Verse 31 contracting the eye-brow centre

Verse 31        Vijñānabhairava-tantra,   contracting the eye-brow centre

“He quickly permeates [his being] with the [subtle-breath] right up to the crown of the head; [then] breaking through [this spot] by using the contraction of the eye-brows as a bridge, his mind being free of all thought constructs, he transcends all, he is above all.”

तयापूर्याशु मूर्धान्तं भङ्क्त्वा भ्रूक्षेपसेतुना।

निर्विकल्पं मनः कृत्वा सर्वोर्ध्वे सर्वगोद्गमः॥ ३१॥

tayāpūryāśu mūrdhāntaṁ bhaṅktvā bhrūkṣepasetunā |

nirvikalpaṁ manaḥ kṛtvā sarvordhve sarvagodgamaḥ || 31 ||

 

There are four stages in this process.

 

  1. “He quickly (aśu) permeates (āpūrya) [his being] with the (tayā) [subtle-breath] right up to the crown of the head (mūrdhāntaṁ);”

Lilian Silburn, Bettina Bäumer and Jaideva Singh all interpret the word tayā to mean the energy of the subtle breath. Silburn and Bäumer interpret mūrdhāntaṁ to mean the crown of the head and identity this with brahmarandhra. However, Jaideva Singh says the brahmarandhra is a space covered by twelve finger widths from the middle of the eyebrows. There is some uncertainty here. In any case the whole body is filled with subtle breath (prāṇa).

 

  1. “breaking (bhaṅktvā) through this spot by using the contraction (kṣepa) of the eye-brows (bhrū) as a bridge (setunā)

The next step is to contract the eyebrows. Silburn, Jaideva Singh and Bäumer all readily acknowledge that this technique is now lost. Nevertheless, the following considerations may be of value.

  1. Is the technique related to the bandhas that are made in yoga at the perineum or the stomach or the throat? These contractions are designed to overcome blockages (granthi).
  2. Although the practitioner is filled with subtle breath and therefore experiences no blockage within his own being, there is perhaps a further step to be taken. Does this next step represent a release of the energies that are contained within him like the rush of waters held back behind the wall or the bridge (setunā) of a dam.
  3. Lilian Silburn and Jaideva Singh both speak of the energy of consciousness (citśakti).
  4. The act of contracting the eyebrows occurs when mind and will are focused on something. It is the projection of energy.
  5. So, according to the Devīmahātmya, when Durga was involved in battle with the demons, she frowned, and from her frown Kālī leaped forth to destroy them.
  6. The eye-brow centre, where the iḍā and piṅgalā come together and join their energies, is also the cakra point of ājñā, which means authority.
  7. Bäumer makes the comment (p. 77 fn. 69) that eye-brow centre is where the guru places sandal paste, for example, so as the bring the disciple to a heightened consciousness.

 

The practitioner, having filled himself with prāṇa and not distracted by any limited thought constructs (see below), now contracts his eye-brows. This has the effect of projecting the energy beyond the limits of the body into the highest realm. In this way the practitioner is transported to a consciousness he did not have before.

 

  1. ‘his mind being free of all thought constructs’

The practitioner is no longer distracted by the multiplicity of thoughts, but is completely focused, spontaneous, free of calculation or doubt, or of any attempt to categorize and understand. There is totality in his action.

 

  1. ‘he transcends all, he is above all’

The practitioner transcends his own body and achieves a consciousness, which is beyond all limitation. The repetitive nature of the phrase ‘he transcends all (sarvagodgamaḥ), above all heights (sarvordhve)’ emphasizes the surpassing nature of this consciousness.

 

 

 

THE CHRISTIAN CONNECTION

It is interesting to note that the lines of concentration are apparent in the mosaics of Christ Pantocrator, a term which means ‘the one by whom and for whom all things are made’. He has all authority. As in the following example from Cefalu in Sicily.

 

 

In the ceremony of confirmation, the bishop extends his hands over the confirmands and prays that they will receive the “the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2), which describe the energetic, ideal king who will bring justice to his people.

 

He then places the oil of chrism, which represents the Holy Spirit, on the forehead of the confirmands and seals their baptism in water by means of that Spirit. The confirmands are therefore empowered to restore what is right and to defeat what is wrong. They are ‘soldiers of Christ’ (miles Christi Jesu). The bishop unleashes power of the Spirit in them.

 

The bishop next strikes the confirmands on the cheek in an ancient gesture taken from Germanic custom, which signifies the transition from slavery to freedom. The confirmed persons are now free with the Spirit of freedom.

 

Lastly, the bishop greets the confirmed person with the words ‘peace be with you’, as a sign of equality. Although the bishop has his own special ministry in the Church, the confirmed and the bishop are equal members. The confirmed person is free, equal, and empowered.

 

All this occurs on the forehead, between the eyebrows.

 

 

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Empowerment in Christianity and Kashmir Shaivism: the interplay of Spirit and kuṇḍalinī

Empowerment in Christianity and Kashmir Shaivism: the interplay of Spirit and kuṇḍalinī

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche: MCD University of Divinity; Australian Catholic University; Catholic Interfaith Committee (chair)     jeandupuche@gmail.com      www.johndupuche.com

Abstract

The role of the Spirit in the Christian tradition is at once powerful, dangerous, all pervading, enlivening, mysterious and comforting. How is this Spirit acquired, how is she experienced, what are the effects?

The function of kuṇḍalinī in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism is likewise enlivening and empowering, free and uncontrollable, exciting and wonderful.

How do these two principles relate, are they the same, how does one thrown light on another, in what ways are they the feminine aspect of reality, for kuṇḍalinī is seen as a goddess rising up the spine to join in loving union with the god at the crown of the head.

These various dimensions are explored in theory, in practice and in experience.

Prelude

  1. The lectures

From 3rd to 8th October 1932 the Indologist Wilhelm Hauer presented six lectures in Zurich on the topic of Yoga with special reference to the cakras as described in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa and in a number of Upanishads.[1]

The Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa is the 6th chapter of a larger work, the Śrī-tattva-cintāmani[2] a Bengali text composed by Pūrṇānanda in CE 1577.[3] It was first published in 1919 with an introduction and commentary by John Woodroffe under the title The Serpent Power of which Jung had a copy.[4]

Following on Hauer’s lectures, Carl Jung presented four lectures on 12, 19, 26 October, and 2 November giving a psychological interpretation of kuṇḍalinī Yoga.[5] Their cooperation did not last, however, for their opposing views on the religious and political situation in Germany led to a break between them.[6]

  1. Comparative theology

While this presentation does refer to Jung, it is primarily concerned with the interplay of Spirit and kuṇḍalinī and does so in keeping with the method of comparative theology espoused by Francis X. Clooney[7] who defines it as follows:

“Comparative theology … marks acts of faith seeking understanding which are rooted in a particular faith tradition but which, from that foundation, venture into learning from one or more other faith traditions.”[8]

It is not a form of intellectual ‘cherry picking’, so to speak, appropriating the best ideas. Nor is it comparative religion, which examines how a particular teaching is like or unlike another. It is not a form of reductionism whereby one uniquely different point of view is made to conform to another. Rather, it is a process of light shedding light upon light, a process of being further enlightened about one’s own point of view.

Sonu Shamdasani notes that this is in fact what Carl Jung does in the field of psychoanalysis.

“[Jung] argued that the knowledge of [the symbolism set out in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa] enabled much that would otherwise be seen as the meaningless by-products of a disease process to be understood as meaningful symbolic processes, and explicated the often peculiar physical localization of symptoms.”[9]

Jung himself says

“We are grateful to tantric yoga because it gives us the most differentiated forms and concepts by which we are able to express the chaotic experiences that we are actually undergoing.”[10]

It is questioned, however, whether he does so successfully. According to Sonu Shamdasani, Jung’s attempt to

“translate the terms of Kundalini yoga into modern concepts” leads to a hybridization of terms which are neither ‘Eastern” nor “Western”.[11]

Indeed Gopi Krishna states, with reference to those seminars.

“None of the scholars present, as evident from the views expressed by them, displayed the least knowledge about the real significance of the ancient document they were discussing at the time [namely the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa].[12]

This paper does not wish to make the same mistakes. Nor does it propose to present kuṇḍalinī from the point of view of the Bengali text of the 16th century, the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa, but in terms of a Kashmir Shaiva text of the 11th century, the Tantrāloka. It wishes to see, in keeping with Clooney’s comparative theology, how the Christian viewpoint can be enhanced in light of that text.

iii.       Sir John Woodroffe

Through his ‘Tantrik Texts Series’, the first of which was published in January 1913 and the last, no. 21, in 1940 four years after his death, John Woodroffe, who used the pseudonym ‘Arthur Avalon’, initiated modern Western studies of the tantra.

Why the pseudonym? It seems Woodroffe used the name of an unfinished picture by the Pre-Raphaelite painter Burne Jones entitled ‘Arthur in Avalon’[13] to refer to the ‘symbiosis’ between himself who provided the “money and organizing drive” and his most important collaborators who provided “the textual scholarship”,[14] Atal Behari Ghose in particular. While Woodroffe wrote introductions and commentaries and essays,[15] he was well aware of his shortcomings in Sanskrit and of his dependence on others in the work of translating. In his preface to the first edition of S’akti and Sākta[16] he explains that he uses the nom de plume in order to

“denote that [the previous books] have been written with the direct cooperation of others and in particular with the assistance of one of my friends who will not permit me to mention his name. I do not desire sole credit of what is as much their work as mine.”[17]

Despite that caution, Woodroffe is universally remembered[18] whereas his collaborators have been forgotten. Indeed, in the end he openly identifies himself with ‘Arthur Avalon’.[19]

 

PART I           KUṆḌALINĪ

  1. THE TEACHING
  2. Consciousness

A mirror, strictly speaking, is blank. Precisely because it without stain or flaw or distortion, it can bear any image on its surface, even the light of the most distant galaxies. Of its own it has no image; of itself it is capable of every image.

Similarly, supreme consciousness focuses on nothing in particular and simultaneously has infinite potential, which is called ‘kuṇḍalinī in all its fullness’ (pūrakuṇḍalinī).

  1. Śiva and Śakti

In the view of Kashmir Shaivism,[20] the ultimate reality is supreme consciousness

(saṁvit) understood as masculine, the god Śiva. This consciousness is self

aware, and is expressed as ‘I am’ (aham). It is not an abstract impersonal state.

This self-awareness is understood as feminine, the goddess Śakti. It is the primordial mantra at the core of all mantras. She is the power of the mantra (mantravīrya). All realities are limited forms of her reality. All arise from her emanative energy (śakti) and likewise all are reabsorbed into it. She gives birth, endlessly, but she also draws time to a close. She is all-powerful. With her Śiva can do all; without her Śiva can do nothing.

The god and the goddess represent the inactive and active aspects of reality, one is not without the other; one is an aspect of the other. Thus male and the female constitute the Ultimate Reality, non-dually. This is expressed in the image of Śiva and Śakti united in an eternal embrace. All beings and all events are the outcome of their intercourse (maithuna).

There is no room, therefore, for the divisive concepts of pure and impure, licit and illicit. These are the mental constructs (vikalpa) fabricated by people who do not have the divine mind and do not understand that all things spring from the love-play (krīḍa) of Śiva and Śakti, and that therefore are all pure.

“Śiva who is conscious and free, whose essence is transparent, is constantly in vibration, and this supreme energy goes to the very tips of the sense organs. He is then nothing but enjoyment, and the whole universe, like him, is vibrating.”

And again

“This eternal, incomparable heart is the motionless, vibrating centre of consciousness the universal receptacle from which all the universes emanate and into which all are reabsorbed.”[21]

iii.       Death and life

The word kuṇḍa refers to the sacred fire pit and, by extension, to the yoni. The word kuṇḍalī means a ring, and by extension kuṇḍalinī means a ‘coiled serpent’. These terms are interrelated. Therefore from the womb, which is the place of sacrifice and blessing, the serpent rises to reach to the heavens.

The Vedas speak of the serpent Ahirbudhnya who encircles the universe as well as containing it within himself.[22] The Mahābhārata[23] tells of Brahma asking the serpent Śesa, who had dedicated himself intensely to spiritual practice, to become the foundation of the earth with its mountains and streams, forests and cities. According to the Yājur Veda. V. 33, during the course of the Vedic ritual the celebrant is deemed to be seated on the serpent who is addressed as follows:

“You are an ocean that contains all, you are the unborn, with one foot only, you are the serpent of the oceanic depths.”[24]

The word viṣa normally means ‘poison’. The serpent, the kuṇḍalinī, when it is fully awakened and upright, on one foot so to speak, can no longer strike and kill. The word viṣa then means entry (āveśa) into the transcendent sphere that provides the nectar of immortality.[25] The source of death becomes the source of life.

  1. Emanation and reabsorption

Śakti, aka kuṇḍalinī in all her fullness, is always united with Śiva. Out of her own freedom (svātantrya) she gives birth to the universe. This is the moment of emission (visarga). She manifests duality in a downward flowing kuṇḍalinī (adhaḥkuṇḍalinī). and shows herself in the endless variety of creation. She lessens her vitality even to the point of becoming stone. Even in her most inert form at the lowest cakra, the mūlādhāra, she still remains whole and entire, whence the image of the serpent lying asleep at the base of the spine. This state is experienced as ignorance, doubt, depression and inertia. But there is a contrary motion. Again by her own volition, kuṇḍalinī begins to awaken.

This upward flowing kuṇḍalinī (ūrdhvakuṇḍalinī) starts in the mūlādhāra cakra, and reaches the crown of the head.

When the final stage is reached, the yogi is bathed in bliss; indeed he is nothing but bliss; the world itself is bliss even in its perpetual play of emanation and reabsorption. It is a cosmic felicity (jagadānanda). [26] All is one.

These alternating movements of emanation and reabsorption, like the swing of the pendulum, are just two aspects of the same kuṇḍalinī who is feminine and free, energetic and uncontrollable, playful and dangerous, the divine source of all.

 

  1. EMPOWERMENT

The Sanskrit term cakra has many meanings. It can refer to a wheel that is idle and then begins to turn; a discus that cuts the bonds that paralyze a person; a realm or domain where power is exercised; a vortex, into which all things are absorbed; or a radiance whence all things emerge. It can signify a centre of energies, indeed any sort of grouping.

Not all Hindu texts give the same number of them. Kashmir Shaivism lists five.[27] The Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, a text no earlier than the 15th cent.[28] lists six chakras[29] as does the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa. There are many other elements as well, so that the diagram in such books as La Kuṇḍalinī, l’énergie des profondeurs becomes highly complex.[30] There are, for example, the 72,000 channels that radiate from the navel or the heart; the left (iḍā) and right (piṅgalā) channels, and the central channel (suṣumnā); the subtle breaths: prāṇa, apāna, samāna, udāna and vyāna.

A chakra can also be called a ‘lotus’ (padma). Its roots are buried in the mud while its stem rises through the water. At the coming of the sun the flower on the surface opens its petals and reveals its beauty. So too when the attention of the practitioner is directed to a lotus, it becomes active.

The chakras are not physical organs but are related to the anatomy, a point clearly made by Jung who states, with regard to the third chakra.

“… there is a certain category of psychical events that take place in the stomach. Therefore one says, “Something weighs on my stomach.” And if one is very angry, one gets jaundice; if one is afraid, one has diarrhea… that shows what psychical localization means.”[31]

Rather than go into the rich symbology of the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa it is easier to note the use of language.

The first chakra, the ‘root source’ (mūlādhara), is located at the seat, or more precisely between the anus and the genitals. In ordinary language we speak of a person being settled, from the Old English word setl, a ‘seat’. The monarch sits on his throne, the bishop on his cathedra, the judge on the bench. The mūlādhāra is the basis of power.

The second chakra is ‘the place of the self’ (svādhiṣṭhāna). It relates to self-identity, especially sexual identity. It is of paramount importance as shown by the profound psychological problems that arise when this cakra is repressed.

The third chakra is maṇipūra (‘jewel city’), in the region of the stomach. When people feel nervous they speak of ‘butterflies in the stomach’. A person ‘has guts’, or is ‘lily-livered’. It is the locus of courage and assertiveness.

The heart is the central cakra and is called anāhata (‘unstruck’). People are described variously as ‘cold hearted’, ‘warm hearted’, ‘good hearted’, ‘they have no heart’, ‘he is all heart’, ‘she is heartless’, he is ‘broken hearted’, etc. It is the place of relationships.

The fifth chakra is at the throat. It is here that you ‘get things off your chest’, and ‘speak openly’. This chakra is called viśuddha (‘cleansing’). A falsehood is called ‘a dirty lie’. A significant method of psychological healing is to enable people to give voice to what is troubling them.

The sixth chakra, located between the eyebrows, is called ājñā, (‘command’), the place of insight and authority, the ‘third eye’, where all the faculties and energies converge.

The sahasrāra, literally ‘the thousand rays’, is located on the crown of the head. The monarch’s crown symbolizes universal and even divine dominion. It is here that Śiva and Śakti are fully united.

The power of each chakra penetrates every other chakra. Those who are fully integrated will enjoy a sense of security and stability, will be fully erotic and actively enjoying life, will be confident and assured, great hearted and welcoming, transparent and authentic, authoritative and insightful, with a sense of universal bliss and divinity. They see all reality as the fruitfulness of their Śakti and are united with the whole world in the eternal play of love (krīḍa).

This state is produced by the rise of kuṇḍalinī. Its achievement is the highest empowerment (siddhi), greater than the eight traditional supernatural powers such as invisibility or possessing the magical shoes that can convey the wearers anywhere they wish etc.

Excursus

The excessive prudery of the Victorian age is well known. Has this led to sexual repression? Has this in turn led to its opposite extreme and the misinterpretation and misuse of tantra?

This “Californian tantra,” as Georg Feuerstein calls it, is “based on a profound misunderstanding of the Tantric path. Their main error is to confuse Tantric bliss … with ordinary orgasmic pleasure””

At the same time, there is an intense need to redeem the sacredness of sexuality and to see how the erotic and the divine are one.

“Tantra provides the needed antidote to the life-denying, hyperintellectualised world of the … West.”[32]

Hauer, on the other hand, is careful not to confuse tantra with sex. In his lecture of 8 October, 1932 he states

“… in the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpaṇa, the subtle, sublime woman power is symbolized by Kundalini.”[33]

and goes on to define woman power as

a certain power of knowledge, a force, which has nothing to do with the erotic and this has to be set freed and united with the knowledge force of man power at its highest point of development.”[34]

For his part, Jung clearly states

“… the anima is the Kundalini”[35]

 

which may have been suggested by the following sentence, which Jung marks heavily in his copy of Woodroffe’s The Serpent.

“She … is the ‘Inner Woman’, to whom reference was made when it was said: “What need have I of outer women? I have an Inner Woman within myself. (1st ed. 272).”[36]

  1. Two practices

Kashmir Shaivism describes many practices and rituals whose focus can be arranged broadly speaking into four categories: focus on action, such as recitation, breath control, ritual, pilgrimage etc.; focus on knowledge and understanding; focus on the will, consisting simply in awareness of one’s essential motivation. Then there is the highest path, which is really no path at all, since it is pure grace.

One of the most remarkable texts of Kashmir Shaivism is the Vijñānabhairava-tantra, a short text of some 163 couplets. Only two of these couplets are explicitly concerned with sexual practice, which shows that tantra is not principally concerned with sexual experience.

The couplets are consist of four half lines, the first three of which describe the practice and the fourth gives the result, which comes as a surprise. Thus both effort and grace are involved. The rise of kuṇḍalinī can be prepared but finally she is free and her effects come as a surprise.

Here are two contrasting examples, vv. 35 and 132:

on the void

  1. “The central channel stands at the centre
  2. like the stem of a lotus.
  3. By meditating on this space within,
  4. the God shines forth, because of the Goddess.”[37]

The practitioner focuses on the void, the essential emptiness of their being, compared with the space at the centre of a lotus stem which rises from the mud to reach the surface of the water and open to the air and the sun. The practitioner focuses is on the emptiness. Then suddenly the God (deva) becomes apparent, not as separate from the practitioner. On the contrary, the practitioner has become the god, by identity. All this is due to the action of the Goddess. The practitioner comes to fullness through emptying himself; his limited self has disappeared. It is an exhilarating moment.

on fullness

  1. Eternal, omnipresent, without any support,
  2. all pervading, Lord of all that is”
  3. – by constantly meditating on these words
  4. one becomes what they signify [namely Śiva].[38]

The practitioner meditates on the Lord of all that is. As a result she becomes all that is, but not in her limited self. She realises that all is essentially Śiva. She is Śiva. She too is omnipresent, everlasting, and free.

 

PART II          HOLY SPIRIT

Prelude

Part I of this paper spoke of kuṇḍalinī. This second half does not say that kuṇḍalinī is like or unlike the Spirit. Rather it shows how the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism uncovers dimensions that are present in the Christian worldview. It does not engage in comparisons but is an example of comparative theology. What follows is an attempt to describe these dimensions.

Kuṇḍalinī manifests herself in countless ways, which can be gathered into three categories or levels: sthūla, sūkṣma and parā. Jung describes them as follows:

“The sthūla aspect is simply things as we see them. The sūkṣma aspect is what we guess about them, or the abstractions or philosophical conclusions we draw from observed facts”[39]

He could speak of the first two levels, but not of the highest level.

“I do not speak of the parā aspect because that is what Professor Hauer calls the metaphysical. I must confess that there the mist begins for me – I do not risk myself there.”[40]

I suggest it is precisely this level, the level beyond archetypes, that relates to the Holy Spirit.

In his lecture on 12 October 1932[41] Jung identifies “the grace of heaven” with Kundalini”. However this identification is questioned. For example, Abhishiktananda (aka Henri Le Saux (1910-1973), a Benedictine monk who adopted Hindu spiritual practices and became aware of the power of Shakti recounts:

“I learned to hold myself straight with becoming stiff, and I could sometimes feel the energy circulate from the top to the bottom of my body”.

He did relate this force to the Holy Spirit but did not see them as identical.[42]

 

  1. THE TEACHING
  2. The Spirit as feminine

Kuṇḍalinī is seen as the goddess rising up the spine to join with the god at the crown of the head. What does that say about the Spirit? Can the Spirit be presented in feminine terms? If so, it involves a significant shift in thinking.

King Josiah (7th cent BCE), in his reform of the Temple in Jerusalem, banished the feminine from the Godhead.[43] In the view of Toni Wolff this “paucity of feminine symbolism” had a deleterious effect on women, especially in the Jewish and Protestant traditions.[44]

“The exclusion of feminine elements in religious symbolism has the effect collectively of suppressing the feminine modes of understanding, of acting, of spirit, and of the heightened sense of the moment.”[45]

However, this banishment is not viewed entirely negatively by Eric Neumann (1905-1960), a disciple of Jung, who argued that

For the sake of the development of human consciousness and the liberation of the human male, [YHVH] had to drive out the goddesses and assert his own independence as a masculine deity.”[46]

The elimination of the feminine from the Godhead was softened by the definition in 1950 of the Assumption.

“Jung understands the Catholic dogma of the Assumption of Mary as theological recognition of the feminine in the Godhead and as a change in the psychic experience of the Godhead.[47]

This has been taken further in recent Christian theology, which has raised the possibility of understanding the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, in feminine terms. Anthony Kelly puts it very clearly:

“the feminine …. [is] a distinctive property of one of the divine persons, namely the Holy Spirit. Though Father and Son are obviously defined in masculine terms, the Spirit is most expressed in feminine and maternal symbolism: the Spirit broods over creation, nurtures to life, forms the Body of Christ in head and members, leads to the Father, is an all-encompassing, life-giving gift in the way a mother’s love is given.’”[48]

However, Elizabeth Johnson sees a problem.

“The Spirit may be the feminine aspect of the divine, but the endemic difficulty of Spirit theology insures that she remains rather unclear and invisible. A deeper theology of the Holy Spirit, notes Walter Kasper in another connection, stands before the difficulty that unlike the Father and Son, the Holy Spirit is “faceless”.”[49]

Is that a disadvantage or an advantage? The Spirit’s very indefinability emphasizes the point that the mystery of God cannot only be explored kataphatically, by means of words, but is also known apophatically, without words, in experience, in relationship, in meditation, art and symbol. The Spirit is ‘uncircumscribed’ and appears in fluid forms – breath, water, flight, fire …. The Spirit is not seen visibly, as is the Word but in ‘spiritual phenomena’, charisms, and above all agapê, in the communion of saints and the presence of one in the other.[50]

This recent shift towards seeing the Spirit in feminine terms reverses a long-standing tradition in the Church. The declaration of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as “God-bearer” (τῆς θεοτόκου) at the Council of Ephesus (451 CE) meant that she received a status “just below the Godhead”.[51] Indeed, Mary took over the Holy Spirit’s role as Intercessor and became the symbol of the Church.[52] The maternal and feminine qualities of the Spirit that had been emphasised in early Syrian theology were transferred across to Mary and the Church.[53] She so effectively took the place of the Spirit in devotional life[54] that the Spirit could be called ‘Le Divin Méconnu’.[55] Indeed, the typical manner of seeing the Spirit in feminine terms waned, as did any thinking about the Spirit at all.[56]

This view of Mary became one-sided, however, and became a symbol for the subordinated Church, always at the disposition of her Lord even though the Scriptural text if examined more closely gives a fuller picture.

“The figure of Kali throws a new light on the Biblical text and shown that Mary is dangerous, perceptive, joyous, free, strong, demanding, commanding and successful. More truly than water, fire and wind – those irresistible elements – Mary is shown to be the icon of the Spirit.”[57]

Through the enlightening effect of the teaching on kuṇḍalinī the Spirit is brought to centre stage.

  1. Word and Spirit

The relationship of Śiva and Śakti is an essential aspect of Kashmir Shaivism. In what ways does it open up aspects of the relationship between Word and Spirit?

The word ‘spirit’ (ruah) is found in the Old Testament. Its presence is life; its absence is death.

“When you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth”. (Ps 104:29-30)

This is true in the general cycle of creation. It is true also in the regeneration of the Chosen People.

5“Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath [spirit] to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put spirit in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ (Ez 37:5-6))

When the spirit possesses a person it can give great physical power and even a sense of violent anger, as in the story of Samson

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah. When he came to the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion roared at him. 6The spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one might tear apart a kid.” (Jg 14:5-6,)

But the spirit also gives the power of the word,

Then the hand of the Lord was upon me there; and he said to me, Rise up, go out into the valley, and there I will speak with you. 23So I rose up and went out into the valley; and the glory of the Lord stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face. 24The spirit entered into me, and set me on my feet; (Ez 3:22-24)

and consoles.

28Then they shall know that I am the Lord their God because I sent them into exile among the nations, and then gathered them into their own land. I will leave none of them behind; 29and I will never again hide my face from them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God. (Ez 39:28-29)

The word ‘spirit’ (pneuma) occurs with great frequency in the New Testament, some 500 times. The Holy Spirit is seen as personal, indeed one of the three Persons of the Trinity. The Spirit is not an impersonal psychological principle or an instrument. In fact, for Jules Monchanin, the predecessor of Abhishiktananda, the Trinity comes to completion in the Spirit. (“La Trinite s’achève en l’Esprit »)[58]

According to the Gospel narrative, the Spirit is seen publicly for the first time when Jesus comes up out of the River Jordan, the heavens open, the Spirit descends suddenly and surprisingly like a bird, and the voice of God is heard proclaiming him to be the Beloved Son (Lk 3:22).

Many figures in the Old Testament, such as Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, and Isaiah are called. Jesus, however, is not called; he is sent. He is the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14), not the flesh made Word. He does not acquire the Spirit as though she was not always his. He does show the power of the Spirit, but not in the berserk way of figures such as Samson, but calmly, as someone who is self-assured and confident. Thus he changes water into wine, heals the leper, calms the storm and raises the dead with no more than a brief command. Even though he is at one with the Spirit, the Spirit drives him into the desert (Mk 1:12) in prefigurement of his crucifixion. Thus the Spirit is dangerous. The Spirit is also consoling, for it is by her power that he will be raised from the dead (Rm 8:11). The same Spirit brings to death and brings to life.

However, even though Jesus is the place where the Spirit dwells, she is not fully communicated till Jesus has become the supreme paradox (Jn 7:39). He, who has the form of God, empties himself even to the point of being crucified (Ph 2:6-7); he knows good and evil, purity and impurity, joy and sorrow. He combines the uncombinable, turning death into life, evil into good, time into eternity. He holds the opposites in union. From this supreme paradox the Spirit flows into the world, not just partially and occasionally but permanently (Jn 14:16) and without measure (Jn 3:34).

Jesus has power. All things are created through him and for him. He takes away the sin of the world and gives his own flesh and blood as nourishment. He has the strength to offer himself in sacrifice. And he leads into the silence of the Divine Presence. From the start and to the end there is a sense of immersion into love.

The relationship of Word and Spirit is not to be understood in a gross or even subtle way but supremely. There is complementarity. The Spirit and the Word are part and counterpart. The Spirit inspires the Word; the Word acknowledges the Spirit. The Word is not Spirit, nor is the Spirit Word, but the Word is inspired and the Spirit is acknowledged. The one is not the other; the one is not without the other; the one is for the other. It is an intercourse. This occurs at the supreme level, within the Godhead itself. There is intense joy in this complementarity. It is expressed most fully in the relationship of male and female.

However, all these things remains just information until the Spirit shows their meaning and power. Indeed, the Spirit is intimately connected with empowerment.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” (Acts 1:8)

 

  1. EMPOWERMENT:

As noted above “kuṇḍalinī is feminine and free, energetic and uncontrollable, playful and dangerous, the divine source of all.” In what way does she show that the Spirit too is free and surprising, unimaginable and indefinable, known but utterly mysterious, for the Spirit moves as she wills (Jn 3:8). She lives at the depths (I Cor 2:10-11) and enlightens humans at the very core of their being. She takes pleasure in enlightening or obscuring. She chooses those whom she wishes to inspire. She provides a heightened form of consciousness.

  • Enlightenment

The teachings of Christianity may well be imparted and the ceremonies celebrated, but these remain just information until the Spirit brings to knowledge.

no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (I Cor 12:3).

It is by the inspiration of the Spirit that a person experiences Jesus in his paradoxical fullness and is identified with him, becoming one body with him (1 Cor 12:27). It is a knowledge of things unseen (Heb 11:1). It is, therefore knowledge, but not just information. It is not limited to the faculties of sense and reason but a knowledge that is discovered by a faculty that the Spirit bestows. It is sui generis.

  • Transfiguration

The Spirit comes as a surprise, and leads in directions that may disturb, out into the unknown, away from the security provided by the controlling mind. It is a journey into every dimension of one’s being, for the Spirit inspires every dimension. The whole body is filled with light and becomes light; all the faculties are enlightened and transfigured. Thus from chakra to chakra the Spirit moves, leading not to an impersonal consciousness, but into communion with all who have been inspired in the same way.

  • Freedom

It is a totally transforming process, a process of being born “from above” (Jn 3:7). The human is divinised. The person who is enlivened by the Spirit becomes spirit (Jn 3:6); all the dimensions of their being, from the lowest to the highest, are transfigured. The Spirit is free and those who are made spirit are free (2 Cor 3:17) and not governed by Law (Gal 5:18). It is the freedom of the Spirit, which is disconcerting to those who wish to categorize and control. It is the freedom to recreate the world according to one’s good pleasure. It is not licentiousness but the freedom that looks to another’s freedom. It is freedom from the fear of death, that ‘elephant in the room’ which casts a shadow over passing happiness.

  • Authority

The Christian has been given ultimate authority. On the first Easter Sunday Jesus, who was dead and is now risen, stands before the disciples and breathes on them. By this dramatic gesture he imparts the Holy Spirit to them, and gives them the supreme spiritual power, to free people from their sin or to hold it against them (Jn 20:21-23).

They have received the Spirit. From their heart they will bestow the Spirit on others (Jn 7:38-39).

This is the real power, not political or economic or physical power, not magic, but that power, which enables a person to be free of whatever holds them down, and to reach the fullness of joy. The benefits are not in abundant harvests or sporting prowess, but the transfiguration of the world.

It is also the power to change the structure of the world,

“The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6)

and authority to transform this world into a place of justice and peace (Isaiah 11:2-3).

  • Proclamation

Fifty days later, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit comes upon them with the sound of a mighty wind. They begin to speak to people gathered in Jerusalem from all parts of the know world, the teaching that can bring all humanity together. It is the power of the word. But what was it in their manner of speaking that made people think they were drunk (Acts 2:1-13). The Spirit makes people behave in ways that defy normal human custom. They seem to be out of step, for they march to a different tune.

  • Perception

The Holy Spirit has a story, but this story is essentially unnarratable. The life that is inspired by the Spirit is beyond description. Only the spiritual can perceive the spiritual. Indeed only the spiritual can finally understand the totality of things. As St Paul says:

Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. (I Cor 2:15)

Not every impulse is the result of divine inspiration. St Paul contrasts the influences from a negative source with the fruits of the Spirit.

19Now the works of the [unenlightened character] are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing… 22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control.”( Gal 5:19-21, 22-23)

  • Enactment

The rituals of the Church are seen as acts of power. The act of Baptism itself confers salvation and immortality. In Reconciliation the priest uses his power to forgive even the most heinous of sins. In the Eucharist, the priest by consecrating the bread and wine transforms their very substance, so that communion with the divine occurs through material objects. All these are done by the power of the words and the accompanying actions, with the authority of the Church and always by the inspiration of the Spirit.

  1. Two anecdotes
  2. It sometimes happens, in the course of meditation, that colours appear from within, red, green, blue, swirling and changing, that are more vivid than stained glass windows, more fresh and more glorious than the colours of a Van Gogh. The colours of artists or landscapes are from outside; these colours are from inside and have a beauty that is incomparable. Sometimes, surprisingly, the colour is black, an intense black not found in a darkened room, intensely beautiful, one could almost say luminous.

These effects occur spontaneously, in great peace, with a sense of energy, in the divine Presence.

Is the reason for this that the colour receptors in the eye, which normally respond to stimulus from outside, are being awakened not by material causes but by grace? Are they inspired colours, sourced from the depths of the soul and the realm of faith?

The possibilities suggested by these appearances of colour are mind-boggling. Are they a foretaste of the transfiguration when all the dormant capacities are brought into action? Is my meditation a beginning of transfiguration?

  1. There is immense satisfaction in the act of preaching, for it is a bond of unity when I speak the words of God to the People of God. It is an inspired moment when a heightened consciousness occurs in me and the words are inspired and relevant, I hope, and set out in orderly fashion, but above all flowing freely. I enter into a new space, which is reasonable, yet beyond mere reason, informative but beyond mere knowledge. It is an experience of empowerment. It does sometimes inspire others, and the hope is that they will be led beyond the words and the speaker to the One who is more than any tongue can tell. Thus we enter into communion at every level. The Spirit is essential to this act.

CONCLUSION:

In a world where polarizations of every kind are to be found, especially in the religious sphere; where people fear to lose their individuality; where there is confusion about identity, whether it be cultural, racial, sexual or religious; where diversity seems to lead to conflict: in such a world the necessity of comparative theology is all the more evident. Rather than seeing others as a problem, their difference is a means of learning more about oneself.

In a world where people feel powerless because they are dispossessed, or unemployed, growing old or infirm, where they feel devalued and marginalized by ‘isms’ of every sort: in such a world there is a need to discover deeper forms of empowerment. The complementary forms of kuṇḍalinī and Spirit are a help in this regard, for the empowerment they give does not depend on external factors but arises from within.

This article is an attempt to show, in some small way, how the teaching on kuṇḍalinī is not a threat but on the contrary can, for the Christian, open up unexplored aspects of the Holy Spirit. In similar fashion, though this article has not broached the topic directly, Christian teaching on the Spirit can revel the true nature of kuṇḍalinī.

The lecture was given by PowerPoint at Habitat Uniting Church, 2 Canterbury Rd., Mont Albert, 9 December 2016.

Bibliography

Blée, Fabrice. The Third Desert; the story of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2011. Originally published in French under the title Le Désert de l’altérité. Quebec: Mediaspaul, 2004.

Clooney, Francis X. Comparative Theology; Deep Learning Across Religious Borders. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Dupuche, John. ‘The Goddess Kali and the Virgin Mary, in Australian Electronic Journal of

Theology, 19.1 (2012) 43-57.

Hauer, Wilhelm. “Yoga, Especially the Meaning of the Cakras,” in Mary Foote (Ed.). The Kundalini Yoga: Notes on the Lecture Given by Prof. Dr. J. W. Hauer with Psychological Commentary by Dr. C. G. Jung. Zürich, 1932.

Hennaux, Jean-Marie. ‘L’Esprit et le féminin: la mariologie de Leonardo Boff : à propos d’un livre récent,’ in Nouvelle Revue Théologique 109 (1987) 884-895.

Johnson, Elizabeth. ‘The Incomprehensibility of God and the Image of God male and female’, in Theological Studies 45 (1984) 441-465.

Johnson, Elizabeth. Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit. New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1993.

Kelly, Anthony. The Trinity of Love, A Theology of the Christian God. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989.

Kieffer, Gene. (Ed.). Kundalini for the New Age; Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna. New York: Bantam. 1988.

Landrieux , J. R. Maurice. Le Divin Méconnu. Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne, 1921.

Michaël, Tara. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, Traité Sanskrit de Haṭha-yoga. Préface de Jean Filliozat. Paris: Fayard, 1974.

Monchanin, Jules. ‘L’lnde et la contemplation’, in Dieu vivant 3 (1945) 15-49.

Sanderson, Alexis. ‘The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir’, in Mélanges Tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner, Tantric Studies in Memory of d’Hélène Brunner. Dominic Goodall & André Padoux (Eds.). Pondichéry: Institut Français d’Extrême-Orient, 2007. pp. 231-442.

Shamdasani, Sonu. (Ed.). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga; Notes of the Seminar given in 1932 by C. G. Jung. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Silburn, Lilian. La Kuṇḍalinī, l’énergie des profondeurs. Paris: Les Deux Océans, 1983.

Taylor, Kathleen. Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: ‘an Indian Soul in a European body?’ Richmond: Curzon, 2001.

Ulanov, Ann Belford. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971.

Urban, Hugh B. Tantra. Sex, Secrecy Politics and Power in the Study of Religions. Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003

Volkmar, Fritz. 1 & 2 Kings, A continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.

Williams, Jay G. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’ in Theology Today 32 (1975) 234-242.

Wolff, Toni. “A Few Thoughts on the Individuation Process in Women,” in Spring. New York: The Analytical Psychology Club, 1941.

Woodroffe, John. S’akti and Sākta. Madras: Ganesh & Company, 1987.

Woodroffe, John. The Serpent Power. Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Sonu Shamdasani (Ed.). The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga; Notes of the Seminar given in 1932 by C. G. Jung. (1996). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 88.

[2] John Woodroffe. The Serpent Power. Madras: Ganesh & Co., 1989. p. ix.

[3] Woodroffe. The Serpent Power. p. xi.

[4] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 106, fn.23

[5] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. ix.

[6] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. xli-xlii.

[7] Parkman Professor of Divinity, Director, The Center for the Study of World Religions, Harvard University.

[8] Francis X. Clooney, Comparative Theology; Deep Learning Across Religious Borders. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. p. 10.

[9] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xxvi.

[10] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 99.

[11] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xlvi.

[12] Kundalini for the New Age; Selected Writings of Gopi Krishna. Gene Kieffer (Ed.). New York: Bantam, 1988. p. 43. Quoted in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. xlv.

[13] Kathleen Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: ‘an Indian Soul in a European body?’ Richmond: Curzon, 2001. p. 148.

[14] Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 236.

[15] Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 206.

[16] John Woodroffe. S’akti and Sākta. Madras: Ganesh & Company, 1987. p. xiii.

[17] Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 150.

[18] Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 150.

[19] Taylor. Sir John Woodroffe. p. 151.

[20] For the fullest account of the Kashmir Shaivism and its context, see Alexis Sanderson, ‘The Śaiva Exegesis of Kashmir’, in Mélanges Tantriques à la mémoire d’Hélène Brunner, Tantric Studies in Memory of d’Hélène Brunner. Dominic Goodall & André Padoux (eds.) Pondichéry: Institut Français d’Extrême-Orient, 2007. pp. 231-442.

[21] Silburn, Lilian, La Kuṇḍalinī, l’énergie des profondeurs. Paris: Les Deux Océans, 1983. p. 21, no reference.

[22] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 31.

[23] Tara Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, Traité Sanskrit de Haṭha-yoga. Préface de Jean Filliozat. Paris: Fayard, 1974. p. 163.

[24] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 31, footnote 3.

[25] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 30.

[26] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 47.

[27] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. p. 42.

[28] Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. p. 18.

[29] Michaël. Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. pp. 73-74.

[30] Silburn. La Kuṇḍalinī. pp. 52-53 or p. 159

[31] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 34.

[32] Hugh B. Urban. Tantra. Sex, Secrecy Politics and Power in the Study of Religions, Berkley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003. p. 171.

[33] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 89.

[34] Wilhelm Hauer. “Yoga, Especially the Meaning of the Cakras,” in Mary Foote (Ed.). The Kundalini Yoga: Notes on the Lecture Given by Prof. Dr. J. W. Hauer with Psychological Commentary by Dr. C. G. Jung. Zürich, 1932. p. 97, quoted in The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 20, fn. 37,

[35] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 22.

[36] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 22, fn. 41.

[37] madhyanāḍī madhyasaṁsthā bisasūtrābharūpayā |

dhyātāntarvyomayā devyā tayā devaḥ prakāśate || 35 ||

[38] nitya vibhur nirādhāro vyāpakaś cākhilādhipa /

śabdān pratikṣanaṃ dhyāyan kṛtārtho ‘rthānurūpataḥ // 132

[39] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. p. 7.

[40] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. 6-7.

[41] The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga. pp. 20-21.

[42] Blée, Fabrice. The Third Desert; the story of Monastic Interreligious Dialogue. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2011. p. 153.

[43] Fritz Volkmar. 1 & 2 Kings, A continental Commentary. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003, 406.

[44] Toni Wolff, “A Few Thoughts on the Individuation Process in Women,” in Spring. New York: The Analytical Psychology Club, 1941. p. 84, quoted in Ulanov, Ann Belford. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971. pp. 315-316.

[45] Ulanov, Ann Belford. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971. p. 317.

[46] Williams, Jay G. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’ in Theology Today 32 (1975) 234-242. p. 236.

[47] Ulanov. The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology. pp. 318-319.

[48] Anthony Kelly. The Trinity of Love, A Theology of the Christian God. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989. p. 252.

[49] Johnson, Elizabeth A. ‘The Incomprehensibility of God and the Image of God male and female’, Theological Studies 45 (1984) 441-465. p. 458.

[50] Jules Monchanin. ‘L’Inde et la contemplation’ in Dieu vivant 3 (1945) 15-49, pp. 23-24, quoted in Hennaux, Jean-Marie. ‘L’Esprit et le féminin: la mariologie de Leonardo Boff : à propos d’un livre récent. Nouvelle Revue Théologique I09 (1987) 884-895. p. 886, footnote 5.

[51] Williams. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’. p. 239

[52] Williams. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’. p. 239.

[53] Johnson, Elizabeth A. Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit. New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1993. p. 56.

[54] Williams, Jay G. ‘Yahweh, Women and the Trinity’, p. 239.

[55] J. R. Maurice Landrieux. Le Divin Méconnu. Paris: Gabriel Beauchesne, 1921.

[56] Johnson. ‘The Incomprehensibility of God’. p. 457

[57] John Dupuche. ‘The Goddess Kali and the Virgin Mary’, in Australian Electronic Journal of

Theology 19.1. pp. 43-57.

[58] Monchanin. ‘L’lnde et la contemplation’, in Dieu vivant, 3 (1945) 15-49, p. 27 quoted in Hennaux, ‘L’Esprit et le féminin’, p. 886, footnote 5.

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2004, Radio ZZZ, Christmas, Jesus the refugee 

2004   Radio ZZZ     Noel    Jésus l’exilé                                                 

On parle beaucoup ces jours-ci au sujet des réfugiés qui traversent l’océan indien par bateau chercher un asile en Australie. Ils viennent en grand nombre de l’Afghanistan, de l’Iran, de l’Iraq et ailleurs à tel point qu’on ne sait pas exactement quoi faire. Sont-ils légitimes ou non ?

Ces refugiés nous rappellent, à un certain point, le cas de Jésus lui-même qui a connu l’exil.

On connaît l’histoire. Hérode le Grande, roi de Judée, averti par les rois mages craint la naissance à Bethlehem du roi des juifs. Hérode, il faut le savoir, a fait assassiner sa propre femme et trois de ses fils de peur qu’ils ne lui usurpent le trône. Joseph, averti par l’ange, prend Marie et l’enfant nouveau-né et part immédiatement pendant la nuit pour l’Egypte, à travers les déserts qui séparent le Nil de la Terre Sainte. Jésus connaît donc, très jeune, la peur et l’exil. Il connaît le dépaysement et le désarroi des réfugiés. Mis en danger, il connaît la peur de la façon confuse des enfants qui pleurent sans savoir pourquoi. Lui le Verbe fait chair connaît la détresse humaine.

Mais à la différence de tous les hommes, il a choisi de venir en ce monde apeuré. Il est venu du ciel, nous dit la foi chrétienne, partager le sort des hommes. Nous célébrons donc ce noël la compassion du Fils de Dieu qui veut partager nos souffrances humaines pour nous en libérer. On ne saurait croire en un Messie qui ne connait pas la tristesse du monde.

Lorsqu’on se recueille devant la crèche construite dans toutes les églises et installée dans beaucoup de foyers chrétiens, on s’approche de l’enfant qui vient parmi nous, comme une fleur dans le désert, gage de tendresse, compatissant, qui partage notre condition humaine et nous assure le salut. Il vient parmi nous pour nous libérer de la peur et nous conduire là où se trouve notre foyer authentique, au sein du Père éternel. Il vient en cette vallée de larmes pour nous donner le bonheur qu’il manifeste en sa propre chair toute fraiche. C’est lui le jardin du paradis, la fontaine de jouvence, le lieu d’asile. Il nous fait entrevoir l’amour du Père.

Après la mort d’Hérode, donc après un séjour plus ou moins long en Egypte, Joseph ramène Marie et Jésus en Terre Sainte, mais il n’ose pas s’installer à Bethléem car Archélaos, fils d’Hérode, est maintenant roi en Judée, tyran maléfique comme son père. Joseph part loin dans le nord du pays s’installer à Nazareth, petite bourgade sans aucun intérêt à l’époque.

On peut de se demander quel accueil la sainte famille reçut en Egypte comme à Nazareth ? Car les exilés sont vulnérables. Ils ignorent les coutumes, on se méfie d’eux.

L’Australie peut se vanter à bien des égards, mais la gloire principale de notre pays est d’avoir reçu des gens de toutes les nations et de toutes les races du monde. Nous formons en général un pays harmonieux et souvent sans préjugés.

Nous fêtons à cette époque la naissance de Jésus, exilé du ciel, exilé de la Terre Sainte, exilé de Bethléem. Lorsqu’on rencontre un exilé, Jésus nous demande de le recevoir avec douceur. Il nous dira le jour du jugement : ‘J’étais un étranger et vous m’avez accueilli. … Venez, recevez en héritage le Royaume qui vous a été préparé depuis la fondation du monde.’

Je souhaite à tous et à toutes un noël de paix et de joie.

 

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2010, Radio SBS, Pâques, « la foule hurle, ‘crucifie-le, crucifie-le’ »

2010    Radio SBS     Pâques, « la foule hurle, ‘crucifie-le, crucifie-le’ »

Ce Vendredi Saint, dans toutes les églises du monde catholique on entendra le récit de la passion selon Saint Jean. On entendra dire que les ennemis de Jésus le font comparaitre devant Ponce Pilate, le gouverneur romain, et l’accusent vivement. Pilate le fait flageller. Après que les soldats l’ont bafoué et humilié, Jésus sort du palais, portant la couronne d’épines et le manteau de pourpre. Pilate proclame alors : « Voici l’Homme ! »  Le gouverneur ne sait pas ce qu’il dit. Il dit plus qu’il ne sait. Il n’utilise pas le mot grec aner qui signifie un homme, un mâle, mais le mot anthropos qui signifie un être humain. Pilate dit en effet : ‘Voici l’Etre Humain, voici l’humanité entière.  Voici celui qui prend la place de toute l’humanité, celui qui s’identifie à tous, celui qui est l’avenir de chaque personne.’ La scène est émouvante. En effet, on voit en Jésus tous les hommes et les femmes meurtris, humiliés, condamnés. De même en chaque personne mal traitée on voit la personne de Jésus. Ils ne font qu’un. C’est l’incarnation.

La foi chrétienne proclame que Jésus a choisi de venir en ce monde. S’il veut partager la condition humaine il ne peut pas refuser les malheurs des hommes. Il lui faut connaître l’injustice et l’outrage. Un messie qui refuserait la souffrance n’est pas le vrai messie. Il serait ridicule. Il faut que le messie souffre avec l’humanité souffrante et leur donne l’espoir par sa présence même. Voilà la grandeur de cette âme que nous célébrons à pâques.

Jésus se tient là devant la foule. Si nous étions là nous-mêmes, que verrions-nous ? Saurait-on voir la compassion et la liberté d’âme, l’esprit et l’amour dans ce visage enlaidi par les coups, les cheveux ensanglantés. Saurait-on voir le Dieu qui l’a envoyé, le Dieu compatissant. Mais non, la foule hurle, ‘crucifie-le, crucifie-le’. Quel tressaillement d’horreur devait passer dans l’âme de Jésus en entendant ces mots affreux.

Pilate, impressionné par le calme de Jésus, lui demande ‘d’où es-tu’. Mais Jésus ne lui répond pas. Inutile de répondre car Pilate est incapable de comprendre l’origine de Jésus. Pilate est incapable de voir cet Homme, ce Dieu-homme, cet envoyé de Dieu.

Au début de ce mois, une conférence sur l’athéisme a eu lieu à Melbourne. Ce fut un grand succès. Entre deux et trois mille personnes y ont assisté. J’accueille vivement leurs points de vue qui sont utiles et nécessaires, car ils nous font réfléchir et nous empêchent de ‘s’endormir’ dans la foi, pour ainsi dire. Mais j’aurais à demander aussi de ma part, est-ce les athées se laissent interroger par le récit évangélique. Sont-ils comme Ponce Pilate qui ne sait pas voir celui qui se tient devant lui ? Dieu, leur refuse-t-il sa parole parce qu’ils refusent de l’écouter.

Il s’agit à pâques et à tout moment d’écouter les points de vue différents, et surtout d’entendre le cri des blessés.  De cette façon la vue du Dieu inconcevable nous deviendra claire. Que cette fête de pâques nous ouvre les yeux et nous donne la paix.

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The Antipodes, a poem

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Homily, Pentecost Sunday, 2021

The Archdiocese is rebirthing itself. Our parish too is rebirthing itself.

Today, Pentecost Sunday, our Parish birthday.  We are called ‘the Parish of the  Holy Spirit’. This is not just a moniker, it is a description,  it is a commitment. We undertake to be led by the Spirit. 

What is the Spirit, who is the Spirit? The Holy Spirit is like the wind, and cannot be defined or confined. The Spirit cannot be controlled, but leads where the Spirit wills, coming seemingly out of nowhere and leading into an amazing future.  The Spirit  is mysterious, wonderful, personal, close, at the very depth of our being. 

In today’s second reading, St Paul lists some of the fruits of the Spirit: “ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  At the start of Mass the seven candles were lit to say that we are led and wish increasingly to be infused with wisdom, knowledge and reverence; we wish to manifest the Spirit’s fruits. 

I would like  to clarify something that might be misleading in St Paul’s letter. He contrasts ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’. We have to understand what he means. The word ‘flesh’ does not mean ‘body’. For St Paul the word ‘flesh’ refers to whatever is not inspired by the Spirit. Any memories, thoughts, decisions, impulses that are not inspired by the Holy Spirit are classed as  ‘flesh’. And the word ‘spirit’ does not refer to the soul. Whatever is led and moved by the Holy Spirit, all our thoughts and actions, our very bodies: these are ‘spirit’. 

We could ask our youth, what inspires them, what sets their hearts on fire, what touches them deeply, bringing them peace and joy and kindness. Their  answer would indicate where the Spirit is blowing in them, filling their sails and leading them on a wonderful, exciting journey. 

Our world is advancing at a fantastic pace. Attitudes are changing and new paths are being discovered.  The same is true of our Church. We are underdoing extraordinary developments, led by the Spirit. Pope Francis is, in my opinion, one of the greatest of the Popes. Under his leadership and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, he is taking his Church to where it must go. 

Today, Pentecost Sunday, we also celebrate the birthday of the Church. The Church is always being born anew; we are always young. Our past is glorious, but our future will be even more glorious and delightful. Then we will come to know who Jesus really is. We are becoming him. As the Gospel says, the Spirit will lead us to all truth, and Jesus is the Truth. 

The Archdiocese is rebirthing itself. Our parish too is rebirthing itself. The Archbishop and all of us wish to follow the inspirations of the Spirit. Then we will become truly ‘spirit’, and people will come to drink of the Holy Spirit, here, with us. They will be enlivened by the Spirit and by us who are of one spirit with the Spirit. Then we will deserve our name as the Parish of the Holy Spirit, North Ringwood. 

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Robin Thiger and Nadet Alan

Homélie au mariage, 8 May 2021, St Mary’s, Dandenong,

L’amour est un vin exquis et enchanteur, qui soulage l’âme et anime l’esprit. 

En quittant la France, ce pays des vignobles, est-ce que vous pensiez Goba, que vous alliez trouver aux antipodes le vin de l’amour. Et Nadet, quand vous avez quitté le Soudan ensoleillé, est-ce que vous pensiez trouver en ces rives lointaines celui qui allait embraser ton cœur et illuminer ta vie. 

L’évangile que je viens de lire parle du vin, du vin excellent à l’occasion des noces à Cana en Galilée. Ce vin est le signe de l’amour que Jésus veut partager avec ce monde qui connaît tous genres de bonheurs et de malheurs, d’espoirs et de succès. Comme Jésus, vous cherchez à partager une joie qui surgit, de façon surprenante, du tréfonds de votre être. Dans quelques instants vous allez proclamer devant tout le monde en cette église, et en présence de votre famille à Bourges, vous allez proclamer même au ciel, que rien ne pourra vous séparer de votre amour, à l’instar de la question que Saint Paul pose dans la deuxième lecture, « qui nous séparera de l’amour du Christ, la tribulation, l’angoisse , la persécution, la faim ? » Cet amour t’a toujours accompagnée, Nadet ; cet amour a soutenu ta mère et ta famille dans sa fuite. En effet, même après la mort de son cher époux , ta mère a toujours retenu la phrase du Psaume« Le Seigneur est mon berger, …. Je ne crains rien car tu es près de moi ».  Forcé de quitter ta ville natale, Nadet,  rien ne peut t’effrayer maintenant, car Goba est avec toi, il sera près de toi tous les jours de ta vie.  Tu seras toujours pour lui, la fidèle compagne.

Cet amour qui vous rend si heureux nous rend heureux aussi.  Oui, nous fêtons votre mariage.  Dans la première lecture nous avons entendu de quelle façon Dieu bénit l’homme et la femme. Créés à son image ils auront la charge de tous les êtres vivants, pour que leur amour se répande sur eux. Nous avons besoin de votre amour. Le monde entier en a besoin. En voyant l’amour visible nous pouvons deviner le Dieu invisible qui est amour et qui nous console. Vous êtes pour nous le sacrement de Dieu. Vous êtes la gloire de Dieu qui resplendit jusqu’au bout de la terre. 

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Vijñānabhairava-tantra

A series of refections on select verses.

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Poems, assorted

Here are some of the many poems compose over many years.

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Conferences, 2000-2020

What follows is the papers delivered at many conference in Australia and overseas.

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1958-2003, “A Long Journey”

“A Long Journey”,

 It has been a long journey. When I first entered religious life all seemed clear and set. Only one week earlier, however, John XXIIII announced his decision to call the Second Vatican Council. The years that followed were for me a huge transition from a certain isolation of the Church to the exhilarating openness of interreligious dialogue. It was a journey of questioning and discernment; a lonely journey, for few shared my interest.

I did not wish to live the monastic life, although it held many attractions for me. Rather I wished to give witness in the Eucharistic assembly and to speak of the things of God to the people of God.

I had read widely in the great classics but felt drawn ever eastwards, to Palamas, Gregory of Nazianzen, and Gregory of Nyssa. I studied yoga and read some of the Hindu classics and works by Jean Varenne, a noted Indologist. I sought advice from Bede Griffiths osb and from Thomas Matus osbCam. However, the great breakthrough came with the discovery of the Hindu tradition called Kashmir Shaivism, which flourished in Kashmir about 1000 year ago and has flowered anew in recent decades under the impact of the great Swami Laxman Joo. As I read the texts and their commentaries by Lilian Silbum and Jaideva Singh, a wonderful resonance hummed in the depths of my being. Even a word or phrase snatched in passing vibrated like a great pedal point. It was the Word resounding in the depths of my being.

In order to understand the texts properly I learned Sanskrit and with the support of the Archbishop undertook a doctorate in Kashmir Shaivism so as to have a well-founded knowledge that could match the knowledge of the Scriptures that I had expounded in lectures.

Thus I had a double resonance, or rather the one Resonance found variously in two directions – the Scriptures of the Christian faith and the writings of Kashmir Shaivism. I experienced the interreligious dialogue first and foremost within myself.

This did not occur without much soul searching. Was I being unfaithful to the Christian faith to which I had been committed from my earliest years? Was I acceding to some dark temptation? Yet the joy occurred in peace. The heavens opened more widely at the meeting of the traditions; the Divine Mystery appeared all the more wonderful. There was a sense of vitality and freedom, of innocence and salvation.

The absence of a teacher, a guru, has been a drawback for me. I would have profited so much to sit at the feet of a learned and experienced practitioner whose heart was as wide as the Word, but I live in a faraway land where interreligious dialogue is only just beginning.

It was natural that I should move from intrareligious dialogue – a term coined by Raimundo Panikkar – to inter-religious dialogue. In Australia, a wide scattered land, the few monasteries can provide only a limited context for interreligious dialogue, so that the non­monastic and the layperson must play a more active role.

The meditation group that I led established the East-West Meditation Foundation in order to enter into the dialogue of religious experience. We began to meet with members of other traditions, to welcome them into the warmth of our Christian hospitality, to join with them in meditation and to learn from them, even if we did not always agree with everything that was said. Because we had some experience of the Logos within us we could see more clearly the depths that lay within their traditions. Equally we gave witness to the Christian faith and showed something of the Good News that inspired us.

In this context I experienced again the resonance I had known earlier, namely the Word that was expressed in various ways in the great traditions and that was made flesh at Bethlehem.

This dialogue of religious experience liberated us from the accretions of history that have sometimes been confused with the essence of the Christian faith. The shock of differing points of view opened up the storehouse of the Gospel where so many treasures still lie concealed. Our Christian faith was not weakened but enriched. The excitement of the resonating Word made us eager to deepen our awareness of the universal Christ. Our abandonment of all fear developed in us a more universal love. By being more fully present to members of other faiths the divine Presence became more evident to us. By welcoming them we felt welcomed by our God.

Apart from small-scale events we also conduct larger meetings where there is time for meditation, ritual, input, discussion, conversation, and table fellowship. We do not impose or conceal. We do not dominate or argue. We welcome and listen, not naively but respectfully, presuming that all have something valuable to say. Nothing is done to mask the incompatibilities such as may exist, but the covenant of charity is always maintained. The result has always been a peaceful exhilaration on the part of those who attend, whether Christian or of another faith. Beyond the differing words and the symbols, the one Word is known.

The work of interreligious dialogue is a work of evangelisation, for Jesus is shown to be the universal saviour to the extent that his followers are able to hold all things together in unity. By opening our arms wide to the diversity of faiths, people will come to perceive more easily the presence of the Word made flesh, crucified and risen, and by perceiving him enter into the heart of the Silence from whom the Word springs.

John Dupuche, “A Long Journey”, International Bulletin  (E.14) 2003, of the Commissions pour le Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique, Monastic Interreligious Dialogue Commissions. pp. 32-33

Rev John R. DUPUCHE, 542 Balcombe Rd., BLACK ROCK 3193, Australia

 

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1999, Pureté et puissance, Dimanche de la Passion, Victorian-Mauritian Pastoral Council

Victorian-Mauritian Pastoral Council

St Mary’s, East St Kilda,

Dimanche de la Passion, 1999

Pureté et puissance

« Quand Jésus entra dans Jérusalem, »  Matthieu 21:l0

Jésus descend le Mont des Oliviers alors que la foule l’entoure et l’acclame. Il voit la Ville Sainte et le Temple sacré. Il perçoit la forteresse de Ponce Pilate et la puissance romaine. Il voit les maisons des riches et les huttes des pauvres. Il voit les malheureux de tous les temps. Il connait la joie et la douleur du monde entier et se sent en lui-même toute la sainteté de Dieu. Il sait qu’il est le Bien-aimé.

Il entre dans la ville et monte au Temple mais ne cherche pas se purifier car c’est lui le pur, le juste, l’amant de tous les hommes. Il est solidaire des lépreux, des publicains et des prostituées, l’homme fort qui ne craint pas la faiblesse. Il s’adresse à tous mais cherche surtout les rejetés parce que chez eux surtout il peut manifester la puissance infinie de Dieu et leur communiquer le bonheur divin. Il est l’innocent et il ne craint pas l’impureté. Il aime faire ce qui est impossible et improbable. Entre ses mains le péché devient une grâce et les larmes deviennent des cris de joie.

Les gens du Temple sont jaloux de son pouvoir mais Jésus n’en prend garde. Pour partager la tristesse du monde il se soumet à l’agonie.  Pour se ranger parmi les isolés, il accepte que ses disciples le renient et l’abandonnent. Il a vu le peuple dérouté et confus, et lui-même se sent perdu lorsqu’il s’écrie « Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, pourquoi m’as-tu abandonné. » Mais il connait nos joies aussi. Il est accueilli par la foule en Galilée lorsqu’il multiplie les pains. Il est reçu en amitié chez Lazare, Marthe et Marie. Il assiste au mariage à Cana en Galilée. Au mont Tabor son visage brille comme le soleil, ses vêtements sont blancs comme la neige et la voix du ciel proclame: « Voici mon Fils, Écoutez-le. »

Jésus, a-t-il raison de rechercher ce qui est pauvre et laid, méchant et imbécile? Oui! C’est pourquoi le peuple chrétien de tous les temps a pris la part des pauvres, des malades, des ignorants. C’ est pourquoi l’Église adresse l’évangile au monde entier. Nous sommes bienveillants et courtois envers tous parce que nous connaissons la gentillesse du Père.

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2003, SBS-Radio, On n’écoute pas les prophètes ! Pâques

SBS-Radio

Pâques, 2003

On n’écoute pas les prophètes !

Le Pape Jean-Paul II a dit souvent et clairement qu’une guerre contre l’Iraq en les circonstances actuelles serait injuste. Tous les chefs de toutes les Églises ont enseigné la même chose. Ils ne se mêlent pas de politique et parlent uniquement du point de vue moral. Mais on n’écoute pas les prophètes !

Les armées américaines, britanniques et australiennes ont emporté la victoire militaire, mais ce fut un succès dépourvu de sanction divine et les conséquences sont à craindre.

A peu près cent ans avant la mort de Jésus, le célèbre général romain, Pompée le Grand a conquis la Syrie et pris la ville de Jérusalem. Bien que des roitelets tel que Hérode semblaient régner, le vrai pouvoir restait avec les Romains. Le people juif résistait, sournoisement ou par émeutes, à 1’occupation romaine, mais inutilement car l’emprise des légions était formidable.

Jésus vit donc sous le joug romain et son enseignement doit être compris tout d’abord en ce contexte. Hospitalier à tous, il se mélange même avec les collaborateurs du pouvoir romain. Il dit à ses disciples, « quelqu’un te donne-t-il un soufflet sur la joue droite, tends-lui encore l’autre; peut-il … prendre ta tunique, laisse-lui même ton manteau; te requiert-il pour une course d’un mille, fais-en deux avec lui » (Matt 5 :39-41). « Aimez vos ennemis, et priez pour vos persécuteurs. » (Matt 5:44)

Jésus est capable d’enseigner ainsi parce qu’il transcende la vie et la mort ; il en est le maitre, Il se connait et laisse entendre qu’il est Fils de Dieu, Lumière née de la Lumière et on le condamne comme blasphémateur. Jésus sait bien le danger qu’il encourt en enseignant ainsi. Les évangiles nous rapportent qu’il prévoit clairement son sort, et qu’il le choisit. Il se sacrifie car il sait que sa mort, c’est-à-dire l’anéantissement du plus saint et du plus juste sur la terre, achèvera le salut de monde. Nous abordons le mystère pascal qui révèle le rapport étroit et paradoxal entre le bien et le mal, le péché et la grâce, la vie et la mort.

Jésus est donc dressé sur la croix. Immobilisé par les clous et couronné d’ épines, il semble vaincu et abandonné même par Dieu. Mais Dieu le veut ainsi et Jésus aussi le veut ainsi. Il sait que l’homme pécheur a soif du sang. L’homme veut voir le sacrifice d’un homme pour se soulager du fardeau du péché. Jésus veut que cette vue horrible suffise à notre besoin.

Il faut donc, et surtout à l’heure actuelle, contempler l’image de Jésus crucifié, en saisir toute l’horreur et par ce fait retrouver la paix. Le cœur humain redeviendra alors compatissant et doux. On ne pourra plus blesser et meurtrir. S’il faut faire violence pour éviter une pire violence, ce sera le cœur lourd et par nécessité absolue. La guerre juste est possible mais rare.

La Paque est la fête de la paix. Nous prions donne, avec tout notre cœur que la paix se répande sur le Moyen Orient et surtout sur Jérusalem, la ville où l ‘œuvre de la paix fut achevé dont nous avons encore à gouter toute la saveur. Que la paix soit aussi en vos cœurs et chez les vôtres cette semaine.

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2000, SBS-Radio, Pâques, Le tombeau vide

SBS-Radio

Pâques, 2000

Le tombeau vide

J’étais assis un soir à Jérusalem dans la Basilique du Saint Sépulcre, devant le tombeau de Jésus. Cet espace, rempli pendant le jour par les pèlerins venus du monde entier, était maintenant calme et paisible. Une grande douceur remplissait la pénombre. Un homme est alors venu avec son jeune fils et je l’ai entendu dire au garçon que ce tombeau était un peu bizarre et même ridicule parce qu’il ne contenait ni ossements ni aucune relique. Le monsieur ne comprenait pas que le tombeau de Jésus est vénéré précisément parce qu’il est vide. Il est vide, non pas comme si les ossements furent déposés ailleurs mais parce qu’ils sont nulle part. Le tombeau signale une absence. Chose vraiment bizarre, en effet.

L’évangile nous raconte que Marie Madeleine et les autres femmes sont allées au tombeau très tôt le matin et le trouvent vide. Elles reviennent dire aux apôtres qu’on a enlevé le corps de Jésus. C’est l’ironie johannique. Oui, on a enlevé le corps, mais ce n’est pas le jardinier ou les soldats qui l’ont pris. C’est Dieu lui-même qui a enlevé le corps en ressuscitant Jésus.

Le tombeau vide est un signe, non seulement que Jésus vit mais aussi que tous vivront. Jésus ressuscite le huitième jour, c’est-à-dire le premier jour de la semaine juive, le jour où, au début, Dieu a dit, ‘Fiat lux’, ‘Que la lumière soit’. Jésus est la lumière d’un monde renouvelé ; il est l’espoir qui brille dans la nuit du malheur, de sorte que le tombeau vide signale la délivrance universelle.

Dans les années qui suivirent ce premier jour de la Paques chrétienne, le tombeau est devenu un lieu de pèlerinage à tel point que, après la deuxième révolte juive, vers l’année 130, les Romains ont construit un temple sur le lieu du tombeau pour l’anéantir. Ils n’ont réussi qu’a préserver le monument de telle sort que l’Impératrice Helene, mère de Constantin, a su trouver le tombeau devant lequel j’étais assis ce soir paisible a Jérusalem.

Lieu merveilleux et terrible à la fois. En cette année sainte ou nous sommes, en ce Grand Jubilée ou le monde Chrétien célèbre les deux mille ans depuis la naissance de Jésus, le Pape Jean-Paul II a exprimé au début de carême, le regret de toute l’Église pour les péchés des chrétiens au long des siècles. Que les siècles à venir témoignent plutôt de la vie inépuisable qui surgit du tombeau. En ce jour de Paques, au commencement du troisième millénaire, que la joie et la vie du Ressuscité soit avec vous.

 

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1986, Radio 3EA, Good Friday

RADIO 3 EA

Good Friday

1986

N’est-il pas curieux que le symbole du Christianisme soit une croix, un instrument de mort affreuse? Les flèches d’Europe l’élèvent au ciel. Les rois ceignaient les diadèmes décorés de croix d’or.

La croix est en même temps signe de mort et de vie, de douleur atroce et d’entrée en vie. C’est un paradoxe.

Voyons un peu qui est cet homme qui pend, cloué à cette croix. Il était venu de Nazareth, village méprisé, situe en Galilée, province méprisée. Mais, la sagesse de son enseignement était telle qu’on devinait en lui la sagesse même. Ses paraboles étaient si belles, si complexes, si pleines de droiture et de tendresse qu’on sentait en lui un humanisme parfait. Les évangiles en sont témoins.

De même, les évangiles démontrent à maintes reprises qu’il choisit de mourir. Comment peut-il aimer les hommes sans partager leur sort ? Compatissant, il devait pâtir. La même volonté qui veut qu’il donne sa vie aux hommes le pousse à subir la mort des hommes. Moi-même qui vous parle aujourd’hui, devant les malades j’ai honte. Je reste muet parce que je ne connais pas leurs souffrances. Devant les prisonniers de conscience je ne suis rien,  moi qui ne connait pas la prison. Jésus entre librement en sa passion pour qu’il ait part à la détresse humaine et pour se dire frère de tous.

Il entre dans la souffrance telle que seuls les innocents connaissent. La sagesse éprouve à l’infini l’horreur du mensonge. Cet homme parfaitement humain est infiniment sensible aux malheurs humains. Nul n’a souffert comme lui. Mort, mis au tombeau, il ressuscite. Sa vie est plus forte que la mort. La mort a fait ce qu’elle a pu. Dieu est plus puissant que le mal. La croix, instrument de la mort, devient moyen de vie.

La douleur a ceci d’affreux: nous nous sentons seuls. Depuis la mort de Jésus, ce n’est plus le cas. Notre souffrance, est-elle physique? Jésus nous dit: je connais ta souffrance et je la partage. Notre souffrance, est-elle morale? Jésus nous dit: j’ai connu le désespoir ; en ton désespoir me voilà gage d’un avenir. Notre souffrance, est-elle émotionnelle ? Jésus nous dit: mes amis m’ont renié, mon peuple m’a rejeté, j’ai même senti que Dieu mon Père m’abandonnait. Je suis avec toi. Je ferai, paradoxalement que tes épines soient roses, que tes douleurs soient utiles. Je n’enlève pas ta douleur; j’en enlevé le mal.

Depuis la mort de Jésus, il faut repenser la mort. Jésus mourant fait de nos peines et de nos joies des stages de vie. Voilà pourquoi nous l’appelons rédempteur du monde.

 

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Noreen O’Meara, Homily at the Funeral Mass, 2000

Noreen O’Meara,

Homily at the Funeral Mass

Stella Maris, Beaumaris,

27 October, 2000

“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”          John 6:39

Noreen was a woman of great vitality, but now there is a great gap, a sudden shocking emptiness. How could such a vital woman be dead? Her expansiveness and her inspiration were welcome to so many. How could it be gone?

The words of the Gospel are appropriate: “The will of him who sent me is that I should lose nothing of all that he has given to me.” Nothing of all that was good in Noreen will be lost, for goodness recognises goodness; mercy is merciful to those who have shown mercy. Jesus whom we call good, sees the store of goodness in every person’s life, takes hold of it and values it.

Noreen’s sudden death has been a blow. It brings us to our senses and makes us ask the great questions. What is the purpose of life? How can true happiness be found? What happens after death? The trauma of death reveals to us what is important in life. It makes us go deeper and further so that we discover sources of life we did not know existed. It makes us realise that forgiveness and closeness, affection and unity, justice and peace are what count above all. It invites us to put aside disaffection and estrangement and so to seek reconciliation.

Jesus goes on to say “And I will raise them up on the last day.” Some may laugh and say it is only make-believe, a sop to our fear. But anyone who has felt within themselves the secret everlasting fountain, knows that death is a passing thing. Furthermore, Christians believe that Jesus experienced both the highest state of life and the worst degradation. They know that death could not hold sway over him, for he transcends life and death. He chose to enter into death and to be crucified so that he could turn sin and death into a source of life and vitality. He will turn Noreen’s death into a source of life for us.

Jesus is alive in our midst, hidden to those who as yet live on the surface of things, but known by those who have been wounded and yet forgive, who have been struck down and are yet confident. Jesus will recognise Noreen and take her to himself, the vital with the vital. At a level beyond our imagining, Jesus who is life will give life to Noreen who so enjoyed life. We live and partly live, and to us death is a problem, but not to Jesus who has gone beyond death.

Noreen invites us to enjoy life and to give thanks to God every day, for life is beautiful and eternity is magnificent.

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Messe du Père Laval 2000, Les lettres de Jacques Désiré Laval et les ‘béatitudes’.

Messe du Père Laval

2000

St John Vianney’s, North Springvale

Les lettres de Jacques Désiré Laval et les ‘béatitudes’.

Le premier mot du premier sermon de Jésus dans le premier évangile, celui de Sant Matthieu, est le mot « bienheureux. » C’est l’annonce de la bonne nouvelle, là sur la montagne en Galilée. « Bienheureux ». ‘Soyez heureux, je vous apporte le bonheur.’ Voilà tout le message essentiel de Jésus. Mais qui sont ces bienheureux que Dieu a choisis, ceux dont le destin sera merveilleux?

Voici la surprise, « Bienheureux les pauvres de cœur », non pas ceux dont la poche est nécessairement vide mais ceux qui ne s’attachent pas à l’argent, ceux dont le cœur est entièrement disponible.

Jacques Désiré Laval fut pauvre de poche et de cœur. Il est donc bienheureux et sera à jamais bienheureux, nous déclare l’Église aujourd’hui en cette journée de fête en son honneur. Lui-même, il raconte dans une lettre écrite cinq mois après son arrivée à Maurice,

‘Je vis retiré dans un petit pavillon où je reçois me pauvres Noirs.’ … Je n’ai été encore chez personne de riche mais seulement auprès des pauvres malades’. p. 40.[1]

Dans une autre lettre il ajoute:

‘Tous ces Blancs qui viennent à Maurice sont des gens qui ne s’occupent que de l’argent et pour qui la religion n’est rien du tout … p. 44.

Jacques Laval est le bienheureux, pauvre parmi les pauvres.

Jésus dit: « Heureux ceux qui pleurent. » Le Père Laval s’attriste sur le sort à la fois des pauvres et des riches. Il écrit à son supérieur, et je cite,

cette pauvre ile est dans un bien pitoyable état, et surtout les malheureux blancs y croupissent dans la crapule et dans le libertinage et … il y a bien peu d’espérance et d’espoir d’y travailler utilement à leur salut.’ p.32.

Il connait aussi son propre désespoir. Il se sent découragé et pense quitter Maurice pour aller évangéliser le Madagascar (p.49). Mais il reste parce qu’il trouve douceur et docilité auprès des anciens esclaves. Sans cesse le mot ‘doux’ lui revient sur les lèvres. Il écrit:

‘ … les pauvres noirs, à qui on n’a jamais parlé du bon Dieu, sont beaucoup mieux disposés et il y a surtout parmi eux une certaine classe qui est très douce et dont, avec la douceur, on fait tout ce que l’on veut et qui aime bien les prêtres.’

« Heureux les doux, » dit Jésus. C’est chez eux qu’il trouve son bonheur. Il écrit à son ami, le cure d’Espieds, que ses pauvres ‘ont un grand attachement pour moi’, (p.47) ‘ces bonnes gens ont grande confiance dans leur pauvre Père’.

Le succès lui arrive. Il écrit:

‘les esprits reviennent beaucoup en faveur de la religion, même du cote des Blancs. p.59.

De fait

‘ce petit noyau [du début de son travail pastoral] a jeté une grande fermentation dans la masse, et [après seulement quatre ans de travail] (il) y a véritablement un grand élan vers la religion.’ p. 62.

Jésus promet que le doux, et ceux qui ont faim et soif de justice seront rassasiés et comblés de joie.

« Bienheureux les artisans de la paix. » La société mauricienne est composée de gens venus de l’Afrique, de l’Inde, de la Chine et de l’Europe. Les Mauriciens venus en Australie s’harmonisent facilement avec toutes les cultures.

« Bienheureux les miséricordieux, » dit notre Seigneur. A la première Messe que j’ai célébrée avec vous en devenant votre aumônier, j’ai rencontré à Good Shepherd, Brandon Park, le jeune Hindou, Satyam, qu’un de vos groupes a fait venir en Australie pour de multiples opérations chirurgicales importantes. N’était-ce pas un exemple de la miséricorde ? On en parle même dans les milieux qui ne sont pas mauriciens.

« Heureux les cœurs purs, ils verront Dieu. » Cette année le comité pastoral a fait venir une copie authentique du Linceul de Turin. Les cœurs purs ont voulu voir le visage saint. L’exhibition fut un grand succès. Mais on en reparlera à la fin de la Messe.

Pour la venue de Jacques Désiré Laval à Maurice, pour son travail difficile et son succès éclatant, pour votre venue en Australie et votre douce foi, rendons grâce à Dieu aujourd’hui.

 

 

[1] Jacques Laval, Extraits de sa correspondance, choisis et présentés par Joseph Lécuyer. Paris: Éditions Beauchesne 1978.

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Messe du Père Laval 2000, The Shroud of Turin

Messe du Père Laval

2000

St John Vianney, North Springvale

The Shroud of Turin

The Mauritian community as a whole and in particular the Victorian Mauritian Pastoral Council are to be congratulated. It is no simple matter to mount an international exhibition of an exact copy of the Shroud of Turin, to produce a book, to organize sponsors, to train guides. This exhibition is a contribution to the celebration of the Great Jubilee in Melbourne as a whole. It will strengthen the faith of all who see it, sensitizing people to the vivid reality of the Lord’s passion and resurrection.

The Shroud is silent; it speaks to the eye. We look at this figure, so majestic, so calm, seemingly asleep, interiorly alive. Just as music is heard only by those who are musical, and beauty is seen only by those who have a sense of beauty, so too we can see the face Jesus on the Shroud because already he has been revealed to us from within. We recognize the sublime dignity portrayed on the Shroud because we already know him on the greater Shroud of our own spirit. The Holy Spirit has placed in our spirit the image of Christ. The teaching of the Church has placed in our hearts the person of Jesus who was dead and is how risen. We are already the Body of Christ and so we recognize the Body of Christ. We see what we have become. The Shroud is a mirror held up to our face.

Ours is a visual generation and we need to see. The image on the Shroud, therefore, is immensely valuable. We see and we are drawn to what we see. The marks of the scourge show where the jailer stood and how tall he was. The flows of blood reveal the movements of the Crucified. The mark of the lance is so clear that we know at what stage the solder pierced his side.

We see and we become what we see. We contemplate him and we identify with him. We become more still, more interior; the calm of his face gives us balance. We are purified by this sight and encouraged to put ourselves at the service of others. The signs of Jesus’ martyrdom encourage us to be strong in our witness. By seeing the body, we who are already the Body become more fully the Body.

The sight of the body bruised and pierced is troubling. Many hesitate, for it touches them too close and calls on them insistently. Let us be shocked and moved, troubled and drawn to compassion. Let us be sensitized by this sight so that we will become sensitive to all who suffer and become unable to cause pain.

Then we will be the Body of Christ. Then we can proceed to the celebration of Corpus Christi which is today’s feast. If we have become the body of Christ, we will be able to contemplate the Shroud of Turin and see the Face. If we are his Body we will know that the bread we take becomes his body; if we are his flesh and blood we will know the wine we give is in fact his blood. We give what we are; we are what we give. The Shroud is an image but we are the reality. We contemplate the effects of the body on the cloth, but we give the Body to each other. We are the Body of Christ and we give the Body to each other and so ‘we become one body one spirit in Christ’.

We chose the time of the exhibition precisely to coincide with today’s Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Phillippe Hennequin, President of the VMPC, will speak on this matter later.

Note: This authentic copy of the Shroud of Turin, brought from Mauritius, is now preserved by the Polish Community in Melbourne.

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Homily at the wedding of Xavier Vandame and Kendra Dugay, 2000

 

Homily at the wedding of

Xavier Vandame and Kendra Dugay

Our Lady of Lourdes,

Armadale,

19 February, 2000

Fr John Dupuche PP

Celebrant

Kendra and Xavier, you have invited us to come to your wedding and to share in your joy since you look forward to a marvelous future. There will be moments of such intensity and such unity that you will come to a knowledge that is altogether unique. You will cry out with your whole mind and even with your voice, ‘Yet, yes!’, for you will have come to the heart of the universe, the great furnace from which all things come and to which all is destined. A person lives for this knowledge, a person is willing to die for this knowledge, since it is the key to life.

Xavier and Kendra, you cry out for union, heart to heart, mind to mind, body to body, memory to memory, sorrow to sorrow, joy to joy. We too need your union. We need to bask in the sunlight of your love. So let us see your eyes bright with knowledge, your steps light with pleasure, your words invested with truth.

In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks to his disciples. The text is taken from the discourse at the Last Supper shortly before Jesus goes knowingly and willingly to his death. He speaks at length above love and invites his disciples to dwell his love just as he dwells in his Father’s love. Both of you, Xavier and Kendra, are echoing his words. In a few moments, Kendra, you will invite this young Frenchman, Xavier, to dwell in your love, to make his home there, to find his stability, his high adventure, his meaning and purpose, his taste of eternity in your love. And Xavier, you will invite Kendra to dwell in your love, to find her truth in you, her peace, even her whole being in you. Both of you desire to dwell in each other all the days of your life and so you will suddenly find yourselves wrapped in a love which has existed since the beginning, the love of our Father, and your joy will be complete.

 

 

On traverse le monde, on voyage sur la mer, on examine, on travaille, on vit, on meurt et on se demande quel en est le sens, quel est le propos qui justifie un tel effort. C’est ici, en cette église, maintenant, que nous en trouvons le secret, c’est-à-dire, votre amour, Kendra et Xavier. Je ne veux pas dire les sentiments passagers mais ce moment d’unité que vous allez connaitre, ce moment intense ou tout votre être s’écrie, ‘Qui, oui, je le veux, je te veux!’, le moment exquis ou, avec un même cœur, un même esprit, vous allez connaitre la raison même de cet univers. Vous allez connaitre en votre amour cette fournaise de l’amour qui est l’origine et le destin de ce monde en évolution. Vivez pour ces instants. Soyez prêts a tout sacrifier pour ce bonheur éblouissant.

En votre amour sans limite vous allez connaitre l’amour infini dont Jésus parle dans l’Évangile. Il dit à ses disciples: « Demeurez dans mon amour comme moi je demeure dans l’amour du Père. » Xavier, tes amis et ta famille sont venus de bien loin pour t’entendre inviter Kendra à demeurer dans ton amour, à y trouver sa paix et sa joie, son éternité et même son Dieu. De même, Kendra, on t’écoutera inviter Xavier à demeurer en ton amour pour lui – après tous ses voyages par l’air et par la mer a revenir au port de ton amour.

Écoutons maintenant ces mots d’invitation et le secret qui explique

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2000, French-Australian Association Mass, St Patrick’s Cathedral, L’ambition

French-Australian Association Mass

2000

St Patrick’s Cathedral

L’ambition

« Il n’en est pas ainsi parmi vous. Au contraire, si quelqu’un veut être grand parmi vous, qu’il soit votre serviteur. Et si quelqu’un veut être le 1er parmi vous, qu’il soit l’esclave de tous. Car le Fils de l’homme est venu, non pour être servi, mais pour servir et donner sa vie en rançon pour la multitude». Mark 10:43-45

Jésus aborde le sujet de l’ambition qu’il présuppose chez ses disciples. Il dit: « Celui, parmi vous, qui veut devenir grand » et « Celui qui veut être le premier. » Mais il indique aussi de quelle façon cette ambition doit être réalisée. « Celui qui veut devenir grand sera votre serviteur, », « Celui qui veut être le premier sera l’esclave de tous. » Jésus se propose comme exemple, « Car le Fils de l’Homme n’est pas venu pour être servi mais pour servir. » Il est le maitre, nous le savons, car entre ses mains toute autorité au ciel et sur la terre a été remise. Mais il est le maitre universel parce qu’il est le serviteur de tous.

Je vous pose la question suivante: de quelle façon Jésus est-il le serviteur du Bouddha qui fut illuminé lors de sa méditation sous l’arbre à Bodh Gaya? De quelle façon Jésus est-il esclave de Mahomet qui fut le prophète des paroles de Dieu? Jésus se dit serviteur de chaque personne en ses qualités et ses dons particuliers, non pas pour les éliminer ou les rendre superflus. De même l’Église sera servante des bouddhistes, mais comment? Alors que pendant mille ans l’Église s’est opposée à l’Islam, comment peut-elle maintenant servir la communauté musulmane? Je pose la question mais il faudra attendre les générations à venir pour en avoir la réponse. On sait toutefois que Jésus est le maitre universel parce qu’il est capable de servir tous.

Après avoir énuméré les charismes de l’Église, St Paul propose aux Corinthiens d’en chercher le plus grand, c’est-à-dire l’amour. L’amour ne s’impose pas. L’amour sait attendre. L’amour se tait ou lève la voix suivant les besoins du bien-aimé. L’amour prévoit et anticipe car l’amour est une sagesse. L’amour donne et redonne. L’amour est un long apprentissage. L’amour est un doux esclavage. L’amour invite à l’amour et fait connaitre Dieu qui est amour.

Par contre les chefs des nations païennes, les Césars et les Augustes, trop souvent s’imposent et cherchent à faire la guerre. Les titres, les honneurs, tous les symboles du pouvoir sont bien ridicules aux yeux de Dieu qui se penche sur l’amour et l’allégresse du cœur.

Jacques et Jean, les deux frères, s’approchent de Jésus pour lui demander les premières places dans son royaume. Jésus ne les blâme pas mais leur demande « Pouvez-vous boire à la coupe que je vais boire?’ » Avec toute l’ardeur de la jeunesse ils répondent tout simplement, « Nous le pouvons! » Pensent-ils à la coupe dorée pleine d’un vin exquis ou peut-être aux boissons enivrantes que les héros se partagent? Jésus de sa part pense à la coupe que l’ange lui présentera au jardin des Oliviers avant qu’il n’entre en sa passion. Voilà le service que Jésus rendra au monde entier et que ni le Bouddha ni Mahomet n’ont fait.

Jésus leur promet la coupe mais leur refuse les sièges car ils sont réservés. Mais à qui? Sont-ils réservés aux larrons qui seront crucifiés à sa droite et à sa gauche lorsqu’il pend sur la croix glorieuse.

Les saints de l’Église font preuve du vrai pouvoir. Saint François d’Assise est connu de tous. Il n’en est pas ainsi du Pape Innocent III, le pape le plus puissant de la Chrétienté qui vécut à la même époque. Sainte Thérèse de Lisieux composa un seul livre, écrit avec un crayon dans un simple cahier, mais son autobiographie lui a valu le titre de Docteur de l’Église qu’aucun des théologiens depuis n’a reçu. C’est parce que seule la clarté de l’amour révèle la puissance de Dieu, lui qui nous présente à chaque instant un monde où tout est don, toute est grâce, lui, Dieu notre serviteur.

 

 

Jesus does not reject ambition. Rather, he presupposes it. He says: “Anyone who wants to be great among you …” and again “If anyone of you want to be first …” But he shows how: by himself being ‘servant’ and ‘slave’ of all. The Christian faith proclaims Jesus as universal Lord. He could equally be proclaimed as universal servant.

 

So, I put this question to you: if Jesus is servant of all, in what way is he servant of the Buddha? I don’t mean of a human being who happens to be called the Buddha. No, in what way is Jesus servant of the one who was awakened as he sat in meditation under the peepal tree in Bodh Gaya. In what way is Jesus the slave of Muhammad the prophet who spoke the words of God? Similarly, how can the Church serve Islam which it had opposed for over a thousand years? How can the Church serve the Buddhist community in Melbourne? These questions are easily asked but not so easily answered.  The questions will allow us to explore the mystery of Christ in ways new and exciting. The Church will show that Jesus is Lord of all if it shows that it is servant of all.

 

Service is not servitude. True servants in fact know no master, since they freely serve another’s freedom. Service is not subjection. The wise servant knows when to obey and when to disobey. Service springs from inner authority which does not dominate or impose. It does not seek power. It knows when to speak and when to be silent. It foresees and anticipates. Service is the expression of love, free and freeing. Love is the final and only authority. Love is the dearest slavery. Love invites to love and reveals God who is love.

 

At the beginning of this month we celebrated two feasts, those of Francis of Assisi and of Thérèse of Lisieux. Francis, the poverello, the ‘poor man’, is remembered all around the world while Innocent III who was pope at the same time, and one of the most powerful popes of history is mostly forgotten. Over the last hundred years there have been many great theologians but the title of Doctor of the Church was granted to Therese who wrote only one work, her autobiography which showed the spirituality of a child, in pencil, in an exercise book.

 

Those who lord it over others and make their authority felt are ridiculous in the eyes of God who is drawn to those who serve, since he delights to be our servant, giving us gift upon gift, grace upon grace, forever.

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Annie O’Neill, Homily at the Funeral Mass, 27 October, 2000

Annie O’Neill,

Homily at the Funeral Mass

27 October, 2000

St Joseph’s, Black Rock

Every time Sheila went to see Annie at the assisted accommodation home, Annie would say, ‘Take me home’. How that must have torn at Sheila’s heart who would have liked nothing better than to take her sister home. Today we celebrate Annie’s home-coming. She wanted to go where she belonged, to the place of affection and company, a gracious lady in a gracious house. Now, we believe, she is in God’s hands in whom she placed her trust.

At the end of Mass, Christine will give a brief eulogy on Annie’s long life. My task is to show how her life was good news, a Gospel to us.

Jesus, in the text just read from the Gospel of John, has told his disciples that he must leave them. They are troubled at what seems bad news. They will lose their Master and friend in whose company they found joy and hope. They are afraid and confused. How could such a good person as Jesus die and how could he be made to died so cruelly? Those thoughts go through our minds too as we are faced with the death of our beloved Annie and face our own death.

Jesus says to us as he says to his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. I am going now to prepare a place for you.” Annie has gone to her true homeland, for we are all just passers-by, pilgrims on the face of the earth who come today and are gone tomorrow. Our destiny is not confined to the story of our days, for we have a heart greater than the universe, and our minds occasionally touch eternity. Our homeland is with the Love who stand as at the beginning of time and will receive us at the end. We are confiding Annie to that Love by our ceremony today. Time has failed her but Love will not let her down. She is returning to the One who made her and she is herself preparing a place for us. We say to her as she said to her sister, ‘Take us home’ to where we belong, to that great house of many rooms, that wide heart which has place for all, saint and sinner alike, young and old, the silly and the sensible, the hall of the great banquet.

Annie has prepared a place for us. She devoutly attended Mass here, not only on Sundays but often during the week. She was well known to many people in the Parish and it is fitting that her Funeral Mass should occur at the time and in the place where she often came. She was a great supporter of the Parish and looked after the needs of the Mass. She belonged to a large and devout family and had a strong influence on many people, some of whom are here today. Her life set the pattern for her eternity. Annie was a gracious lady, devout and affectionate, welcoming the stranger and the orphan. The good done in time determines the colour of our eternity. As she has done good to others, so good will be done to her. Grace upon grace will come to her, she will see her God face to face, she will be welcomed with affection by the Father of us all. This ceremony is her homecoming.

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2002, Devant l’Enfant nous retrouvons notre enfance. SBS, Message de Noël

ZZZ

2002

Message de Noël

Devant l’Enfant nous retrouvons notre enfance.

Les anges chantent « Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux et paix sur la terre a ceux qu’il aime. » Mais le monde actuel semble dépourvu de paix. Les armées se massent, les stratégies se décident. Il y a un sentiment de terreur de toutes parts. Les bombes explosent et les larmes sautent aux yeux. On a du mal à entendre le chant des anges. Où donc est la paix?

Mais l’enfant est né. Dans l’étable d’un village, Bethlehem, dans une province méprisée, dans ce coin du vaste empire romain, l’enfant dort, Jésus le nouveau-né dont le sommeil fait contraste saisissant avec les légions romaines.

Les armées d’antan et leur vacarme terrible ont disparu, mais les chrétiens par millions dans le monde entier se réunissent autour de leur sauveur posé sur le foin de la mangeoire. Même ceux qui ne partagent pas le secret des chrétiens se réunissent en famille. Ils cherchent la chaleur humaine et se présentent des cadeaux en gage d’amitié. Les Musulmans aussi, suivant leur tradition, vénèrent la naissance de Jésus qu’ils reconnaissent comme un des grands prophètes ; ils vénèrent Marie et sa virginité.

Le récit de la naissance de Jésus commence avec l’empereur César Auguste qui commande le recensement du monde entier. On peut imaginer l’affairement des bureaucrates. Tout est mis en branle. Mais le récit attire notre attention sur le couple Joseph et Marie qui partent sur Bethlehem et s’installent dans l’étable parmi les animaux qui seuls ont le privilège de voir naitre le roi du monde. On a oublié l’empereur et ses légions. Les hommes qui entourent l’empereur l’obéissent prestement, mais c’est aux bergers que l’ange annonce le vrai sauveur du monde, l’enfant, Prince de vérité.

Moi et vous qui m’écoutez nous sommes des gens bien simples. Que peut-on faire en ce monde si souvent hostile? Eh bien, nous pouvons nous remodeler à l’image de l’enfant nouveau-né, fils de David, fils de Dieu. Il est le foyer de la paix, lui l’inconnu et l’impuissant. Le monde désire paix et réconciliation. Nous pouvons établir cette paix au plus profond de nous-mêmes. En contemplant l’enfant Jésus qui dort, nous sentons naitre en nous-même la tranquillité. En voyant l’ enfant fragile, nous apprenons la douceur. En remarquant le silence qui entoure l’enfant, le calme s’installe dans nos propos. La faiblesse même de Jésus nouveau-né est une force remarquable d’attraction. Devant l’enfant nous retrouvons notre enfance et notre espoir.

Dans un monde tourmenté nous serons des foyers de paix. Que la paix s’installe en chacun et en chaque famille cette Noel et que la paix soit avec nous tous pour les siècles des siècles. Amen.

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2001. Elle a chuchoté les mots ‘paix, amour’. ZZZ. Message de Pâques.

ZZZ

11 avril, 2001

Message de Pâques

Elle a chuchoté les mots ‘paix, amour’.

Je pense à une dame de la paroisse qui est morte avant-hier matin. Elle a connu la joie et la souffrance. Au moment de mourir elle a demandé à ses enfants de s’approcher tout près d’elle parce qu’elle voulait leur dire quelque chose de très important, et avec son dernier soupir elle a chuchoté les mots ‘paix, amour’. C’était son testament, la leçon d’une vie.

Les dernières paroles d’une personne, ses derniers instants sont parmi les plus précieux car ils révèlent le cceur et l’esprit.

Ainsi, les évangiles nous présentent les derniers instants de la vie de Jésus et ses dernières paroles. Pour les soldats qui le clouent à la croix il prie « Père, pardonne-leur ; ils ne savent pas ce qu’ils font. » Au bon larron il dit, « Amen, je te le déclare, aujourd’hui, avec moi, tu seras dans le Paradis. » Au monde entier il dit « Tout est accompli, » l’œuvre du salut est achevé. Car sur ses lèvres reviennent toujours les mots ‘paix’, ‘amour’.

Jacques Désiré Laval fut l’apôtre de Maurice. Il a quitté les conforts de sa Normandie natale et les redevances de sa profession comme médecin pour s’enfouir parmi les pauvres travailleurs du sucre qu’il aimait tant. Chez lui aussi c’était l’amour et la paix.

Le vendredi saint, pendant la cérémonie de l’après-midi le prêtre soulève la croix et proclame : « Voici le bois de la Croix qui a porté le salut du monde » car le vendredi saint est une fête du corps, le corps de Jésus meurtri, le corps qui deviendra source de vie pour nos corps bien trop mortels. Le corps de Jésus bafoué nous attendrit et nous invite instamment à respecter le corps de tous les hommes. Le corps vierge de Jésus né de la vierge Marie sera pour nous une nourriture. Le sang de Jésus est rependu sur la terre, ce sang que nous buvons pour satisfaire à toutes nos soifs. Le corps de Jésus donne une value infinie à notre chair faible, malade, mortelle. Le corps de Jésus sera le model même de notre transfiguration éternelle.

En adorant la croix ce vendredi saint, respectons aussi la chair de notre voisin car cette chair sera notre juge dans le monde à venir. Dans la chair toutes les expériences, tous les mots, tous les souvenirs et les rencontres sont cachés. Jésus est mort sur la croix mais il ressuscite le troisième jour et son corps glorieux porte les traces de ses souffrances. De même nos propres corps seront ressuscités à la fin des temps pour révéler tout ce qui y a été vécu. Laissons donc dans le corps de chacun les traces d’un souvenir heureux qui nous dira éternellement, ‘amour, paix’.

Que votre corps soit comblé de joie cette Pâques !

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1998. Quelle est la lumière qu’il a fait briller en nous ? Messe du Victorian Mauritian Pastoral Council

Messe du Victorian Mauritian Pastoral Council

Veille de Noël 1998

St Mary’s, East St Kilda

Quelle est la lumière qu’il a fait briller en nous ?

En ces jours-là parut un édit de l’empereur Auguste ordonnant de recenser toute la terre. Oui, il fut grand, cet empereur. Après deux cents ans de guerre civil il a rétablit la paix. Il fit mettre dans la grande place publique de Rome des plaques de bronze qui étalaient ses victoires et ses réformes.

Mais en ces jours-ci nous ne célébrons pas cet empereur. Il aurait été bien surpris de savoir que deux mille ans plus tard on l’a presque oublie et que nous fêtons la naissance d’un bébé sans pouvoir, sans position sociale, un enfant pauvre, né dans une étable sale.

L’empereur n’en sait rien mais les anges du ciel chantent sa naissance. « Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux et paix sur la terre aux hommes qu’il aime. » C’est lui, l’enfant et non pas l’auguste empereur qui donne la paix. C’est l’enfant qui sauve le peuple, non pas l’empereur et ses armées. Cette nuit est merveilleuse, pleine de clarté, de chants et d’ espoir et nous en sommes émus. L’enfant Jésus dort dans la paille a côté de sa mère Marie. Il ne parle pas mais il est le Verbe de Dieu. Il ne connait pas un mot mais il sait tout. Il ne dit rien et nous laisse parler.

Arrêtons-nous quelques instants ce soir devant lui et disons ce qui nous tient le plus au cœur. La prière devant l’Enfant sera honnête. Il nous exaucera car il est la promesse de Dieu et il nous sauve.

Il est la faible, impuissant. Il dépend absolument de Marie et de Joseph. Et nous avons le cœur plein. Le Fils de Dieu se rend faible pour nous laisser la possibilité d’être utile à Dieu même.

Les empereurs sont nombreux. En politique, dans l ‘Église, dans la famille il y a beaucoup qui se croient chef. Ils aiment le pouvoir. Ils veulent avoir raison. Ils n’écoutent pas. Ils veulent tout régler, tout dire. Ils se croient puissants mais ils se trompent. Celui qui n’ écoute pas verra qu’on ne lui fait plus attention. Ce noël en vos réunions de famille, écoutez non seulement ce qui est dit mais surtout ce qu’on aimerait dire mais qu’on ne sait pas ou n’ose pas dire. Écoutez l’âme qui parle. Celui qui ne nous invite pas à parler, fut-il évêque, prêtre ou pape, n’aura rien à dire. Celui qui tait les autres se tait lui-même. Ce noël donnez une chance à vos prochains de s’exprimer et de prendre part aux décisions. Soyez comme l’enfant Jésus qui reste tranquille et nous écoute et nous comprend. Les sans-voix ont raison.

L’enfant Jésus endormi près du bœuf et de l’âne ne fait rien, ne connait rien mais il est tout. En lui et pour lui furent crées toutes choses. De même pour nous. Dieu, qu’est-ce qu’il a fait de nous ? Quelle est la lumière qu’il a mise en nous. Quelle est l’émotion religieuse qui nous habite. Quelle connaissance de lui-même at-il placée dans notre âme. De quelle façon sommes-nous le Verbe de Dieu?

En cette fête de noël nous célébrons l’enfant Jésus né à Bethlehem. Nous adorons cet enfant en devenant comme lui. Soyons donc simples, soyons pauvres, soyons attentifs. Alors l’Enfant ouvrira les yeux. Il va nous reconnaitre et nous ouvrira les bras pour nous bénir et nous accepter prés de son cœur. Au moment où nos cœurs se touchent, nous verrons le cœur du Père et nous chanterons d’allégresse.

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1998. On sait que la vie n’est pas absurde. SBS-Radio. Message de Noël.

SBS-Radio

1998

Message de Noël

On sait que la vie n’est pas absurde.

On dit que la France est le pays le plus visité du monde. Soixante-sept millions de touristes chaque année. Et de tous les lieux de ce beau pays, le plus fréquente n’est pas le Musée du Louvre, ni la Tour Eiffel, ni le Centre Pompidou mais la Cathédrale de Notre Dame. Douze millions de visiteurs chaque année, un million par mois. Chiffre surprenant. Quelle en est la raison. Les visiteurs veulent entrer dans ce joyau de pierre et en admirer les voûtes et faire partie des évènements historiques qui se sont déroulés dans la nef. Est-ce aussi parce qu’ils veulent entrer clans un lieu saint. Veulent-ils, pour quelques instants, devenir pèlerins. Peut-être.

Je suis revenu justement d’avoir fait un pèlerinage au Mont Kailash, la montagne sacrée des Hindous et des Bouddhistes, montagne de toute beauté qui s’élève dans le Tibet occidental. Nous nous sommes mêlés aux familles tibétaines pour faire le tour de cette pyramide enneigée haut de plus de 6000 mètres. On ne peut entrer dans cette montagne comme on entre dans Notre Dame mais on peut la contourner et y puiser de la grâce. De même, les musulmans font pèlerinage à la Mecque et gravissent l’Esplanade des Mosquées à Jérusalem tandis que les Juifs viennent du monde entier prier face aux fondations de l’immense Temple qu’a bâti Hérode.

On veut faire pèlerinage parce qu’on sait que la vie n’est pas absurde. La vie mène quelque part, dans un lieu de beauté et de grâce. En fin de compte on ne veut arriver ni à une montagne ni à un bâtiment si magnifique soit-il. On veut de tout cœur trouver une présence d’amour, chez qui la sagesse et la joie débordent. On veut y demeurer sans question.

A cette époque de Noël, nous fêtons les rois pèlerins, les Mages, qui ont quitté leur pays natal et sont venus s’agenouiller clans une simple maison, devant le Nouveau-né, Jésus tenu sur les genoux de la Vierge Marie. Le Mont Kailash, les lieux saints de Jérusalem et Notre Dame de Paris sont des témoins silencieux. Mais l’Enfant Jésus va ouvrir la bouche et nous parler. Celui qui est le Verbe de Dieu nous fait approcher de Dieu, le mystérieux, le compatissant. Les rudes soldats envoyés trente ans plus tard pour arrêter Jésus reviendront dire: « Jamais un homme n’ a parlé comme cet homme. » Et le centurion qui se tenait en face de Jésus, voyant comment il avait expiré, s’écria « Vraiment, cet homme était le Fils de Dieu. »

Jésus le nouveau-né, sorti de la chair douce de Marie, ouvre les bras et nous invite à venir en pèlerinage non seulement vers lui mais aussi vers tous les enfants du monde, car chaque enfant est un lieu saint. Il nous invite à venir en pèlerinage à notre prochain parce que tout homme est capable de sainteté. Jésus s’incarne en chaque personne. En cette cinquantième anniversaire des droits universels de l’homme, nous sommes chargés de respecter les droits de tous.

Que la paix de Jésus, l’enfant de la Vierge, le Fils de Dieu, l’ami universel, soit avec vous tous.

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1998. Vous êtes bienheureux. Messe du Père Laval

Messe du Père Laval

13 Septembre, 1998

St John Vianney, Mulgrave

Vous êtes bienheureux.

Je vous regarde, gens de Maurice, et je vois chez vous une franchise, une courtoisie, une joie qui me touchent. Vous un avez un sens spirituel, un réalisme, un caractère religieux évident. Cela fait impression. D’où vient ce don merveilleux? Rendons grâce à Dieu de qui vient toute lumière. Je vous félicite d’avoir accepté le don du ciel les bras ouverts. Vous êtes les bienheureux parce que parmi vous a vécu le bienheureux Jacques Désiré Laval. Vous êtes ses enfants et son esprit se trouve chez vous.

Le Père Laval a quitté son pays natal, la belle Normandie où il aurait pu mener la vie en douce. Il est venu habiter l’Ile Maurice, cette émeraude de l’Océan Indien. Il est venu se mêler aux affranchis. En principe les travailleurs de l’ile n’étaient plus esclaves. L’ordonnance numéro 1 de l’an 1835 leur a rendu la liberté. Mais de fait, lorsque le Père Laval débarque six ans plus tard, il les trouve moralement et psychologiquement sauvages, toujours esclaves des grandes familles. En raison d’une immense pitié, le Père Laval les choisit de préférence. Le prophète Isaïe s’écrie à son égard: « Comme il est beau de voir courir sur les montagnes le messager qui annonce la paix, le messager de la bonne nouvelle, celui qui vient dire ‘Il est roi, ton Dieu’. » Le Père Laval n’aura rien à faire avec les grandes familles de Maurice qui se moquent de la religion et maltraitent leurs ouvriers. Les riches colonisateurs se moquent de lui et font tout pour détourner leurs serviteurs de l’ espérance de la foi. Le bienheureux Jacques cherche les plus démunis. Il dit dans une lettre écrite peu près son arrivée, « Je vis retire dans un petit pavillon où je reçois mes pauvres Noirs. Je n’ai visité encore chez personne de riche, mais seulement auprès des pauvres malades. . .. Le ministère ici c’est la même chose que l’exercice au milieu de cette pauvre et misérable population de Paris; ce sont les mêmes vices. »

De cette façon, le Père Laval a poursuivi l’exemple de notre Seigneur Jésus Christ qui est descendu du ciel pour notre salut. Il fut né dans une étable. Il a vécu la plupart de sa vie dans l’obscurité du petit village méprisé de Nazareth.

Pendant vingt-trois ans, le tiers de sa vie, le Bienheureux Jacques fait preuve de la grâce divine. Il visite la prison, il instruit les baptisés, il leur enseigne le Notre Père, le Je vous salue Marie, la profession de foi, les actes de contrition, de foi, d’espérance et de charité ; il explique les commandements, il réconcilie, il célèbre les mariages, il enterre les morts. Il enseigne le catéchisme jusqu’à dix heures du soir. Il pose ainsi un fondement solide. Les Mauriciens ont un sens religieux bien ancré. Le Père Laval aurait pu dire avec St Paul: « C’est dans la faiblesse, craintif et tout tremblant que je suis arrivé chez vous. Je ne suis pas venu vous annoncer le mystère de Dieu avec le prestige du langage humain …. Parmi vous je ne qu’ai rien voulu connaitre d’autre que Jésus Christ, ce Messie crucifié. »

Il a bien réussi. Ces jours-ci, à Maurice, on vient par milliers, par des centaines de milliers, se rassembler à Sainte Croix, autour du tombeau du Père Laval. Dans le monde entier, là où les Mauriciens sont partis s’installer, on célèbre la Messe du Père Laval. C’est parce que, Mauriciens, vous savez qu’il vous a aimé avec un amour divin, un amour héroïque. Vous savez que vous êtes aimés, et cela vous remplit de joie et de confiance et d’une légitime fierté. Vous savez que Jacques Désiré a désiré votre bien et donc que le Christ désire votre bien et donc que Dieu, l’origine et la fin de tout, se complait en vous. Jacques Désiré est bienheureux, vous aussi, donc, vous êtes bienheureux.

L’Ile Maurice est un carrefour. Les gens y sont venus du monde entier, de l’Europe, de l’Afrique, de l’Inde, de la Chine. Je cite d’un livre qui s’intitule Les cent soixante-dix-sept années du Bienheureux Laval. Je cite,

« Laval instruit les siens de telle sorte que d’un bond ils enjambent toute rancune et toute violence pour se situer là où autrui est notre prochain … Aussi trouverait-on peu de groupes humains mieux immunisés contre la xénophobie. Et leur sympathie était assez vaste pour inclure non seulement l’Europe mais l’Asie …. Les familles créoles qui accueillirent les vagues d’ immigrants ne leur demandaient pas, ‘D’où venez-vous ?’, mais ‘Qu’allez-vous faire?’ »

Qu’allez-vous faire, Mauriciens venus en Australie. Vous êtes les bienheureux du bienheureux Laval. Faites part de ce bonheur à l’Australie. Ce pays d’adoption a besoin de votre foi. Le Père Laval est déclaré bienheureux parce qu’il s’est fait pauvre parmi les pauvres. Enfants de Père Laval, ne cherchez pas à accumuler les biens terrestres en ce pays riche mais conservez votre liberté d’ esprit. Vous savez que vous êtes aimés – voilà votre plus grande richesse. Faites savoir à tous les Australiens que vous les appréciez et que Dieu est bien disposé envers eux. Le Père Laval fut un artisan de la paix. Soyez-vous mêmes artisans de la paix, non seulement dans la communauté mauricienne mais dans toute la société. Les rivalités bien normales ne doivent jamais se dégrader pour devenir des rancunes. Bienheureux les doux. Montrez à toute la douceur mauricienne que Jacques Désiré a tant appréciée. Montez la courtoisie de votre belle île tropicale où le soleil est chez lui. Soyez miséricordieux et de cœurs purs.

Il y bien des années j ‘ai célèbre la Messe du Père Laval en cette Église. A cette occasion j’ai suggéré qu’un buste ou une image de Père Laval soit installé. Et voilà qu’il est honoré en ce pays lointain. Cela est juste et bon. Aujourd’hui je vous propose une chose nouvelle: de montrer au peuple australien l’esprit qu’il a su déposer en vous. Soyez-vous même les images du Bienheureux Jacques Désiré Laval. Cela vous portera un bonheur éternel.

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1998, Ne soyons donc pas muets ! SBS-Radio, Message de Pâques

SBS-Radio

1998

Message de Pâques

Ne soyons donc pas muets !

Très souvent depuis ces derniers mois, depuis même des années, on critique sévèrement Pie Douze qui était pape pendant la deuxième guerre mondiale. On le critique à cause de son silence. Pourquoi n’a-t-il pas condamné les abus effroyables commis contre les polonais, les juifs, les romanis et tant d’autres dans les terres envahies par les nazis. On accuse Pie Douze d’être lâche, collaborateur, antisémite, hypocrite.

Ce n’ est pas à moi de défendre le Pape. J’ aimerais parler du silence.

Dans la tempête la voix se perd. Pense-t-on vraiment que les armées allemandes auraient cessé le feu à la suite d’un discours papal ? Déjà, après la Première Guerre Mondiale on refusé d’écouter au Pape Benoît XV qui demandait aux vainqueurs de se montrer clément envers les vaincus. De nos jours qui prête l’oreille aux avertissements de Jean-Paul II. La clameur du combat étouffe la voix raisonnable et fidèle. Aux oreilles des Nazis, parler de justice serait inviter de pires injustices, comme ce qui s’est passé en Hollande. C’est le martyre de la Parole.

En ces jours de la Semaine Sainte, nous célébrons la crucifixion de Jésus, la Parole de Dieu. Lui, le Verbe en qui tout fut créé, est devenu chair et cette chair fut clouée à la croix. Condamné, mis à nu, Jésus cesse de parler. Certes, il prononce quelques phrases, mais seuls les soldats et les femmes tout près de lui peuvent l’entendre. Il ne parle plus à la foule qui l’entoure et qui se moque de lui parce qu’il est impuissant. Le Verbe est muet. On le traite en charlatan. On s’écrie: « Qu’il descende de la croix s ‘il est le Bien-aimé de Dieu! »

Mais il fallait que la Parole connaisse le silence. Jésus, Dieu homme, veut connaitre le bien et le mal, le haut et le bas, la clarté et l’heure des ténèbres. Jésus veut se faire solidaire des sans-voix, des isolés, des impuissants. Il se veut méconnu. Il veut faire partie des plus pauvres, c’est-à-dire de ceux qui ont perdu même le droit de s’exprimer et qui, de ce fait, se sentent ne plus êtres humains. Il se laisse envahir par le désespoir. Il va au tréfonds. Il s’écrie en hébreu, « Eli, Eli lama sabachthani, » « Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, pourquoi m’as-tu abandonné. » Il est capable de partager le sort des vaincus parce qu’il possède au plus profond de lui-même une vie inébranlable que seul le dénuement le plus complet peut mettre à jour. Cette Semaine sainte est sombre et glorieuse en même temps.

On n’accepte pas le silence de Pie Douze. Ne soyons donc pas muets devant les injustices de nos jours. On se réjouit que la France soit la première nation à déclarer les Droits de l ‘Homme. On se réjouit que l ‘Union Européenne soit de plus en plus un instrument de la paix. Que chaque personne proteste contre les injustices en ce pays où nous vivons, contre le traitement des aborigènes, la xénophobie, l’inégalité des richesses, le matérialisme qui veut faire de Paques une fête du chocolat. Mais on sait qu’il y a des moments dans la vie où l’on peut ne rien faire, ne rien dire, des circonstances où le silence et le temps sont la seule solution.

Lorsque Jésus fut mis au tombeau on croyait avoir fini de ses paroles et de ses actes. Le Samedi Saint est une journée qui m’est insupportable. C’est le vide, le creux. Mais j’ attends, et puis vient le Dimanche de Pâques. La vie du Christ est indomptable. Jésus a subi le pire et il s’en est sorti. Mieux encore, il en tire un avantage. Si le mal est un avantage au bien, le mal est bien impuissant.

A la Messe de Pâques on récite un poème que je cite:

« La mort et la vie s’affrontèrent en un duel prodigieux.

Le Maitre de la vie mourut; vivant, il règne.

Dis-nous, Marie Madeleine, qu’ as-tu vu en chemin?

‘J’ai vu le sépulcre du Christ vivant, j’ai vu la gloire du Ressuscite.

J’ ai vu les anges ses témoins, le suaire et les vêtements.’ »

Le poème se termine avec une prière: « Roi victorieux prends-nous en pitié. Amen. »

Que la vie indomptable du Christ vous encourage cette Pâques et vous bénisse.

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Le Millenium, Messe du Victorian Mauritian Pastoral Council, 1999

Messe du Victorian Mauritian Pastoral Council

24 décembre, 1999

St Mary’s, East St Kilda

Le Millenium

Partout dans le monde les gens se préparent à célébrer le millenium. Le champagne sera bu en quantité record, il y aura feux d’ artifice et spectacles, bien qu’on ne soit pas d’accord quand exactement le millenium ne commence ni où. C’est parce qu’on veut célébrer le temps et les cycles du cosmos.

Les anciens romains comptaient le temps d’après la fondation de leur ville alors que les révolutionnaires français le calculaient d’ après l’ évènement politique qui eut lieu en mille sept cents quatre-vingt-neuf. L’ère chrétienne par laquelle le monde entier compte le passage du temps est calculé d’après la date présumée de la naissance de Jésus. De fait on ne sait ni l’année ni le jour de cette naissance mais on sait que Jésus fut né et on sait ce qu’il est. On date notre ère d’après le moment où le Verbe s’est fait chair, de sorte que sa naissance occupe le centre de l’histoire. Toute l’histoire de l’univers s’est passée avant cette date où se passera après cette date. Je cite la belle antienne du deuxième dimanche après la nativité: « Alors qu’un profond silence enveloppait toutes choses et que la nuit en était au milieu de son cours, ta Parole toute-puissante, Seigneur, est venue du ciel, ta demeure royale. »

Approchons-nous donc de cette Parole toute-puissante placée sur de la paille.

L’enfant est né dans le temps pour sanctifier le temps. Le Verbe s’est fait chair pour sanctifier la chair humaine. Il a grandi comme tous les enfants pour faire voir que tout ce qui est humain est précieux à Dieu. Il a ri de joie et a versé les larmes pour partager ainsi le sort humain. Il est mort pour nous accompagner là où nous ne voulons pas aller. Il s’est incarné dans le temps pour nous mener hors du temps. Il est venu nous donner la joie. L’ ange le dit aux bergers: « Je viens vous annoncer une bonne nouvelle, une grande joie pour tout le peuple: Aujourd’hui vous est né un sauveur, dans la ville de David. Il est le Messie, le Seigneur. »

Nous avons besoin d’un sauveur. On veut aimer mais souvent on ne sait pas comment. On veut trouver le mot juste mais il nous échappe. Nous voulons que notre vie ait été utile à quelqu’un mais on ressent trop l’absurdité de nos gestes. Qui va sauver nos souvenirs, nos espoirs intimes pour qu’ils ne disparaissent pas à jamais ? La naissance de Jésus nous promet notre renaissance. « Aujourd’hui vous est né un sauveur. » C’est pourquoi nous sommes pleins de joie et de paix. Célébrons le millenium bien sur qui se passe dans le temps et nous laisse dans le temps. Célébrons surtout le bi-millenium de la naissance de Jésus qui sanctifie le temps et nous introduit dans le présent éternel qui ne tarit jamais.

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L’homme de foi réconcilie tout ce qui est ennemi. French-Australian Association, 2002

French-Australian Association

2002

St Patrick’s Cathedral

L’homme de foi réconcilie tout ce qui est ennemi.

Qui connait l’histoire sait bien que les rapports entre l’Église et l’État n’ont pas toujours été des plus faciles. Cela fut toujours le cas. Dans l’évangile d’aujourd’hui, les Pharisiens et les Hérodiens s’approchent de Jésus. Ces deux partis jugeaient différemment le rapport entre le Peuple de Dieu et l’Empire Romain. Les Pharisiens de leur part acceptait la tutelle romaine pourvu qu’on les laisse poursuivre leurs pratiques religieuses personnelles, alors que les Hérodiens, partisans du roitelet Hérode, fils du grand Hérode, cherchaient l’Independence politique. Unis seulement par leur haine commune contre Jésus ces deux groupes s’approchent de lui et posent la question suivante. « Est-il permis de payer l’impôt à l’empereur? » question soigneusement formulée à laquelle ils n’envisagent que deux réponses possibles: oui ou non. Mais Jésus leur dit: « Rendez à César ce qui est à César et à Dieu ce qui est à Dieu. » La réponse les laisse ébahis.

Sa réponse tient-elle en partie de l’inscription sur la monnaie de l’impôt dont la légende lisait: « Tibère César, fils du divin Auguste.’ »Seuls les deux mots ‘César’ et ‘divin’ étaient écrits en entier. Quoi qu’il en soit, Jésus évite le piège et donne un enseignement de première importance.

Dans une même société l’État et l’Église ont leurs droits, tout comme chez l’individu le corps a ses droits, pour ainsi dire, et l ‘âme aussi. La raison et le sentiment tous les deux jouent un rôle. Les larmes et le rire, le loisir et le travail, enfin tous les aspects de la personne et de la société s’harmonisent chez l’individu bien équilibré. Par contre, la raison dépourvue de sentiment est insupportable. Une vie sans mystère se décolore. Là où la science semble tout réduire à la mathématique, on cherche la déraison, car l’excès provoque l’excès. L’homme raisonnable cherche la juste mesure pour y trouver enfin la paix du cœur. L’homme de foi réconcilie tout ce qui est ennemi.

L’Association Franco-Australienne assiste chaque année à la célébration eucharistique dans la Cathédrale à laquelle elle invite les représentants des autorités de la France et de l’État de Victoria. Elle souligne de cette façon que l’Église et l’État ne sont pas opposés mais collaborent pour le bien de tous. De plus, cette célébration cimente le rapprochement de deux pays éloignés l’un de l’autre, la France et l’Australie, dont l’amitié date des premières années de la colonisation européenne. La Pérouse, le grand explorateur français, fut courtoisement accueilli par le Gouverneur Phillip quelques jours après l’arrivée du First Fleet à Sydney. Les Capitaines Nicholas Baudin et Matthew Flinders se sont rencontrés amicalement près de cette partie de la côte Australienne que Baudin dénomma Terre Napoléon et qui est maintenant l’État de Victoria. La France et l’Australie étaient alliées pendant les deux guerres mondiales. Cette célébration eucharistique montre que l’Église, parce qu’elle n’est liée à aucune forme civique, est capable

de réconcilier les États.

Ce vingtième siècle a connu les théocraties où une religion particulière veut écraser tout point de vue contraire. De même ce siècle a vu les tyrannies bafouer la liberté religieuse et mettre en ridicule les croyances. César a sa part, mais Dieu aussi.

Ou donc est le juste chemin? Où trouver la sagesse. Les Pharisiens et les Hérodiens commencent par dire à Jésus « Maitre … donne nous ton avis? » Mais ils ne sont aucunement dociles. Ils en veulent à Jésus de prôner une sagesse qui les dépasse. Leur esprit est ferme à tout sauf leur propre avis. C’est pourquoi Jésus réplique sèchement: « Hypocrites. Pourquoi voulez-vous me mettre dans l’embarras. » En ripostant de la sorte il expose la mauvaise foi de ces partisans de la synagogue et du palais. Le chemin de la sagesse suppose une ouverture de l’esprit, une souplesse, une docilité. Le disciple attentif ne se laisse influencer par personne, il est sans crainte et cherche la vérité à tout prix.

La réponse de Jésus est toujours valable et son élaboration actuelle varie selon les circonstances et n’est pas toujours facile à déterminer. L’économie, la culture et l’agriculture, la vie familiale et civique, les rapports internationaux, tous les aspects de la société ont leur propre nature qu’il faut respecter. Mais Dieu est l’origine et le destin de ce monde. Il faut donc respecter et le Créateur et la créature. Il faut respecter l’Église qui prophétise au nom de Dieu et respecter l’État à qui il revient de promouvoir la justice et le bonheur. César se situe dans le temps mais nous cherchons à dépasser le temps et à entrer dans le mystère du Dieu éternel.

 

 

The gospel text today relates one of the most famous and most difficult sayings of Jesus. It concerns the relationship of God, the ruler of all, and Caesar, the ruler of the Roman empire; or in more modern terms, Church and State.

The relations between Church and state have always been complex and changeable. In Jesus’ own time the Pharisees were content to live under Roman law as long as they could continue their religious practices unhindered whereas the Herodians sought political independence. These two groups are united only in their opposition to Jesus and in laying a trap for him. He escapes the trap by uttering the famous phrase: “Give unto Caesar what belong to Caesar and to God what belong to God.” Both the State and the Church have their role to play in society just as in a well-balanced personality, both body and soul, reason and emotion, tears and laughter, work and play: all have their appropriate place. How they are to be balanced at any particular moment is the work of wisdom.

Each year the French Australian Association invites representatives of the French and Victorian Governments to this Eucharistic Celebration, and by so doing shows that Church and State can work together for the common good. This Mass brings together people from opposite sides of the globe and emphasises that the relationship of France and Australia is the oldest international link this country has had since European settlement. Indeed, the part of Australia now called Victoria was first called Napoleon Land.

How are we to find the wisdom which points to the proper relationship between Church and State? The Pharisees and the Herodians pretend to be disciples of Jesus but he sees through their hypocrisy. Only the true disciple, who has an open mind and is attentive to all Jesus’ teaching, will discover welling up in him the wisdom and fineness of judgment which points the way forward. Both God and Government have their rights but earthly rule is fixed in time whereas we wish to transcend time and to enter in the mystery of the eternal God. It is possible to go beyond time only by living through time, by rendering both to Caesar and to God.

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L’homme n’est pas sauvé s’il est sauvé par autre que l’homme. French-Australian Association, Mass, 1989

French-Australian Association

1989

St Patrick’s Cathedral

L’homme n’est pas sauvé s’il est sauvé par autre que l’homme.

L’année passée nous avons célébré le bicentenaire de la colonisation européenne de l’Australie. Cette année-ci nous célébrons le bicentenaire de la révolution française. L’Association Franco-australienne se trouve entourée de célébrations.

L’un de ces évènements a fondé une prison, un goulag, au bout du monde; l’autre a établi les droits de l’homme dans ce qui était, pourrait-on dire, la capitale de l’occident.

Deux évènements bien différents, mais aussi assez semblables. L’ancien régime était comme le juge injuste de l’évangile qui ne craignait ni Dieu ni l’homme et n’écoutait pas la plainte de la veuve qui demandait justice. De même pour les prisonniers de Botany Bay ; rejetés de leur terre natale, ils se croyaient abandonnés par Dieu. Qui pourrait bien les sauver de cette prison au bout du monde. Pour survivre il fallait durcir et la peau et l’âme.

Puisqu’il semblait que Dieu n’écoute pas, que ce Dieu injuste détourne ses yeux de la détresse humaine, ii fallait chercher le salut ailleurs. Chez les uns, la raison allait garantir le bonheur des hommes; chez les autres, c’est le refus de tout espoir. Seulement en refusant tout espoir de choses plus grandes pouvait-ils se contenter du peu de bien qui leur arrivait.

Les philosophes prônaient la raison. La raison soutenait volontiers qu’il y a un Dieu créateur de l’univers qui avait prévu tous les besoins. La Providence a voulu que tout soit à la main de l’homme pour son bonheur. Il fallait seulement que l’homme découvre, par son intelligence, les moyens nécessaires. C’est le déisme du siècle des lumières. Pas de question de prier ce Bon Dieu. Il était plus lointain que le roi soleil à Versailles. Pas de question de s’en approcher. La prière était donc inutile face à l’injustice.

L’Église a commencé par soutenir la révolution. Le début de la révolution, c’est à dire, le rassemblement des États Généraux, commença par une procession du très Saint Sacrement. Par la suite, l’Église en a pris peur, à la vue des excès. Cet enfantement terrible – les massacres, la destruction des monastères, la refonte totale de la société sur la base de la raison, les fêtes religieuses au Champ de Mars conçues par Robespierre – était scandaleux. La révolution avait l’air d’un monstre à cause de cet enfantement du monde moderne accompagné d’une telle perte de sang.

Il a fallu un siècle pour que l’Église s’adapte à la démocratie. On n’abandonne pas si facilement une façon de voir vieille de 15 siècles. Maintenant l’Église se propose comme défenseur de la démocratie. La révolution française a fait la révolution de l’Église.

De même il a fallu un deuxième siècle pour que l’Église puisse voir les vérités cachées dans le marxisme. Il n’est pas facile de changer de point de vue, de rester fidèle aux vérités reçues et en même temps d’accepter les vérités nouvelles.

Le quatorze-juillet passé, deux siècles après la prise de la Bastille, on se réunissait sur la Place de la Concorde. Cette fois-ci, sur le balcon de l’Hôtel de la Marine se trouvaient, non pas un roi, mais les chefs des sept nations industrialisées majeures. En bas sur la Place s’assemblaient des gens en grande partie venue des pays en voie de développement. Celle qui chantait La Marseillaise n’était pas une actrice européenne, mais une négresse habillée du tricolore, grande et puissante. N’y voyait on pas une nouvelle féodalité, basée cette fois sur la puissance industrielle des nations du nord. Les pays du sud demandent la justice.

Quel est le rapport entre ces évènements et l’évangile qui nous est proposé aujourd’hui? La raison des philosophes refuse la prière. L’évangile nous dit, par contre, qu’il faut imiter la veuve qui ne cesse de prier. Quelle est donc cette prière? C’est la prière de la foi, la prière qui découle de l’union avec Dieu. Le Christ, qui est de la substance de Dieu, prie. II prie, il agit, il accomplit. La prière n’est pas marque d’impuissance mais la condition de ceux qui sont unis au tout-Puissant. La prière est la reconnaissance du rapport qu’on a avec le Dieu qui mène le monde à son destin. La prière ne consiste pas à adoucir la volonté d’un Dieu qui ne veut pas notre bien. La prière est l’union de nos volontés avec la volonté de Dieu, ayant avec lui, dès le début, la même volonté.

La raison ne suffit pas parce que l’homme est plus que raisonnable.

De tout temps l’homme est le vice-gérant de Dieu sur terre. Dieu ne fera rien sans l’homme. Inutile de la part Dieu de sauver sans l’aide de l’homme. L’homme n’est pas sauvé s’il est sauvé par autre que l’homme. Dieu refuse de sauver sauf par la main de l’homme. Nous voilà au centre de notre foi chrétienne : Dieu sauve par l’intermédiaire du Christ, le Dieu-homme, et de tous ceux qui sont de lui. Dieu écoute parce que l’homme écoute.

Nous allons, par contre, continuer à croire que Dieu n’écoute pas tant que nous sommes nous-mêmes sourds à l’appel de nos frères. Il est facile de croire que Dieu n’entend pas parce qu’on voit trop bien que l’homme soit sourd. Dieu n’est pas sourd. C’est nous qui refusons de subvenir aux besoins.

Aussitôt que nous nous tournons, en simplicité, vers nos frères en besoin, nous verrons que Dieu est bienveillant envers l’homme.

L’homme sera la source des biens de l’homme. Nous deviendrons nous mêmes Christ, Dieu-homme envers nos frères. Voilà l’humanisme chrétien. Le plus grand destin de l’homme est d’être capable de devenir comme Dieu.

Quand on étendra la main remplie de pain on prendra gout à faire les dons. On voudra donner ce qu’il y a de plus nourrissant, de plus excellent, de plus signifiant, ce qui nourrit l’âme, le cœur, le corps. Nous voudrons donner l’eucharistie, qui sera le début et la fin de toutes les révolutions.

 

Last year, we celebrated the bi-centenary of European colonisation. in Australia. This year is the bi-centenary of the French revolution which is commonly regarded as marking the start of the modem world.

At first the Church was in favour of the revolution but became traumatised by its excesses. It took some hundred years before the Church was able to accept the democracy of which we are now the ardent promoters. Likewise, it has taken another century for the Church to accept the many truths hidden in Marxism and to see its obligation to press for justice in the social order.

Both the Ancien Regime in France and the harshness of the Australian country seemed to make a mockery of any idea that God was concerned with mankind. Why pray since God seems unconcerned with our distress? Both men and the landscape remain unmoved by our tears.

Yet the Gospel encourages us to pray. Our prayer is not directed to one whose heart we would wish to turn in our favour. Our prayer is a union of will with him who has our destiny as his concern. Prayer is a union of wills.

At the same time, we cannot pray to God unless we listen to the prayers of those who call on him. Why should God show he listens to us when we are deaf to our brother’s plea? Once we have begun to hear the cry of the poor we shall notice how willing God is to hear. Once we have begun to be like him and listen to those in distress, we shall know what it is to pray.

The seeming silence of God is the great scandal of our century. If we listen to the poor who cry to heaven for help, we shall know that God is not nor has ever been deaf to prayer. We shall know that all is accomplished by prayer and nothing occurs without it.

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L’amour est plus fort que la mort. Radio 3EA, Pâques, 1992

Radio 3EA

1992

Message de Pâques

L’amour est plus fort que la mort.

Le nom de Nelson Mandela est bien connu. Il a passé sa vie à lutter contre l’apartheid en Afrique du Sud. Il fut emprisonné pendant vingt-sept ans. Quel long martyre! Je ne sais pas grand-chose sur la politique de son parti. Ce qui m’a frappé c’est qu’après vingt-sept ans de prison il en est sorti sans rancune, sans désir de revanche. Ses discours sont intelligents, raisonnés, sans fanatisme, effectifs parce que justes. Nelson Mandela me donne une première idée de ce que nous célébrons à Pâques.

L’origine étymologique du mot ‘Pâques’ reste inconnu. Le sens de Pâques est pourtant bien clair. Jésus est venu proclamer la vérité. Il parle avec autorité, nous disent les évangiles, parce qu’il parlait de lui-même. Il est lui-même la Parole qu’il dit. De plus, c’est l’amour qui fait parler. C’est l’amour qui lui donne la force continuer de parler face à la réaction de ceux qui préféraient leur mensonge. Mais le mensonge ne tolère par la vérité. Il fallait le taire. On l ‘a fait atrocement. On l’a crucifié.

Quel malheur que le souvenir de la mort de Jésus soit remplacé chez bien des gens par les œufs de chocolat et les poussins. Notre société de consommation s’attache à tout ce qui se mange. Pâques est redevenu le secret des chrétiens.

L’amour est plus fort que la mort. Si Dieu existe il ne peut laisser au tombeau celui qui’ l’a révélé. Si Jésus est la Parole de Dieu, il parle toujours. Si Jésus est l’amour de Dieu envers, il nous aime toujours.

La foi chrétienne veut que Jésus vive toujours, mais non pas de la même façon que nous vivons. Nous restons situés dans le temps, limités dans l’espace. Il a connu la mort jusqu’au tréfonds. Il faut donc qu’il connaisse une vie sans bornes. Quelle est cette vie? Nous le savons au fur et à mesure que nous passons par le même chemin.

On voit chez Jésus de Nazareth le jeu de la vie et de la mort, le mystère du mal et du bien – mystère que nous savons être au cœur de l’existence humaine. La vie et la mort se rencontrent pleinement chez Jésus de Nazareth. Pour ceux qui comprennent ceci, il n’y a plus de peur ni de la mort ni des petites morts: les pertes, les manques. Comme dit Saint Paul: « Oè est-il, O mort, ton aiguillon? » Sans cette peur, la vie recouvre son charme, on retrouve une joie et une paix étranges, intarissables.

Que la paix de cette saison soit avec vous tous.

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L’homme est juste ou il n’existe pas. French-Australian Association, Mass, 1995

French-Australian Association

1995

St Patrick’s Cathedral

L’homme est juste ou il n’existe pas.

Il y a presque vingt ans j’ai fait un voyage en Chine. C’était tout juste quelques mois après le renvoi de la Bande des Quatre. On nous a fait visiter un ancien temple dans les environs de Canton ou les gens flânaient en grande nombre mais ne rendaient plus le culte. A ma demande si on croyait encore aux dieux le guide m’a répondu – et je cite – les dieux n’avaient pas subvenu aux besoins du peuple et pur cette raison on les a congédiés. Ce n’est pas que les dieux n’existaient plus mais qu’on n’y avait plus confiance. Ils étaient mis en retraite.

Dans l’évangile, Jésus dit au peuple qui l’écoute: « Dieu ne sera-t-il pas justice à ses élus qui crient vers lui jour et nuit. »

Dieu est juste ou il ne l’est pas. Une des raisons pour le manque de foi de nos jours est le sentiment que la prière est inutile. Pourquoi croire en Dieu si Dieu n’exauce pas nos prières. On voit partout dans le monde les pauvres, les opprimés. Les enfants innocents, comme disait Albert Camus dans La Peste sont atteints du fléau autant que les méchants.

On pourrait s’écrier, ‘Dieu, pourquoi ne fais-tu rien. Mais le Seigneur pourrait bien nous répliquer: ‘Vous voyez bien les pauvres, les malades. Et vous avez les moyens, toutes les richesses de la terre. Pourquoi ne faites-vous rien?’ L’homme est juste ou il n’existe pas.

II y a un rapport étroit entre la justice humine et la justice divine. Le prophète Isaïe l’a déjà dit:

« Si tu bannis de chez toi le joug, le geste menaçant et les paroles méchantes, si tu te prives pour l’affame et si tu rassasies l’opprime, ta lumière se lèvera clans les ténèbres et l’obscurité sera pour toi comme le milieu du jour. Le Seigneur sans cesse te conduira, il donnera la vigueur à tes os et tu seras comme un jardin arrose. En devenant juste nous voyons que le ciel est juste. »

On trouve, à Calcutta, ville ‘dont, on a dit, l’éclatement parait imminent,’ le temple de Kālī. Chaque jour, à midi, on amène les chèvres dont on verse le sang devant la statue noire de la déesse. Par une ironie toute divine, c’est dans une pièce du même bâtiment que la Mère Teresa a fondé sa première infirmerie. Les voilà, les deux symboles féminins de Calcutta, la déesse Kālī et la Mère Teresa. Au cri désespéré des pauvres, le Seigneur a envoyé cette petite religieuse. Nous célébrons le Dimanche des Missions aujourd’hui. La Mère Teresa nous dit: ‘Aujourd’hui quelqu’un souffre clans la rue et a faim. Nous n’avons qu’aujourd’hui à nourrir, habiller, protéger Jésus lui-même qui est le pauvre’.

Mais aussi, en choisissant la justice clans ce monde qui est un mélange de bien et de mal, nous allons rencontrer la rancune et l’opposition, la mécompréhension et la haine. On ne peut pratiquer la justice sans connaitre la croix. En tenant ferme on verra, en soi-même, le Christ qui est resta fidèle jusqu’à la fin.

Saint Paul le sait bien. II recommande à son disciple Timothée de proclamer la bonne nouvelle à temps et à contretemps. On ne choisit pas ce qui est juste parce que les gens l’approuvent. On fait le bien parce le bien s’exige.

L’association Franco-Australienne cherche à développer les rapports d’amitié entre deux peuples aux antipodes l’un de l’autre. Cette amitié, comme toute amitié, sera éprouvée. Elle fut fondée il y a plus de cinquante ans. Ni le temps ni les changements n’ont su disloquer cette association parce que son propos est juste. On vous félicite et on vous dit bien clairement que la justice de votre propos vous fera voir le Dieu qui nous fera prompte justice.

 

 

 

Many years ago, I went to China, shortly after the Gang of Four had been ousted. We were taken on a tour of a temple where many people wandered around but where no worship was conducted. I asked the guide if the people still believed in the gods. The guide replied that the gods had failed to come to the help of the people. Therefore, had they had been retired. That was her phrase, ‘they had been retired’.

In today’s gospel Jesus says, “Will not God do justice to those who cry to him day and night.”

God is either just or he does not exist. One of the reasons for lack of faith today is the sense that God does not hear our prayers. The innocent as well as the wicked suffer the same plagues. We could cry out, ‘O God why do you not act?’ But he could just as well reply to us ‘You have the poor before your very eyes, you have the means and the wealth of the earth. Why do you not act?’ The human person is either just or is not.

There is a close rapport between human justice and divine justice. The prophet Isaiah has said “If you do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, if you give your bread to the hungry and relief to the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon. YHVH will always guide you, he will give strength to your bones and you shall be like a watered garden.”

The French-Australian association seeks to develop the bonds of friendship between two peoples on opposite sides of the globe. This friendship, like every friendship, has been tested. Neither the passage of time nor changes in temperament have been able to sunder this association. The making of bonds of friendship is one of the works of justice. In this work the justice of God is seen.

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L’amour nous rend fort et faible à la fois, SBS Radio,Noël, 1995

SBS Radio,

1995

Message de Noël

L’amour nous rend fort et faible à la fois.

Ces derniers jours, la ville de Bethlehem fut remise aux Palestiniens.

Les soldats Israël s’en sont décampé. Avant eux, c’était les anglais, et avant eux, les Turques, avant eux les Arabes, les Perses, les Byzantins. Tant d’armées sont passés par là et s’en ont allé. L’histoire a bien secoué la Terre d’Israël.

Les Perses vers le début du septième siècle ont mis à sac toutes les églises de la Terre Sainte, sauf une, la basilique de la Nativité à Bethlehem. On dit que c’est parce qu’ils ont vu dépeints sur les parois les rois-mages habillés de vêtements perses. Par respect pour leur propre peuple les soldats ont épargné ce qui est maintenant la plus ancienne basilique byzantine construite, dit-on, sur l’endroit où le Divin Enfant fut né.

Il s’est vêtu de notre chair pour qu’on respecté la chair humaine. Il est devenu enfant pour qu’on ne fasse aucun mal aux enfants. Dieu s’est fait homme pour qu’on vénère l’humain.

Les mages, selon l’histoire racontée chez Saint Matthieu, sont venus de l’Orient. La légende a voulu que l’un soit de peau noire, un autre de peau jaune, le troisième de peau blanche. De cette façon on a fait savoir que toutes les races sont acceptables. L’Enfant ne rejette personne. Il est l’Enfant de tous. Cette leçon on l ‘apprend malaisément.

Le Nations Unies ont déclaré cette année mille neuf-cent quatre-vingt-quinze l’année de la tolérance. Malheureusement la religion est souvent utilisée à des fins intolérantes. Les pires intolérances se voient entre musulmans et hindous, entre catholiques et protestants, entre croyants et athées. La vraie religion n’est jamais dominatrice. L’Enfant est faible. La parole qui sort de la bouche des pauvres crie plus fort que le vacarme des puissants. L’Enfant est impuissant. Il accepte. Il se donne parce que dès le début il aime.

L’amour nous rend fort et faible à la fois. L’amour est plus simple que la haine. L’amour se retire les masques et devient entièrement visible, comme un nouveau-né.

Enfin, les mages découvrent l’Enfant et, s’agenouillant, présentent leurs dons: c’est-à-dire, l’or, l’encens et la myrrhe. De nos jours, les grandes armées du commerce ont envahi l’étable et font la foire à noël et non plus la fête. Mais on a vu passer tant d’envahisseurs. Or verra partir le commerce agressif et les mages continueront à présenter leur tribut. A l’enfant Jésus, ils offrent l’or non pas parce que l’enfant est pauvre mais parce qu’il est riche. L’encens ne sanctifie pas l’enfant. Les mages présentent le saint parfum à celui qui est le Saint de Dieu. La myrrhe préfigure le tombeau parce que l’enfant est voué au sacrifice dès sa naissance. Les mages ne font pas de cadeaux. Il font des signes.

L’intolérance, on le sait, provient d’une faiblesse. On veut à tout prix posséder ; c’est la tentation de l’or. Mais l’enfant a les mains vides et le cœur plein. On veut être admiré ; c’est la tentation de l’encens. Mais l’enfant sait bien ce qu’il est. On immole les autres ; c’est la tentation de la myrrhe. Mais l’Enfant va se présenter lui-même comme l’agneau du sacrifice.

Connaissez-vous la conte américaine intitulée ‘Le don des Mages’. Une jeune femme dont la chevelure est magnifique, se coupe les tresses et les vend pour acheter en cadeau de noël une chaine de montre pour son mari qui, de sa part, a déjà vendu la montre pour se permettre d’acheter des peignes à sa femme. Il n’y a pas d’amour sans don. Il n’y a pas de don sans sacrifice. L’Enfant Jésus nouveau-né est le don tout frais de Dieu qui aima le monde à tel point qu’il n’a pas épargné son Fils. Souhaitons que Bethlehem connaisse la paix dont les anges ont chanté.

Je souhaite que la paix du Divin Enfant soit chez vous et les vôtres ce noël.

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Dieu aime ; donc il s’abaisse, SBS Radio, Pâques, 1996

SBS Radio,

1996

Message de Pâques

Dieu aime ; donc il s’abaisse.

L’ année passée j ‘étais en Inde. Un soir, oisif, je flânais dans la rue et je suis entré dans la cour d’une école. Un professeur m’a abordé et on s’est mis à causer. Alors qu’on marchait lentement par-ci par-là dans la cour, les élevés, en passant, se baissaient et touchaient le pied ou le bas de la jambe du professeur qui accueillait ce geste avec bienveillance.

Toucher le pied du maitre. Geste ancien, geste millénaire. C’est le signe de respect envers le gourou, celui qui nous fait sortir de l’ignorance et nous conduit vers la lumière. On retrouve un geste semblable dans les évangiles. Par exemple, la femme qui embrasse les pieds de Jésus et les lave avec ses larmes parce qu’il fait preuve de la miséricorde; ou les disciples qui se prosternent devant Jésus transfiguré.

Mais on trouve aussi le contraire. Par un renversement qui choque Pierre, le chef des disciples, Jésus leur lavent les pieds. C’est le paradoxe de la foi chrétienne. Le maitre touche le pied du disciple. II aime même ce qui n’est pas aimable. Dieu sacrifice son Fils saint pour les hommes pécheurs. C’est la folie de l’amour. La folie divine n’a pas de limite. Cloué à la croix le Verbe devient muet. A la fin il y’a l‘immense cri et puis le silence.

Mais cette agonie et ce désarroi constituent en effet la Parole suprême, ce qui révèle définitivement le Dieu invisible. Le maitre indien enseigne ; on lui touche donc le pied. Dieu aime ; donc il s’abaisse.

Nelson Mandela, le président actuel du Sud-Afrique, passa vingt-sept ans en prison. Lorsqu’il fut libéré et admis au pouvoir, je m’attendais à des actes de rancune et de revanche. Il aurait pu baigner son pays dans le sang. Mais non, rien de cela. Il a prôné la réconciliation, la justice, et la miséricorde. Il n’est pas dupe, il sait gouverner, mais c’est avec souplesse et honneur. Je ne sais pas grand-chose de sa politique qui doit, d’ailleurs, changer avec les circonstances. Ses souffrances et son caractère me font impression. Il est un des grands de notre siècle. C’est sa part à la croix de Jésus qui m’affecte plus encore que les lois qu’il signe. De même quant à Yitzhak Rabin, Premier Ministre d’Israël, qui fut assassiné par un concitoyen. Je n’accepte pas tout ce qu’il a dit et fait, mais il est mort pour la paix. Voilà sa parole, son geste, sa mémoire.

Ces jours-ci nous célébrons la Paque. C’ est un évènement dans le passé, comme la création du monde, mais il est toujours présent. La puissance de des paroles de Jésus et silence de sa mort me touchent au vif.

Nos mots de tous les jours, nos actions deviennent des paroles et des gestes si l‘amour nous habite. Quittons la sagesse humaine. Suivons la folie divine.

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Émerveillement et bonheur ineffable, SBS Radio, Pâques, 1999

SBS Radio,

1999

Message de Pâques

Un moment saint, d’émerveillement et de bonheur ineffable.

Des cinquante-deux semaines de l’année, une seule est dénommée sainte, celle qui va du Dimanche des Rameaux au Dimanche de Pâques. Pour les chrétiens c’est la fontaine qui sanctifie le cours régulier du temps.

Le Dimanche des Rameaux, Jésus descend le Mont des Oliviers entouré de la foule joyeuse qui l’acclame. Il voit devant lui le panorama de Jérusalem, scène de toute beauté. Devant lui s’élève le Temple d’Hérode, plus magnifique encore que la superbe Mosquée que nous voyons aujourd’hui. La forteresse du gouverneur romain, Ponce Pilate, domine le Temple comme pour l’écraser. Jésus aurait pu voir les maisons des riches et les taudis des pauvres. On peut penser qu’il voie aussi les heurs et les malheurs de tous les temps, car il est venu au monde partager le sort humain et annoncer la bonne nouvelle.

Pendant les jours qui suivent son entrée à Jérusalem il fait savoir aux apôtres qu’il prévoit tout ce qui va lui arriver. Il leur annonce la trahison de Judas et le reniement de Pierre. Il leur annonce sa mort et leur assure en même temps que le tombeau ne peut le retenir. Il va consciemment à sa mort car il veut partager le bien et le mal, la joie et la douleur du monde pour ainsi devenir le sauveur de tous. Il ne peut se dire vraiment humain que s’il partage le sort de tous les hommes. Rien ne doit être caché à ses yeux. De même il s’expose au regard de tous. Élevé sur la croix au bord du chemin on va le regarder. On peut imaginer les soldats et les passants lui regarder droit dans les yeux pour y discerner la douleur qui le harcèle. Voyaient-ils aussi la lueur de connaissance qui vient seul à celui que se sacrifie pour ceux qu’il aiment. Enfin ses yeux se ferment et il est mis au tombeau pour ne plus voir la clarté du jour.

Mais c’est le dimanche de la résurrection. Jésus ne peut rester au tombeau car si Dieu est fidèle aux infidèles et pardonne ce qui est impardonnable, il est surtout fidèle au juste et aime l’amant. De tout son être Jésus est fidèle envers les hommes et Dieu. De tout son corps il sera donc ressuscité à la gloire de Dieu et au salut des hommes. Voilà ce que nous célébrons ce Dimanche de Pâques.

De nos jours où tout se calcule et se compte, il est malaisé d’apprécier la sainteté qui est d’un ordre tout à fait différent. Je souhaite que chacun qui m’écoute ait déjà aperçu en sa vie une occasion qui fut pour lui un moment saint, un lieu de révélation, d’émerveillement et de bonheur ineffable, car cet instant est le centre d’une vie et lui donne son sens. Je souhaite que le chemin de notre vie nous laisse dépasser la beauté et la laideur du monde pour contempler la clarté de Pâques et la gloire de Jésus ressuscité. Que cette Paque soit pour nous tous joie et sainteté.

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Le Grand Jubilée de l’an 2000, ZZZ, Mauritian Radio, Noël 1999

ZZZ, Mauritian Radio,

21 décembre 1999

Le jubilée de l’an 2000

Dans quelques jours, à Rome, la veille de noël, le Pape Jean-Paul va inaugurer le Grande Jubilée de l’an deux mille en ouvrant la Porte Sainte à Saint Pierre du Vatican. A sa suite, dans les cathédrales et dans nombreuses églises du monde entier, on va imiter ce geste qui annonce la paix. Les portes s ‘ouvriront partout. C’est un geste ancien car, à l ‘époque romaine on ouvrait la porte du temple du dieu Janus comme signe de paix et on la fermait en temps de guerre. On ouvre la porte sainte de la basilique pour faire signe que la naissance de Jésus nous donne la paix. De fait, à la naissance de Jésus les chœurs célestes chantent: « Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux, et paix sur la terre aux hommes qu’il aime. »

On connait les circonstances de ce chant. L’empereur Auguste ordonna qu’on recense toute la terre, lui qui se vantait d’avoir établi la paix romaine partout dans l‘empire, Mais de lui l’ange ne dit rien. Plutôt c’est de Jésus qu’il parle. Il dit aux bergers: « Ne craignez rien, car je viens vous annoncer une bonne nouvelle, une grande joie pour tout le peuple: Aujourd’hui vous est né un sauveur, dans la ville de David. Il est le Messie, le Seigneur. » Nous avons oublié cet empereur autrefois si célèbre et nous fêtons le bi-millenium de la naissance de Jésus, le Verbe de Dieu. La fête de noël résonne de joie et de silence, le silence merveilleux du Verbe incarné.

L’Italie, la France et le Royaume Uni ainsi d’autres pays ont décidé récemment, par respect pour l’an deux mille, d’annuler les dettes des pays pauvres qui avancent la liberté de leurs citoyens. Cette décision s’accorde parfaitement avec le Grand Jubilée car le jubilée est une fête de libération, une fête qui, dans I’ Ancien Testament avait lieu tous les cinquante ans et marquait le moment où l’on remettait à son voisin ses dettes et accordait l’amnistie aux prisonniers.

Le Grand Jubilée est donc un appel aux chrétiens et à tous les peuples de promouvoir en leur vie personnelle la réconciliation et la justice. Est-ce trop espérer que le troisième millenium soit sans guerre? Dans tous les cas je souhaite que la paix s’établisse en votre foyer, que la douceur de Jésus nouveau-né s’installe dans votre cœur, que votre esprit soit ouvert comme la porte sainte, et que comme les anges votre bouche proclame des mots jubilants, que vos mains soulagent les pauvres, en somme que parmi nous tous s’incarne ce Grand Jubilée de liberté et de joie.

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Le silence, SBS Radio, Noël,1999

SBS Radio, 24 décembre,1999

Message de noël

Le silence

Je reviens justement de l’Inde où j’ai assisté à une réunion entre les Bouddhistes, les Chrétiens et les Hindous. Pendant six jours nous avons abordé un sujet de grand intérêt, c’est-à-dire le paradoxe du vide et de la plénitude. Nous avons mangé ensemble aussi, mais surtout nous avons médité ensemble chaque jour pendant plusieurs heures. C’était par le silence surtout que nous nous sommes rapprochés, un silence délicieux au-delà des paroles. Par le silence, chacun à sa façon s’est approché aussi du Mystère suprême, de telle sorte qu’éventuellement une paix sainte s’est établie parmi nous. C’est la paix que toutes les religions recherchent.

C’est la paix de noël ou l’on célèbre la présence silencieuse de Jésus nouveau-né qui se repose tranquillement sur la paille. Lui, le Verbe fait chair, ne dit rien mais sa présence signifie tout. D’après le récit de Saint Luc, c’est l‘ange qui explique la chose aux bergers: « Je viens vous annoncer une bonne nouvelle, une grande joie pour tout le peuple. Aujourd’hui vous est né un sauveur, dans la ville de David. Il est le Messie, le Seigneur. » Les paroles humaines sont utiles et nécessaires jusqu’à incertain point mais finalement elles font place au silence qui n’ est pas un mutisme mais la plénitude de la parole qui seul nous amène sur ses ailes tranquilles au Mystère divin que d’aucuns dénomment le vide et d’autres Dieu lui-même. André Malraux, ministre de la culture au temps de Charles de Gaulle a dit que « Le siècle prochain sera religieux ou ne sera pas. » Et notre groupe ajouterait que l’avenir de l’homme est silence en la Présence divine.

Le Dalai Lama, le dieu-roi du Tibet, a bien voulu accepter l’invitation d’assister à notre dernière séance qui avait lieu à l’endroit même ou quarante ans plus tôt il était arrivé fugitif devant les armées chinoises pour être accueilli par un moine bouddhiste, un prêtre catholique et un swami hindou. On comprend donc qu’il promeut, partout où il va dans le monde, la réconciliation entre les religions. Les siècles passés ont vu les périodes de foi partagée et les guerres de religion, les grands succès missionnaires et l’ abandon de la pratique religieuse. Mais le cœur de l ‘homme a soif du paradoxe du Mystère qui nous dépasse et nous émerveille. La religion sera donc toujours actuelle. Nous avons besoin du silence que nous entendons en entrant dans l’étable ou se trouve le Verbe incarné, le Dieu-enfant, paradoxe des paradoxes, mystère d’entre les mystères,

Le récit évangélique explique que César Auguste, le premier empereur romain, ordonna qu’on recense toute la terre, lui qui se vantait d’avoir établi la paix romaine partout dans l’ empire. Mais on a presque oublié ce personnage important et c’est l’Enfant nouveau-né, Jésus, qu’on célèbre à travers le monde. Je prie donc, par l’enfant de Bethlehem, qu’un silence délicieux résonne au fond de votre esprit, que le Mystère infini se manifeste en votre âme et qu’une joie indicible vienne informer vos paroles et vos gestes de telle sorte que vous soyez vous-mêmes la réconciliation dont ce monde a tellement besoin. Joyeux noël, joyeux millenium.

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Dieu aime sans juger, French Australian Association Mass, 1996

French-Australian Association

26 Octobre, 1996

St Patrick’s Cathedral

Dieu aime sans juger.

Vous connaissez les circonstances de l‘épisode de l’évangile d’aujourd’hui. Jésus est fatigué. Il s’assied au bord d’un puits. Les rayons du soleil dardent. C’est midi. Une Samaritaine vient à cette heure insolite puiser de l’eau. Jésus lui adresse la parole. Il lui offre de l’eau vive. Jésus sait bien qu’elle a eu cinq maris déjà et que le sixième, avec qui elle habite, ne prétend pas être un mari. Ces chiffres sont importants. Jésus sera le septième.

En lui offrant l ‘eau vive, Jésus se propose comme le septième mari, c’est-à-dire le mari parfait qui n’est pas un mari comme les autres. Cette femme n’ose plus venir au puits à l’ heure habituelle. On devine facilement que les autres femmes du village la rejettent: c’est une Jézabel prête à séduire leurs maris.

La Bonne Nouvelle entière se trouve en cette scène. Jésus n’hésite pas à se lier par les liens les plus sûrs et les plus purs à celle qui est étrangère, aliène, perdue, celle qui symbolise nos faiblesses, nos désirs, nos chemins perdus.

Jésus peut agir ainsi parce qu’il est libre ; il ne dépend de rien, ni du Temple à Jérusalem ni du Temple rival bâti sur la montagne de Samarie. Jésus adore son Père et son Dieu en esprit et en vérité et ne dépend pas des pierres et des architectes. Il n’est pas souillé non plus par son rapport avec la Samaritaine. Au contraire, i1 devient ce qu’il est, il s’exprime et se révèle. Il fait preuve qu’il est le Saint de Dieu parce qu’il n’hésite pas à se lier à la Samaritaine. Dieu se plait à faire l’impossible. Du néant, Dieu créa le ciel et la terre. II rend les morts vivants de nouveau. Dieu est amour. Il se plait à aimer. Il aime ce qu’on ne croirait pas aimable. Il aime sans juger. Les faiblesses de l’homme et ses péchés, il les connait mais il ne les considère pas. Les faux dieux ne supportent pas les souillures. Le vrai Dieu s’y mêle et y apporte la sainteté. Ce qu’il aime devient aimable. Jésus nous invite à adorer Dieu de cette façon, c’est à dire, en esprit et en vérité.

Il y a exactement quatre-vingts dix-neuf ans que cette Cathédrale de Saint Patrick fut dédiée. Nous sommes légitiment fiers de ce beau bâtiment, la plus belle église gothique, peut-être, de ce continent, bâtie par des gens en plus grande partie pauvres.

Mais ce ne sont pas les vitraux splendides ni les pilastres ni les flèches altières qui font la beauté de cette cathédrale. C’est parce que nous adorons Dieu en esprit et en vérité, c’est parce que nous sommes lies en amitié avec les plus démunis, c’est parce que nous ne dépendons pas de ce bâtiment dont les pierres exhalent un parfum exquis.

Il y a quatre-vingts ans, en mille neuf-cents seize, du premier juillet au dix-huit novembre la première bataille de la Somme battait son plein. Y tint lieu la bataille de Pozières dans laquelle les divisions première et deuxième australiennes furent engagées a cote des armées françaises et britanniques. Cette bataille continua sous le nom de Bataille de Fromelles dans laquelle la cinquième division australienne se lança contre l’ennemi et prit fin dans l’engagement qu’on appelle la Bataille de la Ferme Mouquet. A la même époque eut lieu la Bataille de Verdun ou sept-cents milles soldats furent tués. Nous pleurons et nous célébrons. Nous pleurons les morts. Nous célébrons leur sacrifice. Quel courage qui nous laisse ébahis. Nous nous réjouissons de ce que ce siècle de guerres en Europe se termine par la réconciliation dont l’Union Européenne est la grande preuve. Nous prions que l’exemple de l’Europe soit suivi en d’ autres endroits du monde où les conflits semblent permanents.

Lorsque Salomon dédie le Temple à Jérusalem il prie pour le peuple. Surtout il demande que le Temple qu’il vient de construire soit un lieu de réconciliation, de paix, de pitié. Que cette Cathédrale, que l ‘Union Européenne, que 1 ‘Association Franco-Australienne soient, chacune à sa façon, un lieu de réconciliation, un temple où Dieu habite.

J’aimerais terminer en vous parlant de Vincent. Vincent vient de fêter ses quatre-vingts ans. Chaque jour de la semaine il prend le tramway de Richmond. Malgré les regards surpris et peut-être méprisants des autres voyageurs – après tout Vincent et l ‘eau ne se connaissent pas – il vient servir la messe dans la paroisse où j’habite. Je m’en réjouis. Il nous permet de devenir ce que nous sommes. Notre église paroissiale, dont l ‘architecte fut également l’architecte de cette cathédrale, tient sa valeur et son éclat du fait que tous, gens aisés et vieux clochards, nous nous réunissons autour du même autel, en esprit et en vérité.

 

 

We know the scene at the well. Jesus is tired. He sits down. It is the middle of the day. A Samaritan woman comes at this unusual hour to draw water. Jesus speaks of the living water he will give her. He knows that she has had five husbands already and that the sixth man she lives with does not even claim to be a husband. The numbers are significant. Jesus is presenting himself to her as her seventh man, the perfect husband unlike all the rest.

The whole Gospel is found in this scene. Jesus can act in this fashion because he depends on no one. He worships his God and Father in spirit and in truth. He does not depend on stones. He is not made impure by his association with this woman who must come to the well during the heat of the day because she is an outcast from human society. Out of nothing God made the heavens and the earth and he draws the living from out of the company of the dead. False gods cannot become associated with impurity. The true God delights in the impossible and mixes with sin so as to tum it into grace.

Exactly 99 years ago this Cathedral was dedicated. Its beauty does not come from the magnificent windows nor from the soaring spires nor from its countless pilasters. Because we adore God in spirit and in truth, because we bind ourselves in friendship with the most wretched, precisely because we don’t need the cathedral we have built and restored: for these reasons the stones breath forth their perfume.

Eighty years ago, the first Battle of the Somme was in full spate. In one of its episodes, the Battle of Pozières, the first and second Australian divisions joined the French and British Forces. This episode continued under the name of the Battle of Fromelles in which the fifth Australian division engaged the enemy ending the episode with what is called the Battle of Mouquet Farm. We weep for the dead of these battles. We celebrate their heroism. We rejoice at the reconciliation which is enshrined in the European Union.

May this Cathedral, may the European Union, may the French Australian Association each in their own way become a means of reconciliation, a temple where God dwells in spirit and in truth.

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La préférence envers les plus pauvres, Messe du Père Laval, 1999

Messe du Père Laval

12 Septembre, 1999

St John Vianney, Mulgrave

La préférence envers les plus pauvres

Vous avez beaucoup de chance, vous les Mauriciens, parce que votre saint vous a touché le cœur. Il a su vous remplir l’ esprit. Il est votre martyre, votre ‘Père’. Cela n’est pas toujours le cas. On ne pourrait dire de même pour tous les pays. Nous célébrons aujourd’hui le grand apôtre de Maurice. Partout dans le monde les Mauriciens se réunissent pour célébrer sa mémoire. Voilà un chose remarquable.

Le Père Laval a quitté son pays natal, où il aurait pu vivre bien aisément, pour s’installer chez les anciens esclaves, ses ‘chers noirs’. Il ne voulait pas s’occuper des blancs, les anciens maitres, mais s’occupait des pauvres. Il vivait dans une cabane simple et voulait enseigner ses brebis bien aimables mais qui ne savaient pas grand’ chose de leur foi. Il aurait pu reprendre les mots du prophète Osée: « Je les guidait avec humanité, je les traitais comme un nourrisson qu’on soulève contre sa joue. » Il leur demandait de quitter les façons de vivre indignes de leur baptême. Il aurait pu dire avec Osée, « Vais-je les livrer au châtiment? Non! Mon cœur se retourne contre moi. Au milieu de vous je suis comme le Dieu Saint et je ne viens pas pour exterminer. » Il faut savoir que quelques années avant son arrivée on a aboli l’esclavage dans les colonies anglaises. Cela était officiel. De fait l’esclavage continuait car les conditions de vie des anciens esclaves les maintenaient dans un véritable esclavage humain même s ‘ils avaient eu la liberté civile. Il s’occupait d’eux même quand on se moquait de lui. Peu à peu tout le monde, même les maitres, reconnaissait en lui le visage saint du Christ. Mais quand les grandes dames venaient se confesser, il exigeait qu’elles enlèvent leurs grands chapeaux et portent une écharpe comme les plus humbles de leurs servantes car tous sont égaux devant Dieu. Il témoignait d’une préférence envers les pauvres et leur montrait leur dignité. Le Père Laval aurait pu reprend les mots de Saint Paul: « nous pouvons conforter taus ceux qui sont dans la détresse. » Les Mauriciens étaient venus du Madagascar, du Mozambique, du Cap, de l’Inde et d’ailleurs, souvent dans des conditions malheureuses. Il gardait un respect égal envers tous les pauvres sans distinction. Il a su fonder le sentiment d’égalité et de dignité qu’on remarque chez les Mauriciens.

Le Père Laval a quitté la Normandie pour venir s’installer à l’Ile Maurice. Vous avez quitté 1’Ile de France pour vous installer en Australie qui dépendait anciennement de Port Louis. Il vous demande donc d’être ses enfants ici dans votre pays d’adoption. C’est-à-dire, il vous demande de témoigner d’une préférence envers les plus pauvres, de faire voir une amitié égale envers tous. Il a enseigné la foi à vos ancêtres ; continuez ce travail car il veut que votre foi soit instruite, bien comprise et claire. Il s’ est montre aimable envers les Africains, les Indiens, les Chinois ; il veut que vous montriez à ce beau pays multiculturel de l ‘Australie comment vivre amicalement avec tous n’importe leur pays d’origine. Il a prié le Bon Dieu pour tous ceux qui étaient à sa charge ;il veut que vous, comme lui, priiez pour les besoins de l’Église entière.

On voit à quel point le Père Jacques Désiré Laval a su se faire aimer. Comme le père de l’évangile il a voulu accueillir les pauvres en haillons et leur mettre des sandales aux pieds, les vêtir de beaux habits neufs et leur mettre la bague d’honneur au doigt. Il était plein de tendresse. Soyons nous-mêmes tendres aussi l’un envers l’autre. De cette façon seule nous serons dignes de celui que nous fêtons aujourd’hui.

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Autobiography, at Mass, 29 January 1989, East Doncaster

Opening Address

SS Peter and Paul’s, East Doncaster,

29 January, 1989

An autobiography: external details

My name if Fr John Dupuche. I have been appointed as your new parish priest, in succession to Fr Hally. It is appropriate I think, that I should make some introduction of myself.

My father and mother came, in the thirties, from the north of France, my father being sent to Australia as a woolbuyer for a French firm. I have one sister and two brothers, all married with children. They live in the parishes of Hawthorn, East Kew and North Balwyn. My mother lives in Armadale.

My education was with the Jesuit Fathers, first at Kostka Hall in Brighton and then at Xavier College in Kew. Every two or three years, during my youth, my father would take us on trips to France. I am much indebted to him for this broad education.

At the conclusion of my schooling I entered the Society of Jesus and spent some eight years, very happy years, with them at Watsonia and at the University of Melbourne. These years of study were very useful, occupied in Scholastic Philosophy and in German and French Language and Literature. They were years of great change as the Church went through the process of the Second Vatican Council.

However, time had come for me to leave the Jesuits. I needed to spread my wings and to follow my star. I left the Society of Jesus and spent some time, as resident tutor, at Whitley Baptist College, where I learned the power of the Word of God. Later on I taught in France amidst the beauty of the Loire Valley. After a further year working in the Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra, I entered the diocesan seminary, at Glen Waverley and later at Clayton. I could not live except as a priest.

On completing a double theology course both at Corpus Christi College and at the Melbourne College of Divinity, I was ordained in 1974. My first appointment was in the parish of Glenroy.

At the conclusion of three years at Glenroy I was nominated by Archbishop Little to Christ College, within the Institute of Catholic Education, at Oakleigh, as Chaplain and as Lecturer-in-charge of the Religious Education Department. These were good years, busy years, nine years of lecturing in theology and attending to the spiritual needs of the students and staff.

However, I knew that my destiny did not lie there. I asked Archbishop Little to relieve me of my position. He granted me a year of sabbatical leave in 1987, which I spent in prayer and in reflection on parish life. That year was spent in various parts of the world: in California, Italy, Egypt and India. It was a valuable year. On returning to Melbourne, Archbishop Little appointed me as assistant priest at Hoppers Crossing. Now, at the beginning of 1989, he has appointed me as your priest.

A long and winding path has led me to this place. I had thought seriously of being a hermit, but no, my place is to be among the community, in your midst. I had thought carefully about being a monk, but no, my task is to speak to the people, to yourselves. I had thought about marriage and took serious steps in that direction but, no, I am to be wedded to the parish. Was I to be a lecturer, doing research and writing learned articles? No, I am to be a priest among the people, to bring them blessing and the grace of God, to yourselves.

Thus, I come among you as your priest, a man of God among the children of God, to be a source of truth, to be your friend, living already with you the state of eternity.

The long winding road of my life has led me to this point. Here I am to be. Together we will produce good things. May God bless us in our endeavours. Over the months that lie ahead – indeed it will take several years – I hope to visit all of your in your homes. Rather than waiting for time to allow our meeting, it would please me very much if I could greet you all, individually, at this point in the mass. Perhaps it could be done as follows …..

 

An autobiography: the interior journey

My name of Fr John Dupuche. I have been appointed as your Parish Priest. It is fitting that I should give some sort of introduction of myself to you.

Should I recount to you the externals of my life? I come from a French family. My education was at Xavier College. I was with the Jesuits for a number of years. I have completed studies at Melbourne University and spent time in the Foreign Affairs Department, in Canberra and completed further studies at Corpus Christi College and at the Melbourne College of Divinity.

After three years as Assistant Priest at Corpus Christi, Glemoy I was appointed to the Christ College, at the Institute of Catholic Education lecturing there for nine years and acting as chaplain to the staff and students there. After a year’s sabbatical leave overseas in various parts of the world, I was appointed to Hoppers Crossing as Assistant Priest for one year and now to you as your pastor.

These, however, are the externals of my life. It is more important that I should present the inner history of what has happened to me. That is where my true self has been formed.

The first experience that is relevant here occurred at the age of seven. It was around the time of my first communion. I had a powerful experience of the transcendence of God and felt drawn to be with him. I acquired a confidence in him and a sense of union with him that has not left me. It was then that I decided to be a priest, a man of God and that decision, during the years of my childhood and youth, never left me.

The next experience that was powerful in its effects was during a school retreat, preached by Fr Gleeson. An overwhelming sense of dedication came upon me, to devote myself to the work of God, even thought it might mean going to the most distant and unknown continent, South America. Whatever he would ask of me I would do.

Time passed, some ten years. It was at Tübingen, in Germany. Dissatisfied with the state of affairs, confused as to my purpose, I complained that I did not know how to achieve my wish to be close to God. My orientation had been Godwards, wishing to be with him in his transcendence. Yet it seemed that I was absent from him. Then – this was one year after the events of May 1968, August 10, 1969, to be precise – as I sat in the garden of the Catholic Church in Tübingen it became clear to me, with a powerful realisation which made me stand and walk, that it was only in the transformation of the world, in the pursuit of justice in the world that I could come close to God, being like him by acting like him. This was a thorough reorientation of my life. Instead of being ever Godwards, I now became turned to the world, becoming close to God in the process, adopting his point of view, his mind and will, his being.

The years passed. There was a slow, progressive, confused, groping towards a new spirituality. I was moving towards the philosophy of medieval Kashmir. My year of sabbatical leave was an attempt to ascertain the varied impressions and experiences that led me in this direction. There was no sudden shift, no great realisation but rather a slow dawning, much hedged about with prudence and questioning.

A particular experience of the year of sabbatical leave, during 1897, occurred in the desert of Sinai where I was encamped. It was the wish to explode with light in the hearts of all, in their very selves, their very bodies, to explode with the light of truth and grace.

This has been some attempt, in a short space, to express to you what is important to me: the experiences of grace in me. It is the experience of grace that finally will be what I give to you. All the rest is preparatory and incidental.

The time has come for me to reveal the mysteries of God that have been made known to me, and conversely for me to know the mysteries of God that have been revealed in you. God speaks to us and through us. We are to come to know the works of God in each other and to celebrate them.

Thus I am your priest among you.

 

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Yvette Gair et ses enfants, Emmanuelle et Christopher, funeral homily

Yvette Gair et ses enfants, Emmanuelle et Christopher

Aux obsèques, 3 January, 1988

Church of the Holy Redeemer, Surrey Hills,

Melbourne,

 

Homélie

Ne soyez pas tristes. Certainement, de nos cœurs les larmes couleront. Il faut pleurer. Il faut beaucoup pleurer. Mais ne soyez pas tristes. Ne soyez pas bouleverses. Voilà ce que Jésus nous proclame dans son Évangile.

Nous sommes donc réunis en cette église, comme en un lieu d’espoir. Nous ne venons pas ici dire ‘Au revoir’, mais ‘A bientôt.’ ‘A bientôt, Yvette. A bientôt nos enfants. A bientôt Emmanuelle et Christopher.’

L’espoir chrétien nous fait savoir que la vie continue. La vie d’Yvette et de ses enfants continue. Leur baptême en est la garantie. Ils ont reçu le baptême de l’Église. Ils l’ont reçu dans leur vie et leurs pensées. Leur baptême sera donc une source de renaissance. Dieu est fidèle envers ses fidèles. Dieu, qui, du néant, créa les astres et la vie des hommes, n’aura pas de mal à recréer la vie de ceux qu’il aime.

Bien que la façon de vivre de nos amis fut si brutalement changée, ils vivent en Dieu pour qui, Jésus l’a bien dit, tous les hommes vivent. D’une certaine façon les morts reposent dans un tombeau. D’une façon bien plus certaine ils reposent en Dieu. Donc, ne soyez pas tristes. Soyons pleins d’espoir.

Jésus promet à ses disciples qu’ils le reverront de nouveau. Cette même promesse nous est faite. Nous reverrons d’une façon nouvelle cette chère femme et ses enfants – d’une façon nouvelle et bien plus intensément.

Bill, nous sommes ici pour vous assurer de notre amitié chrétienne. Nous ressentons votre douleur, ce coup qui s’est abattu sur vous nous le recevons aussi. Votre peine est la nôtre. Le Seigneur Jésus est venu en ce monde partager nos douleurs. Il reçoit sur ses épaules ce coup qui nous accable.

Ne soyez pas triste, Bill. Continuez à vivre. Même dans les ténèbres, le cierge pascal continue à briller. Dans les années qui viennent, laissez le souvenir d’une vie de famille si douce et si heureuse, si riche et si complète, briller dans votre cœur. Le souvenir de la gentillesse de votre femme sera une lumière qui vous guidera. Soyez heureux. Rendez grâce à Dieu de ce qui s’est passe.

Ruth, à vous aussi permettez-moi de vous proclamer l’assurance de la foi que nous partageons. Ces évènements vous ont brisé le cœur. Toute l’Église partage votre peine. Toute l’Église, le Pasteur Frank et moi, nous vous proclamons la joie. Soyez heureux. Nous prions tous pour votre femme, Jean, qui a partage de si près ce coup fatal.

Et vous, Francis et Janine, qui êtes venus de Paris, ne soyez pas bouleverses. Et lorsque vous regagnez l’Europe et le Madagascar, annoncez à vos familles, à vos parents âgés, et à vos amis, à quel point nous sommes pleins d’espoir.

Les évènements ce cette vie ne sont pas à comparer avec la joie et le bonheur qui nous attend de la part de Celui qui vit dans une joie infinie. Notre avenir est plein d’espoir. Soyons tous heureux.

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Jacques Vauzelles, funeral homily

Jacques Vauzelles

Aux obsèques, 24 séptembre 1986

St Finbar’s, East Brighton,

Melbourne

Homélie

Jacques Vauzelle était soldat de profession. Originaire de Lyons, il s’établit définitivement en ce pays des antipodes. Il a connu la jungle du Vietnam et les déserts du Tchad. N’a-t-il pas connu la peur de la guerre et la paix de la liberté. Il connaissait les joies de famille et la vie dure des casernes. Quel métier peut mieux faire connaître la condition humaine, les bonheurs et les malheurs de cette vie?

Quel est le sens de tous ces contrastes? Le projet humain, si complexe, si varié, se base sur l’espoir. On ne se lance dans le va-et-vient de la vie sans espérer qu’un bien peut en résulter. On ne fait pas la guerre sans espoir de réussite. On ne travaille pas sans espoir de gain.

Jacques Vauzelle est chrétien. Sa vie avait l’espoir comme base. Le chrétien sait que Dieu est juste. Dieu ne peut être que juste envers les justes. Dieu est vivant. Il ne peut que rendre vie à ceux qui veulent lui être proche. Dieu est sagesse. Il donne un sens aux variations de notre existence. Malgré les ténèbres qui entourent la condition humaine, ce soldat savait que Dieu pouvait l’en délivrer. Il savait que Dieu connait le sens des choses. Il savait que Dieu nous donne à boire, des maintenant, de sa paix et de sa joie. Ainsi, l’onction des malades reçue à l’hôpital l’a consolé et a tempéré l’angoisse qui accable ceux qui souffrent.

Le chrétien sait que le tombeau n’a pas retenu le Maître. Le Christ est plus puissant que la mort et le péché. Son Église, si souvent proie aux troubles, à l’usure, au péché, se- trouve sans cesse ranimée et renouvelée, rendue de nouveau jeune. Il y a dans l’Église une source de vie qui jaillit constamment. Jaques Vauzelle, en sa vie de chrétien, s’associait à la vitalité de l’Église et à la puissance du Christ qui ne peut être entravée. Son espoir se basait sur la bonne nouvelle de l’Église et de son Évangile. Les fruits de l’espoir sont multiformes.

Au dire de ses enfants, Jaques Vauzelle était un homme de paix. Un soldat doit bien savoir combien fragile est la paix et combien elle coûte cher. Ses enfants nous témoignent du fait qu’il était un homme sans rancune. Quelle admiration il a su inspirer en eux ! Il aimait son pays, la France. N’a-t-il pas passé sa vie à protéger sa patrie? L’amour chrétien inclut non seulement les hommes mais aussi cette terre qui nous soutient et notre pays qui nous enfante.

Pour chacun de nous il y aura un jugement. Nos semblables, nos enfants, le monde à venir nous demanderont: qu’avons-nous fait de notre vie? Nos amours, nos capacités, nos loisirs, qu’en avons nous fait? Le gaspillage, la fainéantise sont inacceptables. Nous avons une vie. Nous avons une terre, une race humaine. Comment est-ce que nous la construisons? Le créateur au début sera le juge à la fin.

L’Évangile esquisse, de façon imagée, ce jugement dernier. Le Christ ne pose pas de questions. Il ne demande pas si nous avons aimé Dieu, mais au contraire, il voit si nous avons été utile à nos frères. Il ne condamne que ceux qui n’ont rien fait pour subvenir aux besoins de leurs frères. Nous venons aujourd’hui témoigner devant le Juge du monde à venir que Jacques Vauzelle a bien servi sa famille, son pays, son Dieu.

Quelle sera cette vie éternelle? M. Vauzelle, ne l’a-t-il pas déjà deviné quelque peu dans les joies de sa famille, car la vie éternelle est communion? Ne l’a-t-il pas déjà entrevu dans les victoires sur l’ennemi, car la vie éternelle est la défaite du temps, de la mort et de toute hostilité. L’espoir du chrétien ne connait pas de limites car nous espérons en un Dieu infini.

Le Christ dit aux élus: entrez dans la joie. Ainsi nous prions pour Jacques, ‘Qu’il entre dans la joie de son Seigneur.’

 

 

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Simon Owen, Funeral Mass, Homily

Simon John Owen

Funeral Mass, 17 October 1995

SS Peter and Paul’s, East Doncaster,

Homily

Today is a taste of summer in its warmth. Today we will lay to rest Simon who brought light to the day.

It is not right that anyone should die or suffer as Simon has done. It is senseless and unjust. I said to him one evening when I went to anoint him, we will not try to explain the inexcusable or provide comfort by reasonings. Faced with the massive fact of his cancer we can only fall silent.

And yet, I came that evening to anoint him and to declare by signs that there is hope for him and for us. It is our Christian faith that good will come from all of this. Mortality is indeed a problem to us. It is not a problem to God. We give thanks for the memory of what Simon has been. We look forward to what he will be. We have memories of his past and we anticipate his future in our ceremony today. We shall eat and drink again when all is renewed.

The time will come, a long way off perhaps, when we will give thanks to God for this illness and this loss. Then we will say ‘You are holy Lord and you have shown your holiness in Simon John Owen whom we bury today but whom you raise forever.’

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Merle Gent, Funeral Mass, homily

Merle Gent

Funeral Mass, 20 May, 1999

Corpus Christi, Glenroy,

 Homily

Merle came to morning Mass regularly over many years, through summer and winter, rain and wind. This is remarkable and is an indication of something profound in her nature. It was not possible for her to do this so faithfully for so long unless there had been in her a profound insight. A divine flame must have burnt in her. She must have seen something beyond time and space, beyond life and death. She must have seen the face of God.

This altered her perception of things. It gave her confidence in the face of her own mortality. We are fragile and our securities are not very reliable. She too was fragile and knew how swiftly times passes and she would be gone. Yet she knew him whom her heart loved and who drew her to himself each morning. She knew, from inner knowledge, that he is trustworthy and that he is stronger than her vulnerable humanity, more permanent than the cycles of nature, more rewarding than any human act.

We have come to pay our respects to the memory of Merle Gent. Her family and her friends, each of you, will have a different tale to tell and give witness to her character each in a different way.

However, we are doing more here than recalling the past. We look to Merle’s future. We have hopes for her and not just regrets. Her future is based on her past. She saw God with her inner eye; she will look on him with her eyes of flesh. Even though she becomes dust and ashes, she will see him physically with her whole being. She came to Mass again and again; she will celebrate the eternal Mass of heaven. She loved and sometimes knew not how to love but now she will love with all clarity and without any shadow of compromise.

We too by the same grace of God will see her in all her beauty and she will know us in every way. Then we will know a joy which eternity cannot exhaust. Let us look forward to Merle’s future and ours with her.

 

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Guerrina Crulli, Funeral Mass, homily, 28 July 1999

Guerrina Crulli,

Funeral Mass, 28 July, 1999

Corpus Christi, Glenroy

Homily

Although Guerrina, our sister, had been ill for so long, her death, when finally it came, was a shock. It was like coming face to face all of a sudden with a brick wall. She is dead. No one will see her smile as in the past, nor will anyone converse with her as before. She will not laugh or cry as once she did. The past is gone forever. She has been rooted up from the lives of her family and friends. It seems all so final, and her passing shows how transient all things are. People are born and people die and that seems to be the end of things.

But the Christian response is to say ‘No!’. A human being is not measured by time alone. The world of time is embedded in eternity. The world comes and goes but eternity continues unchanging. God, from whom all proceeds, is the measure of all things.

He knows all and governs all. He knows Guerrina and all the good she has done, the good which her family knows and the secret good which only He knows. He knows what fruit her acts will bear in generations yet to come. He knows in a way we cannot, and his judgment is effective. He is good and recognises her goodness. He is truth and accepts her truth. He is compassionate and rejoices in her compassion. He is love and loves her love. Therefore though the world can no longer sustain her, God has not finished with her. He receives her and holds her and transforms her and makes her real in way she never knew before. All that was false in her he does not consider. He leaves aside all that does not belong to her, and frees her from every burdens of sin and sorrow she may have carried. She is glad to be rid of all that holds her down and she emerges purified and free.

As the prophet Isaiah might have said:

“He will prepare for Guerrina a banquet of rich food.

He will remove the mourning veil covering her

and the shroud enwrapping her.

She exults and she rejoices that her God has saved her.”

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Covenant  of my life, Notre Dame Abbey, Tarrawarra, February 1973

Covenant  of my life                  Notre Dame Abbey, Tarrawarra, February 1973

That day,

on the paddock outside the old cottage at Tarrawarra,

in the sun,

as the wind blew light and cool in a cloudless sky,

overlooking the flood plains of the Yarra and the cattle –

– then the desire was given and the promise made:

the desire of outpouring myself,

so I said,

with arms outstretched and face raised upwards,

for the sake of men;

And the promise made so solidly, so really,

that I should inherit a kingdom.

 

A contract, a covenant,

on one side my desire,

on the other God’s promise,

that the earth should be my kingdom and men my trophy.

 

Abraham at Tarrawarra.

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A turning point,  an illumination, 10 August, 1969, Tübingen, Germany.

A turning point,  an illumination, 10 August, 1969,   Tübingen, Germany.

On the anniversary of  my Confirmation at St Joseph’s Elsternwick

Hear what the Lord has done for me, how he has shown me his face.

For, one night, impelled by a fierce, heady Spirit I strove upwards, arching my whole body to its full height, Godwards, to be with him, wholly with him, free from all contamination of the world and from dissipation, pure to God, with God, but could not reach him.

The following day, after lamenting the failure of a life’s attempt, I sat in the garden of the church at Tubingen, in the sun beneath the plane trees, wondering how I could attain to that presence of God I had so much longed for, and for so many years, when it dawned upon me, it was given me to know that I must see him not on Mount Sinai but among the people, Emmanuel.

And in that moment, I knew how to find my Lord: it was in a world transfigured, among men, in justice and peace

Such was the gift of God and of Jean-Marc, the communist teacher at the École normale d’instituteurs, St. Cyr-sur-Loire.

And then in Rome, as I reflected once again on all this, walking down a street at night, I knew that I was with Christ. No more need now to arch up towards God. By conceiving love, I learned to find him, by turning ‘away’ from God to men I found God. And I lived with him in equality and intimate familiarity. And since then I have never been without him. Although things were dark at times and old yearnings overtook me.

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Requiem Mass for Danielle Murphy, died at 6 weeks through ‘cot death’.

Requiem Mass for Danielle Murphy died at 6 weeks, through ‘cot death’.

Hoppers Crossing, 5 January1989

“Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.” Isaiah 25:8

Do not be sad. Let the tears flow from your hearts, but do not be sad. Danielle is gone only for a short time. You will see her again and she will recognize you when you meet.

For nine months, Elaine, you carried Danielle in your womb. She heard your heart beat and she heard Tom’s voice. During those months both of you, Tom and Elaine, bonded yourself closely to your little child. You looked forward to the day of her birth. What joy you experienced as you held her in your arms for the first time. During the weeks that followed Danielle knew a mother’s love, Elaine, as you held her and fed her. She knew a father’s love, Tom, as you received her strongly in your arms and took her to your home. She heard you both speak and knew she was welcome in this world.

Now she is gone. Like a little bird that comes to your window sill, she has flown off again.

We have come here today to commend Danielle to God. God will receive her because she trusted completely, as babies do. She is holy because she was born to you, Tom and Elaine, who have been made holy in baptism.

We have come here to hear the word of the scriptures. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that God will wipe away every tear from our cheeks. He will wipe away the sorrow we feel at Danielle’s departure. We shall see her again. She will know the resurrection. Although she is buried as a child she will be raised, on the last day, in all the fullness of her faculties. Although she knows the weakness of death she will be victorious over every limitation. Although she died at 6 weeks she will be immortal.

Our God is loyal. He is master of life and death. Because you have wept over Danielle, he will raise her up on the last day. Our life is so short. Six weeks is short. Sixty years is short. Our God will give immortality to young and old because we have trusted in him. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Look forward then with hope to the future. Be happy. Mourn your child. Take strength in your close family. Cherish young Thomas and Michelle, your other children. Look to the future with confidence, our immortal future, in heaven.

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THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHRIST

RESURRECTION

Neither nails hold, nor time, nor tomb.

Having entered darkest night, with the stone rolled shut,

Light inaccessible is your domain, Oh Nazarene!

 

The passing forms of a whirling world cannot define you.

Your flesh, so vulnerable, is spun

into its finest form: divinity invisible.

 

You are. All time is gone. All is.

And those who share the darkness of your tomb

are with you in light.

 

Now the tomb is empty.

Now fragrance fills the world.

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Two Sydney Poems

THE GARDEN                               Sydney, May 1985

Where fires have raged,

where droughts have desiccated the land,

where floods have washed away all hope,

with sun beating down to crack the earth :

in this desert, a garden has been planted

with every variety of tree, with palm and pine;

fruits of every kind, pomegranate and mango;

and blossoms of orange, prunus and frangipani –

and here we walk, my friend, in a garden of delights.

 

 

THE ANTIPODES                     Sydney, Bondi Beach, May, 1985

Setting sail from rotten hulks ,

driven by winds roaring in the dark,

far from familiar faces and comforting fields,

shamed, uncertain, at the ends of the earth,

now we have reached, my lovely one, the other shore,

a desert of delights, cooled by the ocean,

warmed by a sun high and magnificent.

Here we stand, untrammeled,

living from ourselves, outside of time, in a strange new Eden.

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First Sermon,   Loyola College, Watsonia, 2 October, 1959

First Sermon,                       Loyola College, Watsonia, 2 October, 1959

It was ‘preached’ in the refectory during a meal with some 15 novices and 20 scholastics and 5 priests.

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” Psalm 26:1

My dear brethren, there was once a land ruled by a wise king. The people lived in perfect peace because he ruled so well. No matter what disaster happened to any of his subjects, if the subject turned to his king he would find relief and help. Indeed, the country was so well ruled that nothing ever happened which the king had not foreseen and if he did let it happen, it was for his subjects’ greater good. This people then, seeing that whatever happened to them was permitted by a king who loved them so much and to whom they could turn to find relief, help and encouragement, put their whole trust in him; they had perfect confidence in him; they found peace, free from the fear that what happened to them could harm them. Peace was the reward of their confidence. My dear brethren, God is this king, we are his people. God is ever present to bring us relief and help; God always foresees what we are to suffer. God loves us. To realize these truths and to live our lives through with them imprinted on our minds and revealed in our actions is to have confidence in God. And what is the reward of this confidence. It is peace. Christ said to his apostles: “My peace I give you, my peace I leave with you”. His peace was not that of sufficient money or food or sufficient of any material thing. This peace was to rest on a confidence, a belief that whatever happened to the apostles, whether they ‘toiled hard, spent long days in prison, were beaten so cruelly or so often looked death in the face, whether they were stoned or shipwrecked’ or even put to death, this confidence assured them that all this was for their good. Let us then, have confidence in God.

God is the creator of heaven and earth. All things live, move and have their being in him alone. He sustains in being every stone, flower, and particle of dust as though he held them in his hand. Nothing exits that he does not wish to exist there and then. Since then God conserves all things as in the palm of his hand he must be present in everything not joined with it as our body is joined to our soul, but existing in it. And so, we understand partly and believe that God is present in all things, ‘in heaven, on earth and everywhere’. Though we truly believe that God is present in us or beside us, it sometimes seems that he is unaware of what we endure. But my dear. People God is not asleep; he knows exactly what we endure. We read in the Gospels that one evening Christ was asleep in a boat while his disciples were rowing it across the lake of Galilee. Suddenly a squall whipped up the lake waters. The storm grew more and more wild until mountainous wages threatened to engulf the boat at any moment. It was now night and there, lost in the waves, the terrified apostles despaired of riding the storm. At one moment the waves would raise the boat high on some crest only to let it sinks giddily into some hollow of a wave. Somehow Christ kept sleeping in the stern of the boat, and in terror, the apostles roused him crying: ‘Master, art thou unconcerned, we are sinking’. So, he rose up and checked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still’. And the wind dropped and there was a deep calm. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you faint-hearted, have you still no confidence’. The disciples were justly rebuked because they did not remember that Christ was present with them in the boat and that nothing could happen without his knowing it. God is present here beside us just as Christ was present with his disciples. So, with us, when things are not going well, when we feel dejected, dissatisfied, discontented or even frightened, when our lives seem to be facing disaster; when we lose our job, when we fail our exams, when a friend dies, or even more simply when we lose a purse, break a glass, when we knock our hand against a wall, let us remember that God is present right beside us and that he knows what we suffer. Just as a child runs to its mother for safety and comfort when it has been frightened or hurt, let us turn to God, our Father and seek comfort in him, at all times, in whatever troubles, no matter how trivial they may seem, for he is our God, our refuge and our strength. Let us remember that he knows what we endure.

But if we are to find confidence in God because he is present everywhere and knows what we say, do think and endure, how much more are we to find trust in him since nothing ever happens to us which he does not wish to happen to us. God holds everything in being as though in his hand. If not one grain of sand in the most remote wind-swept shore could not exist even for a second without God’s willing it to exist, how can anything happen to us, how can we do anything without God permitting it. The townsfolk of Nazareth ‘filled with wrath, led Jesus to the brow of the hill on which their town was built so that they might throw him down headlong. But, passing though their midst he went his way, for his time had not yet come’. The townsfolk were unable to kill Jesus because God did not will it. Judas on the other hand succeeded in betraying Jesus into the hands of his executioners, but only because his Father will it. God wills not this sin of Judas, that is impossible, he wills that surpassing union of justice and mercy, that crossbeam of justice in whose scales the Lamb annulled the crime and which also stretched out the arms of divine mercy to embrace the sinner. Just as nothing could happen to Christ without the Father willing and permitting it, so too nothing can happen to us without the consent of God. The exam we fail, the job we lose, the purse we misplace, the glass we break, these things happen to us because God so wills. But we wonder: ‘Why has God let this happen to me? I believe he has willed it but look what it means to me. How can God wish me to lose my job and in this way my livelihood?’ Let us trust in God. He knows when we stand up and when we sit down. If God knows our simplest aet, if he knows what we are doing, then surely, he knows what he is doing. God knows what he is making us suffer or undergo. We would indeed have reason to fear, if we did not know that all his actions are done out of love, out of a wish to draw us closer to himself, to give us a chance of winning greater merits and thereby a greater happiness in heaven. God loves us. ‘We can be sure of this love since what has revealed the love of God where we are concerned is that he has sent his only begotten son into the world so that we might be redeemed and thus have life through him’. God stood to gain no increase in happiness by our redemption since he is perfectly blessed, but solely out of love for us and pity for our weakness, He condemned his own Son to the cross. Since then we are sure of his love and of his desire for our well-being and since we are certain that everything befalls us in accordance with his will, then everything that befalls us is for our good. Therefore, though we fail in an important exam, God might be choosing this way to spur us on to greater effort and fuller victory; our lost job may be God’s means to punish us for our laziness in serving himself and man, just as a wise father with his son’s advantage at heart will punish him for not doing well his tasks. I lost my purse so that my confidence in the Lord of all might be tested. The broken glass may be a means of winning greater spiritual merit. In every apparent evil we can see good if only we believe that the God of love permits it only to our greater good. Lazarus, the gospel relates, had died. His sisters, Martha and Mary came and fell at Jesus’ feet saying, with sorrow and yet with full confidence that what he has permitted was best: ‘Lord, if thou hadst been here, our brother would not have died’. This prayer of resignation and confidence that what had befallen them was God’s will won for Lazarus a second life. In this way, in time of trial, even though death be the test, let us turn to God and say with confidence: ‘If it had been your will, this disaster would not have happened, but it is your will and since you love us with a love that forced you to send your one-begotten son to die on a cross and since you have my welfare at heart; this disaster, this mishap must be for my greater god, to draw me closer to yourself, to test me as gold is tested by fire, to win me a fuller happiness in heaven; my God, I trust you, I have confidence in you’. Let us say with the apostle Peter: ‘Bow down then before the will of God; he will raise you up when his time comes to deliver you. Throw back on him the burden of all your anxiety; he is concerned for you. If you do wrong and are punished for it, your patience is nothing to boast of, it is the patience of the innocent sufferer that wins credit in God’s sight. Then let us who suffer in fulfilment of God’s will entrust our souls into his hands; he created us and he will not fail us.’

Comment by Fr Kurts SJ, Deputy Master of Novices:

“A good first sermon, with much to recommend it. The words are simple, the style at times formal. God’s permitting evil is a very difficult matter to handle adequately.”

 

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From the Northern Territory – 4 poems

AUGUST 1977                                                 AT KATHERINE GORGE

The rocks, adamantine, hard,

there since eternal times,

set fast!

How wonderful, how marvelous!

Hard, rock hard!

 

Ah! to be rock, firm,

immovable, beyond time, like flint, unflinching

because the choice has been made.

This is truth, this is me.

 

This gorge I am, timeless,

yet flowing with water clear, sweet, delicious.

 

AUGUST 1977                                                 AT KATHERINE GORGE

Every day, for days and days, ten million years,

the sun, gleaming, beating, has risen above these gorges,

in slow majesty, accomplishing its purpose.

 

Such warmth, golden coloured!

The heat, a furnace beating down in stillness.

It is!

 

The wind blows in obedience to the sun and its play upon the land.

The trees grow and sway in unison with its path,

and birds live by its flame.

For it is.

And all things by it stand.

 

Such is the man of truth.

He is, and by him all things are.

 

AUGUST 1977                     IN THE NORTHERN TERRITORY

From north and west,

from the east they will come

to the centre

where sand and rock

consort with the beating sun,

there to find, at the dead heart,

life.

 

Among the eucalypts, in the vast abandoned loneliness

and the silence broken only by the breeze,

they will listen to the rocks and hear the words

a milder climate could not form.

 

They will leave their plush surrounds,

their haste,

for they have lost their way

and must lose it once again.

 

And from this wilderness water shall flow for them;

the dead heart will flower.

 

23 September 1977                                 9 Avalon Rd., Armadale

The prophet comes from his desert retreat,

takes his place in the city,

speaking to the people of their needs, of their being.

He lives with the poor, in no place, with nothing,

and having delivered his message,

departs,

till another time and another movement of the Spirit

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FIVE LONGWOOD POEMS, on my first summer at East Longwood near Euroa

FIVE LONGWOOD POEMS, on my first summer at East Longwood near Euroa

 

1980                                               

The rocks, millennial, are there,

touched by every force and weathered,

bearing the touch of every season,

real, eternal.

Oh, to be rock!

 

1980                                               

The vortex turns and turns

in geometric increase.

Spinning upon itself and extending through reality,

concentrating into a singly column,

so intense and fine,

it explodes into a new dimension.

 

1980                                               

These trees, this gravel and rock,

this nature so broad, so beautiful,

this warm wind from the south, humid and blowing strongly,

  • all is mine.

It is my domain

in which I walk.

It is me, my other body, my clothing.

It burns me, this sun

and this wind caresses me.

It burns my body and I bear its tattoo.

It forms me;

I have become incarnate in it;

now it is me and I am it.

 

1980                                               

The heat of summer

the large dry rocks and granite soil:

– here I will find truth,

the blinding truth that is my light.

 

1980                                                

Stripped of all things yet robed with all!

The scalpel honed, refined,

of purest metal, the quintessence of technology,

is held so delicately, so adroitly.

It cuts away all that is unnecessary,

pares away, leaving pure flesh

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Métamorphoses – poèmes en temps de désarroi

METAMORPHOSES

 

1966                                        

Que m’importe les feuillets et les bouquins qui m’entourent,

et ces notes, fruits de mes yeux brulés?

Je fabrique les pétales qu’on lancera sur ma tombe pour m’enfouir.

Vanité des livres !

Seul l’homme est la vraie bibliothèque.

 

1967

Des longues années heureuses et paisibles,

Voilà que lentement le parcours se termine.

Bienheureux j’étais et de joie débordais.

Chaque jour, sans choc, se mêlaient ordre et plaisir.

Sous les pins sculptés planait une présence divine,

et dans les couloirs clairs luisait un visage.

J’étais heureux, rempli d’un saint dévouement,

voulant montrer, par mon obéissance

un engagement total envers Dieu.

 

1967

Nourri dès l’enfance, le désir est devenu rage :

d’être homme, chair, pouvoir,

et de régir par le corps.

 

Faut-il partir ?

Si je reste, la folie ;

si je pars, le regret,

car je m’accoutumais à cette vie, à ces amis.

 

Je pars, chassé dans le monde et non attiré.

Contre gré je quitte ces lieux chers.

Je quitte un bonheur ne sachant où trouver un autre.

Comment retrouver Dieu au sein du fini,

de l’informe qui rend fou ?

Comment parviendrai-je au bonheur

réconciliant l’éternel et l’immédiat ?

 

Une transformation – dur et douteux travail – m’est proposée.

Je moule le pain, et je ne sais s’il sera amer et inutile.

Je me lance dans l’incertain alors que je possédais la vérité.

Je veux être artiste du monde et artiste de Dieu.

En suis-je capable ?

 

1968

L’angoisse m’envahit, Seigneur, et me possède,

car, heureux avec toi et goutant d’une paix sans fin, je t’ai quitté.

Fou que je sois, je t’ai quitté

pour habiter le vide et les plaisirs sans joie.

 

Au plus profond je savais et je sais qu’illusoire était la tare

et que de mes propres mains j’ai détruit l’amour.

 

Aie pitié de moi, Seigneur,

et d’entre nous ôte ce péché qui m’étouffe,

où j’habite et me meurs.

 

Inspire à ceux qui régissent ton Église qu’eux aussi aient pitié de moi,

et laisse-moi t’être encore une fois voué et fidèle

pour te voir de nouveau dans l’aire de paix et de beauté.

 

1969

Réjouissons, Seigneur, car s’ouvre de nouveau

au fond du couloir sombre où fou je me suis jeté,

la porte, laissant – Ô chance

incertaine encore mais prometteuse – reluire la Lumière

 

Ne connaissant ni ta demeure ni où placer les pieds,

j’étais troublé, Seigneur, Toi qui dès mon enfance

m’appelais, Toi qu’allègre et joyeux je suivais

mais que mon péché, 1’inutile, a banni.

 

Dès lors je sais où te retrouver, Seigneur.

Jaillit maintenant la lumière.

Que la clarté se dégage, clarté épiphanique sans tare,

dans le partage du pain entre les hommes mes frères !

Posted in John Dupuche | Leave a comment

Sabbatical, 1987, California, Italy, Egypt, India,

Most Rev. T.F. Little, Archbishop of Melbourne, Diocesan Centre, EAST MELBOURNE

Longwood, 31 December, 1987

Your Grace,

My year of study leave has now drawn to a close. It is appropriate that you should receive a brief report on the events and on the value of this excellent period.

There were two main purposes:

  1. to follow up a certain line of prayer which had been brewing in me for many years. A book by a certain Fr.Thomas Matus O.S.B. (Camaldoli) had drawn together two traditions: The Eastern Orthodox tradition of St Symeon the New Theologian (11th Cent., Constantinople, which is connected in some fashion with Hesychasm and led on to the theology of Gregory Palamas and to the Jesus Prayer tradition) ; and the Indian tantric philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism (as expounded by Abhinavagupta, 11th cent., Kashmir). Both these traditions – Orthodox and Tantric – had caused me exhilaration in the past. They described my own experience which has in fact occurred independently of them. Now they were drawn together, boldly, in a concise and clear way. I wanted to deepen my knowledge of the two traditions and above all to exercise myself in them.
  1. to reflect deeply on the purposes and methods of parish priestly life. Though the past, from my earliest days, had not disposed me to such a way of life – indeed, far more natural to me was the life, impossible of course, of the monk wandering like Francis of Assisi – it became clearer with the passing years that only the parish provided the freedom in which, realistically, one could be a man of God for the people, one who was to prophesy to them and consecrate them. Now that the busy years of Christ Campus were over, I needed time to reflect deeply on parish life.

The major means:

To spend time in monasteries because they provide the space for such thoroughgoing prayer and reflection; and in monasteries of the Camaldolese tradition since Thomas Matus is Camaldolese. A course of studies could not provide the same space. I needed to pursue my own thoughts by means of prayer (which for me has always been a course of endless theology – indeed, whenever I ask, in prayer, a theological question, no matter how difficult, the answer always comes immediately) and by means of reading in recondite areas for which there are no courses that I know of. Consequently, at the end of this year I can present to you no diplomas or letters of attestation but only this report.

DETAIL:

January and February found me in California at New Camaldoli located on Big Sur, a magnificent coastline south of Monterrey. The high mountains of the Sierra plunge into the sea where whales can be seen migrating to their breeding grounds in Baja California. It is a wild coast, the former paradise of the hippy culture. The glorious days of the Californian winter provided good rest; the monks provided good company.

a) prayer: I followed the free movement of the Spirit of God who has always led me through strange paths in prayer. There were moments of anguish and bitter tears as the disappointments of the past – the Jesuits, the seminary, the priests of the diocese, Christ Campus – surfaced and confronted me. There was the realization of the secret egoism that permeates every act and thought. There was the sense of failure and of more than half a life-time wasted. What had been achieved? Where was my God whom? I sought so wholeheartedly since my childhood? On the bright side there was continual penetration into the designs of God. Space prevents me from developing this aspect.

b) reflection on parish life: this consisted in determining the priorities of the parish as it is to be lived out in the modern world. In the past the major efforts of the Church were found in the work of the bishops, above all the Fathers of the Church; then in the great religious orders to which the best minds gravitated; then in the papacy; then in the epic history of the missions and the active orders. The parish lived obscurely in the background. In this age of the laity, or democracy and universal education, is not the parish to be the focus of the Church’s activity? But what sort of parish; what is the role of the priest; how, in practical and coherent fashion is the parish to be designed? Again, what are my charisms; how am I to function in a way that pleases God, man and myself?

These reflections led to the development of an overall plan, a sort of mandala, if you will. Once again space does not allow elaboration. In any case, I have not come back to Australia with a bag full of kittens. The reflection on parish life with its aims and processes was an exercise only: useful in sharpening my wits but to be put in the back of the mind as I approach a particular parish with its particular history and needs.

March-April-May-June found me at Camaldoli located high in the hills of Tuscany at the watershed of the Tiber, the Arno and the rivers that flow to Ravenna. What a magnificent forest, planted by the monks, of spruce trees reaching to the sky in marvelous plays of light and shade. The snow lay thick on the forest floors. I nearly froze in the half-heated rooms. I learnt Italian by singing the psalms and became acquainted with the Italian mind and manner: discreet, subtle, intriguing. Have no fear! I cannot be a monk. For sanity’s sake I had to escape once a month – to Florence, Paris, Ravenna, Naples!

 a) prayer: I made use of various tantra (i.e. texts) of Kashmiri Shaivism purchased in Paris, examining theirphilosophy, perceiving the connections with the Gospel, using the methods of meditation described in them, making commentaries.

Tantra – as a religious movement – has its periods of glory and of decadence. Mircea Eliade refers to tantra as ‘an imposing spiritual synthesis’ and describes it as the last great synthesis of pre-Moghul India. The decadent element was particularly noted by the early English Raj and has been much publicized in recent writings in the West or by unscrupulous ‘gurus’ who migrate out of India to make their fortune. This decadent element is as connected with tantra as the Black Mass is with the Eucharist. Corruptio optimi pessima. However, the periods of glory are reflected in works such as the Maharthamanjari of Mahesvarananda who hails from South India, or the Vijñāna Bhairava (author unknown) composed in Kashmir, or the Tantrāloka – a true Summa Theologica – of Abhinavagupta who hails from Kashmir. These, among many other texts I studied, are exciting texts which emphasize many points that have become obscured in Christianity. The value of such texts is in the light which their truth shines onto the Gospels. They allow us to bring out new things and old from the storehouse of the Church. They are textual disciples of the Gospel text. What wonders we can expect from the reconciliation between Christianity and the religions of India. The Golden Age of the Fathers will be repeated in the centuries to come.

At the same time, I completed the reading of the works of Symeon the New Theologian and re-read the more complex half of Gregory Palamas’ Triads. I pursued some trails through Messalianism, Syrian Monasticlsm, Constantinople II, etc …

Furthermore, there was the exploration of the act of intercession which is the high point of prayer. Is it not, indeed, the present activity of Christ in his eternity, our High Priest before God! In intercession – not the endless presentation of requests but the act of union with God and man – we find the perfection of pastoral planning. Christ directs his Church by interceding for her. We commune in our charisms. Is not such communion the very essence of pastoral activity?

b) reflection on parish life: The general plan or ‘mandala’, developed so convincingly in California, was elaborated in detail in Italy. What precise objectives, both innovative and authentic, would fulfill the aims? What content and procedures would fulfill the objectives? (You will recognize here the method of the lesson-plan so thoroughly learnt at Christ Campus!) This required hard thinking, coherence and continual evaluation. It was a valuable exercise whatever the applicability of these plans.

July-August: the desert of Sinai. Like an Israelite I pitched my tent in view of Mt Sinai and like Elijah I spent my time among the rocks. There were no books – except a guide book on Egypt! – no distractions. I had always wanted to spend some time in the abandonment of the desert, stripping myself bare. What a glorious location! The high mountains reverberate in the sun, bare and sheer, where the Bedouin women eke out a pasture for their flocks. The heat of the summer sun, as it rose swiftly out of the horizon, was tempered by the dry wind surprisingly cool. I was to spend a full forty days here near the ancient monastery of St Catherine, eating at a simple ‘cafe’ and going to the coast once a week to rest from the constant attempt at prayer. The Egyptians struck me as being the most courteous people I have ever met.

a) prayer: I wished to die. I wished to end all that I had been these many years and to return no longer I but someone else. I wished to subject to the scrutiny of the Spirit all that I had read and thought and planned. Was it of God? In the heat of the desert would its attractiveness survive? In this situation I came to realize with particular acuteness how vain-glorious had been the sermons and liturgies of the past; how I had wished to dazzle the people with a work of art; how I had sought prestige and power in my years at Christ Campus; how I had used language and ideas as a means of domination and of concealing my own lack of purpose. The temptations that had been so insinuating in the past became evident. At the same time there were moments of great consolation. What I truly wanted – now I realized it with great force – was to dwell like John the disciple in the heart of Christ who dwells in the bosom of the Father. What I wanted was to draw all to myself so that all would be one, we in God and God in us, we in each other. Speech was the tool to these, proceeding from the silence of design and concluding in the silence of achievement. I wished to explode within them in light. Yet I am a child and I am afraid to speak.

All this sounds so stereotyped. Indeed, it is, but for me it was an old thing made new. The Gospel, so often heard, was beginning to be desired.

September-October: this was straight holiday, touring Europe with my mother and sister. We swept in a great circle from Paris to Brussels, through South Germany and Austria to Budapest and then down through northern Italy and Corsica to sweep back up again through the Riviera to Paris.

November-December was spent in the ashram of Shantivanam in South India and at an ashram at Narsinghpur in Central India, both of which, while Hindu in style, belong to Camaldoli. Although I had been in India before, this lengthy stay made me fall in love with the Indian character. No doubt India has its fair share of scoundrels, its load of injustice. Nevertheless, there is something deeply attractive about the people. Poverty produces its own sort of blessedness. Never have I seen so many smiling people and laughing faces. The Westerners by contrast seemed distraught and bloated. The Indians have the dignity of those who live at the level of  necessity and, therefore, whose actions are always worthwhile. Living in harmony with nature they acquire a natural innocence.

a) prayer: Things were starting to fall into place. Some powerful meditations showed me the coherence of all my motivations and ideas. My prayer is symbolically described in the second account of creation (Gn 2) and in that narrative’s counterpart: the hymn of Colossians (Col.l). The stages are, in short: silence, which leads to the transcendent God who then bestows the activity of the Holy Spirit who, in turn, gives authority over heaven and earth. Then comes the recognition of charisms which inspires the act of intercession and, supremely, the act of communion. Such stages bring about a conformity to Christ, a transfiguration. There is no space here to describe in any more detail a method of prayer which has slowly built up in me and which, I must say, is exhilarating and satisfying to the whole man.

Part of this pursuit of prayer involved trying to discover a tāntrika. There are many who pass as tantrics in India but are generally charlatans. My enquiries – and I travelled extensively and consulted widely – were met with silence or evasion. ‘All Hindu religion is tantric to some extent.’ ‘No true practitioners of tantra declare themselves.”Go to another town and see so-and-so.’ ‘You have to be careful. They can get control of your mind.’ In short, the quest was fruitless except that it persuaded me of the value of my past two methods: experience, which, independently of any reading, has led me, unconsciously, to the most profound and reputable tantra; and reading of classical texts and studies.

b) reflection on parish life: the plans that had been elaborated in detail at Camaldoli were now set out in a timetable. Thus, the whole process of pastoral planning was given its realistic shape. Will it ever be used? No matter. The exercise was valuable in itself.

What conclusions can be drawn?

The future for me, it seems, is twofold:

  1. firstly, and most basically – it is my food and light – to develop an intense prayer life, a prayer life which spring from the tradition described by Gregory Palamas and from the Indian philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism. I would envisage spending two or three hours daily in prayer, one day a week, one month a year, as I have done for some years now already.
  1. to engage in parish life, not repeating the stagnation of a parish such as the one I grew up in, but seeing the parish as the sacrament of the Church and, indeed, of the future, being the communion of saints. What a conversion has been operated in me: from God to man; from Christ of the paschal mystery to the Christ-to-come; from ideas to grace; from teaching to prophecy; from monastery to parish; from Christian obedience to Christian authority. Yet I am frightened.

What was the value of the year?

It was a time to look into my soul and to order my ambitions. It was a year of elucidation and elaboration. I hope it has been a watershed. I hope, at least, that I will be a more useful instrument for your episcopacy. Finally, I must thank you again for granting me this important year. May the new year bring you good health and significant achievements.

Yours, sincerely in Christ, Fr John Dupuche

 

St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Melbourne. vie. 3002 6th January, 1988.

Reverend John Dupuche, 9 Avalon Road, ARMADALE,  Vic.

Dear Father Dupuche,

Thank you so much for your detailed and fascinating letter of 31st December, 1987.

What an odyssey it has been this last year of spiritual search, discovery and growth! Clearly, it has been a most eventful and fulfilling year for you – half-heated rooms in Italian monasteries in winter notwithstanding!

As your letter progressed and vivid word pictures of natural and spiritual beauty unfolded I must admit to more than a twinge of envy. How wonderful it would be to imitate you and embark on a similar journey for a year! Unfortunately, such a thing is not possible for Archbishops of large dioceses at the present time. However, I can at least derive some vicarious satisfaction and benefit in having made it possible for you.

I know that what you have experienced during the past year will remain part of your life forever. I am sure that it will also greatly enhance the quality of your service to the Church of Melbourne. Welcome home!

With cordial greetings and best wishes, I remain, Yours sincerely in Christ

 Frank Little, ARCHBISHOP  OF MELBOURNE

Posted in Abhinavagupta, Christian tantra, Experiences in meditation, Hindu Christian relations, John Dupuche, Kashmir Shaivism, Meditation in the Christian Tradition, Tantrāloka, Vijñānabhairava-tantra | 1 Comment

Sin and Grace; Commentary on some verses of  St Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Sin and Grace;

Commentary on some verses of                                                St Paul’s Letter to the Romans

Year 1, Week 28, Monday                              Glenroy 1977

He took on human nature and enhanced it.

“… according to the flesh.”        Romans 1:3

Such was the excellence of his authority that we cannot say human nature produced him, but that he took on human nature. His command of his own nature and of his environment showed that he was a higher principle than they. This sway was of a special kind, not the harsh control arising from a constraining idea, but the impetus that enabled his human nature and the whole of nature to achieve its perfection, indeed to achieve a perfection unavailable before. It was beneficent mastery. He took human nature, he did not destroy it. He took it and enhanced it, giving it a grace hitherto unimagined. This mastery and excellence of control, this gracefulness show that he was not primarily of human origin. He must have had an origin greater than anything earthly, so excellent indeed that we must proclaim he was of divine origin.

                                                                                East Doncaster, 1989

Paul’s creed.

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”Romans 1:1-7

Paul begins his great treatise on the Christian faith with a proclamation of faith. He starts with a reference to the prophets of the Old Testament and concludes with a reference to the on-going mission of the Church.

Between these two, he places  the story of Christ. At the outset Jesus is acknowledged as Son of God, an acknowledgment made without reference to time or change. That is, he is Son of God in his very being. Paul then goes on to refer to the two major steps that Jesus has taken in time: his incarnation and resurrection. Jesus “became a descendant of David”; he is a Jew and of the royal line of Judah. But he is now risen from the dead. Jesus is therefore proclaimed for what he is most importantly;  he is the Christ.

After having referred to the three major aspects of Jesus, namely “Son of God”, “descendant of David” and  “Christ”,  Paul refers to the on-going effect: the mission of the Church. Therefore, he greets the people of Rome, offering them grace and peace.

This opening paragraph is brilliantly and tightly constructed, cut like a diamond. Every word is in its right place. It constitutes Paul’s creed.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Tuesday                              Burwood 1983

They go beyond limited forms and perceive the infinite Former.

Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”   Romans1:20

Reason is able to sense what is reasonable; energy perceives energy. Indeed, since human beings are naturally creative, they are predisposed to detect whatever is creative; they even go beyond limited forms and perceive the infinite Former.

But this will actually happen only if human beings seek more than this finite creation. And again, it is one thing to perceive divine power, it is quite another to sense a personal Deity. Yet, if humans become fearful of the moral consequences of the existence of a free and personal Deity, they may be reluctant to acknowledge him. For those who seek their own untrammeled power, the acknowledgement of powerlessness becomes excruciating. They  are  led to  deny rather than  to  assent. However, if they are concerned about more than power they will acknowledge the Lover, and humbly bow before him.

These things are resolved by the coming of Christ who has the fullness of divinity and empowers humans to make a new heavens and a new earth in their own image.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Wednesday                          East Doncaster 1989

The universal need for salvation.

There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.       Romans 2:9-11

Paul, in his Letter to the Romans, speaks of the universal need for salvation. In yesterday’s reading he showed that the pagans had turned from knowledge of the true God and as a result became inhuman. In this morning’s reading, Paul turns his attention to his fellow Jews some of whom presumed that just because they were from the Chosen People they were guaranteed divine favour.

Paul teaches that what counts is a person’s form of life.  Even Jews must repent  if their lives are false. John the Baptist had already warned the Pharisees not to say ‘We are sons of Abraham’. Pedigree does not count; individual morality does.

Paul concludes by speaking more plainly: “ … suffering will come to every human being who employs himself in evil – Jews first, but Greeks as well; …. honour and peace will come to everyone who does good – Jews first, but Greeks as well. God has no favourites”.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Thursday                             East Doncaster, 1989

Christ brings freedom.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”     Romans 3:23-25

In yesterday’s reading, Paul established a contrast. On the one hand, there is sin that came into the world at the beginning; and on the other there is grace brought into the world by Christ. So, there are two forces at work in the world, in society and in the individual person; two opposing forces which seek to dominate: in one case, cravings and law, slavery and death; in the other, grace and holiness, life and righteousness.

This intolerable situation, Paul teaches is resolved by submission to the Gospel with its shift from the condition of sin to the condition of grace. Christ brings freedom.

 

Year 1, Week 28, Friday                                 Glenroy 1977

Faith and works are one.

For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”      Romans 4:3

Abraham has known God and placed his trust in him. Therefore, God blesses him. The emphasis is taken away from customs to attitude, from rituals to the heart.

That demeanor is true worship; that way of life is true religion. Once Abraham has come to his truth, God can bring him to other truths and other blessings. Abraham is justified. That is, he is authentic, truly himself; he has attained his purpose, he is real; he is in relationship with God. The moment of faith is the basic and essential step on the path of holiness.

Abraham is the Christians’ ‘father in faith’. But they must live accordingly. Those who are justified seek to express their being . They take care that waters flow from them and give life to all in need.  Faith and works are one.

 

Year 1, Week 29, Monday                              Glenroy 1977

What is beyond their reach, what supremacy is denied them?

Now the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”       Romans 4:23-25

God promised Abraham a mighty succession, involving kings and kingdoms. Yet he was childless and his wife was beyond the age. Nevertheless, against all appearances, he put his faith in God and his promise.

That trust, despite its seeming absurdity, pleases God and reveals Abraham’s essential character.

God, in Christ Jesus,  has promised the disciples  a kingdom. They too, despite all delays, put their faith in God and in his guarantee. They know he is able to do what he has pledged because, despite all obstacles, he has raised Jesus from the dead.

Therefore, Christians trust in God. They acknowledge his supremacy and await, with persistency and patience, the coming kingdom.

What is beyond their reach, what supremacy is denied them?

 

Year 1, Week 29, Thursday                             Glenroy 1975

All elements of our being are at the disposal of the Spirit.

No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”                   Romans 6:13-14

Paul presents us with two kingdoms, the kingdom of sin and the kingdom of God. If sin is the master, the faculties and organs will advance the reign of sin.  If the Spirit is master, the whole body in all its aspects will bring justice to be bear in the world.

All elements of our being, trained and brought to a pitch of fitness, are at the disposal of the Spirit, and, more effectively than any exponent of martial arts, we eliminate injustice and establish the kingdom of God. But for those who obey sin, the fruits are bitterness, fury, disquiet and turmoil.

 

                                                                               Glenroy 1977

What powers God has given to humans!

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”     Romans 6:19

What powers God has given to humans! Sin dissipates these powers but when they are purified and concentrated by the Spirit, what a force for good! Indeed, nothing is impossible for them. Mountains and universes will move at their behest. Even  the dead will be raised to life, because the powers, once united and brought into harmony with the Holy Spirit, issue forth to create a new heavens and a new earth.

That is the service of righteousness; that is the work of holiness.

 

                                                                               East Doncaster, 1989

The Holy Spirit is this grace, this gift, indeed the apogee of all God’s gifts.

For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.”     Romans 6:19

Sin is a power which touches every level of the person; it affects our world, our society. Sin is whatever is at variance with God and his purposes. It gives rise to actions or events that are sinful. The major result from sin, according to Paul, is death

Grace is a power, indeed is a Person. The Holy Spirit is this grace, this gift, indeed the apogee of all God’s gifts. Grace touches every aspect: spirit, soul, body, world, environment, society. The result is life and liveliness, confidence and peace, security and joy.

 

Year 1, Week 29, Friday                                 Glenroy 1977

The turmoil of the sinful state.

For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”    Romans 7:22-25

Paul describes, succinctly and magnificently, the turmoil of the sinful state.

Paul loves the law of God. In his most authentic self he seeks the good revealed to him by Torah and reason. He disagrees with those who see the human state as basically wretched and darkened, for he knows he is essentially orientated to what is good. The problem comes when he, Paul, wants to the good but suddenly finds himself doing evil. He realises that there is another force at work in him, a hidden force which from its effects is called ‘sin’.

Paul does not explain the meaning of this term nor its mode of operation, but he knows it vitiates his whole life. It makes a mockery of all his good intentions. It holds him prisoner, unable to act properly. It destines him to death, for all sin leads to death.

So, he cries out in his confusion: “What a wretched man I am.”

But then, through the grace of Christ, he is endowed with a new force, a force able to  move mountains, a force that replaces the power of sin and allows his good intentions to operate, namely the Spirit of God.

 

Year 1, Week 31 Thursday                              Glenroy 1917

What I am, in the Spirit, makes others be.

“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.”  Romans 14:7

Every person lives in connection with all others. This has been said for a long time. Truth is a force shaping things. Reality forms reality. Each person, in their own way, re-defines mankind. In their sin they distort mankind, but in their virtue  they confirm all people. The pattern of their choices tells others what life is. Therefore, each person’s life is of concern to each other. They are changed and affected and formed by the choice of others, however distant they may be, for “ the life and death of each of us has its influence on others”.

The most human of human beings, namely Jesus of Nazareth, most fully defines mankind. Such is the Christian faith, which is forever new and always surprising. Christ lived most humanly and died most humanly. Therefore, he establishes and rules both the living and the dead.

If Christ is heir, each Christian is heir with him. If Christ is first-born, so too is every citizen of heaven. If Jesus is Lord, so too is every one raised in the Spirit. Each Christian’s life, when led by the Spirit, enhances the lives of others. The course of their life, when done under the Spirit, shapes the course of history. What I am, in the Spirit, makes others be, even if they are as yet unaware of it.

 

                                                                                East Doncaster 1989

The task of Christians is to live life to the fullest and to die to the fullest.

“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” Romans 4:7-12

Jesus was most alive, being alive with the fullness of divine life, being first God and then, by choice, man. His dying was the most complete because, being most alive, his death was the greatest reversal. He chose to die. He died in sacrifice. No one has died as much as he has died. His living and dying have supreme influence. All our living and all our dying is done in relation to his living and dying. St Paul says, “if we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord”.

The task of Christians is to live life to the fullest and to die to the fullest. They will live to the fullest if they allow Christ’s life to enter them. They need to prepare for death and to make their death worthwhile, indeed a sacrifice. Then they will be able to give an account to God of existence.

 

Year 1, Week 31, Friday                                 Glenroy 1971

The work of the priest is to make offerings acceptable to God.

Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”     Romans 15:15-16

The work of the priest is to make offerings acceptable to God. His work is successful when God sends down his Holy Spirit: for the Holy Spirit is the ratification, the blessing, the approval of God.

Paul sees his own work as priestly because it brings down the Holy Spirit. Although he is concerned with preaching and not with rituals, the gift of the Holy Spirit is proof that those to whom he has preached are offerings acceptable to God. Paul is not concerned with objects but with the very people themselves, and his word spoken to them, over them, with their assent, brings down the gift of the Spirit.

Paul rejoices to see this success. It means that what was unclean is now made holy; what was foreign to God is now acceptable: the Gentiles are God’s people.

It is the gift of the Spirit that proves the rightness of Paul’s work, that Spirit who urges the people to faith in Jesus and love of their brethren.

Now a new work begins. For if love is the highest gift, then faith and hope are subsumed into it. They last, of course, but are secondary. Not a love that is sentimental and introverted, but a love which is blessing, ratification and approval. Faith in Jesus remains but changes. Faith is now in the Man who fills all the universe. That Man is named, for he is real, but his reality exceeds his earthly name. For the risen Christ is greater than the earthly Jesus.

And we have faith in the Man; we have faith in all that are of him. To all of these, we say: You are Lord. And as their power begins to move in us, we now begin to bless, for we, worshippers of the Lord, become Lord with power in our hands. And we too bless in return.

 

 

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FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH,  Commentary on some verses from The Books of Maccabees

FAITHFUL UNTIL DEATH                                                                                Commentary on some verses from The Books of Maccabees

 

Year 1,  Week  33, Monday                            East Doncaster,  1989 

Cultural imperialism

“Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion.”                                    1 Maccabees 1: 41-43

Throughout their history, the Jewish people had adopted customs from the countries in which they had lived. From the Bedouins of the Sinai they had adopted the Passover rites. From the Canaanites in the Holy Land they had adopted the forms of temple worship. From the Babylonians they had understood that YHVH was the creator of the universe. At the same time, throughout their history, they had also refused to adopt customs which were foreign to their faith. So, in Egypt they refused to make images of God in the likeness of animals. In Canaan they had rejected fertility rites and the eating of pig’s flesh. In Mesopotamia they refused the pantheons of gods and goddesses. During their long travels, the pilgrim people took on various customs or refused them according as they were acceptable to the wisdom that came from above.

During  this  second last  week  of the  liturgical  year we  read  from the  last historical books of the Bible written before the coming of Christ: The Books of the Maccabees.

Antiochus Epiphanes,  an ardent admirer of Greek culture, wished to impose it upon his subjects, and therefore on the Jews. He does not allow them to select according to the divine wisdom that is theirs. He imposes another religion and culture on them. The last and greatest drama of the Jewish people before the coming of Christ is ‘cultural imperialism’.

Christians, from the cultures and countries in which they find themselves, are free to adopt what is good and to refuse what is contrary to their faith, led by the Holy Spirit that is in them.

 

Year 1,  Week  33, Wednesday                       Glenroy 1977

If anger is dreadful, oblivion is worse.

But you, who have contrived all sorts of evil against the Hebrews, will certainly not escape the hands of God”                2 Maccabees 7:31

The force of good cannot but sweep away whatever is evil. Like the power of a broken dam, the power of good sweeps all wickedness before it.    In the ardor of his blessing, the pure God relegates evil to oblivion. This ignoring is terrible. This silence is horrible. To be forgotten by God! Nothing is more abominable when one’s nature is wholly directed to God. If anger is dreadful, oblivion is worse. In fury there is some recognition of one’s existence, but  in ignoring there is complete withdrawal of attention. No more just judgment could be directed against them.

Therefore, God’s terrible judgment comes from the purity of his intention, which is to bless all that is good.

 

Year  1, Week  33,  Wednesday                       East Doncaster, 1989

God cannot but be faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Therefore, the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of humankind and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws. … Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again along with your brothers.”                  2 Maccabees 7:23, 29

In the Book of Judges, when misfortune falls on the People it is  is interpreted as punishment for sin. Later, when the Kingdom of Israel is destroyed and Chosen People are sent into exile to Babylon, the disaster is attributed to their rejection of the covenant. However, with the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes, as recounted in the Books of the Maccabees, the interpretation is quite the reverse. If the people are afflicted, it is  precisely because of their  fidelity.

Today’s episode, recounts the martyrdom of the seven brothers. They will not eat pig’s flesh. They are being faithful to the point of death, for to eat pork was synonymous with infidelity to  God.

The mother, so blessed as  to have born seven sons, now sees them put to death, one by one. She encourages them and proclaims a faith not heard before so clearly in Israel: “…… the creator of the world, …. in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.” To the youngest of her sons she says: “Do not fear this executioner …. make death welcome, so that in the day of mercy I may receive you back in your brother’s company.”

The experience of innocent suffering has thrown resurrection into sharp focus. God cannot but be faithful to those who are faithful to him. Thus, by the time of Christ, many pious Jews come to have faith in in the resurrection.

This will be fully shown in the case of Christ Jesus who must rise from the dead since he has been most truly faithful to the faithful God.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Thursday                             East Doncaster, 1989

Jesus will come to reconcile Jew and pagan.

Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left.”                   1 Maccabees 2:21-22

We have seen the attempt by the pagan king, Antiochus, to impose Greek culture on the Jewish people. We have seen the heroism of the mother and her seven sons. They, like so many of the people, have refused to comply. They are put to death for refusing to eat pig’s flesh. These are the first martyrs. In this context, we have seen the first inklings of the resurrection.

This morning’s reading shows the king’s officers attempting to enforce pagan worship. “The king’s officers …. came to the town of Modein to make them sacrifice” to false gods. The reaction is different. Mattathias and his sons slaughter the king’s commissioner and escape to the hills. They begin the revolt and the whole nation will rally around him. The stage is being set for the entry of Jesus onto the scene.

Jesus will come to reconcile Jew and pagan. He will come to give a new Law, to do away with sacrifice and with prohibitions about food. He will make armed revolt unnecessary. He will enjoy a martyr’s death and reveal the resurrection.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1989

Jesus himself will replace the Temple

Then Judas and his brothers said, “See, our enemies are crushed; let us go up to cleanse the sanctuary and dedicate it.”   1 Maccabees 4:36

The revolt of the Maccabees has been successful. Surpassingly, the small number of Jews has been able to defeat the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes. The Temple is cleansed and re-dedicated; it becomes the centre of Jewish life.

A number of issues – food laws, the sabbath, contact with the pagans, observance of the Torah, the use of armed revolt – become identified with the faith of Israel. As a result, the very success of the Maccabean revolt becomes a problem, for the people become hardened in self-defense.

When Jesus comes he will find himself pitted against this hardness of the people who are now under pressure from the Romans. In softening the attitude to the prescriptions and in introducing a new way of thinking, he will be judged a threat to his people and will be put to death as someone unfaithful to God.

However, in rising from the dead he himself will replace the Temple and will be declared Lord and Christ.

 

Year 1, Week 33, Saturday                              East Doncaster, 1989

This intense reverence for the Temple prepares the way for the coming of Jesus in the flesh.

But now I remember the wrong I did in Jerusalem. I seized all its vessels of silver and gold, and I sent to destroy the inhabitants of Judah without good reason. I know that it is because of this that these misfortunes have come upon me; here I am, perishing of bitter disappointment in a strange land.”        1 Maccabees 6:12-13

The king, Antiochus, who had seemed so powerful and had even erected his own statue over the altar in Jerusalem, now lies dying from acute disappointment. He is far from home and his people; he has failed in his Persian campaign; his army in Judah has been defeated and his statue pulled down. He lies on his sick-bed and now admits that he dies because he has profaned the Temple.

This is Jewish propaganda. History would not support every detail of the story. The revelation is not in the historicity of the account. The interest lies in the enormous importance attached to the Temple. To profane the Temple in any way is to sin most profoundly. It has become the centre of Jewish life. The possession of the Temple has become, and still is today, of utmost importance.

This intense reverence for the Temple prepares the way for the coming of Jesus in the flesh. Christians have placed their trust not in a Temple made of stone and mortar but in the Temple made of flesh and blood:  in the Lord who is their foundation.

 

 

 

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CULTURAL IMPERIALISM,   commentary on some verses from the Book of Daniel

CULTURAL IMPERIALISM,                                                                            commentary on some verses from the Book of Daniel

Year 1, Week 34, Monday                              Glenroy 1975

Food laws

At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations. So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.”  Daniel 1:15-17

The Book of Daniel was written at the time of the Maccabees, a time of cultural imperialism when the Syrian king sought to impose Greek culture on all his subjects, including the Jews.

In today’s colourful reading the contrast is set between the sumptuous and elegant food from the king’s table and the ordinary vegetables that Daniel and his companions choose to eat. Far from being harmed by their simple nourishment the boys are much fitter and brighter in every way than their peers who eat the finest food of the kingdom. The teaching conveyed by this contrast is clear. The Law of Moses is superior to all other ways of life, even to Greek culture; the food laws of the Old Testament are more effective that the products of refined living; obedience to God is more productive than political power. In the context of the Maccabean struggle, this doctrine was essential for the survival of Jewish religion.

Christians are not bound by the food laws of the Old Testament, a point made spectacularly and scandalously in Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles (10:9-16) and in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (2:11-14). They look beyond the such laws to the will of God, and draw a deeper lesson. The will of God is more life-giving than the spectacular forms of power. The will of God, obscure, sometimes even as ordinary as vegetables and water, is more significant. Those who have the mind of God find a source of strength and courage, a resilience, a freshness of outlook, a keenness of mind that surpasses anything this world can give.

 

Year 1, Week 34, Wednesday                          Glenroy 1975

Sacrilege

Under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar commanded that they bring in the vessels of gold and silver that his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.”         Daniel 5:2

This famous scene, Belshazzar’s feast, is a case of sacrilege. The drunken king with his noblemen, wives and concubines, have the sacred vessels brought in to the banquet where they are profaned. Immediately the forecast of doom comes; the mysterious writing on the wall announces the judgement: Babylon is to be handed over to the Persians.

It is rare for chalices to be taken from a church and used sacrilegiously. But human beings are more sacred than chalices, more precious than sacred vessels. A chalice contains the Blood of Christ, but only or a moment, where the Christian is part of the Body of Christ for all eternity; in the chalice the sacrifice of Calvary is renewed at each Mass, but the Christian is alive with Christ in eternity. Yet Christians, along with many other human beings, are persecuted, used and abused in blatant and subtle ways.

Let the perpetrators beware of such sacrilege, for the writing will appear on the wall for them too and their inheritance will be handed over to those that respect their fellows.

 

Year 1, Week 34,  Thursday                                   East Doncaster, 1989

Idolatry.

I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.”     Daniel 6:26

The king has signed an edict forbidding his subjects  to pray to anyone, god or man, except himself. The punishment is to be thrown to the lions.

Throughout human history governments have tried to prevent worship, for it is seen by them to be a political act, showing that the ruler has only limited power, that there is a superior power which he must obey. For such rulers the act of worship as an act of subversion.

Daniel, who will worship only the God of his ancestors, is therefore thrown into the lions’ den. When he is saved from that impossible situation the king comes to faith in the one true God. “I decree: in every kingdom of my empire let all tremble with fear before the God of Daniel: he is the living God, he endures forever.”

The Father must have complete sway in the empire of human thought. He is to be the origin and purpose of every act.

 

Year 1, Week 34, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1989

The triumphant Son of Man

“I saw one like a human beingcoming with the clouds of heaven.And he came to the Ancient Oneand was presented before him.To him was given dominionand glory and kingship,that all peoples, nations, and languagesshould serve him.His dominion is an everlasting dominionthat shall not pass away,and his kingship is onethat shall never be destroyed.”     Daniel 7:13-14

Various issues concerning the traditions of the Jews  have been dealt with. The scene now shifts to the future and onto a universal scale. Various kingdoms, symbolized by the various beasts, are disappearing for the Son of Man is about to come, he who will rule the people with justice and forever.

The Jewish writer realizes that the Son of David must rule more than the People of God. Indeed, he must rule all nations and forever. Just as the exiles learnt in Babylon that YHVH was Lord of all creation, so at the time of the Maccabees the sacred author realizes that the Messiah must rule all mankind. He must receive his appointment from before all time and reign for all time.

Thus, the stage is set for the appearance of Jesus. In his teaching he will refer frequently to the Son of Man and applies the term to himself. He is the Son of Man come from out of eternity to be Lord of all and forever.

 

 

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Teachings on love; commentaries on some verses from the First Letter of St John

TEACHINGS ON LOVE                 

commentaries on some verses from the First Letter of St John

 

30 December                                                       Glenroy 1975

We live already in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity.

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have conquered the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.” 1 John 2:12-17

John compares the fathers with “the one who has existed from the beginning”; with regard to the young men, he refers to their strength, their natural desire for victory and for taking up challenges; he refers to the children as “those who know the Father”. He is connecting each different age – childhood, youth and maturity – with the different elements of the spiritual life. At the same time, he warns them not to love the “passing world” and the limits of human existence. In direct contrast John proclaims the will of God: “anyone who does the will of God remains forever”. That is, if we live according to the mind of God and if we have his Spirit in us, his mentality, his hope and his wishes, then we live already in eternity, outside of time, in eternal childlikeness, youthfulness and maturity, taking part in God’s own being, his own eternity, embracing all times, and every age.

 

31 December                                                        Glenroy 1975

‘Antiworlds’

“Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But by going out they made it plain that none of them belongs to us.”               1 John 2:18-19

In the early Church as a whole and in the local Church to which John belonged, a number of Christians had rejected the faith, left the community and fought against it. John states concerning them, “several antichrists have already appeared”, “Those rivals of Christ came out of your own number”. John also quotes the general doctrine, “the antichrist must come”.

This is a firm belief of the early Church which we maintain today. The passion and resurrection of Christ are the mystery and essential meaning of all creation. They need be repeated in every individual and in the whole human race. Just as Christ had his opponents – his antichrists – who finally put him to death, so too the whole world must experience its passion. ‘Antiworlds’ will arise in the world, affect the world and bring it to its agony. And again, just as Christ came to his resurrection so too the world, despite its antichrists, will come to its completion and fulfilment  through the passion it must endure. In short, the antichrist – the anti-Church – whatever it may be, whether it is an individual or a group, must come into the world before the world can come to its resurrection.

 

                                                                                 Glenroy 1976

The whole Christ too must have its antichrist.

Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour.”                     1 John 2:18

The essential plan of history, dimly perceived in all ages and clearly revealed in Christ, is that the human must enter into suffering before the Man can emerge. For this reason, Christ, though perfectly human and perfectly divine, had to undergo the depth of suffering before reaching the height of glory. His passion was his antichrist.

The whole Christ too must have its antichrist. The consummation of history will not occur until the Church is oppressed on every level, until the whole panoply of evil and treachery is set against the Church, until the sum of evil is made apparent in its minions and in its own self. Once the fullness of evil is unleashed, then the hour has come. The fullness of good flowers in the Church and, through evil, despite evil, the Man is.

In each Christian, the same law prevails; in each individual Church, the same event occurs, but on a smaller scale. The sphere of evil touches us at a point and gives an intimation of its extent. Our heart is struck cold, for we know what we hesitate to imagine; and we dread already what others will one day fully endure. To each his own evil is symbolic of the whole evil. Yet this is the prelude to the last hour, the great day, the Day of YHVH, the fulfilment of the promise. When evil strikes, it means that the day is at hand. To every evil there is God’s return of good. Therefore, though we suffer, we are not afraid. Though we tremble, we do not dread. Though in terror, we do not despair, for the bright day is coming which will dispel every darkness.

 

2nd of January                                                  Glenroy 1976

By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.  As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.”                  1 John 2:22, 27

The first letter of John deals with a group of Christians who have lost faith in Christ, who have left the Church, who have denied that Jesus was the Christ and have asserted that all the believers are lying. John the Apostle, in writing to the different communities where these things were happening, is trying to strengthen them. He says: “the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ – they are the liar”. In other words, it is not the Christians who are liars but the apostates. He goes on to say: “you have not lost the anointing that he gave you and you do not need anyone to teach you”. John is reassuring the Christians who have lost self-confidence as a result of the scandal that they still possess the Holy Spirit and do not need anyone to teach them. The Holy Spirit is active in them, illuminating them and teaching them the truth about Jesus Christ.

Those who have come to faith in Christ, and who are moved by the Holy Spirit, have an interior source of truth that  always abides with them. Those who have the Holy Spirit do not – speaking at the deepest level – need anyone to teach them. By his own power the Holy Spirit reveals where the truth lies.

 

Tuesday after Epiphany                                  Glenroy 1976

We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”            1 John 4:7-8

John is quite apodictic: everyone who loves, whether Christian, pagan or atheist, everyone who truly loves, seeking not his own satisfaction or likings, everyone who loves is begotten by God, is of his nature, has his Spirit, is redeemed and has entered the divine sphere of eternity. Again; those who do not love, even though they may appear to love, with many works of charity to their credit, even though they may say they love the whole world, yet actually love no one real person – they do not know God, have no experience of him, has no connection with him, nor have his Spirit. Even though they may say the word ‘God’ and may  have read all the books, they do not know God.

This is because love can have no other cause than God. It can be nothing else than a share in his own nature. Just as the existence of this creation does not make sense – for its being is feeble and insufficient to itself – unless we acknowledge some far greater source of existence, the First Cause – so too love in this world cannot be explained – for we cannot love unless we have first been loved, unless we see some Lover as the source of all, the First Lover.

Created beings exist, not independently of God, but separately from him. Yet in love, there is neither independence nor separation. When we love, we love with God’s love; we are applying his love to the one we love; we are buoyed up by his power to love, we are united with him in the closest of bonds, namely that of sharing his own nature. For as John goes on to explain, nothing is so characteristic of God as love. God is far greater than anything we can understand or experience and so no human word – even ‘love’ – can encompass him. Yet if we are to search out from our experience the feeble word that comes closest to a description of his attitudes and nature, we find it is love.

We can say ‘God is love’, but never ‘love is God’. When we love, it is because we have already become children of God. We could not, otherwise, have the strength to love. And as we proceed on our work of love, as we grow in love, it is because we are continually being born, in further and further depths of our being. Those who are  engaged in love are being renewed by God more and more, until we make our supreme act of love, in sacrifice. Then God will apply to us, once and for all and most fully, the words said of Jesus, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten you’.

 

Wednesday after Epiphany                              Glenroy 1976

This creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’.

So, we have known and believe the love that God has for us.God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.”               1 John 4:16

God’s most characteristic quality is love, the love which creates and ratifies, which purifies and restores, which is forgiving and constant. This love alters the world, so that it is transformed; its very substance is changed so as to become love. So great is the reality of that love, so slight the reality of the world, that this creation is more properly called ‘love’ than ‘universe’. Every stone is a memory, every plant is a lesson, every living creature speaks the same message: the love of God.

Those who have known this love copy it. If they have had the real experience of love, touching their conviction and their freedom, then they too love. They have that same love of God working in them and they too are transformed. Therefore, they live in love: their world is a world of love; their life is a work of love. Now, not only the stones and the plants are love, but their every action too is love, so that they live in love. They live therefore in God, who is love, from whom all ability  to love derives.

No need to seek the sanctuary of temples nor the mansions of heaven, for they are already in the presence of God. No need to long for the after-life: already they enjoy the beatific vision. No need to look for the coming of Christ: for already they are with Christ before God. Yes, let them hope for an ever-deepening love, an ever more violent passion of love; let them long for the transforming power of love from Christ and the saints; let them look for the perfection of love which is the last Day and the Coming of Christ – yet already they are in the presence of God at the essential heart of their being: for their being is in love, their being is in God.

 

Thursday after Epiphany                                Glenroy 1976

We have to experience love before we are able to love.

“We are to love because God loves us first.”      1 John 4:19-21

We have to experience love before we are able to love. This is true in human psychology; a person who has not been loved by parents or elders is unable to love others. It is doubly true in the religious sphere; we are unable to love until we have first experienced God’s love for us. Once we know we have been chosen by God, then we can begin to love our neighbour.

John goes on to say: “if we have no love of neighbour, we are liars if we say we love God”; and again, “if we have no love of neighbour we are incapable of loving God”. For the love God communicates to us is generous and without bounds, universal and wide-reaching. If we limit it in some way, what we have in fact is not love but some pretense of love. Our love is to be catholic.

 

  Glenroy 1976

We who empower him in the world are empowered by him.

 Whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.”               1 John 5:4

The Christian faith proclaims, “Jesus is Lord”. It is not a bland statement of fact or an item of information. Faith places Jesus in a position of influence and authority. It establishes Jesus in power; it confers upon him Lordship of the living and the dead.

Christians do not give him that authority, for he receives it from the One, but they do accord him its exercise. They accept, acknowledge and proclaim his authority; they open the floodgates of his power over the world; they place themselves and all things ‘under his feet’, so that his grace becomes active in this world.

The world of dissolution, and hate, the areas of distrust and sin, are subjected to the influence of love, to the simplicity of sheer strength which shines with the directness and calm of pure light. What is good it confirms; what is evil it discards. Evil has its own seeds of destruction, and it collapses under its own weakness.

Our power to enthrone him is reciprocated by his ability to empower us. We make him king, which he already is. His kingship spreads throughout the Body, so that we now have his power. We who empower him in the world are empowered by him. We who allow his reign are empowered by his reign. His power is our power. We too share that calm strength of light, we too reconcile and choose, make peace and confirm. We too establish the blessed of the earth and leave evil to its eternal darkness.

The world is won and heaven is won by our faith.

 

 

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‘The Spreading Fragrance’ A commentary on some verses from St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

‘The Spreading Fragrance’

A commentary on some verses from                                     St Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians

 

Year 2, Week 28, Thursday                             Glenroy 1976

They too are beloved

“He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses.         Ephesians 1:5-7

The scene at Jordan is archetypal. Jesus is blessed with the gift of the Spirit and proclaimed ‘Well-Beloved’. St Paul explains that this event is significant not only for Christ. Christians, who have faith in this Beloved, are also recipients of his grace. They are joined to the ‘Beloved’, so that they too are beloved. He goes on to say that the salvific event is the death of Christ. It is in his blood that they are redeemed.

St Paul says more. The experience of the Spirit is an experience of inner freedom. By faith in the Beloved, Christians are beloved. They acquire freedom, and their sins are forgiven. It is in Christ, whether glorious at the Jordan or glorious on Calvary, that they gain inner freedom and strength. It is in the Man that they become human. Faith is not in someone who is limited by  time or circumstance. Faith is in a Reality which transcends all its manifestations. Faith is in this Glorious One who is, and whom Christians shall be and already are.

 

Year 2, Week 28, Friday                                 Glenroy 1976

Gifted with the Holy Spirit

“In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.”       Ephesians 1:13-14

Moses had prayed that his spirit be given to seventy men, for them to help him as leader. He wished, indeed, that the whole camp might receive his spirit.

It was therefore understood, at the time of Jesus, that the Messiah would bestow the Spirit and that  the whole people would receive this divine power.

When, therefore, the Christian community, at Pentecost, began to show the power of the Spirit, it became clear that the reign of the God had begun. Yet some said that these Christians were merely drunk on new wine or, even worse, that their Spirit was evil. No, they were gifted with the Holy Spirit. It was a seal against the destruction and a guarantee of redemption, like the blood of the paschal lamb that had sealed  the doorposts against the Avenging Angel in Egypt.

The pouring out of the Spirit is the pledge of an eternal future.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Monday                              Glenroy 1976

The one Man

“But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ —by grace you have been saved.”             Ephesians 2:4-5

Nature, of itself, is full of grace and, buoyed up by the Spirit, has produced its infinite variety. Creation is good and holy, with the seed of life in it, full of hope.

The thrust of life, vested in animals, is further vested in human beings. At the same time, life is involved with death. Death is disintegration. Death is corruption. Death is putrefaction.

God intervenes in this picture and re-asserts himself. He makes the Spirit move again across the face of creation and moves humans to seek, from their inmost depths, the Man. The Human seeks the Man, the wonderful, the glorious, the ideal.

The Ultimate goes further. Through the preaching of the Church, Christ is presented as the crucified, the Man. “Ecce Homo”.

God goes further. He gives humans the ability to understand the mystery, namely that Christ is the Man precisely because of the way he died. “Truly this man was Son of God”, says the centurion upon seeing how Jesus died.

God foes further. He leads humans to faith in the Man, the crucified, the glorious, so that the Human becomes the Man. The two are one, with the result that the Man is now active in the Human. As God has made Jesus the Man, so he makes those who have faith in him Man also.

Therefore, we are Man. Our power is real because the Man is real. We have been made alive with Christ, in Christ. Creation has regained its thrust and its vitality.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Tuesday                              Glenroy 1976

The New Adam

“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 1and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”       Ephesians 2:15-16

At the time of St Paul, it was understood that God would restore all things, re-creating the innocence of Eden. All mankind, issued from Adam and involved in sin, would return, through innocence, to the original unity in the New Man. The ‘sin of Adam’ had set the human race on the road of hostility and hatred. The restoration would retrace the steps to the New Adam.

For Paul, the hostility between Jew and Gentile was symbolic of the hatred between all humans. This hatred was contrasted, during in his missionary journeys, with the sight of both Jews and Gentiles coming to one faith in the one glorious Lord dead and risen. The ancient enemies had undergone the same religious experience that touched their inmost being. So, in their faith in the one Christ they had become one being with each other. They were not a multiplicity of humans but one Man.

This was nothing less than the restoration of Eden, the recall of Adam’s sin, the formation of a New Man of peace to replace the Old Adam of sin and division. It was a new creation and the end of time.

This unity in faith meant relativizing rules and laws, attitudes and customs. It meant going beyond particular manifestations in time and space, culture and era, and going to the essential which was faith in the glorious Lord, the essential Man. The many are one.

 

                                                                                    East Doncaster, 1992

One Body

“He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.”       Ephesians 2:15-16

The  shock of  the  crucifixion is  so  great, its stupidity and wickedness so horrible that the whole fabric of creation, the whole rhythm and reason of the world collapse. Nothing has consistency. Nothing makes sense. Even revelation is shown to be darksome.

The One who is beyond all created things and beyond knowledge: He alone is left. He alone is consistent. He is evident, not in ideas but in his Person. Thus, he has come close, heart to heart, person to person.

Therefore, Jesus is raised, not as an object but as subject, not measurable but knowable. He is fully present and with the power of his presence we become present to each other. We allow ourselves to be dismayed, puzzled, confused, by the terror of the cross. We become present to the Presence and to each other, heart to heart.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Wednesday                          East Doncaster, 1992

The mystery

 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.”    Ephesians 3:5

For my holidays I went to outback New South Wales and South East Queensland. I had always wanted just to leave everything and head north into the sun. The desert holds a great fascination for me. It is a place of mystery, a region of light. In the silence of the desert there is music and speech beyond words. So, I went to the desert to see and hear.

Paul speaks of mystery and revelation, namely the mystery of Christ hidden before all ages and now revealed to him and through him to all the pagans.

In each of us there is mystery. Let us enter into the desert of our soul and contemplate its mystery, and by the light of the Spirit read its revelation. Then we can communicate to teach other the Presence of God who enlightens each of us secretly.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Thursday                             Glenroy 1976

The hidden self

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”     Ephesians 3:16

Paul’s prayer is concerned with growth of the most subtle and most fundamental human dimension.

A plant grows by absorbing its surroundings and transforming them into itself, changing in the process, so that its hidden potentialities become real and known. ‘Ah, this is a tree; in fact it is a eucalypt’. Those who live by the truth grow through absorbing knowledge and entering into relationships, by having insights and experiencing challenges.  Their hidden character becomes manifest. What was dim becomes clear, what was uncertain becomes definite. The inner self is strengthened and manifested.

Those who have come to faith in Christ are transformed most mysteriously into a new self. Their self and the self of Christ become one. They act and Christ acts; they live and Christ lives; they grow and Christ grows. As their hidden potentialities become manifest, so Christ becomes manifest. As they arrive at fullness in this world, Christ arrives at his fulness in this world. It is the return of Christ.

All this is the work of the Spirit. No human wisdom and forethought can achieve it. The Spirit moves in directions that escape the human grasp. The Spirit covers them as he will and they grow by feeling their way. All Paul can do is call on the Spirit to act powerfully, with no restraint or holding back, so that he, Paul, might be powerfully strengthened and come to share in the glory of Christ, being fully grown and fully known.

 

                                                                                  East Doncaster, 1992

The hidden self

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.”     Ephesians 3:16

Paul prays that our hidden self may grow strong.

Humans have a public image and a hidden self. The public image is the way they have learned to behave in public, the way that is safe and acceptable. For the Ephesians, the hidden self is the aspect of character that has been touched by grace, by the fire which Christ wished to cast upon the earth.

There can be a fear to reveal the true self because it may be challenging or unsettling to others. Paul’s prayer is that the hidden self of the Ephesians might grow strong, that they might be aware of God’s work in them and become confident of its truth. Thus, they transform their hidden self into their public image and reveal to the world the face of the Christ who they have become.

 

Year 2, Week 29, Friday                                 East Doncaster, 1992

The sevenfold unity

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”         Ephesians 4:4-6

How  much we  appreciate  the unity  of  the family,  where husband and wife live in harmony! By contrast, how distressed we are when there are disputes and resentments!

St Paul calls the Ephesians to preserve the unity of the Spirit. He speaks of the sevenfold unity they share: one Body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.

There are no limits to unity they shall one day enjoy. They shall become spirit so that they might enjoy the perfect unity which is available only in the Spirit. They shall become each other. The one body will be transfigured into the one spirit. 

 

Year 2, Week 30 Monday                               Glenroy 1976

The spreading perfume

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”       Ephesians 5:1-2

In the Old Testament, plants and animals were brought to the altar and consumed in fire. According as they were acceptable or not, the odour of their burning was pleasing or displeasing to God. Thus, the smell of Noah’s sacrifice after the flood is deemed to be fragrant, such that God pledges not to destroy the earth again.

Love, born of the Spirit, must become spirit.  Love, seizing hold of people, transforms them into itself. Human love reaches out to all in their joys and deepest griefs. Love wishes to undergo the death of deaths in order to be nothing but love.

For this reason, Christ, willingly and freely, of his own initiative, hands himself over, in the garden and before Pilate. His love is revealed by his giving; it is realized in his surrender.

Paul immediately makes the connection between this surrender and the temple cult. One event explains the other.

Jesus’ sacrifice, proceeding from the necessity of love, is pleasing to God. But there is more. The offering, as it is burnt, becomes something new. Previously it could be seen and touched;  but on being consumed it can only be sensed.  It used to be located in one spot, but now it fills space. It used to be material, but now it is born on the wind. It still exists, but it has been changed. So too with Christ. Once located within the bounds of time and space, culture and history, he has gone into a new dimension. He still exists, but he has been changed.

This change we all wish to undergo. We want the essence of our bodies to be distilled and set free, so that we can escape the limitations of history and reach an eternal expansiveness. Yet there is only one way. It is through sacrifice. We too, moved by the Spirit, must strip and strip, die and die, not through sin, but through grace.

  

                                                                                  East Doncaster, 1992

The fragrance

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”       Ephesians 5:1-2

Jesus holds all things together in his own being. There had to be someone who could be the heart of this world. In him all things are found: holiness and sin, heaven and earth, time and eternity. He came from above and entered completely into this world; he left this world to enter the highest heaven, offering himself on behalf of all. He takes all with him. Despite sin there is one who is pleasing. Jesus is pleasing to God. Jesus is with humanity.

There is not only the obscure and distant sin of Adam. The sins of the future will be even more terrible than those of the past. The sin of the future will reflect the sin of Calvary.

Paul goes on to speak of the image humans should project. They have been made holy by Jesus’ fragrant offering. The human project is to be transfigured, and made fragrant.

 

 

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Flesh and spirit, commentary on some texts of St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

‘Flesh and spirit’,                                                         commentary on some texts of St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Year 2, Week 27, Monday                  Glenroy 1976

the knowledge of the mystery is always a revelation”

“For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Gal 1:11-12

Paul defends his Gospel. ‘I declare and state: my Gospel is not a human fabrication.’ He teaches that what makes a person acceptable to God is faith in Christ crucified. This Gospel, Paul declares, is not a catering to human weakness. He goes on: ‘Nor did he receive it from others’.  He is proclaiming his independence. Many traditions he did indeed receive from the Jerusalem Church, but his essential Gospel did not come from them. He goes on: ‘He learnt his message through revelation’. That is, it was on the road to Damascus that he received his overpowering insight into the meaning of Christ. Of course, he knew beforehand many things about Christ and the Church, which is why he persecuted of the followers of the Way. Paul has seen the core of Christianity. The rest he strips away.

As with Paul, so with all Christians. They may have heard the gospel and learnt the doctrines from others, but the knowledge of the mystery is always a revelation. Their insight may repeat that of countless millions before them, but it is always new. Their witness may seem like the witness of many others, but it is original for they have become Christ and reveal the Christ. They have become the Man and proclaim the Man in a way that has never been done before. What counts is not the originality of the doctrine but the originality of the attestation. The newness is not the what but the who. Those who have come to know the Christ provide a new dimension of power and salvation, of encouragement and companionship.

  

Year 2, Week 27, Tuesday                    Glenroy 1976

“We are in the age of the Spirit.”

“But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.”              Gal 1:15-17

Jesus is the eternal Son of God and Paul’s vocation began before his conception. Jesus is acknowledged at the waters of Jordan but Paul receives his calI on the road to Damascus. Jesus immediately goes to the desert to absorb and reflect upon his call; Paul goes off to the region of Arabia for the same purpose. Jesus returns to Galilee and takes up his ministry; Paul goes to Damascus and begins to preach the Christ. There are many parallels between the experience of the Christ and the experience of the Christian Paul.

Many things prepare for the moment of grace. The construction of our bodies, the formation of our character, the upbringing and the society in which we live: these are the predispositions. The moment of grace is dependent on them, and also independent. It is dependent on them because they form the tissue and the colour, the occasion and the circumstance. It is independent from them because they do not explain it. God’s freedom is shown in this independence. His call is proved by his freedom. He decides, here and now, in these circumstances, to call the person of such and such a character. It is the moment of human freedom also, an inspired moment.

We are in the age of the Spirit. Grace will be experienced as a free choice. Human beings will choose independently and freely, because it seems just and good to them and to the Spirit in them. Father and Son will be known and revered, but the first impulse of choice will be the divine Spirit and the human spirit acting as one.

 

 Year 2, Week 27,   Wednesday                   Glenroy 1976

“the balance between equality and authority”

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. And the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”               Gal. 2.11-14

Ever since his experience upon the rooftop at Joppa when Peter had seen the vision concerning the Gentiles and eating with the unclean, his custom had been to share common table with them. After overcoming the opposition from some in Jerusalem, he had maintained his custom. Barnabas too and Paul especially had taken up the same custom. To eat with the Gentiles was to accept them into fellowship.

Peter had eventually to flee Jerusalem in the wake of Herod’s attack and took the road to Antioch where he continued his custom of eating with the Gentiles. As long as they had faith in the Lord Jesus, he could share the common table with them. Barnabas was there and Paul too. However, from Jerusalem there came those who belonged to the party of James. They claimed that, as the Promises had been made to the Jews, and as Jesus himself had been an ardent upholder of the Law, it was necessary for Gentiles to accept the whole framework of the Law. Their arguments were convincing and still bear weight: for we can only understand the New Law from within the context of the Old Law.

Peter and Barnabas began to avoid eating with the Gentiles. At this, Paul explodes. He publicly upbraids Peter for his inconsistency. Had he not long been eating with Gentiles, leaving them free of the rules of the Law? Must the Gentiles now become Jews?

If there were no equality, Paul could not raise his voice; if there were no authority, Paul would not need to. This situation characterizes the relationship between Christians: the balance between equality and authority. If equality is lacking there is no community; if authority is lacking there is no assembly.

In a healthy Church there will be disputes and reconciliation. Where they are lacking, the Church is dead.

 

 Year 2, Week 27, Thursday                 Glenroy 1976

“The Spirit  is the test of everything.”

“The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?”        Gal 3:2

The Spirit  is the test of everything. Did the Law give the Spirit? No! Therefore, it was waiting for someone who could. Did Jesus give the Spirit? Yes! Therefore, he is the one who was to come into the world. Does the practice of the Law impart the Spirit? No! Therefore, it is useless or at best a predisposition. Does the hearing of the Word impart the Spirit? Yes! Therefore, it is the gift of God. The Spirit is the test of every action, thought and emotion. If the Spirit grows as a result it is true. If the Spirit does not increase, it is idle.

Growth can occur through other means – and all growth is an indication of the Spirit – but full growth in the Spirit is only through the Gospel. There are many ways of hearing the Gospel, not only with the ears but also with the skin, between the lines, in history. All growth in the Spirit is due to entering, in some way, into  the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul realizes that this is the essential religious fact of history. There are also many ways of experiencing Christ’s the death and resurrection. Not his death alone; not his resurrection alone; not side by side, but as one.

Jesus is then known as the centre of history, the Lord of time who leads into eternity.

  

Year 2, Week 27, Friday                    Glenroy 1976

“When we have become spirit …”

 “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.”in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”      Gal 3:8,14

God is first known, in the religious history of Israel, as One who promises. He promises to give Abraham a land, a son, a countless progeny, and to bless all mankind through him. Yet, how vastly different is the fulfilment from the understanding! Abraham was promised land, but he receives the Word in whom all is created. He was promised a son, yet he receives the Man. He was to be a blessing for all mankind, but this is the gift of God’s own Spirit.

The fulfilment seems almost contrary to the promise, for it is those not of his flesh who become his sons; the land becomes irrelevant; it is not in success but in the Crucified that the promise is fulfilled.

We too live in promise: the return of Christ. Yet the fulfilment will surpass the hope. Indeed, it will seemingly contradict the hope. Who would have dared tell Abraham that the sons as numerous as the stars would not be of his body? Who will dare say there is no heaven, ‘up there’, no Second Coming on clouds? Yet, in both cases the fulfilment is the same: the superabundant outpouring of the Spirit. When we have become spirit, then will be Christ be returned, more powerfully than we can imagine.

  

Year 2, Week 28, Monday                  Glenroy 1976

“an upwelling of the Spirit”

“So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman.”            Gal 4:31

Faith in Christ crucified leads to an upwelling of the Spirit, to a religious experience that occurs at the root of the heart and therefore constitutes the central event for every human being.

For that reason, Paul can plunge back into the Old Testament and find allegories. He could equally have plunged into the Vedas and the Tao-The Ching or into the writings of Aeschylus and Camus and there find other foreshadowings, for all of them communicate, to some extent, the experience of Christ crucified and risen. The.

The Old Testament foreshadows the Christ-event which is normative. It is the paradigm. The greatest religious writings of the greatest religions, and the greatest literary works of mankind disguise the truth even as they reveal it. The Light of Christ reveals the genius of mankind which in turn casts light upon the Light.

  

Year 2, Week 28, Tuesday                Glenroy 1976

“identity with Jesus Christ glorious”

“Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law. You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.              Gal  5:2-6

The context of the phrase is the fear of judgment. How could one be saved on that dreadful day? The answer of the Church was belief in Jesus. Those who joined themselves to Christ, the Just One, would be freed from condemnation.

Paul takes this basic teaching and applies it to the Galatians. They had first acknowledged that by placing their faith in Jesus they would be saved.  If now they weaken in faith to the extent of feeling the need to take on circumcision and the whole Law of Moses, they are effectively saying that Jesus is not enough. He will be insufficient for them on the day of judgment; they cannot look to him alone for salvation. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham; for the Jews it was the guarantee  of divine favour. It was a challenge to the all-encompassing  faith in Jesus.

Paul is adamant on this point. For him, circumcision after faith is equivalent to apostasy; but apostasy is unforgivable; therefore, circumcision brings condemnation. He is not mincing his words.

Faith in Christ is the basis of salvation, faith not so much in Jesus the Jew, not just in Christ the crucified, but identity with Jesus Christ glorious.

 

 Year 2, Week 28, Wednesday            Glenroy 1976

“harmony and strength, peace and power”

“Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh.” Gal 5:16-17

For Paul, those upon whom the Spirit has come are ‘body’, but those whom the Spirit does not inhabit are ‘flesh’. Without Spirit they feel debilitation in every respect, physical, psychological, relational, but those inspired from above experience harmony and strength, peace and power. Their ‘flesh’ has become ‘body’. Indeed, they have become ‘spirit’.

Those who are ‘body’ acquire the solidity of rock and the lightness of wind. But the ‘flesh’, if allowed to run its course, ends up in decomposition of every sort: social, intellectual, volitional, psychological, and spiritual.

For this reason, Paul urges the Galatians to walk by the Spirit. There is no need to do anything different. To live in the Spirit, to be oneself, that is his urging. But not any self: his exhortation is to be ‘body’

 

 

 

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Love never ends, commentaries on 1 Corinthians

Love never ends, commentaries on 1 Corinthians

Year 2, Week 21, Thursday                                           Glenroy 1976

Fellowship

“God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”    1 Cor 1:9

From the beginning God had intended to bring mankind to its fulness. To his people he had sworn possession of the Promised Land. He is faithful to his intentions, for his purposes share the steadiness of his eternal nature. He is essentially faithful.

As he used the politics of Egypt and the surprises of nature to bring his people to freedom through the Red Sea so, whenever he brings a person to freedom, he operates on the scale of human and cosmic history. The whole world conspires. The whole world utters God’s call.

This freedom to which we are called is nothing less than a share in the state of Christ. He was called Son of God at the moment of his baptism in Jordan. He was proclaimed Lord and Christ at the moment of his resurrection. But he is the Word from all eternity. To this same condition we too are called. Every step towards freedom, every increase in spiritual being, every growth in faith and love, every acquisition of truth, is an equivalence to Christ. We mirror each other.

Our growth is the work of God. As the Father has the initiative within the Trinity, so he has the initiative in all things. Christ seconds the Father’s will; the Father does nothing in opposition to Christ. Even so, Christ is not principally the source of our growth. It is the Father who primarily draws us to our full stature, which is no less than Christ’s, but it is God who makes us grow. We are brought, then, by the Father’s work, into the same condition as Christ – who is our leader and our Lord.

 

Year 2, Week 21, Friday                                        Glenroy 1976

Christ crucified

“Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”  1 Cor 1:22-23

Paul’s practice was to go first to the synagogue in whatever town he visited. Generally, however, his preaching met with little success because the Jews looked for signs. The marvelous crossing of the Red Sea had brought their ancestors to faith in God, so now they wanted wonderful events before they could believe in Jesus. They failed to see that the greatest event was Jesus’ own person. Paul had preached at Athens to the philosophers of the Areopagus. They listened with indulgence until he mentioned the resurrection. Then they laughed at him. They sought wisdom and eternal principles, but failed to seek the ground and base of the highest wisdom.

Paul proclaims the basis of all wonders, the source of all wisdom, namely the Christ. He announces, not an impersonal event or an abstraction, but the individual man, Jesus of Nazareth who is what all people seek in their quests. Paul announces, not a good deed nor a beautiful event, but the horror of a  death transformed into glory, the greatest deed, the most breathtaking act.

We can understand Christ crucified only if we have already travelled the same road. We can accept Christ crucified only when we accept ourselves in our weakness. Christ reveals man to man, and his justification by God is a confirmation of ourselves. Those who can say yes to Paul’s preaching, find in Christ the truth that is valid for all times. 

 

Year  2, Week 21,  Saturday                                   Glenroy  1976 

Preludes to  grace 

Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”        1 Cor  1:26-27

Paul had success in Corinth, but mainly with the common people, the artisans, dockers and servants. These are the ones who have been given the gift of faith. Paul sees in this fact the eternal truth of the cross. Jesus was reduced below every human station, desolate in mind, weakened in body and humiliated as a criminal. Yet this very lowliness is the prelude to his becoming Lord and Christ. The Corinthians too have been called and at their baptism were acclaimed with the title of ‘sons of God’. Their ordinariness was the first step to receiving the gift of faith. Their lowliness was the occasion of being filled with the Spirit.

This principle is true of all times. The fullness of God can be attained only with simplicity of heart. If trust is placed in power or background, it is not placed in their source – the Spirit of God. Trust is placed not in what is already possessed but in what can be attained, not the lesser but the higher gift. God calls those who have simplicity of life, openness of mind and a readiness for the unknown, and grants them wisdom and power and independence, making them masters and sanctifiers of all things.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Monday                                    Glenroy 1976

Paul’s weakness and fear

“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”    1 Cor 2:1-5

Paul had deep insight into the mystery of God, yet was not a gifted speaker. He did not have the turn of phrase and the logical method that delighted the Greek mind. Yet he is glad about this, for it means that his preaching is conformed to the message it conveys. Paul comes preaching only one thing: Christ, not the magnificent Christ of the public life, with his miracles and his riveting words; not the glorious Christ of the resurrection appearances, but the crucified Christ in whom there is no beauty, nothing to attract human eyes. Paul’s lack of style is comparable to Christ’s disfigured body. His inability to display logic is like Christ’s stunning silence. Paul preaches, by his life and his handicaps, nothing but a crucified Christ. His preaching is most convincing in its lack of oratory, for he depends only on the power of the Spirit.

If we can appreciate this paradox, as Paul did, then we have already experienced it; if we have felt it in our lives, then we are already citizens of heaven; if we are eternal, then we are ‘sons of God’ upon earth; if we are in time, we are called to the cross, so that the mystery of Christ might be re-enacted and fulfilled in a thousand other Christs, till the world is saved though every member.

  

Year  2, Week 22,  Tuesday                                    Glenroy 1976

The Spirit

“These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.”          1 Cor 2:10-12

Paul is speaking of the cross and its wisdom.

The cross is the most puzzling and also the most characteristic action of God, the most revealing aspect of his nature. It can be understood only by those who have the spirit and the mind of God. Christians do not have the character of the world but the character of God. They are divine as God is divine and so they can understand the cross. Without that interior light, the workings of God would remain a puzzle for them

The word ‘cross’ does not refer to pain and ignominy alone. It also means the glory that is inseparable from it. It is that complex of humiliation and glorification, that risen body which still bears the imprint of the nails and the lance.

As Christians experience Christ’s glory in themselves, they also know his cross. The cross is the gift of God, and all other gifts are expressions of it. It is their Christian life and its marvel.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Thursday                                   Glenroy 1976

The supremacy of love

“Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”                1 Cor 3:22-23

All things are brought into one under God. His choice goes out to all things. He joins them to himself, harmonizes them, and unifies them in the ardour of his love. For this reason, divisions are impossible for someone who has the Spirit of God.

Christ, being filled with the Spirit performs the same action of unity. Being First-Born, he does this among humans in an altogether unique way, by the cross. Christ joins human beings to himself, they do not join him to their selves, for he is the First-Born. Christ joins them to himself and God in turn joins Christ to his self. Thus, God has the primacy of love.

And each Christian is called to do this for others. The same thirst of unity moves in their hearts as they stretch out and call all into being, seconding God’s choice, imitating Christ’s seconding. In that work of union, they find their greatest joy, for all things become one Body, one Spirit in them. The disparate can become one only if they become spiritual; the diverse things can achieve unity only if they become loving and godlike; the multiplicity of passing things achieves eternity only if they choose each other.

Here, at last, is the oneness sought by the philosophers.

 

Year  2, Week 22,  Friday                                      Glenroy 1976

The judge

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.”         1 Cor 4:3-5

Paul is under attack from his own people in Corinth. He has defended himself against their criticism, but in any case he does not attach importance to their opinion, for their judgment is purely human. In place of the Day of the Lord, they have invented the Day of Man. For this reason, they have no authority. Therefore, Paul tells them to wait for the coming of Christ, when they will indeed truly know and so their opinion will have authority.

Christ comes when a person is inspired. Christ is fully come when a person has become spirit. Inspiration takes us out of time to the Last Day; inspiration gives us the energy of God and of the universe, of mankind and all history. Only those who are inspired can utter true judgment. When they speak, Christ speaks. When Christ speaks, they speak, for they and Christ are one.

Their judgment does involves punishing, but the damnation is found above all silence, for silence creates confusion more than wrath. They do indeed expel the evil person, for they accept only goodness. They do not recognise those who are evil. “I do not know you”. Their condemnation consists above all in an omission of blessing. It is the darkness – an absence of light. Not to have a blessing is to have a curse.

 

Year  2, Week 23,  Wednesday                                Glenroy 1976

The true centre

“I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”      1 Cor 7:29-31

Paul is aware both of the coming kingdom and of the passing nature of the present. He preaches detachment from the concerns of this life and its constant changes. It is unnecessary, he says, to live on that level.

It may be said that Paul is inhuman because he refuses to share in the joys and sorrows of mankind. Yet he is not inhuman, he is future-human. He knows in anticipation what future humans will be and need not take part in their ups and downs. Paul is not stoic. He is not refusing the turmoil of history just because it is painful. His reason is that a new history is about to occur, a new definitive history, not the eternal return of the Stoics. A new humanity is about to appear. Paul already lives in the aura and ambit of this new humanity. It has already come to birth in Paul himself, and he looks forward to its birth throughout the world.

The new humanity is the Christ,  who is the Man beyond history because he touches all history; the Man now untroubled by pain because he has endured all pain; the Man above changing joys because he knows perfect joy; the Man who feels all, wants all, governs all. He is the Man who has achieved the Manhood of which we are all sorry imitations.

Paul is not tied to history, not because he despises it but because he touches all history through knowing the Lord of history. How can he find himself involved in trade or commerce when he is already the lord of the divine economy? How can he be sorry or glad at one moment or another, when he embraces every emotion? How can he be concerned about possessions since the whole world is his? Paul’s seeming indifference is not a weakness but a strength. Others may feel the turmoil of history because of their limitations. History engulfs them, but Paul embraces history because he is already the Man.

The lesson today is this: he who experiences the Man, is the Man, lives beyond the constraints experienced by human beings and draws them all into the unity of the Perfect Man.

  

Year  2, Week 23,  Thursday                                   Glenroy 1976

God and the gods

“Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”        1 Cor 8:5-6

In Paul’s day the forces of nature were called ‘gods’. In our own day people find meaning in other forces. These are their gods, in fact if not in name.

Christians say there is only one God from whom all things come. Greater than Baal, he produces all things. Greater than cosmic forces, he directs all things. Wiser than all the philosophers, he gives meaning to life and draws human beings to himself, for he is their meaning and their goal.

There is only one God. If there were several, humans would disintegrate, not knowing to which they should give themselves. There is only one Lord. If there were several, humans would fragment in mind and body, torn apart by divided loyalties.

The Lord Christ seconds his Father’s will. He is the model on which all is built and it is out of love for him that the Father creates a kingdom. Christ Jesus gives consistency to things since they are, in intention, his body. It is he who redeems; it is he who makes it possible to know God.

The Church, visible and invisible, is the sign of his success. Its vocation is to be as Christ, giving consistency to things,  seconding the Father’s will, being models, of justice, receiving the elect, material and human, as their body, so that through them grace might come to mankind and mankind come to God.

 

Year  2, Week 24,  Wednesday                                Glenroy 1976

Ending and lasting

“Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. … When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”              1 Cor 13:8, 11.

Mary stood by the cross of Jesus, and witnessed the passing of a Son whom she had born and nurtured, loved and respected. Yet she knew, however obscurely, that only in this way could he achieve that fullness of glory which made him Lord and Christ and Man. Her child was becoming the Man; his flesh was becoming immortal, incorruptible, invisible.

The Spirit has inspired the Church to develop many glorious things: sacraments, hierarchy, institutions, laws. These, in their limited aspects, will be destroyed. Just as prophecies, tongues and knowledge pass away, so too will all other temporary things pass. These are good and necessary for as long as the Church is a ‘child’, but when the Church becomes a Man, these will go. When the Man comes on the clouds of heaven, and when the Man becomes fully formed in the heart of the Church, all these will go. The passing is painful. The passing is necessary.

Yet the passing can be only at God’s hour. Mary conceived only when the Spirit came. Christ was killed only when his hour had come. No one can take it upon their self to effect the passing. Only the Man can do this. Only he can put away the things of a child and destroy them. They will have served their purpose and borne their fruit.

 

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A new heart, a new spirit, – commentaries on Ezekiel

New heart, new spirit, commentaries on Ezekiel

Year 2 , Week 19, Monday                                      Glenroy 1976

The freedom of God

“On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the Lord came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was on him there. …  Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.”      Ezekiel 1:2-3, 28

The priest Ezekiel has gone into exile to Babylon, in the first deportation. There, so far away in a foreign land, he prophesies to his saddened fellow exiles. Like Sinai, more glorious than Sinai, the presence of God is manifested on the banks of the River Chebar, with clouds and flashes of lightning. Like the Temple liturgy, more glorious than the Temple liturgy, God comes with noise and the sound of mighty waters. Like the Ark of the Covenant, infinitely more glorious than the Ark, the Lord dwells above the four living creatures, the cherubim. In Ezekiel and the exiles, so far away, he continues his mighty purpose.

God’s presence is more glorious than Temple and Ark. He does not depend on them. His presence is not confined to its former manifestations. Even in the land of exile, more so in the land of exile does God appear. Most of all, on the gibbet of the Cross is God revealed, made fully known in Christ’s glorious ignominy. God does not depend on anything created, no matter how holy;  he is supremely free. He transcends all the laws and all cults; he is supremely powerful. He manifests himself where and how he wills; he is all holy.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Vision and vocation

He spread it before me; it had writing on the front and on the back, and written on it were words of lamentation and mourning and woe. He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.”     Ezekiel 2:10, 3:1-3.

After seeing the extraordinary vision of God’s majesty, Ezekiel receives his vocation. Not tables of stone, not a spoken message, but a scroll is given to him; not with laws upon it or a message of peace, not a covenant or stories of the past, but “lamentations, wailings, moaning”. His future work is given to him: to write prophecies. Even though his audience has already experienced the trauma of exile, his message is still more terrible. He does not bring them consolation but desolation. And yet, as he eats the scroll it tastes sweet to him, and satisfies his hunger.

A vocation from God must begin with a vision of God. Every vision of God involves a vocation to service. No matter what the vocation may entail, it is sweet. No matter what else we might prefer to do, only a vocation will satisfy.

At one point stands the holiness of God, at the other, the people of God. The vocation is a link between them. Every vocation is as different as every vision, but all are one since God is one and human good is one.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

Against presumption

“To the others he said in my hearing, “Pass through the city after him, and kill; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Cut down old men, young men and young women, little children and women, but touch no one who has the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.” Ezekiel 9:5-6

The avenging angel had gone among the Egyptians and struck down the first-born of those whose abode was not marked with the blood of the lamb. The people of Israel had taken confidence from this predilection God had shown them, but it was an overweening confidence. Again destruction comes to a nation. Not one angel but seven; not taken from one class only but from both warrior and priestly caste; not the extermination of the first-born only but of old and young alike, men and women, virgins and children; not of foreign Egyptians but of the very people of God. If the Egyptians had refused to allow the Hebrews to go and sacrifice on Mt Sinai, Israel has done far worse. In the very Temple itself they had offered sacrifices to idols. As God has punished the Egyptians, far more terribly and for a far worse sin, he decimates his people.

These readings of destruction are a timely warning. If the Jews could not presume upon the indulgence of God because of his kindness to their forbears, neither can Christians presume on God’s indulgence because he raised their Christ from the dead. As God could decimate his people because of their idolatry, so can he decimate the Church if it neglects the true spirit of Christianity.

 

Year 2 , Week 19, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

Prophet as symbol

“Say, “I am a sign for you: as I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.””    Ezekiel 12:11

The exiles on the River Chebar in Babylon were the first group of deportees from Jerusalem. They hoped they would be the last and that they could soon go back to their homeland. Ezekiel destroys their hopes. The rest of their brethren will be sent into exile and the punishment will be complete.

Ezekiel shows this by acting out a play. He pretends to be a Jerusalemite going into exile. As they ask him why he packs his bag during the day, picks it up in the evening and walks away, he says: “The thing that I have done will be done to them: they will go into exile, into banishment”. The prophet’s action reveals the mind of God and brings about the people’s fate.

Ezekiel is a symbol. The pretense he has made is not a pretense. It is a reality. It shows the future at seed in the present. It effects what it pictures. It affects body and will, sense and soul, heart and mind.

This is the vocation of everyman: to be the symbol of the Future Man.

  

Year 2 , Week 19, Friday                                         Glenroy 1976

Infatuation

“But you trusted in your beauty, and played the whore because of your fame, and lavished your whorings on any passer-by.”     Ezekiel 16:15

From unpromising material God has made Jerusalem into a great and beautiful city. Adorned with Palace and Temple, aqueducts and noble houses Jerusalem had, for a while, earned a place among the significant capitals of the Middle East.

This fact is presented in today’s reading as the result of God’s love for an abandoned child. No one loved her, God has loved her completely. Abandoned at birth, God brings her to the flower of age. Left in unholy blood, the Lord has cleansed her and made her his own. She had nothing, God has given her everything.

This very generosity is the basis of her fall. So beautiful, she becomes “infatuated with her beauty”; so heaped with riches, she was nothing but wealth; so loved by God, she wants to be loved by all gods. She has loved the gifts but forgotten the Giver. For this reason, her future is unstable. The flux of history deprives her of her wealth and position. Until she comes to know the deeper value of life she must bemoan her loss. Until she realizes the true wealth God gives, she will be deprived of all wealth. Until she is stripped of all other goods, she will not know the highest good. Until she endures the cross – in the person of Christ -–she will not achieve her glory: to be with God, to be of God, to be God.

  

Year 2 , Week  20, Monday                                     Glenroy 1976

The silence

“The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down.”        Ezekiel 24:15-16

Ezekiel has gone into exile. The loss of homeland is made worse, there in exile, by the loss of his wife. Yet he must endure even more. God will not let him mourn for her; he must treat her loss as though it were no loss and must not perform the customary mourning rites. This is because Ezekiel has a prophet’s task and must give a sign. God does not mourn the loss of Jerusalem. He is well rid of the adulteress nation. His anger is followed by silence. He does not even feel anger. Jerusalem does not exist for him.

God is just. When Christians show they are idolatrous by being  unjust to their neighbour, God will call them, insistently, to love. But when they prove their idolatry by refusing to change, God is angry and his anger will be a fire of judgment upon them. But this anger is sweet compared to what comes next, for after his anger comes silence. He turns his face away from them. This they cannot endure. His face in anger is still his face turned towards them. But when he and all the saints eventually turn elsewhere, Christians have no meaning for Him. They do not exist for him. Silence is the final torment.

 

Year 2 , Week  20, Tuesday                                      Glenroy 1976

Pride

“The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, say to the prince of Tyre, Thus says the Lord God: Because your heart is proud and you have said, “I am a god; I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,” …. therefore, I will bring strangers against you, the most terrible of the nations; they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendor. They shall thrust you down to the Pit, and you shall die a violent death in the heart of the seas.”                        Ezekiel 28:1-2, 7-8

The city of Tyre stood on a rocky island near the coast of Palestine. Surrounded by the seas, she sent her ships far and wide, amassing a fortune and ruling a vast empire. Success had encouraged Tyre in the worship of her god. Indeed, Baal, a god of increase, had seemingly increased Tyre till she thought she was herself the god.

This folly angers Ezekiel. As he sees the armies of Nebuchadnezzar leaving a fallen Jerusalem to attack Tyre, he predicts her downfall. “You will die a violent death, surrounded by the seas”. The place of her pride is the place of her fall.

Tyre was correct in wishing to be divine, in wishing to be at once city and temple. But she was in error concerning the nature of God who is not a god of material prosperity. God is found at that point where the spirit meets the Spirit. This juncture is the concern of God, and the finest concern of human beings. This is where ‘city’ and ‘temple’ are one. This is where the human becomes divine. The union of Spirit and spirit gives eternity and fullness of every sort.

  

Year 2 , Week  20, Wednesday                                  Glenroy 1976

The true shepherd

“Thus says the Lord God, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them.”    Ezekiel 34:10

The leaders of the people – the kings and the priests – had the duty of securing justice and truth. Yet they had led the people astray and abused them. Therefore, they lose the mandate of heaven. The triumphant Chaldeans depose them, but more importantly God disowns them. They lose their authority.

There will be no leaders, no teachers, no need for brother to say to brother “Here is the Lord”. God will inspire each one directly. The Spirit will come upon the whole community so that each is a shepherd to the other. By passing the whole people through the crucible of suffering, God raises them in his Spirit.

There is no other way. Only through the crucible can one be refined. God pours out his Spirit above all on those who are crucified. Such a death leads to life.

 

Year 2, Week  20, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

A new spirit

“I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, and make you follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. Then you shall live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.’      Ezekiel 36:24-28

At last the Lord has done with punishing and purifying his people. He prophesies their restoration. He will bring them back to their homelands, cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit, in an eternal covenant. The people did indeed return and await the fulfilment.

Christians perceive that Jesus is the one in whom all sin is put to death; he is the one with the new heart, the new spirit, he is the one with whom a new and eternal covenant is made by the glorification on the cross. He is the one in whom all the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled.

And through him Christians perceive they share in the fulfilment. When they are joined to him by faith and interior knowledge, then they too have a new heart, a new spirit.

They look forward to when this first step of faith is complete, when not only the heart but the whole self is renewed, when all disharmony and ignorance and sin are removed, when the whole body is become spirit. They shall enjoy that unity of knowledge and purpose, that directness and compassion, self-determination and spontaneity, that vigour and joy, when every fibre will be a world and every movement a sign. Then they shall be free of all that is foreign, of the limitations of time. Then the covenant will be complete, they and God being one.

  

Year 2, Week 20, Friday                                          Glenroy 1976

Restoration and resurrection

 “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”   Ezekiel 37:4-6

The punishment has been so terrible, the destruction of Jerusalem and the House of David has been so total, the purification has been so keen that the exiles have lost heart. “Our bones are dried up; our hope has gone”.

Ezekiel begins the task of consolation. Should their bones have dried up, no matter! God will refresh them. Should their hope have gone, no matter! God will bring them back to their promised land. Once they are purified unto death, then their restoration in truth is possible.

Ezekiel says all this in a vision. As God fashioned humans from the dust of the earth, so he will fashion a new people from an assemblage of bones; as God breathed life into the clay doll, so will the four winds breathe new life into refashioned bones. Marvelous though creation is, the re-creation of Israel is more marvelous.

Yet this work is just a restoration. With Christ it is resurrection. Their restoration is a foreshadowing. As the people had to experience the ultimate in the pain of body and soul, so too the Christ had to experience the ‘numbering of his bones’, had to cry out “My God, my God, why have you deserted me’. Once Christ had been reduced totally, he could be raised completely. Once his trust in God had been perfectly revealed, once the purification had led further than exile, right into his own death, then he could be raised and resurrected. The people are restored to a condition they had before, but Christ is raised to a glory he never experienced as man. The people go back to their own land, but Christ ascends to heaven.

Raised in the Spirit, his body has a strength, a liveliness, a durability, a sensitivity that goes beyond what can be observed. Christ lives in his body and beyond the confines of body, his body brought to its full perfection and beauty, its utmost development and strength. His body is perfect; his hope is fulfilled.

 

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A Covenant in the Heart, commentaries on Jeremiah

A New Covenant, commentaries on Jeremiah

Year 2, Week 16, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

Power of the Word

“Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,“Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”           Jeremiah 1:9-10

Jeremiah had the terrible and tragic task of prophesying the fall of Judah and the end of the House of David. By the power of the word he was to destroy the nation and overthrow the king.

He has this power because God has touched his mouth. He does nothing of himself. The words are not his. He doesn’t want the words or the vocation. It is God’s work, and for this reason it is powerful. His prophetic word is more powerful than any other force. By it Jeremiah is set over his own people and over foreign nations. By it he has authority of life and death. Weak Jeremiah has the strongest weapon. The defenseless prophet overcomes the mightiest nations.

The Church has no weapon but the word. When the Church humbles itself, then God touches it. When the Church says the word of God, it is irresistible. The Church, by its word, is set over nations and kingdoms, to bless and curse, to build up and condemn. Words produced the French Revolution; words produced the Russian Revolution; words produce the Christian Revolution.

At the end of time, Christ will come to judge mankind with words. His judgment is a sword issuing from his mouth to condemn or to bless; his word will be eternal and total in its effect.

May the Lord touch me and put his words in my mouth!

 

Year 2, Week 16, Thursday                                     Oakleigh 1978

Living water

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this,be shocked, be utterly desolate,says the Lord,for my people have committed two evils:they have forsaken me,the fountain of living water,and dug out cisterns for themselves,cracked cisternsthat can hold no water.”     Jeremiah 2:12-13

The Lord made water flow from the rock in the desert. From Jesus flowed the fountain of living water as he hung dead upon the cross. Peter is the rock from whose confession of faith flow the graces of ministry in the Church.

No cistern can last. No need to dig a well and fill it with water, for it will become stagnant. Only the fountain is mysteriously perennial.

Within each person is a fountain, perhaps as yet untapped, which can flow. Why build cisterns? The waters break through by the gift of God, through faith and in total surrender.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Friday                                          Glenroy 1976

Completion

“At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”  Jeremiah 3:17

The people of Judah are in distress. The Ark of the Covenant has been destroyed; the Temple is in ruins. The places where God dwelt among earth have been destroyed by a godless nation.

Jeremiah comforts them. He looks forward to a future time, a greater time. Ark and Temple will be replaced. Jerusalem will itself where God dwells on earth. That sorry town will become the Throne of God. The nations that destroyed these sacred sites will come to worship at the City where they had come as conquerors. The victors are defeated.

Time passes. Jerusalem in its turn is replaced by Christ who is the Dwelling of God, Emmanuel. As he walks in the Portico of Solomon, he is in fact the Temple walking within the Temple. He too is eventually killed and disappears.

Ark gives way to Temple, Temple to Jerusalem, Jerusalem is replaced by Christ, Christ is found in the Christian.

As the Temple gave way to the many mansions of Jerusalem, so the one Christ is completed by the many Christians. As the Temple had to be destroyed if Jerusalem was to become the divine abode, so Christ had to die if the Church was to receive the Spirit. As the Temple foreshadows Jerusalem, so Christ in the flesh foreshadows the Church. In all those where the Christ dwells, the fullness of heaven and earth resides. As the needle is known in its tip, so God is known in the human being. As each point on a sphere is the outermost point, so each Christian has the fullness of God. 

                                                                        East Doncaster, 1992

Body as Ark

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.”  Jeremiah 3:15-17

The God of Israel dwelt in the Ark of the Covenant carried by the Tribes of Israel in the desert. Over this most sacred place the Cherubim spread out their wings. It was eventually placed in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem.

The Ark was presumably destroyed by the Babylonians when they destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Some wondered if it had been hidden, but Jeremiah advises the people that Jerusalem itself will be the throne of God.

In time Jerusalem itself will be destroyed. Jesus becomes the place where the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. In fact, in his tomb, at the foot and the head of the slab where he had lain, angels sit when the women come to visit the tomb.

Indeed, Christians are the Ark of the Covenant, the Temple, the new Jerusalem, the place where God dwells on this earth and the Mercy Seat, because they are the Christ.

 

Year 2, Week  17, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

The sin of our age

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will. In those days the house of Judah shall join the house of Israel, and together they shall come from the land of the north to the land that I gave your ancestors for a heritage.”            Jeremiah 14:17-18

Jeremiah loved the Chosen People. Even though his prophesies brought about their exile, he still loves Jerusalem ‘the daughter of his People’. Therefore, when he sees the ravages of war, the slain outside the city and the besieged within, he laments and grieves; ‘tears flood his eyes, night and day, unceasingly’.

The words of Jeremiah apply to the Church, for Christians too have suffered a cruel blow. They too have eyes filled with tears, for the Church has been robbed of its vitality. All is pleasantness and affection, but lukewarmth, neither hot nor cold, fit to be vomited. The Church has succumbed to its enemies, to wealth, success and comfort. Where is the strong and healthy person who wants God, demands God, who is ready to endure the cross for the sake of the glory that lies ahead, who wants the completion of creation in the kingdom of God?

And so, the Church lies moribund from a subtle, hidden blow.

 

 Year 2, Week 17, Wednesday                                   Burwood 1986

“Your words are my delight.”

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16

Jeremiah has the terrible task of prophesying and bringing about the destruction of his people. He falters in his task. Yet he reflects on the joy of his own experience. “When your words came, I devoured them”. When, in the state of inspiration, the message of God came to him, he would receive it as a hungry man. He hungered for God and the very fact that God had addressed him. He wanted God himself to enter into the pit of his stomach, into his very heart, into his bones. He has received the word of God and indeed God himself, becoming the receptacle and the bearer of God, the place where God abides, and therefore he can bear the name of God. “I was called by your name, Lord God of hosts.” The one who received the word of God received the name of God. His human reality is taken up into the reality of the One who addresses him. He is not God but becomes one with God, sharing his eternity.

We have come here this morning and come again and again because the word is our delight and the joy of our hearts. We come to devour these words given to ·us and to fill our minds and our very bodies with the presence of God. We can be called God. We are ‘God’ for having heard God. We are Christ to the world because the Word has been spoken to us.

 

Year 2, Week 17, Thursday                                     Glenroy 1976

Fidelity

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”Jeremiah 18:5-6

The people of Judah were troubled. They remembered God’s promise to Abraham that a fair land would be given to his descendants. They remembered the promise to David that a son of his would always remain on the throne. Yet now the People is taken captive and the king is deposed. Had God changed his mind? Was he inconsistent? Was he untrustworthy?

To this Jeremiah replies with a parable. God is the potter shaping a vessel. If he can’t make it one way, he will make it another. To the pot this seems inconsistent, but to the potter it is fidelity. God has failed to form his people into a faithful kingdom. Now, through exile he will turn them into a faithful remnant. In all cases he wishes to create an assembly of whom he can say: “I will be your God and you will be my People”.

Christians are clay in God’s hands. They do not understand his actions. They see the immediate plan, but not the long-range purpose. His actions seem illogical and unjust. Why sickness, why death, why sorrow and old age? If Christians understood the mind of God and saw the ultimate purpose, if they were more than the clay from which they are fashioned, then they would see the reason. For through all the apparent chaos of life, God pursues his course relentlessly, consistently – to make of us the Man.

  

Year 2, Week18, Wednesday                                    Glenroy 1976

Constancy

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go forth in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit.”    Jeremiah 31:3-5

Repeatedly and vehemently Jeremiah, on behalf of God, has condemned and cursed Israel for its sins. Yet now a new message is heard: “You shall be rebuilt, virgin of Israel”. The adulterous one is virgin again; the ruined nation revives.

How can God reject and then choose again? What is this inconstancy?

The inconstancy is not in God: “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. The same fire of love warms those who seek it and burns those who refuse it. The same love cuts down the proud and raises the lowly, encourages the humble and reduces the arrogant. The fire of God is the same, the human heart varies. As the sun shines continually, burning or browning according to the skin, so God loves continually, felling or raising according to the heart of the individual.  Love has an anger of its own, which has nothing to do with the anger of hatred.

God’s love is constant in that he constantly seeks human good. Only when his work is complete can he fully  approve. Only at the end of time can God utter his lasting judgment.

  

Year 2, Week 18, Thursday                                      Glenroy 1976

Glory

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”  Jeremiah 31:31-34

Jeremiah speaks  of the final and finest consolation of his People.

The Law had been given on Sinai. Moses had read it to the People, but it remained external. It was given to them, but it was not their own. For this reason, they could not observe it, and must go into exile.

Jeremiah foretells another time. A new covenant will be established. No one will need to hear it from outside, for it comes from within. All will observe it, for it is their self.

Jesus, whom some called Jeremiah, fulfills this promise. He undergoes the utter exile, rejected from life, abandoned by friends, betrayed by  his People. He is supported fully and only by the Spirit of God. In him the covenant is final and full, written on his heart, for he who was refined by the completest tragedy is  raised to the finest glory.

To all who understand from within the mystery of his death and glory, the same character is given, the same Spirit, so that they too have the new Law  written in their hearts, the Spirit of the glorified Christ.

 

 

 

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Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Holy Holy Holy! Isaiah 1, commentaries

Year 2, Week 14, Saturday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

God is Holy

 And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory.””          Isaiah 6:3

The holiness of God overwhelms the prophet Isaiah. Suddenly, unexpectedly, the reality of God is revealed to him, as the Seraphim cry out: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the God of Hosts”. God is. He is entirely what he is. By the grace of God, Isaiah knows the integrity of God, that he is generosity, freedom and clarity. God is just and true, without limitation or division. Therefore, nothing unjust or untrue, nothing inconsistent or ambiguous can withstand him. The divided heart cannot resist the purity of his presence. The sheer majesty of God makes all things worthy of him, or else unmakes them, consumes them, and eliminates them.

At first Isaiah is overwhelmed by this sight. Once he is purified, he becomes God’s messenger.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Hear the word of the Lord,you rulers of Sodom!Listen to the teaching of our God,you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?says the Lord;I have had enough of burnt offerings of ramsand the fat of fed beasts;I do not delight in the blood of bulls,or of lambs, or of goats. …learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”             Isaiah 1:10-11, 17

Isaiah perceives God as thrice holy. There is no aspect which is not holiness. In his inmost substance he is holy. Therefore, God requires that all be holy.

For that reason, the Most Holy is angry with the rulers of Judah; he calls them ‘Sodom’. They seem holy in one respect – their service of God – but are unholy in another: their treatment of the people. Therefore, all is wicked. The Holy will have nothing to do with their sacrifices, their festivals, their pilgrimages, their prayers. These are repulsive, because the orphan and the widow and the oppressed have not been served.

The All-Holy requires that all aspects of life be holy. He will be no one’s favourite. He requires that the poor be served before he is worshipped. Because the rulers are unjust they will be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah, wiped off the face of the earth.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Monday                                       Glenroy 1976

The blood of the dead

Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me,I am weary of bearing them.When you stretch out your hands,I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers,I will not listen;your hands are full of blood.”     Isaiah 1:14-15

The New Moons, the Sabbaths, the Assemblies were of divine institution. In the majestic theophany of Sinai, God had commanded Moses to ordain them. Yet now he says: “I cannot endure festival and solemnity.” They performed the duties of religion with care, yet God says: ‘Your New Moons and your pilgrimages I hate with all my soul’. God gives the reason: “Your hands are Covered with blood”. The prosperity of Israel was built on the sufferings of widow and slave, of orphans and the poor. The injustice of their social life cancelled the justice of their religious life.

The words of the prophet, so strong in the past, are strong in the present. Christians have their Masses, our Easter and Christmas seasons. They perform the duties of religion in the church and at home; they say rosaries, perform penances during Lent, contribute to parish needs and sacrificial offering. They perform the duties of religion with care. But is there blood on their hands? Not the blood of the living, but the blood of the dead. Are their works of religion just a means of keeping the system going, of keeping this world as it is, of holding God at bay. Are their works of religion only a way of supporting the status quo. Do they do look for the completion of time, for the kingdom of heaven and the resurrection of the dead? They should first seek the kingdom of God and the world to come, the completing of things and the resurrection from the dead, and the rest will be given them.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

“Then the Lord said to Isaiah, Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, 4and say to him, Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.”          Isaiah 7:3-4

The holiness of God cannot abide infidelity.

Pekah, the king of Israel has sided with the foreigner, Rezin, king of Aram, to wage war against his own flesh and blood, Ahaz king of Israel. The treachery of brother against brother, fellow worshipper against co-religionist, is an act of treachery that is offensive. The fidelity of God must overwhelm the infidelity of the northern king.

Therefore, Isaiah is sent to give heart to Jerusalem. He does so with a sign. He takes his own son, Shear-jashub. The fidelity of father to son is the sign of God’s fidelity to Jerusalem and indeed to Ahaz. The bonds of brotherhood may  have been broken, but the bonds of father and son are stronger. God will be faithful to the king who is as a son to him. The king and the people with him, like the young boy Shear-jasnub, must stand with their father, God. Together they will form an alliance which is inevitably victorious over the invading kings

 

Year 2, Week 15, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Inspiration

“If you do not stand firm in faith,you shall not stand at all.”           Isaiah 7:9

Aram and Israel have conspired to invade Judah, to destroy the house of David and parcel it out. Ahaz is tempted, therefore, to make an alliance with Egypt. But Isaiah forestalls him, and God says: “If you do not stand by me you will not stand at all.” Ahaz and Judah are to find their strength in God, not in alliances.

Today’s world is at war with chaos and disease and poverty. If human beings place their hope in human ability alone, they will not stand at all. They will create a society more terrible than ever. Those without divine inspiration will succeed for a while, but being blind, will eventually makes mistakes. Out of chaos they will create disaster. By contrast, those by whom God stands with his inspiration will discern the right thing to do at the right time. Those who are of God – they are the future, able to  master all problems.

 

Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts, will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled, like the burning of fire.”      Isaiah 10:16

God condemns the kings of Judah because they have been unjust towards the orphan and the widow and have tried to bribe God with sacrifices. He curses the King of Israel and his ally, the King of Aram because they have been unfaithful to their brother the King of Judah. Now he rejects Assyria because it has refused to remain as the instrument of God’s rage and has set about making plunder for its own sake.

How is it that the holiness of God expresses itself so vehemently? Is not our God full of mercy and compassion?

The holiness of God cannot cohabit with sin. The fidelity of God undermines infidelity. His truth cannot compact with the lie. He is without compassion to those who have no compassion, and his pity does not extend to the pitiless. Holiness requires holiness; mercy demands mercy. God requires holiness and when it is lacking  “a burning will burn like a consuming fire”.

 

 Year 2, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Burwood 1984

Arrogance

When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says:For he says:“By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding. … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts,will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”        Isaiah 10:12-13, 16

Assyria was sent as executioner to punish the people, to be an instrument of healing, to redress the balance and re-establish harmony. Yet Assyria has overstepped the mark. The powerful nation has been deluded by its success and has turned into its own master. “By the might of my arm I have done this, and by my own intelligence, for understanding is mine.”

In our own day, medical research seems to be repeating the folly of Assyria. For surely medicine is a godly work. Yet some have overstepped the mark. Those sent to heal with their surgery and their medicine have gone on “cutting nations to pieces without limit”. Medical research has explored areas that pertain to other fields, “pushing back the frontiers and plundering the treasures” that are to be known by other methods.

Therefore, will the fate given to Assyria be in store for medicine: “The Lord is going to send a wasting sickness of his stout warriors”? Will medicine, the most prized of sciences, be esteemed as treacherous and inimical to mankind?

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Oakleigh 1978

Good and evil

 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger – the club in their hands is my fury! … Therefore, the Sovereign, the Lord of hosts will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors, and under his glory a burning will be kindled,like the burning of fire.”       Isaiah 10:5, 16

The ‘rod’, the ‘club’, how can these be the tools of a God of love? Disease and famine, plague and ignorance, how can these be the work of God?

Yet the harm that arises can be of God as much as the good. The contradictions of life can sometimes be justified by the results to which they lead, by that goal beyond pain and pleasure, beyond our ideas of good and evil, by that state of the highest good which is the only true good.

In this way, God leads out of one condition which is called ‘good’, through a method which is deemed ‘evil’, to another condition which is truly good. Or again, the process of change to a truer good may be called ‘punishment’, ‘correction’ or even ‘education’. Whatever analogy or word we wish to use, God is leading to the highest good, beyond good and evil, to himself.

Therefore, he is good, even he who “burns like a consuming fire”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Wednesday                                   Glenroy 1976

 Problem of evil

Against a godless nation I send him,and against the people of my wrath I command him,to take spoil and seize plunder,and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. …When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. For he says: “By the strength of my hand I have done it,and by my wisdom, for I have understanding.    Isaiah 10:6, 12-13

Assyria conquered Israel. Did this mean that the gods of Assyria were more powerful than the God of Israel? Did it mean that the Chosen People was misled in its belief that God would protect and preserve it?

Isaiah replies that Assyria is more powerful, not because other gods lead it, but because the one true God has sent it to punish his own People. “I sent him to a godless nation”. Assyria is more than permitted; it is sent and commissioned. Israel suffers because of its sins. God does not condone Assyria. Assyria has failed to see itself as the tool of God. It has said: “By the strength of my own arm I have done this”. For its arrogance and blindness, it too will be destroyed.

The problem of evil triggers a crisis of faith. Does God really exist? Does it mean that mankind is misled into believing in the existence of a good and loving Creator?

God does not simply permit ‘evil’. He sends it. What can be seen as evil is not a proof of his non-existence but of his intention to lead to fullness of life. Evil is a sign of imperfection, false paths, wrong choices. From this suffering God will bring good.

  

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                      Hoppers Crossing, 1988

The holiness of God

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Having expressed his anger at the people of Judah, at the king of Israel and at the nation of Assyria, God now relents. Even so, his anger was an act of mercy.

To punish is to free. To punish is to redress the balance and to bring peace. Of course, if the sin is total, the punishment cannot cease, and therefore cannot lead to lasting peace. To refuse to punish is to refuse peace. To punish is to acknowledge a relationship. It is an act of claiming. Therefore, even punishment can be an act of love. When the punishment comes to an end, peace is re-established. Punishment undoes the sin and so liberates from sin.

For that reason, Isaiah ends with a note of hope: “Your dead will come to life”.

 

Year B, Week 15, Thursday                                    Glenroy 1976

Birth of the new city

Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!For your dew is a radiant dew,and the earth will give birth to those long dead.”                 Isaiah 26:19

Isaiah has witnessed the destruction of Israel, has seen both the innocent and the guilty driven into exile or slain in the fields. He laments and grieves. Yet he sees the sufferings of his people as a sort of childbirth. Nothing is more painful than childbirth; nothing is more fruitful. The oppression of captivity is not evil but sacral and fruitful.

Of its every nature, Christian life involves a battling with the world, a dissatisfaction with sin and injustice. Christians writhe, for they are giving birth. They recreate the world, fashioning the seed that is in them. Yet, as Christians labour and endure, they do not leave the presence of God. They labour and give birth to the future city, they raise the dead, peopling their city with the just of every age. God’s fidelity to them overflows. And the child, the new city to which they give birth, knows in all fullness the saving power of God.

 

Year B, Week 15, Friday                                         Glenroy1976

The power of the Word

Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go and say to Hezekiah, Thus says the Lord, the God of your ancestor David: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria, and defend this city.“This is the sign to you from the Lord, that the Lord will do this thing that he has promised: See, I will make the shadow cast by the declining sun on the dial of Ahaz turn back ten steps.” So the sun turned back on the dial the ten steps by which it had declined.”  Isaiah 38:4-8

Isaiah, the mouthpiece of God, shows the power of God. He proclaims Hezekiah’s death, saves him from Sennacherib, restores his life, and even reverses the movement of the sun. He has power at every level.

The Word focuses the light of the Spirit upon a point already enlightened by the Spirit. It is great force, for blessing or for condemnation. The Church has no weapons except this strongest weapon. The Church has no sword but the word, indeed the Word, Jesus the Prophet.

Enlightened and strengthened by the Holy Spirit, the Church is tasked to  bless and condemn, uproot and plant.

 

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Japa, recitation

Recitation (japa)

summary of a teaching given by John Dupuche at the Interfaith Ashram, Warburton, January 2015

mantra is a word or phrase or sentence, a ‘vocable’, something that is said. The term ‘mantra’ comes from two elements, ‘man’ from manas which means ‘mind’ and the suffix ‘tr’ which is an instrumental suffix. A mantra is therefore a tool of the mind, as distinct from a tool of the hand such as a knife. Any instrument is for a purpose, so too the mantra is designed to achieve an effect, but with the power of the mind.

The mantra is more interior than a hand-held tool, indeed, a mantra, properly speak, is the phonic form of a deity. A mantra is not just a vocable recited again and again in order to pacify the mind and free it from distractions. It is a form of the deity, which is received in initiation.

Thus, properly speaking a mantra cannot be obtained from a book. It is given to the disciple by the guru at the very core of the initiation process. It is a gift from guru to disciple, from the guru who has perceived the quality of the disciple. In giving the mantra that suits the disciple’s particular capacity, the guru also communicates his very being and indeed the whole tradition with which he, the guru, is identified.  It is a gift from heart to heart, from mind to mind, the gift of the word.

Jesus of describes his own words in a most powerful way when he says: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (Jn 6:63) Every word he speaks is a mantra, just as every act he performs is a sign, which speaks of God and forecasts the world to come. He is in his words; he is the Word who speaks his words. He is the Word who comes from the eternal silence of the One who speaks him. He is the Word of God and by hearing him we are taken into the immense silence of the One, that silence which is the fullness of sound.

The reciter eventually becomes the mantra. Again, the mantra is the phonic form of the guru but it is firstly the phonic form of the deity of whom the guru is the manifestation. To recite the deity’s mantra is to come into contact with the deity, indeed to become the deity. Thus there is ultimately no separation of mantra, deity and reciter. All are one. In this way the mantra, the tool, has produced its result.

The recitation of the mantra is done in complete stillness and is perfectly relaxed. Furthermore, it is an inspired act. If it is not inspired it will not achieve its effect. It will be just the mouthing of a sound, no more significant than the squawking of a parrot. But when it is inspired from above it leads to the above.

The mantra starts in silence, and the reciter perceives the beginning of the mantra, how it bursts forth, so to speak, from the silence. It is word out of silence. It then comes to an end, where the mantra leads to silence, the pregnant silence, which is fullness.

The mantra is that of one’s chosen deity (iṣtadevatā). Each person must find the deity, which most truly reveals them and frees them. For the Christian, this is the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. But each person must find their deity, the one who touches them in the heart.

All words lead to the Word. All words are the expression of the Word; all mantras are the expression of the primordial Mantra.

The reciter lets himself or herself become identified with the mantra they recite, which must come from a valid and true tradition and from an authentic teacher. If it does not, they will be deformed by the mantra. It will injure them and not bring them benefit. Thus not any so-called mantra will do. The disciple must be without gullibility and discerning as regards the guru whose teaching and words they seek.

A mantra of particularly significance is so ‘ham which translates as ‘I am he’. That is, ‘I am the divinity whom I worship’. This can be easily misunderstood as a form of megalomania. However, properly understood it is a profound act of faith where the practitioner realises by his or her faith, namely by their deepest knowledge, that they are identified with their Deity, and that their Deity is the foundation of their lives, and that they themselves are the expression of that Deity. It is therefore an act of humility and devotion. By reciting this mantra the practitioner is identified with the Deity, such that there is but one ‘I’.

The phrase so ‘ham is related to the incoming (so) and outgoing (‘ham) breaths. It so happens that this process is sometimes spontaneously reversed, so that the in-coming breath is accompanied by the sound ‘ham’ and the outgoing breath by the sound ‘so’. This then becomes ‘haṃsa’, which means ‘swan’ (strictly speaking the Siberian goose). This term haṃsa acquires a symbolic importance. Just as the swan floats on the surface of the lake and from time to time immerses its beak into the water, so the practitioner essentially transcends this transient (samsāra) world but also takes part in it. The practitioner who achieves his or her identity with the deity is both transcendent and immanent to this reality, but principally transcendent.

This fits in with the teaching of Jesus who declares that his disciples are in the world but not of the world. (cf. Jn 17:14-16)

The term haṃsa then becomes a significant title, and we often hear of great teachers being called paramahaṃsa, laterally ‘supreme swan’

By reciting the mantra, the practitioner becomes immanent and transcendent, joining heaven and earth. He is his mantra, he is one with his guru and with the tradition and the deity. All is one.

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My house in Warburton, Australia

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Halloween, All Saints and All Souls

The three celebrations – Halloween, All Saints and All Souls – are interconnected. Let me explain.

The word ‘Halloween’ means ‘evening’ (‘een’) of ‘hallow’ which is an old English word meaning ‘saint’. Thus ‘Halloween’ means ‘the day before All Saints Day’. I will come back to this.

It seems that the Feast of all Saints was originally celebrated in May but was shifted in the 8thcentury to 1 November where the forces of winter are starting to be felt. Winter in northern Europe was dangerous; it was a period of darkness, little food, the real possibility of not surviving till spring.  It was around this date, 1 November, that there was an important pagan festival where the custom was to kill off the feeble animals so that they would not use up all the fodder. This meant huge feasts of meat eating. The fear of death and of winter led to other excesses as well.

It was hoped that these fears would be set aside by the celebration of All Saints and the hope of their support in the coming times of real difficulty. Thus, Halloween was a time for chasing away all that was evil, all the dark forces of nature, the demons and ghouls.

Halloween has lost its earlier sinister aspect and has now taken on the character of  dressing up and going around to houses for ‘trick or treat’. This was developed especially in the United States, and took on a ‘spooky’ character where people dress up as ghosts and witches. It is all a bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously.

The Feast of All Saints is a reminder that Christians are in communion with all the holy men and women of the past, those known and these unknown. It is the recognition that we are not confined to this earth but that we have a bright future, and that we are supported by those who have led outstanding Christian lives.

This celebration of all the saints in heaven leads to the Commemoration of all the Souls in purgatory, that is of those who are still on their way to enjoying the blessed sight of God and the blessedness of heaven. They are in what is called ‘purgatory’. The imagination is not helpful here. Purgatory is a time of change, a place or process of purification. It should not be imagined, as it has been in the past, in terms of hell with its fire and punishments but rather in terms of heaven, with its liberation and freedom. All that holds us down, all that hampers our fulness of joy, these bonds are being stripped away. Purgatory is a place of increasing freedom, an anticipation of joy, a place of hope and dawning bliss.

The Commemoration of all the Souls is a time when we on earth and the saints heaven, can share the benefit of our good deeds with those who have gone before us. It is an aspect of the ‘communion of saints’. It means that we can be useful to those who are dear to us, our family and friends. It means that those who have no one to pray for them can also be helped. We are of value to each other in the process of being freed from every limitation and sin.

These three celebrations are linked. Modern commerce and the media have focused on Halloween, but the principal joy of these days is the prospect of eternal life and light, of joy and beauty, of happiness for ourselves and all human brings.

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BLESSING AND CURSING, reflections on verses from the Twelve Minor Prophets

BLESSING AND CURSING,

reflections on verses from the Twelve Minor Prophets

 

Year 1, Week 25, Monday                                          Glenroy 1977

The true temple of the Lord

“Any of those among you who are of his people—may their God be with them!—are now permitted to go up to Jerusalem in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.”         Ezra 1:3

The pagan ruler and the faithful remnant set out a common purpose: to rebuild the temple. And in rebuilding the temple the Chosen People are preserved and the greatness of the Empire is assured.

The Christian people, and the non-Christian people with them are engaged in building a temple. Not the gothic cathedrals which embody medieval Europe, not the baroque splendours which reformed the Church, but a temple structured out of people. Gone are the securities of marble and stone. Gone too are their ponderous mass. We now build the moving structure of a community, in all its intricacy, in its far greater beauty, as mobile as the Spirit who inhabits it, more firm in its determination than the spires of Cologne. The temple we build is the community of humankind, firm, committed, delicate, sensitive, marvellously varied and graced: the true temple of the Lord.

 

Year 1, Week 25, Tuesday                                          Glenroy 1977

The need for something greater than a temple

“The people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.”        Ezra 6:16

The restoration of the temple has an air of joy about it, and also an element of sadness. It has a ‘fabricated’ quality, for it was an attempt to restore the past. It was a necessity indeed, but not a liberation. The destruction of Solomon’s temple showed the need for something greater than a temple. A truly liberating, lasting ‘temple’, not subject to time, was needed. Rocks last for millennia but eventually decay. Their solid mass seems eternal as the hills, but is in fact ephemeral.

More durable are the forms of life so changing, so transitory but more equipped to last. And humans, when will the rocks conquer them? Their race will last forever, on this or another planet. But what about the individual? By sharing in the life and death of the Christ, individuals  become spirit. In them God dwells more than in rocks or living creatures or even in the community of mortal flesh. God dwells supremely in those who have become free, liberated, true, eternal, real, and lastingly triumphant.

 

Year 1, Week 25, Friday                                            Glenroy 1977

The new glory will surpass the old

“My spirit abides among you; do not fear.”       Haggai 2:5

There is no need, therefore, to regret the past and its wonders. The new glory will surpass the old; the new temple will be more grand than the old; the new Church more splendid than the former; the risen Christ more marvelous than the mortal Jesus. What existed was Christ; what will exist is the whole Christ. Jesus of Nazareth will be the Man. The seed will become the tree. The Galilean of the gospels will be forgotten in the splendour of the New Adam. All of this because “my spirit remains among you”, active, raising to greatness.

By grace, we will, like Christ and following him, become all, embracing all, entering all, making of all things our body. What Christ said at the Supper and told his disciples to do after him, they do. They take the bread of the earth and its riches, all the gold of human heart and the silver of human minds, and of them make ‘my body’. That new ‘Temple’ will have surpassed the old.

 

Year 1, Week 26, Monday                                          Glenroy 1977

These we will restore to life.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to live in Jerusalem. They shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”             Zechariah  8:7-8

Think of the children of Biafra, the starving thousands of the Sahel, or the men and women burnt to death with napalm or the millions aborted in the womb: these we will restore to life, to their fullness of life, by the power given to us. The Lord swears by it.

Return and banishment

All those whom ignorance and fear, whom time and distance have banished from the fastness of the Church, these we love with tender compassion. These we lead back and restore them to the City of delight. Those whom fear and rigidity, whom pride and human respect have kept within the confines of the Church, these we banish for a time in the deserts of uncertainty to learn how much indeed they love their Church.

 

Year 1, Week 26, Tuesday                                          Glenroy 1977

No earthly Jerusalem, only the human being

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from nations of every language shall take hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”         Zechariah 8:23

They will come to those who live in justice and integrity, to learn the truth and to worship in them the God who is with them, the God who is with each person who radiates humour and compassion.

Every person will come to every person, every person will be with every person,  each one a living temple. There will be no earthly Jerusalem, only the human being.

 

Year 1, Week 27 Monday                                           Burwood 1983

Humour

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying, “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.    …But the Lord provided a large fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.                    Jonah 1:1-3, 17.

The Book of Jonah is full of humour. We hear this cantankerous prophet trying to fool everyone with the stereotypes of a prophet. Out of the humour comes a sense of a God who is kindly and forgiving, who understands human foibles and is ready to relent.

The story also forms the backdrop for stories of Jesus on the lake. The prophet is asleep in the hold while the seas rage; Christ is asleep in the stern of the boat. The boatmen cry out in distress; the disciples are overwhelmed by fear. The boatmen try to reach land but cannot because of the heavy seas; the disciples row towards the shore but cannot reach it because of the contrary wind. Once Jonah has been cast into the sea and the calm has returned, the sailors make sacrifices and vows to God; the disciples fall down in worship of Jesus, amazed at the calm he has produced. Most explicitly, Jesus makes the comparison between himself and Jonah who remains for three days and nights in the belly  of  the whale.

The humour of the Book of Jonah is fulfilled in the grace of Jesus Christ.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Tuesday                                          Burwood 1983

Jesus and Jonah

“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk. And he cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth. … When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.               Jonah 3:4-5,10

Jonah is one of the few people of the Old Testament with whom Jesus explicitly compares himself. Jonah has tremendous success, for, in response to his few words of teaching, all in Nineveh, from the king to the animals, do penance; Jesus is a spectacular failure. Jonah is held for three days in the belly of the whale; Jesus is enclosed for three days in the rock of a tomb.

Yet, what occurs partially in the case of Jonah, occurs completely in the person of Jesus. The sin of the world brings Jesus to his death, and in his death all humanity is destroyed. The apocalyptic moment has occurred in the very body of Jesus. God, by raising Jesus from the dead, offers salvation to all mankind.

The Book of Jonah speaks of danger and rescue from danger. The life of Christ leads through death to eternal life.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Wednesday                             Glenroy 1977

Humour as a sign of grace.

“But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the Lord said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”        Jonah 4:9-11

Humour is a sign of grace. Not the humour that is raucous or cutting, but the humour which proceeds from joy. Humour is the realization of incongruence. And yet this is incongruence is suffused by the realization of a deeper harmony, which, in turn, is the sign, beyond all expectations, of a greater, more loving force, which is not disturbed by the  incongruence. Aware of this more loving force, we are delighted, uplifted, for it means we are loved despite being incongruous. In fact, the incongruence becomes attractive. What was incongruous is now valuable, what was senseless is now loved. Justified and loved, we are full of joy, we laugh.

For that reason, the Book of Jonah – a book of humour – is part of revelation.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Thursday                                         Glenroy 1977

Burning and healing

“See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings.”                    Malachi 3:19-20

The same fire which burns up the stubble also brings healing. That one Day is two sided, a day of wrath and a day of blessing.

For that reason, there is no need for anger, no need to keep the wicked in mind. Rather, there is need only to offer blessing and peace, justice and truth. That alone is the Christian concern. That alone is the Christian character and purpose. To those who receive it, it is a blessing. To those who refuse it, it becomes a blazing fire, more unquenchable because it is the very being of the eternal God, who is love. It is the grace of the Church which is everlasting.

Those who refuse it fade away. They retreat at its presence; they are consumed and driven back infinitely and eternally, as in a continuous falling motion, just as those who welcome it know a continuous ascension.

Justice is the Christian concern. It is the two-edged sword, and all else follows in simplicity.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Friday                                            East Doncaster, 1989

The Day of the Lord

“The day of the Lord is coming, it is near.”                    Joel 2:1

Joel speaks of the “day of the Lord”. Jesus takes up this phrase when he warns that the day of the Lord is coming. He speaks also of himself coming like a thief in the night. He speaks of the labour pains that come upon a woman, and of the day of his return to create a new heaven and a new earth.

The “day of the Lord” is the time of devastation and retribution. It also refers to the time of consolation, and to the blessings that come with the Lord’s presence.

The two meanings coincide. The moment of grace is both a consolation and the elimination of the thoughts and ways of the past. The interventions of God are both burning and  warming. When God makes the new he abandons the old. He destroys  and restores. Life and death coincide in his hand.

He is a living God and gives life, but only through the cross. Every moment of grace, every touch of God’s hand is a partaking in the Paschal mystery. The “day of the Lord” makes us tremble and makes us thrill.

 

Year 1, Week 27, Saturday                                          East Doncaster, 1989

Judgement Day

“I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.” Joel 4.12

Today’s reading speaks of judgment: “I am going to sit in judgment on all the nations round.”  The day of judgment means bringing justice to this earth. It is a day of punishment on Egypt and Edom for having done harm to the people of God. It is a day of consolation for God’s People: “When that day comes, the mountains will run with new wine and the hills flow with milk .”

God acts in this world. God did not create the world and then ‘retire’ to heaven, in some deistic manner. The Lord’s Prayer reads,  ‘Thy kingdom come’, ‘Thy will be done on earth’. The Lord of all is involved in the world he sustains. He intervenes. He forms the laws of nature but is not bound by them. He inspires and raises up new leaders. He is just and therefore eliminates the unjust. Good overwhelms evil.

As our God is, so must Christians be. They too must bring justice to bear. Their task is to eliminate injustice and to make society flow with milk and honey. When good prevails and evil is eliminated, the kingdom of God will have come among us: “the Lord shall make his home in Zion”.

Year 2, Week 13, Wednesday        Glenroy 1976

“I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. … Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.        Amos 5:21, 23-24

They are strong words, of the prophet Amos. These very feasts were established by God on Sinai. The people performed them correctly and frequented them assiduously. Yet God says: “I hate and despise your feasts”.

We may rightly wonder, does God say ‘” hate and despise your Masses. I loathe your sacraments and your church-going!”, even though they are of his institution.

At the time of Amos there was grave inequality between rich and poor. That is why God says: “Let me have no more of the din of your chanting … but let justice flow like water”.

Is this why the young reject our Masses? Do they see our ceremonies as the outcome of our mutual love? Are they the prophets from God, like Amos?

 

                                                                                          Oakleigh 1978

The very sacrifices God ordained have become hateful. Why is this?

Where the Spirit is absent the sacrifices become hateful, which is what happened in Amos’ time. But also how could they not inevitably become hateful? Being of transitory value, they have in themselves the seeds of their own destruction, arising from the Spirit, yet not fully spiritual. The Spirit that originally formed them also makes them obsolete, for the Spirit builds up and pulls down until all become Spirit. Only where there is fullness of Spirit is there full purity of action.

Amos realizes this. He looks forward to another time, to the full flowing of the Spirit, like an unfailing stream. Then there will be no offerings, no oblation, but the fullness of sacrifice.

To be with Spirit, to be of Spirit: that is the perfection of sacrifice, ‘in spirit and in truth’.

 

Year 2, Week 13, Thursday           Glenroy 1976

Then Amos answered Amaziah, “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, 15and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.’” Amos 7.14-15

The reign of Jeroboam was the most successful in the whole history of Israel. The shrines of Bethel and Dan were flourishing, yet Amos comes and curses them all, the king, the nation and the priest.

Amos startles them. He has no prophetic background and comes from another kingdom. The only thing that justifies him, the only thing that could possibly justify him is the Spirit that has fallen upon him. “It was the Lord who took me from herding the flock”. “It was the Lord who said: ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel’”.

Our own day longs for a prophet like Amos. People want to hear a word that is authoritative, which will uproot and plant, build up and cast down. People need to hear the prophet exposing the faults of society and Church. We want to hear the truth and find our faith strengthened.

Where shall we find the new Amos?

 

Year 2, Week 13, Friday               Burwood 1982

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, … The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. … The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.”    Amos 8.4, 7, 11

The words of Amos apply to our own day, for he lived at a time when the Northern Kingdom was economically very successful. Yet that success was a sham and was built upon rotten foundations.

Making money rather than engaging in worship, heaping riches at the expense of the poor: these sins are found in our own age. So too on our own age the words of condemnation are threatened. God promises disaster and lamentation to the Norther Kingdom. Will there be recession and depression in our day? Will there be worse still? “I will bring famine on the country, a famine not of bread, a drought not of water, but of hearing the word of the Lord”.

Those who have chosen Mammon must lie with it. In their hearts they will know they are condemned, but in their mind they will seek to reject the thought.

 

                                                                                          Burwood 1986

Amos announces the crime of the people: they have been unjust to man and unrighteous towards God; they have impoverished the poor and denied worship to the One who gave them the Promised Land.

Therefore, Amos announces the punishment. Firstly, universe will be shaken; the days will darken and the light will fail. Then society will collapse; feasts will be accompanied with weeping and bitterness will fill every day. Thirdly and worst of all, there will be silence. They will stagger from sea to sea, wandering from north to east, seeking the word of YHVH and failing to find it. They have been unjust to the poor; therefore, the natural order will collapse. They have been unjust towards God: therefore, God will be silent.

They may well seek the wisdom needed for preserving the Kingdom of Israel: God will not tell. God who spoke to his people will withhold his word. Without divine guidance they will perish.

Is not this prophecy of Amos also true for our time? The gross concern for success, for profit at the expense of poor nations; the refusal to allow the divine mind to form the human mind:  these have brought unwisdom. Our society staggers.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Monday            Glenroy 1976

On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, “My husband,” and no longer will you call me, “My Baal.”           Hosea 2:16

The people of Israel had been affected by Canaan and its gods. They were forgetting their experience in the desert and started addressing God as ‘Baal’.

Hosea fights against this. He looks forward to a renewal of religion in Israel which will involve both a turning away from Baal and a deepening of the relationship with God. Turning away and deepening go together. God will be a husband to Israel, a loving spouse, no longer a God of armies and thunder and smoke.

We are in danger, in our own day, of taking on too much of the mentality of the modern world. There is a lot of humanism, a lot of worship of creation and man in his natural state. We too must turn away from that diluting of our religion. We seek the divine; beware lest we end up with the merely human.

There is no need to look to the past, no need to look to the heavens, no need to look even at images of Christ. We look at all who are of good will and, behind the outward appearances, sense the Spirit, and see the everlasting Christ and the eternal Father of all.

 

                                                                                          Burwood 1982

Israel thought that a magical relationship with the fertility god of the Canaanites, would be more productive than worshipping the storm God of Sinai. The prophet, by contrast, reveals how much closer, more enriching and mutual, is the bond between Israel and YHVH.

How much closer, ever closer, will the relationship with God become, indeed! For a time will come when the human creature, made eternal by the power of God, will say ‘I am’; when the human race will bow down in worship not only of the Word made flesh, but also of each human being made one with the Word Incarnate. The flesh as flesh, but flesh redeemed and therefore truly flesh, will receive the worship accorded to the Infinite. Humans will speak with the authority of God. God will speak in them. They will speak in God. There are no limits to closeness with the Transcendent.

A time will come, when human beings will no longer call their neighbour ‘Fellow’ but will call them, ‘My God’. No longer will they seek God in the skies, but will look and find God all around, in themselves and in their companions.

 

                                                                                          Hoppers Crossing, 1988

At the time of Hosea, the gods of Canaan were given the title ‘Baal’. It was customary, also, for a wife to address her husband as ‘My Baal’, ‘My Lord’. It implied a relationship that was indeed grand, but it was  aloof also.

God, through the prophet Hosea, tells of his wish to draw his people to a relationship that was more intimate and equal, more affectionate and closer. No longer will his people call him ‘My Baal’, they will call him ‘My Husband’.

Jesus wishes that God be in us and we in God, through his body. This intimacy and equality are to surpass even the closeness of husband and wife. The identity of substance will be complete in the unity of the Holy Spirit. God and his creation will not be separate but enjoy a oneness of substance, as it were, and a communion of Persons.

Thus, we look forward to the closest possible union between ourselves and our God.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Tuesday            Hoppers Crossing, 1988

“Your calf is rejected, O Samaria.… an artisan made it;it is not God.The calf of Samariashall be broken to pieces.”     Hosea 8:5-6

During the period of the Kings, there was more than one temple in the Holy Land. Jerusalem did not yet have the outstanding position it would hold after the return from exile in Babylon. In the Northern Kingdom there was the great Temple at Bethel, the national Temple.

The people of Israel, had no graven image of God, in marked contrast to the surrounding nations who had many gods and many images of their many gods.

God exceeds any created thing. Not only must there be no images in wood or metal, there must be no images in our imagination. God transcends any idea that can be had of him. It is true that Jesus reveals the Father perfectly, but he is no graven image. It is Jesus raised by the Father who reveals the Father completely and is his perfect image.

Yet the people of Israel formed images of metal and wood. Therefore, the ‘calf of Samaria’ will be consumed, like all images, in the fire of the Holy Spirit.

 

                                                                                         Hoppers Crossing, 1988  

“Though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh, the Lord does not accept them.”    Hosea 8:13

Instead of the living God to whom all sacrifice is due, they loved the meat of sacrifice. They have turned away from the One who is life beyond meat, substance beyond flesh. To love meat is to find one’s body starved.  To live in God is to find one’s flesh nourished. To be with God is to find the being of one’s being and to be of God is to be abiding despite decay.

The Lord takes no pleasure in that meat. The lover of God likewise takes no pleasure in that meat but the living One and so finds his own flesh made firm experiencing every pleasure. The living God takes delight in the one who draws life from him, and from that life comes joy indescribable, subtle, overwhelming, in the flesh made spirit.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Wednesday        Glenroy 1976

“Israel is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.”      Hosea 10:1

Israel has come from the desert, destined to possess the promised land. They conquer it but corruption begins. With the goods, they also take up the idols of the land What began well ends in disaster.

The strength of faith has given the Christian world prime position among the nations, for they are, in the main, the wealthy nations. Yet they are becoming idolatrous. Altars are erected to idols as wealth is amassed beyond what is necessary. The accumulation is becoming sinful.

We cannot, in the face of poor countries, continue to live in our present affluence. God is not found there, but in greater poverty. Idolatry is a subtle thing, for it retains the outward forms, even when the Spirit is gone. The right words and gestures continue, but there is no substance. What began as promised land is turning into Gehenna.

 

                                                                                         Burwood 1982 

“The high places of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed. Thorn and thistle shall grow upon their altars. They shall say to the mountains, Cover us, and to the hills, Fall on us.”     Hosea 10:8

Jesus says these words to the women of Jerusalem as he carries his cross to Calvary. With that quote from Hosea he condemns the idolatry of those who would not recognize him.

The Northern Kingdom had raised altars to the Baals and the Astartes. Instead of the God of Israel they worshipped the gods of the Canaanites. Therefore, the very places they used as worship have now become their tombs. The shrines they had raised are now asked to fall on them, to cover their shame, to remove their suffering.

Jesus condemns his opponents for their idolatry. While they preserved the name of God and the outward show of religion, they did not revere him, for if they had worshipped the true God truly, they would have recognized his Christ. They are condemning themselves even as they lead him out for crucifixion.

There is no comfort in mouthing the name of God. Nor do the externals of worship prove much. True knowledge enables true worship of the true God.

 

                                             East Doncaster, 1992

“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.”      Hosea 10:12

The prophet begins by speaking of his time and of our time too. The more prosperous the people have become the more they have turned to idolatry. ‘The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built’. So, in our time, the growth of prosperity in our country has coincided with the growth of materialism and religious indifference.

The prophet gives a warning: “Then they will say: ‘We have no king because we have not feared the Lord’.”(Ho 10:15) The same warning is given to our society as well. With religious indifference there will be a breakdown of the social order. Laws will be circumvented. Commitment will disappear. Marriage will break down. The stronger will rule, and their rule will be by fear.

Then the advice is given: ‘break up your fallow ground’. The fallow ground is the land that has not been ploughed and remains still virgin soil, often wild but bearing much promise. So too there is need in our Church to discover new ways, to break new ground, to engage in lateral thinking.

For this reason, I have begun this interest in Tantra. It is fallow ground as far as the Church is concerned. It provides the means of a new insight into the perennial gospel. Let us explore this new direction and see if the Lord will “rain salvation on us” as surely he will.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Thursday           Glenroy 1976

“I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.”         Hosea 11:9

God’s whole intention is the good of his people. He has proved this by the tenderness of his care in calling Israel, in leading him through the desert, in feeding him and bringing him to the Promised Land. Yet this same God has to bring Ephraim to his senses. And so, though he recoils from it and he trembles at the thought, he brings about evil.

God’s whole intention is human good. But humans learn and change through suffering. In choosing to create evolving humanity he involves himself in a world where destruction is a necessary ingredient. God does not simply allow evil, he actually brings it about – but the final purpose is good. There is no other way. God, by foreknowledge and design, brings his Son to the cross, but the aim is his glorification as Lord and Christ.  His purpose is not evil but good.

 

                                                                                          Hoppers Crossing  1988

… it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms.”    Hosea 11:3

From God we have come, to God we are destined.

From the very start he has loved us and at the very end he will receive us into his heart.

There can be no other place that satisfies us.

We were conceived in love and brought forth in love.

Nurtured and weaned and educated in love there can be no destiny which satisfies except to be constantly held in his arms, secure and eternally present there.

This is the highest joy for us and for him the outcome of his play of love.

 

Year 2, Week 14, Friday               Glenroy 1976

Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands. In you the orphan finds mercy.” In you the orphan finds compassion”.         Hosea 14:3

The orphan becomes child of God through the Holy Spirit. The Son of God becomes an orphan through sin. We were orphans, for there was a time when the Holy Spirit did not move in us, but Jesus was always Son of God for the Holy Spirit never ceased to inspire him.

The Holy Spirit comes to us, not by our efforts, but by God’s compassion. When we are at a loss, then God can make us gain. God’s compassion is a healing, an active changing of our bodies and hearts.

He grants us his Spirit by which when we acknowledge our sin, by which we cease to depend on ourselves and await his Spirit. He gives us his Spirit powerfully when we try to make up for the harm we have done. He gives us his Spirit publicly when we acknowledge our sin before the Church. He gives us his Spirit most perfectly when we receive the sacrament of the altar.

Then we too become children of God and we stand next to Christ in equality: he the source, we the beneficiaries, but equal now in the gift. We are not fully moved, he is fully moved. We resist. He never resisted. A time was when he still had to be raised in the Spirit. A time will come when we are fully moved, when we shall all be one, he in us and we in him, all equal, standing before Him who is all in all.

 

                                                                                         Burwood 1984

“They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon. O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you.”          Hosea 14:7-8

The pattern is so constant: the people turn to idols, disaster strikes in punishment, hope is held out: “He shall bloom like the vine”.

The pattern is repeated in every age since grace and sin are of every time. We too have our idols, although they are nameless. Idolatry has become anonymous.

The hidden idol of our day is ‘mammon’. But “What has Ephraim to do with idols anymore?” There is no substance to this idol of mammon. Its promises are empty and cannot bring pleasure. “Assyria cannot save us”.

 

                                                                                         Hoppers Crossing 1988

“I will fall like dew on Israel.”          Hosea 14:6-7

United to God with heart and mind and body, acknowledging God as the One who transcends the human condition, as the One from whom all come

and to whom all are destined, when falseness of heart disappears, then his blessings come upon the earth, falling gently from above like the dew, coming into mind and thought, watering without violence, refreshing quietly and fully, giving strength to every faculty, hope to the heart and energy to the limbs, bliss and every happiness.

We shall bloom like the lily and thrust out shoots like the poplar, beautiful as the olive and fragrant as the high mountains of Lebanon.

 

                                                                                          East Doncaster, 1992

“I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon.”         Hosea 14:6

After expressing anger at the misdeeds of the people, the prophet now describes the healing that will come.  He uses imagery taken from nature.

Our imagery is different for is taken from the Spirit and his effects in the flowering of mercy, in the great drama of the Church, the holiness of the saints, the courage of the martyrs, the schools of philosophy and theology, the works of art and humanity: these are the fruitfulness of the Church to whom the mercy of Above has been made known.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Monday                                       Burwood 1986

Worthy sacrifice

Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel.“O my people, what have I done to you?In what have I wearied you? Answer me!For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery;… “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:2-4, 6-8

The court has assembled to hear a case between God and his People. Heaven and earth are called as witnesses.

God accuses his People  of ingratitude. He has led them out of Egypt and through the desert into the land promised to Abraham. They have not done enough in return.

In reply the People claim exhaustion. They have offered him rams by the thousands and oil in torrents. Does he want their children also, even their first-born?

God replies that he does not want  an external but an internal sacrifice, he requires not the sacrifice of animals or children but the sacrifice of mind and will and status, “to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” What counts is internalization so that they themselves become the sacrifice.

Likewise, it is not enough to celebrate Mass. Our minds must become eucharistic. Our very persons are to become bread for all, given for the life of the world.  Our task is to live the eucharist so that we become the eucharist. The final condition of mankind will indeed be eucharistic. There will be no more celebration of eucharist in time but the state of being eucharist in eternity.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Monday                                       Glenroy 1976

Worthy sacrifice

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

The people of Israel had spent forty years in the desert learning the will of God which was “to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with their God”. Yet their arrival in Canaan led them to the worship of Baal, with temple services and holocausts, libation and even the cruelest of sacrifices. The people were zealous about these and forgot the true will of God. They were careful about the works of religion and forgot the demands of justice.

Micah calls the People back to their first vocation.  God demands not sacrifices and festivals and offerings, but justice, love, and humility.

 

Year 2, Week 16, Tuesday                                       Glenroy 1976

Without limit

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land;let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old.As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvellous things.”   Micah 7:14-15

The exiles have returned to Jerusalem, but are force to live within its walls. The mighty nation of King David feels constricted and inhibited. They pray that God will give them governance over Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

The Church too feels confined. The horizons to which Christians called  are infinite, but they feel hemmed in by fear and ignorance. They pray that God will let them enjoy the freedom that is the goal of the children of God.  Their destiny is to acquire the dimensions of Christ, the expanses of his knowledge and sensitivity, the depth of his experience and the strength of his saving will.

Truth is all around. Heaven is at their side. Their only confinement is their sin, voluntary and involuntary, committed and inherited, chosen and imposed. Who shall make them see the wonder of Christ’s resurrection in their own bodies. Then they shall pasture on the fields of the universe, and drink the waters of the world, filling all things, being filled with all things, till God is all in all.

 

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Glory and Infamy of the Kings: some reflections on Samuel 1&2, and Kings 1&2

Glory and Infamy of the Kings:

some reflections on Samuel 1&2, and Kings 1&2

 

Year 2, Week 1, Wednesday                                     Glenroy 1978

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!””                  1 Samuel 3:2-4

It is night time; the eyes of Eli have grown dim and the prophetic voice speaks rarely. All are asleep, all seemingly finished.

Into the gloom comes a sudden ray of hope. Even if all seems lost, “the lamp of God had not yet gone out”.The voice of God breaks through the stillnesswith one word: “Samuel”.

Without precedents He acts, with initiative, with freedom. His action is to call a boy at that crucial age, to call him by name and to send him.

Samuel is the lamp of the Lord, Samuel is the ray of light. God’s call breaks the stillness, his initiative dispels the gloom.

Our action is to be free, and our freedom will make others free. Our freedom is not to enslave. Our call is not to make servants. Freedom inspires freedom. That is our initiative, our role, our ray of light in the dark.

 

Year 2, Week 1, Thursday                                       Glenroy 1978

“So, the Philistines fought; Israel was defeated, and they fled, everyone to his home. There was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.”  1 Samuel 4:10-11

Defeated is the army; gone is the Ark; dead are the prophets. All seems lost. The great People of God, of Sinai, of the Exodus, of the Law, of the Promise, seems doomed to extinction.

So, ends the reading. Yet out of this gloom come the leaders Samuel, Saul, and David, for into chaos God shines his light.

 

Year 2, Week 1, Friday                                           Glenroy 1978

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations”.”    1 Samuel 8:4-5

It is a crucial moment: the shift from charismatic leadership to institutional rule. from the chaos and uncertainty of inspired leaders to the stability of clear authority; from the freedom of the spirit to the slavery of law and routine.

The people demand this transition, to move from one ‘mixed bag’ to another. Who can combine the virtues of the two?

Obedience to truth is united with the freedom of wisdom.

 

Year 2, Week 2, Monday                                         East Doncaster, 1990

“Since you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you.”                  1 Samuel 15:23

God is the origin of all things, the architect of this world. To be in union with him means to partake of all that he is. To separate from him means divorcing ourselves from all that is good.

Saul, king of Israel, has failed to be totally obedient. He had been commanded to destroy everything belonging to the enemy in a scorched earth policy. The enemy was to be exterminated but Saul lets some of the animals be offered in sacrifice. His obedience was imperfect.

Christ was perfectly obedient without demur, obedient even to the point of death. Therefore, he is king forever. Likewise, with Mary. From the start she is the handmaid of the Lord. Therefore, she is given heaven and earth as her crown and glory.

Growth in holiness and the power for good can come only with a growing obedience, assenting in every way to the word of God addressed to us, following our conscience, allowing the inspirations of the Spirit to guide us, being attentive to the calls of the Church, heeding the needs of those in our care.

 

Year 2, Week 4, Thursday                                       Burwood 1982

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.                      I Kings 2:1-3

David, the man of action, the creator of Jerusalem and Israel, is about to die. The reading recounts his farewell discourse and the brief details of his death and burial.

What a contrast with the Son of David.

David’s instructions to his son urge him to follow the decrees as laid down in the Book of Moses. The Son of David’s instructions to his disciples enjoin on them to love as he has loved. It is not to the Book that they must turn for instruction but to his example. It is not the Law but his very self that is the guide to action: indeed, it is the very possibility of action. David promises Solomon success in all he undertakes. Jesus promises lasting success, but of a different kind: not goods and chattels but the eternal glory of God. David dies after a full and fruitful life. Jesus dies in failure. David reigns for a whole generation, Jesus’ life is cut short. David is buried with full honour, Jesus is buried hurriedly and secretly.

Yet David lies buried while Jesus is raised from the dead, for if Jesus is Son of David, he is more properly Son of God.

 

Year 2, Week 5, Monday                                         Glenroy 1976

And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to dwell in forever.”                   I Kings 8:10-13

The Israelites experienced God in the desert and worshipped him in the Tent. When they reached Canaan they were amazed, and rightly so, at its culture. Progressively, they effected a synthesis between the religion of the desert and the religion of Canaan. The people decided for kingship under Saul in place of the tribal organization of the desert, and decided, under David and Solomon, in favour of a temple instead of the desert Tent. Once the Ark is installed, the cloud they had known in the desert comes and fills the Temple to show that God approves and that he agrees to take up his abode in this holy place.

The great experience of the Church is the resurrection of Christ. From age to age, as it meets different cultures and different ways of thought, the Church makes a synthesis. The one faith in Christ takes up new forms according to the context. God is pleased with this inculturation and sanctifies the new as he sanctified the old. It becomes the vehicle of his presence on earth.

But just as the Temple of Solomon finally disappeared, being replaced by Christ, so too the many styles the Church adopts over the ages, will disappear, to be replaced by the fullness of the whole Christ. Then God will be all in all.

 

Year 2, Week 5, Wednesday                                     Glenroy 1976

When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon …  she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones.”            I Kings 10:1-2

The Queen of Sheba comes to Jerusalem to hear the wisdom of Solomon. She is amazed and gives the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold and great quantities of spices more precious than gold.

The Church too, over the centuries, has received all manners of people, of ideas, arts and cultures. And the wisdom of the Church is to love one another as Christ has loved us. Its wisdom is not that of Solomon’s in the ways of the world, but a wisdom of service and forgiveness. This is the great wealth, the great marvel of the Church. This is what attracts the greatness of the world. The Christ who learnt to serve, to become obedient even unto death was raised to the fullness of lordship over all creation.

And so also to us who imitate him, the whole essence of creation is given to us. We surpass Solomon in glory, for our wisdom is to serve.

 

Year 2, Week 10, Monday                                       Oakleigh, 1978

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”                      1 Kings 17:1

The word of Elijah comes like a bolt out of the blue, with no introduction and no explanation. Only later do we realize the context of the drought: the idolatry of Ahab through his wife Jezebel.

Idolatry has cosmic effects, for an act of the will is not confined to the heart but is a blight upon nature as well. If human beings are the centre of the universe and if the heart is their centre, the perversion of the heart leads to the disruption of all that surrounds it

Ahab’s idolatry is not the cause, but only its trigger. It is Elijah who causes the drought. A person sins but God punishes. A person brings disharmony but dislocation is God’s doing, for God remains Lord of all. Therefore Elijah, before speaking the prophetic word, acknowledges that he is servant of the living God.

How can God act in this way? Is it not unfair to be so lacking in mercy and forgiveness? Yet if God did not punish sin, how could the truth be known. If no drought followed upon the idolatry, how could Ahab, in his dullness of heart, know the folly of Baal-worship. Humans come to know the laws of nature by seeing the consequences of disregarding them, and come to know truth by seeing the effect of the lie.

Persistence in folly involves lasting punishment. To live forever in a lie means being forever caught in its trap.

Ahab recognizes his folly, the priests of Baal are slaughtered, and the drought ends.

 

Year 2, Week 10, Wednesday                                   Burwood, 1982

“Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets number four hundred fifty.”   1 Kings 18:22

On Mount Carmel, the promontory sacred to the god of weather and fertility, Elijah enters into conflict with the prophets of Baal.

The people of Israel had encountered God during their desert sojourn and had received his Law. Upon their entry into Canaan they came into contact with a vastly superior culture and took on many of its customs, even to the point of building their temple on the design of Canaanite structures. Would the people would take the next step and accept the gods of the Canaanites?

‘I, I alone am left as a prophet of the Lord’ cries Elijah. When, like Joshua, he challenges the people to proclaim their faith in God, he meets, not with a thunderous acceptance as happened for Joshua, but ‘The people said never a word’.

Nevertheless, by his activity in every sphere, Elijah restores the people to the worship of their ancestors, while the temples of Baal are but ruins today.

A similar conflict is going on today, but who is our Elijah, where is our Mount Carmel?

 

 Year 2, Week 10, Thursday                                     Burwood, 1982

“He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” He went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” Then he said, “Go again seven times.” At the seventh time he said, “Look, a little cloud no bigger than a person’s hand is rising out of the sea.” Then he said, “Go say to Ahab, ‘Harness your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’”     1 Kings 18:43-44

Elijah withholds the rain. Elijah forthtells the rain. His servant can see nothing, but Elijah knows the mind of God. He announces ruin and he proclaims salvation. From Carmel, that mountain sacred to Baal, the prophet forecasts the act of God who is not tied to any mountain or function. What the prophets of Baal could not achieve, Elijah foreknows because God takes the initiative and gives even when not asked.

The absence of the signs of grace is not due to God’s absence but to his holiness. Grace is withheld till such time as the modern mind recognizes the incapacity of technology to bring happiness. The absence of grace is the fruit of disbelief.

 

Year 2, Week 10, Thursday                                      Burwood, 1984

“Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of rushing rain.”” 1 Kings 18:41

At the beginning of the Elijah Cycle, the prophet commanded there should be a drought so as to show the impotence of the Baal of Carmel, god of rain and fertility. Now at the conclusion of the three years he hears the rain coming. He who spoke disaster, hears liberation in the end. He who showed the power of speech, shows the sensitivity of perception.

Elijah commanded drought; he has slain the prophets of Baal; he has cleared the land of false worship and has restored the credibility of God in the eyes of king and people. The rain of blessing comes now, not from Baal but from God.

So too in our own day. Only after the period of cleansing by means of the prophetic word does the blessing of grace come. Only after cleansing and casting out is it possible to hear the divine mystery and to receive the time of favour from the Lord.

 

 Year 2, Week 10, Friday                                         Burwood, 1982

“He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God.”           1 Kings 19:8

The nation is apostate, worship is abandoned, and the prophets are dead. It is not some enemy, but the sons of Israel that have done this.

At this low point, Elijah goes to Horeb, and God is made manifest to him in a way unparalleled. A sudden reversal then takes place: the appointment of a new king and another prophet to succeed Elijah.

Thus it is that God works. The moment of despair is the moment of reversal. The moments of darkness are the preludes to light. In the gloom the light shines brightest.

However, it is only on condition that Horeb is revisited. Elijah must return to the sources of his faith. It is only at Horeb that he hears the comforting words

and receives the commission to renew the nation.

 

Year 2, Week 10, Friday                                          Burwood, 1984

“He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”      1 Kings 19:11-13

The people have apostatized. Elijah, therefore, retraces the steps of Israel’s history. Where once there was Sinai, now it is Horeb; for Moses there is Elijah; where once there was wind, earthquake and fire, now there is the gentle breeze Renewal of the people means the rediscovery of God but differently, more delicately, and in fact more easily than in the past.

All renewal is on the same pattern: a return to the roots. At the same time, it involves a rejection of outmoded forms. More importantly, it requires a finer sensitivity and a greater availability. Basic to all is the journey into the desert, into solitude, into penance, into prayer. Then one will be empowered, as was Elijah, to speak and to appoint rulers and prophets, and so to establish the good.

 

Year 2, Week 10, Friday                                         Burwood, 1986

“Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also, you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.”             1 Kings 19:15-16

Elijah flees to Horeb, for the people of Israel have deserted their God and have destroyed all trace of him. Only he is left. The past and the future of the Chosen People depend on this one man.

Moses too had seen the people abandon their God and worship the golden calf. He had received the two tables of stone containing the Law and had caught a glimpse of God from the cleft of a rock.

Here, however, Elijah receives no new tables of stone. There is no returning to the past. God says rather: Go and anoint one person as king of the pagan nation, Aram, another as king of the Chosen People and a third, Elisha, as prophet to all. Instead of tables of stone he sets in place three men anointed with the Spirit. Instead of words he shows the power of God. It is these men who will, at God’s and Elijah’s command restore true worship.

Our own day is a critical period. Who are the new anointed? What is the new task?

 

Year 2, Week 10, Saturday                                       Burwood, 1982

“So, he set out from there, and found Elisha son of Shaphat, who was plowing. There were twelve yoke of oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and threw his mantle over him. He left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” Then Elijah said to him, “Go back again; for what have I done to you?” He returned from following him, took the yoke of oxen, and slaughtered them; using the equipment from the oxen, he boiled their flesh, and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out and followed Elijah, and became his servant.”       1 Kings 19:19-21

Rarely in scripture do we hear of the call made by one prophet to another. Nowhere is it described so graphically as here.

Elisha is reluctant. Elijah’s rejection of him – ‘Go, go back’ – calls his bluff. So, Elisha follows him wholeheartedly. He slaughters the oxen that are his livelihood and gives them as food to his men. He then leaves all and follows Elijah.

Elisha will bear his master’s name; he will wear his mantle; he will do the same works, but first

he must leave all.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Tuesday                                      Glenroy, 1976 

“You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood. …Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.”      I Kings 21:19, 28-29

Ahab has killed Naboth and his family and confiscated their inheritance.

Elijah condemns this terrible action. ‘in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs will lick your blood too.’ The God of justice makes evil recoil on the head of the perpetrator. He brings about his purposes, and imposes his law. Elijah, his mouthpiece, speaks out his condemnation: Ahab has destroyed Naboth, and has destroyed himself. What he does to others he does to himself.

Yet Ahab is vacillating. He is torn between Jezebel his wife and Elijah his prophet. Having listened to his wife he now listens to Elijah and repents. Elijah then recants: the disaster will come at a later time.

Thus, the purpose of the condemnation is shown in its true light. It is not a fixed and final ban, but a punishment for the time being. As long as Ahab persists in his sin the excommunication will continue. When he repents, what was absolute has limits put to it.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Wednesday                                  Glenroy, 1976

“He picked up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, saying, “Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” When he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.”         2 Kings 2:13-14

Elijah crosses the Jordan. Even as he is talking, he is taken up by the whirlwind. His mantle falls to Elisha who then returns across the Jordan by the same path.

These events have parallels in the life of Christ. As Elijah crosses the Jordan, so too Jesus goes through his passion. Elijah is taken up; so too is Jesus on the Mount of Olives. As Elijah is separated from his disciples by the fire of the chariot, Jesus is wrapped away by that power of the Spirit who at Pentecost will manifest himself in wind and fire. Just as Elijah leaves his mantle at the very moment of his exaltation, so too Christ, at the very moment of his exaltation commissions his disciples, promising them his authority

Jesus is the new Elijah. And his Church is the new Elisha taking up the mantle of Christ and continuing his work.

The moments of disappearing and commissioning are one, both in the case of Christ and in the case of Elijah. He who is exalted is too great for mortal vision, his light is too bright to be comprehended and so he seems to disappear. Yet that very light is the source of energy, an unrealized, uncomprehend energy. He who achieves the fullness of humanity no longer appears on earth but gives strength and impetus to all.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Wednesday                                  Burwood, 1982 

“Elisha said, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.” He responded, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.” As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven.”          2 Kings 2:1, 6-14

This last episode in the life of Elijah – the last until his appearance at the side of the transfigured Lord – is his ascension.

Elijah tells his disciple Elisha that if he sees him ascending to heaven he, Elisha, will receive a double share of his master’s spirit, as he had requested. At Christ’s ascension, the angels tell

the disciples that they have seen Jesus ascend into heaven. This is more than a statement of fact. It is an acknowledgment that they will receive a double share of their Master’s spirit.

The contrasts are many also. Where Elijah allows his disciple to follow him, Jesus leads his out, not to a place beyond the Jordan but to the Mount of Olives, the hill of the last things. Where Elisha asks, Jesus promises. Where Elijah speaks about his spirit, Jesus speaks about “power from on high”, that is the very Spirit of God. Where Elijah leaves some doubt whether his disciple will receive his spirit, Jesus assures his own that they will indeed be clothed. Elijah ascends to heaven. Jesus ascends to where he was before.

Jesus is Elijah, but more than Elijah.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Wednesday                                   Burwood, 1984

“Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water, and the water divided to left and right and the two of them crossed over dry shod.  He took the cloak of Elijah and struck the water. and it divided to right and left and Elisha crossed over.”            2 Kings 2:8,14

Moses divided the Red Sea with his staff in order to free the people and destroy Pharaoh’s army. Elijah forms a rod of his cloak and divides the water because he has the power to liberate and to destroy with his words. He crosses the Jordan to return to the region where Moses died. He leaves the promised land for a greater heaven, for the region whence his prophetic word originates.

So too Jesus leaves Jerusalem and crosses the brook Kedron. The disciples witness, like Elisha, the ascent of their Master and like Elisha, receive their Master’s authority. Elisha returns to the land of Israel to continue the prophetic task Like his master he strikes the water, parting it with his master’s cloak.

The authority of Moses was renewed in Elijah who bequeathed it to Elisha. That authority is fulfilled in Jesus who bestows it on his Church, to speak the prophetic word with authority.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Thursday                                      Glenroy 1976

“Happy shall they be who see you, and those who have fallen asleep in move; for we too shall have life.”            Ecclesiasticus 48:11-12

A belief had arisen that Elijah would one day return with blessing for the living and the dead. His departure in the whirlwind was only temporary and he would return to perform even greater marvels. Such was the power of the prophet of God.

This belief is at the background to our understanding of Christ. Christ, the Prophet and Word of God, has departed for a time, to return with blessing for all who have loved. Christ is Elijah and more than Elijah.

If his first coming was an advantage, his second coming is fullness. The Man of God continues for ever since God continues for ever. God brings things to completion; therefore, the Man of God is involved in this completion. He was God’s champion during his life; he will no less be his champion at the end of time, to bring blessing to those who live and to those who sleep.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Friday                                          Glenroy, 1976

“Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars. The priest posted guards over the house of the Lord. He took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land; then they brought the king down from the house of the Lord, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. He took his seat on the throne of the kings. So, all the people of the land rejoiced; and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been killed with the sword at the king’s house.”     2 Kings 11:18-20

The prophet Elijah was active in the North, fighting against Ahab and Jezebel. The. priest Jehoiada was active in the South, fighting against Athaliah, a relative of Jezebel. Both fought for the same cause: fidelity to the covenant with the God of Israel as against the cult of Baal that was attractive to the people and to the court.

In today’s reading we hear of Jehoiada. In tomorrow’s reading we will hear of his son Zechariah. The two readings show that priests were active in the fight against Baal worship, just as the prophets Elijah and Elisha had been.

In those days it was not so easy to realize that the worship of Baal was false. Had not Abraham himself changed gods, learning to worship the God of Israel? Had not Moses been influenced by the religion of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian? Yet Elijah and Jehoiada could distinguish between the truth of Moses’ covenant and the errors of Jezebel and Athaliah.

We ourselves are living in times of great change. The Church has thrown open its doors to the modern world and is influenced by new insights. This can be good or bad. The Spirit will nevertheless teach us to distinguish between good and evil and enable us to remain both faithful to the old and welcoming to the new.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Friday                                          Burwood, 1984

“Jehoiada made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people, that they should be the Lord’s people; also, between the king and the people. 18Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal, and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan, the priest of Baal, before the altars.”   2 Kings 11:17-18

The Elijah cycle shows how the prophet, whether all alone in the desert or in public on Mt Carmel, re-establishes true worship by the sheer power of his prophetic word.

Today’s reading shows the same reform being established through the power of the institutions of Israel. Priests, soldiers and people work in concert to establish the legitimate king upon the throne and in that process to re-establish the covenant between God and his people, the covenant between king and nation. The Temple of Baal is destroyed, and its priest Mattan is put to death along with Athaliah, the apostate and usurper.

The power of the individual prophet and the institutions of the people are both required for the renewal of religion, today as yesterday.

 

Year 2, Week 11, Friday                                          Burwood, 1986

“But in the seventh year Jehoiada summoned the captains of the Carites and of the guards and had them come to him in the house of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord; then he showed them the king’s son. He commanded them, “This is what you are to do: …”                     2 Kings 11:4-5

 

Elijah struggled with success against Ahab and Jezebel and their Baals. Elijah was a prophet and accomplished his task with words of authority.

Jehoiada, on the other hand, accomplishes his task by using the institutions of Israel, the army and the Temple, the rightful heir to the throne and the will of the people. His palace revolution secures a religious revolution: the temples of Baal are destroyed and their priest, Mattan, is slaughtered. However, it is the exile that will finally convince the people that the gods of the heathen are naught.

As God won out through Elijah the prophet, through Jehoiada the priest and through the pain of exile, so too he will win out through the paschal mystery of Christ. In the end all will learn that it is faith in Christ that shapes the world.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Monday                                       Glenroy, 1976

“Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”   2 Kings 17:5-6

The first readings of this week are grouped together in a pattern. They show the humiliation of the people both of Israel and of Judah and their deportation. They recount the end of an era.

Today’s reading tells of the destruction of Israel, a troubling and scandalous event, for God had promised to Abraham that his descendants would inherit this land; he had commissioned Moses to lead the people to it. How could he be unfaithful? How could he go back on his promise?

God had indeed made the covenant but the people had broken it; he had given them the Promised Land, but they worshipped other gods; he had sent prophets to warn them but they refused to listen. So, God rejects them.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Monday                                       Oakleigh, 1978

Therefore, the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.”  2 Kings 17:18

Covenant had been made with twelve tribes, yet the vast majority of them disappeared into the surrounding nations. Judah, the Southern Kingdom had to be preserved, although it was no better than Israel, the Northern Kingdom.

The new covenant has been made with the Church but there is no certainty that all Christians will remain true. Indeed, the majority may well be dispersed. Who will remain? The one who is its head!

Jesus is raised from the dead, and in him the plan of God is fulfilled. We look to the future, yes,

but not as to the fulfilment of something incomplete. Rather we look to the completion of something already fulfilled, the Lordship of Christ, whereby all are transformed into his image.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Monday                                       Burwood, 1986

“Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshiped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.”                                2 Kings 17:5-8

Over the past two weeks we have heard of the prophets Elijah and Elisha, and of the priests Jehoiada and Zechariah in their attempt to preserve the faith of Israel in the face of the culture of Canaan.

This week the readings state that God has rejected the people he had brought out of Egypt. Because they have not been faithful to him they are sent into exile.

Today’s reading recounts the conquest of Israel by Assyria. The greater part of the Chosen people is taken into exile. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom lose their identity and disappear. They had not remained faithful to the God of Abraham in their contact with the culture of Canaan. They are dispersed, therefore, into the cultures of Assyria.

How shall we retain the faith of our ancestors? Many Christians are overwhelmed by the grandeur of modern secularism. How shall we reconcile the truths of the faith with the truths of the modern world?

 

Year 2, Week 12, Tuesday                                      Glenroy, 1976

“‘Therefore, thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city, shoot an arrow there, come before it with a shield, or cast up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return; he shall not come into this city, says the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”               2 Kings 19:32-34

Yesterday’s reading recounted the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians. In today’s reading we hear of the same Assyrians marching on Jerusalem to destroy it.

However, Hezekiah has been faithful to the covenant. He has destroyed the idols and promoted true worship. His piety wins reprieve for the city. Jerusalem is not taken. Suddenly, at the last-minute Sennacherib is obliged to return to his capital. Jerusalem is safe.

Hezekiah remains faithful, so that, despite the eventual destruction of the city, Judah survives. Whereas Israel disappears in the morass of time, Judah maintains its identity and will return after the exile to provide a remnant and to allow for the Virgin Mary from whom will come the Saviour.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Wednesday                                   Glenroy, 1976

“The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” … When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded the priest Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Achbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary, and the king’s servant Asaiah, saying, “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our ancestors did not obey the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.””         2 Kings 22:8, 11-13

The kings of Judah have been implicated in the worship of the gods and goddesses of Canaan. They had even allowed their shrines and altars to be built within the Temple itself.

The Book of the Law comes to light in this context. It states in no uncertain terms that the People which is faithful will prosper, but that idolaters are doomed. This revelation comes as a shock. The king and the People set about a reform of state and religion, but it is too late. Jerusalem is destroyed and the People are taken into exile.

The Church, which fails to keep the law of love, will collapse. The state that does live in harmony cannot survive. The family that is divided against itself becomes a hell.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Friday                                          Burwood, 1982

He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.  Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile the rest of the people …. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest people of the land to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil.”    2 Kings 25:9, 11-12

So, ends the history of the kings of Judah. With a starkness that is all the more terrible for its objectivity, the sacred writer reports, almost like a verdict, the fate of the last of the kings. So, ends the sorry tale.

What had begun so well with David and Solomon ends in the deportation in chains of a king whose last sight was the execution of his sons. The kings, who were to be as God to the people, are now cast out, and with them all the institutions of Israel.

Lament though we might at such a pass, there is to be another Babylon, another king. Rome is that other Babylon and Christ is that other king. Far more terrible is the clash that occurs. Zedekiah, like any mortal, is a mixture of good and bad. Babylon, like any power, is not without good even in its ruthlessness. Yet the later story sees the King of kings, entirely good, in conflict with the Beast. What clash, what sound of arms, what thunder of dispute.

After the punishment of Zedekiah comes the years of exile. After the crucifixion of the Nazarene come the hours in the tomb. A generation, a day, come and go. From exile, Israel is restored in their purity of faith in the One God. From entombment, Jesus is raised for the glory of the Three.

While we lament the fate of the last crowned head of Judah, even so God draws value. While we lament the maltreatment of the finest of men, we rejoice at the salvation that springs forth and, supremely, at the revelation of the Three.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Friday,                                        East Doncaster, 1990

And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; they built siege works against it all around.  Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah; they bound him in fetters and took him to Babylon.”   2 Kings 25:1, 6-7

What began so well ends in disaster. The triumphant entry into the Promised Land ends with exile. Jerusalem, which had witnessed the victories of David, now sees the flight of Zedekiah. Anyone who has talent or ability is sent into Babylon as the booty of war. Only the simplest of the people are left, to tend the vine and work the land.

The exile in Babylon is to be a moment of darkness. By the power of God who brings light out of darkness, it is to be the moment of greatest enlightenment. They are sent into Babylon to learn that the gods of the heathen are naught. Their king is imprisoned and his heirs are killed, to heighten the People’s desire for a David who will last forever. They are sent into exile to learn to long for a land that will never fail. Thus, the destruction of the kingdom of Judah is a preparation for a sense of the kingdom of God. The exile is both a punishment for sin and a gestation of truth.

This same occurs in our day. The destruction of what we hold dearest is the prelude to a new reality. The end of an institution is an increase of the reign of the Spirit. The end of the stress on dogma heightens the sense of the Spirit of truth. The decline in the numbers of clergy is the beginning of the sense of universal responsibility.

 

Year 2, Week 12, Saturday,                                      East Doncaster, 1990

“Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.”                   Lamentations 2:19

Jerusalem has been destroyed. The people have been taken into exile. The Temple is in ruins, and the royal family is executed. The traditions have been brought to nothing. The destruction is complete.

But the prophet does not lose faith. His lamentation concludes with an invitation to prayer: “Stretch out your hands to him for the lives of your children.” The tears do not bring doubt but lead only to a more insistent prayer.

On the cross Jesus will commend his spirit to God. By his death the lives of God’s children will be saved.

 

 

 

 

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