Fr. Bob Writes – November 18, 2018

Fr Bob writes: Our first reading this Sunday, from the book of Daniel, introduces us to a type of writing called “apocalyptic,” a word that means ‘unveiling” or “revealing.”  The book of Revelation (also called “Apocalypse”) in the New Testament is another example, as is the gospel text this Sunday.  It is a genre of literature pointing ahead to the “Day of the Lord” and consummation of history, when God would definitively intervene in world affairs to bring about his final purposes for his people and the world.  It was usually written to strengthen and comfort the faithful in times of adversity with the promises of God’s prophetic word.

The imagery used by Jesus in the gospel, of “sun and moon darkening and stars falling from the sky” would be familiar to Jewish people regarding a future time of tribulation culminating in victory for God’s people and need not be taken with absolute literalness.  The idea of some sort of a cosmic upheaval is what is being aimed at in this kind of imagery.  Some Christians have made determination of the timing of Jesus’ Second Coming or Day of the Lord at the end of time a central focus of their theology, even making precise predictions.  Some have even convinced their followers to sell everything and wait at a designated place for a day that came and passed, causing them to lose both credibility and friends at the same time.  One remembers the furore some years ago around a certain Professor Campion who confidently predicted the end of the world, based on a mathematical reading of biblical predictions, then changed the date when his original prediction came and went without incident, and when his revised date still found the world carrying on as usual, promptly disappeared from public view, with many of his followers left financially stranded.

That Jesus will come again, we profess every time we say the Creed.  When is a mystery not even the Son was given to know.  We do best focusing less on determining the exact timing than on being prepared at all times … prepared to stand strong with Jesus no matter what problems or catastrophes beset us.

Father Bob Writes – November 11, 2018

In our gospel this weekend, we read about the poor widow’s donation of two small coins.  During the week of the Passover, upwards of 10,000 pilgrims came through the temple of Jerusalem.  For some, it was the visit of a lifetime.  Some brought sizeable contributions from relatives and Jewish communities as far away as Spain to the west and Persia to the east.

The annual operation of the temple depended on these Passover contributions which probably brought in the equivalent of millions of dollars.  During the Passover at the temple, priests positioned themselves by the collections boxes and blew trumpets when a sizeable donation was placed in the coffers.  Today the phrase “to blow one’s own trumpet” refers to a person who boasts of their own achievements.  To be sure, the poor widow’s contribution received no fanfare or notice from anyone … except Jesus.  The evangelist Mark deliberately draws our attention to the fact that the widow put in both coins, to remind us of the fact that she could have held back one coin for herself, but chose not to, trusting that God would provide, as the responsorial psalm today reminds us, God “upholds the widow and the orphan.”

Fr Bob Writes – November 4, 2018

“Hear O Israel!  The Lord is our God the Lord alone!”

This verse from our first reading this Sunday comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  It is called the “Shema” and is the centrepiece of daily Jewish worship, as well-known and central as the Lord’s Prayer is to Christians. It begins with a call to pay special attention: “Hear, O Israel!”  The actual Hebrew text uses the name of God YAHWEH which is never to be spoken out loud by Jewish people due to reverence for God.  Therefore, in the many times that the divine name appears in this text it is replaced by the word “Lord, (This is similar to the tradition many Catholics still follow of bowing their heads at the spoken name of “Jesus”).  It is included in the written text, however, to emphasize the deep personal character of the relationship with God to which the Jewish people are called in this passage.  The statement that the Lord is “our” God enhances that personal relationship.  The Jewish people are to enjoy both the benefits and the responsibilities of an exclusive and especially intimate relationship with Yahweh.

It is many years now since I first heard that Jesus wanted to have a personal relationship with me.  At that time, the idea was extremely novel and entrancing.  I could not imagine that Jesus would want to have any kind of relationship with me.  I thought that he was “up there” in the heavens, oblivious to what was happening in my life “down here.”  These days, the idea of having a “personal relationship” with Jesus is not so novel.  Recent Popes have spoken about it as central to what it means to be a Christian.  Still, for many Catholics, it is a strange and somewhat troubling idea to get their minds (and hearts) around.

However, what separates the Christian God from the so-called “gods” of ancient times, or in this modern era, is that this God of ours has actively entered into our human history at key moments to inaugurate just such a personal encounter.  Our God wants to be known, wants us to seek after him, with the promise that he will allow us to “find” him and enjoy a personal relationship with him (cf Jeremiah 29: 11- 14).  The question for us, however, is: Am I willing to seek after such a personal relationship with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit?  If you want to know more about this, can I encourage you to come along to our Alpha course on Sunday nights?