See ya later

It was during our celebration of All Saints day and All Souls day that we farewell a visiting priest to our parish. Coming from India Father continues a series of sub-continental priests to fill in the shortage in our diocese. The next is already here and we anxiously await for his contribution to the parish life.

Nonetheless, during his final homily (his homilies are quite divisive; he uses scripture, like Hendrix uses a guitar, to call us to account which is confronting to some people) he spoke about the celebrations of All Saints / All Souls as a celebration of the Church Glorified (or Redeemed), the Church Suffering, and the Church Militant.

If these terms are new to you its basically a recognition of the three states of the people of God: those in Heaven are the Church Glorified (and is celebrated during All Saints), those in Purgatory are the Church Suffering (and is celebrated during All Souls), and those of us still working out our salvation with fear and trembling are the Church Militant, for we are still battling the evil one. (For scriptural support of purgatory I point you to 1 Cor 3:12-15).

It was, in his usual custom, both comforting and confronting to hear about the reality of Hell from the ambo. Where  much soothsaying is normally found the font runneth dry, at least for a time. But the point was clearly made that life is eternal and we end up in either Heaven or Hell which is determined by our choices. Life does not end here.

As Father was saying his goodbyes to parishioners during the week it was pointed out to him that in Australia we don’t say “good bye”, we say “see ya later.” So just as the words of scripture do not end on the page, just as the ministry of the priest does not end in the parish, life does not end on earth. In each of these cases we can truly say “See ya later.”

So while Father continues his ministry elsewhere we say a big thank you for your ministry in our parish. And we extend the prayer to include all priests in their ministry. Thank you all, and “See ya later!” Join me in prayerful thanks; Our Father…

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Women: Excluded or exalted?

The mercy of God appears in all shapes and sizes. In the to and fro of our daily lives we often miss it. Sometimes we don’t understand it, sometimes it is not what we expect. This is more so, I think, in the long history of mankind, in particular the modern and popular understanding of the history of the chosen people of God; salvation history. Mercy, as is often the case, leads to so much more than itself as it is not an end itself but draws us into a deeper relationship with God, as does love, beauty, goodness, truth, and so on.

In the times of the Jews from not long after its inception men were considered dominant. They were the protectors and providers of their wives and their families. This was the case up until recent years, perhaps it still is in parts. When women were not protected or provided for they were vulnerable to a host of exploitations. Perhaps they still are in parts. Additionally authority, like anything else, can be abused which lead to the mercies of God being twisted for the benefit of the self and not for God. This lead to oppression and so forth.

Before the blessed self revelation of God in Jesus, God gave the Law. It is well known that some key figures in the history of the Hebrews had many wives; I think it was King Solomon who had the most. Nevertheless, this was a mercy extended by God to his people. Widows and other vulnerable women needed the protection and provisions of men. Allowing polygamy was a conciliatory mercy from God to women particularly for their protection.  The ideal would have been to create a society in which women, married or otherwise, were not vulnerable.

In comes Jesus: God’s mercy further extended. Jesus shows us the way in so many things and his example of his treatment of women, in particular widows, shows us the intrinsic dignity of all people and the protection required of the vulnerable, children included. By living the way of Jesus this ideal society is brought another step closer to reality.

Mary has a foundational and unequal role in the perception of women. The Mediatrix of mercy is uniquely exalted in the Catholic and Orthodox churches like no other human ever, male or female. Above all creation there is no one like her. Her preciousness extends to all humanity but is seen fully within the church.

Therefore, somewhat ironically, the patriarchal church Jesus left behind has in its view an example of perfect manhood in Jesus (not the lest by his treatment of those in need) and an example of perfect womanhood in Mary exalted. To uphold these examples in bringing about the ideal society the notion of an exalted person among many (or to put it another way to recognize the distinction within sameness) needs to be lived out loud and permeate through all we do. The ordinary made extraordinary: seen in Mary, through Jesus, by God.

The previous polygamous relationships now have a better example to live by. The chains, no matter how merciful their intent, have been broken and freedom reigns in fidelity to God and witnessed in monogamous marriage. The faithful example of Mary Queen of Heaven is the exaltation of womanhood par excellence. She was not given authority but is above all who have it, like a reversion of the protection and provision of the previous era.

This restored relationship – of Mary exalted, of the example of Jesus – brings together equally the prevailing faults of each of us. The reunions here on earth reflect faithfully (though not perfectly) the restored relationship in heaven. By having the exaltation of Mary, women are given an example to live by, and men are given the example of how to treat them. By having the example of a sacrificial Jesus men are given and example of manhood, and women are restored. United in Christ perfect union is more than possible, its achievable. Praise God!

Meet you in the middle: a reflection on this weeks gospel (Matt 13:44-52)

My time of late has been consumed with the thoughts of the state of the world. I seriously believe we are on the verge of World War III. The plane down over Ukraine, a result of a Russian military exercise; the escalating war between Palestine and Israel; the persecution of Iraqi Christians by ISIS. It’s hard to get my head around it all and I have my suspicions and theories, none I will get into right now. Keep them in your prayers.

Anyhow…

Continuing somewhat from the agricultural theme of previous weeks we depart from the harvester and welcome the fishermen, the merchant and the discoverer. And each is clearly distinct yet point to a central theme.

Let’s address the first part of the gospel: the discovery of treasure in a field. Heaven is likened to the treasure, not the discoverer as some will say. The treasure lies dormant, overlooked and perhaps overgrown. Someone may stumble upon it but upon noticing it’s worth gives up all he has to attain it. Heaven is the reward for those who recognize its worth and do all they can to attain it. He who, with vigor, seeks heaven.

The second part of the gospel turns the tables around. Heaven now is like a merchant. Merchants travel widely looking for things of value. These riches are usually traded for greater riches but not all things were. Things seen too valuable were kept for themselves and not traded. However the merchant here has found something of far exceeding worth. We are the riches of heaven. Heaven seeks us.

The last part echoes the harvester in the fields of wheat but uses a new metaphor. The net is heaven dragging through the water and collecting all types of fish, perhaps even debris. Judgement is explicitly the selection of the good fish from the rest of the catch which when deemed unacceptable is thrown into a fire and the angels are the ones who do the separating.

The three parts meet in heaven. The first, heaven lies hidden; once it’s discovered is worth everything. The second, heaven is looking for us; once we’re discovered is worth everything. The third is the happy union of the two pursuits.

The pursuit of the heaven of great worth will cost everything. It’s easy to say that at home with my family around me. It costs so much more to so many. Martyrs today continue to witness silently to a deaf world. But with our pursuit of the same great treasure we can recognize both it’s value and it’s cost.

Are you willing to pay the same price that has been asked of so many? I would hope that many of us would say yes. But it is easier to die for the faith than to live it. Death thankfully where I live is not a necessary price to pay, at least not yet. I am reminded to pay in small things as well as in the big. It still takes cents to make the dollar. Or we might say, it still takes coins to make a treasure, no matter how small.

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Clarinets and candle light : A reflection on this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 20:27-38)

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For those that may not have guessed yet, I lean more to the traditional side of things. When it comes to liturgy I am no different. I saw a clip on twitter this week which I forwarded (you can find me @G0d_lover) that showed a disgraceful mass with a clarinet playing celebrant, belly dancers (in front of the exposed Blessed Sacrament) and Holy Communion distributed to the congregation seated at candlelit tables! I mean, where’s the parousia?! (That is the name given, basically, to the line up of the faithful into heaven of which the queue to receive the Eucharist is a sign.)

This morning’s mass, thankfully, fell short of clarinets and candle light but had a number of, what some may call, “liturgical abuses”: readings were unnecessarily changed, liturgical dancers made an appearance… Yes, it was a mass for young children, so “accommodations” had to be made.

What has all this got to do with this Sunday’s gospel? Jesus speaks to “some Sadducees – those who say there is no resurrection” – about marriage. However in the context of marriage Jesus gives a lesson on the resurrection. There is the clear lesson of eternal life (“he is God, not of the dead, but of the living”) but he alludes to more than this. In saying that those in the “other world” do not marry, he points to a deeper change in our state of life. Once we cross the great divide of death nothing is the same. Perhaps a better way of saying it is that everything of God is perfected. Marriage should never be for an individual. Marriage is for the dedicated service of two individuals to each other. Marriage becomes a way to holiness; to communion with Christ. In heaven this communion is perfected. This widow was graced enough to get possibly seven men to heaven (though whether heaven existed in its current state or not is a matter for another time!). Widows and widowers are themselves the best adjudicators whether or not they have succeeded in their role to get their spouse to heaven. I mean, apart from the spouse and God.

This perfection in heaven is living – and real. All things offered for the greater glory of God are perfected in heaven. Marriages are among them. So are masses, no matter how poor or disrespectful they seem. I remember speaking about this problem (of masses with little respect) to my spiritual director. She advised me to focus on Christ. Be aware of the form and matter. If these are present, so is Christ. I still tell myself “Jesus is here, Jesus is here” during what I would consider poor masses, but it is true. I am not the judge, Jesus will be. And he will perfect all things offered to God, whether marriages or masses, whether clarinets or candles.

Pray for the souls in purgatory. They are in the process of being perfected.