29 August 2010

Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem

In the liturgy of this 22nd Sunday (Year C), we are given an insight into exactly what is really happening when we gather for the Eucharist, with this magnificent reading from the book of Hebrews. All that we see around us, as rich and as beautiful as it usually is, is only a glimpse of the untold beauty of the worship that is actually happening as we gather in the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.

Play MP3

Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (10'25")

22 August 2010

Entering the gate of Jesus

Many years ago, when I was a uni student in Sydney, I wanted to head back home to Bega for a family function. These was the days before the Internet (remember those?) so I bought the bus ticket from a travel agent and duly headed into the Coach Terminal at Central Station to catch the designated bus. I arrived nice and early at the terminal, and was a little surprised that there were no other passengers waiting around. I waited for the scheduled departure time, checking my ticket and the clock tower to make sure that my watch wasn't playing up. And so I waited. And waited. When more than thirty minutes after the scheduled departure time had passed and realised there was a number for the coach company on the ticket, so I gave them a call. Apologetically, they informed me that they had that week changed their departure schedule, and the travel agent had put the old time on the ticket. The bus I was supposed to catch had left an hour before and no other buses were running that day; so I had no other choice but to go back to my Sydney home and try again the next day. (My dear mother did write to the company and get a refund and a travel voucher, so all was not lost!)

So, do you have a ticket to heaven? Is it valid? Or has the salvation bus already left?

Have you ever had the experience of meeting evangelical or fundamentalist Christians who have asked you the question, "if you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven?" There only seems to be one question that they ask. So, if you were to die tonight, would you go to heaven? What about your brother/sister/mother/father/son/daughter/grandchild/neighbour/friend/colleague?

In the gospel today, Jesus is asked the question, 'will there only be a few saved?' Although this is a question we rarely think about, it is one that many people, from the Rabbis in the days of Jesus right through the centuries have often pondered and attempted to answer. In the Gospel, Jesus doesn't answer, but tells us to 'strive to enter by the narrow gate.' So what exactly is going on?

So how many will be saved? Do we think that Origin of Alexandria (3rd century) was correct when he surmised that in the end, because of the love and mercy of the Lord, the goodness of creation and that we have all been created in the image and likeness of God - that all would end up being saved? Or do we more tend to think that St Augustine of Hippo was right, who wrote in the fourth century that most of humanity were going to be damned and only a very few would be saved?

When Jesus tells us to enter by the narrow gate - what makes the gate narrow, and who or what is the gate? Does the Gospel Acclamation today help us? - when we are reminded of one of the seven declarations of Jesus in John's gospel, usually called the "I am" statements - "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me." But then what do we make of this final vision of the book of Isaiah with all the nations who do not know the Lord finally coming to see the glory of God; or the second reading (Hebrews 12) about the Lord correcting and training his children.

Play MP3

[8'51"] Sunday 21 C

15 August 2010

Mary and the Ark

The liturgy of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin presents a cacophony of images to us: the Ark of the Covenant in the temple of heaven; a woman clothed with the sun with the moon at her feet and a crown of twelve stars; a pug-ugly, fearsome and hungry dragon; and then by contrast the ordinary and humble scene of a woman visiting her kinswoman which results in this most magnificent declaration of praise for what God has done by breaking into the world. Added to all these images is the equally striking declaration of St Paul when he writes to the Corinthians about the effects and consequences of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. What are we to make of all these images and how do they relate to the Assumption of Mary?

Play MP3

Recorded at St John Vianney, 8'49"
Background music - Memorial (by Explosions in the Sky)

08 August 2010

It has pleased the Father to give you the kingdom

19th Sunday, Year C (Feast of Blessed Mary MacKillop)

It is appropriate that the Australian church remembers Blessed Mary MacKillop today, with the opening line of the Gospel (Luke 12:32-48) being a powerful reminder to us the idea of grace - 'There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.' In the Father's kingdom, there is the need to both give and receive - so sell your posessions and give alms. A great image of this that I have found helpful is the process that I like to do regularly - breathing. Because the only way to breathe well is to both breathe in and breathe out.

Play MP3

Recorded at St Brigid's, Gwynneville, 9am (8'36")

01 August 2010

Vapour, riches and hell

18th Sunday (Year C): Luke 12:13-21 & Qoh 1:2, 2:21-23

We have in today's Gospel one of only two times in the parables of Jesus when he describes some action committed by a person that it deserves only one judgement - death. Like the other story (the rich man and Lazarus, also in the gospel of Luke, 16:19-31) the cause of this terrible judgement is not because the person has broken one of the ten commandments, but because of an incredible greed and a selfish disregard for the needs of the poor. This view is reinforced by the selection of the first reading - the interminably depressed writings of Qoheleth (also called Ecclesiastes, from the Greek translation) who at the end of a life filled with riches and pleasure, knows that all of these things are mere vapour ('hebel') - meaningless vanity. So where do we find our hope?
Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (7'08")