of Papua New Guinea
Diocese of Port Moresby
It is always hard making choices because it means that something has to be given up. There are lots of things to be looked at, evaluated and put to one side. One of the fantasies of children is that it is possible to have every good thing that is going. Life onearth in the Kingdom is a lot harsher than that. This is where we journey this week. Looking at choices and some of the guidelines given to us by the Lord. But in the end the choices are ours. He provides the calling and the graces. It is up to take the stepsforward.
WEEK FIVE : DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED?
There is a great story to be found in chapter 5 of St John's Gospel. There is a huge festival in Jerusalem and Jesus goes up to the city with his disciples. Just inside the gates there is a large pool area surrounded by large sheltered verandahs and along these verandahs there are many sick people. Custom has it that every now and then an angel from heaven comes down and stirs the water. The first person in when the water is stirred will be cured so you can imagine what it is like at the first sign of stirring! Well Jesus is wandering there and he comes to a man who has been there for thirty-eight years. That is a long time to be waiting. But it is the question that Jesus asks him that is even more amazing. Jesus asks him: "Do you want to be well again"? What a silly question! Or is it? What does Jesus think is going on in the mind of that man? Why does he offer him that challenge?
For him to live that long, he must have had food and water, clothes and shelter. He must have had people looking after him or he would have died long ago. Imagine what his life was like. No responsibilities. No work. All those people running around after him. It was not the best life but I suspect that Jesus could see that he had made himself comfortable. It is hard to believe that in all of those thirty-eight years, with all of those people caring for him, he could not find one to be there to put him in the water. Now we can understand the question Jesus asked: "Do you really want to be cured or are you just all talk"? There was no escaping that question and he had to make up his mind. Jesus could cure him and would cure him if he asked for it. But his life would change. Some things would be harder. He would have new responsibilities. He would have to take his place in the community and not just leave it all to others. He knew exactly the spot in which Jesus was placing him. He could fool his friends but he could not fool Jesus and so he is left with that worrying question: "Do you want to be cured?"
THE PROBLEM WITH FAITH
I wonder just how different we are to that sick man? Of course it is very easy to say we want to repent. That we want to turn from our sins and to live very different lives. It is easy to claim that we are part of a new creation living in the Kingdom of God which is the new Israel. But are we being honest? If Jesus were here would he ask us that same question: "Do you want to be healed of your sinful ways? Do you want to live differently?" He does not want us to say yes but live no. He wants us to humbly say that we are sorry and seek his forgiveness and then to go out and put into our daily lives the fruits of that forgiveness. He wants to see changes. He wants to see us growing in the life of the Gospel, doing things differently. He wants to see evidence of that new life we say we want. I would imagine that God is very tired of hearing about repentance. What he wants to see now are signs that it is real in our lives.
The word "theophany" is a Greek word and means "God-noises". We see them in the Old Testament. When God came down on Mt Sinai to give the Ten Commandments to Moses cetain things happened. The ground shook, the wind blew, there was thunder and lightning and wonderful signs of the power of God. These were the "God-noises". People knew God had come down on the mountain and so they were afraid.
But God is like that. He cannot just quietly come into a room and nothing happen. It is not possible for him to be present and things continue on as normal. When God comes, he comes with power and the place in just not the same again. A human being can enter a room and nothing will change. Not so with God.
That is the wonderful promise and guarantee that we have. If God were there in our lives; if we repented and gave him room to more among us, then something would change. He would change us. The fact that we can continue on unchanged suggests that perhaps God is not as much a part of our living as we would like to think. The theophanies are wonderful theological signs that tell us what can happen if only we allow God in. We are unable to change on our own. All we will ever do is talk about it and hope for it. God alone can actually work the change and for that to happen we have to say "Yes God, I really want to change".
There James says that faith is not true faith unless there is action to go with it to shown that the faith is alive. Faith without deeds is no faith at all.
WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
Sometimes it is hard to work out just where all of that is meant to be lived out. Where does our new life begin? Where are we supposed to be living out this new way of the Gospel? Most of us are not going to suddenly become preachers and teachers, so what does it all mean for us? Let's have a look at another great story from St John 21. We know it well but it is worth coming back and having another read through it to help with our reflections.
The part that I find most challenging is the place where Jesus tells them to "throw your net on to the other side of the boat". If I had been sitting there in the boat I know what I would have said to myself! What a silly thing to say. We all know what happens to the net if you move it from one side of a boat to another. It means that you are fishing in exactly the same place as you were before! Boats move, nets move, the current carries things around and there is really no difference between one side of a boat and another. And that is Jesus' point in the story. The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. Now he sends them back to where they were fishing before, but this time with a new command, with a new response, with a whole new sense of direction. This time they caught a net full, or more than full. The net was ready to break.
There we have the starting point for our repentance and our new lives. It begins in our normal family life and our everyday work life. We do not have to go out and begin to do all kinds of wonderful and exciting things. We have to begin by doing what we normally do, but doing it with a new vision, with a new understanding, with a new calling and a new sense of grace and strength. The story is an invitation to stop and think about our lives and the way we live them and to see just how we can make them richer in God's grace, how we can find in them all of the treasures that He wants us to have. They are already there. The problem is we are not finding them and not looking for them in the right way. The question is, do we want to change and are we really prepared to make the changes we need to make?
Do you remember that Jesus told us that life is all about choices? He told us that the Kingdom of God was like a man finding a great treasure in a field. The problem was that he did not have enough money to buy the field, so he had to go and sell all that he had so he could buy the field and have the treasure. He could not have all of his other possessions as well as the filed. He had to make a choice. He had to decide what were the most important things in his life. The treasure or the other things? He could not have both. So with the Kingdom. If we want it, some other things in our lives will have to go. We have to decide where our real treasure is and what it is. We cannot have both!
Jesus reminded the disciples that the life of faithfulness would not be easy. There would be many difficulties and many reasons for them to give up and abandon the faith. But they were not to worry because he would be with them and he would help them to carry the load. All they had to do was place the load on to him. Hand over their problems to him and a they would find it light. But they had to make the move to give their burdens to him. Matt 11:28-30
SOME PRAYERS FOR USE THROUGHOUT THE STUDY PROGRAMME
These prayers are provided so that as a Diocese we are sharing together common prayers and praying for the same kinds of things. There are special prayers built into the weekly discussions and these can be said through each of the weeks. These further prayers can be said by individuals, built into family prayers and used for all sorts of occasions. They do not all have to be said together but choices can be made. Some of them could well be learned off by heart and made a part of our own personal and family prayers.
Lord make me an instrument of your Peace.
Where there is hatred let me plant love.
Where there is injury, forgiveness,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair hope,
Where there is darkness light
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much
seek to be comforted as to comfort,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive,
Forgiving that we are forgiven
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.
PRAYER TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
Come Holy Spirit
fill the hearts of your faithful
And light within us the fire of your divine love.
Send forth your spirit and we shall be created
and you will renew the whole of the earth.
O God who taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of your Divine Spirit,
grant us by that same Spirit
that we may be truly wise,
and how to rejoice in your holy presence,
through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
PRAYER OF LOVE
O my God,
I love you above all things,
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good and worthy of all love.
I love my neighbour as myself for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured,
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
THE JESUS PRAYER
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Have mercy on me a sinner
THE PRAYER OF ST IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Teach us Lord,
to serve you as you deserve to be served;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not worry about the wounds;
To work and not to look for rest
and not to ask for any other reward
except that of knowing
that we do your will,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
PRAYER OF ST RICHARD of CHICHESTER
Day by day,day by day,
O dear Lord,
Three things I pray:
To see you more clearly.
To love you more dearly.
To follow you more nearly.
Day by day.
AN EVENING PRAYER
O my God I adore you
And I love you with all my heart.
I thank you for having created me
and for saving me by your grace,
And for having kept me safe during the day.
I pray that you wil take for yourself
Whatever good I have done this day
And that you will forgive me
Whatever evil I have done.
Protect me this night
And may your grace be with me always. Amen.
A MORNING PRAYER
O my God I adore you
And love you with al my heart.
I thank you for having created me
And for saving me by your grace,
And for having kept me safe during the night.
I offer you all of my prayers,
Works, joys and sufferings of this day.
Grant that they may be all according you your will
And for your glory.
Keep me from sin and evil
And may your grace be with me always.