‘Rejoice, heart and soul, daughter of Zion! Shout with gladness, daughter of Jerusalem!’ The prophet Zechariah has the best possible news for a people held in captivity in Babylon and far away from their native land. Their time of trial and suffering is over so that now can return to the land of their birth. Not only that. The new leader will remove from the city every sign of military power and force, he will destroy every instrument of war and all other means of violence. But there is something baffling about these assertions as Zechariah talks of the victorious king as humble and riding on a donkey! According to the wisdom of the world, this is not the way to overcome an enemy. If one is to be a victorious king one must look like the part, coming at the head of an army with horses and chariots, not humble and riding on a donkey. Continue reading
Elisha was a man of God. That was the conclusion the woman of Shunem came to after welcoming the itinerant preacher into her home. It was her hospitality that helped her to reach this conclusion. While it is a wonderful thing to meet a man or woman of God it’s not always easy to recognise one. It calls for a certain attitude, an acceptance of God’s mystery on our part and a willingness to make room for the stranger, the other, the surprising, the unlooked for and the unwanted. This good woman, so open to life, recognized the grace of God at work in this man and so set about making space for him. It was her way of making space for the divine in her life. Continue reading
“How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who bring good news, good news. Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness, our God reigns, our God reigns.” I first heard this hymn at the International Charismatic Conference in Dublin in 1978 and it has been a favourite of mine ever since. The words come from Isaiah 52:7 and what sweet music they were for those in exile in Babylon. It must have been a wonderful sight to see this harbinger of good news striding across the mountains, announcing peace, happiness and the reign of God once more. That phrase, ‘our God reigns’, should not be taken for granted. In those days, each nation had its own god and exile in Babylon meant that the god of Babylon had overcome the God of his Israel. But now that their God reigns once more one can expect peace and stability again. Continue reading
Ethiopia suffered a terrible famine during the years 1984 to 1986. The late Cardinal Hume of Westminster tells about an incident that happened when he visited Ethiopia in the middle of the famine. One of the places he visited was a settlement up in the hills where the people were waiting for food which was unlikely to arrive. He was taken there in a helicopter. Continue reading
Having celebrated the great feasts of Easter and Pentecost it’s appropriate that we pause to reflect and celebrate the great God behind all of this with a feast day. This is, as St. Paul says. ‘the God in whom we live and move and have our being;’ the God who has loved each one of us into life and constantly longs for our companionship. I limit myself to three points about our amazing God, namely, i) God is great, ii) God is love and iii) God is for us. We begin with the greatness of God by taking a page from that wonderful hymn, ‘O Lord my God’ as it provides us with an excellent starting point for this contemplation. Continue reading
Pentecost is truly a wonderful feast. It is that magnificent moment of wind, fire, power and miraculous transformation. It is truly the new age of the Spirit when all is changed, changed utterly. The Apostles are at the heart of it just as they were at the heart of all those strange happenings when a certain Jesus of Nazareth walked the roads of Galilee and spoke of new thoughts, new deeds, and new things. Now, these new deeds are taking place. Now they are walking the talk. And the response is nothing short of amazing. People from the four corners of the earth are hearing them in their own language. This is the reverse of the Tower of Babel which was famous for the division and the breakdown of community; famous for the multiplication of languages so that people no longer knew or understood each other. Now everyone understands the Apostles in their own tongue. Here is the great gathering together of the nations of the world once more. All nations, peoples, tribes and cultures are brought together and celebrate their common heritage in Christ. We are now all brothers and sisters in the family of God, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, woman or man. There is no longer any distinction that favours one at the expense of the other. Continue reading
There is a story that when Jesus returned to heaven after his death and resurrection, the Archangel Gabriel was surprised to see him back so soon. Thirty-three years is not a long time, especially when you think about the importance and proportions of the task he had been given to do.
‘Back so soon?’ Gabriel said to Jesus.
‘Well, I would have stayed longer but they crucified me,’ Jesus replied.
‘Oh, so they crucified you,’ said Gabriel. ‘That means you failed.’
‘Not necessarily,’ said Jesus. ‘You see I called together a little group of disciples. They will carry on my work.’
‘And what if they should fail?’ asked Gabriel.
‘I’ve no other plans,’ Jesus answered. ‘There is no plan B.’ Continue reading