The Devil is at the gate !!

Truth be told, I have been very un-civic minded, totally unconcerned about the forthcoming Presidential elections. Did not want to waste my time.

The UNP that I have traditionally backed has failed to deliver.  They have failed to deliver justice for crimes of previous regime as promised and have created their own.  Ranil is intent on hanging onto power with no compunction whatsoever.

The imncumbent President is intent on making the most of his position.  He cannot decide which camp he falls into, or which horse to place his fortunes on. Although elected with much hope, he has turned out to be devious and scheming.  We realise now that he showed his true colours in ousting/betraying the President of his own party.

Rajapaksa himself is always tainted by scandals whilst in and out of office  by continues blithely in his own bubble. Appointed PM in a questionable action by a scheming President, and then ignominiously taken out by the Courts, Mahinda continues to hold onto his grin and his red scarf, biding his time to return his family to power to operate the money machine of this country.  Actually, he does not even have to return to power to siphon resources and ignore laws. Witness fiasco of naval appointments to his offspring whilst members of the family jostle to ascend the throne.  Which one would be nominated – sons or brothers?  Which brother?  Gotabaya seemed the logical heir apparent but how MR was going to dupe party members and voters to get his brother nominated beats me.

With so many pending criminal charges and investigations against him both here and in the USA, would he be nominated?  The question rather was, how could a man with such a record be nominated under the Election laws and Constitution of the country? Well it appears that either our laws our flawed, or the people deciphering the laws are deaf and dumb and blind – or bought over – for no man should be allowed to contest the highest office in the land until he is cleared of all criminal and bribery charges –  and until it is an undisputed fact that he holds the required citizenship of our country.

But that’s only my opinion.  It seems that he has ‘bypassed’ all such obstacles and is a nominated Presidential Candidate.  For now at least.

And what of the opposition?  The man in green was wavering and dithering, unable to decide,  and nominated Sajith at the eleventh hour. was nominated.  Anyone would think that RW was trying to scuttle his own man or his own party.

If he had not nominated Sajith, I would have moved from Green.  They have been given too many chances.  Numerous other worthy candidates have come forward.  Any one of them would be preferable to the power-hungry, money grabbing Rajapaksa family who are a law unto themselves.

Still, even after hearing of Sajith’s nomination,  I was apathetic.  I would vote for him and let the chips fall.  The country after all deserved the President they chose. If they had no more sense than to place their fortunes in the hands of those who would transfer it to their own pockets, that was the problem they would have to live with.  My fortunes are not of this world, so I was listless.  The country has gone to the dogs anyway.

And then this morning, when I looked at my phone, the news article with the You-tube clip was right on top.  Again, truth be told, I did not even recognise the speaker – I am that disinterested in party politics !!! – but since I could not go back to sleep (jet lag) I watched the video. His words set off alarm bells.  The death knell would ring for Sri- Lanka if we do not watch and pray.

The devil was indeed at the gate. Knocking with empty promises to the economic elite; the same genre of promises that Satan tempted our Lord with … I will give you all the riches of the world, I will develop your country, I will make your businesses flourish …

We seem to be in danger of forgetting that you cannot serve two Masters.  You cannot serve God and Mammon.  You have to choose.  It is black or white. It is that simple.

The Devil offered Prosperity, Power and Prestige.  We cannot fall for these promises; we have to stand for what is right: for truth, justice, honour and integrity;  for genuine concern for the widow and orphan; compassion for the homeless, the economically deprived rather than the economic elite.  That is the only way to start to build a better Sri -Lanka.

Sajith has apparently challenged anyone who can accuse him of taking a bribe or influencing a contract or tender to come forward. Given the massive corruption that prevails, this level of integrity is a qualification of the highest order.  Beyond that, he is a worker.  He rolls up his sleeves and works for the people without vested interest in filling his own pockets. These two are enough qualification for me.

Whilst there may be others too on the nomination list, the words of the speaker in the YouTube hit home. The devil is indeed at the gate and there is only one option to save our Country.

Many choices but only one option.   That option is Sajith.

…PS.  the video that jolted me awake was a news report Youtube clip titled :  United Left Front to support Sajith Premadasa.

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Led to Christ by ISIS — A Lawyer’s Prayers

I pass along to you an amazing story by Yuliya Talmazan of NBC News about how ISIS is – inadvertently – leading Syrian Muslims to Christ. Praise God! “Four years have passed since the Islamic State group’s fighters were run out of Kobani, a strategic city on the Syrian-Turkish border [northeast of Aleppo], but the militants’ […]

via Led to Christ by ISIS — A Lawyer’s Prayers

This post by Anna Waldherr strengthens and encourages a community reeling and grieving from horrific bombings – three churches and three hotels targeting those celebrating the Easter message.

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not put it out.” John 1.5

 

 

 

 

Sri Lanka I cry for you

Fairest of lands

Graced with azure skies and  tranquil seas – Rolling hills and green gold – tea.

Leopard, elephant, whales blue – fauna of every hue;

Tainted now with shades of red, where innocent blood was shed.

Pearl of the Indian Ocean, you were just beginning to raise your head

after the civil war drained you of your very life

with bullets and bombs filled with lead

over foolish egoist ethnic strife.

Pearl of the Indian Ocean, you were just beginning to raise your head,

to shine to glow to beckon –

“2019 Destination”  Lonely Planet said.

with rave reviews from far and wide, well deserved oh Land of mine – 

for peace brought out the best of you, paradise isle by God’s design.

And one cruel morn was all it took to dash our hopes and smite our hearts;

8.45 am one sacred Easter morn our very souls were torn apart

For with vicious taint unknown in a land that had seen it all –

Evil exploded heinous bombs for my Christian brothers and neighbours to fall,

In pools of blood, their breaths stilled, or breathing still with loss of limb.

The dead, the wounded intermingled

Along with the blood of the perpetrator.

Sacred space profaned as you entered to test the faith.

Grieving souls, holding on, letting go.

What were your thoughts I wonder as you tousled the head of the little girl?

Humanity unwittingly slipped through your zombie like action

that left destruction in your wake

as you pursued your brainwashed ideology.

A nation mourns for we have lost our children

and once again we have lost

Our innocence, our peace, our hopes and dreams

I cry for you Sri Lanka.   Do you cry with me ??

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that you may overcome;

that you will meet hate with love and understanding

to turn back the tide of evil snatching our youth and our lives;

I pray for you Sri Lanka,  that you will not again

traverse the road we travelled before.

and that our children may continue to dream, and hope, and build.

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that we will “fight to maintain the peace”

if there be such an expression ….

Fight within our inner beings to rise above judgement

of the misguided youth who let zeal overthrow love.

I pray for you Sri Lanka, that you guard your children well

so  they will not stray into the folds of evil ones –

but will choose good over evil, peace over war and love above hate.

If this too be your prayer, will you pray with me Sri Lanka?

Easter carnage in my land

We are shattered, numb with shock.  The spectre of hate and war has raised its head again in my land and on this holy of holy days. Easter Sunday, when thousands were gathered in churches to worship the Risen Lord,  bombs exploded in three of the most visited Shrines – and in three hotels celebrating Easter brunch.

The death toll in the first 3 hours has risen to 180 and hundreds more injured.

The day started off as a day of peace and promise as we had a simple traditional meal around the breakfast table.  We had participated in a beautiful vigil service last night.  Since we do all seven readings in our church,  it is a long service but we did not even feel the passing of time so absorbed and elevated were we in the history and wondrous mystery of our salvation.

We had fellowship after service and then quite spontaneously, invited Clifford and Anne  who were celebrating their wedding anniversary for Pizza.  Cliffy’s brother had just retired from the Sri Lankan army.  As a General in the front line, he had been the target of many attacks and was seriously wounded by shrapnel and mortar on four occasions. And so very very uncannily- after ten years of peace – we found ourselves discussing the repercussions of the war and our deliverance from the 30 year ethnic conflict that had ravaged our land and our people. 

We also heard how Cliff’s family had found the 91st Psalm inside his mother’s pillow when clearing up her belongings on her demise.  She had unfailingly and unwavering prayed Psalm 91 for close on 26 years on behalf of her son, inscribing his name on all the prayers.  We were reminded of the Psalmists words  .. “though many fall all around me no evil shall touch me”  … a mother’s plea that had saved her son.  And we thanked God that the horrible war that claimed so many sons and daughters of our soil was behind us.

And then today the shattering news.

And the questions.   Is it the LTTE again? …We thought they had been defeated ??

More questions. This does not tie in with an ethnic hate attack.  Easter Sunday ???  It seems from all indications at present to be targeted towards Catholics and Christians?

I surprised myself by being relieved when I heard that.  Yes … relief !!  for we Catholics and Christians are in the minority.  It cannot – and with the Christian spirit of forbearance – will not, be a massive blood shed.  We won’t retaliate or be drawn in like the general population was in the ethnic conflict.  Even if all Christians in our land have to die … the  general populace of around 20 m will be spared.

Am I a masochist seeking persecution? Of course not.  But you cannot help breathing a sigh of relief that the ugly spectre of LTTE terrorism may not be behind this. Our earnest prayer for our country is that God will not take us down that road again 🙏.

It is also timely that this happened on Easter Sunday when we are filled with the Resurrection hope and can hang onto the words of our Lord :

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. …

If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also…”

John 15.20

God give us the strength, the wisdom and the discernment to act as you did and to follow your lead and the example of love you set in your life and in your death.   Amen.

An offering … not an Execution!!

Today Maundy Thursday, I offer an extract from Scott Hahn which I mentioned previously in The New Covenant – sealed with the blood of the Lamb.

It is a timely reminder that in focusing on the sacrificial part of the passion of Jesus as if it was a sacrifice willed by God,  we forget the free ‘offering’.  Scott Hahn puts it  so eloquently :

At our remove of two thousand years, it seems natural for us to look upon Jesus’ crucifixion as a sacrifice.  Christians are heirs to a long tradition of talking that way, praying that way, thinking that way.  But first century Jews who witnessed the event would not and could not have seen the crucifixion as a sacrifice.  It bore none of the marks of a sacrifice in the ancient world. On Calvary there was no altar and no credentialed priest.  There was indeed a death, but it took place apart from the Temple, which was the only valid place of sacrifice in Judaism, and even outside the walls of the holy city.

St Paul, however, made the connections for his generation and especially for his fellow Jews.  In first Corinthians, after introducing the word of the cross (1.18) he calls Christ “our paschal lamb” who “has been sacrificed” (5.7).  Thus he makes the connection between the Passover celebrated as the Last Supper and the crucifixion on Calvary.

Indeed, it was that first Eucharist that transformed Jesus’ death from an execution to AN OFFERING.  At the Last supper he GAVE his body to be broken, his blood to be poured out, as if on an altar.

As Paul retold the story of the Last Supper (1 Corinthians  11:23-25)  he spoke of the event in sacrificial terms.  He quotes Jesus as calling it “the new covenant in my blood”, an evocation of Moses words as he made a sacrificial offering of oxen: “Behold (the blood of the covenant” (Exodus 24.8).  It was the sacrificial blood that ratified the covenant, because Moses said so, in one instance, and because Jesus said so in the other.  

Opening paras in Foreword by Scott Hahn in “JESUS and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist. Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper”  – Brant Pitre

Sealed by the blood of the Lamb

Sealed with the blood of the Lamb

Today, Maundy Thursday,  the words ‘sealed with the blood of the Lamb’ takes on a new meaning – not as a sacrifice willed by a merciless God who wanted a scapegoat offering, but as blood willingly shed to seal the new covenant of love and reconciliation between God and man.

LOVE transforms suffering into sacrifice!!

Picture Credit: Internet.  Origin or copyright unknown.

 

Jesus and the Cross

Jesus and the Cross

My post WHY THE CROSS? is my most read post with relatively the least number of comments,  making me somewhat uneasy on my message  which is a bit controversial  – starting off as it does with a heretical questioning of the meaning of the statement “Jesus died to save us from our sins.” and my reflections on what I think it means. 

I’ve had concerns whether I was propounding a heretical view which few wished to comment on,  or maybe reader just moved on leaving me to my idiosyncratic beliefs without engaging in dialogue on this one. 🤔

I was thus happy to read Richard Rohr’s reflection on “Jesus and the Cross – Substitutionary Atonement”  which threw some light on my seemingly heretical thinking.  Rohr, a reputed Jesuit priest lucidly answers the questions I had :

For most of church history, no single consensus prevailed on what Christians mean when we say, “Jesus died for our sins.” But in recent centuries, one theory did become mainstream. It is often referred to as the “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” especially once it was further developed during the Reformation. [1] Substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of humans, thus satisfying the “demands of justice” so that God could forgive our sins.

and takes up the subject with

both excitement and trepidation because I know that substitutionary atonement is central to many Christians’ faith. But the questions of why Jesus died and what is the meaning and message of his death have dominated the Christian narrative, often much more than his life and teaching. As some have said, if this theory is true, all we needed were the last three days or even three hours of Jesus’ life. In my opinion, this interpretation has kept us from a deep and truly transformative understanding of both Jesus and Christ.

Read Richard Rohr’s  full reflection on Jesus and the Cross, the theology of substitutionary atonement (direct link) or post copied below.   He speaks with authority of knowledge and wisdom and his reflections on his website Center for Action and Contemplation – are wonderful spiritual insights.

I am sure you will find plenty to reflect on as we enter into this holiest of weeks.

May you be blessed with the peace and love of Christ.

Image:  Various sources on the internet.  No clear copyright owner. No intention to violate copyright laws.

Jesus and the Cross

Substitutionary Atonement
Sunday, February 3, 2019

For most of church history, no single consensus prevailed on what Christians mean when we say, “Jesus died for our sins.” But in recent centuries, one theory did become mainstream. It is often referred to as the “penal substitutionary atonement theory,” especially once it was further developed during the Reformation. [1] Substitutionary atonement is the theory that Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished in the place of humans, thus satisfying the “demands of justice” so that God could forgive our sins.

This theory of atonement ultimately relies on another commonly accepted notion—the “original sin” of Adam and Eve, which, we were told, taints all human beings. But much like original sin (a concept not found in the Bible but developed by Augustine in the fifth century), most Christians have never been told how recent and regional this explanation is or that it relies upon a retributive notion of justice. Nor are they told that it was honest enough to call itself a “theory,” even though some groups take it as long-standing dogma.

Unfortunately, this theory has held captive our vision of Jesus, making our view very limited and punitive. The commonly accepted atonement theory led to some serious misunderstandings of Jesus’ role and Christ’s eternal purpose, reaffirmed our narrow notion of retributive justice, and legitimated a notion of “good and necessary violence.” It implied that God the Father was petty, offended in the way that humans are, and unfree to love and forgive of God’s own volition. This is a very untrustworthy image of God which undercuts everything else.

I take up this subject with both excitement and trepidation because I know that substitutionary atonement is central to many Christians’ faith. But the questions of why Jesus died and what is the meaning and message of his death have dominated the Christian narrative, often much more than his life and teaching. As some have said, if this theory is true, all we needed were the last three days or even three hours of Jesus’ life. In my opinion, this interpretation has kept us from a deep and truly transformative understanding of both Jesus and Christ.

Salvation became a one-time transactional affair between Jesus and his Father, instead of an ongoing transformational lesson for the human soul and for all of history. I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is a revelation of the infinite and participatory love of God, not some bloody payment required by God’s offended justice to rectify the problem of sin. Such a story line is way too small and problem-oriented.

References:
[1] This week I will use the phrase “substitutionary atonement” to indicate the most current version of the theory. Throughout Christian history, there have been multiple theories of substitutionary atonement. One of the earliest, the ransom theory, originated with Origen and the early church. Closely related to this was the Christus Victor theory. The ransom view of atonement was the dominant theory until the publication of Anselm’s Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Human?) at the end of the 11th century. Anselm’s satisfaction theory of atonement then became dominant until the Reformed tradition introduced penal substitution in the 16th century. This new view of substitutionary atonement emphasized punishment over satisfaction (Jesus’ crucifixion as a substitute for human sin) and paralleled criminal law. Today, the phrase “substitutionary atonement” is often (correctly or incorrectly) used to refer to the penal theory of atonement. This week’s meditations touch the surface of 2,000 years of complex theological process.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 139-141.

God, FB … and me 😇

Funny I did not realise my Creator could be talking to me through FB😱 that is one hell of a thought… or one heaven of a thought😍 ….but when you think about it … why not? Here’s how it happened.

Only yesterday I looked at my Cherry blossom tree which is just bursting into flower and asked God “Please,  can you let me keep this tree without it toppling over.  I know it seems foolhardy,  but I really love these flowers. So ,  should I cut it or trust you to hold it up for me? I can trim it a bit more maybe …? ”   and I left my conversation open ended. I thought that I would have to take a decision soon.

I should explain that the tree next to it –  an older and  much more solid Ficus of double the girth  – came crashing down in heavy rains in November 2017.  We usually park our cars beneath them, but that evening a guardian angel nudged my brother to step out in the down-pour and move both cars further up the road to where there were no trees.   He had hardly returned when he heard a prolonged creaking sound … and whilst he watched, the Ficus slowly and carefully pulled away from its roots and fell right across the road. 

Writing this I realise,  why oh why did I  not see before that the tree,  guided by its Creator,  was gently untangling its roots to keep the boundary wall (which was just one foot away)  intact?   We all said it was a miracle but the more I think of it the more it astounds me.  You will see from the pictures below how close the tree was to the boundary wall and the house- and how huge!!  And yet it fell without even an inch of damage!!

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Roots gently untangled to save boundary wall

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The Girth. Had to be split in two to be hauled away. A part still remains.

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Spanned a 40 ft road without downing high voltage wires!!.

And the connection between God and FB ?

Well after I whispered the prayer for my tree yesterday,  FB reminds me today about a post written three years ago to the very day : –  a post I had totally forgotten about titled Earth’s crammed with heaven and referring to – you guessed it – my Cherry Blossom tree.

And what is so uncanny is that FB never EVER has reminded me of posts on my WordPress blog,  but “chose” to remind me of this less than 24 hours after my whispered my prayer/question to God.

I had trimmed  the branches when brother Ficus came down as ‘Sherry’ was more exposed to heavy gusts but was still not sure if to take her down completely   ?

So through FB’s reminder  – incredible as it sounds – I believe God was reminding me that Sherry had been saved before and I should not worry.   I believe I can now keep her around some more to give glory to her Maker with the most beautiful and fragile of flowers that makes your heart sing.

Indeed as Elizabeth Barrett Browning  wrote ..  “Earth’s is crammed with heaven and every common bush afire with God.”   

January slipped by … and I have grown

A full month of the new year has gone by.  Did I catch even a part of it as it slipped away…?

If I were count  my ‘productive days’ by the measure I used before, I am sure I would barely add up a handful of days when I accomplished everything I set out to do.

But today,  I somehow don’t feel like counting successful’ days by what I have achieved externally but rather by what I have become.   Sure, completing tasks that have been on my to do list for ages, does give a feeling of satisfaction, completeness, even fleeting joy. The wall that I was thinking of raising  to hide an unpleasant view has been completed.  How can I not feel content?  Car registration papers which the department had messed up finally sorted after 9 months of to and fro.  Real relief!  Pursued my love of clay by joining two programmes – one with restricted studio time, the other unlimited mucking around time.  Therapeutic fun.   Many other things got done too  including moving back on my own after being with my sister for six years,  so yes … last year as a whole was fairly productive.

It also had some real jolts – like me falling 12 ft off  a safari truck onto rock hard surface due to  sheer carelessness (a,k,a, stupidity.)   I should not have stood on the side bars to start with and then I was so engrossed in clicking, I stopped holding on.  The cosmos came to meet me as I fell backwards and my head bounced off bone dry ground,  My neck and spine felt separated from my body as I  lay inert, frozen, unable to move. As I slowly regained awareness, and kept whispering ‘Jesus help me‘ I thought the angels were calling me to enter into His presence,  but it was only the guide frantically urging me to get up and move – FAST – as  water buffaloes, disturbed by the commotion, were stampeding towards us.  Technically, I should not have moved until I was checked out, but given the urgency,  allowed them to move me in the best way they could before the buffaloes stamped my body-print in the earth. 

So …. 

“As I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen 
In meadows flowers and butterflies
In summers that have just been”

I realise that incredibly, I came out of that incident and the last year unscathed.  I could so easily have been a “has been” –  dead or crippled – but that was spared me.   Did it change me?  Perhaps it did.

Other incidents too have worked on me.   I tried to wish my friend in Jamaica on her birthday only to find out I was a tad too late.  She had succumbed to her cancer the previous week. That was quite a punch in the solar plexus or what ever it is that knocks you out. And then,  just when I  decided to make contact with seven or eight other colleagues  from my stint in Jamaica, I found that ALL were  ‘no longer around’.

They had not been in my life – though oft times in my thoughts these past 23 years since I left,  so why did I feel despondent, futile?   I guess it brought home to me how fleeting is this life that we try to hold onto and make something of with external goods and possessions without being mindful of the things that really matter.

My brother bought the house next door to mine and we had such joyous expectations.  Now, he is not even certain he will be residing here but is thinking of returning to Australia.  Another sinking feeling.  It is not even a permanent farewell but reminds you of the pain of severance which will come one day.  Life is evanescent . How much attention do we pay to the things that really matter? 

I used to measure what I achieved externally. Now I feel the need for a different measure. The measure of our inner dispositions, the love and joy we spread, the relationships that we build and foster, the care of the environment around us (people and nature)  and the journey – the route – by which we are arriving at our final and eternal destination.

And so Yes  … January has gone by.  It has been most productive for I believe I have grown.

(Tolkien’s poem which reflects my thoughts and from which I quoted earlier is given below . minus last verse for I am looking ahead to the rest of the journey not for the past to return.

“I sit beside the fire and think
Of all that I have seen
Of meadow flowers and butterflies
In summers that have been

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
In autumns that there were
With morning mist and silver sun
And wind upon my hair

I sit beside the fire and think
Of how the world will be
When winter comes without a spring
That I shall ever see

For still there are so many things
That I have never seen
In every wood in every spring
There is a different green

I sit beside the fire and think
Of people long ago
And people that will see a world
That I shall never know

― J.R.R. Tolkien”

God grant me a sense of humour …

I used to be careless and carefree … but now – I don’t know whether it is due to age or  the weather or even a condition of blood pressure – as my younger sister  who aspires to be a home doctor claims – I find myself getting all serious on things that I did not bother about before.  ‘Over thinking it‘ in the jargon of my nieces.

Thus I was happily surprised when I came across this article in Aleteia mentioning the  prayer by St. Thomas Moore which Pope Francis has been reciting daily for 40 years!!  It is surely a secret to his cheerfulness … and so I gladly share for any of my cranky friends out there. 😍

Extract from Aleteia article

In a book-interview “God is Young,” the Holy Father reveals the prayer he’s been reciting for 40 years to not be taken too seriously and maintain a touch of humor.

“Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humor to maintain it.
Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
and that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
but rather finds the means to put things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing called “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humor.
Allow me the grace to be able to take a joke to discover in life a bit of joy,
and to be able to share it with others.”

St. Thomas More (1478-1535).

It reminds me of the words of Chesterton

Reason angels can fly

Quote: G.K. Chesterton

which I had also quoted in a previous post Angels with only one wing along with other advice to myself .. which I have not quite taken heed of.  Or have I ??

Aww … what the heck… life is too short to wonder whether I have or  not.   😘 😘