Archive for November, 2005
“I could have been a contender” says Sylvester Stallone in the film “Rocky”. And most of us know what he means.Did you spot the ‘deliberate’ mistake? D’oh! I really meant Marlon Brando in ‘On the Waterfront’
One of our team, trained long ago as a zoologist, was reading the TV guide this afternoon and sighing wistfully at the thought of a new David Attenborough extravaganza about creepy crawlies—“That could have been me”, he muttered. I don’t think he meant the insects…
November 24th, 2005
I run the risk of appearing a groupie by offering a second“The long slow victory of gnostic over catholic christianity” link in a few months to an interview with John Dominic Crossan but it seems so relevant to our celebration of Christ the King. Here he is, comparing the imagery surrounding the Imperial cult with the titles and understanding the earliest followers used for Jesus.
Today, if you talked to most people and said there was a human being in the first century who was called Divine Son of God, God from God, Lord and Redeemer, and Liberator and Savior of the world, 99.9% of people would say it’s Jesus we are talking about. But Caesar Augustus was called all of those titles before Jesus was ever born. Those were his titles.
November 20th, 2005
Both readings raise a question of purity: the purity of our worship, the purity of our worship spaces, the purity of our prayer.
Judas and his brothers set out to purify the sanctuary of Jerusalem from the defilement of their enemies. They make their sacrifices, re-dedicate their altars, offer their communion; they adore, they adorn, they sing, they feast.
November 18th, 2005
At first sight there’s a contrast between the two readings today. The first reading is all full of haste and energy and speed. The Word coming to the rescue, saving the Israelites, giving them safe passage, re-making the world to make us free. And not just quietly let loose but light-hearted, skipping like lambs, singing like children. As the image goes it is God who takes the initiative and we who can only respond with songs of joy.
But the gospel good news sounds less promising: there’s not much singing and skipping going on. Just a promise that if we pester enough, if we threaten violence, if we are irritating enough then God might manage to right our wrongs. It sounds like the initiative has to be all ours and the labour unrelenting.
I reckon though we jump to conclusions if we put it that way around—if we see God as the harassed judge delaying the justice that we are nagging for. Isn’t it a cop-out to leave all the justice to God—aren’t the reins of righteousness in our own hands? Aren’t we the ones who make the laws and bend them? Aren’t we the ones who elect the politicians we deserve? Isn’t justice ours to make or break?
November 12th, 2005
The war to end all wars didn’t.
November 11th, 2005
Another cracking piece from WaiterRant. Marvellous!
November 8th, 2005
I’ve just been wrapping up an article for the British Jesuit’s spirituality journal The Way. The paper is about spiritual direction and the choices a director makes to follow one thread and set aside others. It should appear in January 2006.
Some time back (October 2004) I published another paper in The Way, this time on a relatively neglected suggestion found in The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. The suggestion in question is this:
A step or two in front of the place where I am to contemplate or meditate, I will stand for the length of an Our Father, raising my mind above and considering how God our Lord is looking at me, etc., and make an act of reverence or humility.
I try to show that buried in this rather dry injunction is a rich spirituality of personal relationship with God. You can download a PDF version or read on…
Continue Reading November 6th, 2005
Seems like dreams can go two ways. Ever had one of those nightmares where you are being chased down long corridors through tangled forests towards the ever receding safety of a half-open door? That door can go two ways: slam shut behind you with a flood or relief or slam shut in your face with whatever ravening monster ready to wake you up frantic and panting. Dreams can go two ways.
This parable isn’t quite a nightmare—though Matthew tries to make it one. You might be mortified if the door to the wedding feast slams shut but its not life or death—it’s only a party—though ‘I do not know you’ is ominous enough. And all because of a little oil. 50% of us consigned to oblivion over a little oil.
The door’s the problem here—not the oil, not the lamps, and not the bridesmaids. The sound of that door slamming is decisive; when that door closes you’re either in or out. Tough!
Is this the God we know? Tough on crime. No excuses. You had your chance? It’s certainly the God some people swear by. There’s a whole religious industry built around misreading our second reading, waiting for the door to slam shut so the righteous can be carried aloft to watch their unfortunate families and friends left behind and locked out of heaven. If that’s your God you don’t need to worry about global warming or waging war for oil—it’ll all be over soon anyway and before the dream becomes a nightmare you’ll be on the right side of the door.
November 6th, 2005
They are all at it today. It’s an orgy of self-justification. The parable’s full of it. Paul’s full of it. And even our feast of Charles Borromeo hints of it. How do we do things right? How do we run our diocese, or live out our calling, or just make an easy living? If no one were watching it might all be easy. Who cares what a mess we make if we’re not caught out? Who’s bothered by the corners we cut if the boss is away?
But don’t we feel all the time that we are under scrutiny? There’s always someone to pick us up on what we’ve done, or done badly, or not done at all. And not just irate employers—there’s friends and family and community we live with. Don’t you wish they’d get off your back? Don’t you wish they’d let up? Don’t you wish you could have some peace and quiet?
Maybe that’s why you’ve come on retreat? To get away from it all. To leave the prying eye’s behind. To be left alone.
But then look what they do! They bring out crafty and dishonest stewards, apostles busy with their own self-assessment, and dead bishops who ran a tight ship.
Worst of all though is the all-seeing eye you bring along yourselves. The critical voice that will never quite quit. And I don’t mean God. I mean the personal inner tyrant that sounds like God, pretends to be God, but wears a disapproving frown.
If you want some peace and quiet, if you want to hear the real voice of the real God, you’re going to need to leave the inner critic at the front door and listen instead for the real God, the God who praises the strangest people for the damnedest things. If you opened your ears and relaxed your heart this evening what would you hear God praising you for … even you, even now.
November 4th, 2005