A Hole in One

 

Back in 1997 there was a certain young man whose name was on every golfer’s lips. He had spent his childhood and youth being trained by his father and when it was considered he was ready, he then entered into the public life of the professional golfing circuit.

As the winner of that year’s prestigious American Open, he broke numerous records and people bowed down before him as he approached the eighteenth green to play his final putt on the last Sunday of the tournament. He was awarded the trophy and dressed in the coveted green winner’s jacket. His name – Tiger Woods.

Things change and human frailties can cause even the greatest of our heroes to fall from grace. It has taken a long time and most doubt that Tiger Woods will ever get back to being the champion of yesteryear.

On Palm Sunday many years ago, the same type of adulation given to Tiger Woods was given to another man who was also approaching the last hole in his round. He had performed miracles and healed many sick people along his journey to the extent that those in authority were fearful he might upset their control and power. He was duly disposed of. His final hole contained a cross. As he died, the man turned the fear of the thief beside him into love, which was typical of the man’s whole approach to life.

The Nike Company, with their now well recognised “Tick” logo, claims to be the largest manufacturer of sporting footwear and clothing in the world today. I can recall seeing one of their TV advertisements where a lot of young children were hitting golf balls. When asked their names, they all gave the name of their hero, the person they would most like to be. “I’m Tiger Woods”, they each declared.

I wonder how many of us who wear the white robe Christian logo of Baptism and carry the Spirit of the world’s greatest hero in our hearts would be proud enough, if asked the same question, to declare, “I’m Jesus Christ”.

Sporting heroes come and go and ticks on logos will disappear with the clock of time. However, the Spirit of Jesus will be with us forever. Maybe it’s time we Christians allowed the love of Christ to drive away our fears so we might willingly step out on the course we are taking in life and get on with the job of helping God’s kingdom come.

Peter Mack

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Diary of an Ordinary Catholic

CatholicJust as the sands of time continue relentlessly to pour from our individual hour glasses of life, so too are we coming closer to having to stand before our Creator and account for our actions.

Right now, throughout the whole world, there are an unprecedented number of people of varying ages and social standing who are claiming to be receiving messages from God that warn us of the need to wake up to ourselves before it’s too late. It’s easy to take a neutral stance and sit back and wait for the Catholic Church to thoroughly investigate each instance and attempt to determine its authenticity. However, we know these types of investigations can often seem to take forever. I believe we need to bite the bullet ourselves, use the gift of discernment given us by The Holy Spirit and sit up and take note of what God is trying to say to us all through so many different people.

Jesus was sent to us by God to show us the way to The Father. Apart from offering us a perfect example of how we should live, he gave us two simple instructions – we were to love God with our whole heart and love our neighbour as ourselves.

It seems the idea of having a loving relationship with a God they claim they can’t see isn’t favoured by many people in today’s society. Even those who consider themselves Christian often find themselves shying away from this issue because the idea of love in today’s world tends to be understood more as a sexual relationship or a means of satisfying personal needs. Some believe their actions in the past have been such that they would be considered hypocrites if they were to recognise that God exists in their lives, so they just go on living life as if God doesn’t exist for them.

As for loving our neighbour as ourselves – well, we’re very big on loving ourselves. We pamper ourselves with the good things of life and we protect ourselves from being criticised by others or being seen as someone who might ‘rock the boat’. Our neighbourly love can often take a very low priority in our day to day activities, unless of course there’s something in it for us.

So often we fail to see the devil in his boat simply named, “AU” nudging us as we gently float along in our little sea of complacency. Little do we realise, often not until it’s too late, that the devil in his not-so-good-ship “AU” (which, by the way, stands for “Apathetic Us”) is fishing for souls and we’re getting caught hook line and sinker.

There can be times when we come to Mass because it’s part of an ingrained ritual. Sometimes we can even leave the Church oblivious to what has been said during the Readings or at the Homily. It’s possible we can even file up to Communion because it’s our pews turn to move or start getting aggro because the mandatory hour has been exceeded.

When we leave the Church after a Eucharistic celebration it is to go out into our world taking the Jesus in us to others. This can often be forgotten as we go about the business of living, oblivious to the call God is giving us to be part of all our activities. Even our prayer life can take a hammering if we don’t have a regular pattern of speaking with God and allowing Him the time to converse with us. If we get around to it, sometimes we fit in the odd speedy prayer or two in between some of the busy activities of our day.

We can sit for hours watching television and then stagger into bed, often too tired to offer our God more than a passing mumble. We can become so engrossed in life itself that we don’t realise things could be handled so much easier if we invited The Holy Spirit to be a partner with us in everything we do, to help us in our deliberations and give us the wisdom to make correct decisions.

Perhaps we need to ask ourselves if The Holy Spirit really exists for us or is this one of those difficult to understand parts of our faith we find would be more comfortable for us if we left its understanding until we went to heaven when all will be revealed. As kids we learnt about our Guardian Angel, but nowadays the thought of being protected by an angel in everything we do can easily seem like a childhood myth. We need to be careful or the important aspects of our faith such as the sanctity of our Mass and The Eucharist could also get lost in our complacency.

Maybe as Catholics we won’t really appreciate the value of what we have until through some quirk of fate, or a deliberate act of God, we are placed in a position where we won’t enjoy such an easy access as we currently have to The Sacraments and the Eucharist. So we should be thankful we have been given so much.

It is easy to critise one’s church and those associated with it because we see and we hear of so many instances where children have been molested or people’s lives drastically affected by the wrongdoings of priests, brothers and nuns. Criminals will be brought to justice, if not in this life, certainly in the next.  Jesus didn’t come on earth to create the Roman Catholic Church, irrespective of what we might have been taught as youngsters. The church is a man-made organisation and as such suffers the effects of human weaknesses.

We should be thankful we have been given the gift of faith by a God who loves us and remember the simple messages by which Jesus gave us in order to live our life. Our church and the richness of the Sacramental life can then be used by us to maintain this wonderful gift we have been given.

Perhaps it’s time many of us pulled our heads out of the sand and realised why we were created. Scripture tells us we know not the day nor the hour when our individual time on this earth will come to an end. So it stands to reason, we need to be prepared with our lamps, that reflect our light of faith, trimmed and ready to help, not only ourselves, but others find their way to God. Just as important is the need to have our light shining so God will be able to find us when He is looking to determine who will be chosen to be with Him in Paradise. And just being a Catholic won’t necessarily gain us automatic entrance.

Peter Mack

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Infinite Infinity

 

In our human understanding, infinity is often restricted to as far as we can see. We build large telescopes to see further into the unknown. We send spacecraft to search beyond the planets into the currently unseen void of our universe.

The interesting thing about our understanding of infinity is that we see our position as the starting point and we define infinity as that which extends beyond us and has no end. How then do we see our God who always was and who always will be?

Maybe when we symbolise our God as a triangle we are falling short of using the symbol to define our meaning. Perhaps a more accurate symbol of the Divine would be the infinity horizontal eight symbol touching a circle and then another infinity symbol.

The circle has no beginning and no end and infinity on both sides indicates our God always was and always will be.

The use of a triangle to explain the Christian understanding of three persons in the one God tends to humanise the Almighty and can only confuse those trying to understand more about the Trinity. We learn about The Father, Son and Holy Spirit because Jesus himself prayed to his father and the apostles were told on the mountain that, “This is my son…”.

Just as Jesus gave his message to his followers in stories they could understand, so scripture allows us to see in a simple way the existence of the Trinity.

Because God became human in the form of a man born in the same manner as we all recognise, it is easier for us to understand the terms of Father and Son. However, the Holy Spirit is not so easily recognisable. Pictures of firey tongues sitting on the top of the Disciples heads is, to say the least, a very restricted way of depicting the Holy Spirit.

While the Father and the Son can be seen as ‘persons’ it is hard to classify a tongue as a person. Hence the triangle depicting the three ‘persons’ in the Trinity is somewhat inaccurate, especially as the second ‘person’ in the group didn’t become a ‘person’ until he was born and the first ‘person’ wasn’t born at all.

Let us go back to the circle symbol of our God and let us not see God as a person but as a free Spirit.

In each of us there exists a spirit which cannot be seen by an x-ray but we all know is part of us. We refer to some as having a ‘spirit’ of adventure or a ‘spirit’ to survive. When a group strives towards a common goal they are said to possess a team ‘spirit’. Some see their conscience as a guiding ‘spirit’; others refer to their mental or moral nature as their ‘spirit’.

If we believe in the miracle of birth, then at the moment of conception we are gifted by our God with the ‘spirit’ of life. Our body grows in the womb according to the genes of our parents and our ‘spirit’ remains with us forever. At our death, our body returns to dust but it is our spirit that goes to meet its maker.

So in the Spirit Circle of God we can now see how the ‘spirit’ has been involved in creation; in loving that creation by giving us Jesus; and in the on-going support for that creation by giving us all a part of God’s own ‘spirit’. Jesus said, “Behold I am with you always”. Let us take time out occasionally from our busy life to embrace the Spirit of God that lives within us. 

Peter Mack

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Who is my Neighbour?

Who is my neighbourA teacher of the law went up to Jesus and said, “If I love God with my whole heart and my neighbor as myself, would I get to heaven”?

Jesus said to him, “Sure would mate”

Then the teacher asked a further question, just to get the picture right in his mind. “Ok then, who is my neighbor”?

It was then that Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan of which we are all aware. It is an interesting story and one that is happening constantly in our world today.

Jesus didn’t say the man from Samaria was a Christian or Jew or Baptist or Catholic. No! He was just a person from Samaria. The same as if he was from Melbourne or Bribie Island.

But this Samaritan man saw there was someone in need and went across the road to help and he even paid for the unfortunate victim to be looked after. Other passers bye just looked and kept on going. They were only interested in themselves and what was happening in their own lives. They had no time to go helping a bashed up bloke lying in the gutter.

This act of kindness by the Samaritan man touched the victim and his life just as Jesus would touch people and change their lives.

Do you remember Bartimaeus, the blind man who was sitting in the gutter when he heard Jesus was passing, so he called out, “Jesus, have pity on me”. Jesus heard his cry, touched him and changed his life.

Then there was the man with the skin disease who said to Jesus, “Sir, if you want to, you can make me better”. What happened then? Jesus reached out and touched him and changed his life.

Jesus never discriminated about who he helped. He saw a need. He did what was needed. As Christians I believe that is also how we must react.

It is easy for us to relate to our family and friends within our own church and within environments in which we feel comfortable. But what happens when we step outside our back fence?

What happens when we are in the same situation as the Good Samaritan? Do we walk away because we don’t want to get involved? Are we frightened to be seen to be meddling in someone else’s business? Do we adhere to the Aussie adage of not discussing religion in case it might offend someone?

Are we more intent on accumulating worldly goods and making money than recognizing and helping those who Jesus would classify as ‘our neighbours’?

If we are a baptized Christian then we have a responsibility to evangelize. “Take my word to all nations” was the command of Jesus Himself. Mention of the word evangelize to many Christians and it immediately conjures up visions of smartly dressed American TV hosts who have the ability to promote the Gospel to vast world-wide audiences. It is not something that many of us could even contemplate doing.

However, we should look at the word response-ability and consider how each of us can use our God-given ability or gifts to respond to what God is asking us to do in the life He has given us. Whatever we do, if we are doing something good for somebody else, we are in reality being Jesus to that person. We are allowing Jesus to touch that person. And we know the touch of Jesus can be a life changing experience.

How fortunate we are to have been planted here in Australia. Sure, we have our problems. We have floods and droughts and unemployment but we also have organizations that care for us in our need. The Government pays us unemployment and pension benefits, child care support and offers hospital and health care.

In countries on the other side of our back fence life is not nearly as comfortable. Today our world seems to be getting smaller because our communications systems allow us to be more aware of what is happening throughout the world. In just a few hours we can fly to the other side of the globe. We can project ourselves via the internet instantaneously. We can pick up a mobile phone and be connected to any country in the world.

So we are now more aware of the needs of others. In reality, the road the Samaritian crossed to help the unfortunate victim has now widened to include, not just our own neighbourhood, but the world.

In Uganda for instance, 50% of the population is under the age of 15 and 78% is under the age of 35. Also there are nearly 2 million orphan children and no one gets any government handouts.

Humanitarian Projects International Inc. is an organization similar to many others throughout the world that organizes volunteer support for vulnerable children and adults in different parts of the world. While the organisation is non-denominational, just like the Good Samaritan, their members see the seriousness of the on-going need and perhaps in some cases, without even knowing it, they accept the call from Jesus to help their neighbour.

By becoming a member of an organisation like H.P.I. then, when we reach out and touch those we help, we will be touching them for everyone who has helped us to do what Jesus wants of us. It is a wonderful way to fulfill the command to love our neighbor.

Jesus said when we do these things for the least of His brethren we are doing them for Him. I can only encourage everyone to continue to be like the good Samaritan and go out of your way to help others in need.

To get a touch from the Lord is so real.

Peter Mack

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The Lost Thorn

It was hot and humid the day Jesus was made to drag his cross up the hill of Calvery. The sweat on his forehead mingled with the blood oozing from the puncture marks made by the sharp thorns of the man-made crown he was forced to wear. The mixture of blood, dust and sweat had matted his hair and left jagged streaks across his pain contorted facial features.

The spiked branches, hurriedly intertwined and twisted into a circular form of crown, had been rammed into position by the soldiers. They used a flat piece of timber for this task for fear of spiking their own fingers and to ensure their creative activity would be seen by those who witnessed their prisoner’s walk to the Hill of the Skull. It was all part of the effort to mock the so called ‘King of the Jews’.

As Jesus slowly made his way along the crowd lined streets of the city, he stumbled and fell. The huge wooden cross he was made to carry fell across his body, slamming into the crown of thorns on his head. The pain of the spikes moving in their entrenched position was considerable and he groaned as he was dragged upright to continue his journey. With all the activity surrounding this happening, no one noticed that one of the blood smeared thorns in Jesus’ crown had become dislodged from its cranial bed. The action of the cross falling on the intermeshed spiked branches that made up the crown had resulted in a thorn snapping from the branch and falling from the head of Jesus.

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Each day we walk along behind Jesus on our own individual journey through life. We can play it cool and not get too involved in why we follow in the Son of Man’s footsteps or we can try and relate our journey to His.

Jesus, we know you suffered and died for us. Today we follow your pathway on our own journey. Often we are close enough to you to hear the jeers and blasphemy of those who are persecuting you. Often we want to reach out and protect you from the attacks of those who would put you to death, but we know, as your Father knew while you staggered up the hill of Calvery, you had to endure your suffering for us.

Jesus, the thorn that fell from your head never fell to the ground to be trampled on by us. It was picked up by the wind and has been blown among us as we trudge along behind you. Today we can often find the thorn embedded in one of our family or friend’s head. It pains them as it pained you. They seek a way out of their pain, often having tried many different avenues in the past without success.

Jesus, just as you reached out to Mary and the daughters of Jerusalem while on your journey, we ask that you reach out to our friends. Just as you plucked the cloth offered to you from the hands of your friends and left them a lasting image of yourself, so we ask you to pluck out the thorn that causes our friend’s pain. Allow them to see your hand in their healing so they might continue to praise you by telling others of your love.

Help us Jesus to recognise The Lost Thorn whenever it enters our individual lives, so we might continue to remember the sacrifices you have made for us. Help us also to reach out to you in our pain and know that by placing our trust in you, The Lost Thorn will once again be blown away by the wind of your Spirit.

Peter Mack

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Journey to the Centre of the Soul

 

(Levels 1 to 9)

(Experienced on my first visit to Murchison Falls in Uganda in 2008)

P1050892You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. (John 14:11)

Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you. (John 17:21)

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed to bring you to full knowledge of him. (Ephesians 1:17)

I am at peace within myself as I stand wanting with some uncertainty to accept what seems to be an outstretched hand of someone or something that is presenting as a friend who can guide me on the journey that I sense lies ahead.

I know I want to experience the journey but being typically human, I am a little uncertain about the unknown. However, I am encouraged by my friend and reach out and take the proffered hand.

We descend some steps together until we come to a landing platform called Level 1. I stop and looking back I can still see the top of the stairs. I have the choice of continuing or returning.

I decide to continue and soon realise I can no longer see where the steps are leading as in the distance the stairs get darker. It is not long before we come to a pool of water. It is Level 2. My friend invites me to look into the water and asks me what I see there. My response is that I see my own image.

My friend then explains that there is no other image like me in the whole world. The creator has made us all individually different. That’s nice I thought, the significance of the statement not really having a deep effect on me at that stage because on looking back I could still just make out the outline of my starting point and I was uncertain whether to turn back or trust in my friends guidance to take me forward safely.

I thought so far, so good. I was still keen to explore the unknown but was still a little anxious about the journey. I kept going but found I was holding my friend’s hand a little stronger than before. More steps and it was getting even darker. A quick look back and I could not see from whence I had begun. It was then I could hear the distant noise. A rumbling sound which as I progressed further down the steps seemed as if it might be water. We stopped. Level 3.

My friend never let go of my hand and I boldly decided I would continue if only to discover the source of the noise I could still only faintly hear in the distance.

More steps and always downward. It was strange, I at no time thought about the effort it would take to come back! Still onward and the noise became much more distinct. It was definitely the sound of rushing water. I was not scared. My friend was not forcing me forward; I was proceeding at my own pace. There was now more light available and it seemed we had come to the end of the steps for ahead was a small timber bridge over a creek. We stopped to admire the beauty of the area. Level 4.

My friend let go of my hand and asked me to look at my fingers. I wasn’t sure why but did as was suggested. I couldn’t see anything strange about them and asked the reason for this request. I was informed that my finger prints were different from any others in the world. While I had known this fact since a small child, the significance had never really had a great impact on me. It now dawned on me. First there was the image in the water now the fingerprints. I am truly unique I thought. For all my faults and imperfections I am still special in the eyes of my maker. It is a daunting thought but I thanked my God for this opportunity of understanding the wonder of creation.

There was no point in trying to talk with my friend as the noise ahead was deafening. But still I took the hand offered to me and we continued along a flat pathway until we rounded a corner and there was the source of the sound. The mighty Nile River, the longest river in the world was being compressed and forced to pour through a gap in the rocks which was only 7 metres wide before falling to the plain below.

We sat on a bench seat to just watch and listen. Level 5.

I could not help but liken the raw strength and energy that pervaded this site to the power of our God. My friend turned to me and said that the sound you hear is but a whisper when compared to the love our God has for each one of us. The sound had drowned out any of the worldly sounds that may have wanted to pervade this precious time.

My friend was beckoning me to come and I was no longer afraid. We walked upwards along a narrow track that followed the chasm down which the water flowed at great speed smashing on the surrounding rocks so as to form a constant spray in the atmosphere. A natural rainbow formed where the suns rays hit the spray. I could feel the dampness all around and my face was refreshingly wet. Level 6.

To my left through the luxuriant growth I could see I was being led into what appeared to be a cave. The further we walked inside, the darker it got and the sound from the falls we had left gradually dissipated. Then there was nothing, just blackness. My friend still held my hand. I was not alone. Level 7.

As we walked along what appeared to be a flat floor surface it was strange not knowing where I was going yet now not afraid to proceed. Then I thought I could see a distant pin prick of light. My friend assured me my mind wasn’t playing tricks with me. A few more paces and the light became a definite reality even though it was yet far away. Level 8.

For some reason I was excited. The light held no fear for me. I walked with confidence towards it and as it grew brighter I realised my friend was no longer with me. This also didn’t deter me from going forward and I moved as if drawn hypnotically towards it, like a moth to a candle.

The light grew stronger and I felt as if I was floating towards it. I was enveloped in what felt like an atmosphere of love. It seemed to penetrate my every pore. I wanted to stay here forever. I believe I was at last one with my God.

Peter Mack

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Wind

WindWhile the wind can be a nuisance at times, it does help us in so many ways.

It clears the smog from our atmosphere; it dries our clothes and can be a cooling experience on a hot day.

Just as the wind blew the first white settlers to this country, so it blows all Australians today, calling us to check our course and ensure we are sailing in the right direction.

The Apostles reacted to the wind of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. They accepted their responsibility as Christians, left the security of their hiding place and went out to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the whole world.

We need to work on getting the courage to follow the promptings of The Spirit in our lives.

Maybe today the wind is quietly whispering to us.  But are we listening?

Peter Mack

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Wedding Day

WeddingThrough the viewfinder, the scene gradually came into focus. The young couple were seemingly oblivious to the photographer’s intrusion during this private moment together in the midst of a busy and exciting wedding day.

The photographer wondered what they were saying to each other as he clicked off a shot, then moved to reposition himself so the sun formed a halo behind the heads of the couple.

Over the years he had heard many different conversations between brides and grooms in the period between ceremony and celebration.

For many this day is planned in the finest detail and can involve considerable expense and worry. The weather, arguments with relations, or a veil that refuses to sit right, are sometimes seen as the reasons the whole wedding day will be wrecked. So finely tuned are the strategic plans.

The photographer can tell when a couple are moved by the significance of the promises they have made to each other. The lens can easily capture a serious commitment, but requires a pose when the major concern is for the day and not the future.

Jesus must have thought marriage was important. It was at a wedding He chose to perform His first public miracle.

A wedding day is a beginning, not an end in itself. Let’s make sure we get the picture right.

Peter Mack

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War

War 2God! why do you let war happen? Some people have even been heard to say it is your will. But then we are the ones who create war, not you.

It would be hard to believe it is your will to see thousands of people die who you have created. I cannot imagine it would be your will to see so many people suffering like we see in many countries around the world plagued by war and political unrest.

We forget so soon that you showed yourself to us with bleeding palms outstretched, praying forgiveness for your executioners.

Even then, there were those who wanted you to establish your kingdom by force. To come as a mighty warrior and sweep the Roman Empire aside.

To do that, you would have had to follow the rules of those who worship strength and force. By your actions, you showed us we cannot change the world if we abide by these rules.

You showed us love and reconciliation as being your way for the world and yet we continue to believe we can trust our armies and our bombs more than you.

To some of us, these armaments have become our Gods; our hope and our security. Yet they offer us nothing but destruction, oppression and death.

Help us Lord to understand your way to peace!

Peter Mack

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Valentine

At last it seems as though it is all having an effect. Our parents told us all about it, our teachers extolled its value, our Church leaders are always talking about it and we even find ourselves quoting it to others.

I am referring to those words of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Maybe all the effort is starting to bear fruit. Towards the end of the week in which we had celebrated Valentines Day, I was convinced the love bug was present in epidemic proportions, with many around me already bitten.

Young blokes at work, whose major concerns in life revolve around their sport, fixing the car or going to the pub, altered their centre of attention from themselves to those members of the opposite sex who generally did not rate more than a cursory glance.

The girls changed too. They seemed to pay more attention to their appearance. They would blush and seemed to become shy, even embarrassed as they wondered who the admirer was who sent them flowers and the unsigned card with the romantic verse.

A pervading atmosphere of peace settled over our workplace as males and females of all ages seemed to actually be enjoying working together.

It is a real pity Valentines day only occurs once a year.

Peter Mack

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