Wednesday 25 April 2007
Tuesday 24 April 2007
Fishing with nets was an extraordinary and poignant experience for a priest - especially just after Easter! And it is a great blessing for a priest to know a fisherman (with a boat).
Saturday 21 April 2007
Sunday 15 April 2007
I lived in this world of ours totally cut off from God because the divinities were dead and God was not visible. And in seeing Christians I thought: it is an impossible life, this cannot be done in our world! Then, however, meeting some of them, joining their company and letting myself be guided in the catechumenate, in this process of conversion to God. I gradually understood: it is possible! And now I am happy at having found life. I have realised that the other was not life, and to tell the truth, even beforehand, I knew that it was not true life.
Saturday 14 April 2007
Thursday 12 April 2007
Monday 9 April 2007
Dear Brothers and sisters, through
the wounds of the Risen Christ we can see the evils which afflict humanity with the eyes of hope. In fact, by his rising the Lord has not taken away suffering and evil from the world but has vanquished them at their roots by the superabundance of his grace. He has countered the arrogance of evil with the supremacy of his love. He has left us the love that does not fear death, as the way to peace and joy. “Even as I have loved you – he said to his disciples before his death – so you must also love one another” (cf. Jn 13:34).
Sunday 8 April 2007
Saturday 7 April 2007
Friday 6 April 2007
Just before she went in to the hospice at the beginning of the week I'd had a chat with Mandy, just me and her. There had been some moments of anxiety during her last days in hospital before going to the hospice, but she shared in that conversation her deep faith in God and his love. And she was looking forward to seeing dad again.
I'd just like to share my reflection on the hospice itself. I know that the Douglas Macmillan Hospice - like all cancer care hospices - is trying to get away from the image of being a place you go to in order to die. These days they offer day care, respite care, and many other services which help in the palliative care of cancer sufferers. But the experience of our family has been that of the hospice as a place to help in the last days of life. You might think that a place like the in-patient unit of the hospice would be a sad and mournful place. It is after all a place of death. But this is not the case at all. It actually more resembles a rather nice hotel - or better still, an extension of home. Unlike a hospital with visiting hours and the rather clinical environment, the hospice is a place where families are welcome, everyone is treated with respect and generosity and even love. There is something particularly special about the members of staff who work there - doctors, nurses, and other staff - such that they demonstrate a deep respect for the dignity of the dying person. This is not the false dignity of the culture of death, which seeks to preserve dignity through mercy killing. This is the true culture of life, respecting the person and every dimension of their life, in the midst of their human weakness and suffering. Some people imagine that the drug regimes in hospices are there not only to make the last moments of life pain free, but also to help that last moment come. This is evidently not the case. Indeed we can be assured by palliative medicine specialists that keeping patients pain free is more likely to keep them alive longer than otherwise.
In these days I reflected on what it must have been like to die with the more excrutiating forms of cancer in the days before palliative cancer care. I can't even imagine what that 'last agony' could have been like. I am therefore very thankful to the hospice movement, begun by Douglas Macmillan back just under 100 years ago, which now results in such fine care being given to cancer sufferers in their last days. I am grateful that, in the middle of a society which is so marked by the culture of death, the culture of life is alive and well in these well-respected and valued institutions. Of course pain and suffering united to Christ is redemptive, and the Church recognises that. But the Church also tells us that:
Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person
cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the
sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be
morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end
or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a
special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged. (CCC 2279)
We cannot conceive of immediately
living a life that is 100 percent Christian without doubts and without sins. We
have to recognise that we are journeying on, that we must and can learn, and
also, gradually, that we must convert. Of, course, fundamental conversion is a
definitive act. But true conversion is an act of life that is acheived through
the patience of a life-time. It is an act in which we must not lose trust and
courage on the way. (B16, 22.2.07)
Thursday 5 April 2007
What can we say about today - there is so much to say and so little of it suffices. I will say just a little. The Eucharist was utterly unexpected. Christ had already given himself to humanity by being born as one of us and we would never have expected him to give himself to us in the fullest way possible.
I'll make a few references to the Holy Father's letter "Sacramentum Caritatis" - we haven't had a document like this since Pius XII's "Mediator Dei"! After all the recent liturgial changes, after all the neccesary anthroplogy which JPII gave us and especially the Theology ofthe Body - which we need to insert more fully into our understanding of human matters, and his Eucharistic letters, Benedict 16th renews our understanding of the meaning of human life upon the basis of the Eucharist and its insertion into the Church and into the world.
"Since only truth can make us free, Christ becomes for us the food of truth." In the Eucharist uniquely, we are able to undertake the Life of Grace, the only kind of life we were ever destined to live. In the beginning, the Holy Father says, men and women were given "some share in God's breath of life", but in Christ we are made "sharers of God's inmost life". We see this same dynamic most commonly taking place in the Sacrament of marriage and in those who enter into a genuine natural marriage. That two people enter into one another's lives in a mysterious yet personal way, and in so doing they begin to live in a new way - they live a life of communion.
We had "forgotten" our primary purpose in life - we were to live for God and with God. The gift of Christ's body and blood, a gift which would bring forth the gift of his Holy Spirit, makes possible the same, but greater, dynamic which can be called "friendship with Christ", but which is more properly called the Life of Grace. "The Eucharist draws us into Jesus' act of self oblation ... we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving." And here the Holy Father draws on an image he used at the Cologne World Youth Day; the Eucharist, he says, introduces into creation "a sort of nuclear fission ... which penetrates to the heart of all being ... to the point where God will be all in all." This is indeed the great mystery upon which our lives are built, directed and filled.
There will be opportunities in later postings to comment on the massive treatment which the Holy Father gives to the Liturgy in this letter. Here, I would like to note that with this document he is paving the way for the "reform of the reform". In the third paragraph a simple sentence states the whole principle of this reform: "Concretely, the changes which the Council called for need to be understood within the overall unity of the historical development of the Rite itself, without the introduction of artificial discontinuities."
Well, here we are - at the very threshold of the Church's celebration of the Paschal Mystery, the hinge of our lives, our spritual lives, our moral lives, our social lives, our family lives, our work and our intellectual lives. The world will seem to stop as we open ourselves to the decisive action of the Blessed Trinity in human life.
Wednesday 4 April 2007
remain enslaved, exploited and
stripped of their dignity; others are victims of racial and religious hatred,
hampered by intolerance and discrimination, and by political interference and
physical or moral coercion with regard to the free profession of their faith
.... those who are misled by facile prophets of happiness, those who struggle
with relationships and are incapable of accepting responsibility for their
present and future, those who are trapped in a tunnel of loneliness and who
often end up enslaved to alcohol or drugs .... what are we to think of those who
choose death in the belief that they are celebrating life?
Such is the picture that Judas and secular neo-pagan culture gives to us, and in the midst of this Christ is filling his followers with light, the light of grace. If we have been "doing our homework" this Lent then we should be choosing Christ with enthsiasm and love - ready to stake our lives upon God's plan for us and for the world. The alternative to choosing the culture of death is to want Christ.
In our own lives we may be poised between choosing good or evil, between life and death, yet in the depths of our hearts we know that we need to be saved. The directions and directives of our post-modern society will not help us to choose, just as the authorities in Jerusalem were incapable of helping Judas, but Christ is totally available to us and the Life of Grace is one step away.A community saved by Christ. This
is the true nature of the Church, which draws her nourishment from his Word and
his Eucharistic Body .... knowing that the One she proclaims takes away nothing that
is authenically human, but instead brings it to fulfilment. In truth, Christ
comes to destroy only evil, only sin; everything else, all the rest, he elevates
and perfects. Christ does not save us from our humanity, but through it; he
does not save us from the world, but came into the world, so that through him
the world might be saved. (B16, 25.12.06)