God plays no favourites

Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B) May 17 (Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 4:7-10; John 15:9-17)

How would we feel if we saw God’s Spirit blessing our worst enemy — or one of a group we despise or fear? Would we rejoice or would we be overwhelmed by disbelief and outrage?

Love must be our way

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B) May 10 (Acts 9:26-31; Psalm 22; 1 John 3:18-24; John 15:1-8)

Who can blame the Jerusalem community for being suspicious of Saul? He hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the Christian movement. By his own admission he was a zealous persecutor, casting many believers into prison and even voting for death on numerous occasions. He was their chief tormentor and persecutor — and now he turns up at their meetings and wants to be accepted!

Why did God become human?

{mosimage}While in school, I did a few jobs along the way. (It’s always good to have paying jobs to help avoid getting down to thesis work.)  One I enjoyed was teaching theology to Catholic teachers.

After one class on Christology, a teacher-student said to me, quite seriously:  “Are you saying the church teaches that Jesus was actually God? That God really became a human person? I don’t know if I believe that!” Bill listened so well, really taking in church doctrine, and actually let the question be raised in himself.

Jesus won't disappoint us

Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year B) May 3 (Acts 4:7-12; Psalm 118; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18)

In struggles for survival and power intelligent and compassionate dialogue is often the first victim. Words uttered or written in the heat and polemics of the moment can have a negative and even dangerous afterlife.

Jesus’ Divine gift

Third Sunday of Easter (Year B) April 26 (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48)

Peter might be forgiven a little smugness as he narrates the story of the passion and death of Jesus to some of those responsible. To be accused of rejecting the Holy and Righteous One and killing the Author of life is no small thing and the words must have hit home with a number of his audience.

God leaves no one behind

Second Sunday of Easter (Year B) April 19 (Acts 4:32-35; Psalm 118; 1 John 5:1-6; John 20:19-31)

Biblical literalists can be very choosy indeed. This famous passage from Acts describes an exciting and challenging form of early “Christian communism.” But it is a rare occurrence when this passage is taken seriously — in fact, the New Testament is often used to justify and support profit and private property.

The renunciation of common property and union of minds and hearts sounds a bit too much like a socialist collective for most people. But the similarity to communism is superficial for there is the complete absence of coercion or violence — sharing was something believers did voluntarily and joyfully. Unity of heart and soul did not mean group-think or adherence to a party line. It described harmony about the things that give life and happiness. There can only be this sort of communal relationship when the trust level is very high and that takes a lot of work — more than most people are willing to give.

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.”