Weekly Reflection

As part of my work as Manager, Campus Ministry for the University of Notre Dame Australia I write a weekly refection on the coming Sunday's Gospel and email it to all staff and students of the Fremantle Campus. This then is the weekly blog of those reflections, based on the Gospel readings for Sundays, as per the lectionary of the Roman Missal of Paul VI. Should these reflections find any readership whatsoever, I hope that it is edifying.
The title of my blog is taken from the English translation of Cardinal John Henry Newman's memorial epitaph, which was inscribed on his memorial plaque at the Birmingham Oratory.

Ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem - Through Shadows and Images to Truth

Sunday, May 22, 2016

5 May - Trinity Sunday

“He will lead you to the complete truth”

There can be little more reassuring a line than these words of Jesus in John’s Gospel.
The disciples had been with Jesus for some time, and yet he remained for them a mystery.
Here he is, truth incarnate - a truth at once so simple and yet so complex that despite their personal knowledge of the man and his physical presence with them, he remained beyond the reach of their understanding.
I am struck, particularly in this year of mercy, of how God so understands fallen human nature in all its foibles and shortcomings. It seems that the whole of salvation history reads as a divine pedagogy of sorts, where God reveals himself gradually over time – beginning with Abraham, through Moses and the Prophets, before finally and fully revealing his very self in the person of Jesus. And yet, despite the event of this full, unreserved revelation, in his infinite mercy God ensures the ongoing reception of this truth in and through the person of his Holy Spirit.
While new revelations of God are no longer needed, the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in the world and in the Church prevent what has already been revealed in the Scripture and through the Tradition does not remain a dead letter, but remains active and dynamic in the life of the Church.

We pray to, in, and through the Holy Spirit, and trust in his continuing presence amongst us. We ask for him to continue to animate our lives so that the Christian faith does not become for us a museum piece, but instead remains a living presence, an event, an encounter which gives life a ‘new horizon and a decisive direction’, which reveals us to our very self and makes our supreme calling clear.

Prayer for the day
Taken from the Office of Readings for Trinity Sunday

God our Father,
    you revealed the great mystery of your godhead to men
    when you sent into the world
    the Word who is Truth
    and the Spirit who makes us holy.
Help us to believe in you and worship you,
    as the true faith teaches:
    three Persons, eternal in glory,
    one God, infinite in majesty.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Friday, May 13, 2016

15 May - Pentecost Sunday

“He will give you another Advocate…”

The feast of Pentecost comes fifty days after the feast of the resurrection, and marks the close of the Easter season.
In the Christian tradition it can seem that we are constantly in the process of celebrating or remembering some significant event from long ago. This way of marking time is not however unique to the Catholic Christian tradition – it is something that is broadly human. We gather to mark special days on the calendar, be they birthdays, anniversaries of weddings, deaths, or other memorable events.
This natural phenomenon of collective remembering causes us to pause not just to remember something in the past, but also something continuing, something that is happening today.
If, for example, we are celebrating our birthday, we think not just about the fact of our birth, but of all that has happened since, and all that potentially lies before us. We celebrate the gifts of the year that has past, and the gift of the present.
On this particular day of Pentecost we recall a special gift, bestowed upon us, the Church, by Jesus himself –the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This Spirit, gifted to the Apostles by Jesus, is the same Spirit which animates us in the Church today. This Spirit, the Advocate, is the Spirit which hovered over the waters in the beginning; the same Spirit who inspired the authors of the Sacred Scriptures; the same Spirit who overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary, to whom she gave her fiat; the same Spirit who descended on Mary and the Apostles at Pentecost; and who now resides in the hearts of all the baptised.
This feast which we remember on Sunday is not simply a memory of an event long past, but an opportunity for us to step into the ongoing lived reality of the Spirit’s constant coming.

Veni Sancte Spiritus Veni per Mariam

Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Come Holy Spirit,
fill the hearts of your faithful
and kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And You shall renew the face of the earth. 


Veni Sancte Spiritus Veni per Mariam
Come Holy Spirit, Come through Mary

Friday, May 6, 2016

8 May - The Ascension of Our Lord

“as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven …”

The story which we mark today is perhaps one of the most fantastic that we have in the Gospels. After his death and resurrection we’ve been regaled with tales of his numerous miraculous appearances to the disciples, and now we find him physically taken up into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God.
At the time, despite their many experiences with Jesus, it seems that they still had little understanding of him – indeed, they were still expecting him to establish an earthly Kingdom of Israel.
For the disciples this episode of his ascension must have been an amazing experience: one so real and so important to them that Luke records it twice, once here in this reading, and later in the Acts of the Apostles. One can scarcely imagine how deeply the events of the last three years of their lives would have impacted them. And now this – as he blesses them he is taken from them into heaven.
But what does all this mean for me today, in my life?
It seems that our own understanding of Jesus is fairly limited also – despite whatever study we may have done to grow in that area – the person of Jesus always ultimately remains a mystery, yet one we are so strongly drawn to because it is in him that we the whole of human experience lived out most fully. In the words of the Vatican II Council, he ‘reveals us to ourselves.’
So why am I asked to believe that he ascended, body and soul into heaven? His ascension, it seems, allows him to be closer with me, with all people of all times and places. He is no longer bound by time and space.
The Ascension, says Italian priest Fr Luigi Giussani,  is a mystery that ‘completes the mystery of the Resurrection, amplifies and enlarges it to all of reality, all times, all history, eternity.’ (In the Depths of Things).

It establishes Jesus’ Kingdom on the unmovable reality of heaven as King of the universe, and Lord of history.

Food for thought
‘The Christian message announces the permanence of the fact of Christ, as a continuous happening – not something that happened once – but as something that still happens.’ (Luigi Giussani, Why the Church?, 203)

Friday, April 29, 2016

1 May - Sixth Sunday of Easter

Gospel Jn 15:9-17
“You did not choose me: no, I chose you”

The theme of today’s reading is one that we often reflect on – the love of God. We have recounted here before us a stunning message from Jesus to his disciples. He tells them clearly and beautifully of the love that he has for them. John, the author of this Gospel is clearly very affected by the reality of this love that he experienced directly from Christ – it is a recurring theme in his writings. Elsewhere he states explicitly that God doesn’t just have love - it is not simply one of his attributes, as though it is one among many. No, in point of fact, God actually is love. [1 Jn 4:8]
This can be a reality that is easily lost on us – in fact often the more we hear it, the less real it can seems. This image of love, detached from the reality of our lives becomes a trite, schmaltzy bit of warm-fuzzy nothingness.  But Jesus’ words here reveal the profound reality of what it means to love – words that are in fact deeply profound.
“A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” – Here is love: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
What this looks like in our lives may be different according to our current state in life: whether we are a parent, a friend, a husband or a wife, a boyfriend or a girlfriend, a son or a daughter. The call to love is not something that is just for some people. No, it is for each and every one of us. And it is in this act of loving, in this act of spending our lives in love and service of others that we find our true self.
The words of the Second Vatican Council, so often quoted by Pope St John Paul II echo this call; ”man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” [GS, 24]

Let us turn to Christ and ask that he will provide what is lacking in our love, and for the courage to spend our lives in love and service of him and those whom he loves.

Point to Ponder
Recognise that you have been chosen first. God has chosen me, as his beloved daughter or son.

We love only because he has loved us first.

Friday, April 8, 2016

10 April - Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel John 21:1-14
“I’m going fishing.”
Despite our familiarity with tragedy, it is hard to fathom how the disciples must have felt. Their friend and leader from whom they’d been inseparable for the last three years had been executed in the most public and horrendous of ways.
Despite news of his somehow being alive again, the confusion and fear that weighed on their hearts and minds must have been phenomenal. If a tragedy such as this could befall him who had been the most upright, though perplexing of persons, what was in store for them as his followers?
“Let’s go fishing”, suggests Simon Peter – a fisherman by trade, yet no doubt one who enjoyed the pastime. In his grief what he needs is familiarity, and some kind of activity to distract him perhaps.
When we actually sit down and read the Gospels it is often surprising, scandalous even, to find such banal or commonplace statements. We expect, and oftentimes get, elevated spiritual discourse, but just as often it seems, we are treated with mundane details of the ordinary and everyday, leading us at times to ask why such details are included. And yet, it is here, in the mystery of our everyday lives that the resurrected Christ comes to meet us.
We are often waiting for a big event to break upon us and open us up the spiritual realities that we hope exist somewhere out there, and often we find ourselves seeking out such experiences – we go on retreats, or find ourselves engaging in meditation or other ‘spiritual’ practices, hoping to connect with the mystery.
It is the inclusion in the Gospels of these rather mundane events that reminds us that it is right here, in the everyday, that Christ comes to meet us.
For Simon Peter and the others, this was a real, physical experience, but it can be for us as well. God cannot be contained to those spaces where we go to try and seek Him out, but can and will be found wherever we open ourselves to receive his love.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

27 March - Easter Sunday, of the Resurrection

Gospel Jn 20:1-9
“[A]nd he saw and believed …”

These words strike me with a particular strength. ‘He saw and believed.’
The disciples had followed Jesus for three years, and upon his arrest only John had stuck around to witness the horrific events of his execution and death. News had obviously circulated and the disciples, whether they had physically witnessed it or not, no doubt knew and understood the fate of their friend.
Overcome with grief, Peter and John ran to the gravesite upon hearing Mary Mag′dalene’s news of the open tomb. John reached the tomb earlier but waited for Peter to enter first.
What they saw was enough – without seeing or conversing with the resurrected Jesus (something that they would do in the not too distant future), they ‘saw and believed.’
So often for us today, sight is required for belief in almost everything. For the most part we require an experience of something if we are to profess our belief in it – particularly if said assertion is extraordinary, as in the case of the resurrection. In such a circumstance, how are we to come to belief? Where is my evidence for belief in the resurrection?
If the resurrection had not happened things would be different. There would be no reason at all for our hope. Death would be the end.

Our evidence then is not just the verbal or written testimony of those men and women who witnessed the risen Lord – but it is the witness of the lives of those around us which have been radically transformed by the hope which accompanies this resurrection. As we enter into these last few days of the Lenten season we rightly reflect on the suffering and death of Our Lord, but let us not give in to despair. This is not the end, for he has overcome death.

Point to Ponder
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope St John Paul II

Friday, March 18, 2016

20 March 2016 - Palm Sunday

‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out.’
‘The stones will cry out.’ What an incredible claim!?
As we near the end of this Lenten season and approach Easter, the central claims of Christianity come starkly into view.
At the origin of the Christian claim stands this figure. Jesus.
On one hand he is seemingly unremarkable. The son of a carpenter, living a somewhat obscure existence, wholly unremarkable in the backwaters of first century Palestine until, that is, he reaches the age of around 30, when he begins a three year period of intense activity; preaching, teaching, healing, performing miracles, and the like. More than this though, it seems that in the stories recounted in the Gospels, it is his mere presence which elicits the greatest response – either of loving acceptance or utter derision and rejection.
Jesus was a polarising figure, and he continues to be today. His very existence makes a claim on us, and requires of us an answer.
The events of today’s Gospel remind us of this harsh reality – one cannot remain indifferent toward Jesus. Even the stones will cry out his praises should we all remain silent.

Christians of all ages, beginning with his Disciples and carrying on down throughout the centuries have found in the person of Jesus, something that resonates deeply within their hearts. It is this personal encounter, which for many of us happens through his Body on earth, the Church, which fundamentally changes us, opening up new horizons and making our supreme calling clear.

Point to Ponder
‘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.’
– Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1