“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.”
John the Baptist was called by God to prepare the people of Israel for Jesus of Nazareth.
Firstly John preached repentance.
There are different kinds of repentance
True repentance has nothing to do with fear; fear of God, fear of Hell, fear of punishment, fear of embarrassment, fear of discovery.
True repentance is a deep regret for hurt, pain and injury which I have directly caused to others or am in some way implicated in.
For example, I can be directly abusive to others or I can vote for someone I know is abusive to others. I can steal myself or I can buy something I know or strongly suspect has been stolen. I can dent someone parked car and drive away unnoticed or I can leave a note with my phone number.
The test is truth. Am I truly repentant for hurts or injury I have caused directly or indirectly or am I repentant because of some perceived repercussions for myself.
For years and years I went to confession seeking forgiveness, but my motivation was not true repentance but selfish self preservation from future perceived punishment. What is now known as ‘covering one’s ass.’
That is why I question how the sacrament of Reconciliation has been presented to us and is still presented to us. It fosters self interest, self preservation. It is not authentic. it is focused on oneself and the protecting of oneself from future unpleasant repercussions and retribution. There are exceptions of course and some people do demonstrate true and deep repentance for hurts given and help withheld.
But I believe that by and large Confession, as still practised today, is counterproductive, unauthentic and largely self deception. I would recommend that each one of us looks back over the many times we have gone to confession over the years and judge honestly for oneself.
My aim is not to cause you to worry about the past and whether you have been forgiven or not. Forget about the past. Trust in one’s God and look to an authentic future where you walk hand in hand with your God.
My God does not want me to wallow in regret, guilt or have scruples about the past. These are detriment to my relationship with my God and stultify my spiritual life.
My God wants me to plant the flowers of justice, love, compassion and giving in the garden of my life and not waste my time continually trying to uproot weeds.
Today, the First Sunday of Advent – the beginning of the Church’s new year.
For those sensitive to the liturgy it is year B for Sundays and year 2 for weekdays.
Advent is a time of preparation.
A time of preparation for the Lord’s second coming and for the anniversary of the Lord’s first coming on Christmas day.
Last Sunday we examined the idea of the Last Day and Judgement – the Lord’s Second
We examined the idea that each one of us is his/her own judge. That our judgement is what each of us do or don’t do; what each one of us is or is not.
We have no idea about what Eternal Life will be like. It will not just be life that goes on and on. It will be a sharing in the life of our God and our Creator.
One thing we can be sure of is that sharing in the life of God involves the following, and I quote; ‘We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in them.’
So, how can I share in the life of God if I hold enmity or hatred, or anger or jealousy towards another person – towards one of God’s beloved children? How can I meet my neighbour in Eternal life if I am still seeking revenge on him/her?
How this is to be ironed out (if it can be ironed out)? ; your guess is as good as mine.
One thing for sure; I cannot live in union with God in eternal life if there are people around who I refuse to meet or talk to.
This is what Jesus of Nazareth is talking about when he told us;
‘if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.’
The above are graphic stories or examples of what I need to do now.
Some time ago I visited a person who was dying. He knew he was dying. He was content to die. He felt at peace with his God. I brought up the name of a person with whom I knew he was at enmity, hoping that, at least in his own mind, there was some reconciliation. He immediately flared up in anger towards that person. The next day he died, I hear peacefully! Seeing as our God has given us free will and respects our free will, I often wonder what God can do in cases like that, which are many.
Back to Advent. The time for preparation, not Just for Christmas, but also for our entry into Eternal Life.
Why not think of this Advent as being ‘on my way to court with my opponent.’ This is my opportunity to settle with my opponent – to seek reconciliation, to offer reconciliation, to seek healing for hurts given and received, to try and realise that, as in my own life, many ways I react and act are the result of my upbringing, environment and genes. So too for other people. Realising and accepting that we are all wounded in one way or another, be it physically, psychologically or spiritually, can help me to be tolerant, forgiving and understanding.
‘You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.’
Advent is a good time to try and walk with my God.
The Parish Pastoral Council reviewed a number of suggestions for next years’ Parish projects and a decision was made to support the following two projects during 2018:
Mary’s Meals (Overseas) – they work in 15 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, providing a nutritious daily meal to some of the world’s poorest children, in their place of education
Sixty One (Local) – a group of Bristol based charities, churches, businesses and individuals who have come together to work co-operatively to help ex-prisoners lead meaningful lives that are free from crime.
Takings last weekend came to £215, which included sales of Christmas cards.
Cards are still available in the Lady Chapel, along with Traidcraft stocking flillers.
If you would like to contribute to food bags that will be
given to Borderlands members to help sustain them over the Christmas period, SMALL bags of rice, lentils, beans and tinned fish would be gratefully received.
The Bishops of England and Wales have announced that the current translation of the Roman Missal will be retained for use , in spite of Pope Francis’ “motu proprio” restoring responsibility for liturgical translations to local churches.
An article in The Tablet gives a fuller account of why the Bishops consider that Pope Francis’ “Motu Proprio” cannot be applied retroactively, and can be found here
Last weekend’s sale of woodturned items raised over £86 for our Parish Projects. Many thanks for your support.
Takings for Christmas cards and advent calendars so far are: £124.50. Many thanks for your support
Cards will continue to be available each week, in addition to Traidcraft stocking fillers.
Every day, from the moment I wake up in the morning until I fall asleep at night, is a judgement on me – I continually make little or big choices throughout my day. Each choice makes me a better or a worse person. Each choice makes me more human or less human. Each choice contributes to the sort of a person I turn out to be.
Todays Gospel reading is not about what will happen at the end of the world. It is not about God dividing the ‘good’ from the ‘bad.’ It is not even about God passing judgement.
It is a very graphic story about what living as a human being, created in God’s image and likeness is, or is not.
There is no talk about religious affiliation or theological understanding.
These things; religion, scripture, theology, motivate me, encourage me, help me, constantly remind me so that I may make the right choices throughout my day.
What are these choices?
“I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.” Or. “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome.”
This is my judgement. My daily choices are my judge and my judgement.
Not when I die. Not at the end of the world.
Every hour of every day is my judgement.
Every choice I make or don’t make is my judgement.
The personal choices I make every day are what brings peace and joy to my life or come back to haunt and trouble me in the future.
When someone stands to give the eulogy at my funeral what would I like to hear said and what would I not like to hear said?
Now, today, is the time to do the sort of thing I would like to hear said.
The sort of thing for which I would like to be remembered.
‘Fight to the death for truth, and the Lord God will fight for you.’
‘Above all pray to the Most High that he may direct your way in truth.’
‘Most important of all, pray to God to set your feet in the path of truth.
‘God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.’
(I tried to count the number of times ‘truth’ is mentioned in the Bible. When I got to 170 I gave up counting.)
It is well known that a confession made under duress or torture is not credible.
Therefore it you believe that if you do not give food to the hungry, if you do not give clothes to the naked, if you do not welcome the stranger etc. you will be condemned to ‘the eternal fire,’ then what credence can be given to the sincerity, the truth, of whatever you do.
It is a sham and the god who requires me to act under such coercion and threat is also a sham.
So whatever the source of and the meaning of the threats we find here and there in the Bible, still remains to be worked out in the future, but we can be sure that their source cannot be the God who desires worship in spirit and in truth.
Last Sunday, today and next Sunday the theme is the same; Do not slacken off or grow weary, keep up the good work realising that whatever I do as regards my fellow human beings, be it good or bad, I do to my God.
The above is the message as we come to the end of the liturgical year (the churches year).
The threat of punishment from our God for non compliance, at the end of these three gospel readings is not the message.
The message is, do not grow weary or get disheartened but be alert and prepared and live our lives in faith, hope and total trust in our God no matter what.
To use our God given talents to the best of our ability for our own good and the welfare of others.
To constantly reming myself that, how I treat other human beings (and other creatures) is how I treat my God.
The threats of punishment at the end of each reading are human editorial inserts and not from our God or else need a deeper understanding and interpretation of scripture than we have today.
This is obviously so because we know that our God wants our response to him to be freely given – to be one of sincere love, gratitude and respect. This is impossible if there is a threat of punishment involved for non compliance.
This becomes even more obvious if you take your own case. How satisfied and happy would you be if you had to keep your children and grandchildren in order by threats of punishment or exclusion from your will? Surely the threat involved would at least damage if not destroy any hope of genuine love and gratitude.
God is no fool and would not queer the pitch for himself even before the game starts.