- An afterlife for our times
Images of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory loom large in popular culture, but less so in Scripture. The human imagination bridges this gap and creates music, films, games and novels that help us to make sense of our lives
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The living Spirit
It is as if a cloud hovers between us and God. From time to time that cloud of unknowing is pierced by a shaft of light which tells us something about God, though we do not see or touch him directly.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in your tender love towards the human race sent your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the Cross: grant that we may follow the example of his patience and humility, and also be made partakers of his Resurrection.
Jesus doesn’t allow us to solve our own or other people’s problems through blame. The challenge he poses is to discern in the midst of our darkness the light of God. In Jesus’ vision everything, even the greatest tragedy, can become an occasion in which God’s works can be revealed.
It’s hard for me to accept the idea of a violent death, which in these circumstances is very possible…I place my entire life under the loving providence of God, and I accept death, no matter how difficult, with faith in Him.
When we have striven to alleviate or overcome our suffering, when like Christ we have prayed “that the cup pass us by”, and yet suffering remains, then we must walk “the royal road” of the Cross.
I have known the silence of the marsh beyond Rye and Winchelsea, and the silence of the little roads that led back into the downs. Silence of the Rother’s cool stream below the hill at Wittersham, on the road to Bodiam Castle.
Lord Jesus Christ, who emptied himself of all glory and came among us as one who serves: we thank you for your greatest gift in giving your blessed body to us as a memorial of your love.
To you be praise, to you be glory, fount of mercy! As I become more and more unhappy, you were drawing closer. Already you stretched out your right hand to drag me out of the quagmire and wash me clean …
When we look back at the history of Christianity, perhaps we can understand better now why this infancy narrative has been one of the most popular sections of the whole Jesus story, one of the best known and of worldwide appeal.
Seven centuries before Christ, the prophet Isaiah announced that with the coming of Christ, the Son of God who would become man, the final phase of history would begin. How long will it last? We do not know the answer to that question but St Paul tells us that we are now in that time, that hour.
All creatures were dead, as it were, useless for men or for the praise of God, who made them. The world, contrary to its true destiny, was corrupted and tainted by the acts of men who served idols.
To me, Advent is the season of the poor. Poverty has not been created by God. We are the ones who have created poverty.
The Spirit prays in us. Of course we pray as well. We say our words and, when we use the psalms, we say the ancient hallowed words which have been lovingly passed down.
I continue to go to Church because I need to: being too weak without the help of others to follow the gospel imperatives that have guided my life for so long and have helped me to live a full and satisfying human life, even though I often betray them.
I did not come to be served, but to serve, says the Lord. Let those who are placed over others boast about that position as much as they would if they were assigned the duty of washing the feet of their brothers.
When I sing in my verses of the happiness of heaven and of the eternal possession of God, I feel no joy. I sing out of what I wish to believe.
The Gospel of Christ recognises the existence of human infirmities. It recognises and denounces them with penetrating and often fierce sincerity.
Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives.
Blessed are the poor in spirit … blessed are the meek.
God, in all that is most living and incarnate in him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell and taste about us. Rather he awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment … He is at the tip of my pen, my brush, my needle – of my heart and of my thought.
Once we can accept that God is in all situations, and can and will use even bad situations for good, then everything becomes an occasion for good and an occasion for God, and is thus at the heart of religion …
Since the dawn goes from darkness into light, it is right that the Church of the elect should be called “dawn” or “first light.” As it is led from the night of disbelief into the light of faith, it is opened up to the splendour of heavenly brightness just as the dawn bursts into day after darkness.
To be silent – truly silent – is to dissolve all the projections that make up the story that we call “me” and “my life”. To be silent is to be present: not floating in fantasy or memory, not thinking of this or that.
Let us work for the food which does not perish – our salvation. Let us work in the vineyard of the Lord to earn our daily wage in the wisdom which says: Those who work in me will not sin.
Lord God, you hold both Heaven and earth in a single peace. Let the design of your great love shine on the waste of our wraths and sorrow, and give peace to your Church, peace among nations, peace in our homes, and peace in our hearts; in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Without prayer the soul suffocates. Through prayer I live in you Lord.
The chaos of human sin and disorder and the wind of the Spirit blowing over it, and the embodied love of God going down into the waters and being drawn out again in a blaze of light and a word from heaven, “This is my Son!” The baptised community lives in that mystery, drawn out of chaos, breathing in the wind of the Spirit and hearing from God the words that he speaks to his only son: “You can call me father.”
Mercy must be understood as God’s own justice and as his holiness. Only in this sense can we make the image of the good and merciful father, whom Jesus proclaimed to us, shine again. We could also say: it is necessary to draw a picture of a sympathetic God.
The sparkle of the Mediterranean, the grandeur of the North African desert, the lushness of Asia’s forestation, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, the horizon upon which the sun rose and set and the majestic splendour of Australia’s natural beauty … these all evoke a profound sense of awe.
The work of evangelisation presupposes in the evangeliser an ever increasing love for those whom he is evangelising. That model evangeliser, the Apostle Paul, wrote these words to the Thessalonians, and they are a programme for us all: “With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the Gospel of God but our very selves, so dear had you become to us.”
The Church is the body of Christ in history. By this expression we understand that Christ has wished to be himself the life of the Church through the ages.
I heard the voice of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness: “Repent and be converted, already the axe is laid to the root of the tree. Any tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” What is good fruit? It can only be one thing. It can only be love.
You see the light but not the sun. When you set yourself to look more closely, you will begin to see more sense in the darkness that surrounds you. Your eyes will begin to pick out the shape of things and persons around you. You will begin to see them, the presence of the One who gives them meaning and purpose, and that it is he who is the explanation of them all.
We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives, so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy, and doubt, that peace and abundance may manifest for all. As for ourselves, yes, we must be meek, bear injustice, malice, rash judgement.
In the Church’s preaching of the gospel message of justice and liberation, a denunciation of existing injustices is necessarily implied … Denunciation demands courage, often great courage. For to denounce an injustice will often mean to confront, perhaps to unmask, but in any case to contradict powerful men who control the levers of economic and political power.
I tell you the truth, no one should consider himself a servant of God until he has passed through temptations and tribulations. A temptation overcome is like a ring with which the Lord betroths the soul of his servant.
How shining and splendid are your gifts, O Lord, which you give us for our eternal well-being. Your glory shines radiantly in your saints,
Like every other man who lives down here [on earth]: I live with the grace of good physical health ...
I have seen the sun break through to illuminate a small field for a while, and gone my way and forgotten it.
This is how Providence acts to direct the activity of the human spirit. When winter begins, it looks like all vegetables will die. The wind sweeps away flowers and leaves, but it keeps something hidden, dry and powdery: the seeds and all plant life are found inside.
There is an inspiring sermon of St Francis de Sales in which he says, “the throne of God’s mercy is the misery of man.” God could not be merciful – he would almost be denied that quality – if there were not people like you and me to be merciful to.
To be converted” means to follow Jesus, to walk with him, on his way. But let us again insist on the fact that God “brings us back”, converts us. Conversion is not human self-realisation, and man is not the architect of his own life.
Prayer for me is always full of memory, of recollection, even the memory of my own history, or of what the Lord has done in his Church or in a particular parish …
O Lord, I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me see my real needs, which are hidden from me.
Be a sign for others of brotherly love and of joy. Open yourself to all that is human and you will see any futile desire to flee from the world disappear.
If all that I do can become more and more an expression of my participation in God’s life of total giving and receiving in love, everything else will be blessed and will lose its fragmented quality.
The seeker begins by having a plot in very infertile land, in which grow many weeds which will be for the delight of the Lord. His Majesty digs up the weeds and plants good plants instead.
Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way: the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge.
“He emptied himself,” means literally, “He poured himself out.” We are not only to receive Christ, we are to be identified with him. We, too, are to say, “This is my body – this is my blood,” poured out for the glory of God and the good of our fellow men.
In this world things come and go, so that the whole may be complete. “Do I ever go away anywhere?” says the Word of God.
And now God says to us what God has already said to the earth as a whole through his grace-filled birth: “I am there. I am with you.
Some want to keep the Gospel so disembodied that it does not get involved at all in the world it must save. Christ is now in history. Christ is in the womb of the people
Let us go out to meet him with contrite and expectant hearts; and though he delays his coming, let us watch for him in the cold and dreariness which must one day have an end.
After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother.
You will find stability at the moment when you discover that God is everywhere, that you do not need to seek him elsewhere, that he is here, and if you do not find him here it is useless to go and search for him elsewhere
Make an effort to rise from the ground. Remember the good Shepherd will search for you and rescue you … Remember the mercies of God and how he cures wounds with oil and wine. Don’t despair of salvation.
We have to withdraw from time to time to be silent and still, to gain perspective, to look beyond this world to search for the origin and purpose of it all.
Love one another, my dear children. Seek rather what unites, not what may separate you from one another …
The Christian’s hope comes primarily from the fact that he knows that the Lord is working with us in the world, continuing in his body which is the Church
The Word became flesh so that the flesh, that is, the human race, should ascend to him by believing in the Word through the flesh, so that through the natural, only begotten son many should be adopted as sons.