Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fr Fuellenbach Part V

Hi again,

Today and all this week we will be having lectures updating us on changes proposed to the new Roman Missal which will be translated into English as the guide for how Eucharist is celebrated into the future. I will keep you up-to-date on this as it develops.

Meanwhile, here is the second -last part of the lectures by Fr Fuellenbach on "Discipleship"  - it gets a little sketchy near the end but i will send you this till I tidy up my notes on the last section.

Yesterday, one of the priests in our sabbatical course (Fr Mike) had his sister (Connie) and brother-in-law (Tom) come to visit him here in Rome. They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversay on this day that they visited and arrived at St Peter's just as the pope was blessing everyone at the midday Sunday Angelus. Fr Mike had mass here at the college with me and others attending too and gave a special blessing for them and I was there for the celebration and took some photos which are on my website... www.mysteriousthree.com  .





Summary of Jesus' Kingdom – The 'Our Father'


Jesus said "The time is right, the Kingdom of God is near!"


There was much expectation of what this might mean…


-         The end of Roman occupation

-         The end of oppressive aristocracy of the Pharisees and Priestly caste – a renewal of the priesthood of that time.


Jesus was a 'country boy'   - and as many people from the outer country, there was an 'awe for the Temple of God'.


The Temple in Jerusalem was the sign of God's presence and protection of the People of God. To say that the Temple would or could be destroyed was horrifying – as it would mean the end of Israel.


In Jesus' death on the cross, three major signs occurred:


-         Darkness

-         Temple Veil ripped open from top to bottom

-         Centurion declares "This is God's Son"


The Temple was where God lives. The temple had an inner sanctum covered by a curtain. Only one person could enter this inner sanctum and go beyond the curtain into the "Holy of Holies" and this was the High Priest, once a year after much prescribed fasting and prayer. Inside the Holy of Holies was a footstool where it was believed God's foot touched the earth.


When Jesus dies the CURTAIN RIPS OPEN – as if to say "YOU WILL NOT FIND GOD THERE …  GOD IS FOUND IN THIS ABANDONED BROKEN PERSON ON THE CROSS. You will find Jesus on the cross.


The PAGAN and soldier recognizes this

The Scholar and Jew did not recognize this


God has revealed himself on the cross.


St Paul:  "I have decided to know only Christ, and him crucified.


This was a scandal to Jews and Gentiles alike.


This is what the author of the gospels meant to convey with this text. 


Recall the disciples to Jesus on the road to Emmaus:  "We expected that this, and this and this would happen…."  Yet here we are, the same as before  and WHERE IS THE KINGDOM HE PREDICTED???


Jesus always gives a parable answer to a question - 


In answer to a question, 'what is the Kingdom like"  Jesus tells the parable of the Mustard seed.


The mustard seed is tiny, almost just a speck in the palm of the hand, the mustard TREE can grow very tall.   This is a sign of  the "already"  and the "not yet"





The Kingdom is already here – in seed form – but not yet fully revealed (in its fullness).   You need "KINGDOM EYEGLASSES" TO SEE IT.


One way of glimpsing the Kingdom….. is in Liturgy.    This is a festive expression of the Kingdom.


Also, whenever justice, reconciliation, peace, celebration  is present….  There you can SMELL the kingdom too.


The Kingdom is a gift which draws us into "filiation" (that is, we become sons and daughters of God).  But, we must draw others into the Kingdom – hence they become brothers and sisters (that is our TASK). Our task is to bring others into filial relation with God and each other. . 


In 1 John 4:20-21 we read: "If a man says he loves God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For he who hates his brother whom he has "SEEN" how can he love God who he hasn't seen?"


Help people to SEE that the Kingdom is a present reality in the world. God's Spirit is mightily at work in the world and when you SEE it at work we need to put this into Praise and Thanksgiving (express it in acknowledgement).  In thankfulness for it's presence. That brings it out: the 'already' and also the 'not yet'


Another image of the Kingdom (which is 'already here' but 'not yet' in its fullness) is the image of a pregnant mother. The child is present and yet not fully revealed until born.


Fr F. gave an example from his mission work. There was a place where they always served fish with rice every Tuesday and Friday for breakfast. The small fish was very strong smelling. "When we are still sitting in church, we can ALREADY smell the fish that we have not yet eaten"  This is a reminder of the Kingdom around us.


EVERY meal that Christians eat is special, even when its not Eucharist. For Christians, any meal is 'not a buffet'   but rather it should be an anticipation and foretaste and reminder of the heavenly banquet meal.


With the coming of the Messiah, the end times were expected to have arrived. This was to be the eschatological event, (the end-time event). As it is, The coming of Jesus DID indeed usher in the Kingdom, but there is a gap.


Jesus brought the Kingdom, but postponed the Parousia (the end times fulfilled in completeness).  So, we are 'sandwiched' .


Jesus is the 'firstborn from the dead' – he is already in the transformed state and place that we eventually hope to be in.  (only Jesus and Mary are living in the completeness of the end-time – the other saints, although enjoying the joys of heaven are partially in it but awaiting the ultimate fulfillment in the end times). We all await that time in the future where we will be fully transformed.


Jesus says though:  I do not leave you orphaned. Jesus created the Church (by the outpouring of the Spirit) and pours the Spirit of the Risen Christ that his presence among us is IN the Spirit of God. So, we are participating in the final creating of the universe. We are participating already in the Holy Spirit in the world to come.  We carry the future state already within us, in seed form, we are like earthen vessels but the fullness of this is not yet here.  It is the SPIRIT that we share in. We are 'participating in the world to come' already/ now.


Because of this "already" but "not yet"  tension we live in, this explains why things are not 'perfect' in life and in the world even after Jesus death and resurrection. There will never, in this life, be "perfect community"  or "perfect liturgy" etc. We live in a world in which we can already touch, taste, smell the future (here) but not yet here in its fullness.


If you wait for the perfect preparation before celebrating Eucharist you will be waiting till the end of the world !  So, we do it NOW – since celebrating eucharist is not only a taste and experience (in the "here and now") of the Kingdom to come, but it also a reconciling and healing experience because of the fact that we are not perfect, we are not complete and we do experience brokenness and incompleteness in the here and now too.  In the tension of the 'already' but 'not fully her yet'  is both perfection and imperfection.


There are two books by Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) that are very good


  1. "Introduction to Christianity." (an excellent catechesis on the Christian faith and its prime beliefs)
  2. His new book "Jesus of Nazareth"   (if you can get past the first chapter which is rather hard going because he explains his method and approach, the rest is excellent – maybe read the first chapter after reading the rest of the book).  The only drawback on this book is that although the Pope mentions the social implications and challenges and dimensions of Jesus' Kingdom message he does not go into it in any detail.

 .... (add extra*****)

In the Pope's book he mentions the Lord's Prayer and stresses the Festive/ sacramental aspects of the Kingdom.  He is very Christological.


Monday, October 29, 2007

Following the Lord - Discipleship Talks (parts III and IV)

Hi again everyone,

Sorry if I am clogging up your email box, but these lectures have been really great and I hope they are enjoyable for you too.

Please find parts III and IV together below, earlier parts can be found in earlier posts to the blog site and earlier emails.



Hi again,


Please find below the longhand notes of parts III and IV together,



FUELLENBACH Lectures on "Discipleship of the Lord" (part III)


Fr FUELLENBACH said that in the last ten years he has been more concerned with the "God image" that people carry with them.


He tells the story of a Nun who had worked in a leper colony. He saw this elderly nun and she was so filled with joy every time she was at mass. He asked another nun about her and the nun said, "Her???  You should have seen here before, she was really harsh."   So, after mass one day, Fr said to the lady, "I notice that you are always filled with such joy and serenity. I also have heard that you were quite harsh and unhappy when you were younger. What has happened to change you? The nun agreed with the description and said that when she was younger and working long hours and stressful days in the leper colony, she became very bitter and angry and tired. She would often be very harsh to people around her. One day, she was being particularly angry and aggressive and it made one of the elderly men there cry. She was horrified and took a look at herself and was deeply distressed. She asked "what have I become, Lord. She was filled with horror and distress at how she could have become so bitter and unhappy and harsh. She was very sad about this and wept. The next morning, at sunrise, she saw the rising sun and at that moment was filled with a sense that although she was this person who was so bitter and hurt and filled with weakness that she was still utterly loved by God. She said, from that moment she was utterly changed. She went back into her work a totally new person, and was no longer the bitter, harsh person she once was. It totally transformed who she was.


Spirituality is this =  Your image of God touches every part of you and your actions.


Remember, God is one who


  1. Loves You
  2. Forgives You
  3. Is always with you (compassion) so, do not be afraid.


In the morning, try this Credo prayer. When I wake up, I follow my God image. God looks at me with an intense love that no-one else could.  I recall Zephaniah's words from the Bible:  "God dances over me with joy when he sees me because he loves me. "   This is my identity that no one can ever take away. God forgives me. No matter what happened in the past, it can be forgiven or healed.


Interestingly, never tell people to 'forgive and forget.'  You can't forget. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Rather, let the wounds be healed by God.


It is not about 'forgetting' but rather being healed. In Mark's gospel, the healing of the paralytic man, Jesus says to the newly healed man "take up your stretcher and walk!"  The stretcher, the sign of his past paralysis is a reminder of what he has come from.


Fr FUELLENBACH maintains, that a wound that has never been healed keeps getting spat out at people at different times. For example, he says that he can always tell if a preacher has a wound that has not been healed because they will always (without realizing it, subtly) spit it out in a homily.


If a person finds in their heart a wound or hurt that has not been healed, go back to the place in your heart or memory where you got wounded/ hurt and pray to God for healing from this hurt.


WE need to pray for healing. If we believe God forgives us, then the best years of our lives are still ahead of us. In the spirituality of the kingdom your best years are ahead of you.


God's love is not equivalent to 'taking everything that is unpleasant from you. No, this is life! We live in a world where things are limited. God's love and care for us does not guarantee that everything bad or difficult in life will be lifted off us. To tell people this is to deceive them. However, we do believe that WHATEVER HAPPENS, sickness, hurt, accidents, failure, etc… God IS WITH YOU.  God is with you to console you, heal you, strengthen you, encourage you, etc.  But, God will not DO the work for you.


God is like a mother. A mother will help/encourage her child but she will say to her child "but I can't do your work for you."   Similarly, God's presence with us is to console and strengthen and heal .


Going back to this morning credo, mentioned above. After praying his morning Credo (When I wake up, I follow my God image. God looks at me with an intense love that no-one else could.  I recall Zephaniah's words from the Bible:  "God dances over me with joy when he sees me because he loves me. "   This is my identity that no one can ever take away. God forgives me. No matter what happened in the past, it can be forgiven or healed) he then goes and makes himself a cup of coffee. He calls it his "kingdom coffee,"    He then prays "Lord, thank you for your tangible, touchable, concrete love,"   (he can smell the Kingdom in this wonderful experience of savouring the coffee as a little taste of all God's gift).


God's love comes to you in concrete form.


We can often take everything for granted. We can take gifts and graces and concolations from God but forget to express gratefulness and thanksgiving for it. EVERYTHING WE HAVE IS A GIFT.


Saying 'thank you' does not necessarily come naturally. It is not necessarily an ingrained human habit. This shows in the fact that we have to teach children when they are young to 'say thankyou.'  It is not a natural thing. A true spirit of poverty is this: "I have nothing before God, everything is GIFT, everything I receive is gift!"


The more we realize this and recognize this and give thanks for it, and become grateful for it….   You can never repay LOVE… one can only pass it on.


Fr.  FUELLENBACH mentioned that he was once talking to a psychologist friend of his and this specialist said that  'of all the thousands of things that she has listened to in patients stories of their lives and their issues, she looks for any 'common' elements in them.  She said that she believed the main root cause of a lot of problems is this:


1. A Person feels not accepted, not loved, but used.   (We teach this when we use this kind of mentality :  "I will love you IF…….."   - it is conditional love).  So, lots of problems are a cry for love, for acceptance and acknowledgement.


2. Feelings of guilt. That is: "there must be something wrong with me to not be loved and accepted.


Christianity is helpful in this regard. YOU ARE INFINITELY LOVED AND FORGIVEN !


Every person needs to be loved, accepted and recognized, no matter what they say. And if a person does not get this need met, they will 'scratch it from the walls'.


It is important to speak of what Christianity is NOT.


Christianity is, first and foremost,

  1. NOT A dogmatic religion.
  2. NOT General Morality
  1. NOT Asceticism and discipline.


It IS:

A mystic religion. That is, a deep personal and spiritual relationship with God who is LOVE.


For example. Imagine you are working away alone in your office. You know you are alone. Suddenly someone comes into the room and you know they are there before they say anything. You can feel a difference. The emotional enivironment/ temperature of the room can change depending on whether they are loving or antagonistic.  It can be the same room, but the environment and atmosphere of the room can change very dramatically.   This can be the same with our relationship with God. If we know that God is with us, then the atmosphere of our lives and experiences can change dramatically, all else being the same.


Jesus came to heal, set free and give new life.


Also, in todays day and age, don't presuppose that people necessarily understand theological language. Many may do, but many may not.


We often talk about "grace"  but what does it mean…… 


"Grace":    …To give life, to restore life, to enhance life. To be more alive, healed and restored.


"Blessing"  (what does this often used word mean)….  This means to extend the 'life' in you so that it might bring life to all the people you encounter.


Our faith is about 'healing, bringing life, setting free. It is a healing ministry.


Prayer: The credo Prayer, mentioned above, can help you change your God image to conform it to the image of God who is unconditional love. However, it is not a miracle cure. If you wake up in the morning and your head hurts, instead of doing this prayer, perhaps take an aspirin !




In exodus 3: 7-9  Moses hovers in front of the burning bush. YHWH reveals himself to Moses. God steps in and shapes history. God says:  "I have seen the suffering of my people…."


The situation of 'lack of life' – God looks into his creation and sees a lack of life – a diminishment of life.


The elements to the Exodus 3 scene are these:




3. GOD IS AWARE OF – I 'know" this is an intimate word in Genesis, it indicates, that God is deeply affected. I am emotionally affected. It rips my heart. It goes against my very nature.


There are two important texts:


Wisdom 11: 24-26.  Everything God created, was out of love. If God did not love it, God would not have created it. If you did not love it, it would have ceased to be sustained. God is a lover of life.  God is pained when life is diminished.


"where people suffer, God can't stand it. God is present because God can't stand it."


John 10:10, "I came that you may have LIFE and LIFE to the FULL. 


There is a strain in God when God becomes aware of lack of life to the FULL. ….   "and now I have decided to do something about it."



Fr FUELLENBACH. Gave an example of how he went along to listen to a speaker who had advertised  a talk called "an atheist reads the bible."

I once attended a lecture given by a self-proclaimed French atheist at the Catholic University in Washington. The title of the lecture was, "An Atheist Reads the Bible." He spoke for an hour and held his audience absolutely spellbound. The most dramatic part was in his concluding words when he raised the Bible up high and emphatically pronounced: "Ladies and Gentlemen, the basic message of this book, you call the Bible, can be summarized in one single sentence: 'Life will triumph over death.' It is not death that will have the last word but life in all its fullness. Each page of this book in thousands of ways tells you that death is not the outcome of all that exists but life. But since this is not the obvious but certainly the most unlikely, I am an atheist. And this because I cannot believe in this message in the face of what I experience every day: Not life but death will have the last word." And then, he added with the same emphatic voice: "Since this belief is totally contrary to my daily experience in me as well as around me I am an atheist!"



The interesting thing is, this atheist understood all too well that the Christian claim is that God is a God of Life.


So, In Exodus, God says that God has chosen MOSES to do the work of freeing.


(One is tempted to ask: If God is the lover of life, why not intervene directly. Why not force? The answer seems to be that God made the world in LOVE and one cannot FORCE people to LOVE.


God needs people to be open to him so God can slip IN!


Thomas Merton, the great twentieth century spiritual writer once said: " It was through Mary, and her openness to God, that God came into the world."     So this is an example of where, when we let God in, God can slip into the world.  This fits with this well-known saying.

"Christ has no body now but yours

No hands, no feet on earth but yours

Yours are the eyes through which He looks

compassion on this world

Christ has no body now on earth but yours." (Teresa of Avila)


Moses Replies to God: "ME???? You must be kidding. I can't speak. Use my brother Aaron instead!"


But God answers:  "Don't be silly. If I wanted your brother I would have asked him. But I want YOU!"


Moses:  "But, can I take Aaron along with me?

God:  "okay, okay. TAKE Aaron with you but I still want YOU!"


This is an important reminder. WE are on God's assignment. WE are not the messiah, naturally, we are merely people chosen to do some service or work in God's plan. WE must only be faithful to our assignment. God can still enter into the world if we fail (or seem to fail by objective world standards).


It is also important to remember that in ancient times, and in the times of Moses, other nations had their own gods. They all claimed to have the most powerful god on their side. So, the TEST that was accepted amongst nations and thinking of the time was the greatest God was the one who was more powerful than all the others IN WAR. So, of course, the popular image of the time for any god was a warlike God,. This was an image that God had to slowly but surely cleanse us from assuming about the One God's true nature.


God's name is given to Moses:   "I am who I am." The literal translation of this mysterious term is "I will be at the time, in the place and in the circumstances, always WITH YOU."


This is our God who is all pervasive, all present, all loving God who creates, sustains and gives life to you at every moment.


We believe in a God who is variously described as loving, kind, compassionate (as well as powerful, terrifying and warlike).


Einstein was once asked: "Do you still believe in God."


Einstein answered:  "Wrong Question. The question is not that! The question is What is behind everything…. Is it a benign loving, caring God, or incomprehensible, destructive and chaotic.  ( This is a typically Jewish theological answer).


There is, in the bible, a gradual evolution:

Exodus 34:6-7 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; 7who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."


This line is repeated often in the Bible but interestingly, whenever it is repeated the last part of the sentence is almost invariably dropped off.


Nehemiah 9:17 "They refused to listen, And did not remember Your wondrous deeds which You had performed among them; So they became stubborn and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt. But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.


Psalm 86:15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.


Psalm 145:8 The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.


Joel 2:13 And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil.


Jonah 4:2 He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.



          103:8 The LORD [is] merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.



Then in Matthew 28: 19   "I will be with you"   -   Jesus is now shown as the God who is the loving, caring God of the Isrealites.


I will always be with you, do not fear. In Jesus, YHWH is present and HE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US.



( IN THE BREAK – Fr FUELLENBACH mentioned his theory on two interesting things.

  1. Power Point displays. If power point displays simply print out the words of a talk and project them, they may limit the engagement of the audience. It can restrict their engagement and imagination. Power point displays that provide connected but not literal connection to the text but an anciliary visual aid, that is better.
  2. Line drawings. Fr FUELLENBACH uses in his classes very open line drawings in simple style. These allow for the audience to interact with their imagination. Whereas, detailed drawings or images tend to limit or restrict people to what is there. It is the difference between a novel and a movie. The movie tells you exactly what you see and what it looks like, whereas the novel engages the readers imagination.



There is a tension in the nature of us Human beings:


We are called to be part of God's divine love, and made in the image and likeness of God.


But also


We are creatures, created by God who can only 'accept' gifts from God, we ought not TAKE or try to PLAY GOD with the world or others.


We have been given by God the enormous capacity to REFUSE God's offer of share in God's divinity.


When humans play 'God' with others it has awful consequences. God can only gain us back, by LOVE and intensifying the invitation to LOVE.


There is a conflicting image of God:


God as "the power, the glory and the Baseball Bat" !




God as "weakness, love, vulnerability and the cross." 


This is the scandal of the Cross.


But this is what St Paul describes as the "happy fault" that has gained us such a redeemer.   The only way that God could regain his fallen creatures is to reveal God's true nature and 'turning up' so to speak, God's love.


Teresa of Avila has a stunning saying that captures God's love for us:

"Even if you condemned me to Hell, I will never stop loving you LORD!"



Fr FUELLENBACH gives another example of this self emptying love and trust in God.  He cites the example of the Rabbi Akibah, who was burnt at the stake but even unto death praises God. When he was asked why he was still praising God when his life would soon end the Rabbi said:  "Listen O Isreal, there is One God….  And you must love the Lord……. All my life I have prayed this prayer and longed to show I love him with all my LIFE."


The interesting thing is, though, that this faithful man of God did NOT believe in the resurrection of the body. His life, was, he believed, ended with death. For him, to show utter love for God by offering his life, when he believed that this life was all he had, even when there was no sense of reward for him in this life or the next – this is a love that seeks NO REWARD. This is a profound love.


There are two types of Love:


Possessive Love. Love shown in HAVING things.


Benevolent Love. (God's love) Love which takes its pleasure from seeing the person 'unfolding'  coming to full life. Not 'paying me back' but rather, if someone is generous to me, I pass this on by generosity to others).


The concept of "rahaminn"  is mentioned.  This is a Hebrew word used to describe the compassion God in jesus often showed for others. This is best translated as "gut compassion = a 'womb-like' love/ compassion.


The part of the name JOHN of JoHAnnes comes from a part of this same word "ha" from rahaminn, so John the Baptist's name means "one who proclaims God's compassion"


God's love for his people is described as equivalent to the love of a mother for the child of her womb.


This is echoed in Isaiah:  "Can a mother forget her baby, … even if she could, I will never forget you."




Saint Anselm (died 21 April, 1109) had developed the theology of "satisfaction"  that went something like this:  "If the offense depends on whom you offend, then if you offend a KING, the greater the punishment is warranted. (This came from a very hierarchical way of thinking). Anselm theorized that since humans offended the infinite dignity of God by their sinfulness, then no one else but GOD could step in to satisfy such an enormous debt to recompense. However, no one ever explained how finite beings such as humans could ever possibly commit and 'infinite' offense against God.


Rather, then, the Cross, is the INFINITE love of God, like a mother, who would rather DIE doe the child so that the child might live.


Compassion, however, does not mean I don't see the wrongs people do and I don't have the obligation at times to point out their wrongs to them and ask for amendment. Damage and hurt inflicted on others rightly asked for restoration and retribution for what was taken. But the offender always remains before God the "only child" whom God cannot stop loving with infinite love.


What does it mean to Love compassionately?


Fr Fuellenbach cites a moving example: How God behaves toward the sinner might be seen in the following story which I once watched on Television:


There was to be an execution of a young man who had raped a young girl and then brutally murdered her. She had been the only child of a couple. The day before the execution a television station aired an interview with the father of the murdered girl followed by an interview with the mother of the young man who had done it.


The reporter ask the father of the girl: "Sir, how do you feel knowing that tomorrow the murderer of your only child will be executed? The father's answer was something like this: "I have been waiting for that day with anticipation. You can be sure I will be there. I want to see how they take the life out of this monster." On and on he went. All the grief and pain just poured out of him with a deep bitterness bordering almost on revenge and hatred against the man who had done this to his only child. The last sentence was the one that struck me most. He said: "If this misfit, this monster will not burn in hell forever you can be sure that I will never believe in a God again."


I had not walked in the man's shoes and not experience all the grief and pain that he and his wife had to go through but I was stunned by what he said.


Then followed an interview with the mother of the boy who had done this crime. Surprisingly composed she said to the interviewer: "What my son has done is abominable, there is no excuse for that. He deserved his punishment. I have never asked anyone for an amnesty for him. He has to face what he did. My son, however, regretted his deed bitterly and he has returned to God, his creator. And God has forgiven him. He has tired a hundred times to reach out to the parents of the girl he murdered but of course, they refused to listen to his apology and his deep sorrow for what he did. I will not hold that against them, I understand. Tomorrow my son will die, not easy for a mother to go through without being deeply affected by the death of her son. But I know God has forgiven him and will take him into his arms like the prodigal in the Gospel story. And I hope you people will not hold it against me that I love my child. He was always a good son to me."


Reflecting on this story, I think God is like this mother. There is no excuse for a crime like this. But - as said a few times - the murderer still remains an only child for God, whom he loves with eternal affection. According to Pat Collins there are three interrelated kinds of compassion which we find particularly expressed in Jesus' own ministry.


Theologian Gerard O'Collins defined compassion as this: "Put yourself into the shoes of the other and identify with the suffering of the other. Sympathy.


But, also, Compassion is also recognizing in others and ourselves a  'wounded wonder'  -   and by this we mean: Everyone has his or her prejudices, urges, habits and faults. We are all wounded. But behind all that, is the WONDER that God created me and I am precious and loved.  I am a wonder, but a wounded wonder. "wounded wonder". This goes beyond appearances to recognize and approve of the inner worth and value of another person in a wonder-full manner. No matter how wounded the other person may be this "wounded wonder" goes beyond and recognizes in an intuitive way any person's inalienable value. The person's woundedness is not the focus of attention. Once we see a person with the eyes of God, that he is an "only child" a sense of reverential wonder should arise in us,




This love is redemptive. Bearing with/ suffering what is wrong in other people.  This reminds us that the love of Christ is a suffering love.


Loving a person, bearing with brokenness never means not SEEING the wrong. Occasionally we may have to constructively point it out and tell the person of the brokenness – but ideally (even then) never with any condemnatory element.


This is also a reminder that we need to be realistic.  There is a saying: "If you want to plough a field, you must take the oxen as they are!"   That is, you can't imagine up an ideal oxen, you have to use the one there is."


In the German language, one cannot say to a friend " I love you,"  because that would be too intimate a word to use. The word that friends use to say they like each other is literally translated as "I can suffer you/ I want you well."    This might seem surprising, but it is very insightful. It means, we can bear each others burdens and weakness and value the good that is there as an absolute background.


St Paul says:   Bear each other's burdens, suffer…. 


It becomes redemptive, so that we may participate in the suffering of Christ.


There are many things we cannot change about ourselves. So we need to have compassion with OURSELVES too.


Jesus says, "anyone who follows me must put themselves last." 


"bearing" another does not mean, though, "YOU HAVE TO TAKE ME AS I AM!"   NO!!!!   We are called to be kind and compassionate with others and ourselves.


Luke 6:36 "Be compassionate as as your Father is in heaven"


John 13: 34-35  "as I have loved you, so you should love one another"


We can grow into this.


Fr Fuellenbach tells a story of how he returned to his home parish and paid a visit to the local cemetery. He noticed on All Souls day that there were 8 graves with flowers placed upon it. He went around and took note of the names of the graves. He knew these people. He noticed with interest that all eight of these people had been noticed by many as being memorably nice, warm hearted people – and people had remembered them. It was not that the others were not remembered or loved, its just that people never forget compassion, kindness and warmth.


The writer Henri J.M. Nouwen wrote excellent books including the book "The Return of the Prodigal Son."   Henri was a troubled man himself but he walked through this pain and wrote excellent books because of this.  He  wrote a book called "Wounded Healer"  it is excellent. However, he didn't stress enough that although we can minister despite our own woundedness, we have to open our own wounds up to the Lord for healing or we will be ineffective in helping others. 


WE have probably all heard people say of relatives, 'Oh, he's just like his father!"  We may have inherited certain positive and negative traits from our family background but this does not mean we keep culturing negative traits. It may be that this generation can open itself up to God's redemption to redeem any deformed family traits and thereby transforming a whole families heritage.








If God is so loving, why should we worry about our salvation at all?


A: In the new testament it mentions 52 times "take your salvation seriously" themes. The message is "keep acting in this or that way and you are taking the wide road to Hell.


However, after Easter, the writings of Saint Paul now 'tip the scales' in favour of Christ's victory over all. The theme is more "all have been justified in Christ " so it is more universal.


The predictions about hell are more warnings. These statements are prophetic statements and they are always connected to an "IF" statement. Except perhaps Matthew 25 there is no real text that says people will end up in hell. They are stern warnings. It is always an 'if' - don't forget the 'if' in these warnings.


The future is not a closed reality. The future is always "if".


Fr F. Tells the story of  a priest telling the gospel about the sheep and the goats. An old man came up to him after mass and said "you know the part about people gnashing and grinding their teeth; I will never go to hell because I don't have any teeth!" - the priest replied "teeth will be provided!"


Even the parable of Matthew 25 needs to be looked at. It really is a warning for people to see even the least of the people around them as if they were Christ himself. It is a warning to wake them up. We need to read even Mt 25 in the light of the other warnings telling us to take our salvation seriously, and if we don't change...


Interestingly five saints and mystics have said very similar things on hell - words to this effect:

"I cannot imagine anyone in hell and I Hope there are not"


The Russian Orthodox Church has always held a quiet belief that ALL WILL BE SAVED.  At easter time in that church there is a much venerated icon painting called the Anastasis - it depicts Jesus , after his death descending to Hell and grabbing Adam by the wrist and dragging him out of Hell with Eve and everyone else following them. The Anastasis is THE ICON of the orthodox church for Easter.


An Icon for the eastern church is the equivalent to a tradition or dogma in the Western church. It is a firm object of faith.


In Mark 10 - the story of the rich man. Jesus tells the rich young man "there is one thing you lack.. Sell your possessions and come follow me!.."  when the rich man went away sad, Jesus said "how hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." the disciples reaction is important: "then WHO Lord can be saved??"  jesus replies "for humansit is impossible but for God NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!


God's love has no limits


In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man is not ALL bad. He still has enough concern for his family to ask that they be warned so they don't make the mistake he did. The rich man's big sin is that he failed to recognise people in need like Lazarus were Also his brother and family. Even in torment he STILL SEES LAZARUS AS A SERVANT AND NOT A BROTHER. This is why he is there.


One must read the book of Revelation (Apocalypse) very carefully. This whole book is Apocalyptic language. Its message - as long as this world lasts the Kingdom of God will suffer ups and downs and opposition." this book is written to give hope in the middle of intense persecution (that was already being experienced at the time it was written). It is expressing the hope that God's will shall prevail and forces of evil will eventually be defeated entirely.


Apocalyptic literature= persecution literature.


It encourages people to hold on and gives them hope and consolation as well as warning.


Interestingly, relating to the idea of Hell: the church has NEVER declared anyone to be in hell. It has declared saints to be in heaven, but not the reverse. To declare someone in hell is taking God's judgement into our own hands.  To show this, the church even once (back in its history) brought out a declaration that said  "anyone who says that Judas is in hell- let then be an anathema!" 


Judas' betrayal was massive. In jewish custom 'dipping your bread into another's bowl was a sign of 'renewing friendship' with the person, reconciling. So, at the moment Judas was doing a sign of renewing friendship he was betraying Jesus!


Edith Stein, the great modern saint and martyr, wrote "in the moment of death, even the hardened sinner will confront the complete love of God. And jesus' love may very well OUTWIT him and his resistance WITHOUT doing violence to his human freewill."


Aquinas: "a man who makes his life on a bed of STRAW - all this will be burned up. He himself will be saved, but like going through FIRE. (cleansing, purifying/ God's love).



FR. FUELLENBACH did a project once where he analysed 60 talks by a television Evangelist. He was looking for what this evangelical preacher's "background principle" was.


After 15 sermons he could see a pattern of this "background position".


1. He was an excellent preacher , in the Calvinist tradition.

2. His 'non reflected frame' appeared to be this: Sgive to the Lord $5 per day and send it to me and THE LORD will give you back in your life and business $500.



The trouble with this is that both of these messages are WRONG.


Imagine this: you are sitting in your room on your chair and you are miserable and crying. You call out to God "can't you help me?"

God replies: " I would love to help you but I can't - my arms are too short. I can't pull people up, but I can come down and be WITH YOU."


Whatever happens, God is there! God is with us, present with us (whetehr we feel it or not) to console me, comfort me, suffering with me.


It is interesting that blessed Mother teresa's diaries have just been published. People knew how loving and caring she was to the poor but only now has it been revealed that behind that smile was incredible suffering but always with trust. Mother teresa spent 40 YEARS without any form of consolation from God. This is not uncommon for people very close to God to enter into this dark night of desolation, as Christ himself did, but the length of her 'dark night' was astounding.


It is a reminder. You have to suffer in your own God image. You have to hold on in hope in times of darkness.


Fr F. Told a moving story of when he worked in the missions ina village. One day a terrible typhoon devestated the village. They knew that more rain was to come. They spent two weeks working feverishly to fix the huts in time for more rain. When they finished they had a celebration to exress gratefulness. The next night an even bigger typhoon came and knocked all their heard work down and left people's homes flattened again. When Fr. Came out to see it he was crushed by the sight. He cried out "oh God you are monstrous! How could you allow this to happen. You leave the rich houses up there untouched and these people who have nothing lose their homes!" he went to bed sick and devestated for three days. Some parishioners even said to him "don't speak to God like that" (their God image was F don't offend God or he will punish us again!).  He eventually came out of this feeling when he realised "I have lost everything, I am not going to lose my belief in a loving caring God who suffers with us, as well! He was filled with a peace and a new sense of joy and strength.


Intellectually, we can tell ourselves , that some places people live are prone to typhoons and disaster and that it says more about human richness and poverty about who gets to live where and what kinds of materials they can afford to build with. So, intellectually we can know that God is not to blame for these things but in our hearts we still question and perhaps wish God was more of an intervener or a avenger. God has chosen to deal only with love and not force. God suffers and we suffer under this God image but we know God is always with us.


To follow a loving and caring God in Jesus who walked this earth.. One cannot expect to avoid the suffering that also accompanied Jesus - this is true life.  Nevertheless we can sympathise with anyone who struggles deeply when they see so much suffering and distress and wonder why God won't do something more about it.


(pk I saw a cartoon once and a child prays to God: LORD, there are so many poor people, why won't you do something about it?"  God replies: "I did. I asked my people to do something about it and they didn't").





Ephesians 3:2-11.  A mystery hidden from all the ages is now revealed to the holy apostles.




The PLAN - in this mad world of ours, this creation is unfolding towards a plan. (as Einstein once said - "God doesn't throw dice") . There are 125 billion galaxies out there and even in our own galaxy there are lots of mysteries and evn in our own world! Our world is like a pinprick on a white sheet.


If God wanted to enter this universe which God created,  God chose the lowest place from which to enter. He came to tansform the universe from the bottom up.


God was born in the most hunble of settings, God served his disciples in the lowliest way, God dies the lowliest and cruellest of deaths. God starts from the very bottom of the barrel !

In marriage - God in Jesus entrusted hinself to two married human beings that they may teach him how to be human. God in Jesus lives thirty years of everyday and ordinary. So much s that when he returned home to visit the locals sais "who the heck is he?... We know him. What makes him think he's so special?"


Jesus probably would have spent more time going around with Joseph than with Mary, helping his father, learning from him.


Fr F. Tells a story of his childhood. His grandmother had this beautiful statue of the child Jesus wearing pur white robes. Whenever Fr f and his brother would go out to play if they came back with their clothes all messy the grandmother would say "can't you children keep yourselves tidy? Look at Jesus. He never got his clothes dirty." his brother would whisper to him "can't we soil Jesus' clothes so she won't recognise him?"


Jesus did come to earth to get into the nitty gritty -


God's coming was not just to heal a few, but to bring fullness of life to all.


This world needs to be understood from its end point.(pannenberg, a writer, once wrote).  (We need an "eschatalogical" - end times-  view of history). For example, if you look at all the parts that make up a car spread out on the sidewalk, it would look like a mess. If you saw a completed car, then all those parts make sense. You see how they come together to make the whole.


As was said earlier, in Vatican council I (1872) the Kingdom  was mentioned zero times. They had substituted for it 'salvation'. In Vatican II (1962-1965) the Kingdom was mentioned 75 times in its documents.


The plan/ purpose of God:






Reign of God/ Kingdom of God.


Jewish theologian Martin Buber once said of Christianity "christianity was too ME centred. It talked too much about MY salvation My God... Etc. "


Hopefully there has been a shift.


The old view of God's plan was that God actually had two plans - this world and the world to come.  Some would go from this world to heaven and some would go from this world to Hell. In this view, 'the church' was like a catapult that if you got inside it would shoot you to heaven and thos outside it could not ge there. Mission, in this traditional view was to 'get people into the church so they can be saved.'


Note: it has been said - if you pray to a God who fulfils your every wish then you man be praying to the wrong God.


Fr F. Tells a story of a man who bought a shiny new bicycle. He went off to the local bar to show his friends this new bike and celebrate with a few drinks. He dranka few too many and walked home forgetting his bicycle.. He was upset and prayed to God that the bicycle not be stolen when he gets back. He arrives at the bar and the bicycl is still there. He is so happy he pops into the church next door to thank God for saving his bike. When he comes out, someone has stolen his bicycle!


We cannot manipulate God.


Into this comes the now rejected theory of limbo. It was speculated that unbaptised children would go to a special place called limbo. There is a story of some parents who go up to a priest and ask "will there be communication between heaven and limbo for parents and children?" the priest answers: "God is a compassionate God. There will be 'visitor days'"  ! !


How awful!  Thank goodness Limbo has now been officially rejected by the church.


The new vision of God's plan is one of Transformation. There are not two plans but only ONE plan. This is a transformation process and not a selective process. God wants to tranform ALL that has been created. Jesus' incarnation transforms creation and the Holy Spirit transforms us.


Old view: non Christians not saved.

New view: all religions carry saving grace. They are saved by following their religion in good conscience. Certainly (from our perspective and for our own self understanding only) we believe that the Spirit of Christ is present in every religion. This is why we believe in dialogue with other religions in our mission.


It is also important to remember that THE CHURCH that Jesus established is Not a collection of 'like mindex people.'  it is a divine creation of God with diversity.


For a Christian the saving grace in other religions is the incarnation of Christ. We do not believe that Jesus is one of many generic brand saviours.


We do believe that there are divine sparks in other religions and that these divine sparks (from the one and the same God) do save.


The Spirit of God is present in other religions (and not necessarily mediated through the church).


The church is the visible, tangible expression and proof of God's saving will for us. (there is salvation outside of it).




1. Proclaim the presence of the Kingdom of God in the world. In the brokenness and imperfection of the world we celebrate and point to the presence of God's kingdom already amongst us.

2. Create a community. This is not easy. Our world is so full of individualism. Religion is sometime like boxes of cereal in a shopping centre. People come along and buy their favourite cereal and mix it together to taste. But religion is not an individualist thin for Christians.


You are a Christian. You are 'for others' a representative. You are never a Christian for yourself, you are a Christian for others.  We may not 'convert' everyone but..


We must engage in respectful dialogue 1. With the world at large, on justice, peace and human rights

2 culture

3. Other religious traditions. (note: better to call them other religious traditions rather than 'non-christian').


We need to note that religion such as Hinduism, Buddhism etc are not going out of business! So we assume there is something God-like in them or they would fizzle out.


- we may never convince some religions of what we believe (in an incarnational God) _ in fact for some religions its scandalous to them to suggest God would lower himself to become human!

- I believe in God who created the world, Christ is risen and now presnet through the Holy Spirit throughout all creation.

- we need a Christ-centred focus and not an ecclesio-centric (church-centred) focus.


We can dialogue and some scholars are very good at dialogue.


I know that I may never be able to convince them of Jesus as God incarnate, but we still have a contact point. Also, if anyone wants to join us we must let them in, for faith is a gift.


St Francis tells us - if you cannot convince them by your words, convince  them by your way of living.


Perhaps we should even change the way we addres God in our prayer - we often say "almighty God".. When perhaps this would fit better the God revealed in Jesus: "humble, servant God.."


Speaking on the topic of "liberation Theology." this theology became much too reliant on Marxist Socialism and used Marxist tools of analysis. This got it labelled as a non-christian ideology. In many ways though, liberation theology was otherwise close to the church's traditional social teachings.

Sadly it got aligned with left-wing ideology and they got their fingers burnt.


But ultimately, this idea remains true: "If the church leaves out the poor, it has nothing to preach."


Fr. F. Told a story/observation to illustrate the importance of theological clarity and discipline within the church being a good thing too:


A company used to transport live goldfish (carp) in a big water container from Japan to America. When they would get to their destination many had died and the others were in poor condition. Next time they filled the tank with 10,000 carp but also put in a little shark too. When they got to their destination the shark had eaten a few thousand but the remaining thousands were in excellent condition because they had been chased all over the tank and were fit and stimulated ! !


Maybe the church needs the shark to keep the little fish healthy?




The fundamental structure of the church is = PEOPLE OF GOD, BODY OF CHRIST AND CREATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.


Theologian Avery Dulles has suggested 5 models of the church









FR F. Suggests a new model -

A "contrast model" . That is, our basic mode in the world must be COMPASSION in the world.


Protestant theology attacks three main areas of Catholicism





The antidote to this is to foster:





As to the Papacy. If we speak of it as the "petrine ministry" (continuing the ministry entrusted to St Peter) it has a strong scriptural foundation. Without a Petrine Ministry the church would disintegrate into  a collection of regional and cultural interest groups. There is a need for a charism that guarantees the confeddion by Peter (on which Jesus church is founded) : "You are the christ, the Son of God."


Other churches have a love/hate relationship with the "pope" - They admire the role and hate the way it operates.


We need to state clearly what our faith is. We have a catholic identity and it is important to know it and state it.


The church is the visible, touchable, tangible sign of what is to come. It is a tangible sign of the Kingdom.  For a Christian it is essential to be baptised.


God loves everyone unconditionally and God uses the few to touch the many. That is, the "holy remnant" - this relatively small community (church) as compared with the world population, is important for the salvation of all. This does not mean that they mus go through the visible church, if they are not Christian, in order to be saved.


Once a person opens up to the Holy spirit, then they become a radiating / redeeming grace of God INTO creation. (not me-me-me but ME-for others). Therefore, the best service for others we cas do is to be a faithful servant by which we can be a gatewY through which God enters the world. We cannot present ourselves to God unless we present all of creation along with us (through us) too.


Every human being is a living gift of God to you. He may be an enemy to you at the moment but he was not created so and ultimately we will all make up the diversity that mirrors the Trinity.


Fr F. Tells of how he said to his mother "you know , even that lady you don't like much is a gift from God." his mother replied wryly "But there may be a few gifts ww could do without."



We are brothers and sisters - every person was created by God for your JOY.






Mk 3:13-15. Jesus prays all night and then goes and selects 12 followers.

Three characteristics when it comes to anyone's vocation:

Jesus calls those whom HE wanted . He chose us.

He called them to be WITH him. Jesus remains with his followers.

To be SENT OUT . We are called to follow him so as to be sent out on mission.


It is no use asking "why did he call me?" you might as well ask "why did that person fall in love with THEM?" - IT IS A MYSTERY.


Since the message of Jesus is not DOCTRINE AND COMMAND but rather to draw people into himself, he wants to put them on fire and to know who he is.


Jn 1:35-39. John's disciples as Jesus "where do you LIVE/ABIDE/STAY". Jesus replies "come and see!".

The disciple is one who grows from outer acquaintance into a deep intimate knowledge of Jesus. Jesus and the Father's will is to come and maked their ABODE (home) in you (from John's gospel).


1 John 1:1-4. What we have seen and what we have heard, this is what we pass on to you!


We are ultimately called to not teach doctrine but to witness to a lived experience. You need to be on fire for Jesus. Fill yourself again with the Holy Spirit and get excited about Jesus and his mission.


God: give me your ability, talents, compassion and service!

Me: Lord, what do you want with these?

God: I want to tie MY compassion, service, talents to yours.


See, God needs flesh to b at work in life.


As a priest: there is something tied by God into your life and you are called to be a carrier of God's grace. Your happiness relies on how much you can value that you are the carrier of this massion.


In German language "consecrated" means "God takes you into his household, shows you what he intends and then asks you to be a messenger to carry his message.


Success= Be faithful in your vocatio not necessarily worldly signs of success.


Then finally GO! RUN!  There is NO vocation that stops with cosy relationship with God and me! It always means being SENT. Going, sent, service - for others!

 Do the nitty gritty in everyday service and love. RADIATE GOD'S love to all. Bloom where you are planted.


Fr. F. Tells the true story of a chinese ladywho came to his lecture one day and asked if she could sit in on the lectures. She said she had no money. He said yes. She listened attentively at every class but hardly said a thing. One day when Fr. F. Was talking about letting God in and radiating God's love and being a carrier of God's message and grace, she jumped up and down excitedly in the class and yelled "this is it, this is it!" many thought she must jave gone crazy but Fr. F. Realised she had caught "the fire of thr kingdom." her story is amazing. This lady came from Red China. She grew up 100% Maoist and with no idead of religion..

  When her mother died she was going through her belongings when she found a copy of Mao's little red book. She was surprised as she had thought that her mother was not a sympathiser. But when she opened the red book she saw that the first and last pages were indeed Mao's writings but that the rest were the 4 Gospels stuck in. That night she read it through entirely. She realised that this book was the reak message for her people and not 'stupid mao'. She prayed aloud "I don't know who you are! Show me a sign." out fell a holy card with the words Printed in rome on it. She knew she had to go there. That night she travelled by train through Russia (tied herself under the train carriage). When she got to Rome she slept at the train station and quickly found a place to work in a chinese restaurant and accomodation there. After two years was Baptised and learnt to speak perfect italian. She still felt she needed more so She went to this class with Fr Fr and here is where she understood. "this is it, this is it. Now I know why I had to come to Rome. I had to hear this. I now know my vocation. To let jesus in and become an influence to my brothers and sisters. And I don't have to become a nun!! (apparently a few religious orders were hopin she would join them). I will return the way I came, back to China."  Fr f. Never saw her again but surely she is radiating God's love wherever she goes.


You don't have to go somewhere - live it here - radiate it in the nitty gritty of everyday life