Monthly Archives: April 2011

Divine Mercy Novena

Day 9 today. The lukewarm Christian is a bit of a mystery really. I get people who don’t know God, or don’t like Him. or refuse to believe in Him. But once you do know Him, – — Perhaps its those who don’t know Him but have the pink-fluffy-Jesus. Anyway, whatever the cause we are to pray for them today.

Divine Mercy Novena

I didn’t post yeaterdays’ link sorry, but today is day 8.

Divine Mercy Novena Day 6

Day 6 of the Divine Mercy Novena.

Home Education; learning hospitality.

Teaching the little ones the basics of hospitality is straightforward enough. Once they have the habit of greeting people properly and getting to grips with conversation; when to speak, when not to speak and so on; those skills are transferable to many of life’s experiences.

Although the older ones have all these skills – after all they are adults now, I wonder sometimes, if out days as shift workers has impacted on their understanding of giving and receiving hospitality. This is something I wonder about, mainly because of my days working long hours. I haven’t seen anything as such that makes me concerned, but it does occur to me that the younger three are well used to the idea of a family meal in the evenings and every Sunday we are all together (With Josh it depends on his shifts of course).

We keep “open house,” which I think I more or less always did, but it  is more so now that I am at home. Our house is the hub of a lot of activity with people here at least three times a week, if not more. So it gets busy, messy, needs stuff doing, on a very regular basis. The kids are really good at helping to get the place straightened out afterwards. And I appreciate that.

But we must all learn to receive hospitality too. For the little ones this can be as simple as teaching them not to announce, “I’m bored!” or “I want to go home now!” Or teaching them to put things away before we leave to go home. Simple.

Adults have more challenges to face. When you are ill for example, there’s the swallowing pride thing when someone kindly offers to help with things you really do need help with. You have to remember, that other mother, taking the broom and sweeping the floor for you, is doing this as an act of charity, and you need to let her.  It’s taken me a while, but I’m getting there. I remember when I first became ill a friend telling me off for my pride. “It’s not independence when you refuse help you need, it’s pride.” she said, and she was right.

One other difficult area of hospitality, which I think can only been taught through example, is receiving and giving it to “difficult” people.  These are the people who inspect the Lego on the floor with disdain, or make it clear they are only at your house because they couldn’t get an invitation to somewhere better.  The rule of hospitality is to be meek and polite in the face of their rudeness. These are the situations that cause many a gentle soul to phone Dr. Ray Guarendi about; especially as these “difficult” people tend to be relatives of some sort. Jesus insisted we love our enemies; if we only love those who love us, we aren’t much better than the pagans. He never said it would be easy. I have to say, I truly admire some of those people who call Dr. Ray – they are truly trying to be Christian and carry the cross.

Many of those corporal works of mercy, come under hospitality, but receiving the mercy from others is just as important, and often much harder to do, than giving it to others.

Giving and receiving in the Christian sense is something we all must do. However, as part of our Christian life we often find we have to give and give to people who will never return the favour. That is because we are not supposed to give to those who can return the favour. We are supposed to give freely. Those people might not be able to give back to you, but if they will very likely be able to give to someone else.  Also we need to remember that when we give we should not be expecting great grovelling thanks. Simple gratitude is enough. Jesus has made it clear that those who want a lot of thanks receive their reward and they wont get paid twice.

Day 5 of Divine Mercy Novena

Home education – teaching hospitality.

The freedom to learn and teach outside the boxed in National Curriculum gives a whole world of teaching and learning areas and opportunities that would otherwise be lost.

One area that is extremely important in any Christian home is the area of hospitality.  In the commandment to love our neighbour comes the duty to both give and receive hospitality. It is tied up, overlaps and is wound around the obligation to love God first.

For the little ones, teaching them hospitality is simply about basic social skills at first; greeting visitors properly, making eye contact, speaking politely and clearly – that sort of thing. It takes a bit of time and practice for some children, while for others it comes more easily.

Then there is table manners, saying please and thank you, asking to leave the table and so on.

For Ronan who is 8 now, part of his being hospitable to visitors is that he makes the afternoon hot chocolate for all the children. One or two of our younger visitors look forward to Ronan’s hot chocolate round as he also includes a biscuits with them. (It’s not just Iona who’s the biscuit buff). Ronan serves all the children around the table, taking care of things such as those who can’t have milk, those who need extra milk for a cooler drink and so on. He manages very well. I don’t help him at all these days.

For the older ones there are proper dinners to make for their friends or sharing foods at picnics. Iona is the one in the group who makes the birthday cakes for everyone. It is lovely to see them all growing up and learning to share what they have together.

If hospitality is tied up with “love God and neighbour” where does God come into it?

The saints have a lot to say about all of this. The theme throughout the lives of the saints was about treating people as thought they were Christ. This is nowhere near as easy as it might sound. The stories of the saint show many situations where the person at the door didn’t seem to be the sort you might want to show hospitality to at all. Sometimes the person-like-Christ was asking for something the monastery/convent/home had very little of – and it took the amazing faith of a saint (like Benedict) to ensure the sharing of meagre resources could be done.

Perhaps in some ways offering hospitality to others is the easy side of this commandment. Receiving it can be the challenge….

Day 4 Divine Mercy Novena

Easter Sunday: Heaven has won; choose your side.

Very early in the morning of the first day of the week, that is Sunday morning, three of the four women who had stood at the foot of the cross, head off to the tomb where Jesus is supposed to be.

Mary Magdalene has a jar of ointment, and possibly Mary Salome too, with Mary Cleopas going with them to assist.

Where is the Blessed Mother? Why has she not gone with them? Well, she is with John, (who is the son of Mary Salome) and the reason she doesn’t go to anoint the body of her Son, is because she has very likely already seen Him.  Tradition has it that Jesus first came to His Mother after the Resurrection. This would have been a deeply personal meeting, not to be recorded in Scripture.

I have heard some people who are apparently Christian, who insist that Jesus did not honour His mother. He did. He was without sin, and breaking the fourth commandment, the very commandment He was part of composing, was not something He did.  He could hardly demand that we honour both our physical parents, and our spiritual ones, if He did not do so Himself.

The women had waited through the Sabbath-Passover. They could not make either the Sabbath observances, nor the Passover celebration as they were unclean. They had touched a dead body, with blood on it as well. Even now they are observing the law on burial. Jesus could not receive the rituals of burial, the washing before annointing, because he was covered in blood, and he had died a criminal, and he was seen as cut off from Israel. So, no washing allowed.

You will notice the women took ointment but no water or cloths.

Jesus is risen, and the women are the first witnesses. Just as shepherds were the first witness of His birth, Jesus is overturning the legal silliness of the manmade traditions. Shepherds and women were not allowed to be witnesses in court. When you read the story of Susannah (Dan 13) you will see she was unable to speak on her own defence, the boy Daniel had to speak for her – and he did.

Those of you doing my lesson set Via Guade will get more details about all of this but I thought I would point out a couple of things here that have come up in radio shows recently. One person asked how the Law of the Sabbath was changed so that Christians began to meet on a Sunday. Well, this is the moment. The Lord’s Day is the day of Resurrection, the Eighth Day or Day of Completion/Accomplishment/Consumation. The New Paschal Liturgy of the Lamb of God, the Lamb who stands as though slain (See Rev) is done on Sunday.

That same day Jesus meets with Cleopas and his companion (probably Luke) at the house in Emmaus, where Mary, Cleopas’ wife probably served them. Then Jesus took the bread and blessed it and broke it and…vanished from their sight.

Then they knew Him in the breaking of the Bread and their hearts burned within them.

So every Sunday, on the Lord’s Day we gather to break bread, to know Him in the breaking of the Bread, and to receive Him wounded but raised- the Lamb standing- Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is Heaven on earth.

It is not merely a symbol – although it is also a symbol. The early Fathers and the teaching of the Church from the very beginning understood the real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Day 3 of the Divine Mercy Novena.

Holy Week; Saturday- the harrowing of hell.

Saturday is a silent day. We wait.

But Jesus did not rest on this Sabbath. He had flung open the gates of heaven and was welcoming Home those who had waited in the place of the dead in a firm hope that He would bring them salvation and Life. For God says “I AM the Lord of the living, not the dead.” The saints and angels in Heaven are not dead.

 Traditionally the first two people to be taken to heaven were Adam and Eve.  Icons showing what is called “The Harrowing of Hell,” tend to show Christ taking the hands of Adam and Eve as they step up from their graves. The victory is vast, but not yet complete. These sould have reached their true home but are still in spirit, seperated from their bodies. Christ will show what the Resurrection, the Life in Abundance is – He will rise again so that all of us can receive him, not just spiritually, but completely, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

There is some kind of pre-message of the bodily resurrection when many of the ‘dead’ saints of the Old Covenant, got up and walked around Jerusalem declaring the judgement of God.

When it comes to the Four Last Things, the harrowing of hell is really not part of it, as Christ didn’t go to hell as such but to Hades or Sheol as the Jews called it – the abode of the dead. This seems to have been a place other than heaven, which was closed to them, nor hell, which is for those who reject God and His commandments, nor purgatory, which is a place for heaven. It seems to have been a place of waiting. Those who were destined for heaven were then taken there.

There is still not a clear answer, that I have found, about where Elijah and Enoch are staying, who were assumed to heaven. Now, we know that Our Blessed Mother is in heaven having been assumed, so chances are that Elijah and Enoch are too. Jesus told St Bridget of Sweden that He took Elijah to paradise- which could be heaven. If anyone knows the answer let me know.

There are those who think that as Jesus died and (possibly) rose that He shut the gates of hell; that no one goes there. This is wishful thinking, and the Church has never taught this, and Jesus did not spend so much of His ministry warning about going to hell, if no one was going there.

Scripture, the words of Christ, the letters of Paul and the teaching of the Fathers, make it very clear that we “must work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” There is no Free Pass to Heaven. Every single saint in the history of the Church who has received a vision of hell has said that people are there. No one is sent there – all who go choose it. Avoid the place. Love God, turn to His Mercy.

I heard an athiest recently getting very worked up because he said God sends people to hell because they have worshipped false gods, even though they had never heard of Him. This is ridiculous of course, but he went on with even more anger about the Truth of God; that a man who has committed the foulest crimes, sitting on death row, need only be sorry and he gets to go to heaven. I was very confused by this rant – surely the fact that God forgives any sin, no matter how heinous, if we but turn to His Mercy, is a GOOD thing.

Let’s do that.

Day 2 of Divine Mercy Novena

Holy Week; Good Friday – Four Last Things; Judgement, Death Heaven and hell

We adore Thee oh Christ and we bless Thee,

because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.

Good Friday covers the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, four of the Dolors of the Sorrowful Mother and the Stations of the Cross.

The First Sorrowful Mystery is the Agony in the Garden where Christ prays to be released, but ends with “But Thy will be done.” He is so distressed at what He knows is ahead of Him that He suffers hematidrosis where He shed the first drops of His Precious Blood for us, sweating it out of His Body.

As we reach the First Station where Christ is condemned to death, it must have seemed to those who loved Him, that hell was let loose and heaven was going to loose this battle.

The battle between heaven and hell is truly in full swing as Christ is scourged and crowned with thorns. Dressed up as a mock king, he is our Bridegroom and as such He is presented to us with the words, “Ecce homo.”

But Satan knows he has not won yet and in the mouths of those present he demands the Son of Man be crucified, for hell rejoices in cruelty and murder. And I am not saying those who yelled for cricifixion were not personally responsible for those words. They were, and Christ had said it is what comes out of a man’s mouth that makes him unclean.

But just as when Jesus touched the dead, He did not become unclean as Jewish law would have it, the body was cleansied and raised instead. And just as when Jesus touched the sick or bleeding, He did not become unclean, He cleansed the other, and healed them, so as He accepts the cross, it is transformed from an intrument of death, to the Tree of Life.

As Christ walks the road of His Passion, and Our Blessed Mother walks beside Him, I can’t help wondering if some of those enemies began to question whether they had done the right thing. Judas certainly understood he had done something awful, but he still didn’t understand what he could do about it. As Jesus left a trail of blood along the way, was Satan afraid? Did he realise his defeat yet? How many of those who were touched by His blood on that road, instead of becoming ritually unclean, found they were cleansed instead?

By the end of the Crucifixion when Jesus had consumed the cup to its dreggs (see Scott Hahn on the Fourth Cup) and said “It is finished,” there was hardly a drop of blood left in Him. Finally St. Longinus pierces His Sacred Heart with the spear and out comes Blood and Water.

He is taken down and laid in the arms of His Moher, now our Mother, whose suffering is not over yet. She must hold her battered, dead son in her arms.

Jesus told St. Bridget of Sweden that He received 5,475 wounds for us. I don’t know whether this was all physical or whether He includes the wounds of heart and mind, on our behalf, or whether it is a symbolical number. We meditate on the Five Wounds often, but we must not forget the sweating, the scourging and the crowning with thorns (Sorrowful Mysteries), nor the falls that hurt His knees and shoulders under the weight of the cross. (Stations).

Darkness had come over the land and there had been an earthquake which Josephus tells us broke the lintel above the Holy of Holies in the Temple so the curtain was torn and the empty cube left open for all to see.

Jesus is laid in the tomb. Our Lady told St. Bridget that she did not sew up the shroud around the body of her Son because she knew He would not stain His grave. The battle was stilled for a moment, but in the silence of the Sabbath eve, something was happening.

At the end of Veneration the Eucharist is taken, veiled to the tabernacle in the Lady Chapel. The sanctuary is stripped bare, the altar cloths removed, along with the tabernacle curtain and the tabernacle itself is left empty and open.

Day 1 of the Divine Mercy Novena

Holy Week; Maundy Thursday; the Four Last Things – heaven.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was and is heaven on earth to us. He brought us the perfect love, life and truth of God and offered us the grace and opportunity to partake of that for all eternity. Then He showed us the way there.

I don’t want to get into the discussion of the Last Supper as Passover or not Passover, or New Passover here – but if you are wondering about it, check out the Holy Father’s words on the matter. It seems he has struck theological gold on the matter.

At the Last Supper, Christ gathers His chosen twelve and begins what Dr. Scott Hahn and others have noted as a Passover liturgy. Washing the feet of the apostles, was the work of a servant or slave towards honoured guests. (In those dry and dusty places, having a foot wash meant coming to the host’s table with clean fresh feet, free of the dust of the road) Then having commanded the apostles to serve others likewise (and Judas was sitting there with his ‘non servam’ thoughts) he set about the institution of the Eucharist.

Jesus brings heaven to earth by  ensuring, in this liturgy, that He is always with us. He is the bridegroom, and he gives His Body in wholeness to His bride.

He is God and we know from Scripture and elsewhere that when God speaks – so it is. “Let there be light!” God said and there as light, “This is My Body,” said Jesus and it is His Body.  St Augustine wrote of the miracle of Christ’s Presence in the bread and wine, how He held Himself in His own hands and offered Himself as the sacrificial priest to the Church.

There is a side issue here, that I have heard asked on Catholic radio by protestants who phone in. How, can Jesus be in His body at the table and offer His body in the bread and wine? The first obvious answer is, “well He’s God,” but that’s a bit flippant. The answer lies in the fact that God is outside of time. He is not bound by either the pagan cyclical time or Christian linear time. He can offer His sacrifice of Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity at the Last Supper because the time is irrelevant. The other answer is that the Holy Eucharist is the Risen Christ, in His Risen (but still with the wounds of His love) Body. We are not receiving a dead body to eat (something the pagans of the time thought Christians were doing – cannibalism), but we receive and eat the Living Christ, in His Body and Blood, just as when St John saw the Mass being said in Heaven, he said that on the altar “the Lamb standing as though slain.” So, the Lamb stands up, because He lives.

When we do His will on earth as it is in Heaven, when we made Heaven on earth it is in the Eucharist, which gives us the grace and life in us that Jesus promised in John 6, so then we can make a little heaven on earth for others.

But of course Judas was there too. It seems he did receive the Eucharist and then left the room to go and betray Christ.  Many commentators call those Catholics who receive Christ at Mass and then rush out of church without any thanks, “doing the Judas shuffle.” St Paul warns that those who receive the Eucharist unworthily are guilty of the blood – that means are guilty of murder. We cannot receive the Eucharist unless in a state of grace. Thank God for Confession :)

Heaven is a family, and families gather around a table to be fed. God is the Father, Christ the father and brother and He gave us His own mother to be our mother. In establishing His kingdom on the rock of Peter, Christ made the Church a family too. The pope is the Holy Father, our spiritual father, much as St. Joseph became the foster father of Jesus, so now Jesus gave Peter the role of foster father of the Church, who must strengthen his brothers as they too become fathers.

Our Lady is the model of the Church as bride and mother. Into this Jesus gives us His Body as He promised. It is part of the promise “I will not leave you orphans.”

As a family we repeat the words of the centurion, (apparently the revised Mass will have the proper translation at last!) “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only say the Word and [I] shall be healed.” And He does and we are. We get to be right there with Him, consumed by love- and that love of God is heaven.

PS tomorrow is the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena.

Holy Week; Spy Wednesday; Four Last Things – hell.

I know the Four Last Things tend to be said in the order, Death, Judgement, Heaven and then hell, but on the day Judas sells Jesus out for the price of a slave, Heaven is not the subject is it?

Judas seems to me to be the very embodiment of the mystery of iniquity. He turns against the very person who truly loves him more than anyone who has ever lived. Judas turns away from this love, and sells Christ out for the price of a slave. Judas who had seen the healings, the feeding of the 5000 and heard the teaching, being right there, and still, he rejects it all for a bag of silver coins.

Judas shows us hell on earth. He is a good Christian as far as anyone externally could tell. He followed Christ, was one of the chosen twelve and was destined, so it seemed, to be a bishop, and great leader for the fledgling Church. But then he gets bitten with pride and envy, and instead of going to his Lord for healing, help and forgiveness, he nurses his resentments, and especially his envy of what he perceives Jesus to have, and finally, in pride, heads off to do the unthinkable.

There is something very disturbing when we look at that moment when Judas asks, “What will you give me?” of the priests of the Temple.

From the very beginning the Liar and Murderer attacked the priesthood. He entered the first temple, the Garden, and targeted the bride to force the priestly bridegroom to act. The Tree of Life was ignored as the first high priest caved to sin.

But God allowed the priesthood to remain. Cain made even worse use of his priestly role, first through his refusal to sacrifice anything of worth and then when he sacrificed the very best in mockery of God, by murdering the good priest Abel.

Nevertheless the priesthood remained, embodied in the holy Melchizedek (meaning king of righteousness) who made the sacrifice of bread and wine.

But we do not see the temple in any structural form again until Moses is instructed to build the tabernacle and ark in the desert. The priesthood of the first born is still preserved among the children of Israel even in their time in Egypt. But in the desert, where God tests them, it is broken.

The priesthood is so badly compromised before the tabernacle that God is about to destroy the lot of them. Moses, who is standing with God in the mountain acts as the bride and holds back the arm of justice.

However when he returns to the people and sees the golden calf, he is so angry he breaks the tablets of the Law. The apostate priests are executed and the priesthood is handed only to the children of Levi, the tribe Moses, Aaron and Miriam, belong to.

There is no sign of the return of the priesthood of Melchizedek until the time of David and Solomon. As a special dispensation Samuel anoints David as priest so he can make the sacrifice. (You may remember that Saul would have received the honour if only he had waited on God’s time).  Then Solomon is anointed as priest-king after David, and, as his father sang in the psalm “You are a priest forever, a priest of the order of Melchizedek.” Remember prophecies tend to have a now and then fulfilment. Solomon is a type of Christ, the priest king who builds the great Temple. But in his apostacy he became a type of anti-Christ, betraying his oath, his anointing and his God.

After the exile and rebuilding of the Temple and more war, came the Temple Jesus knew. Herod built this magnificent and holy facade, not for the glory of God, but for his own aggrandisement with the Jews. He had built a temple or two for the Roman gods for the same political reason.

Into this temple came the priesthood of Levi to worship God. It is still a holy place even though Herod built it. But as Jesus grows in His hidden life, so the priesthood becomes more corrupt and worldly. There is even some view that Caiaphas manages to hold onto the seat of Moses for so many years, against the tradition, because pagan Rome has put him there.

John the Baptist is a priest, the son of the man who was High Priest in the year he was conceived. At the age of 30 he takes on his priestly role and begins his mission in the desert. Then when Jesus reaches the age of 30 He goes to the priest John to be baptised and receive His own priesthood; the priesthood of the son of David, of Melchizedek of old.

Jesus then calls twelve men to take on the new priesthood of the New Covenant and Judas is among the chosen.

The corrupt priesthood of the Temple needs to end, just like the corrupt priesthood in the desert ended. Moses shouted, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” And they chose.

So too Judas chose. Not service or sacrifice, but power and wealth. In selling Christ for the price of a slave, Judas becomes the slave. Then “it would have been better had he never been born.” (Matt 26:24)

If you really want to understand the horror, fire and darkness of hell, imagine standing before Jesus Christ the just judge and hear those words from His mouth, “It would have been better for [this one] had they never been born.”

[footnote: I think I should say here that the Church has never declared who is in hell. Not even Judas. While some private revelations have hinted that he is in hell, the Church has chosen not to speak on this.]

Holy Week Tues; Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids; Four Last Things, more Judgement and a glance of Heaven.

The whole symbolism of Holy Week is wrapped in Christ as Bridegroom imagery. The Bridegroom enters the bridal city, which is dressed to greet Him, waving palms and crying Hosanna. In His great love and Passion for her, He will pour Himself out, every last drop, witholding nothing, for her sake. Then He will both remain and return.

In the story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, Jesus tells how His Kingdom will be. It is a wedding banquet in which the bride awaits her groom, who appears to be late. The wise bridesmaids each hold their lamp of faith, and keep it fueled, caring for it and making the required effort to keep the little flame alight, until he comes. The foolish girls, have better things to do, resting, being idle, rather than paying attention to the sputtering flame that dims and goes out.

The parable is pretty clear and straightforward, but even so, there are still some strong symbols. First, of course, is Jesus reiterating His role as the Bridegroom. Just as Adam was the first Bridegroom in the Garden-Temple, so Christ is the Second Adam, the Bridegroom whose new Covenant is the Church, His bride, symbolised in the Blessed Mother, the New Eve, who is not a birdesmaid, but the Bride.

Jusr as Mary is with Jesus, but sort of hidden, all through holy week, her presence only really being felt at the time of the Passion, she is like the bride who is veiled until, as the Bridegroom said from His cross “It is consumated.” He pours himself out for her, and she shares in all of it. Her suffering is joined to His.

This is the story from the Garden, where Satan’s malicious plan was to attack both the sacrificial priesthood of Adam and in so doing attacked marriage, the giving of the bridegroom to the bride for giving life. Adam’s sin, his refusal to suffer for his bride, is redeemed when both Christ the bridegroom and His mother the bride suffer to the enth degree for our sake. Then death is defeated and Satan looses after all.

When Jesus tells the parable of the ten bridesmaids, it is the Groom who comes late. The bride is there in the banquetting hall. She is ready. The bridesmaids are supposed to be her maids, so that they can assist her at the Wedding. Five, do as they should, keeping their lights lit, oil ready. But the other five are actually not just unprepared for the Groom, they have failed to serve the bride as her beloved would have them do.  They have slept, sure that someone else will carry out the necessary tasks. Then at the last moment, they demand the others give to them, who have given nothing. They are not ready, because they don’t love.

Holy Week Monday- Cleansing the Temple; Four Last Things: Judgement.

The first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday, where Jesus invites us all to accept His Mercy. But if we read what He said about this, we soon see that this isn’t a free-for-all to heaven. Those who will not accept Mercy will get just Judgement. And those who refuse mercy will find the justice very just indeed.

There are two jusdgements that God will give. The first is called the “particular judgement” which we each receive on an individual basis at the moment of death. At that moment the soul knows where they belong. Those who have carried their cross and repented of all things before death can enter heaven. Those who have carried their cross but still have sins to expiate will be in purgatory. (1 Cor 3:15). All those who must suffer in purgatory have the joy of knowing they are saved, and Heaven awaits them.

Finally those who have refused to seek truth and have gone their own way, leaving their cross uncarried, and refusing to assist others to carry theirs, choosing death over life , will go to hell.

At the end of time Jesus will retutn to “judge the living and the dead.” Here will be what is called The General Judgement. When all people’s, all nations, will be judged. This will not change the particular judgemennt of anyone but those alive at this moment will receive their particular judgement at the same time. Then we will all be raised, either to everlasting life or to everlasting death. 

The only places left for existance will be Heaven and hell, for even purgatory is temporary.

John puts the cleansing of the Temple on the second day of the week. John’s whole Gospel shows the Bridegroom as the I AM who fulfils the Old Law to the last dot. At the end of the second day of creation God did not say it was good.  Yet we see from the other days of creation that all that God made was good, so what kept Him silent on day 2?

Rabbinic tradition tells us that on the Second Day God tested the angels. He put before them His plan for Manking and Lucifer, said “Non servam!” (I will not serve) and so fell.  “I saw Satan fall like lightening,” says Jesus as God cleansed heaven.

When Jesus sees the Court of the Gentiles used as a market place, preventing the gentiles coming before God, He is angry. He makes a whip and throws the self seekers out. There are some Bible scholars who believe this cleansing happened more than once, as the sellers did not repent of their behaviour; and as an illustration of just how corrupt the temple authorities had become.

The Temple and Jerusalem are symbols of the world. The destruction of the temple and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD came as Jesus had said it would. It has been taught from early days that this was a Parousia, a presence of God and His judgement happened when God used the army of TItus to destroy what was left after the abject self destruction of Jerusalem. I think it was Jospehus who reported how horrified Titus was when he entered Jerusalem. How the degredation of the people was almost complete, to such an extent that he was more thorough in the destruction out of sheer disgust.

It is believed, that no Christians were left in Jerusalem at this time, having sold up, shared out and fled, long before the famine and troubles began. They had listened to the prophecy of Jesus and knew more or less what was coming; the end, the Parousia of God.

Jesus warned over and over again that He would return as the just judge, and that we had better be ready. In His Divine Mercy, he calls us to His Sacred Heart, to be healed from our sins by the blood and water from His wounded side/heart. But He does not force anyone. He invites, He came to a number of saints and sent His Mother to still more, warning, inviting, commanding even – and gets such little response. (See St Margaret Mary Alacoque and St Faustina).

In the Gospels He is very clear. Matthew records the Parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) Here those who have loved Him have shown this love in their sacrifice and care for the sick, vulnerable, needy and so on. These people who took care of others even when they didn’t feel like it, are the ones who get heaven as their reward. Those who knew God, they understand who He is, but have done nothing for their neighbour; too inconveient, got better things to do etc- get their reward – hell.

Holy Week and the Four Last Things; Death

The wisdom of the ancient pagans saw that all natural death fed new life in one way or another. Just as an octipus mother gives every last bit of herself and dies to give life to her offspring, so in all sorts of natural life, animal and vegetable it’s death makes life. This is what the pagans called the circle of life, and in many ways we still recognise that today.

Our first parents brought a different kind of death into the world, a death that was not good, not part of the way we were created. Just as sin is an lack of good, so death in the way it was brought into the world by sin, is a lack of Life.

If you spend any time with Scripture you will see that God is not all that concerned with people dying physically, but He has a lot to say about avoiding “dying the death” (Gen 2:17) – that is, the death of the soul. Killing the life of the soul prevents a person from entering Heaven.

The whole question and solution for death, comes to completion in Holy Week. On the Seventh day (the Sabbath) Jesus does not rest, he has finally arrived in Bethany at the house of His friend Lazarus who has been dead and entombed for four days.

To the joy of many and the horror of all those who have chosen death over Life, Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb and restored him to life.  The story of Lazarus, after  he has been brought out of the tomb, is one of suffering. He had to flee the country to hide from those who, having put Jesus to death wanted to put Lazarus back in the tomb also. There  is some confusion over where he died but he is thought to have been a Bishop in Cyprus and France at some point.  There is a tomb in Cyprus that is thought to have been his (second one). 

Christ raised Lazarus on the Seventh Day. Josephus tells us that Lazarus had been a High Priest, and that many of those who had come to Bethany to mourn him were his fellow priests of the Temple. Having a proper tomb with stone was indicative of a high status life. Jesus therefore calls a High Priest out of the tomb. Jesus, The High Priest and Second Adam is to break the chains of dying the death in a few days time; the chains forged by the sin of the first high priest, Adam.

In this moment before His enemies Christ lays out the choice. “I have laid before you life and death,” says the Lord, “Choose Life therefore…”  (Duet 30:19).

But they do not. They are angry and afraid as Lazarus walks from the tomb and they double their efforts to ensure Jesus will die.

So what of death now? One thing is certain from the moment of conception, we will die. Many die before being born, or are born already dead. We all have to watch others face death, or have faced it ourselves and almost touched it. But that death is only the bodily death that will lead in the end to a resurrected body, just as Christ showed us. We know that all those who have died in grace, are alive with Christ in Heaven. Even those who have to burn off the straw in the purging fire, are alive and will enter the full life of heaven. The dead go to the place of death, that is hell, “where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.” The soon to be Blessed John Paul the Great correctly named our culture, The Culture of Death.  We want as many people as possible to avoid life, and kill it off; too young to live, to old to live, too sick to live, too much of a “burden” on the self-seeking lives of others to live; life unworthy of life.  Even children’s fashions celebrate death- and seem impossible to avoid.

So Christ died that we might live. He broke death and opened Life – the gates of Heaven to us. But He forces no one through those gates. He still puts life and death before us and gives us a choice. “Take up your cross,” He commands us, “And follow Me.”  So He has made the cross and the suffering that must come with it, into the Tree of Life for all of us – if we take it up. Those who try to bypass their cross will find the gates barred to them. Those who abandon others to carry their cross alone will suffer loss.

There is a conversation between Lucia and Our Lady, where the girl asks, on behalf of a woman who is suffering and dying, whether she could die soon. Our Lady answers that the woman must not be in a rush to die, for, “I know exactly when I must come for her.”  Our time is not God’s time. We must allow Him to decide when we die. Our Lady in perfect obedience to her Son will not come for us until He says so.

Many of the saints have longed for death, because they have seen how wonderful Heaven is. They do not long for death the way someone who wishes to run from suffering might long for release, they long for it as someone who longs to run home after being away.

If we have carried our cross and helped others carry theirs, we will find death is merely the doorway to new life. If we have refused to do either we will find there is no key to new life and death is all there is.

Holy Week; The Four Last Things.

As Holy Week approaches I thought I would look at the Four Last things; death, judgement, Heaven and hell. I think Holy week lends itself to these. On the Saturday before He enters Jerusalem, Jesus shows His power over death by raising Lazarus. On the Second day of the week, Jesus cleanses the Temple passing judgement on those who prevented prayer in the holy place., and on the Temple itself. We catch a glimpse of hell on Spy Wednesday when Judas sells Jesus and again when he hangs himself. We see Christ bring Heaven to earth on Thursday as He gives Himself in the form of bread and wine. His love and Passion give us a chance of Heaven.  We then see the price of sin on Friday and the harrowing of hell- opening the gates of Heaven on Holy Saturday.

Something odd has happened to Christians where they fear death, avoid suffering and resent those who are chosen by God to carry the extra burden that they have refused to carry.  Those who refuse to serve, face spending eternity with the one who first refused to serve. But many Christians no longer believe in hell and certainly do not believe anyone goes there. As the Church has never said who is there, they argue this means no one is.  Jesus spoke strongly in warning about hell. Many saints have received visions, or even been taken to see hell. They have never found it empty.

To reach heaven we must obey God in all things. We must take up our cross and be must serve, even when, or especially when, we find it inconveniant.  It may seem hard. But St Teresa of Avila wisely noted that what seems easy at first soon leads to misery as we slide ever faster down hill, but what seems difficult and daunting at first, becomes a light task under His care and grace as we climb ever closer to Him. I often wonder when we say the Confitior at Mass whether it is sins that are done, that get us into trouble, or those things we did not do, those words we did not say, that we will find needs purging.

Meanwhile I have found this well read audio of St Therese of Lisieux’s The Story of a Soul. It’s a good recipe for getting to heaven :)

Home Education; grabbing time.

One of the little pits I have a habit of falling into, when it comes to the children’s education, is to ensure all the academic learning is done, and let the practacle and philosophical learning slide a bit – or a lot.

In the winter when it’s dark and cold, perhaps there is nothing much lost. But once the better weather arrives I do try and shift gears, so that more outside learning can take place, and with that comes more kitchen time.

In some ways, the holidays are the best time for lots of unstructured learning. Ronan loves to cook, and has had free range of the kitchen with Avila today, where they have made, iced and painted Josh’s birthday cake for tomorrow. They then set about properly clearing up after themselves, with pretty impressive results.

I stay out of the way unless needed for these cooking exploits. Ronan is very capable and thinks that if I am there (too obviously) that it means I don’t trust him to do things properly. ME?

My friend Deb who has been through so much recently, so that she has hardly time to blog, sent me a whole bag load of seeds! I have passed out packets to the mums and hopefully we will all have vegatables to show for it in the Summer. Keep her in your prayers, and her dad who died recently.

Iona took the children outside to dig over the bags and trugs, to add a bit more compost and to get some seeds planted. She will also be growing chilli’s again this year. Her crop last year was pretty impressive and she made a lot of chilli jam.

This week is “quiet time” week as much as possible. I am trying to plan next term, read a bit, write a bit and remember two of my kids have birthdays this week!

Yesterday was Heleyna’s 4th birthday! She had a lovely day with some friends, and will have an even louder day next week when her other friends are back from their hols. Why have a birthday when you can have a birth-week-month or so? IONA MADE THE CAKE. Go look.

Tomorrow Josh, the Bearded Wonder turns 22!  Ronan has made his cake :) His dad and I have decided to give him some money towards his bigger bike test. His rust bucket was stolen this week.  We have discussed cars but it’s just far to expensive to have one so it’s a bike.

So all you car drivers out there – drive carefully.  :)

Care of the elderly – it requires a pro-life pro-family culture

My oldest, Josh works as a care assistant in a large home for the elderly. I too worked in homes when I was trying to find a way to work and be at home as much as possible.  I also worked with long-term mentally ill elderly people (mainly dementia) in a hospital setting.

I remember back then (1980′s) that those who had family did tend to be visited by them. Not always, some had no family to visit as they had been brought up in care and then moved straight into the psychiatric system. But I do remember families visiting.

By the time I was working in the homes that sprang up everywhere under Mrs Thatcher’s horrendously cruel “Care in the community” money-saving gimmick, things had changed. I was working more and more with people who never saw a visitor from the moment they were admitted. What happened in the 1990′s that made the change so definite? Why were so many nursing  homes springing up to be filled with fairly well elderly people? Why is it that fifteen or more years later, nothing has changed and even the media is making more of a fuss about the lack of care for frail elderly people? There has been occasional flashes of concern for carers who may be so exhausted that they are starting to abuse the old person they are caring for. When investigated it is found that the carer is the only person taking on the full task; that they have no help or support from the rest of the family, largely because they is no more family. 

The roots of this problem go deep into the family, where we now accept that the frail, sick and old must be put away from our sight and that those who care for them should be treated as failures worthy the least possible pay and conditions.

Demographics is the root of this, and the demographics we have are our own fault. There aren’t enough children and grandchildren to care for the elderly. The anti-children culture of the 60′s and 70′s welled into the anti-family anti-life culture we are wading through today. This anti-child attitude did not just manifest itself in the fact that people stopped having children, but in the fact that so many of the children they did have were ignored, neglected and abused. More than one adult child of a resident confessed that they couldn’t bear to be near their own mother because of the deeply unhappy life she had given them, or that she had been practically a stranger to them.  This is a scandal and a tragedy, not just for those wounded individuals, but because it seems so common. On top of this Dr Ray has talked a lot about the ingratitude of children to their parents who have done their very best, sometimes in very difficult circumstaces. In some cases it’s probably a bit of a mixture.

This deep seated “Me first” (called by many the unholy trinity of Me Myself and I) attitude has not lessened with the next generation. A friend of mine told me how her daughter had spoken out about her life at home – and ordinary life with a single mother. One of her fellow students had said, “I wish my mum loved me like that.” It is shocking how little we respect our children, how little they feel respected. But it is hardly surprising when for the last forty years or so we have called children “a burden” and sung the praises of avoiding pregnancy and being able to get rid of those burdens as soon as possible.  Where are all those children who would care and love the elderly? Perhaps they never conceived or were thrown away. Christians are just as deeply sunk in this toxic mess as anyone else.

I really don’t believe that the media answers of throw more money at it, is the answer. We need families to stand together, to make sacrifices for one another and to show love, the real kind, not the sentimental kind. I have no idea how this is possible without God, so we had better turn back and try to do it His way for once.

As it happens thanks to the internet in many ways, the message of Life is getting out there. Many people of my generation who were denied the teachings of the Church in our youth, are finally getting it. America has some terrible problems, but from there, the English-speaking world is finally getting the full authentic teaching of Christ and His apostles and we are able to hand it on to our children. The pro-life movement is a movement of families and they will not deny God a place in giving children, nor in caring for the elderly.

Why did Jesus weep?

Today’s Gospel reading was about the raising of Lazarus. In the middle of this story comes the Bible’s shortest verse, “Jesus wept.” What was He weeping about? The people around Him at the time thought He wept for Lazarus, but from our viewpoint, we know that can’t be true. He knew He was going to raise His friend and He would shuffle out of the grave before all those people. What was He weeping for? I think I may have a few ideas. I am not sure what other’s think on this, but this is my t’pence worth.

He wept for Judas and for Jerusalem. You see, Mary ran from her house where she was sitting shiva for her brother. She gets up and rushes to Jesus as soon as she hears He is in the vicinity. She throws herself down at His feet – and John reminds us this is not the first time she has wept over the feet of Jesus.

The twelve are with Christ as He comes to Bethany, and there is little doubt that Judas sees Mary at the feet of Jesus. How angry he had been when she had “wasted” all that wealth and beauty on the Lord. From that moment he had planned to hand the Lord over to His enemies. Just like the Judases today who even phone radio shows with the SAME QUESTION, he resented the cost of worshipping the Lord, God and Saviour, “Why doesn’t She sell it and give the money to the poor?”[she being Mary and the Church] they ask. Of course, like Judas, they have no real regard for the poor, they just hate the wealth given to the glory of God.

Did Jesus weep for all the Judases that over the next 2000 years and more would pretend to be His disciples, when in fact they only wished to serve themselves?

Did He weep for all those people who would observe the raising of Lazerus, just a week before Jesus Himself would be crucified and that despite all the time He had spent with them, it really would take a miracle of this magnitude before many of those present would deign to believe?

Perhaps too, He wept for all those who, even in the face of this miracle STILL refused to believe. For those who would rush back to Jerusalem, horrified by this resurrection and more eager than ever to have this Jesus of Nazareth put to death.

Perhaps He wept for all of us, who in whatever way, have turned from Life to death because we are daft enough to prefer the darkness of the tomb.

It’s just two words “Jesus wept,” but those are words that are sword to the heart of all of us.

Home Education Open Day; April 30th 11am – 4pm

There is to be a Home Education Open Day on Saturday 30th April 2011 from 11am to 4pm at

SS Joseph and Helen’s Church Hall Station Road, Kings Norton, Birmingham

If you are thinking of home educating your children come along.

There will be curricula to look at and HE parents to ask questions of as well as some children’s activities.

If you have children in your family who are home educated and you want to support them, come and have a look at what we do.

 

Frugal Friday; free Easter lesson pack for home education

 As Lent moves on towards Easter, I have finished a new lesson pack which is YOURS FREE - and you can’t get more frugal than that.

The Via Guade continues from the Via Dolorosa which is also free. The Via Guade is all about the Resurrection of Jesus and His quiet time over 40 days with His apostles and some other disciples.  I have added the usual amount of fine art for picture study and of course the lapbooking pieces, which I hope will suit a mixed age and ability group of children.

Continue reading

Doing Lent – a little miracle I read about today.

As I have mentioned, this Lent I am not quite up to a great theological or spiritual reading exercise, so I am reading the children’s Vision Books.  I am just reading Our Lady Came to Fatima at the moment and have come across a little miracle that I had not been aware of before.

The great miracle of the sun on October 13th 1917 gets a whole lot of attention which is hardly surprising when so many people from so far and wide witnessed it. But this books gives another little miracle.

Ti Marto and Olympia his wife have just been to the Cova with their children, to protect them. Just before the events of the day, visitors had literally climbed over the beds in muddy boots and trampled through the little house, leaving devastation and mess behind them.

When they arrived home, they stared in wonder at their little home. It was utterly spotless. Beds made with clean, pressed sheets, the floors sparkling and rugs gleaming. No one had been in the house while they were all at the Cova, and certainly there had not been time before the Marto family got home. It seems Our Blessed Mother, who had kept house for Joseph and Jesus, had left a little favour behind for the family of her litte ones Francisco and Jacinta.

The Church has always taught that Public Revelation was complete with the death of the last apostle. She says that belief in private revelation, even those carefully investigated and approved – is not obligatory on the faithful. Nevertheless, it seems odd to me, that those who seek the truth and are faithful to Christ, would disregard the efforts He has made in sending His mother to teach us. It is something deeply sad and rather shameful that Our Mother asked for repentece and penance to avoid a second world war, and the horrors of Communisim – and she was rejected. She even warned it would “be late”, hinting that she knew what lack of response would result; but in the end her Immaculate Heart will triumph; and indeed, watching the events under (about to be) Blessed John Paul the Great, that triumph is well under way.

Book basket; Grades K and 2, nursery and grade 11

This weeks books we are reading.

I had to work out what grade Iona would be in if she was in American school  because I couldn’t remember where she would be in the UK system.

She is still reading her Neil Gaiman book, between her Open University studies and reading Dostoyevsky’s Notes from the Underground. My friend, who is a teacher said she is so proud of Iona, seeing how much she has overcome to be reading and studying at such a high level. She remembers well, how much Iona had to struggle with her dyslexia – but it is a battle she has been winning.

Ronan (gr 2) has just started reading Detectives in Togas. He needs a bit of help with pronunciation of some of the Roman names, but so far, it’s a good book.

Avila (gr K) is reading Step Into Reading Discovery In the Cave and Brian Ogdan’s Follow the Ants.

Heleyna is still reading her Starfall books.

For Read Alouds we are still reading The Jungle Book, Nursery Bible Stories and the ever wonderful Fairyland of Science.

I am now on the next Vision Book Our Lady Came to Fatima, which is a good re-telling of those events, with direct quotes from the conversions Our Lady had with Lucia. In fact there’s a bit that struck me as important, that might normally get passed over in all the stuff about how to end the War and how another war would come – it’s a small conversation where Lucia asks for a woman who is dieing to die and go to heaven quickly. Our Lady answers that she is well aware of the woman who should not be in a rush as God knows and she knows exactly when to come and fetch her. In other words, her  suffering was worth it.

In Search of Healing, and blaming the sick.

Like most people with a serious illness, I wish I could be healed. I’ve prayed for it, hoped for it and essentially given up on it.  I look to America and they are at least trying to do something for those of us with these horrible and incurable diseases; but I am more than a little aware of the “not in my lifetime” element to this.

The Gospels are full of stories of how Jesus heals people. This Sunday’s reading from John was about how Jesus healed the man who had been born blind. It’s an interesting story on all sorts of levels. But the bit that interests me is the bit the blind man himself had to do. First of all he did not ask for healing – not here at this point anyway. He has been blind all his life. He has probably got used to it and had to accept the begging and appallingly poor life because of it. Has he accepted that so many people, the apostles included, assume that he or his parents are somehow at fault. “Who sinned, him or his parents?” How often had that question been asked, or used as an excuse to withhold the love and charity he should have received?

Jesus doesn’t say, “Open your eyes.” He does something really weird. He spits on the ground and makes a paste. Then he goes and daubs the spit-mud on the mans eyes. The man doesn’t protest. Perhaps he is more than used to having spit and earth thrown at him, being less useful and of less worth to those who lived their able lives. Now this man touches him with gentleness on his blind eyes.

“Go and wash in the pool of Siloam,” says Jesus and the man immediately obeys. Someone must have led him there. He does not question, but goes where he is sent. And because he has obeyed his sight is restored.

Like Naaman in the river he is healed. Like all those people healed at the waters of Lourdes, he is healed.

But so many of us, are not healed. We carry our sickness and remain unable to walk or do all that we wish we could do. And there is a reason for that. Not that we have sinned (though we have) or that our parents have sinned (though they have) – but we are a sign of contradiction in our utilitarian culture.

A mother of a child with Downs wrote this very moving piece about her feelings over the death of Terri Schiavo in 2005. What she writes resonates with me. I wondered how long before it’s my turn or my child’s turn because we are not “useful” enough? (H/T The Anchoress).  Far too many medics and nurses think respect is only to be given to those who will either get better quickly or die when the medics want them to. Those who remain ill or wont die fast enough had better beware.

It is the fashion to blame the sick for being sick. This insidious approach is just so that doctors can wash their hands of us. Baring in mind how skint the NHS is supposed to be, I was quite cross when a pile of NHS junk mail aimed at people like me with hypertension, heart problems and stroke came through my door. The glossy booklet and leaflet was a massive “IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT!” attack. We are all smoking and drinking too much, eating high fat, high salt diets and being too idle to exercise. Oh, and we have a lot of stress which we can simply “reduce.” Those of us who don’t tick the “blame patient” boxes, are simply assumed to be at fault.

All this is simply to let people off the hook of actually caring for the sick. They are a “burden” and no one should be a burden so we have a duty to die.

Jesus said the man was born blind so that God could be glorified. Those of us who live daily with our limitations, pain and sickness must remember – this is to be offered for the glory of God. That alone, makes us still useful, don‘t you  think?

I have to put this cartoon in.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Mother’s Day.

I have the day off :) Alex and Iona are cooking the dinner. Iona got up early to get the meat in the oven and clean the kitchen.

We went to Mass and there were flowers for all the mums and flowers on the altar. The vestments and tabernacle colours are pink, a break from the purple of Lent. There were prayers for all mothers and we sang O Mother Blest at the end of Mass. Lots of people lit candles and hovered around the Lady Chapel, obviously remembering their own mother and praying for her. I left my flowers for my friend Donna, who once told me, “We mothers need to stick together.”

She was right. Mother’s need to support one another. There is something reassuring about having other mums to talk to, who are in the same stage of parenting, and being able to help mums who are in a different stage. We share our ideas, frustrations and the funny bits of life.  Those of us who are parents of young adults share the terrible frustrations for those young men (we all seem to have sons). But they are good lads and they keep trying.

So, here I am, I get to sit here and blog while the older ones are doing stuff.

I am reading the next Vision Book about Our Lady coming to Fatima. Her motherhood is very active. Even before she had been assumed into heaven she is sent by God to appear to St. James in his work in Spain. The church of Santiago (James) de Compostela is there in remembrance. Her visits continued over the years, including here in England at Walsingham and Evesham.
In Lourdes she appeared to St. Bernadette, and then at Fatima to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco.

Recently a man was miraculously healed of his paralysis in Lourdes. It ‘s one of the few of the many miraculous healings there that has been fully recognised after all the tests were done. Now that he can walk again, he is walking a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. How wonderful is that?