Weekly Reflection

I thought I would set this up to store some of my reflections on each Sunday's Gospel readings. I submit them more as an online journal of my musings and, while I do not envision that they will be read by anyone, should they ever be read I hope that they may in some way be edifying.

Friday, May 22, 2015

24 May 2015 - Pentecost Sunday

“And you too will be witnesses …”

A full 50 days has passed since the resurrection, and with this feast of Pentecost the Easter season comes to an end in the most dramatic way imaginable.
The miraculous events of that Pentecost event which followed the death and resurrection of Jesus saw the birth of a something greater than a mere club or association of people, something greater than a movement even. What emerges is not just a group of people bound by an ethical system or set of ideals. If that were the case there would be no reason for their continuance after the horrific public torture and execution of their leader.
The people that follow after Jesus are bound together by a common event – an experience of a life transformed by an encounter with a person who was not defeated by death – a person whose continuing presence is felt in the deep and profound joy which penetrates every fibre of their being as individuals, and which binds them together in love.
In this Gospel story Jesus bequeaths to his followers his Holy Spirit. This is the same Spirit which descends on the Apostles in the Upper Room (see Acts 2), the same Spirit that inspires the missionary journey’s of those first Apostles, the same spirit which inspired the writing of the Sacred Scriptures we hold so dear, and the same Spirit that continues to inspire us as we read from those Scriptures and engage in those works of mercy to which we are called.
The Spirit given to us by Christ binds us together in love and continues to animate his Body, the Church.
Today’s feast of Pentecost puts to us a real challenge – have I opened myself to the presence of the Spirit in my day to day? Have I allowed the Spirit to inspire my work, so that I can be fully a member of Jesus’ body, the Church?

Let us persist in praying for Jesus’ continued sending of his Spirit to enlighten and enliven us

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. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

17 May 2015 - Ascension Sunday (in Australia)

Gospel Mk 16:15-20
“These are the signs that will be associated with believers…”

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.
What more can we be asked to believe?
For the disciples this must have been an amazing experience. This period of 40 days or so since his resurrection, having witnessed something so incredible – one can scarcely imagine how deeply these events would have impacted them.
In his final discourse before his glorious ascension, Jesus tells the disciples of the signs which will accompany those who believe in him into the future. Contemporary readers such as ourselves may be tempted to scoff at such an assertion – looking around we rarely if ever see such miraculous signs taking place.
Throughout this Easter season we have been reading and reflecting on the miraculous events which followed their initial proclamation of the Gospel. But in our times these ‘miraculous experiences have become less frequent. What we do experience now however, is something more miraculous, more exceptional. ‘When Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (Jn 20:29), his precise intention was to indicate the exceptional, miraculous nature of an event of which each one us is called to be a subject.’ (Why the Church? P. 94)
Sometimes we cry out for something that will banish all of our questioning questions and silence our doubts, but if such were to happen would our resulting acceptance truly be faith?

Our evidence, like that of those who were evangelised by the first disciples, is a life transformed by an encounter with Jesus. 

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, May 8, 2015

10 May 2015 - 6th 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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

3 May 2015 - 5th Sunday of Easter

Gospel Jn 15:1-8
“For cut off from me, you can do nothing.”

Last week Jesus used the image of the Good Shepherd to teach his followers about himself. In today’s Gospel we find him using a very different image.
Living here in this Port City of Fremantle one occasionally has the good fortune to travel down to the renowned winemaking regions of the south-west of this fair state. In the next few months we’ll be coming up to that time of the year when winemakers are out in force pruning back their vines, so this imagery is not completely unfamiliar to us.
If you happen to be down there after the pruning has happened you may find yourself shocked at the severity to which the vines are pruned. The once fruitful vines seem to be nothing but dead stumps! And yet, from these vines new life does come forth and much more than if they’d not been pruned.
Jesus could not be clearer in his imagery here, just as a branch will wither as it is cut off from the life giving sap of the vine, so too will we wither if we are cut off from him, as the source of life and love. We must abide in him.
Pope Benedict XVI, in commenting on this reading wrote that ‘[i]t is important that we “abide” in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word “abide” a dozen times in this brief passage. This “abiding in Christ” characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!” (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.’

To abide in Christ is to abide in the Church, which is his Body here on earth. 

Questioning Words
Have I cut myself of from the life-giving vine which is Christ and his Church?
Am I willing to be grafted anew onto the living vine of Christ? 

Friday, April 24, 2015

26 April 2015 - 4th Sunday of Easter

“I know my own and my own know me”

Throughout the Gospels Jesus uses a variety of images to describe the love that he and his heavenly Father have for us, and the relationship that they seek to have with each and every one of us. Here in this figure of the Good Shepherd we find an image that continues to resound in our hearts and minds.
The shepherd would have been a familiar sight to those to whom Jesus first addressed these words – indeed there were probably many among them who had firsthand experience doing that very job. For us however, the role and duties of the shepherd are far from our day to day experience, and yet the image is still one that strikes us.
In speaking of his role as shepherd, Jesus tells his followers that those of his flock will know his voice when they hear it.
This seems strange to us today. How can we, who live 2000 some years after the time of Christ hear and know his voice?
Firstly, we need to take some time out - to stop and to pray. To reflect on God’s Word as it comes to us in Scripture and in Liturgy. We need to open ourselves and not try to impose our own wishes on to what the Lord may be telling us.
Pope Francis rightly points out that “It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon,”
The words of Jesus in today’s reading point us to how we can move out of that frame of mind which positions us as our own horizon – we must emulate the Good Shepherd who freely lays down his life for his beloved. It is only in this self-emptying service of God and of neighbour that we are sufficiently freed to be able to hear fully the words of Christ and to listen to them.
Let us ask for the grace to trust in His mercy, to be able to give ourselves fully over to Him who saves.

Friday, April 17, 2015

19 April 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Easter

“They were still talking about all this…”

We celebrated Easter Sunday about 3 weeks ago and in our busy schedule that can see like ancient history. Easter however, is more than this isolated event. For the fifty days which span from Easter to Pentecost, we are still in the Easter season, and one thing continues to be at the centre of our thought and reflection. The resurrection.
It is not just in this Easter season, but every day that we, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, are taken with this fact - this reality of Christ, raised from the dead.
There is little more fascinating than this claim - that their friend, a guy who they lived with for three years, whom they saw arrested, beaten and publicly executed physically rose from the dead.
Christ’s bodily resurrection is something that all the Gospel’s recount. Importantly, Jesus chooses to demonstrate his physical, bodily resurrection in two primary ways, both of which convey special meaning.
Firstly, he shows his wounds, asking his disciples to touch them and see for themselves. Secondly, he asks to be fed.
These two actions of Christ demonstrate his full, bodily resurrection. Not only that, but they point to a way which we can experience the risen Lord here and now - in touching the wounds of those who suffer and in feeding the homeless.
In one of Jesus’ parables, he directly identifies himself with those who suffer, admonishing his followers to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit those who are sick or imprisoned.
Let us pray that we would be more like those disciples, so consumed with wonder at the Risen Lord that we would still be talking about this, and that we would not be afraid to touch the wounds of those who suffer, and feed those who go hungry.

Let us pray that we do not allow the great mystery of the truth of the resurrection to leave us unaffected.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

12 April 2015 - 2nd Sunday of Easter - Divine Mercy Sunday

Gospel Jn 20:19-31
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ …”

The story of the Resurrection is one which is at the heart of the Christian message – and for many it is a real roadblock on the way to faith.
In this Gospel reading we’re presented with the story of Thomas who is struggling with the idea of the resurrection, not having physically witnessed it himself. So often we read this questioning in a negative light, and we forget the great admonition of St Paul to ‘test everything, hold on to what is good’ [1Th 5:21].
For Thomas the seeming absurdity of the claims being made by the other Apostles of Christ’s resurrection had to be verified and Jesus was absolutely unafraid to provide Thomas with the opportunity to do just that.
It is particularly fitting that Jesus proved his resurrection to Thomas through the evidence of his wounds.
It is right here, in these wounds that we encounter Jesus. Commenting on this passage, Pope Francis wrote the "path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other.”
We might complain today that, unlike Thomas, we do not have the opportunity to feel these wounds which are imprinted on the flesh of Christ. How can I verify this claim of the resurrection today?
“We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress - the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today…
Let us ask St. Thomas for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will