COVID – The last two years

Two years ago, the first Covid case was diagnosed in Australia. Since then, we have seen this pandemic spread throughout our land. We have seen thousands affected with the virus and sadly, many deaths have occurred.

We have heard how nurses have interrupted their duties to sit and hold the hands of the dying whose family were not allowed to be with them.

Nowhere have we heard of how our bishops and priests sought permission to wear full PPE and offer to sit with the dying.  What would Jesus do in this situation? He certainly had no compunction about touching and being near those with leprosy who sought to be healed.

Our priests and bishops were closely following the government’s directives lest they and their congregations might contract the virus. But what of those who had already contracted the virus and those closely associated with them?

The clergy found it was safe to get into their vestments and perform the Mass ritual in front of a camera, social distancing of course, so Catholics could watch on their TV sets.

But, what they failed to understand was that we are a missionary church and we don’t come to church just to partake in the Mass ritual.  We gather to gain strength from each other, to be nourished by the Word and fed by the Eucharist so we can return to our missionary roll with new enthusiasm.

So, what was done to enable us to receive the Eucharist? We are told the Eucharist is the summit and source of our faith, yet it seems the only way we can be nourished by receiving the body and blood of Christ is to attend mass in a church.

People were in lock-down for months in some cases and at times when some churches were allowed to operate, we needed to have a pre-booked ticket to attend the Eucharist. What consideration and arrangements were made for those who couldn’t get in? Could tents have been erected outside and a TV service provided. Could local school accommodation be used effectively? What special arrangements were even considered for the unfortunate people unable to acquire a ticket?

Jesus told Peter three times to feed his lambs and his sheep. I think that made it fairly clear what He wanted done. But then at the Last Supper Jesus said ‘Whenever you do these things, you do them in memory of me’. He asked the Father to bless the food and drink they were having and through this means He gave Himself to them. I see no mention in scripture where only Catholic priests should be the only ones to continue this procedure.

As baptised Christians, I believe we are direct descendants of the first Christians. In John’s Gospel, Chapter 8, we read how Jesus was talking with some Jews who believed in Him. He said, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

 For those in lock-down and those unable to attend a church, how edifying it would have been, if while viewing the Mass on TV, they could have shared a meal as Jesus did and with reverence know that the Holy Spirit alive in each one of us converted our food and drink into the Blessed Eucharist.

If you are in isolation and you need food you can ring Coles or Woollies and get whatever you want delivered to your door. The same with a pizza and meals from other fast-food outlets. Yet, the Eucharist is not available, be it by home delivery or from a central point perhaps beside the church.

I think maybe our bishops couldn’t allow free access to the Eucharist because that would seriously affect the control they believe they have over us with transubstantiation.  Yet, it is the Eucharist that is our ‘food for the journey’.

Early in the pandemic days I suggested to the Victorian bishops that the church could set up an Australia wide phone centre manned by priests who would be available to receive calls from Catholics who were undergoing stress and family difficulties and needed some spiritual counselling. I didn’t even get a reply.

For eighty years I have lived out the teachings of the Catholic church but sadly it is only recently I have come to realise the church hierarchy form just another business organisation. So much is written that I have devoured and believed but I have had first-hand experience with the way I am supposed to accept what is written as against the reality of what really happens.

Statements have been issued telling of the new transparency within the church concerning victims of sexual assault by priests and religious. My experience has proven the hierarchy are not prepared to assist in bringing culprits to justice. Nor are they at all concerned about the needs of victims or victim’s families.

Nowadays I am content to determine what I believe the merciful Jesus would do in different situations and follow this prompting. No longer do I want to belong to a church whose hierarchy is only interested in controlling the people and maintaining the organisation. I just want to maintain a close relationship with the Blessed Trinity and love my neighbour as Jesus has instructed.

Peter Mack           26 January 2022 (Australia Day)

More ‘That’s the way I feel’ stories

Recognise me…!

After the resurrection and just prior to His ascension, Jesus said to his disciples, “Know that I am with you always”. He then proceeded to disappear into the heavens.

No wonder the disciples were perplexed. He had just told them he would be with them always and then disappeared from sight.

To understand the real meaning of what had been said we need to go back to the day Jesus died. We read in scripture how about the ninth hour Jesus ‘yielded up his spirit’. He breathed his last breath. His body had died as his spirit left him. The Blessed Trinity was reunited in heaven.

As Jesus had promised that he would return, this obviously happened, for there are many stories relating to his reappearance. Interestingly though, as a spirit he chose to be recognised by appearing as the body they knew. He appeared in the locked room where the disciples were gathered and asked Thomas to touch his wounds. He also ate meals with those present. All this was  to convince them, and us, he had risen as he said he would.

This was no magic trick, the spirit of Jesus appeared and disappeared as he wanted. It even took the 2 disciples on the way to Emmaus all day to recognise him.

When Jesus said he would be with us always we must assume that he is referring to his presence with us as spirit. If this is true then it is the Blessed Trinity that is with us, for the spirit of Jesus is one with The Father and The Holy Spirit.

How then can we recognise the Blessed Trinity in our lives? Many will point to creation and nature to ‘see’ the hand of God in operation. Others will ‘feel’ the presence of God in their lives at special times. But if our God is with us always, how do we recognise this presence on an on-going basis?

Perhaps we need to realise that God does not control our lives. We do that ourselves. How then does our God give us the constant support we need to assist us in maintaining our control and how do we even know this is happening?

The Father, our creator, gave us life in our mother’s womb. When we entered this world, our life began by our first breath. Our life continues with every breath we take until, as Jesus did, we breathe our last breath and give up our spirit.

Surely then, with every breath we take we should realise it is The Father who is maintaining us as his creation. With the presence of the Father also comes the Spirit of life we have in us. The Holy Spirit that has so many gifts to offer us in maintaining our existence, if we but recognise this presence within us. Jesus, as ‘The Word made flesh’ is also available to nurture and teach us if we reach out to this source of knowledge and understanding.

So, do we travel our pathway of life like the disciples on the road to Emmaus and only recognise Jesus at the end of the day and then realise he has been with us all the time. Or do we recognise our God is true to his word and is with us always with every breath we take?

I’m Peter Mack and That’s how I feel.

January 2022

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

The first Christmas

Joseph couldn’t believe what he was hearing as he listened to the Government Proclamation being read out in the Nazareth City Square.

A Roman Census was to be held which required him to travel to Bethlehem, the city of his ancestors, and register. Even under normal circumstances this trip would take him at least 5 days to travel the 150 odd kilometres along the flatlands of the Jordan River, through the Judean Desert, over the hills surrounding Jerusalem and on into Bethlehem. But these were not normal circumstances.

It wasn’t necessary for Mary, his wife, to accompany him because he, legally, could sign the register as head of the family. However, he knew Mary would insist on being with him during this time, as it was close to the birth of her special baby.

The male in Joseph could see the difficulties that would lie ahead should they both go to Bethlehem with Mary in her advanced stage of pregnancy. If only Mary would agree to stay at her mother’s while he was away.

Mary was having none of Joseph’s arguments because, as she pointed out, he had a particular role to play in the providing for, and the upbring, of their future son. He had been chosen by God to be their special son’s earthly guardian and carer and, as the birth was imminent, Mary said she wanted to be with Joseph and was prepared to go to Bethlehem with him.

Joseph knew he couldn’t win this argument, so as he set about planning for their journey and he thought about how he and Mary’s paths had first crossed.

After the death of his first wife, Joseph had devoted himself to helping out at the Temple in Jerusalem where his building skills were needed in repairing the aging construction. He enjoyed his repairs and maintenance tasks for the Temple high priest, Zechariah and his wife. It was at the Temple, Joseph first met Mary. 

Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim, were childless and according to the history books, had promised God that if they were to have a child, they would offer that child up to the Lord’s service in the Temple in Jerusalem.

It was after Joseph’s Temple service that Zechariah suggested to Mary’s parents that she would make a good housekeeper for Joseph. In those days, children’s future partners were decided without serious consultation with the child.

As the thought of having a live-in house keeper was generally frowned upon, an arranged marriage saw the teenage Mary engaged to Joseph. It was, while living back at her own home preparing for her upcoming marriage, Mary received the now well-documented angelic visit and, although still a virgin, her pregnancy commenced.

Following this visit from the angel and her acceptance, Mary sent a note to Joseph saying, ‘Joe, we need to talk’.

Even though he thought the world of Mary, her story was a bit hard for him to understand. He left with a downtrodden heart knowing that he must end the relationship quietly, because, should it become generally known that Mary became pregnant behind his back, the law called for a serious response, which could even include a public stoning.

Fortunately for Mary and their relationship, Joseph got an angelic visit as well. Armed with this new understanding, Joseph hightailed it back to Mary’s place to apologise. Together they worked through the steps they needed to take to formalise their marriage and prepare for the coming of their baby boy, who they had been instructed to call, Emanual. After their marriage, Mary moved into Joseph’s home.

Joseph arranged to borrow an old donkey so Mary at least wouldn’t have to walk to Bethlehem, when they went to fulfill his census duty. He thought of the possibility that she might give birth on the journey, or they might be stranded away from home while she recovered from the birth. So, he put together a tool kit which he fastened behind a somewhat primitive form of saddle on the donkey. This kit, he reasoned, would allow him to pick up some odd jobs that would fund whatever might be needed should at any stage they ran out of money.

He also strapped onto the donkey a supply of food, probably dried bread, some oil and some herbs. Also included were some wineskins filled with water and warm cloaks to protect them during the cold nights. Mary, in the meantime, was also conscious of the bumpy ride she must endure and the possible consequences, but was determined to go with Joseph. She had been sewing some swaddling clothes for the baby and packed these, along with some essentials for herself, just in case they might be needed.

They eventually set off on their 150km journey along the dusty Bethlehem Road, along with many others heading in the same direction for the same purpose. Donkeys are not renowned for their record-breaking ground speed and this old fellow was slower than most. It was a hot, dusty, tiring journey which had to be interrupted for the occasional rest and drink break for them both and the donkey. At night they would have rested with others on the same journey to help protect themselves from any wild animals or even bandits.

Because of their slow progress getting to Bethlehem, Joseph unfortunately found on making enquiries around the town, there was no accommodation available, not even at his relations’ homes.

Joseph’s plea to the innkeeper concerning Mary’s condition gave them two options.  The innkeeper said they were welcome to use the stables at the rear of the inn, but there were so many horses and donkeys tethered there that he thought there would hardly be room enough for them as well. He said the only other possibility was one of the caves in the hills nearby, often used by the local shepherds to shelter their flocks from the cold. After consultation with Mary, Joseph chose this latter suggestion

As luck might have it (or was it divine intervention), they found such a cave. It was night now and Joseph settled Mary down on some dry straw and proceeded to unload and tether the donkey. Joseph was concerned, that should Mary give birth while out here, away from available help, he would feel ill equipped to assist in the delivery. As he pointed out to Mary, his brick laying and cabinet making skills were a far cry from him even having a basic knowledge of obstetrics.

They needn’t have worried. The goodness of God came to the rescue. As Mary became aware her birthing time was near, the angels who came to both Mary and Joseph originally, appeared again to them on this occasion. The cave became filled with a soft light and the angels called on the Holy Spirit, who had been responsible for Mary’s miraculous impregnation while still remaining a virgin, to once again intervene.

The same Holy Spirit would ensure Mary suffered no pain at the birth, as this was a most joyous occasion.  While her obedience to the word of The Lord was recognised at this time, her pain would come later in the life of her son.

Joseph, kneeling beside the resting Mary, had his rough builder’s hands placed gently beside his wife’s stomach by an angel. In the background a heavenly choir sang in harmony, ‘Gloria in Excelsis Dei’. Joseph looked up as he heard a voice proclaim, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us”.

As Joseph looked down once more at his hands, he realised Mary had given birth and he was actually holding the infant Jesus. As he passed this precious new-born baby up to Mary, the little boy’s eyes opened and Joseph was sure he detected a slight smile on its face.

Joseph’s prayer that night was a prayer on behalf of us all, “Thank you Father for sending us Jesus”.

Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel

Christmas 2020

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

The Circle of Life

Creation theories are numerous and vary from one religion to another and from one race of people to another. Some believe the ‘Big Bang’ was the source of our universe commencing and the Bible tells the story of God creating our world in six days. Some even see certain star groups in the cosmos as the source of man’s creation.

The opening words of ‘the Bible’s Book of Genesis refers to God’s creation of the universe, not the beginning of God’s existence.  In Paul’s letter to the Colossians 1:17, Paul tells how Christ existed ‘before anything was created”.

All the creation theories seem to have a starting point, prior to which everything is ‘unknown’. For example, who created the stars or who instigated the ‘Big Bang’. If it was God who started creation rolling, then who created God?  Many people of different faiths just throw their hands in the air and are prepared to accept that it is a big mystery that can’t be understood.

As human beings we like to think everything has a ‘beginning’ but many tend to accept the term ‘everlasting’. Our prayer ‘Glory be…’ says, “As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be”. Most of us believe there is a form of life after death and often add “forever and ever. Amen” to our prayers.

You must wonder whether those who don’t believe in a life hereafter question in their own minds just what their life is all about?  What is the purpose of their living? Is life just about enjoying oneself and having a good time irrespective at whose expense that might be, because everything comes to a stop when we die?  So, we often hear the phrase, ‘let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’!

For those of us who believe in a life hereafter, our struggle here on earth must be seen as a preparation for that time when the promises of Christ will become a reality. We are human. We fail. We get up again. We are not expected to be perfect, but just to be triers.

Once again, for many it all seems to fit into the ‘too hard’ category. However, if we can so readily accept the words, ’forever’ and ‘everlasting’ then we need to look beyond the word ‘beginning’. If we believe our loving God ‘always was’ and ‘always will be’ then this makes our acceptance of our Faith so much easier.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

20 January 2020

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

Take it easy

I find that sometimes our God can talk to us using the lyrics from well-known songs. It is possible that we can see the lyrics having an entirely different meaning from that which is evident when listening to the song.

Maybe we should listen more closely to the words of a song and not just enjoy the melody. It is possible there might be a message in the song beyond what the lyricist intended. Take for instance the great Eagles song, ‘Take it Easy’.

The lyrics tell us of the singer’s quest to find true love in his life that has so far been unsuccessful. It seems it is true love which he desires more than anything else.

He tells himself to “take it easy” and to approach the situation with a cool head and not to ‘let the sound of his own wheels drive him crazy!’

It is a bit like our search for our God throughout our life. We generally recognise God or some higher being exists, but our busy life doesn’t always allow us the time or the inclination to really get to fathom out what this relationship is all about. We are told to ‘lighten up while you still can.’

While the lyrics refer to ‘a girl my Lord in a flatbed’ ute, they also raise the unanswered question of the Lord that ‘I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me’. And it is recognised that, ’we may lose and we may win, though we will never be here again’. And while ‘I may be ‘running down the road trying to loosen my load, I’ve got a world of trouble on my mind’.

While we may only find the peace we seek in our God who truly loves us, we are very conscious of our shortcomings and our worthiness so we are ‘lookin’ for a lover who wont blow our cover. We know ‘we got it easy’ but ‘I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me’.

And Jesus reaches out and tells us to come to Him all who labour and He will give us rest. He will give us the freedom we need to ‘Take it Easy’.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel

September 2021

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

Praying through my playlist

I enjoy listening to songs I love which I have included on various playlists. Recently, I was lying flat on the loungeroom floor with my feet up on a chair higher than my heart, (this position I am told is ideal for good circulation). I was listening to my ‘easy-listening’ playlist which contains 412 of my favourite songs.

I prefer the songs to play in alphabetical order and I found I was working through songs that start with ‘F’.

If you think it would be only possible to pray when listening to a playlist of religious songs, you would be wrong. I believe you are able to pray while listening to popular songs, because the words can become meaningful when, with a little bit of imagination, they can be heard as a two-way conversation with your God.

Let me give you an example: First up halfway through the ‘F’ List was ‘Fire and Rain’, a James Taylor song.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days I thought would never end.

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought I would see you again.

Look down upon me Jesus, you gotta help me make a stand, just got to see me through another day.

I can’t make it any other way.

Then came ‘The Flame’ by Cheap Trick:

Wherever you go, I’ll be with you. Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you.

Whenever you need someone to lay your heart and head upon, remember after the fire and all the rain, I will be your flame.

Next up, ‘Fly Like A Bird’ by Boz Scaggs.

Now the years have past and memories come and go. He hears that voice.

There’s peace at the end of the darkest night. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I fly like a bird.

Then comes ‘Follow Me’ by John Denver

Follow me where I go, what I do.

Let a part of you be a part of me.

Follow me up and down, all the way and all around.

Take my hand and say you’ll follow me.

I’ve tried to find a way that will make you understand, the way I feel about you, just how much I need you.

To be there when I can talk to when there is no one else around.  

You see I’d like to share my life with you and show you things I’ve seen.

Places where I’m going to, places where I’ve been.

To have you there beside me I’ll never be alone.

Then came ‘For My Lady’ by The Moody Blues.

My boat sails stormy seas, battles all storms ahead. At last, my port’s in view, I’ve arrived, discovered you.

Set sail before the sun. Feel the warmth has just begun.

Share each and every dream, that belongs to everyone.

Then a bit of country with ‘Forever and ever amen’ by Randy Travis

I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever amen.

As long as old men sit and talk about the weather,

As long as old women talk about old men.

If you wonder how long I’ll be faithful, I’ll be happy to tell you again.

I’m gonna love you forever and ever, forever and ever Amen.

When it was time to get back up and into action, the blood circulation was recharged as also was my prayer life. Can’t wait to take up this same position again tomorrow as there are still more songs from the ‘F’ group to come, namely Four Strong Winds by Neil Young; ‘Fraction too much Friction from Tim Finn and ‘Bette Midler’s From a Distance.

I wonder what else awaits as I progress further through the alphabet. My God sure gets me going through my music.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel

May 2021

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

Our God – A divine presence

I think we can better understand God If we could put to one side for a moment all we know in human terms of our God as 3 persons in the one Trinity; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (I assume we can refer to the Spirit as a person).  Having done this, let us now refer to our God as, ‘A Divine Presence’.

The first words in Genesis, the first book in the Bible, explain how God created the world as we know it. We should note that at no point does it refer to God not already being in existence. In John’s Gospel he refers to ‘The Word’ as Jesus being present at the ‘beginning’ with God and that he was God. This does seem a bit confusing, is it no wonder we have scratched our heads trying to understand the Trinity.

In our human understanding we like to see how everything has a beginning. However, we seem to be able to better comprehend what eternity is about. We write songs about loving each other forever and ever. We discuss perpetuity and even have a symbol for infinity. But attempting to understand a God consisting of 3 persons as not having a beginning is difficult. Hence, God as a Divine Presence is easier seen as ‘Always was and always will be’.

The prophets of old predicted the coming of a Messiah (‘The anointed one’). The Jews were looking for a great King and leader and as a result they couldn’t believe Jesus was the answer so they ran him out of town.

So why did God decide on creating a human to be the saviour of the world? This was how we humans would better understand his role. He would be one of us and grow up among us. He would have a beginning, his birth, and an end, his death on the cross. We are created to live. Jesus was the only person ever created with the express purpose of dying.

During his life he would be seen as the son of Mary and Joseph, yet at the Transfiguration, God was heard to say that he was His Son with whom he was well pleased. The father image was then easier to accept.

Jesus also used this image in teaching us to pray the ‘Our Father’. He also referred to his ‘Father in Heaven’ on numerous occasions.

While Jesus was on earth he had to rely on God to answer his prayers and provide the miracles often thought to be of his own doing. He took time out to pray and the night before he died he begged God to save him from what he knew would be his fate.

The resurrection was the proof he was sent by God to redeem the world. His return to heaven brought him into ‘The Divine Presence’ and when he returned he was seen to be different by his apostles. Yet he ate a fish breakfast which he prepared for them and appeared in front of them in a locked room.

Before the Ascension he promised he would leave them with his Spirit to sustain and guide them. It was this same Spirit that fired them into action at Pentecost. Once again it is easier to see Jesus and the Spirit as part of ‘The Divine Presence’ rather than the second and third ‘person’ of the Trinity.

The prayer “Glory be to the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be forever and ever. Amen” might be a bit easier to understand if it was worded: “Glory be to God, The Divine Presence in our world who always was and who always will be. Amen”

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

30 November 2016

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories.

My take on prayer

I thought it might be a good idea to review the way I pray because I have followed a similar patten now for some years. I believe who we are is how we pray and therefore we all approach prayer in different ways depending on our personality, our upbringing and the life we are leading at the moment.

It wasn’t so long ago I accepted I felt more comfortable just talking to my God rather than reading pre-prepared prayers. I looked at how Jesus used to pray and realised that He would generally go off on His own to talk with His Father.

At the commencement of His discussion with His Father, He would praise and thank Him.

When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, Jesus gave them the ‘Our Father’ which, when you transpose today’s words for those used in Jesus’ time, follows that same pattern of greeting and praising the Father before asking the Father to ‘give us’ what we need.

So, I figured if Jesus gave us this prayer, who are we not to use this as our guide. However, while this prayer asks for our individual needs, it doesn’t specify any special needs we might want the Father to consider for others.

In the past, when I have particularly wanted to ‘pray’ for a friend, a family member or a situation I have developed a mental list which I have used in my talk with God.

As part of this review I now realise what a waste of time it is to be trotting out names and situations each time I pray. And even kicking myself when I realise afterwards, I have forgotten someone I have on my list. God doesn’t have to be continually reminded of who and what is on my man-made list. It is at this point I should point out the fact that the Holy Spirit plays a major role in assisting us with our prayer life. Because of our Baptism, the Spirit has an intimate internal contact with our lives, for it is the Spirit that helps us in our weakness and assists us when we pray (Romans 8:26). So, I just leave it to the Holy Spirit to do the negotiating with The Father.

 Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” and “You can only come to The Father through me”. So, who am I to argue? By virtue of our Baptism, Jesus lives within each of us and therefore, I don’t have too far to go to ask Jesus to lead me to The Father, or as I often do, ask Him to come with me and I call to the Spirit, “Come Holy Spirit”.

Another thing this review has made me realise is that The Father and the Holy Spirit are well aware of the reason why I specifically want to pray for each individual on my list. While I admit I can feel discouraged when my prayer is not answered in the way I would like it to be, I have learned it is wise not to question The Father’s decision. But one thing I believe is most important is to constantly thank the Father for sending us Jesus because, seriously, I just wonder where we would be if that had not occurred.

I recall when Jesus said to a paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven” and the  Pharisees questioned His authority, his response was, “Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or get up and walk” (Luke 5:23).  While the Father knows full well what I might want, I feel I should leave it to Him to decide how best to help those for whom I am praying.

I remember how Jesus said, “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 18:3). When your child cries you often know immediately what is wrong. It may be a hunger cry or a cry that says, I’m tired. Our Father in heaven instinctively knows what I need and hears my cry. It becomes obvious then that If I can be like a little child and just feel safe and secure in His presence, then He will care for all my needs.

My review seems to be simplifying the whole concept of my prayer. Because I realise the Father knows what I am coming to see Him about before I even arrive, It is now very easy for me to just sit at the Father’s feet and know I am there with Him, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. While it might seem simplistic it brings to mind what Jesus said to the disciples: ”Because I live, you also will live….You will know that I am in my Father and you are in me, just as I am in you”. (John 14:20). Just being there in the presence of the Trinity seems to me to be prayer enough.

I find it is easy to forget your daily prayer without having a trigger or prompt so, as we always enjoy two coffees each day, this then is time has become my trigger. When I am making coffee, my back is to the world and while the various actions become automatic, this leaves me time for my mind to be given over to prayer. Other people looking for a prayer trigger might feel cleaning your teeth or making the bed is a daily exercise that might work for them.

I have always relied on the words of Jesus, “Ask and you will receive”. However, recently I realise the lines following this in Matt 7:7 are just as important, “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened”. I feel this whole group of 3 phrases refers to my prayer.

It is easy just asking to have your prayers answered and then going about your business knowing that the Father has heard your request.  However, when you look at the rest of the above sentence, in my opinion, I should

consider more than just the asking bit. It seems the seeking and knocking requires a certain amount of personal activity. In the Lenten lead up to Easter, we perform some regular activity to remind us of what Jesus went through for us, so I feel I could add to my prayer life if I not only asked for my needs but in addition, offered up something of myself to enhance my request.

My first reaction is to develop what I would call a ‘Mini Monday’ Lenten exercise. Each Monday I could take some personal action that would at least made me aware I was doing something additional to add to my prayers for the week ahead.

A simple example for me would be to give up devouring three of my favourite things each Monday. These are Coffee, Jam and Chocolate. Of course, they can be replaced by tea, vegemite etc. but this little restriction on self would form the basis of being a definite Mini Lent for me each Monday. This would be a personal way of offering up something I like to, in some small way, fulfill the seeking and knocking activity of my prayer.

I know this seems like a simplistic, even child-like approach, to what is really a form of prayerful self-sacrifice. But, it is something different from the norm and for me, a start at what I see as improving my prayer life.  If the idea were to catch on, I feel sure others would find more appropriate ways of engaging in ‘Mini Lent Monday’.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

April 2020

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories.

The humble shall be exalted

Mary’s comment to her son at the wedding feast in Cana that, “They have no wine” you would have thought might have heard Jesus respond with, ‘That’s unfortunate mother”.

It was what Mary said with her eyes that evoked the response it did. “My time has not yet come”, said Jesus. This rebuff did not deter Mary at all. She told the servants to do whatever Jesus told them. The result of course, was the first miracle reported performed by Jesus.

Let’s go back a few nights prior to their attendance at the wedding when Jesus and Mary were eating an evening meal together. I can envisage the following conversation occurring:

Mary says, ‘Jesus since Joseph died you have worked hard to provide for us and have put aside funds to ensure I will be comfortable even after you leave home to go about your Father’s work. When do you think this might happen’?

‘Mother’, replies Jesus, ‘I am not ready yet. Why do you ask’?

‘I am very aware of the preparation you have already made by the earnest way in which you pray and your study that has made you conversant with the scriptures and the Jewish Law’, replied Mary. ‘Besides, as your mother, I expect to be able to assist you in some way and also need to prepare for this role and all the changes that it will bring to both our lives’.

‘The Father will tell me when the time is right’, said Jesus. ‘And he will instruct me as to how I should proceed’.

Mary then said, ‘have you ever considered that maybe He might want you to feel confident enough to make the first move yourself’?

‘Mother, I feel sure the time is fast approaching when the reason for my existence will materialise and I must be guided by The Father’.  

It was at that moment that Mary determined within herself to find a way to help her son with this extremely difficult decision concerning his future, however daunting it might appear for him and for her. (She had not forgotten the prophesy give her when Jesus was presented at the Temple that ‘a sword would pierce her heart’). That night she asked God for guidance and she recognised the answer to her prayer at the following day’s wedding.

Meanwhile back to the wedding feast. What was going through the mind of Jesus? He knew his mother well enough to realise what she was suggesting, particularly after their discussion the previous evening.

Jesus immediately asked The Father for guidance but there was no response forthcoming. Since returning back home after being lost as a youngster, Jesus had always been obedient to both Mary and Joseph’s wishes. But in his mind this request from his mother was by far the most important request he had faced during his life to date.

Still there was no direction from The Father. But instead, he felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit filling him with the same power the apostles were to feel at Pentecost. The Father had sent him The Paraclete.

Jesus then immediately went to the servants and told them to fill the empty wine jars with water.

The witnesses to this miracle were the master’s servants, just as the witnesses at the birth of Jesus were the lowly shepherds. The Father was already making it clear that the humble would be exalted.

Maybe The father is telling us that to share in the miracle that is Jesus we need first become humble.

Peter Mack

June 2021

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories

Jesus – A chip off the ‘ol block

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight. The opening words of ‘Genesis’ refer to God’s creation of the universe, not the beginning of God’s existence. In John 1:1 the words, “In the beginning was the Word” can only refer to Jesus as ‘The Word’. Our God’s existence is eternal, without beginning and without end.

OK, now we have that cleared up let’s go back in time a bit before God decided to create the world and the first people. It seems fairly clear that God created the angels before the creation of the world took place. Satan was certainly around in the Garden of Eden to tempt Adam and Eve. (If there was such a garden with its fictitious apple tree).

It is understood there were around seven archangels. The book of Daniel refers to Michael as the ‘Prince’ protector of God.  Gabriel seems to be number two in the pecking order and is known as the messenger of divine comfort. He figures prominently in scripture. He interprets visions in the Book of Daniel and in Luke’s Gospel announces miraculous births to Zechariah about the birth of John the Baptist and to Mary, the mother of Jesus. There are many instances in scripture where we read of God’s angels and the messages they delivered on God’s behalf.

From what we read there were many thousands of Angels so the inner cabinet had seven leaders and as always if there is someone fighting for the top job there will be a confrontation. So Michael and his party based their policies on God’s love, whereas Satan and his followers were more interested in power and control.

Paul, a bachelor, sums up the concept of love in 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 when he writes: “Love is  patient, love is kind; love is not jealous and boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

So the inner fighting went on well after God created us humans for we read in Job (15/15) ‘In his own Holy Ones God puts no trust’. Earlier in the Book of Job we see how God allows Satan to test Job. Satan is asked “where have you been” and his reply is that he has been round the earth, roaming about (1/7).

It is not until we read the Book of Revelation (12.7-9) that we know who won the heavenly fight. ‘And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael and his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had deceived all the world, was hurled down to earth and his angels were hurled down with him’. Jesus himself said,” I watched Satan fall like lightening from heaven” (Luke 10.18)

Michael and his mob might well have rid heaven of the devil but we have the blighter down here on earth with us. This is not a happy thought. ‘Let the heavens rejoice and all who live there; but for you, earth and sea, trouble is coming- because the devil has gone down to you in a rage, knowing that his days are numbered’ (Rev.12/12).

So where does Jesus fit into the picture? Well it must have been obvious to God that as the population of the earth increased so Satan was becoming very active and that people needed to be reminded of the goodness of God and the need to love one another.

God’s response was to have a human live among the people and spread the message of love.  For years the Jews had talked of a messiah and pictured this messenger from God as being a mighty warrior and leader. No wonder they couldn’t accept that Jesus, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth was the Christ.

But there was also another dilemma facing God. If Mary was to give birth to a son and call him Jesus then everyone would see Jesus as the son of Joseph and this would reduce his credibility when it came time to eventually question his followers about “Who do people say I am”?  It was Peter who responded ‘You are the Christ’ he said ‘the Son of the living God’ (Matt. 16.16-17).

So the penny dropped. Somewhere along the line Jesus had progressed from being the son of Mary and Joseph to being the ‘Son of God’. To make it easier for people to understand Jesus referred to his ‘Father’ in heaven. At the Transfiguration, God referred to Jesus as his Son. ‘This is my son of whom I am well pleased’.

Jesus the man proclaimed God’s message of love which has been the basic Christian teaching down through the ages. He suffered and died that we might live, that we might avoid the snares of the devil and be happy with him forever in heaven. But Jesus the man had to undergo another transformation before he returned to heaven. To prove he was also God, Jesus rose from the dead and showed himself to many before eventually saying goodbye to his disciples and returning to his rightful place in heaven.

But even after his death Jesus had work to do. In the intervening 3 days before Easter we read how he descended into hell and not only opened Hells gates but he opened Heaven’s gates as well. His suffering and death had not been in vain. Those who kept the word of God would be welcomed in heaven and those who chose to follow Satan would be banished to the agony of never being able to see God or enjoy the wonder of heaven.

Jesus once again became one with God and He was God and His Spirit was one with Him. Jesus promised he would allow his Spirit to help us survive our life here on earth.  As the Spirit of Jesus is one with God then we are surrounded by our God here on earth. If we can only stop our busy lives for a moment we can hear God speaking to us through our dreams, the wonderful nature that surrounds us and in the people we meet. There are angels whose role it is to support us. Let us not be frightened to call on their help.

Peter Mack

January 2017

More ‘That’s how I feel’ stories