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, December 27, 2015

27 December 2015 - Feast of the Holy Family (Day 3 of Christmas)

Gospel Lk 2:41-52
His mother treasured all these things in her heart
One event which would have been incredible formative for Mary was the Annunciation, where the angel appeared before her and announced the good news that Jesus, the Son of God, would take on human flesh within her womb.
  Undoubtedly this event would have coloured all her efforts in raising and caring for the child Jesus.
  The event recounted in the Gospel today, the only story we have in the Scriptures of Jesus’ adolescence, would have been all the more worrisome for her considering the weight of responsibility she would have felt, knowing that this child was the Son of God.
  The absolute horror that Mary and Joseph her husbandmust have felt upon learning that their son was not with the caravan would have been unbearable. The sudden realisation that your child, the Son of God, is no longer with you would come as a tremendous shock. The sick feeling which must have arisen in the pit of their stomachs must have been overwhelming.
  Yet, despite the heartache that they must have endured, and most likely even the anger that they must have felt at having been left to worry over his whereabouts, this event was for both Mary and Joseph, as it is for us, a joyful mystery.
  This is an event which is joyful, not only for the fact of being reunited with Him, but also for the fact that, he has revealed to them plainly and for the first time his Divine Sonship.

  As we ponder this great mystery, still within this Christmas season, we look to Mary, the Mother of God and our mother as a model. Her receptivity of the Word of God, is manifest not only in her physical motherhood of Jesus, but spiritually as ‘she treasures all these things in her heart.’ She who in responding with such total self-surrender to the Word, is like the “good soil” of which Jesus speaks. “These are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance” (Lk8:15). She is what Pope Francis called the ‘perfect Icon of faith’ (Lumen Fidei, 58).

Prayerful Words
May it come about in us, O Spirit of God, as it did in Mary–the mystery of the Word was made flesh in her. It became part of her flesh and one with her expressions. Thus, may the memory of Christ become flesh of our flesh, part of all our actions, counsel for every thought and flame for every affection, and move in us with all our moves, from morning to evening, as we eat and drink, and in all our living and in our dying.
Luigi Giussani, On the Holy Rosary

Saturday, December 19, 2015

20 December 2015 - 4th Sunday of Adent

Gospel Lk 1:39-44
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!

Today’s Gospel reading is an interesting selection. While we are eagerly anticipating the coming of the Christ child at Christmas, the Church directs our attention to Mary’s charitable visit to her cousin Elizabeth.
Just prior to this reading we are presented with the story of the Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel seeks Mary’s consent to be the God-bearer. Upon inquiring how this can be, considering her own state in life, Mary freely gives her consent in an act of dynamic creative receptivity – becoming for all of us a model for free receptive-creative love.
The other piece of news that Mary receives at the Annunciation is that her cousin Elizabeth, previously thought to have been unable to conceive, and now well beyond child-bearing years, has miraculously conceived a child.
Mary’s action here is to immediately take the Word abroad. She travels, pregnant as she is, to the hill country of Judea to be with her cousin in her need. In this too she is a model for us all. In receiving into her body and her soul the very life of the Divine God-Man, she does not selfishly hide him away – but instead takes him out to where he is needed.
This is perhaps a perfect example of what Pope Francis has called the ‘mission to the margins.’ Mary goes out to be with those in need, but her actions are not that of mere philanthropy. She can perfectly give what has she has perfectly received, the divine life of God Himself in human flesh. This is why Elizabeth rightly says of her ‘Blessed are you among women’ and why we rightly echo her greeting in the Hail Mary. She is blessed because she has perfectly received the love of God and borne him to the world.
As this Advent season draws to a close let us look to Mary as a model for how we are to bear Christ to the world. 

Point to Ponder

“Mary is totally dependent upon God and completely directed towards him, and at the side of her Son, she is the most perfect image of freedom and of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. It is to her as Mother and Model that the Church must look in order to understand in its completeness the meaning of her own mission."
– Saint Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater, 37

Friday, December 11, 2015

13 December 2015 - 3rd Sunday of Adent


Gospel Lk 3: 10-18
A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people

Advent is a time when we wait.

   This is not supposed to be a boring wait, like for instance when we call a phone company to sort out an erroneous bill. The wait of Advent reminds us not only of the coming of Christmas, but of the final coming of Christ into this world, when he will come in majesty and power as ruler and merciful judge. This is a wait that is filled with joy and expectancy.

   The people in today’s Gospel are very much like ourselves. The feeling of joyful expectancy which had animated the crowd boiled over into an attempt to somehow declare John the Baptist as the long-awaited Messiah. In our own day however the season of Advent, a period of supposed joyful and expectant waiting is glossed over and we live as though it is Christmas already. The season of Advent has something of a prophetic character in this culture of ‘rapidification’, where the virtue of patient waiting is forgotten and the desire for immediate gratification is met with the force of untethered human will, and unprecedented technological power.

   This season of Advent serves as a reminder that patience is a virtue, and as a virtue it must be exercised and cultivated. More than this though, Advent teaches us that patient waiting is not simply a boring time of inactivity, but something that we must actively participate in. We ready ourselves for the coming joy of Christmas, by prayerful almsgiving to those in need, returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation, building physical reminders, such as a nativity set, and leaving the crib empty until Christmas.

I pray that this season of Advent will be fruitful for you and for all of us.

Point to Ponder

Among the beautiful prayers of this time let me pinpoint that of the second Wednesday of Advent: "Almighty God, you call us to prepare the way for Christ the Lord, let us not tire of waiting for the consoling presence of the heavenly doctor through the weakness of our faith." That we may not tire of waiting, that is, that we may not get tired of entreating. Entreating for what? For His presence to free us, making us more affectionate towards Him; and our life will be more whole, outstretched to the Father's will, and therefore to forgiveness and mutual help.
Our weakness can become an excuse to give up entreating in the face of all our forgetfulness and all our mistakes: as if Christ were not always a present spring of a greater energy than our fragility. – Luigi Giussani, On the Occasion of Advent, 1991

Saturday, November 28, 2015

29 November 2015 - 1st Sunday of Adent


Gospel Lk 2:41-52
“When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”

 

Jesus employs some fairly harrowing imagery in this Sunday’s reading. These things, he says, will accompany his glorious return. The apocalyptic overtones are at once terrifying and matched with words of consolation.

The season of Advent which begins this Sunday marks the beginning of is an annual reminder of a foundational hope of the Christian faith, namely that Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

We live in the joyful and expectant hope of this as we know that God is a God of mercy. This hope is not presumption, but it is realistic as we know that mercy is not simply an attribute of God, a characteristic that he possesses, but we can say that mercy is of his very essence. Mercy, says St John Paul II is love’s other name. (Dives in Misericordia, 7)

Hope is a theological virtue which is not passive presumption, but actually is the cause for our activity. In hope we are saved, and this hope spurs us on to live as Jesus taught, to ‘Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’ (cf. Lk 21)

The season of Advent is one of expectant and hopeful waiting, but waiting it seems is not something we are often prepared to do in our culture. Indeed, it feels at times that we have been conditioned not to wait, but to take what we can immediately perhaps thinking that hope in God is unfounded.

Let us pray for the grace to wait in joyful hope for Christ’s coming this Christmas, rather than living as though it is Christmas already.

Prayer for Advent
Grant, almighty Father,
that when Christ comes again we may go out to meet him
bearing the harvest of good works achieved by your grace.
We pray that he will receive us into the company of the saints
and call us into the kingdom of heaven.
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, November 20, 2015

22 November 2015 - The Feast of All Saints - Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (34th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
The reading today, much like the Solemnity it is chosen to mark, is a strong one. It is yet another of the remarkably bold truth claims of the Christian faith – namely that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe.
In the scene before us Jesus stands before Pilate, a beaten, bruised and broken man and yet he is as engaging and provocative as ever.
Here he blows open the notion of worldly power which dominates the mind of Pilate, and speaks of a Kingdom which is not of this world. A Kingdom where Truth reigns, and which grows in power and authority wherever Truth is found.
Pontius Pilate is a man of earthly power. His power is exercised through the sheer and inescapable might of the Roman army which he was responsible for in that region at that time. Through this power he is able to command wide respect and to manipulate all manner of circumstances to meet his will.
The power that stands before him in the person of Jesus is of an altogether different sort. Jesus’ power is paradoxically weak, humble and suffering. And yet it is this power through which he defeats sin and death. In his complete self-emptying love, the tremendous power of God the Father is manifest for the world.
The wisdom of this world teaches that we need to reach out, and through an act of sheer will, assert our own power and determine reality for ourselves. This is exemplified here in the person of Pilate – and yet this power is ultimately weak, impotent and flaccid. It will meet its end in death.

Contrary to our intuition we see that the power which is universal across time and space, is that kenotic or self-empting gift of self that Jesus exemplifies for us. It is through this that God works most effectively in and through us.

Poetic Musings

May nations' rulers you profess
And in a public worship bless;
May teachers, judges, you revere,
In Arts and Laws may this appear.

Let every royal standard shine
In homage to your power divine;
Beneath you gentle rule subdue
The home of all, their countries, too.

All glory be, O Lord, to you,
All earthly powers you subdue;
With Father and the Spirit be
All glory yours eternally

Te saeculorum principem
First Vespes on the Feast of Christ the King (from the Old Rite)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

1 November 2015 - The Feast of All Saints - (31st Sunday of Ordinary Time)

Gospel Mt 5:1-12
“His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”
Here we have before us what is perhaps the most famous and powerful sermon ever preached.
Here Jesus turns the wisdom of this world on its head. This series of paradoxical sayings show us that God’s priorities are not our own.
Where we seek the blessings of riches and comfort, Jesus tells us that it is the poor in spirit that are the blessed as the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
Here he is not praising poverty for its own sake, but for the disposition which comes with poverty – that of simple acknowledgment of our need before God.
As we work through each of these beatitudes, these recipes for happiness, we see that they challenge pretty well each and every one of the ways we would seek happiness: We seek riches and comfort, thinking they will bring us happiness, we seek power and influence, we seek retribution and vengeance upon those who wrong us and hold grudges. All these are short-sighted attempts to assert our own happiness or contentedness.
Instead Jesus tells us something rather different. He tells us to be merciful, to seek after righteousness and meekness – these are the things that bring us real, deep and lasting joy, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

25 October 2015 - 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 10:46-52
“What do you want me to do for you?”
So often our conception of God regresses to something rather childish – we think of God as little more than some kind of mystical Father Christmas figure, who, when we remember to pray, receives little more than a list of things that we wish for. Often this sets us up for disappointment, and eventually we cease praying.
Here we have something of a model to follow. The son of Timaeus is firstly aware of his situation. He is a beggar, and the lack that he suffers is foremost in his mind.
At the news of Jesus’ passing by he is relentless in seeking his attention and pleading for his mercy. This is where we need to position ourselves – in humble acknowledgement of our need before God, acknowledging his greatness and crying out for his mercy.
Bartimaeus’ example continues. When he comes before the Lord he is not shy or embarrassed. He does not hide his needs in the face of the Lord’s greatness. “Rabbi, I want to see.”
How often do we let moments of grace such as this pass us by, refusing to acknowledge our need before God, thinking to myself instead that I will sort myself out first, and then present myself to God with a list of all that I have accomplished on my own.
This fails the test of reality because truly we cannot do much at all under our own steam – all is grace. All has been given freely to us, and our natural desire for infinite happiness remains stifled if we do not open ourselves, as did Bartimaeus to the grace that Jesus came to freely give.

Questioning Words

Do I seek out Jesus and offer him all that I am?

Am I open, bringing to God my faults and failings and asking for his mercy in the midst of my need, or do I hide my needs and my faults thinking that I can sort it out on my own?

Am I willing to accept the grace of God to work in my life, even through my shortcomings?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

18 October 2015 - 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 10:35-45
“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
The Disciples are an interesting bunch. Despite the time they’ve spent with Jesus, it seems that his message of humility, service and self-sacrificial love is consistently lost on them.
The reading for this Sunday recounts the story of James and John asking Jesus for places of high honour in the Kingdom. Their question itself belies a particular ignorance of the Kingdom that Jesus had been teaching and preaching about, and so Jesus capitalises on this most teachable of moments.
Gathering his disciples together, he instructs them “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
These words are a radical challenge not only the pagans of Jesus’ day and the disciples to whom his words were first addressed, but for us who live in the modern world, Jesus’ words could not be more contradictory to current mode of being which we have inherited. For us today the assertion of one’s will and authority over self and others, and even nature itself is viewed as a supreme virtue. All must be bent to the power of the human will.
In this context, Christ’s words about humility and service or worse still meekness could not be more unpalatable!
Here, the example of sacrificial love and meekness that he gives is himself, the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve.
Indeed, Christ’s admonition to follow after him, to be meek and humble of heart, is a difficult task – and those who take a more pessimistic view of human nature would hold that what he asks is impossible. While the nay-sayers would claim that the last Christian died on the Cross, we can assert with St Paul that ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ [Phil 4:13]

Words of Wisdom
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by "I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” 
― Mother Teresa

Monday, October 12, 2015

11 October 2015 - 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 10:17-30
 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

The story recounted in today’s Gospel reading is one that we are no doubt familiar with. Here the rich young man, a good bloke by the sounds of it, approaches Jesus asking ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Something deep within him seems to drive him to want go beyond a merely moralistic adherence to the law. Here he encounters Christ and is drawn to something more. As Pope John Paul II observed, ‘For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life.(JPII, Veritatis Splendor, 7).
While he rightly intuits that the eternal destiny of man is connected to the moral life – the rich young man is conscious that there must be something more that corresponds to the deepest desires of his heart. And so he approaches Jesus, the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation about the time being fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God being now at hand (Cf. Mk 1:15).
Jesus’ call to ‘sell everything you have and give to the poor,’ and, ‘follow me’ is a real challenge to this man, not because he is living an objectively bad life, but because his relative wealth affords him a comfort that he does not want to risk.
For many of us today, the comfort which our relative wealth affords us often prevents us from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to experience true love - to risk all in our efforts to follow Christ.
The rich man goes away sad, and his is a sadness we might share in lest we take up the invitation to boldly risk all on account of love.
As John Paul II elsewhere reflects on the challenging words of Christ, ‘[a]re we to fear the severity of these words, or rather have confidence in their salvific content, in their power?’ (JPII 8 Oct 1980).
Let us pray for the grace to risk all on account of love.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

4 October 2015 - 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 10:2-16
“But at the beginning of creation...”
  
In today’s Gospel we read of how Jesus dealt with the contentious issues surrounding marriage in his own day by pointing towards God’s creative intention ‘In the beginning.’ This brings us right back to the stories of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden.
In our own day it seems that we need this constant reminder of our creatureliness, and of who made marriage in the first place. In his teaching on this obviously contentious topic Christ himself points out that the relative laxity of the Law of Moses in this regard was a concession for those living after the Fall and prior to the Incarnation of Christ. His words here not only re-affirm the original vision for marriage, but efficaciously call us all to a redeemed and sacramental understanding of marriage. 
Here he is not at all like the Pharisees of his time, tying up heavy religious burdens for the people that he is not willing to carry [cf. Mt 23:4]. No. Instead he shoulders the heaviest of our burdens, taking on all our sin and inviting us to a new life, redeemed by the blood offered in sacrifice on the cross.
His call to a conception of marriage as indissoluble, as it was ‘in the beginning,’ is not just some ‘pie in the sky’ ideal, but an efficacious call. His words here have a power that is beyond mere human effort. We need to couple our effort with an openness to the grace God wishes to bestow upon us.

Perhaps too this can serve as a model for how we might engage in current discussions concerning marriage. Rather than debate supposed social consequences, we can emulate Christ by pointing to an understanding of marriage as it was in the beginning, and elevated by Christ to the level of a sacrament.

Questioning Words
Do I have faith in the power of Christ’s words that love can last?

Friday, September 25, 2015

27 September 2015 - 26th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.”

This really is a challenging text. More challenging than we are used to or comfortable with.
So often we nurture amongst ourselves an image of Jesus that is far from the reality as it is presented in the Gospels and here we have Christ speaking in unequivocally harsh terms about the seriousness of sin.
In the first part of this selection from Mark’s Gospel Jesus is open and tolerant of good wherever it is to be found, and so should we be also.  Good is good regardless of who is doing it, or the style in which it comes about.
Jesus’ open and tolerant words regarding the good however take on a strikingly different tone when the topic turns to evil. Evil and wrongdoing are met by Jesus not in a tolerant, understanding manner, but with a certain mercilessness. Anything that is evil must be completely avoided, disregarded and even hated and cut off.
If it will prevent me or others from receiving the love of God, then it must be done away with.
Jesus, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Incarnate God who is Love can speak with such severity only concerning items or actions which prevent his love from being known and experienced. Jesus does not direct this to persons at all, but to actions and items which stifle the reception of his love.
What am I holding on to that is preventing me from experiencing God’s love today?

SuscipeThe Prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

20 September 2015 - 25th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 9:30-37
“Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

The Catholic faith is one which embraces paradox – those seemingly absurd, contradictory sounding statements that upon closer inspection turn out to be true.
Some of these classic paradoxes include claims that God is One and God is Three; Jesus is both fully God and fully man; Mary is both virgin and mother, and so the list goes on.
Here in today’s Gospel we find Jesus dropping another one of these paradoxical truth bombs upon us: To be first in the kingdom of heaven we must be last and servant of all.
This claim turns our regular mode of operating on its head. We often feel that in order to be ‘first’ we need to assert ourselves – to exercise power and make history in some way or another. Instead Jesus tells us that to be ‘first’ in the only place that really counts at the end of the day, we must put ourselves last and be servant of all.
What does this look like? For most of us this is difficult to fathom, but if we think for a moment about the people in our world who honestly put themselves last, in the service of all around them we are confronted with some truly great people, people such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, and Jean Vanier among others.
It is so easy for us to be overwhelmed with the suffering that occurs in our world. We think, ‘what can I do, I’m just one person?’ While it is true that we cannot help all of humanity, we can show love in a real and tangible way to those with whom we live and work, those who we pass in our daily commute and the like. We have no real way of demonstrating love for humanity in general. We can show love to the specific people that we encounter daily.
This is much more difficult that it would otherwise seem, but it is much more effective.
It is only through this self-emptying gift of ourselves that greatness is achieved in us. Let us pray for that grace.

A quote to contemplate

“The more I love humanity in general the less I love man in particular. In my dreams, I often make plans for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually face crucifixion if it were suddenly necessary. Yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together. I know from experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs me and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I hate men individually the more I love humanity.”

― Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Friday, September 11, 2015

13 September 2015 - 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 8:27-35
“Who do you say I am?”
Here it is - the question which we all must answer.
This is where objective reality meets our own personal subjectivity – it is a meeting that often leaves us uncomfortable.
When they are asked ‘who do people say that I am?’, the disciples are not at all troubled and easily come forth with a variety of responses. For them it is merely a relaying of other people’s opinions – it doesn’t require them to commit to one view or another. It is only when Jesus directs the question to them personally that it becomes troubling.
It is at this point where the disciples are forced to take ownership of their opinion as to who he really is.
This is the bloke who, you’d remember, they’d all given away everything to follow. They obviously have some understanding that he’s a unique individual, an exemplary teacher and worker of miracles – they had witnessed all this first hand.
Now however they are asked to state definitively what they believe of him, and it is here that they are troubled.
Our words are strikingly powerful. Sometimes we think that they are nothing, but this is quite simply not so. With our words we can commit our lives to another, when we marry for example. With words we can build up or tear down. With words we can alter our own perception of and engagement with reality itself.
This moment recorded in the Scriptures is one such moment where the power of words becomes blatantly obvious.
Peter steps forward and states rather boldly ‘You are Messiah.’ Simple words of tremendous significance.
Peter’s acknowledgement of this objective truth is a commitment of his entire subjective person to this reality, namely - Jesus is Lord.

Questioning Words
Knowing what I know about what is taught and believed about Jesus, who do I say that he is?

What impact does this belief have on my stance towards him?

Friday, September 4, 2015

6 September 2015 - 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 7:31-37
“He has done all things well,’ they said ‘he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Recounted in the Gospel today is an encounter with Jesus that radically transformed the life of a man who was both deaf and mute.
When we consider the experience of the man who suffered this double disability we are moved with compassion. How difficult would it be to live that existence today, let alone in first century Palestine!
It seems that the friends of this man were equally moved with compassion – they had no way of helping him, aside from bringing them to the one who they hoped could do something for him.
This encounter is one which no doubt would have radically changed the course of this man’s life, indeed it would be a key, life-changing experience for him.
Moved with compassion, and in a genuinely human way, Jesus reaches out to this man and enters into his suffering. He touches those parts of him which are disabled – the man’s ears and tongue. The physicality of this is particularly telling. Jesus communicates healing and truth through his body, through the power of touch. His encounter with this man is bodily.
How often we refuse to take to Jesus those elements of our lives which we do not work as they should – those sinful habits, those selfish desires. Instead of seeking him out and bringing these things before him, we hide them away in the vain hope that through our own determination or perhaps the ‘miracle of time’ they will somehow right themselves.
Today’s Gospel invites us to an encounter, one which is total and complete, which has the potential to transform us radically: An encounter which is not just spiritual but, as we’ve read recently in John 6, bodily. Are you willing to meet him?

Truth Nugget

“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.”

Monday, August 31, 2015

30 August 2015 - 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time


“Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean.” 

In Jesus’ day, the people of his faith followed strict religious rules which governed much of their every day lives. This is for the most part well known, and Jesus was known for a particular attitude towards such laws. While many of these laws pointed towards a time when they would be superseded by some new dispensation, some new testament from God, for Jesus these laws were supposed to presuppose outward manifestations of inward dispositions. When the Pharisees the scribes saw that many of Jesus’ disciples were somewhat lax with these rules they saw it as an indictment of their teacher, Jesus. His response however turns their world on its head. Pointing to the primacy of the heart, Jesus does not do away with the law as it is, but instead seeks to replace the moralism which had found a home in the teaching of these Pharisees. Jesus asserted a new law of love which was to govern the hearts and minds of all who were to follow him. How often we find ourselves today thinking of the faith as nothing more than mere ethical propositions or lofty ideals. Jesus is calling us to much more than this – he is calling us to a relationship of love - love which casts out evil and purifies our hearts so that we can climb the mountain of the Lord.

Wise Words of Wisdom 

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.” – G.K. Chesterton 

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?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Break in postings

I will break from posting for the month of June to be married to my fiance Elizabeth. Please pray for us.

I will resume my weekly reflections in July.

In Christ,
Tom

Sunday, May 31, 2015

31 May 2015 - Trinity Sunday

Gospel Mt 28:16-20
“And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”

There can be little more reassuring a line than these final words of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, a truth which though mystifying is in fact an answer to the hesitation felt by some of the disciples in today’s Gospel reading.
When they arrived at the place where Jesus had arranged to meet them we are told that they fell down before him to worship him – an act totally reserved for the veneration of God, and yet we are told that despite all that they had witnessed these past 50 days or more, there were still some who hesitated.
So often we find ourselves in a similar place – having witnessed the miraculous, and yet still hesitant -still uncertain as to how to respond.
STOP.
Find your pulse.
Now try, just by using your mind, to stop you heart from beating. You can’t, can you?
There is something of the miraculous in our very existence, and something in our nature which cries out for more – for the infinite. And despite this yearning for the infinite we experience a hesitation within us, that this yearning cannot be completely fulfilled.
It is to this hesitation that the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel are addressed: ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

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 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.