The blog of the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford.

Built on the four pillars of our Dominican life – preaching, prayer, study, and community – Godzdogz offers many resources for exploring the Catholic Faith today.
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Lent Retreat - Week 4, Tuesday

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Readings: Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12; Ps. 45; John 5:1-3, 5-16  Read more

Lent Retreat - Week 4, Monday

Monday, March 15, 2010
Readings Is. 65:17-21, Ps. 30, Jn. 4:43-54 Read more


Sunday, March 14, 2010
Readings: Joshua 5:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

In today’s Gospel from Luke we hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the last of a trilogy, following the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Coin. All are intended to teach of God’s infinite love and mercy, and serve to rebuke Jesus’ critics and defend his actions.

This story contains much behaviour that is scandalous, perhaps more than we may think at first glance. We are told of a younger brother who claims his inheritance early and who then goes off into the world, no doubt full of great expectations! This may not seem to us entirely normal behaviour but it does not register as being the great scandal it was in Jesus’ time. To claim one's inheritance in this manner was practically unheard of and can be seen as akin to wishing one’s father dead, and so the ingratitude of such an action cannot be overstated. For the family too, it meant shame and disgrace, a loss of their honour among fellow citizens. Both father and elder brother are seen to fail in their duty to reconcile the younger son.

Upon this initial disgrace is heaped further ignominy, the son squanders all his inheritance and has to take a lowly job tending unclean animals. Such a fall was, perhaps, to be expected in one so reckless, but the social implications for him and his family are disastrous. To lose one’s inheritance to the Gentiles meant that returning to one’s own community was almost impossible. One would have to bear the shame of the kezazah ceremony in which such a man is disowned by his community until he can repay all that he has lost. Sick of hunger and disease but without any display of real repentance this is what the son does, he returns home intent on pleading to become one of his fathers ‘hired workers.’

On seeing him the father runs to meet him, another scandalous act in itself, for a man of wealth and position. The son, on seeing such a display of fatherly love, finally comes to complete repentance – ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ He recognises he has been truly lost but has now been found. The father then bestows upon him all the trappings of an honourable and worthy man, a man worthy to be called his son – the robe, the ring, the sandals, and orders a rare feast in his honour. Such complete and unquestioning forgiveness is seldom seen. The elder son is understandably stunned but must ultimately reconcile himself to the fact that this is not a display of favouritism, or a reward for wayward behaviour, but an act of complete and selfless love and mercy. ‘Your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’

In this parable we see a powerful argument against self sufficiency, of trying to live a life detached from God and our neighbour, a life which rejects the inestimable grace of God. Our Father’s arms are always open to greet us, he is always willing to run to meet us no matter what sins and misdeeds have led us away from Him, and so this parable is, at once, a sign of the enduring love our Father has for us, and of the daring invitation for us to emulate such forgiveness and mercy in our own lives, not just this Lent but always.  Read more

Lent Retreat-Week 3, Saturday

Saturday, March 13, 2010
Readings: Hosea 6:1-6; Luke 18:9-14
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Lent Retreat - Week 3, Friday

Friday, March 12, 2010
Readings: Hosea 14:2-10; Mark 12:28-34 Read more

Lent Retreat - Week 3, Thursday

Thursday, March 11, 2010
Readings: Jeremiah 7:23-28; Luke 11:14-23

"Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste" (Luke 11:17).

In today's Gospel we find the people marvelling at how Jesus has cast out a mute demon. At least some of them are marvelling. Others have immediately set about trying to disparage the miracle and conspiracy theories abound. They claim that Jesus owes his power over demons to Be-el'zebul himself, the Prince of demons. The implication is clear: do not trust this man Jesus, what appears to be good is in fact evil.

When we reflect upon this passage it becomes depressingly obvious that this is a story that is repeated time and time again both in our own lives and in our communities. Wherever the Gospel is preached, wherever the truth is spoken, wherever good is done, there seems to be some who embrace the Good News and others who feel threatened by it. Often this sense of danger prompts them to try and deface what they have received. Like the conspiracy theorists in today's Gospel, they try to distort what is good into an evil, they deface the truth.

This division in a community between those that embrace the truth and those that fight it is founded on internal divisions within each of the community's constituent members. There are aspects of our personality, aspects of who and what we are, that are powerfully drawn to God. At the same time there are levels of our being that are frightened by truth and goodness, frightened by what allowing truth and goodness into our lives might entail.

When we are confronted by what is true and what is good we are immediately confronted with our own helplessness, our own dependence, our own failings. God shines a light into our heart and reveals what we really are. These can be frightening realities to face. It often seems easier to try and smother the light, to try and cloak the truth in deception, so that our vulnerability remains hidden. Yet this is not what we really want. By nature we are made for communion with God. To try and resist him is to wage war on ourselves and our deepest desires for love, truth and goodness.

In today's Gospel we hear how any Kingdom that is divided against itself is laid waste. Any person that is in a state of civil war is similarly devastated. Freedom from this struggle comes when we are able to bring our fears, vulnerabilities and shame into God's light and stand before him knowing that we are loved for what we are, not what we think we are.

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Lent Retreat - Week 3, Wednesday

Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Readings: Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9; Matthew 5:17-19 Read more

Lenten Retreat - Week 3, Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Readings: Daniel 3:25, 34-43; Matthew 18:21-35 Read more

Lent Retreat - Week 3, Monday

Monday, March 08, 2010
Readings: 2 Kings 5:1-15; Psalm 41-42; Luke 4:24-30

In the Gospel for today Jesus has returned to his home town, Nazareth, and is speaking in the synagogue. A few lines before this Gospel passage in Luke, we can see that Jesus has gained the admiration of his listeners with his opening remarks: “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips” (Luke 4:22). But their mood soon changes. He reminds them of how they, the chosen people of God, had rejected the great prophets of the past, Elijah and Elisha to name just two. When God had sent his word to his people to correct and guide them back to the straight path, they were rejected and persecuted as Jesus predicts he will be. Indeed the rage of the people that follows as they try to kill Jesus for his hard words is a foreshadowing of his Passion.

It is interesting to note how quickly the mood of the crowd changes when Jesus begins to say things they don’t like. There is no discussion or analysis among them of what Jesus says. They know the truth of what he said. Yet they are a proud people, confident in their identity as God’s people, proud of their position as being the insiders with God. But this pride seems to have led to a complete inability to recognise their own mistakes, to be intelligently self critical and thereby open to change and conversion. But Jesus isn’t interested in pandering to them. He speaks uncomfortable words of truth to wake them up to their need for a change of heart.

While we may be shocked at the crowd's angry reaction to Jesus in trying to kill him, many of us can react in similar ways when we hear words that make us uncomfortable and demand we change. Instead of listening and thinking about what is being said to us, we can react violently or dismissively. None of us likes to be pushed from our comfort zones. Yet this Lent this is what we are called to do, to listen attentively and quietly to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us about who we truly are and where God calls us to be and to summon up the courage and openness to change our lives and to “make straight the way for the Lord” when Easter dawns upon us. We never do this alone but with the grace of God which he generously gives in abundance.
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Sunday, March 07, 2010
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