Feeding the hungry

One of the things that might first strike us about the readings that are presented to us for our reflection on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, is that we are not given the account of the last supper from the Gospel of Luke. Instead we are given the only account in Luke about the mighty work of Jesus in feeding the hungry poor in the midst of a desolate place. And the text from the Hebrew Scriptures that is given to us to reflect upon the Gospel is not one of the miracle stories of Elijah feeding the widow during the drought, or Elisha feeding his hungry men with a few loaves of bread, or the sustaining of the people of God in the wilderness with the manna from heaven, but the frankly odd story of this priest-king Melchizedek of Salem, who provides food of bread and wine and a blessing for warrior-king Abram on his return from rescuing his nephew Lot (it is not clear whether there is enough food for the 318 men who form part of his retinue) and in return, Abram offers one tenth of his spoils to the priest-king of God Most High.

In the Gospel, Luke wants us to see the connection between this mighty work of Jesus and the continuing ministry of the Church. So he adds details to the original account found in the Gospel of Mark by telling us that Jesus spoke and taught (over the course of the whole day) about the kingdom of God, while also healing the sick and needy. While sounds like the work of the church when it is functioning its best – in offering education and healing. The twelve, who have just returned from their missionary journey reporting great success, at least are able to identify the need of the crowd when the day draws near to its conclusion – that they need food and shelter. But in one the standard lines of Jesus, he invites them to share in the mission of grace and compassion: You give them something to eat. The Lord is always inviting us to join him in this work of redemption and compassion. He wants us to partner with him in the work of the kingdom. Even if we have so little to give (five loaves and two fish), the act of surrendering that to the Lord is all that is necessary. He will do the rest – alongside of us and our continuing work of sharing in this mission.

Recorded at St Paul’s. (10 mins, 45 secs)
EBC. Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year C.
Genesis 14:18-20; Luke 9:11-17

View Slide Presentation
Listen to Vigil Mass

Watch Video Reflection: Taken for Granted (Igniter Media)

The Trinity and Whole Thinking

One of the great difficulties that we face in the western church in attempting to appreciate the gift and mystery of the Holy Trinity is the fact that so much of our thinking and even our whole conceptual framework is formed by Greek thinking and the three laws of Greek logic as given to us by Plato and his followers. For all the richness of Plato, his logic gave birth to a form of dualistic thinking that has enabled the particular form of the prosperous western world, but severely limited our ability to move beyond an either/or framework. Dualism is a direct result of the three laws of logic, namely the laws of identity (white is white), contradiction (white is not black) and the excluded middle term (something cannot be both white and black at the same time and in the same way). Now, of all religious systems, Christianity should have been the most immune to this limited way of looking at the world. The fact that we place the Trinity at the centre of our faith and understanding should immediately alert us to the truth that not everything is able to be reduced to either this or that. Yet, we continue to categorise the world into such simple and simplistic categories as right or wrong, black or white, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, etc. To move beyond such simple categories is the first step to a much more richly nuanced and beautiful understanding of the Trinity.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (14 mins)

Hope of New Creation 4 – Building for the kingdom at Pentecost

4 New CreationOne of the things that strikes me about the celebration of Pentecost, are its Jewish roots. When the disciples met in the upper room on that day, they almost certainly would have reflected upon the passages of Exodus 19 and 20 which detail the events around the arrival of the Hebrew nation at Mount Sinai, seven weeks after they had experienced the great liberation from the slavery of Egypt. We read there:

Exodus 19:16-18
16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire.

From this passage we can see that one of the ways that the people knew that God was present on the mountain, and that they were in fact going out to meet him, was the presence of fire. If you want to experience God, then be prepared to be burnt! Which is odd, given that our culture has tended to think of fire for the other destination – hell. Indeed, when you do a Google image search for ‘hell’ the screen will be a wash of red flames. Yet if we took the time to ponder this, we know that it is when out hearts grow colder that we turn inward and away from God. So perhaps Hell should rather be imagined not as a place of fire, but as a place of cold and ice.

Maybe the flames of God’s love, and the flames of heaven, are always going to be hotter and brighter than anything else that the counterfeit can produce – because God’s fire is about purification and truth. Which leads us to ponder more about the end of the story and what the New Creation will be like and how we might imagine the resurrection of our bodies, and what impact this all has on our present experience of following God today.

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Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (13 mins)
Pentecost Sunday, Year C.

View the Presentation Slides. Reflection video: All Creation Worships You (iWorship)

Hope of New Creation 3 – Heaven and Paradise

On this feast of the Ascension, we ponder the event of Jesus ascending into heaven as told in the Lukan literature – the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. The other synoptic Gospels do not record the event at all, and John only hints at it by telling Mary of Magdala that he has not yet ascended, and in Paul he again speaks of Jesus ascending to the right hand of the Father, but without any details. No doubt, when we were children, we were very clear as to where heaven was located. If you ask any child to point to where heaven is, they instinctively point upwards. But as clever and sophisticated adults who have moved past the simplicity and naïvety of childhood, we are able to provide a much more nuanced answer. If we are asked to point to where heaven is located, we at least shrug our shoulders before pointing to the sky. This is probably not helped by the images that may come to mind when we think about a man rocketing upwards from earth up through the clouds.

Which leads us to ponder a little more clearly what it is that we understand heaven to be. We begin to realise that it is not a geographic reality, but a dimensional reality within our experience of time and space. For heaven is simply that place where the will and purpose of the Lord is always done – and everything unfolds as God intends and desires for it to happen. Here on earth our reality is much more mixed – sometimes we might manage to do the will of God, but so often it is simply our own will that is fulfilled, no matter how much we dress it up in religious finery.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 9.30am (15 mins)
Ascension Sunday, Year C.

Watch reflection video: Dan Stevers, Ascension.
Look at the Slides. Read the background notes.

  • Since this was Mother’s Day, we also watched an intro video (Floodgate Productions) and reflection video (Igniter Media) before the final blessing.

Hope of New Creation 2 – Purgatory and Hell

HNC2Moving into the second week of this series, we need to look at the question of what happens in the moment of death and the personal judgement that each person receives before God. What are the possible options regarding our judgement, what are the possible destinations, and how long does the process of purification take place? What about hell – if it exists, what is the criteria for a person to go there and what is it like?

Today is an extended reflection on the Encyclical letter of Pope Benedict XVI from 2007, On Christian Hope (Spe Salvi). Copies of the relevant section were made available, as were the whole text. You can also find a notes document that includes all of the relevant scriptures, sections from the Catechism, other church teaching and links to writings from the Fathers of the Church.

Recorded at St Paul’s, 7.30am (20 mins)
E6C Sunday 6, Easter, Year C.

Video Reflection: Dan Stevers, Evermore

Notes: PowerPoint Slides
Spe Salvi – commentary and extract (2 pages)
Spe Salvi – full text
Hell and Purgatory in scripture and church teaching

HNC2-Gehenna