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

Friday, May 27, 2016

29 May - the Most Holy BODY and BLOOD of CHRIST

Gospel Luke 9:11-17
“Jesus made the crowds welcome…”

People flocked to Jesus.
He was a figure who was ultimately intriguing and was for many of his contemporaries, as he is for us today a source of fascination. No doubt the miracles he worked, like that recounted in today’s Gospel reading, or the great many miracles of healing that he performed, were big drawcards, but beyond this, there are many accounts which tell of the magnificent attraction of  Jesus’ words and his mere presence.
When we think, though, of Jesus and his message, we are often perplexed at how someone can say such weighty things, and get away with it.
But the opening lines of today’s Gospel are in this case very telling for us. He made the crowds welcome’, before going on to talk to them about the kingdom of God.
So often our experience of the Catholic or more broadly Christian faith is one of rules and regulations, of neatly packaged propositions or nuggets of truth which believers are forced to swallow. When we think, though, about the person of Jesus, as the way, the truth, and the life, we see a man who was not intent of forcing philosophical concepts onto the people, nor was he fixated on the following of rules.
What he came to offer was a freedom hitherto unknown in the world: a freedom from sin and death. This freedom comes about though through some pretty difficult modes, often requiring self-surrender and self-gift. It is here where Jesus’ gentle and welcoming nature is most affective - opening the hearts of those who were there such that the message he spoke could land on the fertile soil of their hearts.

For us today, who have been commissioned by Jesus [Mt 28:16-20] to teach others about and invite them into the Kingdom of God, we should take a leaf out of his book. To be firstly welcoming of those who are searching. And then, we must not fail to share with them the great gift of which we are recipients.

On the reception of guests
(taken from the Rule of St Benedict)
‘Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, 
for He is going to say, 
"I came as a guest, and you received Me" (Matt. 25:35).
And to all let due honor be shown,
especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims…
In the reception of the poor and of pilgrims
the greatest care and solicitude should be shown,
because it is especially in them that Christ is received;
for as far as the rich are concerned,
the very fear which they inspire
wins respect for them.’

Sunday, May 22, 2016

22 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.

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)