Weekly Reflection

A weekly blog of reflections on the Gospel readings for Sundays, as based on the Roman Missal of Paul VI

Monday, August 24, 2015

23 August 2015 - 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Jn 6:60-69
“This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?”

This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ It really is. Jesus is saying some truly disturbing things here. “Eat my flesh. Drink My Blood.” It’s kind of ghoulish when you think about it.
His ongoing admonition to eat and drink is body and blood was just too much it seems for the majority of people who heard it. As John reports, ‘After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him.’
For me this little detail about many of his disciples leaving him is tremendously important. In fact it gave Jesus an opportunity to clarify his teaching. Had he thought they’d misunderstood his teaching he would have chased after these deserting followers and told them that he was ‘only speaking figuratively’ and that he ‘didn’t really mean all that stuff about eating and drinking his body and blood.’
But no, instead he turns to the Twelve and asks them “What about you, do you want to go away too?”
This is huge. Jesus’ words here show that he is a man who is absolutely certain of the truth of what he is saying. His offer of eternal life is open to all who  have followed him, those who initially came to see him perform miracles, and those who ate so freely when he multiplied the loaves and the fishes. But being the free gift that it is he does not force it on anyone. He allows them to walk away.
Will you?

Truth Nugget

‘Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.’
                                                            - C.S. Lewis

Monday, August 17, 2015

16 August 2015 - 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Jn 6:51-58
“For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.”

The readings from these past few weeks are a bit repetitive. On and on Jesus keeps saying these strange things about his body and blood being food and drink.
Today is no different. He is careful to emphasise this point “Very truly I tell you” - He is not speaking figuratively here – “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” These are strong and terrifying words, but words that also convey a great sense of hope.
Jesus is promising eternal life to those who eat of this bread of life which is his flesh.
While it is true that he is talking quite literally, there is something mysterious happening here – how can it be that we are to eat and drink his very body and blood?
For Catholics, this speaks very clearly of our understanding of the Eucharist, as instituted by Christ himself on the night before he died, at his Last Supper. In the Eucharist which we partake in at Mass is a continual offering of the Body and Blood of Jesus, God the Son, to God the Father, in the Holy Spirit.
As we receive the Eucharist we are taken up into the mystery of God – as Jesus himself asserted, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.”
In a sense we can say that God is the food that consumes us.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

9 August 2015 - 19th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Jn 6:41-51
This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

This is truly astounding. What is he saying here?
Jesus, a man known to those with whom he spoke, was saying the most preposterous things.
How is it that he could claim to have come down from heaven? Surely not! They knew Joseph and Mary, his parents.
These words spoken by Jesus have a mystical and mysterious quality. Not only is he ‘come down from heaven’, but he is ‘living bread’? His flesh is this bread?
What on earth can he mean?
Chapter six of John’s Gospel, from where this reading is taken, is among the most perplexing and unpopular teachings that Jesus gave.
Not only does he claim to be bread, he claims that this bread is far greater than the bread that God had given to Moses and the Israelites as they wandered through the desert because those who eat this bread will not die.
We might be inclined to think that the people of Jesus’ day were more inclined to believe in miracles than we are today in our own scientifically disenchanted era. Yet despite the fact that the people here had just witnessed his feeding of the 5000 they are still trapped in unbelief.
We will read in the coming weeks Jesus’ continued teaching on this matter and the reaction that the majority of people had to him, but for now, let us reflect on our own openness to these words of Jesus.

Do I trust that he can provide me with all I need for this life and the life which is to come?

Let us pray…

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. [Mk 9:24]

Sunday, August 2, 2015

2 August 2015 - 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Jn 6:24-35
“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry”

Today’s reading begins a series of readings from John’s Gospel that build upon last week’s story of the feeding of the 5000.
Here Jesus makes some incredible claims – claims that are worth scrutinising for, if they are true, they change everything.
Jesus points to a significant truth, namely that the human appetite is infinite, despite the fact that it can be satiated for a time with all manner of things.
Later on St Augustine of Hippo would emphasise this reality in the opening pages of his autobiography ‘The Confessions’, where he writes “You have made us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Essentially pointing to the reality that our the human person is created for eternal union with the Triune God, and nothing but this union will suffice.
Here Jesus points to the way that such a union will be achieved – and it is a way which causes scandal for those who first heard his words. Indeed, it continues to cause scandal to this day.
Jesus clearly makes the claim, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
He is the very thing that we yearn for, that we hunger and thirst for. It is he, and he alone who can satiate our deepest desires. He is that bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.
The Gospel readings for the coming weeks will see Jesus explaining what this means. For those of us who know, our continued

Monday, July 27, 2015

26 July 2015 - 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Jn 6:1-15
“This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.”

Of all the miracle stories recorded in the Gospels, this story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is one that really captures our imagination, and not just because it is recounted in all four Gospels.
The scene is set so simply and effectively.
The people are following Jesus as they had witnessed his many healings and heard his profound and challenging teaching. They are so intrigued by this man that they follow him beyond the point where they are able to even meet their own basic needs.
When he sees them coming he recognises their need immediately – they will be hungry before long, and lo, there is nowhere nearby where they could purchase what they need, nor is there enough money around that would be able to pay for it.
This is not merely a miracle where Jesus somehow gets everyone to simply share what they already have. No, this is something truly miraculous. The gift of a small boy of five barely loaves and two fish was miraculously made to be enough for five thousand men, not mentioning the women and the children.
This is something worth considering – Jesus did not simply wave a magic wand and have food appear out of nowhere. No, instead he used what he had, and that was given him by the small boy.
We should remember this when we come up against our own troubles. Rarely have we needed to feed 5000+ people, but we do have our own struggles which are oftentimes insurmountable to our own efforts alone. It is in these times that we need to mimic the small boy in today’s Gospel who gave all that he had, but did not rely on his efforts alone. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

18 July 2015 - 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 6:30-34
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest”
Spending time in silent reflection is an increasingly difficult thing to do. The relentless distractions of the world around us, not to mention our own habits of media consumption, really can disrupt any attempt to retreat into some peace and quiet.
Sometimes however, when we are successful in finding that quiet time, we find such silence uncomfortable.  In such moments our thoughts can overwhelm us, or the silence allows something in our conscience to awaken. In these moments the temptation to escape from silence by checking our emails or our facebook on the phone, or by reading a book, or anything can be crushing.
In today’s Gospel we read of a story where Jesus, recognising the need for silence and recreation, invited his apostles to rest with him. What happens next when that silence is encroached upon is telling.
Jesus is moved with compassion and begins to teach them because ‘they were like sheep without a shepherd.’
Silence is an absolute necessity for us all if we wish to live examined and properly fruitful lives, and Jesus encourages us to seek this out, both by word and example. And yet, today’s Gospel teaches us an important lesson about silence – namely that it is at the service of communion. For Jesus silence is tremendously important as witnessed in the many examples he provides where he steals away to spend time not only in silence, but in prayer.

We should remember this – that silent time is not something selfish, but in fact what enables us to be an authentic gift of self.

Questioning Words
When was the last time I was able to spend time in silent contemplation and prayer?

Am I able to get away, to disconnect, and simply ‘be’? What is holding me back?

What can I do to build in periods of silence into my day and my week?

Sunday, July 12, 2015

12 July 2015 - 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 6:7-13
“Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs”

I recently had an opportunity to watch the Bill Murray film ‘St Vincent’. The heart-warming film had some interesting themes and some of the classic comedy that we’ve come to associate with the actor/comedian/filmmaker Bill Murray.
One scene in the film depicts a Catholic priest teaching a class of 6th graders, explaining to them that Catholicism is “the best religion…because we have the most rules.”
The line, obviously written and delivered with comedic intent couldn’t be further from the truth we read in today’s Gospel reading.
Rather than equipping his apostles with a load of rules to take with them to teach those that they come into contact with, Christ instructed his apostles to simply preach repentance and to cure those that need it.
Often we tend to reduce the faith to mere moralism – a list of actions and habits that are prohibited. This however is far from the truth of the matter.
Jesus instructed his apostles to go out and preach repentance not so the people who heard him would be unhappy – but because those people, like all of us have things in our life that we need to repent of so that we can be open to the love with which God himself wants to bring us into.
The call to repentance is so often accompanied with negative connotations, but it is really a call to put aside those things in our life which hinder our eternal fulfilment:  union with God.
Repentance frees us, such that we are able to enter into the Divine life itself, engaging in the eternal exchange of love which is the Blessed Trinity.

Questioning Words
What are those things in my life which prevent me from being open to the love of God?
It is common practice to spend some time each evening in prayer, examining one’s conscience and seeking the Lord’s forgiveness for the times throughout the day when we have not been open to his love.

Perhaps this is a practice that you could adopt in your own life, in your family, with your housemates?