Rules or Recommendations – Condemnation or Compassion

God in his wisdom decided to give us all ‘free will’. We have a conscience and can make choices that affect our lives. Many of these choices will be influenced by our conscience and what we see to be right for us at the time.

So, how then does our conscience determine what is right for us and what might do us harm. Our conscience is constantly being manipulated by those around us, by our living and working environment and by what we have already learnt about life.

We are all being challenged by secularisation and what is generally accepted by society as the norm is often the main determining factor behind many of our decisions. Some might say that if we have a deep-rooted understanding of the difference between right and wrong that stems from our parents and others instruction from an early age, that this will guide us through our conscience decision making.

However, sometimes as we watch our parents or leaders in our churches or society, we see a contradiction in what they say as against what they do. Particularly with our young people, this can be most confusing and can be the catalyst that affects their actions.

Secularisation was obviously happening as the Jews were worshiping false Gods while Moses was up on a hillside receiving the 10 Commandments. These were the rules God gave Moses by which his people should live.

Over the years it became obvious these rules would not be acceptable to many who cast them aside for other ways and styles of Godless living. And so, God sent us Jesus to save the world.

Jesus had a very different approach. Rather than stipulating rules that must be followed or we would never get to heaven, He used stories to enable his followers and others he met to determine within themselves right from wrong.

He spoke of love and summarised the 10 Commandments as the total love of God and of our neighbour as ourselves. He emphasised this by the story of the Good Samaritan after which he asked the listeners to question themselves who was the neighbour in the story. At no point did He condemn those who deliberately bypassed the sick Samaritan. He was allowing the listeners to determine for themselves the answer.

Jesus also was present when the convicted prostitute was about to be stoned. Suggesting that whoever was without sin might cast the first stone. He didn’t condemn the potential stone throwers but I feel sure they would have gone away thinking about their own lives and how they might be better persons. Nor did Jesus condemn the convicted prostitute who he referred to as a sinner but he allowed her the opportunity to change her life as well.

The contrast between the Covenant made with Moses and the New Covenant made by Jesus at the Last Supper is very different. With Moses there was a list of rules to which the followers had to abide. With Jesus, He was to suffer and die for our sins and promised to be with us forever. When we knocked, he would answer. If we asked, He said we would receive. He told us we could come to the Father through Him and he would ask the Father to send us the ‘Helper’ to assist us throughout our life.

Our Church teaching revolves about a definite delineation between right and wrong. Break the rules and you are a sinner. We often grew up fearing our God as being a harsh judge. ‘Thou shalt not…’ followed the 10 Commandments concept, the Catechism gave us the rules and the regulations. And so, the Church’s teaching embedded itself into our consciousness.

What happens when one becomes disillusioned as those that make the rules break the rules and seemingly get away with it and continue on in their authoritarian way of life?  Confusion reigns. Questions creep into one’s conscience. Why should one believe all these rules that we are told we have to follow or be damned?

Hence, we see so many Catholics feeling disinclined to continue going to Mass and attend the Sacraments because they are just not sure whether what the Church teaches really needs to be obeyed. As for what the consequences might be for bypassing the ‘rules’ – well it seems it is OK for some to get away with it, so why should we be concerned if we stretch the ‘rules’ a little.

If the church were to follow the Jesus style then the rules and definitions of good and bad should certainly be there to which we should all aspire. It would be a form of ‘Best Practice’ for which we should spend our life trying to achieve.  Knowing we are all unable ‘to throw the first stone’ then we shouldn’t be condemned but welcomed into the church where we can be encouraged to understand for ourselves what God wants of us. Jesus had meals with sinners and didn’t discriminate. “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest”. “Come as you are, that’s how I want you”. Welcome same sex partners, those who have had abortions, those living together outside of marriage, those who have become disillusioned with God. All should be welcome in God’s house.

Jesus said we needed to become as little children to enter into the kingdom of heaven. As little children we can rely totally on our God to guide us and help our conscience start making decisions based on what God wants of us rather than what we might want for ourselves. “Allow the little children to come unto me”, said Jesus. Surely then this is for our Church to realise that this is what God wants us to do.

Maybe there is too much emphasis put by the Church on ’whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained’. Maybe it is more the responsibility of the Church to be compassionate rather than condemn. Perhaps we should let God be our final judge and in the meantime as Church we should welcome anyone and everyone into our community so we might all help each other to aspire towards the perfection of the 10 Commandments Best Practice.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel

February 2021

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Covenant

In the Old Testament (Exodus Ch 24) Moses went to Yahweh and was given all the rules and laws by which the people should live. Moses wrote these down in a book and had an altar built after which he sent out men to sacrifice young bulls as peace offerings.

He directed that they bring him the blood of the animals and he poured half of it on the altar and sprinkled the rest over the people while reading them what Yahweh had said from the book of the Covenant.

The people said, “We will observe all the commands which Yahweh has decreed”.

This Covenant was to prepare humankind for the new and final Covenant which Jesus gave us when he transformed bread and wine at the Last Supper. This Covenant was sealed not with the blood of animals but with the blood of Jesus himself.

This then is God’s commitment to us through his Son. Because of this commitment God is as much obliged as we are to fulfill the conditions of the Covenant we have together.

In Psalm 89:34 we read how our God says, “I will not break my Covenant, I will not revoke my given word”.

In John 16:23 Jesus said, “Anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name”. Throughout the New Testament we can read of so many more promises Jesus made us.

This then seals our God’s responsibility as a member of the Covenant we have together. But what are our responsibilities?

When one of the Scribes asked Jesus what was the greatest Commandment, he replied, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength and you must love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).

At first glance it seems ours is the easiest commitment within the Covenant. But is it? If we wish to invoke the Covenant, we must first believe that “God so loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life”. (John 3:16)

Let’s say then that as Christians we firmly believe that Jesus suffered and died that we might have eternal life. Let’s say we feel we do the best we can to fulfill the loving of our God in the way Jesus wants of us. Then all we have to do is ‘Love our neighbour’.

Jesus even defined the word ‘neighbour’ for us in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29). So, it seems our ‘neighbour’ can be anyone we see or meet. How we relate to this person determines how we fulfill the second part of our Covenant commitment.

Loving our neighbour doesn’t mean we have to like our neighbour, but perhaps we need to question how we go about ‘loving’ our neighbour!

People are who they are, yet so often we find it easy to criticise a person behind their back because they are different from what we would like them to be. Often, we tend to shy away from those with which we don’t wish to be involved, just like the priest and the Levite did in the Good Samaritan story.

We need to accept and love people for who they are. If they need to change, then God will help them make that change. We cannot change them, but we can only show by our example which might influence them to seek change in their lives.

Criticising our neighbour is not loving them, so let us try and look for the good in people rather than how they differ from our own expectations of them. There is no doubt that nearly everyone you see has some problem they are facing within their lives. A loving smile is sometimes all they might need to make their day. It’s easy to criticise the actions of others but maybe we should consider how we might react should we be in their shoes.

If we are planning on invoking the Covenant we have with our God then before we can expect to have our God respond favourably to our requests, maybe we need to first ensure we are addressing all of our own responsibilities within our joint Covenant.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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The triumphant return

Jesus had trudged up the hill to Calvery after a harrowing night at the hands of the Roman soldiers. He was forced to carry his own crucifixion cross and was urged along by a vicious whip wielder.

The bystanders were a mixed bag. Some were jeering, others crying, and many were just silent watchers.

By the end of the day he had forgiven the soldiers, offered the good thief a place in heaven and arranged for his mother to be cared for.

Luke tells us that at the end Jesus cried out, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”. (23:46). The day Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan the Father sent down to him his Spirit. (Matt 3:16). It was this Spirit that comforted, supported and assisted Jesus in performing the tasks for which the Father had sent him.

And so, Jesus the man died. Let us use our imagination to consider what happened next.

A specially selected group of angels gently took his spirited soul and proceeded to the heavens where there were millions of other souls of the faithful departed who had died and were waiting at the closed gates of heaven.  Some had been waiting here many, many years and although they had received the promise of heaven in the Triage Area upon arrival, were waiting expectantly for that day when the gates would be flung open by the Saviour himself. Unlike his last trip on earth up the hill of Calvery, this trip was accompanied by a tumultuous welcome by all the souls lining the Highway to Heaven.

I should digress here to explain the Triage Area. It was the heavenly administration centre where all souls were brought by their individual guardian angels after death had occurred. St Peter had been appointed manager of this unit and had outsourced much of the initial computer contact operations to a group of highly trained angels who called themselves Gabriel’s Girls. You see, God in his wisdom had developed a comprehensive algorithm which had been downloaded on each of the Gabriel’s Girls tablets.

As each guardian angel arrived at the Centre carrying the soul which had been their responsibility throughout its life, and for some angels this had been a tough gig, they were ushered into a Triage reception cubicle where they handed over the sim card on which they had been recording the life details of their charge. Included on the card were the number of times the

guardian angel had attempted through urgings and promptings to turn their charge towards accepting the presence of God in their lives.

The card was inserted into the tablet and immediately it was automatically analysed. The computer programme was indeed extremely complex as it took into consideration every aspect associated with each thought, word and action and included mitigating circumstances and pain suffered through both mental and physical activity. Within seconds, the soul was left in no doubt as to where it would progress to next and why such action would be taken. There was no right of appeal, as all the avenues that the soul might feel would warrant a second look had been completely and fully examined. The result was indisputable.

The door to the left led to the Hades Inferno, which was not a place one would willingly choose at which to spend the rest of their days. Although wanting desperately not to proceed, these souls were prodded forward along the Highway to Hell by the Archangel Michael and his boys. Michael was no friend of Lucifer, hell’s manager, following a much earlier confrontation and delighted in sending suffering souls down to the Hades Hell Hole. Interestingly enough, the area was not one where fires actually burned, yet souls were tormented to the point where they would wish for flames to end it all. But alas, this would not happen. The reason for this form of environment will become obvious as this story progresses.

The middle door seemed to have the most use. It had a gold sign which read, Welcome to the Highway to Heaven. Our loving creator desperately wanted as many souls as possible to enter here. The computer algorithm was deliberately weighted to give each soul every opportunity to proceed through this door. High on the acceptance list were those souls who had accepted and believed in Jesus who had suffered and died to save them. Others were still granted entrance because the love they had shown towards others exceeded their transgressions. Also, it was determined that many had suffered enough during their lifetime in helping and supporting others and therefore the door was opened for them.

The door to the right led to the Freeway of Frustration and a holding area where those souls who were primarily judged in the reasonably good bracket, had not performed sufficient good works to balance their personal transgressions which were considered not serious enough to warrant eternal damnation.  Here they would be required to wait for varying periods depending on the figure produced by the computer printout. This waiting concept was a period of immense frustration. The waiting time would automatically be reduced should those below offer up prayers for the repose of their soul. The only saving grace was that the soul in this holding area knew that at some time in the future they would be allowed into heaven. In the meantime, the frustration gnawed at their very soul.

Meanwhile, back to our story of the day when Jesus returned to his Father. Protected by his caring angelic group he was taken though the cheering excited souls along the road towards the golden gates which he willingly pushed open.

Inside was a world of wonder to be enjoyed by all. But for Jesus, he had only one thought in mind. To fall into the welcoming arms of The Father.

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time (August 25, 2013): Heaven, Nick Saban ...

The two embraced clinging together as one.

“My Son, my Son,” was all the Father could say.

Jesus responded, “Father, that which you knew must happen to save those you have created has been accomplished. My Spirit, You and I are one and I am happy that those whom I have chosen, with some help from us, will take the Word to the world.”

“We still have some work to complete” said the Father. “But firstly, let those souls who have waited for this day for so long enjoy our company and the place I have prepared for them.”

“Later we will descend along the Highway to Hell and leave a permanent image of your crucifixion on the hill overlooking Hades. This will serve as a constant reminder to those souls who chose to flaunt my law on earth, that you died for them. By their actions they refused to accept your saving offer and will now suffer eternal damnation.”

The Father continued, “As the sun rises on Sunday morning, Angels will roll back the stone sealing your burial tomb and you will once more walk on the earth as you predicted. The soldiers will be unaware of these happenings and you will be free to confirm your resurrection to those whom you choose.  You will not be hampered by human restrictions. You will be a free Spirit but you must point out to those you have chosen that you will return here to your rightful place at my right hand and it will be their responsibility to take your message to the world.”

“Father”, said Jesus, “while I was with them, they relied on me to lead them. They live in difficult times. What can we do to make their quest easier?”

“You will need to access the situation,” said the Father, “but, you might consider asking for them, along with all who come after them, to be given the support of the Holy Spirit. This will be your decision”.

And so, Jesus once more walked on the earth. He saw the anguish on the face of Mary from Magnalia who thought someone had stolen his body and decided she would be the first person he would approach. Mary couldn’t believe her eyes when she spoke with Jesus, but he pointed out this was as he had predicted. He would rise from the dead on the third day. He asked her to tell the others she had seen and spoke with him. As he disappeared, she ran back to the locked room where they were all located to tell them the news.

The rest is history. Jesus appeared to many over the next few days.  He organised and enjoyed breakfast with Peter and his fisher mates. He walked to Emmaus with Cleopas and his friend and even though he had told the apostles what would happen after his death, it took his presence on a number of occasions to convince them he had risen from the dead. Appearing among them in the locked room seemed to be sufficient for most to understand, but Thomas was not convinced until he placed his fingers in the wounds still open on the body of Jesus.

Jesus told them he would not be with them much longer and they were naturally concerned what might happen should he leave them. On the next occasion when they were in the countryside together, he explained to them how his wish for them was that they would remain one with him as he was one with the Father. He promised he would not leave them orphans and would ask the Father to send them his Spirit to be a constant help and support for them in spreading the Word.

And so it was, that on the day we celebrate as Pentecost, a wind blew over them and the Father sent the Holy Spirit of the resurrected Christ to live within each of them. Through our Baptism with water or desire that same Spirit lives with us as well. We read how the arrival of the Holy Spirit showed itself as ‘burning tongues of fire’ (Acts 2:3). This same situation occurred at the Baptism of Jesus prior to his commencing His public life. “God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity but the Spirit of power, love and self-control” (2Timothy 1:6).

To me, this then is the true understanding of our Faith. Not so much that Jesus rose from the dead. He said he would do this. It happened, and many witnessed his being alive after the resurrection. This is more fact than faith. However, believing that the Holy Spirit of the resurrected Jesus lives within each one of us is what I call ‘our Faith’. Now if we really believe this, how difficult is it to sin, knowing that you and the Spirit of Jesus are acting together in all that you think and do?

If we follow the example of Jesus, then before He wanted anything from the Father, he went to the Father, thanked him and asked him to bless his action (ref. the Last Supper). So that is what we need to do as well before we ask the Father for anything. So, our prayer is channelled through the Jesus and the Holy Spirit living within us, to the Father. (Simple).

The Eucharistic prayer recited before the Consecration during our Mass is the long version of this request for the Father’s blessing on the bread, the work of our hands, we offer up with the fruit of the vine.

In the time of Jesus that is what they had as a meal.  Today we have a main course and sometimes even a desert followed by tea or coffee. If we ask the Father to bless our meal and we remember the sacrifice Jesus predicted at the last supper, then is there anything really different happening from what happens during our Mass?

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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The shadow from the son

It is easier to be aware of our shadow when the sun is low on the horizon. No matter what we do, it will mimic our actions.  But at all times you will notice it stays attached to our bodies.

Is it possible to imagine that our shadow could be the Son of God?  Jesus did promise ‘never to abandon us and to be with us at all times.’ Could our shadow be reminding us of the presence of Jesus in our life?

Ah! but there are times when we cannot see our shadow. Does this mean that Jesus has left us and the whole shadow idea is just a myth?

No! my friends. When we cannot see our shadow, we will find Jesus shining within our beating heart, longing for recognition. As we reach in to Him, the shadow from the Son will embrace us with His love.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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Lockdown 2020

“As often as you do these things you do them in memory of me”

Scripture is being re-enacted today more than ever and yet all our thoughts and actions revolve around a virus!

In Luke’s Gospel, (Ch.4) when Jesus got up to speak to the Jewish priests and people in the Synagogue, he read from Isaiah (61:1,2). This passage, as we know referred to himself, and spoke of The Holy One curing the blind and releasing the captives. In Luke (4:21) Jesus said, “Today this scripture that you have just heard is fulfilled”.  It wasn’t what the listeners wanted to hear so they drove Jesus out of town.

We are in lockdown, just as the disciples were in lockdown after the Resurrection. They were trying to come to grips with the events of the past week and especially the Resurrection. Some of them had seen Jesus, spoken with him and even shared a meal with him. Yet here they were locked in a room lest the authorities catch them and put them in prison. Is this starting to ring any bells?

We know Jesus had breakfast with his fishermen friends on the banks of the Sea of Tiberius. He spoke with them and breathed on them. We know also that he was the learned travelling companion that joined the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They recognised him “at the breaking of the bread”.

It is interesting that the accounts we read of Jesus making an appearance after the Resurrection show him as wanting to prove he was alive through simple things like having a meal together.

When he appeared to the disciples in the locked room and said, “Peace be with you”. There was no doubt who he was. Thomas, the doubter, will attest to that when he said, “My Lord and my God”.  It is my bet Jesus then sat down with them all and shared a meal.

The Last Supper was the gift Jesus gave of himself to his friends before his betrayal and death. It was the souvenir he was leaving them. This special meal, which we know as the institution of the Eucharist, was brought into perspective after the resurrected Jesus shared meals with the same friends. Only, at the last Supper the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup of wine were the symbols he used to give them himself. He told them whenever they performed the same actions they should do them in memory of Him. Yet at shared meals after his resurrection he was truly sharing who he was, the Resurrected Christ.

So here we are in Lockdown, which according to our Prime Minister, could last for at least some months. To help us maintain our faith, the church is giving us TV and streamed on-line masses. We have special prayers, novenas and daily thoughts and meditations to support us. So, I ask myself, ‘What would Jesus do in this ‘lockdown’ situation?

Well, I think he would do the same he did when the disciples were in ‘lockdown’.  He would want us to be at peace and then join us for a meal together. “When two or more are gathered in my name, I am in their midst”.

Because of our faith, we certainly would not need Jesus to prove who he was, like he did with Thomas. Jesus said to Thomas, “It is because you have seen me that you believed. Blessed are those who have never seen me yet still believe”.  Because of those words all believers should feel blessed. We should realise Jesus only wants our invitation to come into our ‘lockdown’ situation and share a meal with us.

So, before we eat our meal could we not thank the Father for sending us Jesus and ask the Father’s blessing on the food we are about to consume. Could we not remember the Last Supper and how Jesus broke the loaf of bread and shared it for all to eat.  We can share our bread or biscuit or meat pie or whatever we are going to eat, remembering these as symbolic of Jesus giving us His body.

Remembering how Jesus shared wine with his friends and referred to it as His blood ‘that will be shed for many’, so too, we can share whatever we are drinking after our meal. Be it wine, a cup of tea or coffee or just plain water.

Jesus said, ‘As often as you do these things, you do them in memory of me”. As we share our meal together with Jesus present in our hearts and at our table, surely, we too can say what Thomas said when he recognised Jesus, “My Lord and my God” and then be one in communion with the Risen Jesus with whom we have just shared a meal.

Inviting Jesus into our ‘Lockdown’ situation during our self-quarantining and using the prayers and support given us by the Church will provide us with the ability and hope to face the unknown future.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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And the mother also cried

To my mind the story of The Annunciation has to be one of the most powerful in the Bible. Here was a young early teenager, engaged to marry Joseph, an aged widower, alone in her mother’s house, when she was confronted by the archangel Gabriel. If he came with wings and feathers, as we understand is the standard garb for angels, then she would surely have been frightened. It’s my guess he was dressed in the generally accepted local attire.

Gabriel was definitely a smooth talker, because he managed to successfully pass on to Mary God’s blessings and presented his message in a clear enough fashion for Mary to understand that she had been chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus. Having got over the initial shock, she was able to question Gabriel, telling him she was still a virgin and had not yet moved in with Joseph. Gabriel, of course, had all the answers and amazingly this courageous young lady was totally convinced of Gabriel’s authenticity and agreed to let the plan happen.

Now seriously, if your thirteen year old daughter came to you and told you this story, then said she was pregnant yet still a virgin, you would have to question as to what she was ‘on’.  I guess she sent a message to Joseph that said, ‘Joseph, we have to talk’. I sometimes wonder where humankind would be today if Mary had said no?

I see Mary as a wonderful example for us to follow should we question how to respond to what God wants of us in our lives.

Meanwhile Joseph had an angelic visit himself and realised the role he would be taking in supporting Mary and their son. Luke beautifully outlines Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant with St John the Baptist (Luke 1: 39-56). Elizabeth tells Mary she is blessed because she believed that what the Lord wanted of her would truly happen. Mary’s response has given us one of the most powerful of all prayers, the Magnificat.

Joseph and Mary’s adventures begin even before Jesus is born. They had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a distance of 156 km., to satisfy the census taker with the heavily pregnant Mary seated on a donkey. This must have been a very uncomfortable journey for her. Once having arrived at their destination, they then had to use a shepherd’s cave as the place where the Son of Man was born.

They escaped to prevent Jesus from being slaughtered following a directive from the jealous King Herod and when they presented Jesus in the Jerusalem Temple they were met by a Spirit filled man called Simeon, who predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s very soul. At the time, Mary wasn’t sure what form this might take. As we know, the future was to bring that prophecy to fruition.

Any mother who has ever lost a child knows the terror that you suffer while you search. Mary and Joseph lost Jesus when he was 12.  Mary was distraught. In her mind she knew she had been given the responsibility no other woman would ever be given and no doubt she suffered a deep sense of failure as a mother. She would have also felt she had failed in her duty to her God. It took three days to find the young Jesus. Three days that must have been hell for both Mary and Joseph.

When they found him alive and well conversing with the priests in the Temple, Mary’s grief turned to joy but she found it hard to understand that at such a young age Jesus had commenced to ‘be about his Father’s business’.

Jesus spent over 90% of his earthly life with Mary. While Joseph taught him the carpenter’s trade, there is no doubt both Jesus and his mother developed a wonderful understanding relationship.  This became obvious at the marriage feast in Cana when Mary just said to Jesus “they have no wine”. Even though he made her aware that he wasn’t ready to come out into his public life, he still got his heavenly father to perform the miracle that changed water into wine.

Mary, the dutiful mother, was among Jesus’ followers as he gathered disciples around him and moved from place to place spreading the Good News.  At one place, a woman cried out “Blessed is the womb that bore you”. Jesus’ response was one we can all take comfort from. He said, “Still happier are those who hear the word of God and keep it”. (Luke 11:27)

Mary, along with other women, were beside the road leading up the hill of Calvery on that fateful Friday. Like every mother, she felt the pain being experienced by her son. She too suffered when she saw him fall under the weight of the cross he was forced to carry. She experienced the agony she could see on his face. She knew her son was suffering through this so all humanity could have eternal life, but it still didn’t relieve the pain for her. When Mary saw the soldier ram his lance up through her son’s ribs, this action for her became the sword that pierced her very soul.

Mary stood at the base of the cross as her son asked the disciple whom he loved to take care of her. We can become that disciple ourselves by loving His mother. If we try to understand more fully the close relationship that existed between Mary and her son, I think it will help us develop a deeper relationship with Jesus.

She was there when Jesus breathed his last breath. I can envisage she waited as her son was removed from the cross. His bloodied body was carefully laid on the ground and she knelt beside him and gently touched his cheek. Her sister and Mary Magdalene beside her were crying and the mother also cried.

Mary reached out and with her fingers she gently closed her son’s eyes.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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And The Father cried

Most fathers the world over will do anything they can for their children. Jesus’ heavenly Father was no different. His first action just after Jesus was born was to save him from being slaughtered by the jealous Herod.

His heavenly Father watched over Jesus as he grew and developed in wisdom and understanding. The Father was there at the marriage feast in Cana when Mary urged Jesus to save the hosts from embarrassment. He went with him into the desert to fast and prepare for the ordeal that was to come. He sent angels to minister to Jesus after the devil had failed to get Jesus on side.

The Father was well aware that His Son was born to die, unlike our children who are born to have life and have it to the full. Yet even though He was fully aware of the inevitability of what was to occur, the Father would have concentrated on helping His Son fulfill his mission on earth.

During Jesus’ public life he often went off on his own to pray to his heavenly Father. He even taught his followers how to pray to the Father and there is no doubt the Father was always present when miracles occurred. Everything Jesus needed, the Father supplied.

When Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain to be with him as he discussed plans for the coming horrific events with Moses and Elijah, his heavenly Father was present as well. The Father’s enormous pride for His son was evident when he called to Jesus’ three companions from a cloud, telling them that this was his son and that he was very pleased with him. He told them they should listen to him. At that moment it is said the face of Jesus became ‘bright like the sun and his clothes became white as light’ (Matt17:2).

On that first Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey amid the cheers and support of the accompanying crowd, he knew his time on earth was nearing its end. He gathered his disciples around him and tried to warn them of what was to come. He washed their feet to teach them the need to be humble and shared a meal with them at which he spoke of a new Covenant and he instituted the Eucharist.

After the meal, Jesus went out into the garden to pray to his Father. While the apostles went with him, they went to sleep and weren’t aware of the trauma that was happening around them. For the first time ever, the Father could not secede to His son’s requests, even though Jesus begged him to the point where it is said he was sweating blood.

The Father knew all along it would come to this. He would have to deny His son because of what Jesus must endure if he was to save us all from our sins and enable us entry into heaven.

It is always difficult for a father to say no to his child, but fathers are often confronted with the difficult decisions that have to be made to determine what is right for their child. Jesus’ heavenly Father knew that by denying his son this request to remove him from this situation, he was sending him to considerable suffering and eventual death. The Father too, must have been enduring great pain as well at this critical decision-making time.

The Father watched on as the night unfolded into day and Jesus emerged from incarceration whipped, beaten and wearing a crown of thorns on his head. The Father must have been tormented at this sight, yet He knew it had to proceed for the agreed plan to be accomplished. He knew He had to be strong and by his just watching the event unfolding would have put him, as it would any father, through untold agony.

The sounds of the nails being driven into the hands and feet of Jesus would have echoed through the heavens. The Father would have winced at the sounds and yet had to watch in pained silence.

As noon approached and Jesus was hanging in agony on the cross, the Father could not watch any more. He put his head in his hands, sighed and closed his eyes in deep contemplation. At that moment, darkness descended on the earth. The Father remained in this meditative state and it stayed dark for three hours until Jesus cried out, “Father, I give you my life”. And this time the Father could not deny his son any longer.

The Father rose in anger and tore the sacred curtain of the Temple in two. It is done he was heard saying to himself. It is accomplished. He then bowed his head and cried.

To ensure Jesus had died a soldier thrust his spear into the side of Jesus. It is said blood and water came out (John 19:34). It is my belief, the blood was all that Jesus had left to shed for us, but the water came from the tears of his Father.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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The recognition

After the Resurrection of Jesus, two apostles were walking to a village called Emmaus. They were talking together about all that had happened over the past days, when Jesus himself, whom they didn’t recognise, came and walked beside them. (Luke 24:13-16).

These two apostles explained to their travelling companion their hope that their friend Jesus would have been the one to set Israel free, but he had been taken and crucified. Yet from what they had heard from some of the women, when they checked his tomb that morning it was apparently empty.

Jesus spent considerable time explaining to Cleopas and his mate all the passages of scripture about himself from Moses, through all the prophets, and still they didn’t work out who he was. What he was telling them failed to sink in because they were that engrossed with their own thoughts.

This story is so like us today. We tend to walk along the roadways of our individual life journeys, that intent on what is happening in our lives, we often fail to recognise that the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus is walking with us. Sure, we can go to church and listen to the scripture stories and talk among ourselves but, like the two apostles, the messages often don’t seem to sink in.

It wasn’t until the evening when the penny dropped.  ‘They recognised Jesus at the breaking of the bread’ (Luke 24:35).

Could it be that this is the trigger we need to recognise and embrace the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus within each one of us? For us the Eucharist can be the re-enactment of, not just the last supper, but the recognition of Jesus by the two Apostles on their way to Emmaus.

Our receiving of the Eucharist can be what we need to revitalise our relationship with the Spirit who walks with us. Like Cleopas and his mate who got excited about their revelation and ran back to tell the other apostles they had seen Jesus, we too, can get excited about having recognised Jesus as well. Each time we receive the Eucharist we can recognise Jesus ‘at the breaking of the bread’ and thus renew our friendship with our God who lives within us.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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Parenting – our role

As parents, when we consider the frustrations we have trying to raise our children, most of us feel we are having a far more difficult time today than parents had with previous generations.

I think parents down through the ages have probably all made the same claim, but the role of being parent doesn’t change and kids are kids anywhere in the world.

The environment in which kids grow up is the variable. This usually dictates expectations and it also has a big bearing on the way parents perform their roles.

As parents, do you sometimes get the feeling your family doesn’t really need you – they just use you?  It can happen to many parents when their children reach the all-knowing, independent age of adolescence.

Until we become parents, it’s hard to really understand the real meaning of unconditional love.  Jesus gave us the complete example when he suffered and died for us that we might have eternal life. We soon learn of the need to be constantly giving of ourselves, our time, our money, our energy and our patience.

When they are young, kids can be coerced into helping with the dishes, they can be taught the value of maintaining a tidy room and will often be heard to actually offer help with the maintenance jobs around the home.

Some of today’s adolescents see it beneath their station in life to perform menial housekeeping tasks.  Kissing parents in front of their peers is just too embarrassing. As for mowing grass and having a tidy room, that’s just all too much to expect. 

It is my view that today’s society doesn’t seem to view the family structure with the same values we as parents should try to instil into our children.  It might not be fashionable, but we still need to teach our kids principles such as self-discipline, manners and respect for themselves and others. This is something their tablets and iPads can’t do.

Being a parent is usually seen to be the cause of most of our grey hairs and many sleepless nights.  They keep us poor; they frustrate us and make us angry.  Yet, they can also melt our hearts so easily with some of their simple, yet loving ways. Their cuddles when we are sad, their caring concern when we are not well and their hand made gifts and cards on our birthdays.

When they perform in school activities or sporting events, whether they achieve of not, we feel so proud just being there cheering them on. Deciding to always be available when needed at whatever age, lets them know they can be assured that our love and support will always be there for them.

If God is as concerned for us, His children, as we are for our own kids, I believe that as long as we keep trying to be effective parents, this should entitle us to an automatic entry ticket into heaven.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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My prayer

(A variation on the Peace Prayer of St Francis of Assisi)

Jesus, help us to understand how knowing you can bring peace into our lives. Let us talk of your love as others talk of hate.

If others hurt us, enable us to quickly forgive and when those around us show doubt and fear, give us the strength to encourage them with our faith and instil hope in them for the future.

Where there is sadness in our lives, help us to find your joy beyond the dark clouds that hang heavy on our hearts.

When the darkness of death surrounds us, let the warmth of your love melt away our fears and uncertainties.

Jesus, allow us to see you in all those we meet and help us to consider others needs before our own. For you showed us by your death on the cross that it is only through us giving to others during our stay on this earth, that we will receive our eternal reward in heaven.

Jesus, please help me to be the person you created me to be.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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