Friday, March 08, 2019

Prayer and Reality

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"It is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick"

Jesus is supposed to be our Saviour but most of us think we are just fine and we don't need Salvation or a Saviour, in fact the idea of Salvation especially for modern Western Christians is incomprehensible nonsense. We think of ourselves as capable of saving ourselves, or friends, the Church, the World, it is the ultimate blasphemy.

For Orthodox the foremost prayer is Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, in the West it is the Church's addition to the Angelic Salutation, the Hail Mary, "Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death"

Acknowledging our need for mercy because of our sinfulness is fundamental prayer, expressed so well the Western posture for prayer: kneeling before God.

Prayer demands humility and self knowledge. The traditional Lenten disciplines of almsgiving and fasting strips away our pride and leaves kneeling before our Saviour and Lord.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Fasting and Reality

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Let's be realistic about fasting, it makes you tetchy, even murderous!

Jesus was "driven" into desert to face hunger and temptation not for an intimate prayerful experience. if anything fasting makes the mental effort of prayer much more difficult.

I asked a wise old monk why Recreation was reduced to just half an hour during Lent in his monastery, "There are nice pious reasons about giving more time for prayer but the reality is it stops us from losing our temper and tearing out one another's throats". He said history is littered with monks who murdered their abbots during Lent.

Fasting sifts the soul leaving the chaff clearly visible, it shows what is really in the soul when pretending is no more.

We might like to pose like some beautifully dressed, bejeweled and masked Venetian lady during Carnivale but as soon as Ash Wednesday and the penance begins shows herself pockmarked and wrinkled stripped of pretense.
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Fasting helps to reveal our true selves, to discover the beam in our own eye, it reveals the blindness that so often makes a good confession and open honest prayer impossible. . 

Almsgiving and Reality

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Almsgiving means giving to the poor, its easy nowadays, we do it by clicking on a screen.
In the past it meant going out to the find the poor or letting them into our comfort zone, it meant being disturbed by them, seeing, smelling their poverty for ourselves and even risking our safety in our encounter with them.

Giving alms to the sick could well risk catching their sickness or coming home with fleas or worse. Almsgiving is about solidarity with the poor but also education of the rich.
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There is an element of reminding us of the fleeting nature of our existence and the turn of the wheel of fortune. I met a wealthy businessman from Mosul, ISIS came, he fled and ended up with nothing in a refugee camp in Jordan, "not even my dignity", and now lives with his family in tiny room as an impoverished exile in Brighton. We might think that our wealth protects but it is an illusion but war, economic collapse, even illness can change everything. Poverty can reveal the gracious prince as a vicious beggar, sickness can reveal the sweet and benign old man as a self obsessed God cursing beast.

Remember Chrysostom: If we give from our excess we are doing nothing but returning what we have grabbed for ourselves, almsgiving is about giving from your necessities.

The late Father John Edwards SJ used to say: you can tell where your heart is and what is important to you by looking at yout bank statement.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Ultimate Reality

A thought I might blog for Lent.

Cardinal John Henry Newman said: "Conscience  is the first of the Vicars of Christ." 
"This means that Catholics have a duty to tell the truth, to recognize it even when it hurts" Joseph Ratzinger Jesus Christ Crucified is the ultimate reality.

We run away from this reality.

It is lies that seem to be basis of the present scandals in the Church; lies that men like McCarrick live, lies that covered up for abusers or "defended" the Church but left her exposed to villification.

Lies are the basis of politicking, and we have far too much of that it the Church.

For a Pastor to be caught lying destroys trust not only in him but in the Church and ultimately in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of Salvation. A lying pastor is a destroyer faith.

Lent is time for us to turn from falsehoods to reality; taking off the carnival masks and embracing the Cross of Jesus, lies are a way of fleeing the Cross and refusal to take hold of reality.

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...