This past weekend we here at St Willibrord welcomed our guest speaker Mr Michael Dopp and his wife Linda. The theme that Michael developed with us was “looking again at the basic message of the gospel as a way to rediscover eternal joy.
The image he used to illustrate this was that of entering St Willibrord parish for the first time coming through the dark, cold, and almost medieval looking catwalk that leads into the side of the church. After opening the great steel door you enter into the awe inspiring high ceiling church with a great fresco of Christ the king in the sanctuary apse. Having been coming to this church for many years one would be so used to this sight that its awesome grandeur is no longer felt. Often our faith journey is like this, we are so used to doing our catholic thing that we forget how radical and life changing the Gospel message is.
The First evening we explored the Christian understanding of God and our relationship we have as his creatures. God before all things was sufficient in himself. He did not need to create the universe, nor did he need to create us. Because God is Love, and love is always gift, there must be a relationship within God. Our Christian understanding of God then is that he is a Trinity of persons but one God. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which means there is an eternal relationship within in God: the Father Loves the Son, the Son receives that Love and returns that love to the Father and that love that they share is the Holy Spirit. It is out of the abundance of the love of the Trinity that that the universe, all of creation is brought into being.
God is love and out of his goodness is brought forth creation and what God creates scripture says ‘he saw that is was good.” But the Pinnacle of creation is Mankind. In the book of Genesis not only does God say that his creation “is good,” but at the creation of Adam and Eve, it states: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them... And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.”
So many of us do not see the goodness of creation, let alone the goodness of God. We as Christians need to recognize that all creation is good, every creature is good, especially ourselves. We are God’s creatures, made beautiful, good, and true, for God is good, beautiful and true, and we are made in his image.
The second evening we delved into the mystery of our salvation. We had seen that God is love and that we, the pinnacle of his creation, are made holy and beautiful and good, in his own image, worthy of love. This second evening we took a good look at our freedom to reject the love of God. Sin comes into experience and Sin separates us from the love and grace of God. Sin is preferring our own will rather than God’s will for us. Because of original Sin we all have a rebellious heart toward God and we seek what we think is best for ourselves and not what God thinks. Michael gave a very good description of this through the image of a motorcycle. If your an owner of a motorcycle you have the freedom to put vinegar instead of gasoline in your gas tank. If you have a good friend watching you do this they are probably going to try and stop you lest you ruin your motorcycle. “Don’t tell me to put gas in my tank, I can do what I want with my bike” you might say. Then your friends will probably tell you that you should real the manual that the motorcycle designer wrote so that you could keep it in good condition.
In the same way God is our creator and he knows what is best for us, what is to keep us healthy, happy and holy. Sin is like putting vinegar in our gas tank. The Ten Commandments and laws of the bible teach us how to honour and respect each other and to honour and respect God, that we may be blessed.
But God knows we have sinned, we have hurt each other and our relationship with God. The two greatest commandments: love God and love your neighbour as yourself we have failed to keep at one point or another in our lives. This is why Jesus Christ came. John 3:16 – 17 states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him”
Sin, all sin deserves separation from God. The consequences of sin is death, if you put vinegar into your gas tank you’ll destroy the Motorcycle. Sin ruins our lives. But Jesus came and took that punishment due to sin on himself and died on the cross for us. He loved us so much that he took the consequences of our sinfulness on himself. By dying on the cross he has brought us salvation, He has taken away our punishment and brought forgiveness, and by rising from the dead he brings us the gift of eternal life. Jesus has restored us to grace of God the Father. This is the gift of Jesus to all humanity. In the vision of St Brigit of Sweden, Jesus told her that his love for mankind would compel to always choose the cross for us rather than let us dwell in our sins.
The whole reason for Christ Coming into our world at Christmas is to bring us salvation through the outpouring of his love on the cross at Calvary.
This is the mystery of faith: “By his cross and resurrection he has set us free he is the saviour of the world.
Our third evening considers our response to God’s love. Now that we know that God is love and that out of love we were created, now that we know that through our fallen sinful behaviour we have hurt our relationship with God and each other, and that Christ Jesus, out of love for us gave himself to suffer in our place for our sins, now that we know his death and resurrection have won for us salvation and eternal life, how then will we choose to live from now on? Do we continue to live through our own egos, from a selfish perspective, or do we now decide to live with God at the center of our very being? The gift of life and the gift of redemption demand from us a response, can we make now a decision to live by the spirit of God and live devout holy life? Michael Dopp gave many example of saints who made this decision. St Francis of Assisi, who gave up all worldly belongings to follow Christ, St Augustine who after a life of selfish debauchery, chose to give up his lustful ways and live chastely for the greater blessing of God, St Edith Stein who, after a higher education in philosophy, upon reading the autobiography of St Theresa of Avila, recognized God’s truth in her work, converted and then joined the Carmelite order as a nun and then gave witness to her faith as she was martyred in Auschwitz death camp during the second world war, all of these saint and many more made a choice to live always struggling to keep Christ at the center of their hearts. Just as man and woman are called to put each other at the very center of their life when they marry, we as Christians are called to put God at the heart of our existence. This is what discipleship means this is what our baptismal calling demands of us. at the end of our Advent mission we leach lit a candle to symbolize our life of faith and we renewed our baptismal promises by reject evil, Satan and sinful living, and we professed our faith.
Thank you Michael, for leading us in rediscovering the awesome grandeur of our faith, of our life in Christ.
Posted on Wednesday November 30 2011
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