Who is my neighbour?

A teacher of the law went up to Jesus and said, “If I love God with my whole heart and my neighbour as myself, would I get to heaven”? Jesus told him, he definitely would.

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

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 can 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, making money and enjoying ourselves than recognizing and helping those who Jesus would classify as ‘our neighbours’?

You don’t have to be a Christian to reach out and help your mates when they are in strife. Here in Australia we see it happening all the time. Our volunteer firefighters are prime examples along with those who automatically  help out in so many ways.

If we are a baptized Christian then we have a responsibility not only to help, support and love others but Jesus calls us 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 as we have it here.  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 our 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 neighbour.

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

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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Prayer, my understanding

I thought it might be a good idea to review the way I pray because I have followed a similar patern 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.

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Our Father

The disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. He said to them, “Say this when you pray:” (Matthew 6, 9-10). And so it was Jesus gave us ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ which can be seen as a model for all our prayer.

While we might ‘rattle it off’ as part of our daily prayer, the words we use vary from one Bible translation to another. Maybe it is time we relooked at ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and without changing its meaning use a language more appropriate to today’s understanding.

John’s Gospel does give us a greater insight into who ‘Our Father’ is and what was His relationship with Jesus.

Jesus said:

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John, 14-6)

“The Father and I are one” (John 10, 30)

“You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14, 11)

“Anything you ask for from the Father, he will grant in my name.” (John 16, 23)

 While Jesus taught the disciples the ‘Our Father’, when we say this prayer we don’t seem to involve Jesus in our recitation of the words. As Jesus said, “No one can come to the Father except through me”, then maybe we need to re-examine the words we use when saying the prayer.

Perhaps an updated version of the Our Father could go as follows:

Jesus, you are our guide and inspiration and with your Holy Spirit we seek to honor The Father, creator of us all. We look forward to that day when the Father’s heavenly kingdom will be replicated here on earth. 

We thank you Father for our life and for the food that sustains us. We seek forgiveness for our misdeeds as we are prepared to forgive others who have harmed us.Please continue to watch over us and guide us so we might become the people you created us to be. Amen.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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The Trinity Love Company

It is rumoured that Saint Augustine, when asked to define the Holy Trinity, used an example of a small child attempting to transfer the whole ocean to a small bucket with a spoon. Such was the enormity of attempting to understand the Trinity.

Yet a simple organisation chart based on modern management techniques might well make this ‘mystery’ a little easier to understand.

But first, there are a few basic areas that need defining and a few generally accepted theories that need explanation. GOD – The Source of all Goodness – Always was – Is – Always will be. To emphasise this point, on the chart GOD is surrounded by a ring which has no defined beginning and no end.

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. A dove returning to Noah’s Ark with a branch in it’s beak is another symbol used which requires considerable imagination to see this as a symbol depicting God.

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.

It seems easy for us to understand the presence of GOD in our world. We see GOD – The Source of all Goodness, in creation and in the wonders around us. We can also often see GOD in other people as they display kindness and love towards us and to others.

We seem to have accepted the definition of ‘everlasting’ as ‘never ending’. We sing of ‘a never-ending or ever-lasting love’ for one another. We pray ‘world without end, amen’.

But we find it difficult to come to grips with something that doesn’t have a beginning. Even though it is difficult to understand in human terms, if we can accept that GOD ‘always was’ then the enormity of who GOD is can be more readily understood.

 If we look at Genesis 1:26 where God was in the process of making the world then it is interesting to note “God said, ‘Let us make man in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves’”.

It is my belief God was speaking as part of the Trinity which accounts for the plural use of ‘us’ and ‘ourselves’. Thus the Trinity existed before ever this world existed.

There is no reference to how, or if, the Trinity actually had a beginning. Hence, my understanding is that God ‘always was’.

So, let’s refer to GOD – The Source of all Goodness, overall as a ‘Love Company’, for want of a better title. And that organisation has three working equal components who together manage the Trinity Love Company.

There is the Manager (Engineering and Science) responsible for creation and judgement referred to as ‘The Father’

There is the Manager (Human Resources) responsible for redemption and forgiveness referred to by His human name of ‘Jesus’.

There is the Manager (Operations) responsible for maintenance and support referred to as ‘The Holy Spirit.

The combination of the three managers work directly through you and me and support us in possessing Faith and Grace, Belief and Hope. For our part we are required to contribute Love and Caring, Good Works and Prayer.

Seems simple really!!!

But let’s consider how Jesus explained the situation in heaven. To understand why he used the ‘Father in Heaven’ phrase, we need to go right back to Mary’s visit from God’s messenger. What an enormous task she was asked to perform. Yet she had a great faith in the GOD she had learned so much about through her Jewish upbringing and she humbly accepted the role with which she was being asked to take.

After the visit, when reality set in, her thoughts must have been for Joseph, her engaged partner. I can imagine she would have sent him a message along the lines of, “Joe, we need to talk”.

Joseph certainly would have believed he had a gem for a girlfriend who genuinely loved him and no doubt he would have listened to her story about a heavenly visitor because I feel sure they had an honest, caring relationship. Yet when she dropped the bombshell that she was pregnant, it must have been a bit hard for Joseph to handle.

Can you imagine what was going through Joseph’s mind as he headed off home. However, GOD must have seen Joe’s dilemma and sent him a messenger as well to explain the situation. We don’t hear what Joseph’s response was, but I feel sure he would have mentioned how difficult it was going to be for both he and Mary having to face the accusations from their families and his mates.

I daresay he was told he had to ‘take it on the chin’ for the plan to succeed. His whole life had changed overnight.

Then along came little Jesus and all was well until Jesus decided his public life should begin. Everyone thought Joseph was his father but to get the story straight, Jesus had to squash that understanding. Hence, the ‘Father in Heaven’ idea.

In a number of locations in the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Mathew & Luke), Jesus refers to himself as ‘The Son of Man’. One might argue that giving himself this title only emphasised his mortality. However, this title is mentioned in Daniel 7:13-14, “On him was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship and men of all peoples, nations and languages became his servants”.  It is obvious that such a person was more than an ordinary man.

Meanwhile, back to the Organisation Chart. The ‘Love Company’ is composed of three managers of equal status with three different managerial responsibilities. Together they are the nucleus of the Company and influence each one of us according to our needs.

One of the major hurdles the Company constantly has to face in its day to day operations is that each of us has been given a free will to make our own decisions that affect ourselves and our lives. This has resulted in the presence of greed, wars and all manner of nasty behaviour.

But we also have been given a ‘conscience’ so we each can determine the difference between good and evil.

 As Christians, we believe in the Resurrection and we live in the belief that Jesus has suffered and died that we might accept him as our redeemer and saviour and have eternal life. This is emphasised in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians 15:3-8 where the early church adopted this concept as a ‘Creed’. Jesus, unlike us, who are born to live, was the only person ever born specifically to die.

Because of our Baptism, we know the Holy Spirit dwells within each one of us. Therefore, if we refer to the Organisation Chart we can be assured that GOD is with us at all times.

While that is a powerful thought, let us then enjoy The Trinity Love Company particularly when we are one with our GOD – The Source of all Goodness.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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The ring of confidence

Creation theories are numerous and vary from one religion to another and from one race of people to another. Some scientists believe the ‘Big Bang’ was the source of our universe commencing and the Bible has us believing the simplistic 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 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 just throw their hands in the air and are prepared to accept that it is a big mystery beyond our understanding.

As human beings, we like to think everything has a ‘beginning’ and we also tend to accept the term ‘everlasting’. A Christian prayer 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.

I often wonder if 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 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 and no one will care anyway. So, the phrase is often repeated, ‘let’s eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’!

Life and creation is not just about individuals, nor in my opinion is it just about a Big Bang. Creation is an ongoing process. Evolution shows us that. The birth of our children shows us that. Nature, the growth of vegetation and the rise and fall of the tides are just a few other indicators we have all around us. As for the story fed to us that we are all descended from Adam and Eve. Seriously, this has to be of the fairy tale variety.

If God is the ‘Source of all Goodness’ then how come the devil, the bad angel, the evil tempter, existed before God supposedly created Adam and Eve, whom we questionably call ‘our first parents’. If there is a magical place called Heaven (and we see many references to it in scripture) and if there are angels, then how does all this fit into the creation story?

It seems fairly clear that God created the angels before the creation of our world took place. The book of Daniel refers to Michael as the ‘Prince’ and as the 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 with the inner cabinet having seven leaders. Even today, if there is someone fighting for the top job in an organisation there will be a confrontation. So, it seems Michael and his party took a stand and based their policies on God’s love and goodness, whereas Satan and his followers were more interested in gaining power and control.

               The in-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 allowed 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).

The Book of Revelation (12:7-9) tells us who won the  battle. ‘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).

While we are encouraged to see the good in all those we meet, we need to be also aware that not always is everything as it seems. If Satan is among us, we must constantly be on the alert to discern the good from the bad in that which surrounds us.

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 the understanding of our Faith so much easier.

“Glory be to God who always was, who is, and who always will be forever and ever. Amen”.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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The soul survivor

We refer to ‘the heart and soul’ as a matter of central focus. We know where to find our heart, but where is our soul located? Certainly, it cannot be seen through any x-ray machine. Yet the strength of the spirit within a sports team or operational group is often referred to as their soul.

I think there is a clue to our possession of a soul when we read of Jesus telling the good thief beside him on that first Good Friday that he would be with him that day in heaven. While it was accepted his body would be buried in the earth, it was his soul that was elevated to heaven.

When Jesus died it is said “he gave up his spirit” but his body remained and like the ‘Good Thief’ was buried. So too with us, our body does not disappear just because we die. (Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust you shall return).

However, our faith tells us that after death we enter into the next life. So, what is it that supposedly fronts up to St Peter and knocks on the gates of heaven seeking entrance? What is it that meets up with other family members and friends who have died before us? What is it that confronts our Creator?

I think it is a safe bet that this is our soul, the dwelling place of our Spirit.

I believe when the miracle of human creation occurs our God, the source of all goodness, creates our soul as our link to heaven. As God’s creation we are given a unique set of finger prints. As God’s creation and because of Jesus, we are loved unconditionally. While God may not like some of what we do, we can receive forgiveness by the unconditional love available to us.

I like to think our unseen soul is a vessel that builds up treasure according to our good works and the love we show God and others around us. Some may refer to this treasure as ‘grace’.

Mary’s cousin Elizabeth twigged to this when she greeted Mary with “Hail Mary, full of grace”. When you consider Mary was the one chosen to be the mother of Jesus she must have been held in high regard by The Creator.

Because of our humanness we have lives where we do some good and where we do some not so good things. We can certainly make life a lot easier if we can maintain our faith by maintaining our relationship with our God, the source of all goodness. The emphasis here is on us doing our best to maintain the relationship.

Our busy lives give us many reasons why the maintenance of our relationship with God can become and often just peter out all together. This situation is often exasperated  by events which occur and for which we blame God for allowing to happen.

 We can become that far removed from God that we are frightened that God wouldn’t want us back. The words of the hymn ring true in my mind, ‘Be Not Afraid, – come follow me and I will give you rest’

At the point of our death, like Jesus, do we give up our spirit? Does our soul leave our body and line up at heaven’s gates? Who knows who St Peter allows in and how serious are the causes of those who are turned away?

Just because some may have been promised eternal life by virtue of their beliefs, I question whether this would necessarily give them automatic immediate entry through the Golden Gates. I think we will find our life here on earth is the preparation for the form our existence will take in the hereafter.

Let us consider for a moment a trip to a local major airport. Perhaps we have pre-booked and confirmed our seat on-line and just need to line up in the ‘bag drop’ area. Here we are required to wait as the line slowly reduces in length.

Inwardly, we know we have a seat on the flight but the waiting sure becomes frustrating, particularly as we look over at the First Class line and see passengers entering and moving through speedily.

There is another line formed which seems to be moving even slower. These are passengers who originally had a ticket booked but due to circumstances their ticket was cancelled. 

 They wish to rebook and are seriously concerned they might miss the flight altogether.

Using the above example, I think this might give us an understanding of what might happen to souls arriving outside heaven. Some will be ‘full of grace’ and travel straight through to the heavenly departure lounge. Others, who fortunately know they will eventually get to the same departure lounge tend to be in a frustration mode because this waiting period is deemed to be their personal time of atonement . (Some may refer to this as being in purgatory)

Meanwhile those who have flaunted the rules here on earth have some serious explaining to do to get an opportunity to join even the ‘bag drop’ line. Sadly, some may not make it and will miss the flight altogether.

In our fast-moving lives, which are often full of frustrations, we can only try to do the right thing. While it would be preferable to aim for the first-class direct route, we can be a bit more realistic and perhaps our prayer could be aimed to at least making it into the ‘bag drop’ line.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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My faith journey so far…

               I was taught about God from an early age.  I was told about this being that lived in a place called heaven, who always was and who always will be.  I’m not sure whether it was just my youth or perhaps I was a bit slow on the uptake but I had real difficulty trying to come to grips with this ‘always was and always will be’ concept.

My mind was further stretched when I was informed that everything wrong I did was seen and recorded by some angel in the skies and that due punishment would be meted out to me on the final day of judgement. I became quite concerned that not raising my hat when I went past a Catholic Church could lead me on a pathway to hell.  As for chewing gum in church, this was also getting very close to the mortal variety of sinning.

There is no doubt that I was indoctrinated with a faith of fear and guilt and to me it seemed God was someone to be avoided. The priests, nuns and brothers all had a go at trying to convince me the Catholic Church was the only way to get to heaven. However, I wasn’t that sure I wanted to go to a place where I couldn’t envisage I would be as happy as I was on earth playing football.

The teachings of the Church were engraved on my mind so much that it took many years before I realised I should do my own thinking about life and come to my own conclusions about how that life should be lived.  This freedom didn’t come until after I had many guilty moments when I questioned within myself why not abiding by the ‘rules’ would see me dammed forever. (see The Soul Survivor)

It was in the beauty of creation that I first realised the gift the Father had given us. The world and all that is in it has received, and is continuing to receive, the touch of the Creator. While the scientists can rattle on about the ‘big bang theory’ my brain could not believe that an explosion in space could be responsible for all of creation. Nor did I feel that God decided to set us up in 6 days and then needed a rest on the 7th day.

No, to me, evolution is a much more understandable theory.  Not only were plants and animals all different but humans were also unique with no two people created with the same fingerprints. (see The Ring of Confidence)

My acceptance that God the Father existed was confirmed but how was I to accept the Trinity? Three persons in one was a bit much for the human brain to comprehend and besides, the Church taught us not to even try to understand but to just accept this mystery. To a bloke who was trying to unravel his faith, this was unacceptable. (see The Trinity Love Company)

The way in which Jesus, the so-called second person in the Trinity, was introduced to us, caused serious doubts about this aspect of the Bible story. How hard it must have been for Mary, an innocent young girl, to have to face her family and friends with the knowledge that she was pregnant and Joseph her fiancé had nothing to do with it at all. 

Sure, we were told she was visited by an angel who sold her the idea that she had been picked to be the mother of God. but once again the human brain found this story a little hard to comprehend as well.

When you consider the stigma placed on any of us who engaged in sex outside marriage as being mortally sinful and doubly so, if the girl became pregnant, the whole idea of Mary getting into this situation seemed to go against the strict Church teachings. I have to admit I was confused but had to accept that this was God’s way of bringing, Jesus who was said to be His only Son, into our world.

It seems Joseph got an angelic message as well but still had to face up to his mates and customers who, like me, must have had serious doubts about this story. He got a vision of his own which seemed to sort things out.

Anyway, it seems the young bloke grew up helping Joseph, who was not really his father, in the carpenter’s shop and learning as much as he could about the carpentry trade and the Jewish religion.

Even when Jesus performed his first miracle, it is said he turned water into wine to relieve the embarrassment of the parents at a wedding. While this might have been an honourable thing to do, he was really obeying a request from his mother.  This could hardly be seen as a grand entry into his public life because I feel sure some of those present might have seen this as just a magic act. While others at the wedding ceremony would have been happy that the wine was flowing again and that this was a superior drop to that offered initially by the host.

Getting a group of fishermen to return to an area at which they had just had no success and filling their boat with fish certainly ‘hooked’ these blokes.  What caused them to down tools and ‘follow him’ around the countryside?  These were men with families who were professional fishermen. I had trouble understanding how this could happen.

So far, hopefully, you can understand how my mind was working and how I couldn’t help but put, what I saw as a human perspective, to the life of Jesus, the second person of the Holy Trinity.

During his traipsing’s from town to town Jesus and his followers were starting to be noticed for the miracles that were happening and the words he was preaching about his Father in heaven and the need to love one another. While the Jewish hierarchy were feeling threatened and becoming jealous of this so-called carpenter’s son causing people to be healed,

 To give three of them an insight into his real self, he took them up to the top of a mountain where he was visited by his Father and for a short time was transfigured into a vision of greatness.  The Father even announcing that he was His Son “with whom he was well pleased”.  And what affect did this have on Peter, James and John? All they could think of was that it would be a good idea to build alters on the spot as a memento and probably a future tourist attraction.

Yet the underlying request from Jesus was, “Father, may they be one with you as you and I are one”.

There is no doubt these three believed that Jesus was the Messiah but they weren’t sure what it meant to them personally. James and John seemed more interested in their elevated place in the heavenly hierarchy. Peter was given the leadership role to “feed my lambs, feed my sheep” but when the going got tough he denied he even knew Jesus.

So with all this going through my mind perhaps it is understandable how I too, was questioning who Jesus really was and how he was going to get his message across to the masses in such a powerful way that it was to influence so many down through the ages.

I suppose I really started to sit up and take notice of what Jesus was doing and who he was when I read of the miracle of the loaves and fishes and the bringing of his friend Lazarus back to life.

 I have always only seen the celebration of the Eucharist as a symbol and believed the words of Jesus that when the last supper is re-enacted we need to remember Him. Hence the Church’s teaching that a priest can be the mechanism whereby the bread and wine is miraculously changed into the body and blood of Christ has always had me wondering. If we follow the teachings of Jesus then surely the words, “Whenever you do these things, you do them in memory of me” are words aimed at us all, not just a chosen few. The thought went through my mind, perhaps we can have a Eucharistic celebration where there is no priest present! see (The Eucharist and us)

I see a priest or minister of religion as someone who has made a decision to support us and help us maintain our faith. These people are humans like us. They have their failings as we do. I prefer to see them as brothers in Christ rather than sitting on a pedestal with supernatural powers we don’t possess. In my mind I cannot see them being the Eucharistic miracle workers we were taught to believe.

I discussed my concerns with a priest friend, thinking I would be in line for excommunication but his response changed my whole way of thinking and gave me a new understanding of the significance of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

My priest friend agreed that he and his fellow priests were subject to the same temptations and sins we all are.

I know the whole basis surrounding my Christianity revolves around believing in the Resurrection. But I have to say Scripture throws up lots of red herrings that at first gave me serious doubts about this event. Jesus was buried in a tomb or cave in a hillside by those of his disciples who stayed around to help remove his body from the cross. While this task doesn’t seem to get a mention in Scripture I can’t begin to imagine how difficult this would have been.

However, following the burial, a huge stone was placed over the entrance. One has to assume it took more than one person to place this in position.  Anyway, the Romans were happy and set a guard at the front so they might stop any interference by the followers of Jesus who might remove the body and say that he had risen as he foretold.

As the day after Jesus’ death was the Sabbath no action could be expected on this day. However, we are told the next morning, (which in my calculations was only the second day after his death), Mary Magdaline set off for the tomb early in the morning. She obviously knew where to go so must have been told of the burial, the stone that sealed the entrance and the soldiers that were on guard.

When she arrived, the stone was rolled back and there was a messenger angel telling her that Jesus had risen as he said he would. Her immediate reaction was that the body had been stolen and so she hurried back to tell the others.

 The day came when Jesus told them it was time for him to return to the Father. He promised He would not abandon them. No wonder they remained staring up to the heavens. If disappearing up into the heavens wasn’t abandoning them, then what was? They had to decide ‘where to from here’. So it was back to the locked room for more discussions and more decisions.

What an amazing change came over them on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit within them was enlivened. They were filled with enthusiasm to take the gospel message out to the people. They revelled in the gifts of the Spirit and without fear left the room and the rest is history.

My delving into scripture, while it had posed many questions, had at that point left me without doubt that the Father was the creator and Jesus was indeed His Son. However, when I saw the amazing change that came over the apostles when the Holy Spirit was released from within them, I could only see the Trinity in action.

By virtue of our Baptism, we have the Holy Spirit in residence within us. Until we take the message of the Gospel seriously we cannot, on our own, achieve the command of Jesus to take that message to the whole world. If we accept our role as a Christian and seek the help of the Spirit we can achieve wonders through our God who lives within us. “It is no longer I that live but you who lives within me”. (see Who Am I)

 When Jesus went off on his own to pray, I’m tipping he just wanted to be in the Father’s presence to give him the strength to continue the work He had come to achieve. I think I have been able to learn from this form of prayer having in my mind the words, ‘be still and know that I am God’. It is also obvious that before Jesus achieved anything He always went first to the Father. This is another lesson I have learned. (see Prayer, my understanding)

St Augustine said that to try and understand the Trinity was like trying to put the ocean into a thimble. However, I believe that my questioning of the Scripture story and the Catholic Church teaching over the years has given me an opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of the Holy Trinity and develop my Faith. (see What An Amazing God We Have)

The common comparison of the Trinity to three persons is where I believe the confusion occurs. Our human brain cannot comprehend that three entities, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit can be one. But when we partake of the bread and wine, representing the Son, in the Eucharist that has been blessed by the Father, it unites with the Spirit within us and then the Trinity is complete.  We become one with our God.

Well that’s about as far as I have come to date and I am happy with the outcome. However, I think there is so much more to learn and to reveal, so I am looking forward to what the future holds.

I’m Peter mack and that’s how I feel.

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Growing up in the 50’s

Australia in the 1950’s was like a peach blossom on the world’s fruit tree. It was alive and growing after having survived the winter of the Second World War.

It was fragile yet very much alive. Its agriculture, wool, mining and mineral industries were the petals expanding and opening to the world market. Its people were industrious and in the true Aussie tradition, prepared to “’ave a go mate”.

This was an exciting time in which to live. We were constantly being influenced by overseas trends yet, at the same time, we were determined to do things the Aussie way.

HoldenHist 1940The Cheveys, Studybakers and Fords from America looked great on our roads but the local Holden, while made with a lot of overseas money, was still seen as ‘Australia’s Own Car’. The ute was our own design and GMH advertisements claimed they were ‘A link in Australia’s prosperity – A Partner in our future’.

The early 50’s saw a revolution happening on our radios or ‘the wireless’ as it was then called. As a kid I can never forget the mosquito fighter plane starting up at the beginning of each episode of ‘The Air Adventures of Biggles’. Here was real adventure with Biggles, Bertie, Algie and Ginger.  I was there with them with my ear against the speaker not wanting to miss a word.

Blue Hills was always a favourite as also was a serial mum and dad were keen on called ‘When a girl marries’. We all had to be quiet as we listened to the 15 minute nightly episodes of Joan and Harry’s marriage surviving through thick and thin. It was for ‘All those in love, and those who can remember’.

Quiz shows were very popular with Bob and Dolly Dyer and their Morris Minor competing against their arch rival, Jack Davey and his Ampol Show.

However, radio really peaked during the broadcasts of the Ashes Cricket Tests in England when many Australians, me included, stayed up until the early hours of the morning listening to transferred news from short wave broadcasts. Live shows such as “The Happy Gang” would provide continuous entertainment with a report at the end of each over. Whenever a wicket fell the show would be interrupted with horns and whistles if a pommie had bit the dust and groans if an Aussie wicket fell.

There were not a lot of small or portable sets around in those days and if a family was lucky enough to have a wireless set it was usually a large piece of furniture containing a massive speaker. Not really meant to be moved around, nevertheless, I recall dragging and lifting such a beast to my room where I placed it beside the bed for the cricket broadcasts. I used to love the variety of the Happy Gang presentation. One of their favourite songs was ‘She wears red feathers and a hoola hoola skirt’.

                      

My Grandma usually listened to the wireless on Saturday nights because she loved the wrestling from the West Melbourne Stadium. She was such a delicate sweet lady, I could never understand why she got so worked up over this sport. Whenever I knew she was going to listen to the wrestling I would sneek into the lounge to sit with her and enjoy the broadcast.

Her favourite was always when Chief Little Wolf competed against Dirty Dick Reins. She would get so upset when Dirty Dick produced his lucky horseshoe and belted the Chief. She said that was cheating and unfair. But it was acceptable when Chief Little Wolf got the Indian death lock onto Dirty Dick and threatened to break his legs. It seems the good Chief was a Catholic and anything he did was OK. Nan used to get fairly worked up over the wrestling.

Chief Little Wolf 1          Ginger Meggs Annual 1              Coles Funny Pic. Book 1      Hopalong 1

The early 50’s was the era of Ginger Meggs, Vegemite and fun working out the puzzles in Coles Funny Picture Book – the one with the rainbow on the cover. We read in the comics about heroes like Tom Mix, Hoppalong Cassidy and The Phantom, the ghost who walked. We laughed at Dick Tracey talking to headquarters through his wristwatch, not realising technology would take us beyond such activities to the moon in our own lifetime.

The mid 50’s saw teenagers starting to rebel against their conservative parents who had been mellowed by depression and war. The quiet rebellion started with fashion and music.

Iridescent socks of brilliant pink, lime green and turquoise were contrasted with black stovepipe pants, cut at the ankles to ensure the colour clash could be clearly seen above the pointy toed shoes. The hair was plastered back with California Poppy brilliantine or Brylcream where ‘a little dab‘l do ya’.

The girls went for pedal pushers, pony tails and shocking pink lipstick. For formal occasions, a multitude of petty-coats were worn to the local town hall dances and smoking made teenagers ‘look tough’.

The quiet rebellion became a rowdy revolt when Bill Haley and the Comets captured the hearts and the repressed primeval rhythms within the youth of the country with ‘Rock around the Clock’. Blackboard Jungle which shocked our parents was our favourite film. Elvis Presley became the idol of both male and female rockers with ‘Rock ’n Roll being seen by many adults as ‘the devils music’.

Admiral TVIn 1956 we got TV in our town and we would make an evening pilgrimage, armed with our fold up deck chairs, down to the local Veal’s store window. Here we would take up positions to watch the wonders of this new form of entertainment. Later, after the ‘rich’ bought their Admirals or Astors, I would ride a push bike 10 miles each Friday night to a friends place just to watch Grahame Kennedy on ‘In Melbourne Tonight’.                 

It was 22nd of November of that same year when I attended the opening of the Olympic Games at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. A spectacle I will never forget. We watched as Ron Clarke carried the Olympic flame on the last lap before he lit the giant torch signifying the opening of our Olympics.  This was followed by days when we wagged school just to see some of the Olympic events.

We were thrilled when Betty Cuthbert won both the 100 and 200 metre gold medals and Shirley Streickland got the 80 metre hurdles gold.  Then they both combined with Fleur Mellor and Norma Croker to snatch the 4 X 100 metres relay win.  One of the most memorable athletes was theVladimir Kuts from the Soviet Union who took the gold in both the 5,000 and the 10,000 metre events.

While school excursions today often involve visiting exotic and exciting places both in Australia and overseas, it was very different back then. A bus trip to the seaside to examine the strata lines in the cliffs were about as exciting as it got.

Without computer games, mobile phones and Facebook pages we were content to play outside and many a local ashes cricket game was contested on the street where rubbish bins became wickets and bats were fashioned from scrap timber.

Sure, life was different then, but not necessarily better. We didn’t have the same access to information that today’s kids take for granted and the only fast food outlet available to us was the local fish and chip shop. I think it can be said that generally we were healthier than today’s kids and obesity wasn’t the problem it is today.

I certainly don’t yearn for a return to the heady days of my youth because much has changed since then and I believe it is important we should all learn to live in the ‘now’.

It is hard trying to keep up with today’s technology and advances in science but it can be just as exciting learning new things as it was when we travelled on the journey towards adolescence in the 50’s.

I’m Peter Mack and that’s how I feel.

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