We are destined for fulfilment with God

Easter Sunday (Year B) April 12 (Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

Why was the original Easter proclamation “good news”? What did it mean to those who first heard the message? Does it still pack the same punch in 2009 as it did on Easter morning? If not, why not?

These are questions that we must always bring to our celebration of Easter, for so often it is merely another feast on the liturgical calendar with little practical impact on individual lives. Peter relates the original proclamation with a sense of joyful wonder. The story is about this incredible God-filled man named Jesus and all the wonderful things He said and did. What could have been a crushing and tragic end was transformed by the hand of God who raised Jesus from the dead. And now Jesus stands astride all human history as its life-giving power and final judge.

Jesus' truth cannot be overpowered

Passion Sunday (Year B) April 5 (Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Mark 14:1-15:47)

How are saints, prophets and reformers able to persevere in their commitment and mission? What is the source of their courage and stamina? Often they must endure ridicule, rejection, arrest, torture and even death. The pressure is great to compromise or take an easier path.

But they are instructed and guided from a higher source. This knowledge gives them courage and strength — and even joy — in the midst of their struggles. Many great names have questioned themselves while suffering the agony of doubt and loneliness. But they persevere because they can do no other — the spirit of God sets their hearts aflame. They are still human beings with all of the weaknesses and flaws that accompany our humanity. The difference is that they have learned to listen — and in the Bible both “hear” and “obey” stem from the same root word. One must listen with more than ears and see with more than eyes in order to be inspired by God.

God is not beyond our reach

Two questions have been ringing in my heart.

One came from a gentle, soft-spoken man named Allan. He suffered terribly as a child, abandoned by his parents, in a country at war.  A man of great faith, he works hard to keep from going to hell after death, because “I’ve been in hell, and I don’t want to go there again.”

How do I get out of hell and get to God? Since hell is so prevalent on Earth, it’s an urgent question. I suspect it’s a fairly common one. Not everyone would consider their lives hell. But at least they might ask: How do I get out of suffering and struggle, anxiety and loneliness, depression and suffering, and get to God?

We must surrender to God's will

Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 29 (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Psalm 51; Hebrews 5:7-9; John 12:20-33)

Ignorance is the breeding ground for human sin. This is especially the case when the ignorance refers to the quality of one’s knowledge of God. It is paradoxical that one can be quite religious in the conventional sense and have little or no direct or personal experience or knowledge of God. True knowledge of God consists in far more than what is gleaned from books, teachers, culture, family, friends and authority figures. In these cases a personal quality is lacking and the deeper levels of the heart, mind and soul remain untouched. This can easily spin off in either of two directions — fanaticism on the one hand or apathy on the other.

Choose the abundant life God offers

Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 22 (2 Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23; Psalm 137; Ephesians 2:4-10; John 3:14-21)

When the terrible and unspeakable happens people want to know why. Often there is a twist to the “why”: who is to blame? Why the Holocaust? Why 9/11? Why the tsunami or earthquake? Questioning and reflecting on negative experiences gives rise to many interpretations. They can range from a conclusion that there is no God to a conviction that the victims “had it coming.”

The temple shall be raised in three days

Third Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 15 (Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19; 1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25; John 2:13-25)

A few years ago a conservative politician in the United States was pushing energetically for the display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings in his state. He was challenged during a TV interview to name the commandments but a blank and stricken look was his only reply. The interviewer lowered the bar and asked him to name even one commandment but the hapless politician remained mute and embarrassed before the unblinking eye of the camera.

We are never separated from God's love

Second Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 8 (Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18; Psalm 116; Romans 8:31-35, 37; Mark 9:2-10)

Most people keep a death grip on all that they hold dear. They live in dread and fear of losing possession, loved ones, relationships and personal achievements. It is the driving force behind much of our fear-filled and selfish behaviour.

Following the quest

Two young women were talking: Andrea a petite blonde and an artist, Kelsey a winsome brunette and a manager.

Andrea told of her longing for a soul mate who would connect with her and love her as she was. She wanted to be a person, to be someone. In a way, she sought salve for the perpetual sense of “not good enough” from her parents’ divorce of long ago. She felt like a ball of anger, sometimes. She also felt like a person with a quest, revealed in art. And a quest for the divine, sensed but unexplored. For Andrea, yearning had tipped into addiction. Her best friend was alcohol; when everybody and everything else failed her, the salve was there. Somewhere down deep she hated this best friend, but it seemed to enable.

Christ leaves no one behind

First Sunday of Lent (Year B) March 1 (Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)

A flood is terrifying and destructive even if it consists of only a few feet of water. Images from the tsunami in Asia, Katrina in New Orleans and a host of other regional floods are still fresh in our minds. Destruction is great and loss of life can be heavy.

Faith essential to healing a broken world

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 22 (Isaiah 43:18-19, 20-22, 24-25; Psalm 41; 2 Corinthians 1:18-22; Mark 2:1-12)

We have a massive memory problem. Those things that we are supposed to remember slip like sand through fingers. Included in this category are the principles of spiritual and humane living and the ethics of God’s kingdom, as well as the many blessings and graces we have received from God or others. We also forget the most important thing in life: why we are here.

Respond with compassion

Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Feb. 15 (Leviticus 13:1-2, 45-46; Psalm 32; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45)

Ignorance and fear are close and frequent companions. Together they often produce the tragic attitude we find in the reading from Leviticus. A leper is to be shunned and excluded from society. Lurking below the surface of the words is the assumption that their predicament must somehow be a punishment from God. And to “treat someone like a leper” has entered our own language to describe shunning another with repugnance and exclusion.