"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Sunday, 3 March 2013


Lent 3 Cycle C                                                                         3rd March 2013

            What a week this has been. More than enough has been said about Pope Benedict. We have the wonderful legacy of his writings and teaching to accompany us still and the outstanding example of his service to the Church carried out with such simplicity and humility. May we all learn from him the joy of putting Christ at the centre of our lives. I hope now that we can get through the next few weeks without losing our focus on prayer. The only choice that matters is God’s choice, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Let us pray that God’s will be done and that in all things God alone may be glorified.

            What marvellous readings we have heard this morning. Truly Lent is a time of grace and an opportunity for repentance and a deep and lasting conversion. During the Responsorial Psalm we repeated the refrain, “The Lord is compassion and love,” and surely that is the theme of today’s Mass and the meaning of Lent. “The Lord is compassion and love,” because he gives us not just a second chance, but every chance, for his love and compassion became flesh in Jesus Christ.

            Such was his love and compassion towards his children that, in the Burning Bush, he revealed his Name to Moses, not an ordinary name that differentiates one god from another or limits a person by the description of what he does or doesn’t do, the god of this or the god of that. I am who I am, the “ground of being” as Paul Tillich so beautifully put it. God simply is, and all that exists, exists in him. And yet the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, is at the same time a personal and intimate God and friend of man, “the Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

            St Paul takes us a stage further as he discusses the Exodus, comparing Moses with Christ, in fact comparing the children of Israel under Moses with the Christian community at Corinth. What happened to the Hebrews “was written down to be a lesson for us who are living at the end of the age. The man who thinks he is safe must be careful he does not fall.” Now Paul gives us some important insights into the theology of the sacraments. Through Baptism and the Eucharist God delivers and sustains us in Christ, but this does not immunise those who receive the sacraments from sin or exempt us from divine judgement. We cannot take God’s compassion and love for granted and salvation is neither automatic nor guaranteed. We drink from the spiritual Rock who is Christ in order to be given the grace to do God’s will and not for our self-glorification.

            The two episodes Jesus speaks of in the Gospel are found only in Luke, the Galileans killed by Pilate while offering sacrifice in Jerusalem and the collapse of a tower in Siloam, while the parable of the fig tree could be a benevolent form of the cursing of the fig tree found in Mark and Matthew, a miracle become a parable. Those incidents might well be a warning, but God does not kill people or punish them in this life because they have sinned. Nevertheless, ultimately, we will all perish eternally if we do not repent. Jesus warns his hearers, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” The parable gives us hope of better things, that through Christ’s Passion and Death, God offers us another, final chance to do better and bear fruit, and what fruit more delicious than that of the fig tree?

            “The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.” This is why we keep Lent and prepare for Easter though penance and confession. “It is he who forgives all your guilt, who heals every one of your ills, who redeems your life from the grave, who crowns you with love and compassion.” To Him be glory and thanksgiving, now and for ever. Amen.


The Burning Bush
by One Voice: Coptic Hymns & Spiritual Songs

Contributed from "One Voice: Coptic Hymns and Spiritual Songs", Compiled by St. Mary's COC, and published by St. Mark COC, Chicago, IL.

my source: Poor Clare Heart Ponderings 

Not only to Moses on Mt. Horeb does God reveal Himself in a burning bush that is unconsumed. We saw Him in Mother Theresa who, although deprived of all sense of the presence of God for 50 years, was an icon of that presence to millions by her ardent charity toward the poorest of the poor. We looked upon God when we witnessed the flaming spirit of Bl. John Paul unquenched by the ravages of Parkinson’s disease. We have seen the divine action in the lives of members of our families and friends, who when faced with the most crushing of circumstances, somehow were not crushed. And we ourselves experience God each time after suffering the worst devastation of sorrow, that inexplicable flash of hope ignites our hearts anew. Wherever obedient love is revealed in the midst of pain, wherever the crucified Christ is once more manifested in one of his disciples, there is another burning bush and there is holy ground.

Exploring the Burning Bush

Image from Icon Reader.

my source: Ascending Mount Carmel
There is tremendous mystery contained within the account of the burning bush in Exodus.  I have always been fascinated by this passage.

On the surface, the passage is quite familiar to me from my years growing up in the Adventist church.  I remember taking it all in a very surface way - there was a burning bush, God was in it somehow, and spoke to Moses from it, telling him to go and free his people from their slavery.  Fair enough.  But when I thought about it later on as a teen, it became no more than an account of a delusion sprinkled with mythical flourishes.

Now it is different to me.  In this account, God declares who He is - "I AM WHO AM" (Ex. 3:14).  Bl. John Duns Scotus, that eminent Franciscan theologian, says of this passage: "O Lord our God, when Moses thy servant asked Thee, the most true teacher, about thy Name, so that he might tell it to the Children of Israel, Thou, knowing what the intellect of mortals could conceive of Thee, didst answer: I AM WHO AM, thus disclosing thy Blessed Name.  Thou art true Being, Thou art total Being"1 - this "fixes the gaze primarily and principally on Being itself, saying that God's primary name is He who is"2.  

This is something to be pondered deeply - God's declaration of His name as "I AM WHO AM" is such a rich statement that I think it could be ruminated on forever.  I AM - in this is implied that with God, there is no past or future, only present - "Know that no one can escape My hands, for I am who I am, whereas you have no being at all of yourselves.  What being you have is my doing; I am the Creator of everything that has any share in being"3.  St. Jerome writes that "There is one nature of God and one only; and this alone, truly is"4.  Philo of Alexandria, the learned Jewish theologian, agrees when he writes that God is the one "to Whom alone existence belongs"5. 

One interesting interpretation of the burning bush account comes from St. Gregory of Nyssa, who speaks on the Blessed Virgin Mary:

"From this we learn also the mystery of the Virgin: The light of divinity which through birth shone from her into human life did not consume the burning bush, even as the flower of her virginity was not withered by giving birth."6 

But let us delve further.  Last night, a guest priest delivered a homily on how the Scriptures are too familiar to us Catholics.  Instantly, memories of reading the common Protestant accusation in the past of how Catholics were not encouraged to read the Scriptures and the like jumped into my head.  But then the priest continued - he said that we must read the Scriptures anew again, everytime we read them.  Too often, he said, it happens that we hear a particular passage in Scripture and simply say, "Oh yes, I remember that part," and block off any wisdom that might come from feeding upon the inspired texts.

This made me think - are not, then, the Scriptures themselves much like the burning bush?  They are, or should be, always new, always fresh, always vital and alive, never consumed into a heap of familiar ashes that blow away in humdrum winds.  They are what they are, they stand as they stand - timeless.

We should be able, every time we open the Scriptures, to understand them in ever deeper and new ways.  As a Catholic, I have learned that reading the Scriptures is not about picking out a verse or two here and there, but reading the Scriptures as a living organic whole.  Scripture itself is alive and always vital.

But there is more to be learned from the burning bush.  In a way, I see ourselves as being called to be like burning bushes - on fire because of God dwelling within us, and yet never consumed.  We are to be living flames, "lamps of fire!  In whose splendors the deep caverns of feeling, once obscure and blind, now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely, both warmth and light to their beloved"7.

We are to be consumed by the love of God, and yet somehow never consumed but continually burning with it.  We are to be completely aflame, but never burnt to ashes and dust.

Just some thoughts on the burning bush.

1 - De Primo Principio, Ch. 1
2 - St. Bonaventure, The Soul's Journey Into God, V
3 - St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, 18 
4 - "Letter XV: To Pope Damasus"
5 - Vit. Mos., 1:14:75
6 - The Life of Moses, II;21
7 - St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love, stanza 3

The Burning Bush
The Burning Bush seen by Moses
The prophet in the wilderness
The fire inside it was aflame
But never consumed or injured it.

The same with the Theotokos Mary
Carried the fire of Divinity
Nine months in her holy body
Without blemishing her virginity.

I open my mouth and proclaim
And utter hidden mysteries
With the praise of Virgin Mary
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

Gabriel the messenger came to you
With the incarnation of the Logos
The Lord will dwell in your holy womb
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you
The Most High will overshadow you
And you shall bear the Son of God
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

The burning bush seen by Moses…

David your father said of you
And prophesied about the birth
That God will be held in your bosom
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

All that was said has been fulfilled
The proclamations and prophesies
About the birth of Emmanuel
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

Through you, blessed and fair Mary
We were freed from slavery
God has filled you with eternal grace
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

The burning bush seen by Moses…

Each girl in Israel hoped to become
The mother of the Savior of the world
From her offspring the Messiah will come
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

But how can Mary have a son
Her life she’s given to the Holy One
By faith she said, “Your will be done”
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

The blessed daughter of Joachim
Achieved what was each woman’s dream
To be the mother of the One to redeem
Blessed is the pride of the human race.

The burning bush seen by Moses…

Contributed from "One Voice: Coptic Hymns and Spiritual Songs", Compiled by St. Mary's COC, and published by St. Mark COC, Chicago, IL.



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