Saturday, 29 August 2009

Meeting God Through Snakes and Ladders

Snakes and Ladders was a favourite game of my childhood. You know how it goes? Each players has a coloured counter, which is to progress from the starting square in the bottom corner of the board to the winning square in the top corner. In turn we threw a dice and moved our counters forward accordingly.
However, the progress was not straightforward. On the board were snakes and ladders of various lengths. If your counter had to be moved to the head of a snake, down you went to its tail. If your counter came to the foot of a ladder, it was moved up to its top. Perversely, there was the head of a long snake just next to the winning square. When you were in the sight of victory you might find yourself making a long descent.

I have never known anyone have a clear run from beginning to end -ascending ladders, but never being troubled by snakes. This is a game of elation and frustration! The same is true of the spiritual life. But this is no game. It is serious business.

By tradition the snake represents the devil, as we find the serpent tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. From ancient times progress in the spiritual life has been described as climbing a flight of stairs or mounting a ladder. So our own personal Salvation History can be understood in terms of Spiritual Snakes and Ladders!

There have been times when I've felt that I was making steady progress in the spiritual life. Also rare and precious moments when I have seemed to surge upwards -much like moving up the ladders of the game. This has been a good experience that filled me with confidence. I have been walking with God. He has been journeying with me.

Sad to say, I have been brought down to earth -my earthly self -not once but many times, in many ways. Often when I least expected it. I have met snakes, which have been the cause of my downfall. I really shouldn't blame them because I have my own conscience and free will. My downfall has been my own doing. I'm not like a counter, moved up and down the board of life. When I have ascended it has been the grace of God that has taken me upwards. I have wanted this to happen, allowed this to happen. When I've move downwards I have chosen to take that path.

Many have been my good and sincere resolutions i which I've persevered for a time, only to belie them. I can recall preaching what I thought was a fine sermon on loving our neighbour. Shortly afterwards, when the congregation had left the church, I was getting into a bad-tempered exchange with someone who annoyed me. Then, disappointment, disillusionment with myself, shame. Had my progress been a fanciful dream?

How I long for a spirituality of steady consistency, or, if not that, at least no sliding backwards! I am denied that luxury. I deny myself that luxury, precisely because I keep on flirting with snakes!

Being at the end of the snake's tail when I've thought I should be at least at the top of a short ladder is not comfortable. But I've come to realise that I'm not in this snakes and ladders routine on my own. It's at the tip of the snake's tail, my descent into sinful failure, that I meet Jesus -my saviour. He picks me up, sets me on my feet and accompanies me on the journey ahead.

Jesus meets me at the point of my lowliness -my failure through sinfulness. And there He inspires me to approach him with a repentant heart and seek His forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He makes me whole, fit to scale the ladders that lead to God. wary of snakes that could deflect me from him. There is sadness because of the snakes, rejoicing because of the ladders. My fond hope and determination is that I shall eventually reach the winning square -eternity with God!

Peter O.P.

Next week Isidore will meet God in 'Looking a Mess.'



A number of years ago there was a fascinating TV series entitled the "Ascent of Man." This described his evolutionary development from his primate ancestors to modern man, with his rich cultures, reasoning power and inventive skill.

Jesus has added a new dimension to the "Ascent of Man."

He has healed our sinfulness, which separated us from God.
He has raised us beyond our human limitations,
so that we could share God's own life and happiness.
That is why he created us; that was the purpose of his plan to save us.

Earth-man is no longer earth-bound!


This picture shows the fulfilment of God's plan of salvation.

Already we are caught up in Christ's ascent to glory.
Through baptism we have been born from above, and so, have begun to share God's own life.
This gives us a divine momentum upwards, towards God.
Already we've begun to share in the saving power of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension.

That's why YAHWEH'S hands draw up -not only Christ -but us as well.

"And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."
Jn. 12. 32

"So, if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above,
where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth;
for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ who is your life is revealed,
then you also will be revealed with him in glory."
Col. 3. 1-4


Isidore O.P.
This posting concludes the "Y" series of pictures and comments.
I would welcome your reaction to it.

Next week, on Sunday 13th Sept, Peter will resume our "Meeting God" series.
He will tell us how he has found God in the game of Snakes and Ladders.

Monday, 24 August 2009



The crucified Christ raises his hands triumphantly at his victory over the forces of evil

He has successfully completed the task given him by his heavenly Father.

The couple raises their hands as they welcome the salvation Christ has won for us on the cross.

The large hands represent the Father, drawing his Son and us upwards to enter his glory

In this picture there's a repeated "Y" formation. This signifies:

The Father's "Yes" to our salvation.

The Son's "Yes" to his Father's will.

Our "Yes" to the salvation the crucified Christ has won for us.


I've deliberately emphasised the Exaltation of Crucified Christ, rather than that of the cross on which he was crucified.

Isidore O.P.

Next week's final picture and comment on the Ascension will provide the climax to this series.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


This picture is a reflection on 2 Cor. 1. 20-21

"For in him -Christ -every one of God's promises is a "YES"
For this reason it is through him that we say the
"AMEN" to the glory of God.
But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us."

The hands in this picture form a "Y"

This represents YAHWEH and his "YES" to his promises of salvation

The "Y" formation is repeated in the crucified Christ's body,
with its raised arms, as he says, "AMEN," "YES"
in obedience to his Father's will.
I have tried to express the determinaton that required, as the crucified Christ fixes his eyes intently on the "YES" of his Father's loving, supporting hands.
With and through him we say "YES" to our salvation.

In the "Our Father" we pray, "Thy will be done."
We place ourselves in God's hands, trusting in his wisdom and love.
That's the hardest prayer to really mean.

Isidore O.P.

Next week's picture and reflection will be about the Exaltation of Christ Crucified.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009



"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will oversahdow you; therefore the child to born of you will be called holy; the Son of God...And Mary said, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word'"

Lk. 1. 34-37

This picture shows Mary's will in complete harmony with God's

Her whole body, with its extended arms, parallels Yahweh's 'Y' -his 'YES' as she agrees to cooperate with his plan for our salvation.

Her 'YES' to God reverses our rebellious 'NO'

Her docility to God's will is the model for redeemed humanity

This picture is Trinitarian

The Father, who sent his Son into the world, is represented by Yahweh's hands

The dove represents the Holy Spirit, through whom Mary conceived our saviour.

As Mary reaches to welcome the Spirit the Son joins the human race.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, full of grace and truth."

Jn. 1. 14

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as children."

Gal. 4. 4-5

Isidore O.P.

Next week's picture and reflection will be about the crucified Christ's "YES" to his Father's will.

Friday, 7 August 2009


Why do we defy God and reject his love and his life?

Why do we rebel against God and behave so badly?

We wouldn't do so unless we thought we had something to gain by sinning.

In the Biblical account of the Fall Adam and Eve sought to be equal to God and independent of him. In spite of his warnings they thought they had nothing to lose by disobeying him. Pride in thinking we know better than God lies at the heart of all sin.

Sadly, we discover that our rebellion brings discord into our relationship with God, with each others and even with the environment. That was the experience of Adam and Eve, who, instead of walking with God in the cool of the evening were no longer able to face him or even themselves in their naked humanity. They quarrelled with each other. The very environment, which God had entrusted to their care became arduous and hostile. Far from gaining through sinning they had forfeited what was most precious to them -being at peace in a loving relationship with God.

In the subsequent chapters of Genesis and the rest of the Bible we see the ripple effect of evil spreading throughout the world. We are only too aware of that in our own lives and in the world in which we live. Our behaviour affects other people, for better or for worse. We use each other to our own advantage, forgetting that they are our brothers and sisters, with the same dignity and rights as we claim for ourselves.

But instead of writing us off as worthless, God sets about repairing the damage our sins have caused.

This is suggested by his opens hands in the present picture, and will be developed in the subsequent illustrations. They form a brief approach to some aspects of salvation history.

While the man in the picture shakes his hand defiantly at God, the woman gives Yahweh the contemptuous 'V' sign. Both of them are starting to turn away from him.

There's a sadness in Yahweh's open, empty hands, as the couple turn their backs on him and he pleads for them -for us -to return to him.

But, even though sinful man may reject Yahweh's loving hands, they always remain open, ever eager to welcome back the repentant sinner. God's love for us, is of its very nature steadfast, not fickle or brittle. That means that he owes it to himself to be merciful in welcoming the repentant sinner back, if that's what he or she really wants.

"If we are faithless, he remains faithful -for he cannot deny himself"

2 Tim. 2. 13

Isidore O.P.

Next we will see how God begins to repair the damage caused by sin