"Christ lives, he has overcome death, he has overcome all these powers. We live in this certainty, in this freedom, and in this joy." (Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, 12 XI 2008)
"Do not accept anything as the truth if it lacks love. And do not accept anything as love which lacks the truth! One without the other becomes a destructive lie." (Blessed John Paul II, Canonisation of Edith Stein, 11 X 1998)

Sunday, 27 March 2011

PreVue Fetal Visualization Device

I came across this today and am very excited by it. Certainly no one can now deny the humanity of the baby in the womb. What a beautiful invention.

PreVue Fetal Visualization Device by Melody Shiue | Industrial Design and Future Technology – Tuvie

Melody Shiue, an industrial designer of the University of New South Wales has designed a product called, PreVue. It is an e-textile based device that employs latest stretchable display technology over the abdominal region, letting other family members to connect with the fetus in its context. Not only PreVue gives you the chance for interacting and watching the baby’s growth inside, it as well serves as a tool to understand the personality of the baby. You can see the baby rolling, snoozing, yawning and smiling, bringing you closer until the day it finally lies into your arms.
Designer : Melody Shiue
PreVue 4D Ultrasound
PreVue 4D Ultrasound

The product represents design excellence and certainly deserves an Australian Design Award as it paves way for fetal-maternal bonding in order to keep the mothers in an optimistic state of mind. Establishing early bonding essentially sustains the maternal relationship post-birth and helps delivering a healthy child. The father also gets an opportunity to watch the current activity of his child and participate in the process of bonding. The fetus will be able to recognize the mother’s voice by the 18th week. Studies reveal that when mothers sing a specific song throughout pregnancy, they can use the same tune to appease a crying baby. This means, adaptive learning starts effectively in uterus, so mothers can stimulate a mild extent of education to the fetus via music and gently tapping over the belly and watch the responsive expressions as well as reflexes of the fetus through a contextual screen.
PreVue 4D Ultrasound
PreVue 4D Ultrasound
PreVue 4D Ultrasound

Friday, 18 March 2011

Lent Reflection: The Temptations of Christ in the Desert (Part 4)

The Third Temptation

When scripture is quoted and the text is not provided, please look to the bottom of the reflection for the text of the scripture.

Let us once again look at the text from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Mat 4:1-11 

(1) The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. (2)  After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. (3)  Then the devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” (4)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say: 'No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.' " 

(5)  Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. (6)  The devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: 'God will give his angels orders about you. They will catch you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones.' "  (7)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures also say, 'Don't try to test the Lord your God!' " 

(8)  Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. (9)  The devil said to him, "I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.” (10)  Jesus answered, "Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "  (11)  Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.


The third temptation is the climax of this whole episode. When reading Holy Scripture we most always strive to keep the fullness of its Truth in mind. This is the only way to understand the truth.

In this temptation, Satan offers Christ all the physical power the world can offer. The catch is that Jesus must bow before the Devil. This is asking Jesus to forsake his mission, to give up God.

Is this not a small price to pay for such great influence? Could Jesus not, for just that moment, deny God? After all, if he had such worldly influence, then he would be able to convert the whole world to his message of Love. Seems like a very human response.

However, as we have seen from the other temptations, this view is totally incompatible with belief. It represents a belief in the world, not in God. It presupposes that the physical is more important than the spiritual. By its very nature, the decision to relegate God to come later is a rejection of God. This rejection precludes the ability to experience God. The mindset is incompatible with true belief.

The people are tempted in the same way later in the Gospels. This time the people must choose: Worldly power or God's Kingdom. We must look to the readings from Palm Sunday. At the trial of Jesus Christ, Pilate offers the crowd a choice between Jesus, called the Christ and Jesus Barabbas.

We need to delve deeper into this choice offered to the people. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read, “At that time a well-known terrorist named Jesus Barabbas was in jail. (Mat 27:16). We know from the context of the term used to describe Barabbas (here translated as terrorist) that Barabbas had been involved in an uprising against the ruling Romans. He was a “freedom fighter”. The form of his name also suggests he was the ruler of the group of insurgents (we recall Bar-Kokhba who was head of the Jewish force in the last great Jewish messianic war in 132AD). Jesus Barabbas therefore presents a Messianic figure: A political Messiah. The type of Messiah the Jews were expecting. One who would bring physical power.

The name Barabbas can be broken down to Bar-Abbas. This translates as “son of the father”. Ring a bell? We see in this story the clear choice between a political messiah who promises worldly power and a messiah who offers only a message of Love. The two characters juxtapose each other in all respects, but both claim the messiahship. Moreover, the people, offered the same choice as Jesus was in the Third temptation, choose worldly power. This choice is the human decision. This decision does not look to the Kingdom of God. We know that they chose wrongly. Are we too going to choose the wrong Kingdom to pursue? Do we answer as Christ did, or do we side with the crowd screaming, “We want Barabbas?” we want this world’s power.

Which "Son of the Father" do you choose?

THE END

Post script:
I would just like to discuss the “Kingdom of God” as used in the Gospels. The word used for “Kingdom” is not a noun. It is a verb! The Hebrew word is malkut; it means the active lordship of the king. We can say then that the Kingdom of God does not lie after death, but exists on earth when we allow Gods will to rule our lives.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Lent Reflection: The Temptations of Christ in the Desert (Part 3)

The Second Temptation

When scripture is quoted and the text is not provided, please look to the bottom of the reflection for the text of the scripture.

Let us once again look at the text from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Mat 4:1-11 

(1) The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. (2)  After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. (3)  Then the devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” (4)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say: 'No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.' " 

(5)  Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. (6)  The devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: 'God will give his angels orders about you. They will catch you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones.' "  (7)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures also say, 'Don't try to test the Lord your God!' " 

(8)  Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. (9)  The devil said to him, "I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.” (10)  Jesus answered, "Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "  (11)  Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.



This second temptation is an interesting one. It also is a difficult one to understand. We see that the Devil himself is a Scripture Scholar! In essence, this theological debate between Jesus and the Devil is a debate concerning the image of God. “Who is God?” is the issue.

To provide a defence against the first temptation, Christ quoted Scripture. Seizing on the opportunity presented, Satan attempts to twist the Bible to his own ends. He quotes Psalm 91:11-12 verbatim. Jesus responds with a quote from Deuteronomy 6:16. Against this background, we can begin to examine the debate.

Satan takes Jesus to the highest point of the Temple. This was the place where people would find God. He then tries to prompt Jesus into forcing God to prove He exists. He wants Jesus to put God to the test. This is why Jesus responds as he does. The quote from Deuteronomy is in response to the story in Exodus 17. The people where beginning to doubt that the Lord was with them. They wanted some miracle, some proof. Jesus recognises these intentions and refuses to allow Satan to fool him.

Let us stop for a moment. What is actually wrong with asking God for a little bit of proof. If we could prove in a scientific way that God existed, I am sure it would be a great help for each of us. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental problem here. Trying to subject God to testing in this way is arrogance. An arrogance that is incapable of perceiving God. When we try imposing out test conditions on Him, we place ourselves above him and then look for physical proof. It forces us to ignore the whole dimension of love. Modern man only believes that which he can test and grasp. This lack of openness to love and interior listening closes the way to God. It is impossible to find God by searching in this way.

We cannot ask God to prove He is God. We then put ourselves above him, and in doing so make ourselves God. We put ourselves in the position of judging the truth from lies. Satan in his use of Scripture is playing on this theme. He is attempting to put himself in God’s place. Once there he will decide the truth. Satan uses his quote as a stand-alone reference. In this way, he is assuming that God really has nothing to say to us in the Bible as a whole. He relegates the Bible to a tool for supporting any deed.

Jesus on the other hand provides a better model. He refuses to put God to the test. He knows that to do so would already exclude the openness to accept the proof. He is able to put the Psalm into a broader context. He knows that the quote provided by Satan does not refer to earthly comfort and protection. It is about a much deeper comfort, the confidence that he will receive comfort in eternity.

We see that the debate is about how we can and cannot know God. If we decide to try proving God’s existence, we already put ourselves in a position where this becomes impossible. How can you prove Love? However, if we accept the Love of God, then we will know God.



Bible verses forming part of the discussion, but not quoted above:

(Psalm 91:11-12)
God will command his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will carry you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones.

(Deut 6:16)
…don't try to make him prove that he can help you, as you did at Massah.

(Ex. 17:1-7)
The Israelites left the desert and moved from one place to another each time the LORD ordered them to. Once they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them to drink. The people started complaining to Moses, "Give us some water!" Moses replied, "Why are you complaining to me and trying to put the LORD to the test?" But the people were thirsty and kept on complaining, "Moses, did you bring us out of Egypt just to let us and our families and our animals die of thirst?" Then Moses prayed to the LORD, "What am I going to do with these people? They are about to stone me to death!" The LORD answered, "Take some of the leaders with you and go ahead of the rest of the people. Also take along the walking stick you used to strike the Nile River, and when you get to the rock at Mount Sinai, I will be there with you. Strike the rock with the stick, and water will pour out for the people to drink." Moses did this while the leaders watched. The people had complained and tested the LORD by asking, "Is the LORD really with us?" So Moses named that place Massah, which means "testing" and Meribah, which means "complaining."

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Lent Reflection: The Temptations of Christ in the Desert (Part 2)

The First Temptation

When scripture is quoted and the text is not provided, please look to the bottom of the reflection for the text of the scripture.

Let us once again look at the text from the Gospel according to Matthew.
Mat 4:1-11  
(1) The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. (2)  After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. (3)  Then the devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” (4)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say: 'No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.' "  (5)  Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. (6)  The devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: 'God will give his angels orders about you. They will catch you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones.' "  (7)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures also say, 'Don't try to test the Lord your God!' "  (8)  Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. (9)  The devil said to him, "I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.” (10)  Jesus answered, "Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "  (11)  Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.
In the first temptation Satan waits for Christ to be at a very weak point before confronting him with a temptation. After some time without eating, Lucifer’s proposition is to give Jesus some comfort by way of food. We see how cunning the Devil is, he doesn’t appear to be doing any harm, just giving a suggestion which would bring comfort. Doesn’t this seem familiar? A temptation presented as an opportunity to help, to comfort?

But Jesus responds, sensing the evil intentions of the Evil One. Jesus knows that the soul is much more important than bodily health. This gives us the real meaning of “Fear of the Lord”: it is being more afraid of damaging your soul than of losing some physical ability, or foregoing some pleasure. Jesus is being asked here to choose his bodily existence over his eternal one. He is actually being asked to prove that he is the Son of God. We that Jesus understood the undertones of the temptation by his response: “No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.” This is a quotation of Deuteronomy 8:3:so he made you go hungry. Then he gave you manna, a kind of food that you and your ancestors had never even heard about. The LORD was teaching you that people need more than food to live--they need every word that the LORD has spoken.We can further assert that, as we hear in St John’s Gospel, Jesus is the Word and that it is Jesus we need to survive into eternity. We have Jesus when we live by his example, by obeying his teaching, by living lives full of Love.

In this short Gospel passage we see Christ giving us the right order of being. First comes God (who is Love (1 John 4:8)), then everything else to follow. So often in our lives we are tempted to first try provide for a comfortable life and then we think we can see to our souls when we are comfortable. Jesus teaches us here that we will never really be comfortable until we put Love first, the ultimate Love, the Love revealed by Christ, who is God who is Love.

The temptation is often also to try and provide “bread” to others. Isn’t world hunger the saddest thing, which proves that a loving God does not exist? Shouldn’t the Messiah be able to provide bread? No doubt, there are so many people in need. But when we don’t respect the right ordering, and put bread above Love, then we will fail those we are trying to help. We will end up giving stones and not bread. Below we see that Jesus does give bread to the people in a different setting. One that occurs in the correct context: where the giving of bread is in the correct context, not to prove his power only.

We are continually asked to remember this right ordering of things, so that we may always be able to provide real bread. Now, you may ask, where have we seen that bread is provided; all we’ve seen here is hunger. Let us go further on in the Gospel, to an event where Jesus does provide bread. I would like to quote directly our dear Pope B16 who talks of the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves to feed the thousands (see: Mt 15:34 – 38):
“Why does Christ now do the very thing he had rejected as a temptation before? The crowds had left everything in order to come and hear God’s word. They are people who have opened their heart to God and to one another; they are therefore ready to receive the bread with the proper disposition. The miracle of the loaves has three aspects, then. It is preceded by the search for God, for his word, for the teaching that sets the whole of life on the right path. Furthermore, God is asked to supply the bread. Finally, readiness to share with one another is an essential element of the miracle. Listening to God becomes living with God, and leads from faith to love, to the discovery of the other. Jesus is not indifferent toward men’s hunger, their bodily needs, but he places these things in the proper context and the proper order.” (Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI, 2007, p32)




Bible verses mentioned above, not quoted:
(Mat 15:34-38)
Jesus asked them how much food they had. They replied, "Seven small loaves of bread and a few little fish." After Jesus had told the people to sit down, he took the seven loaves of bread and the fish and gave thanks. He then broke them and handed them to his disciples, who passed them around to the crowds. Everyone ate all they wanted, and the leftovers filled seven large baskets. There were four thousand men who ate, not counting the women and children.


Thursday, 10 March 2011

Lent Reflection: Temptations of Christ in the Desert (Part 1)

Introduction

When scripture is quoted and the text is not provided, please look to the bottom of the reflection for the text of the scripture.

Let us start by looking at the text from the Gospel according to Matthew.

Mat 4:1-11 

(1) The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert, so that the devil could test him. (2)  After Jesus had gone without eating for forty days and nights, he was very hungry. (3)  Then the devil came to him and said, "If you are God's Son, tell these stones to turn into bread.” (4)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures say: 'No one can live only on food. People need every word that God has spoken.' " 

(5)  Next, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and had him stand on the highest part of the temple. (6)  The devil said, "If you are God's Son, jump off. The Scriptures say: 'God will give his angels orders about you. They will catch you in their arms, and you won't hurt your feet on the stones.' "  (7)  Jesus answered, "The Scriptures also say, 'Don't try to test the Lord your God!' " 

(8)  Finally, the devil took Jesus up on a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms on earth and their power. (9)  The devil said to him, "I will give all this to you, if you will bow down and worship me.” (10)  Jesus answered, "Go away Satan! The Scriptures say: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.' "  (11)  Then the devil left Jesus, and angels came to help him.


For this time I’d like to focus on the first two verses.

Now, at first read, it does seem strange that the Holy Spirit would lead Jesus into the desert so that he could be tested, and not just tested, but tested by Satan. Should it really surprise us though? I mean, how would Jesus, being fully human, really, really know who he was if he didn’t face a challenge? Our beliefs are shaped not only by intellectual arguments, but also more strongly by experience. If Jesus did not experience the temptations, and emerge triumphant, would he know what he believed? Having faced the temptations that Satan put to him, and emerged victorious, he was able to concretely testify to what his mission was. He was able to define, for both himself, and us what he came for. You need to be confronted by an idea to form an opinion.

We must also understand that for Jesus to find and save the lost sheep, he must enter the place where it has been lost. He must totally follow down the path that leads to such a loss of self, and in order for redemption to occur, he must conquer the things that cause man to lose himself. However, if Jesus where to give into these temptations, it would not be possible for him to redeem us. In addition, if he did not face the temptations then Jesus would not be able to redeem us, because he would have no contact with us, no opportunity to truly find us (See Heb 2:18). Often we hear the expression, “Don’t judge unless you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.” This is true. Perhaps we can extend this and say, “Don’t try and help unless you can see the person’s shoes.” In this way, many charitable actions would be saved from failure. Sending money to a foreign place is not much help to the people. What they need is recognition. For someone to get close enough to understand the problems. When you send money from afar, you cannot have any idea of whether the project addresses the needs. The philanthropist must immerse himself in the problems, in the pain, of the one he seeks to help. Only in that way can he know what to do.

Back to the Gospel, what I am trying to say is this: Jesus was led by the Spirit to the place where he could find fallen humanity and from there begin to guide us home. He felt our pain, experienced our problems. He knows what we need. And not only did he walk a mile in our shoes, I’m sure in 40 days he covered more ground than that.

Also, notice that Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the desert before he was tempted. A period we try to emulate during lent (except that we have some respite each Sunday). This is very important because it was an opportunity for Jesus to learn in the School of Silence. In the School of Silence a person is left to find only himself or herself, their core identity, and in this core identity we recognise our relationship with God. But if the noise of the world is never escaped we can never discover the boundless beauty of this relationship. And if we don’t recognise Jesus, who is also God, when he comes to save us by pointing the way home, how will we ever find the way out of our “lostness”? Jesus built strength in the School of Silence and knew His Divinity (knowledge hidden from the devil), with this knowledge He was ready to refuse anything the devil could offer him. If we, too, are able to move away from the noise of the world we will also discover our relationship with Jesus and be able to know what we are created to be. A discovery so precious, the pearl of great price (Mat 13:46) if you will, that nothing can remove God's peace from us.

Let’s look at the 40 days part. Now, honestly, no matter how bad the food available is, nobody can go without it for 40 days and nights. Impossible. So what is this trying to tell us? The early Church Fathers stretched numerology a bit and said that the four represents the world (North, South, East, West being four corners of the world) and the 10 to represent the 10 commandments, or the law. Hence, 40 represents the law expanded to embrace all nations. And this is consistent with Jesus’ teaching. Another way to view this number is to see in it the reflection of the events in salvation history: Noah’s Ark (rain for 40 days and nights), the 10 commandments (Moses went up Mount Sinai for 40 days), and the Exodus (40 years in the desert). In this, we see Jesus connecting himself, identifying himself, with salvation history. 

As a closing for this introduction, I’d like to point out a link to the Old Testament. Where Adam was tempted in the garden he succumbed, as has humanity since. When Jesus was tempted in a place that would become the place of reconciliation and healing, the antidote to the sin, its opposite side, just as the desert is the opposite of the garden. And the antidote to our fallen condition is Love. Jesus teaches always how to love. From the above I think we can see that this love is one of compassion, of entering into the others suffering. The world needs this love. That Christians enter into each other’s “passion” if you will. That we have com-passion. Let’s use the time of lent to feel compassion for those who are less fortunate, and then let’s do something for them.


Scripture verses:

Heb 2:18  And now that Jesus has suffered and was tempted, he can help anyone else who is tempted.

Mat 13:46  and having found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.