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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The Year of Paul, 29 June 2008-2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

On the Areopagus - 13 The Basis of our Hope

Monday, February 23, 2009
One of the factors a lot of people speak about as characteristic of many in society today, especially young people, is a pervading sense of hopelessness, a sense that there isn’t much to look forward to and often, sadly, not much to live for. The sense of purpose and of deep inner value is often hard to find. Pessimism and cynicism seem to prevail in many areas of the media. Yet the Christian is called to a life that is extraordinarily different from these things. The First Letter of Peter exhorts the Christian to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 1:15). Christians have received the gift of hope that comes from that most trustworthy and unfailing source - God our Father, revealed through Jesus Christ. Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians states firmly that before they came to know Christ they were “without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Believing in Christ means coming into possession of a great hope.

What is this hope based on? Pious sentiment? Mad daydreams? Self delusion? No. St Paul is clear in his letter to the Thessalonians. He exhorts them not to grieve over the dead as do those without hope: “we believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again, and so believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep with him” (1 Thess 4:14). It is a hope based on the knowledge of the immense love which God has for us and which he revealed in the death of his only-begotten Son on the Cross. The tortured figure of Christ on the Cross, arms outstretched before the world, as it were to gather us all to himself, reveals the depths of his love and of how far God will go in his effort to save each human being. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all - how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). Pope Benedict explains in his letter on hope, Spe Salvi, that “the dark door of time, of the future, has been thrown open. The one who has hope lives differently; the one who has hope has been granted the gift of a new life.”

This firm hope in the promise of the resurrection occupies a large part of Paul’s thinking. For him the second coming is a glorious occasion. Not only will the bodies of human beings be transformed but all creation will be renewed: “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Therefore we are children of the light, the light of the knowledge that Christ has revealed to us in his life, death and resurrection. We have put on faith and love as a breastplate and the hope of salvation as a helmet. All Christians are called to be beacons of hope in a world too often darkened by fear, pessimism and hopelessness. Whatever our place in life, whatever our difficulties or sufferings, each of us is of incalculable value to God. For he has spoken to us through his Son and therefore we are comforted by our sure hope in Christ’s saving power and by the firm knowledge that “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

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On the Areopagus - 12 Neither Jew nor Greek ... a multicultural world

Sunday, February 22, 2009
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On the Areopagus - 11 Just War

Friday, February 20, 2009
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On the Areopagus - 10 St Paul on Women

Thursday, February 19, 2009

At the Shrine of St PaulIs this all St Paul says in regard to women? Does he attach importance to gender for the Christian community? In Galatians 3:24-29, St Paul speaks of the equality there is for those who are baptized into Christ. He says “Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus we are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise”. In this passage St Paul acknowledges the equality there is among the children of God, adopted through Christ. All are one, all are equally recipients of the promises God has made to Abraham. Paul certainly doesn’t see gender as a cause of division or as a cause of a distinction in the sight of God.

I will focus on two of the many women St Paul mentions by name in his letters, Prisca (sometimes Priscilla) and Junia. Prisca is mentioned in 1 Corinthians and Romans, along with her husband Aquila. In Romans 16:3-4 he refers to them as co-workers in Christ, who had risked their necks for Paul’s life. He sees them as his equals, fellow co-workers, in their role as leaders of a house church. As such, they were both protectors of the church and indeed protectors of Paul while he was with them. It is interesting that he calls both Prisca and Aquila his co-workers, he treats them both equally. He does not say Aquila my co-worker and Prisca his wife but calls them both co-workers. Read more

On the Areopagus - 9 Capital Punishment

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
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On the Areopagus - 8 Bioethics

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
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On the Areopagus - 7 The Economic Situation

Friday, February 13, 2009
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On the Areopagus - 6 Spiritual Powers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009
"Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. Let anyone who believes in me come and drink" (Jn 7.37). Read more

On the Areopagus - 5 Freedom

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
In the eighteenth century, Jean Jacques Rousseau deplored what he saw as the denial of our human freedom by modern systems of state and thought: “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains.” Whatever political, ethical or religious system one follows, there may be a degree of empathy with this statement.

The twentieth century saw the free world of western civilisation threatened from within in a manner more alarming than ever before. Horrific inhumane acts were carried out by regimes described by Hannah Arendt as ‘totalitarian’: fascism, Nazism, Stalinism. Arendt saw totalitarianism as more dangerous than tyranny – tyranny for her is a political form like a desert, which presents conditions that are difficult for human life. Totalitarianism is like a sandstorm that covers all life, suffocating and eradicating the world. Yet many people were enthralled by these systems, kept them going, and sought even to destroy their detractors. We now know that the downfall of these systems ensured freedom for many people. Modern society now seeks to protect freedom at all costs.

But it is when something is sought ‘at all costs’ that we stand in the gravest danger. Might it be said that we have become slaves to freedom, allowing our insatiable thirst for freedom to injure our society and prevent us from being truly free human beings? Never have we been more conscious that we are born free, and yet it seems that everywhere we are in chains. In his last homily as Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI warned of a ‘dictatorship of relativism,’ one that recognises nothing as definitive, seeking its ultimate goal in one’s own ego and desire. Does not this sound like the State of Nature described by Hobbes – the one Rousseau so detested? What is our true reality: are we a miserable existence needing strict regulation to be what we are, or are we rational creatures born free, destined to be free, but deluded in what will make us so? Read more
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