_subdomains”: false, “sts_observed”: 1518860800.015353 }, “b+1zAjx7TfZR0tau/Dayr1KXpJsp8wekXoIt8+pqvbs=”: { “dynamic_spki_hashes_expiry”: 0.0, “expiry”: 1556195909.395625, “mode”: “force-https”, “pkp_include_subdomains”: false, “pkp_observed”: 0.0, “sts_include_subdomains”: true, “sts_observed”: 1524659909.395625 }, “bI+YLH1MTLeA8h9kh5Ev4d+Af8g1Kgm+f4rvoCBhnfg=”: { “dynamic_spki_hashes_expiry”: 0.0, “expiry”: 1559298294.575, “mode”: “force-https”, “pkp_include_subdomains”: false, “pkp_observed”: 0.0, “sts_includ

Photographs from Earth Meditation on the 24th November.

Geoff brought out his phone, or we would have not had any photographs.  Thank you Geoff!

Did I mention it was cold and rainy? Tania and I had just finished “Dadirri” styled meditation during a break in the clouds.

No doubt there was a deep and meaningful question being asked!

There was a lovely little pond, complete with ducks and frogs under the wings of the misty mountain.

The start of a memorial cairn, with Geoff the photographer (in light blue)  included for once, because Tania was taking it. 

Vicki enjoying the weather

Father John Dupuche, our generous, genial and gentle host who directed the retreat.

down to the river to paddle was the plan, but we changed our minds

Michael even brought the towels in case anyone was brave enough

The beautiful Yarra in full flow, capturing the light and movement on a cold misty day. The Earth is alive to us, in us and through us.  It empowers and revitalises us.  

The Earth empowers us

On the 24th November 2018 we went on a day retreat with Father John Dupuche at his ashram in Warburton.  The theme was: “How we are revitalised and empowered by the land we stand on which is alive to us, and in us, and through us.”

During the day we explored, contemplated and discussed this and also  the teachings of Thomas Keating and Thomas Berry, on what the earth means to us, and how we are connected to this place, our place.

The walk to the swiftly flowing Yarra during a break in the rain, the building of a cairn, breathing the pure misty air and allowing the drizzle to touch our faces, immersed us in the ancient landscape and furthered our reflection and experience of being and land. 

We read John O’Donohue’s poem “In Praise of the Earth” as well as “Gitanjali LXIX” by Rabindranath Tagore and learned about Dadirri as taught by Miriam Rose Ungummerr-Baumann, who is an artist and a tribal elder of Nauiyu, Daly River N.T.

Our meditation periods were simple: the traditional sitting in silence, sitting in the open, and experiencing creation around us. 

We also always seem to have a feast, as every one brings a plate and then some. 

Father John has sent the following link, for those who want to explore some of the topics that came up during our time there.  You can google
the webcast at cac.org/father-thomas-keating-memorial-service/   whch was Live streamed from Spirit of Christ Catholic Community in Arvada, Colorado on Friday, November 16, 2018.  

Geoff will send a slideshow of the day which I will put on the blog later. 

 

Discovering your true self

This is an article I found some time ago, and I am reprinting it here because I think it can be helpful. 

Meditation with its one pointed focus is a scientifically proven way to relaxation both of mind and body.

Purely by paying attention, our breathing and heart rate slow down by themselves and calm the fidgety body.  As our breath becomes slower, so do our thoughts.  The breath is the bridge between the body and the mind.

John Main said, “Your breathing should be calm and regular.  Allow every muscle in your body to relax.   And then, put the mind in tune with the body.  The real task of meditation is to achieve the harmony of body, mind and spirit.”

Then,by just accepting the restless nature of our mind and lovingly and faithfully repeating our word, despite everything, thoughts and images slowly fade into the background.

It is perfectly possible to use meditation purely for its health benefits as a body and mind altering relaxation technique and stop there.  It is wonderful to stop the endlessly chattering mind and release the stress and tension.  But that would be a missed opportunity; there is much more to meditation than its physiological effects on the body.  The effects on the body and the mind are nevertheless an important first step on the road to transformation, to clarity of vision and total awareness.

When we achieve this peace and harmony by stilling the mind and the body and we keep paying full attention to our mantra, we can become aware of the peaceful,harmonious silence that dwells in our hearts. “Nothing describes God as well as Silence” said Meister Eckhart, the 14thcentury German mystic.  Meditation is therefore a spiritual discipline, a voyage of discovery to the centre of our true being, where Christ dwells and at the same time, a voyage of discovery into the presence of God.  Once having discovered this, it will permeate our life and influence all our actions. 

The all important aim in meditation is to allow God’s mysterious and silent presence within us to become more and more not only a reality, but the reality in our lives; to let it become that reality which gives meaning to everything we do, everything we are.

Kim Nataraja

The School of Meditation

www.wccm.org

The Mantra

The Mantra

A mantra can be a sentence, such as the famous “Jesus prayer” –  ‘Lord Jesus, Son of the living God, have mercy on me’.  The mantra can be a singleword such as ‘maranatha’, … or even an inarticulate sound, as in the groan of the Spirit (Romans 8:23, 26).  It may be said ‘aloud or in silence (Hebrews 5:7).

“If Jesus is called ‘the Word’ he can also be called ‘the Mantra’.  He is the Mantra of God, of which all other mantras are the limited expression”.

(Jesus: the Mantra of  God by John Dupuche, Australia, 2005.)

The mantra, taking us into the present moment and beyond the ego, slips through the narrow gate into the city of God. (John Main, Word Made Flesh)

The tradition of ‘monologistic’ prayer – prayer that employs one sacred word recited continuously in the heart and mind in faith – is a venerable tradition in Christianity.

In the twentieth century John Main recommended the early Aramaic Christian prayer‘maranatha’. This is a scriptural phrase meaning ‘Come Lord’ (1Cor: 16:22), in the language Jesus spoke, Aramaic, and a sacred phrase in the early Christian liturgy. Common to the tradition is the emphasis on continuous repetition of the word with deepening faith and fidelity to the same word as it becomes rooted in the heart and opens the grace of contemplation – our entry into the prayer of Jesus himself in the Holy Spirit.

Even though for some people the term ‘mantra’ may cause an initial confusion, being helped to understand its meaning may help them grasp better what meditation itself means as a way beyond words, thoughts and images into the silence of Christ. This is expressed in the opening prayer which John Main composed for Christian meditation:

Heavenly father, open my heart to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead me into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call maranatha, come Lord Jesus.

Laurence Freeman OSB

http://www.wccm.org/sites/default/files/users/PDF/2011/WhydoChristianMeditatorscalltheprayerwordamantra.doc.pdfily:

We think the text but we do not think about the text. If we are thinking in the sense of reflecting, we are dominating the conversation. That can be done fruitfully some other time. Here it is a question of receiving and resting in Christ’s presence as the source of the word or phrase.

Lectio Divina is a special kind of process, and to benefit fully from its fruits, its integrity has to be respected. The ripe fruit of the regular practice of Lectio Divina is assimilating the word of God and being assimilated by it. It is a movement from conversation to communion.The awareness of the divine presence will also begin to overflow into ordinary activity.

Source: www.centeringprayer.com/