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

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 While many of these laws pointed towards a time when they would be superseded by some new dispensation, some new testament from God, for Jesus these laws were supposed to presuppose outward manifestations of inward dispositions.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