Weekly Reflection

I thought I would set this up to store some of my weekly reflections. These reflections are based on the Gospel reading for the coming Sunday. I submit them more as an online journal of my musings of sorts, though should anyone ever read them I hope that they may in some way be edifying.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

16 November 2014: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 25:14-30
Taking a gamble

Inevitably, this Gospel reading lends itself to the kind of reflection that says, ‘don’t waste your God-given talents.’ And really, that’s not a bad message to take away from the reading this Sunday. But perhaps there’s more to be learned here.
As a matter of fact, the thing that struck me the most when reflecting on this parable of Our Lord is the absolute recklessness of the two first servants, who traded all that they had been given in the hope of making more for their master. Their investment seems to me to be a pretty risky gamble. Just imagine if they’d lost everything!
The one servant who very carefully goes about burying his talent for safe keeping was probably thinking to himself, ‘At least I won’t lose it. I will have something to give back to my master upon his return.’ In the end, we know what happened. The master took his conservative attitude as irresponsible. Why is that?
In a certain sense, Jesus is asking us to trust Him. He has given us these talents, not so that we would lock them up safely and never use them, but to put them to work for his greater glory in the building up of His Kingdom – building a culture of life and love. Like the two first servants, we need to be fearless in putting our talents to work for the good, holding nothing back, clear in the knowledge that God will in fact bless our efforts when they are put to work in furthering His Kingdom.

Ask yourself…
Am I aware of the many gifts that God has given me, and the gifts that others see in me?
Have I back in offering my gifts to God and to those around me?
How can I employ my own gifts for the building up of God’s Kingdom?
Am I paralysed by fear or animated by trust?

Sunday, November 9, 2014

9 November 2014: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Gospel Jn 2:13-22
Being Zealous for the Lord

This week’s Gospel reading is indeed a tough one. So often we are presented with schmaltzy, warm fuzzy images of Jesus – the perennial nice-guy, who encourages us all to love one another, not judge anybody or anything and generally be good people. The image we are presented with here cannot be more different.
Jesus’ actions seem extreme to say the very least. Making a whip out of some cord and driving the money traders and merchants out of the Temple seems rather confounding for someone whom we often envision as mild-mannered and who, in last week’s Gospel spoke of himself as being ‘meek and humble of heart.’
The telling phrase for me in this reading is the remembrance of the disciples of the words of Scripture ‘zeal for your house will devour me.’
What does this mean? How do Jesus’ actions show a zeal for God’s house? Surely everyone is welcome in God’s house – aren’t they?
Indeed, for Jesus, the activities which were being undertaken can be symbolic of all the many obstacles which stand in the way (and which we often put in the way) of the life of holiness that he calls us to. They are obstacles to our living in the house of the Lord.
Jesus is consumed in his zeal for holiness and consequently he takes such a strong stance against those things which stand in our way – he calls us to do the same. To be merciless to those things, those bad habits, thoughts and actions which prevent us from living more fully in his love.

Questioning Words
What can I cut out of my life that would allow me to live more fully the joy which comes from living a life united to Christ?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

2 November 2014: The Feast of All Souls

Gospel Matthew 11:25-30
Moving past the abstractions and encountering the person

This week we read Jesus’ invitation to come and give our worries and our cares over to him. It is fitting as we enter into the month of November, when we dedicate our prayers to God for the souls of those who have died. The sufferings and the hardships that come with this remembering can be paralysing.
And so while this invitation is comforting for most of us at one time or another, it is an invitation that can seem rather abstract. Perhaps this was possible for the disciples when they were walking and talking with him to share their concerns and worries with the Lord, but after he had died, risen and ascended into heaven, doesn't the idea of resting in Christ become something rather abstract? How is it that he is supposed shoulder our burdens when we can’t see him?
Sure, we have the risen Christ with us today, but it’s just not the same. The risen Christ for most of us is an abstraction. He ‘died and was buried and rose again on the third day’, so we say in the creed each Sunday - but what does this mean for us? This real, human encounter with the person of Jesus, if that doesn't exist today, then it’s simply pointless. No amount of orthodoxy or morality or philosophy can bring it back if there is no encounter. The problem that we have is making the Christian proposal not just a theoretical one, but a fact of life.
How do we have this encounter? Most often we simply don’t allow ourselves to experience God because we make ourselves too busy. Our leisure time is used to immerse ourselves in a sea entertainment, in television, youtube, facebook and the like. We surround ourselves with noise and leave ourselves little to no time for silence and prayer. Often we simply aren’t comfortable in that silence as it is there where our worries and our burdens can overwhelm us. But, in fact, it is right there where Jesus says to us ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’
How can I make time to encounter him in my day to day?

Wise words from Pope Benedict XVI
‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ (Deus Caristas Est, 1)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

25 October 2014: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 22:34-40
The new horizon of love

The Gospel readings for these last few weeks have seen Jesus constantly harassed by Pharisees and Sadducees and Herodians, all of which seem to be trying to trip him up and catch him out, to get him to say something that they could arrest or at least vilify him for. There was obviously something about Jesus that challenged these people, all representatives of the established structures of the society in which Jesus lived.
What is encouraging here is that Jesus does not engage at all in the internal squabbles of the established religious groupings. Instead he quickly identifies the commandments which summarise the entirety of the Law and the Prophets and in doing so lays out a great challenge for one and all.
The command to love, both God and neighbour, is a tough one firstly because I don’t necessarily see God and my neighbour can be the most annoying person on earth and secondly, because it seems impossible to be totally selfless all the time.
What I think is interesting here is that in loving God there is a whole new horizon opened up which supersedes the rule based mentality that the Pharisee’s exhibited, and which we so easily find ourselves falling into. For Jesus the most important commandments are not those which dictate moral norms or liturgical practices (though these are incredibly important). The most important thing is love: love of God, and love of neighbour.

Questioning Words
What would it look like if I was to let a love for God and neighbour really animate my daily life?
What are some of the practical ways that I can show love for those who are close to me?
What are some ways that I can show love to those who I find it difficult to be around?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

20 October 2014: 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 22:15-21
Render Unto Caesar

Entering into this story doesn’t seem to be all that difficult. Jesus is likely with his disciples and others who are interested, imparting his teaching upon them when a group of Pharisee approach him with a question. He is used to this it seems, as they’re always trying to catch him off guard.
The question this time however gives him an even greater opportunity to explicate his teaching. The Pharisees come at him with a moral concern – the taxes they would pay to Caesar would no doubt be used, at least in part, to fund the ongoing oppression of their people. On the other hand, they come to him with a band of Herodians, those loyal to the King who had been imposed on them by Roman Empirical decree. It seems that Jesus is stuck between a rock and a hard place - there is seemingly nowhere for him to go. If he declares it immoral for the tax to be paid the Herodians will arrest him and have him turned over for persecution.
Jesus’ response however takes them well and truly off-guard. His response is to bring the issue back to a more fundamental principle. While he acknowledges that there are in fact temporal or earthly responsibilities that we as citizens must responsibly participate in, he encourages us not to get too caught up in that. Our primary responsibility as a citizen of the heavenly kingdom is to render to God what is His due.
For the image of Caesar is imprinted on the coin and thus in a certain sense, it belongs to him. But the image of God is imprinted on each and every one of us [Gen 1:26] and thus it is our duty to surrender ourselves, whole and entire – body, soul and will – to Him.
The final line of this story, not included in the reading for this Sunday reads: “When they heard it, they marvelled; and they left him and went away.” The words of Jesus here are marvellous indeed. Instead of allowing himself to be dragged into a muddy debate where he most certainly could not emerge cleanly, Jesus reframes the question encouraging both civic responsibility and religious devotion.

Questioning Words
Am I taking care to ensure that I meet all my civic responsibilities?
Have I considered what it is that I owe to God? Am I prepared to give that to Him?
What would it look like to live a life of abandonment to God?
Is there anything holding me back?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

12 October 2014: 28 Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 22:1-14
All are invited to the Wedding Feast
The parable that Jesus tells in this week’s Gospel uses the familiar imagery of the wedding feast, one which is quite common throughout the whole of biblical literature.
Here Christ compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a wedding feast, one to which everyone is invited. Those that scorn and refuse the invitation are certainly not forced to attend against their will.
After the refusal of the original guests the invitation went out to one and all, the bad and the good alike, and the wedding hall we are told was filled with guests. We can imagine the joy and frivolity that would have accompanied such a large crowd celebrating the marriage of the son of a king! No expense would be spared with good food, music and dancing. What a wonderful vision of heaven!
One curious detail is included in this story however, and it is that of the guest who took no care to prepare himself for the wedding celebration. The king deals with this guest rather harshly it seems and after an initial inquiry to which the man is non-responsive, the king instructs his servants to bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark. What could this possibly mean?
It seems that while all are welcome to attend the joyous wedding celebration of the marriage of the king’s son, there is a requirement that some effort is gone to on the part of the guests before arriving. One can imagine arriving at a wedding celebration after just rolling out of bed, or after a days work in the garden – it would hardly be honouring of the host, indeed it would likely be considered an insult.
In this parable we see a glimpse of the unfathomable mercy of God, but we also get a sense of his justice – all are invited to the wedding feast but there is an expectation that we make some effort to prepare ourselves for this joyous occasion.
The putting off of our old garments and the wearing of a wedding garment has traditionally been understood as the putting off of our old, selfish and sinful ways, and the putting on of the life of grace, which God gives us in His mercy. The invitation is open, and God will give us the grace to aid us in preparing ourselves if we but only ask Him.

Truth Nugget
God loves us the way we are, but too much to let us stay that way

Sunday, October 5, 2014

5 October: 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 21:33-43
No Cheap Grace
This week’s Gospel has Jesus presenting a parable which really throws us off. We are somewhat shocked at the behaviour of the tenants of the vineyard, who seem utterly consumed in their greed, willing to stop at nothing, not even murder, to satisfy their lust for riches and produce which in fact was not theirs to keep.
The owner of the vineyard is tireless in his attempts to reason with these tenants, and omits nothing from his attempts to bring salvation to these wicked tenants, not even sparing his son. As their wickedness increased so too did the mercy of the land owner.
The allegory here is obvious, the landowner is an image of God the Father, and the tenants are in a certain sense representatives of each and every one of us who at times neglect to do justice towards God, not giving him his due.
What is important to note here is that God is showing the unfathomable depths of His mercy, to the point of sending his Son into the fray, knowing that he will be in danger – risking his very life.
We are constantly in need of reminders of God’s mercy – we need reminders that God is not simply on the lookout for things to punish us for but instead is looking for opportunities to save us from our own selfish and sinful desires.
In all this too, we must remember at what cost His mercy comes – the blood of His Son. It is in remembering this that we do not take God’s mercy for granted. Mercy is no cheap grace, and while it cannot be earned, it must be received freely, as a gift freely given. God will not force it upon us.