It can be found here: A Future Full of Hope Mission book
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“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
For God’s own reasons (inexplicable to us) God loved the world (all creation) from the very beginning. In more scientific terms God loves all matter and whatever matter produced, developed into or evolved into, from the very beginning.
Love (God’s love) was the trigger, the motivation, the catalyst for creation. Love seeks reciprocation. Inanimate, non-sentient and sentient creation reciprocate God’s love be being true to their nature (e.g. a stone exists as a stone and does not try to be a plant. )
Intelligent creation (human beings) can also recognise and understand God’s goodness and love and reciprocate in like manner.
From the very beginning God’s motivation was, and is, the sharing of God’s life, existence, being and love. This involved God’s revealing Itself (demonstrating what God is like) to creation. Firstly by the work of God’s hands (creation itself), secondly through the writings of Scripture (the Bible etc.) and thirdly through the Incarnation (God becoming a human being and being born, living and dying among us).
The Incarnation was not an antidote, an adjustment, a repair job necessitated by the fall of man ( Original sin). The Incarnation was part of God’s plan from the very beginning (part of God’s ongoing plan of self-revelation). God’s plan for creation was not and never will be disrupted or put in jeopardy by anything human beings did or will do or not do.
Salvation is knowing God through God’s self-revelation and responding to this knowledge in spirit and in truth. “This is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil.” …… “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light.”
God is light, God is truth, God is straightforwardness, God is genuine, God is authentic. Worshipping God is not about doing certain things or acting in a certain way. It is about being a certain sort of person.
“Jesus said to her. Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. … But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
That is why Jesus said; “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
This is about genuinely putting others first. Genuinely being compassionate. Genuinely being forgiving. Genuinely being tolerant. Genuinely being generous. It is not just about acting in a loving way but being genuinely loving. Not just about donating to the needy but believing that what is yours is only held in stewardship for helping others. Etc.
This is the cross that Jesus tells his followers they must take up. The cross is self-denial. The cross is selflessness. The cross is putting the needs and the wellbeing of others before one’s own. This is what ‘losing ones life’ for Jesus sake means. By being genuinely
generous, putting others and their needs first, being unselfish, one is taking up one’s cross and following Jesus.
Religion is worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
Religions are human organisations which seek to guide me towards worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Religions are there to constantly reminding me what worshipping God in spirit and in truth means. Religions are there to help me to worship God in spirit and in truth. Religions are there to help me to take up my cross every day and follow Jesus of Nazareth.
All four Gospels relate the incident in the temple in Jerusalem because they saw it as having major symbolic consequences for Jews and Christians alike. The Jews saw it as a rejection of the Temple as the centre of their religion, as the dwelling place of their God, as the major unifying factor of their nation.
Even at that time Jews came in their thousands from all over the world to offer sacrifice and prayer in the temple, especially for the great feast of the Passover when this incident occurred.
It is reckoned that at that time, during Passover week, the population of Jerusalem jumped from 20 thousand to 120 thousand. It was a time of extreme political and religious tension when every available soldier and policeman was on constant duty.
By his actions and words, that day in the Temple, Jesus of Nazareth effectively and openly rejected all this cherished belief and custom.
Being immediately aware of the meaning of his words and actions the temple guards and authorities immediately descended on him demanding a spectacular sign from heaven (some jaw dropping miracle) showing that he had authority from God for doing what he had just done.
Jesus’ reply was ‘destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’
The meaning of these words were understood by the followers of Jesus a week later when he was executed, buried and arose from the dead after three days.
From now on the Temple; the dwelling of God, is the person of Jesus of Nazareth. From now on true worship is not that offered in the old temple in Jerusalem such as burnt offerings and the sacrifice of animals, not long prayers and much singing of psalms, not clouds of instance and solemn and protracted liturgies and cultic warship. From now on the Temple is the person of Jesus of Nazareth who lives among us and in whom God lives in His fullness. From now on the temple or the church or the mosque are just convenient buildings where the children of God meet to give praise and thanks to their God. True worship is following in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth, walking hand in hand with Jesus of Nazareth, living in the Spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. True worship is living in constant awareness that we are all one family, God’s Family. That we are all responsible for one another. That all we have is a gift from our God and must be shared with generosity. From now on there is only one commandment, one precept, one teaching – ‘But to you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who
hate you. bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you …. then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.’
I well know that I will never fully comply with this. Just as I well know that I will never win the half marathon or even the 10 k. fun run. But that need not stop one from running.
Why do we say that the Mass is central to our Catholic Faith?
This is so because everything that God has ever done or said is encapsulated, summarised, condensed, in the one act or event of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.
God my Creator’s last word, final testament, definitive act, most visible demonstration of His concern, care and commitment to my total welfare is the crucifixion.
As St. Paul says in Rom. 5; ’For while we were still sinners, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.’
The Mass is what we do to remember, to re-enact, to re-present the crucifixion, in the way that Jesus of Nazareth asked us to do it.
At the Last Supper, taking bread he shared it among them to eat saying ‘this is my body which will be given up for you.’ ( given up for you tomorrow on the cross). Then taking the wine he poured some for each of them to drink saying ‘this is my blood which will be shed for you.’ ( shed for you tomorrow on the cross). Then he added ‘do this in memory of me.’
This act (the Mass) which we do in memory of him is the simple enactment or representation of the Last Supper. The Last Supper is the symbolic reenactment or representation of what was to happen the following day on the cross.
Therefore our eyes and mind should be focused on the crucifix during mass rather than on the bread and wine. The crucifixion is what is really happening, the bread and wine are symbols re-presenting the crucifixion.
(That is why there is always a crucifix on or near the altar during Mass.)
The original Mass was a group of people sitting round the kitchen table in a private house, reading from some part of the Old Testament, singing a few psalms and sharing a loaf of bread and a flagon of wine while repeating the words of Jesus at the Last Supper. The principal emotion or motivation was gratitude and thanksgiving for the great things God had and is doing for them. Then they left, each going their own way, to live and spread the good news of the kingdom of God.
Because of large numbers, big churches and the accumulation over the years of prayers and some out of date symbols, this simple act of remembrance and gratitude is not easily discernible today. One has to work at it and concentrate closely.
Human nature being human nature, one’s motivation and gratitude at any particular Mass, can vary from strong to non existent. The latter is where faith and raw commitment come into play. (One might say, just like married life ).