“Don’t Clothe Your Hate With Faith!”

The Gospel reading this Sunday has some Pharisees cornering Jesus and putting him in a hard place, which he gets through with ease.

Like many stories in the Bible, it is clear that the Pharisees do not like Jesus. He is a rogue in the system that the rich and powerful have created. Dis-crediting Jesus would have allowed this system to continue on peacefully.

The Pharisees see an opportunity to put Jesus into a position that forces him to go against God OR Caesar, both of which would have poor outcomes for Jesus. Jesus takes a very wise path.

The Pharisees ask “Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar?” to which Jesus responds with, “Let me see the money you pay the tax with! Whose head is on the back of this coin? Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what Belongs to God”.

Silver Liberty in God We Trust 1978 Coin

Many communities face discrimination at the hands of power in our society. The poor are taken advantage of, the powerless are forced to work and the weak are trampled upon. Our faith calls us to care and look after these people where we can, which a vast majority of Christians and Catholics do. There are however groups that face discrimination at the hands of some in our Church.

Members of our LGBTIQ+ community within our world often face discrimination, particularly by those within faith communities. Often, these so-called people of faith claim that this discrimination is actually part of their faith, and that in-fact that what they are doing is out of love and not fear and hate.

Photo of Crowd of People

In my work within the Church, often I face a similar situation that Jesus faced. People come to me and ask “Do you stand by the people of the LGBTIQ+ community or do you disagree with them wholeheartedly because the Bible says (Insert a Bible verse here)”. This puts me in a difficult situation, but following the advice of Jesus, I can navigate this situation. “Why do you put me in this position? Why do you trap me? How do you treat these children of God? Do you treat them with discrimination, hate and malice? Do not clothe your hate with faith!”

By placing ourselves above others, we make it easy to look down upon those who make choices that we don’t understand or agree with. If we are people of faith, then we must also act like it.

What are we giving to God and what are we giving to ‘Caesar’ within our own lives? Are we living up to the examples that Jesus laid before us and are we treating those in our lives with respect and love. We must not be as small minded as the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus and try to clothe our hate with faith.

Feeding the Hungry

Human Holding a Bread

This weeks gospel and readings put a heavy focus on eating and fulfilment. Jesus throughout his ministry is constantly sharing meals with those around him and this week, Jesus seemingly creates food from thin air.

The Gospel is the classic story of Jesus feeding the crowd with loaves and fishes. What is of particular importance is that this story is common across all four gospels and is retold a total of 6 times. In fact, this is the only miracle common across the four gospels making it quite special.

The fact that the Bible has included this story so much shows how important it was to the early Christian community.

Photo of sea food

So, as always, let’s look at the time that Jesus lived and what food meant to them. Food was nothing short of life. Access to food was a primary concern for many in the community. In addition to this, food had heightened importance compared to nowadays within ceremonies. The quality and quantity of food showed how important a person was within the community. Those who were rich and powerful ate bountiful amounts of delicious food, whereas, lowly peasants ate what little bread and fish they could.

Throughout the readings, the Bible calls us to eat plentifully and that the food we so desire will be given to us freely and then to top it all off, we will never thirst or starve again. In the time of Jesus, this was a beyond lofty promise.

Jesus was promising starving and thirsty people that they shall never have to be concerned with food again. Only in their wildest dreams was this a possibility.

Jesus Returns to the Big Screen in Biblical Movie 'Son of God ...

Jesus partially fulfils this promise in the eyes of the people by feeding them loaves and fishes. While not extravagant food, Jesus allows them to eat as much as possible, a very rare and generous offering. Jesus however, is actually offering a much more substantial and lifegiving gift.

Nowadays, we lose the meaning of the story of Jesus feeding the hungry. While much of our global community still suffers from starvation, much of our Western world lives without fear of starvation or thirst so we cannot fully understand the crux of Jesus’ message. We must look deeper.

The spiritual food Jesus offers to us is just as vital to our spiritual survival within the western world as it is within the whole world. We are starving spiritually as much as anyone else. What Jesus offers is nourishment for our souls, the most important nourishment of all.

It has been said that our bodies are merely vessels that carry our souls. While it is very important to care for our bodies, our souls and its needs are of absolute importance. We can have starving vessels but nourished and happy souls. This fact is ultimately what Jesus wants us to know. Jesus wants us to know that our bodies will always crave more food, more water, it is unsatiable and will always crave for more. The soul, however, is a different story.

Woman in Black Long Sleeve Shirt Lying on Gray Couch

The soul, like our bodies, yearns for nourishment. Some things may feed our souls for a time, but the only thing that will truly feed us is Jesus Christ.

While this can be a hard thing to take in, especially for non-Christians, what we have to remember, is that Jesus takes form in many ways, just as physical food does.

So how do we know if we are full? Quite simple. How do you know if you are full after eating 4 serves of Christmas dinner? You have to undo your belt and lay down, you know you are full. So, how do we know we have full souls? You will radiate the light of Jesus in all its forms, you’ll know and so will all the people around you.

To Give of One’s Self

In Palm Sunday’s reading, Jesus teaches us the power of life and shows us by example how much he loves each and every one of us.

Close-Up Photo of Palm Plant

In the story, Jesus has been captured by those who want him dead. He has been brought before Pontius Pilate who asks “Are you King of the Jews?” to which Jesus responds with, “It is you who say it”.  Jesus is then accused by the chief priests and elders, who he does not respond to. “Do you not hear how many charges they have brought against you?” says Pontius Pilate to which Jesus also does not respond.

Since it was festival time, Pontius Pilate had a practice to release a prisoner to the people which could be anyone the people chose. Pontius Pilate chose Barabbas and said, “Which one do you want me to release, Barabbas or Jesus?”.

Silhouette Image of Person Praying

Barabbas was a notorious prisoner, guilty of murder,  but to Pontius Pilate’s surprise, the crowd roared, “WE WANT BARABBAS!”.  At this point, Pilate knew that it was out of jealously that they had handed Jesus over.

The crowd had been persuaded by the chief priests and elders and kept on shouting “WE WANT BARABBAS”! Pilate responded with “What am I to do with Jesus who is called Christ?” to which the crowds roars “CRUCIFY HIM!”. “Why? What harm has he done?” said Pilate which only angers the crowd more who shout back, “CRUCIFY HIM, CRUCIFY HIM!”. Pilate saw that a riot was about to start and that his words were having no effect on the crowd. So he washed his hands and said “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your concern” at which the crowd takes Jesus away to be scourged and crucified.

Jesus Christ Wooden Sculpture

As a child, I never paid much attention to this reading. I always saw it as the middle story between the last supper and the crucifixion of Jesus, yet at the same time, there was something oddly powerful about it.

Listening in, I always thought that this scene was a game-changer. If Jesus had been released and Barabbas been crucified instead, Jesus would have been able to continue on his mission. All Jesus had to do was answer Pilate about the charges brought against Jesus, which didn’t exist and were only brought about as a false plot to bring Jesus down.

I always thought that this was a bit foolish of Jesus.

However, as I have grown older, I now see this as one of the most amazing acts Jesus performed in the entirety of his time on earth.

The message of Jesus spread through his time on earth was that he loves us all so much, that he was willing to give his life for us. Yeah right, I always thought. But, this story confirms this for us.

Barabbas was a murderer. Guilty as hell and an overall bad person. Jesus, on the other hand, did nothing wrong. Yet when Jesus had the opportunity to allow justice to meet Barabbas, Jesus instead opts to give this man a second chance. Jesus gave his life willingly, for a man who: he did not know, was a murderer and was guilty.

Person's Hands Covered With Blood

Jesus shows us that he loves Barabbas, no matter what he did and was more than willing to give his life for him.

This example shows us just how much Jesus loves us and how Jesus calls us to love.

Many times, there are people that I struggle with, that I struggle to love fully. I can assure you these people have not committed crimes as full-on as Barabbas and I will never match up to Jesus, but it is in times of struggle that I am called to love wholeheartedly, even if it is a struggle.

Jesus calls us to love like he did for Barabbas, as hard as it can be.

Crucifix

“We Are Not Blind, Surely?!”

In the midst of Covid-19, it is only fitting that we have this reading from last week.

Jesus Christ Wooden Sculpture

Last weeks gospel talked about Jesus healing a blind man. Old Jewish belief tells us that this blind man was blind due to the man’s or his parent’s sins. Jesus tells us that he was not born blind to punish anyone but so that the works of God may be displayed in him. Jesus then heals the man of his blindness by wiping a paste made of his spit and dirt. The man then must go to the pool of Siloam to wash his face before he can see.

People then notice the man has been healed and are amazed, refusing to believe that this healed man is the same blind man that once begged from them. The once blind man was brought to the Pharisees and they cannot believe what has happened either. They also cannot believe that Jesus is a man from God, as he hasn’t kept the sabbath.

Photo Of Woman Covering Her Face

The crowds of people are in a predicament. Jesus claims to be from God, yet mixes with sinners and even heals them.

Jesus then finishes up by saying “It is for judgment that I have come into the world so that those without sight may see and those with sight turn blind.” Some of the Pharisees say that “We are not blind, surely?!” but Jesus responds by saying “Blind? If you were, you would not be guilty, but since you say you are not, your guilt remains.”

Heavy stuff from Jesus.

People on Sidewalk Selective Focal Photo

At the time the Pharisee’s claim to fame is that they are holy men, men who are always right, yet Jesus has the audacity to tell them that they are actually blind. Their disbelief and refusal to see the goodness in the blind man and the inability to believe that Jesus is the son of God has made them spiritually blind.

In the time of Covid-19 we are rushed with fear over so many things. Often times we all get caught up in our own worries that we forget that so many around us are struggling as well.

The evidence is clear. People rushing to buy all the essentials, the panic surrounding us all, we often can be the Pharisees to the blind man in this scary time.

Woman in White Long Sleeve Shirt Standing in Front of Vegetable Stand

Jesus heals the physical blindness of the man but asks the Pharisees to see. Jesus doesn’t heal the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and I wonder why that is. However, when I look at my own spiritual blindness, I see it cannot be healed.

My own spiritual blindness comes when I am selfish and think of my own wants before the needs of others. When I don’t consider the people around me, I blind myself.

Jesus wouldn’t have just gone up to the blind man and surprised him with some mud on the eyes. I would think that would have given a blind man quite a fright. I assume that Jesus would have asked the man if he could do such a task. The man also isn’t automatically healed, he still has to go to the pool to wash his face before he can see. The man could have easily wiped the mud off his face and kept on begging but instead chose to listen to Jesus.

We are all in some way this blind man. Jesus has already healed us, but are we going to go to the pool to wash our eyes and see again, or will we remain on the street begging for scraps?

Silhouette Photography of Hanging Rosary

“A Light Has Dawned!”

Brown and Green Grass Field during Sunset

Well well well, here we are. Youth Ministry is back in full swing and what a reading to start us off here.

In last weeks gospel reading, Jesus hears that his friend John the Baptist is arrested so he travels to Capernaum where the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled

“The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned!”

Jesus went around preaching “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand”. Jesus additionally, called men to his cause, asking them to leave their fathers and their nets saying “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” and they left their nets at once to follow him.

 Person's on Boat Throwing Fishing Net

What Jesus does here is no small feat. He calls forth these men, who had livelihoods, they had responsibilities but yet they drop everything to follow Jesus. At the start of the gospel, we can guess that they do such a thing due to the good message, a light has shone!

All these people living in a state of hopelessness, have finally had someone claiming they are loved by God, and that they are going to heaven.

I guess it all begs the question of us: would we drop everything to follow God? Or better yet, have we dropped everything to follow God?

Selective Focus Photo of Brown and Silver Rosary

We can see Gods message is good, but are we ready to trust God with our lives and livelihoods?

I think this is a fantastic thought to start the year off and I pray that we all can reflect on what God is calling us to, and how he is calling us to follow him, whatever that may be. I hope that we all have the courage to drop what we are doing and follow.

Jesus promised it would be good, he never said it would be easy.

Be Humble

Be humble. We have all heard this one before. But is this something we truly enact in our lives?

Man Wearing Bonnet and Hoodie

The gospel reading from last Sunday has Jesus tell us a parable about 2 men, a self-righteous Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee goes to temple and thanks God for not being grasping, unjust and adulterous but most of all, thanks God for not being like the tax collecter in front of him.

The tax collector, on the other hand, doesn’t even dare raise his eyes to heaven. The tax collector beats his breast and ask’s God to be merciful to him as he is a sinner.

Jesus then tells us that the tax collector leaves at rights with God, whereas the Pharisee leaves not at rights with God.

We are clearly told through this passage that we should be more humble but this is something that the living word and spirit know that we have to be constantly reminded of.

I was listening to Kanye West’s new album “JESUS IS KING” and you know what, I quite like it. Typically, I am not a fan of the man’s music, but you know what, there are some songs there which I am really enjoying (In particular Selah for anyone who wants to give it a listen).

Image result for jesus is king

Many people in our Christian community over the world hasn’t taken too kindly to Kayne’s change in pace or personality. Kanye was a man who a few years ago proclaimed himself as King of Rock and Roll (A strange title for someone who doesn’t write or perform rock and roll) and also the man who released a song called “I am God”. Kanye has not been a man who you would describe as humble in any stretch of the definition.

Kanye has, however, come out confessing his wrongdoings, promising to be a better man and to top it all off thrown us a blindsider and released his album calling it “JESUS IS KING” and filling it with music about faith, spirituality, Jesus and God. I mean, cool stuff Kanye.

Image result for kanye west

The wider Christian community is not too happy with this change. They claim that he hasn’t really changed and that Kanye will never change. I myself would have slotted myself into this group as well.

However, the parable from Jesus about being humble has really changed my mind on the whole situation. I am also a sinner, yet I claimed to be the real follower of Jesus over Kanye.

Men's White Button-up Dress Shirt

I find us Catholics can often be self-righteous about our faith. I think this parable applies to us more than ever with everything going within our Church. With all the corruption, priests and lay people caught up in the abuse of our young people, our persecution of the LGBTIQ+ community and everything else going on, it’s a time for us to be the sinner who asks God for forgiveness rather than act like the Pharisee.

We are all tax collectors, yet God loves us all, so it is up to us to make that step towards God and Jesus rather than make judgements against those that we believe don’t make the cut.

“The other nine, where are they?”

In last weeks gospel reading, we hear the much-celebrated story of Jesus healing 10 lepers. While the story is miraculous in that Jesus healed 10 people from a horrible disease, the focus of the story revolves around the fact that only 1 leper of the 10 came back to thank Jesus.

The story goes along the lines of 10 lepers finding Jesus and calling him saying “Jesus! Master! Take pity on us!” At this Jesus sends them to the local priests where they are healed. However, only one of the 10 returns to Jesus thanks him for this healing.

When Will You Return Signage

When I was a kid, a priest told me a story about how prayers worked. It was very simple and it went something like this.

There was a man who was angry at Jesus. This was a man who had been praying for a promotion at work, but his prayer hadn’t been answered. He demanded Jesus answer his prayer, however, an angel came down and offered to show him the place where prayers were to be answered. The man accepted this offer and the angel took him to the prayer post office. The angel first took him to the section called “WANTS” and the man enters the section and there is paper pilled as high as skyscrapers. “In this section is all the wants that people pray for, we hardly have enough angels to get around to all of them!”. The angel takes the man to the next section which says “DEMANDS”. Once again, paper is pilled as high as the man can see and angels can be seen rushing around. “Are all the sections like this?” asks the astonished man. “There is one that isn’t like this,” said the angel as she walked towards the section that said “THANKS”. Within this section, all the angels sat around doing nothing. “Why aren’t they working” asked the man, “Because there are no prayers being sent to this section. Everyone is too busy asking for wants and making demands, but no one seems to be giving thanks”.

Man With Wings Standing on Brown Mountain Peak

As a kid, this struck me hard. All I had been doing was asking God for the new Xbox rather than thanking God for all that I was given.

The story of the 10 lepers, however, I believe asks us a little more of us than just to thank God for what we have.

The 9 lepers didn’t just forget to thank Jesus but proceeded to forget about Jesus entirely after Jesus healed them. The 1 leper that did come back not only thanked Jesus for his works but also Acknowledged his teachings.

Brown Book Page

As Catholics, sometimes we can make the same sins. Often times we can go to mass and then proceed to leave and forget about the teachings we have just learned. We fulfilled our weekly obligation of going to mass but forget to remember the teachings of Jesus when we leave.

Jesus is calling us to remember his teachings and stick with him in the good and bad times, but no matter what, always come back to Jesus, not just when we need too!

 

 

 

Do not take your seat in the place of honour!

This weeks gospel reading calls us to be humble in who we are.

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. For what if someone more important comes by, you’ll be asked to move and to your embarrassment take the lowliest place. However, if you take the lowliest seat and no one more honourable arrives, you’ll be asked to move up higher and all you sit with will see you honoured”.

Wedding Venue

Thanks Jesus. Sounds like a cool social trick to ensure I never get embarrassed and that people see me be honoured.

Sadly, however, I believe Jesus is telling us more than this.

At the time of Jesus speaking this parable in Lukes gospel, Jesus is sitting with one of the leading Pharisees. Jesus is being judged by all around him, by the rich and highborn alike.

Jesus telling people to take the lowly seat would have been controversial. Sitting amongst the unclean would have been seen as foolish. If one had any sense at all, they would sit in the highest place of honour possible.

Four Rock Formation

Jesus refutes this way of thinking and tells us that people will find honour in being humble under God and for the Pharisees, what better way of being humble that sitting with the lowly and unclean!

For us though, how does this message convey?

For me personally, this message of being humble is a very simple one, yet one in which I certainly struggle. It means not bragging about my achievements to others and keeping it to myself.

For some, it might be a matter of attributing strengths to God or even ensuring that they do not flaunt riches that they may have.

How will you be humble in the eyes of God?

 

“I have come to bring fire to the earth!”

Woah, Jesus. Calm down.

In this weeks Gospel reading, Jesus is quite passionate, to say the least.

Person Performing Fire Dance at Night

“I have come to bring fire to the earth and how I wish it were blazing already! …. Do you suppose I am here to bring peace? No, I came to bring division… A household will be divided…Son against father, mother against father, daughter against son”.

Jesus is sending out a cry of anguish to us, not often seen from him. He passionately calls out against the earth, telling us all that he won’t be bringing peace like he previously said but rather division.

Woman Sitting in Grey Fur Sofa

Jesus’ message seems counter-productive to his mission. We have often heard of Jesus’ mission to bring peace but he specifically said I am NOT here to bring peace.

What does Jesus mean by this?

I don’t know but with the power of hindsight, we can see how Jesus’ mission was perceived.

Jesus’ time in this world in a human body most certainly did not cause peace. Jesus was the disrupter, the man who broke all the rules. In his day, Jesus most certainly would not have been seen as a man of peace by quite a number of people. In this, we can see Jesus most certainly did bring division.

Crowd of People Black and White Photo

Jesus saw so many things wrong with the world he was born in. He saw women being treated poorly, he saw children being thrown out on the streets, the sick battered. The injustices Jesus saw infuriated him and we can see that passion in this gospel reading.

Jesus calls us to fight these injustices in our world that still exist today and he calls us to fight them with passion! We are called not to peacefully watch on as the world around us suffers, but to instead intervene and tell the world that this isn’t on and to be the change-makers the world needs!

 

Be ready for action!

This weeks gospel calls us to action. Jesus tells his disciples to be dressed for action and to have their lanterns lit. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. If the homeowner knew what hour the burglar would break into the house, wouldn’t the homeowner be awake and ready for action?

Broken Glass

But what does this all mean? Be ready for action and defending our house against homeowners?

My father told me many years ago that this reading was about working hard all the time. Bosses would tell this to their employees to let them know that they should always be working hard whether the boss is in the room or not. But like always, Jesus is asking more of us at this time.

Two Person Shaking Each Others Hands

Jesus was a man of his time. Servants were seen as the scum of society, so a lazy servant was the scum of scums. Servants were expected to always be hardworking, but of course, often they were not. The everyday person would work hard when a boss was around and slack off when they left, much like today with many people one would assume.

Jesus poses that all of us are servants in the workforce of God and that we should always be working hard and be ready for the lord. Often times this gospel reading has been viewed evidence of the second coming of Christ, but small old me sees a different message coming through to me.

Often times after Sunday mass, I come out and go “yep, that’s prayer and Jesus time over for now. I can do what I want and forget about it for a bit”. I think this reading is calling me to remember that our faith is simply not about going to mass but more about what we do after mass.

Brown Cathedral Interior

Going to church prepares us to live our lives in the way that Jesus wants. I see this reading reminding me that yes, Church is important but just as important as the majority of time spent outside mass.

God is always in the room, not just when I am at mass. God calls us to greatness constantly, and often the obstacles posed to us appear outside mass and these are the moments that Jesus says “Be ready for action”!