Lazarus and Death in Sin

Image result for fifth sunday of lent

Today’s Gospel reading is the bittersweet, and well known, story of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus. I say bittersweet because, although the miracle itself is important, we are shown a side of Jesus’ humanity that not often comes to light in The Bible: his empathy and his pain. The mere tears of Mary drive Jesus to Lazarus’ grave to weep – a very human reaction to the death and loss of a friend.

As we know, there is a joyful and poignant ending to this miracle, so, despite its importance in Jesus’ deeds, it’s not what I focused on as part of this week’s Mass readings.

All of this week’s readings have a theme, though: death through sin and life through God. Repetition was strong in emphasising just how necessarily deadly sin is. And, as we walk in life ever nearer to another Eastertide, another yearly celebration of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, the scriptures remind us just how crucial Jesus’ life and the weeks leading up to his death are.

Take, for instance, the second reading this week: from St Paul’s letters to the Romans:

“But if Christ lives in you, the spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin. If the spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then He who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of His Spirit in you.”

(Romans 8:10-11)

Review of Image and Likeness

Image and Likeness: Short Reads Reflecting the Theology of the Body, with a foreword by Damon Owens

If St. John Paul II ever summarized his Theology of the Body, it may have been when he said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” But how does this sincere gift look when lived out by human beings with all their failings? What happens to our humanity when we withhold that sincere gift? What does life require of us when we give most deeply? Full Quiver Publishing brings you this moving collection of poetry and prose, featuring some of today’s brightest Catholic literary voices.

I was gifted an ebook copy of IMAGE AND LIKENESS: LITERARY REFLECTIONS ON THE THEOLOGY OF THE BODY quite a while ago (it launched on 27/10/16 and I have been sadly remiss in keeping to my word) and, to be honest, I finished reading it about a month ago. But I’m so behind on my blog schedule, with all of these half-written pieces, particularly of reviews, that I never got around to sharing it.

There’s something incredibly wholesome about this collection of prose and poetry. Don’t get me wrong: at times, it touches on dark and heavy topics, pertinent for this age we live in, but each piece finished in a way that left me feeling satisfied, even for the short pieces. Yes, the pieces centre around the Theology of the Body—integral to what makes this collection so unique and pleasing to me—but that is not their only or engrossing focus. Some might argue of overly-religious undertones to the idea, but it’s not the feeling you get when you read the pieces themselves. If you’re looking for those kind of tones, you’ll find them here, but if you’re looking for interesting pieces of fiction and poetry and reflection, you’ll also find them here. Just like any other piece of writing, with its themes and ideas.

My personal favourites were No Turning Back by Leslie Lynch, Movements by Michelle Buckman, Nice by Gerard D. Webster.

I definitely recommend this collection of poetry and prose if you’re looking for something different, contemplative with all great, short plots.

You can get IMAGE AND LIKENESS from good retailers, Amazon.com, or straight from Full Quiver Publishing, available in both paperback and Kindle formats.

Preparing for Flame 2017

I went to Flame in 2013 and it still sits with me as a wonderful time. One day, I will make my way back, but at the moment, I cannot afford the time or money to go. I would definitely recommend for any Catholic looking to share their faith with young people.

CAFOD blog

Leah and Ryan in Lebanon last year. Leah and Ryan in Lebanon last year.

We caught up with CAFOD volunteer Ryan who is getting ready to speak to over 8,000 people at the Catholic youth event, Flame 2017, at the SSE Arena, Wembley on March 11. Read on to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with CAFOD.

Currently, I am a volunteer at Savio House, the Salesian residential retreat centre. I really enjoy working with young people and helping them to build relationships with each other as well as with God. When I was in Y12 I joined the Cafod Young Leaders program in my school and as a part of this, I went to the Houses of Parliament to speak to my MP about climate change. From this, I continued to volunteer for a second year on the program with different people.

Buy your ticket to Flame…

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From Darkness, Light

This time last year, I was a bridesmaid at the wedding of one of my best friends. It was a happy and glorious occasion indeed, but it had certainly not been a smooth ride. They had originally planned to have a longer engagement, but pushed the wedding forward due to an unexpected gift of another life. Unfortunately, my friend lost her baby, and there is never a nice way to finish that sentence, but…but God moves in mysterious ways, and out of such a terrible happening has been one of the most enlightening years of my life.

Of course, there is never praise to the Devil when he interferes with our lives and tests our faith, but I find that the best way to look at evil is for the strengthening of the soul, a la the Irenaean theodicy.

As Godmother to the angel now in Heaven, I experienced the loss quite severely, and it was one of those moments in life – to use the phrase from the recent Arrival film trailer: “days that define your story beyond your life”. I never realised how much I cared for the child until she no longer walked among us. Of course I was upset; of course I felt angry that death had yet again claimed me and my friends.

I didn’t blame God, though. If I had to blame anyone, it would be myself for questioning the events that unfolded, doubted the love two people have, found fault with the most natural of circumstances.

All things happen for a reason, we are reminded. My friend is blessed that she has already been called to her vocation in this life. And me, through osmosis, came to realise how small we all are in life. From the darkness and the pain came a light and trust in God’s plans that I might otherwise have disregarded.

From evil, if it was, comes the joy to keep moving forward and fighting the good fight.

Sunday Scripture

Gospel reading for Sunday 4th September, 2016, Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

26 ‘Anyone who comes to me without hating father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, cannot be my disciple. 27 No one who does not carry his cross and come after me can be my disciple.

28 ‘And indeed, which of you here, intending to build a tower, would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, if he laid the foundation and then found himself unable to finish the work, anyone who saw it would start making fun of him and saying, 30 “Here is someone who started to build and was unable to finish.”’

Luke 14:25-33

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Which this scripture might seem contradictory to what else Jesus taught – to love without condition one’s parents, friends, and even those who want to harm one – he is making a clear point here, not only about having to lift one’s own cross, ie. to go through hardship, but also about what is required, or rather not required, when it comes to being a disciple of Christ.

The trials of the earth are base and seemingly heavy. However, Christ advises that these gifts weight us down. We shouldn’t be obsessed with our material products, as they will, in the long run, get us nowhere. This scripture, too, advises against a pretence (for, surely, one cannot not hate one’s closest, by human nature that we have expectations, which will undoubtedly be broken and cause anguish in relationships) of happiness for a life of honesty, even if it that causes judgement our way.

“…would not first sit down and work out the cost to see if he had enough to complete it…“ We ought to give our all and be honest with our all. In this same way, it is not easy to give up what we love or habits that seem natural in the modern secular, but in God’s world as close to useless. In this way, we have sacrifices just as Jesus made the Ultimate Sacrifice. When we take up our individual crosses, we become closer to Christ and his suffering that was solely for to save our souls from sin. An honour that we can but repay via discipleship.

7 Quick Takes: Exam Confidence

7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum.

Seven Quick Takes

~1~

Work at things until they’re rote. If revising a certain topic bores you, you’re probably at the stage where you understand it.

~2~

Use acronyms, aphorisms, ascriptions. Start associating the names you probably won’t remember by themselves with phrases that you’ll be able to roll off your tongue.

~3~

Talk to yourself. Stare out of the window. Just don’t read over what you’ve written time and time again. It does nothing to your long-term memory; there are very little significant or vibrant chemical associations that will occur from reading. Your short-term memory might be fine, but I assure you that tomorrow will have swept the knowledge from your head.

~4~

Instead, opt for writing essay plans or structuring sentences as arguments so that you’re contemplating what you will have to in the exam.

~5~

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some things do need clarifying – some topics are tricky to get one’s head around. As such, you won’t always be able to go it alone. Ask, confirm, support. It’s the best way to understand a topic.

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Revision.

~6~

Relax. Actually, the worst thing one can do in an exam is overthink and spiral into anxiety. A clear mind is a successful mind, and through that, exam essays are simpler than you think.

Plus, God does not judge by one’s academic score, for He knows your true knowledge.

~7~

Pray. Not out of desperation, of course, but in an optimistic in-God-I-trust approach. Acknowledge that He is there for you; appreciate that He has guided you this far. He is on your side, and will continue to support you.

As funny as it sounds, God is my ultimately cheerleader. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without his support.

Have a blessed weekend.

A Striking Chalice: Once Lost, Now Found

Dominus mihi adjutor

There’s nothing like procrastination to prompt a blog post.

Yet this post obeys the adage, carpe diem. For yesterday I discovered a chalice we had feared lost. It belonged to our Fr Terence who died last October after years battling cancer. He came as close to peace as he ever did in his last year, and he died well-prepared for his encounter face to face with Christ. As a young monk he was at the vanguard of the reformers in the 1960s, and until the end he gave short shrift to liturgical or theological recidivism. He was a Vatican II priest of a particular stamp, and his hopes had been pinned on the Council unreservedly. His faith was not feigned and his commitment was utterly sincere.

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