Saturday, April 26, 2008
If you love me, you will keep my commandments
There are many words we may say without really meaning them. We say “Sorry” just to get us out of a situation. We say “Thank you” when we are not really grateful. We say we love someone out of routine or habit or to get what they want.
Yet the person who is truly sorry not only says so, but shows that sorrow by their attitude, their anguish, their desire to make amends. The person who is really grateful shows their gratitude by their generosity of spirit and their joy in receiving. And the one who truly loves does so not routinely or selfishly, but with caring and compassion.
Words are powerful, but deeds are more so. We may say we are sorry to God for our sins, but it is true contrition, real regret which deserves from him the fulness of forgiveness. We may thank God in prayer and song, but it is the gratitude which comes from the heart which really fills us with joy. And we may say that we love God as he loves us - but it is the heart that loves God in the neighbour, that truly dwells in him.
‘Keep my commandments’ does not mean follow all the rules, but open your hearts to him, be filled with his grace, receive the gifts of the Spirit, the Spirit of truth who is with us for ever. It means that if we love him, we will love our neighbour, and love his commandments, because they are the gift of our life to him.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
I am sure that we think of the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd as something very comfortable, or comforting, and almost a little sentimental. The image of Christ carrying a lamb on his shoulders, nursing the lost sheep, is a very appealing one.
But there is also something very hard about this image. No doubt the life of a shepherd was a tough and quite dangerous one. The safety of his sheep might be brought at the risk of his own safety. And the good shepherd is the one who leads down the right pathway. There is one gate to the sheepfold, though there are many who would try and deceive the sheep.
There is something very un-modern about this. We try to be tolerant. We try to live and let live. We even try to give respect to the beliefs of others. All of this is good. But it is not good if it suggests that all beliefs are the same, all paths are just as valid, all roads lead to the same goal. Belief is not just a matter of choice or preference or taste or even upbringing. Life choices are not like preferences for food, or football teams, or holiday destinations.
Some choices are right and some choices are wrong.
I am the gate. - Christ says -
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
… I have come
so that they may have life and have it to the full.
To think of Christ the Good Shepherd is indeed comforting, and consoling - because he is the way, the truth and the path that leads to life. Follow the way.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
The Road to Emmaus - the Road to Jerusalem
Today's Gospel is a story of two journeys. The first - perhaps the more prominent one - is the journey of the two disciples away from the City of Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus. It is a journey travelled in the full light of day - but one clouded by confusion and a lack of understanding. It is only as darkness falls on the day, that a light shines into the minds of the two.
The second journey is travelled in the opposite direction, from Emmaus to Jerusalem. It is travelled in the darkness of night - yet it is purposeful, immediate and direct, driven by the light of revelation, of knowledge, of rejoicing in the truth.
This may lead us to reflect upon our lives. Everyone knows our lives are a journey, and that we will meet many turns in the road, many changes in the landscape, many obstacles in the way.
But for most people the journey of life is a journey walked in the brightnesss of day. All is clear, all is living, everything can be understood. Anything can be achieved. Almost anything is possible to those who dwell in the brightness of day. Humanity has surpreme confidence in its own power, its own vision. And yet, the journey of life is one which advances towards an approaching sunset. Whichever way we turn that is what is ahead of us - a darkness which will conclude everything. As the years advance they believe life becomes dimmer, less vibrant, less clear, until darkness covers all.
On the contrary, the Christian life is not a life walked in the light of day, but through the darkness of night. It is the journey not to Emmaus, but to Jerusalem. Yes with perils, yes with doubts and uncertainties, yes with anxieties. Yet it is a journey guided by the light of Christ and what we approach is not a final darkness, but an eternal dawn, a sunrise to new life, a light which conquers all darkness for ever.