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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Third Sunday of Advent: The One Who Is To Come

Sunday, December 12, 2010
The familiar figure of John the Baptist, embodying our Advent hope, greets us again in this Sunday’s gospel. However, we find a man whose circumstances are much changed. The figure of hope seems to have become rather a pathetic figure, the great preacher and prophet languishes alone in a prison cell, awaiting his fate. To compound this unfortunate state of affairs it seems that the Baptist has also come to question the deeds of the one they call the Christ – the Anointed One – the one he was sent to prepare the way for. Indeed, he has come to question whether Jesus is such a Messianic figure at all.

Today’s Gospel is then, a question of identity. For John, disconnected from the community he loved, alone in a world filled with uncertainty, the identity of the Anointed One is paramount, and so he sends his disciples to ask; “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” It may seem a rather odd question, after all, if he has heard of the deeds, why then ask the question? The answer to this would appear to be that the identity of ‘the One who is to come’ was very different from the One that the Baptist expected. Indeed, the figure of Jesus had fulfilled none of John’s eschatological promises. John had preached that; “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” In an age when such a Messiah was expected to overturn the social and political status quo, John’s question does seem more reasonable. Should we look for another, or perhaps read differently, should we be looking for another of a different kind? Read in this manner we can see that although John’s expectations of Jesus’ role as judge were correct, he was unaware of the mission Jesus first had to fulfill on earth.

John is for us, a very human figure, his certainties have turned to questions, and he seems to waver between a man of prophecy and a man uncertain of the future. But where is the hope? Well, difficulties and questions do not equal despair: where would we all be if such were the case? On the contrary John provides the opportunity for Jesus to make clear the situation concerning his identity. In replying to John’s question Jesus marries his deeds with a patchwork of prophetic promises in Isaiah (29:18-19, 35:5-6, 61:1); "the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offence at me.” Jesus makes clear the fruits of his ministry and lastly proclaims blessed those who do not see his actions, unexpected though they may be, as a stumbling block to faith.

Whilst the question of identity is not cleared up with a simple Yes or No the answer couldn’t be clearer, and the message we can take from this should be heartening as we journey onward through Advent. We may all have times when we question, when our expectations in faith are not fulfilled, but we must draw upon what we see and hear, upon word and deed. We are surrounded by numerous examples of Christ’s love for us and nourished by the words of scripture. Indeed, our principal source of comfort and solace, even when we feel we are languishing alone and afraid, is Christ himself, given to us in the Eucharist. His identity is certain, but are we this Advent, able to recognise Him? “Are you the One who is to come.”

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Friday - Second Week of Advent

Friday, December 10, 2010
Readings: Isaiah 48: 17-19 Psalm 1 Matthew 11: 11-16

One of the features of our post-enlightenment culture is a somewhat ambiguous attitude to authority. On the one hand our politically correct consciousness recoils at the slightest hint that we are imposing our values on others, and at the same time we aggressively reject any perceived infringements of our own autonomy. Simultaneously, however, the dizzying speed of technological development and a trend towards ever increasing specification has left us more and more dependent on 'experts', authorities in narrow subdivisions of human knowledge in fields such as medicine, economics, computing, and science, whose expertise seems to be beyond the criticism of common sense. If knowledge is power, then, we are in an age of mini-empires, with numerous sub-disciplines of thinkers and practitioners claiming an absolute authority over very specific areas of our lives.

It is very easy to think of the Church in these terms, as just another authority with expertise in that sphere of our life that we label 'religious' or 'spiritual'. Yet the Church is only handing on the revelation it received in Christ, the Word of God. This God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is omnipotent and omniscient, all powerful and all knowing. His authority then, and his teaching, are not meant for a part of our life but for all of it.

In today's Gospel, we hear Jesus parodying his contemporaries, for 'John came neither eating nor drinking and they say, "He has a demon"; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say: "Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners"' Then, as now, God's prophet and his Son were rejected because they had broken out of the mental categories in which people had tried to imprison them. Jesus' contemporaries were prepared to offer obedience to God only in a qualified sense, perhaps because they misunderstood the nature of God's authority.

In the first reading Isaiah presents God not as an authoritarian despot but as a teacher whose instructions guide us to a peace that is 'like a river'. Similarly the psalmist proclaims blessings to those who 'delight in the law of the Lord'. This is the peace, the blessing, of being true to one's nature. Freedom is not found in resisting the authority of God. Freedom comes through obedience, through listening, to the one who made and sustains us. God is not the enemy of our freedom, in fact He creates our freedom; and as our maker and sustainer, the God who knows us better than we know ourselves, He guides and teaches us as to how best to use this great gift of being free. Advent, then, is an ideal time to resolve to deepen our attentiveness to the Word of God, in order that we may be led into a deeper embrace of the Incarnation.  Read more

The Immaculate Conception

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Monday - Second Week of Advent

Monday, December 06, 2010

Second Sunday of Advent:-Viva La Revolution

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Friday - First Week of Advent

Friday, December 03, 2010
In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 9:27-31, two blind men come to Jesus and, in faith and desperation, cry aloud to Him; “Son of David, have pity on us!” Their use of this Messianic title is an indicator of the faith they have in Him, and as they throw themselves upon His mercy, all that He asks of them is that they believe. Thus it is faith that opens their eyes and it can open ours too. Blindness is, therefore, not simply a physical affliction, it can also be a spiritual one. Our faithlessness, such as we see Isaiah rebuke Israel for (29:17-24), can lead to a complete spiritual blindness and with it an inability to see our way and help others to do the same.

There are not many among us who could claim never to suffer from a certain sightlessness or a lack of vision for whatever reason. For instance, how often do we reproach ourselves for our inability to see someone with the eyes of charity? How often can our viewpoint or aims be deemed ‘short sighted’ or are we accused of being ‘blinded to reality’? Being blind to who people really are and the situations we find ourselves in is nothing new, but that should not prevent our striving to overcome such sightlessness. Indeed, we can, through God’s abundant grace, come to see with absolute clarity. We may, for example, begin in charity to see a person for who they really are, a son or daughter of Christ, and love them for this as God loves them: unconditionally. Such were the men in today’s Gospel; through faith their eyes were opened. These men came to love Christ because, even before they could see him physically, they were not blinded to the reality of his divine goodness.

Advent, as a time of preparation and penance, is about allowing our eyes to be opened. How can we prepare as we should for the coming of Our Saviour if we insist on stumbling by ourselves in the dark? If we are in such a position then let us have the courage to put out our hands to Christ and cry: “Son of David, have pity on us!” Let us walk in the light of faith this Advent, eyes wide open, and see Christ for who he truly is: Our Lord, Our Saviour, Our Hope and Our Redemption.
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Thursday - First Week of Advent

Thursday, December 02, 2010
Isaiah 26:1-6; Psalm 118; Matthew 7:21. 24-27 Read more

November 30 - Feast of Saint Andrew

Tuesday, November 30, 2010
 Readings: Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22

The first reading for the feast of St Andrew is a short but insightful outline of the role of preaching in God’s saving work. It states that faith comes from hearing but asks ‘how can they hear unless there is a preacher for them?' Though this text could in general terms by applied to all the apostles, and others besides, it is particularly appropriate for St Andrew based on what the New Testament records about him. He had no sooner come to faith in Christ than he proclaimed this to his brother, Peter - "we  have found the Christ” – and he took Simon to Jesus (John 1:40-41). Later he was involved in introducing the Greeks to Jesus, a very significant portent of the later spread of the Gospel beyond the confines of Palestinian Judaism and indeed of Judaism itself (John 12:20-22).  Read more

First Sunday of Advent - Being Ready for the End

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Podcasts for Advent

Saturday, November 27, 2010
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