“Love your neighbour as yourself.” So often we think of our ‘neighbour’ as separate from ourselves, someone whom we try to love with the same amount of love as we love ourselves, when it really means that it is the same Source and the same Love that allows each of us to love ourself, others, and God at the same time! In and with God, we can love everything and everyone—even our enemies. Alone and by ourselves, our willpower and intellect will seldom be able to love in difficult situations over time. Many people try to love by willpower, with themselves as the only source. They try to obey the second commandment without the first. When we grow in our awareness that “in Him we all live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), we will grow in the realisation that we are all truly in Love and we will then hear Jesus’ words to mean “Love your neighbour as being yourself.”
Our transformed consciousness will enable us to surrender to Love, to allow God to see our woundedness, to see and love us as we really are rather than what we ideally wish to be. We will then want to give others this same experience of divine love, of being looked upon tenderly in their woundedness, be it physical, emotional or psychological. We will want to reach out to our ‘neighbour’ with compassion, notice his/her wounds and touch them with gentleness. For us all to grow in love, “all must come to the light, both the dark parts of oneself that need healing and the light parts that need birthing. “
Often young children are more in touch with the ‘light parts that need birthing’. When asked by their four-year old child what ‘Namaste’ meant, the parents explained that each person is saying, “I bow to God in you.” With an all-knowing look, the child replied, “But Mama. The God in you is the same God that’s in me.” Out of the mouths of babes…
One word that occurs in all
three readings today is “peace”. Isaiah speaks of God sending “flowing peace,
like a river”. Paul speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become “an
altogether new creature”, a genuinely transformed person in the image of Jesus.
And, in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to bring peace with them to every
house they enter. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can
exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the peace Jesus experienced
after his prayer in the garden. It is the peace that Paul experiences, even
though he has had his share of the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” and bears
in his own body the marks of Jesus’ pain and suffering.
What is this peace? “When we keep our spiritual centre, our spiritual ground; when we know what is essential i.e. to know who we really are at our deepest level, then we experience true peace. Only then can we share what we have to offer.”
We are called today to
become labourers with Jesus in the harvest that is the society in which we
live. It is a society that seems so rich and prosperous and yet is so
impoverished of the security and peace it so frenetically seeks to find. We are
called today to labour so that our society may be gradually transformed into a
place where the values of the Gospel, often so little understood even by
ourselves, will prevail.
Christianity is not an end in itself. It is simply a very effective way of becoming that altogether new kind of human person that Jesus and Paul speak about. This new person has a deep sense of both God’s utter transcendence and utter immanence, the God who constantly calls us beyond where we are and who, at the same time, deeply penetrates our being and our every experience. This new person lives a life of perfect integrity and truth, a life of deep compassion and concern. This new person lives in freedom and peace.
Living Space / Sacred Space
“Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies
beneath the chaos, where you find the peace you did not think possible and see
what shimmers within the storm.”
Today we celebrate and reflect on the significance and importance of Saints Peter and Paul. By removing them from their ‘saintly pedestals’ and seeing them as the men they were: flawed and fallible, we can see why God uses them to offer us a hope for our own response to His presence in our lives. In the Gospels, Peter invariably gets it ‘wrong’. He denies Jesus three times after having promised to die with him; he is impetuous and responds instinctively rather than with thought. Paul, a highly educated Pharisee had a fiery personality and was a persecutor of Christians.
Today’s readings show us how these two men came to experience Jesus the Christ. Peter followed Jesus, thinking Jesus was a good man, a great man, one who invited him to share life, one who was more human than anybody he had ever met. In the story today Peter was given the insight to see that Jesus was more than just a mere human. “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God.” Paul’s journey was different. He began by persecuting the followers of Jesus, putting them in jail and maybe even punishing with death. Then, through the graciousness of God, he experiences Jesus the Christ. It is then he changes, he realises who Jesus is, and begins his preaching.
Our journeys may not be so dramatic, but “God meets us where we are and makes a healing and expanding presence known to us in the exact way we are most ready to experience it. God fills our hearts in whatever measure we are open to the Spirit. When we fall into God’s mercy, when we fall into God’s great generosity, we find, seemingly from nowhere, this capacity to change. No one is more surprised than we are. We know it is total gift.”
Fr. Richard Rohr
Once we know Jesus, and have experienced him, we are sent. Jesus makes himself known not so we can keep him to ourselves, but so that we can spread the Good News of his love, mercy, justice and peace. To be disciples we gather and we are sent into the world to preach by our lives and words the Good News: Jesus is alive and with us. As Pope Francis says, “The Church is not missionary in order to preserve itself, but to transform the world through love and healing, through walking with those in need and who struggle.”
When we read the words in today’s second reading: “Do this in memorial of me”, we may think of a memorial service, something that commemorates a person or an event of the past. We think well of it and then we go on with our lives. In Jewish religion, to do something ‘in memory of’ is to move into deep memory. That is what happens when we pray. Surface memory is where we mainly live our lives consciously remembering the many significant people and events in our lives. If we create our identity, our meaning, our purpose from that tiny memory, we will almost always be unsatisfied. We are never going to be able to feel deep enough, wonderful enough, big enough, connected enough.
Most of us feel that we are all on our own. In today’s gospel the disciples wanted to send the people out on their own to take care of their own food. Jesus’ response was to create a new understanding of connectedness, of abundance, of ‘enoughness’, of more than ‘enoughness’- as we see in the twelve baskets left over. In taking a little bit of food and feeding everybody with it, Jesus is symbolising his invitation to a universal meal, an invitation into a universal community, friendship and unity. This is an image of the Eucharist: a meal which takes us out of our tiny world where we never feel that there is enough and gives our little lives universal and eternal meaning. The Eucharist seeks to connect our joy and suffering with all the joys and suffering since the beginning of time. That’s what it means to do something in deep memory with God. Our circles of connectedness are ever-widening. Our little tiny lives are connected with something bigger, something that matters, something eternal. Suddenly our ordinary little lives have transcendent and universal meaning. Whether we realise it or not, that is the yearning within each one of us.
To eat of the bread and drink of the cup is to consciously acknowledge our oneness, our connectedness to all that was, is and will be. Every true celebration of Eucharist is a deep memory experience of who we are in Christ, in whom we all live and move and have our being.
In the beginning was relationship. “Let us create in our image” (Genesis 1:26-27). When we start with God as relationship, we begin the spiritual journey with an awareness that there has to be a “DNA connection,” between the One who creates and what is created. The energy in the universe is not in the planets, nor in the atomic particles, but very surprisingly in the relationship between them. The energy in the Trinity is not in any precise definition or in the partly arbitrary names of the three persons of the Trinity as much as in the relationship between the Three. We must reclaim Relationship as the foundation and ground of everything. The Trinitarian revelation starts with the nature of loving—and this is the very nature of being! We are intrinsically like the Trinity, living in an absolute relatedness, standing inside a continuous flow which we call love. Jesus invites us to a Trinitarian way of living, loving, and relating—on earth as it is in the Godhead.
When we describe God, we can only use similes, analogies, and metaphors. All theological language is an approximation, offered tentatively in holy awe. That’s the best human language can achieve. We absolutely must maintain a fundamental humility before the Great Mystery; otherwise, religion worships itself and its formulations instead of God. Yet Mystery isn’t something we cannot understand. Mystery is endlessly understandable. “The Spirit of truth will guide you into all the truth”
God for us, we call you Father. God alongside us, we call you Jesus. God within us, we call you Holy Spirit. You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, Even us and even me. Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness. We can only see you in what is. We ask for such perfect seeing— As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
“That they may be one, as we are one.” These are Jesus’ words of farewell to his disciples and he repeats this prayer several times. When Jesus talks about oneness, what he has in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual inter-abiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. As Thomas Merton reflected, “We are already one.” We just need to start becoming what we already are. All that is absent is awareness. To be one with everyone and everything is to have overcome the fundamental optical illusion of our separateness. Awareness opens our eyes to the reality of our oneness, and our openness to the Spirit allows this awareness to transform us.
On Thursday, we celebrated the feast of the Ascension, a celebration of oneness. In the story of Christ’s ascension as told in Acts (1:9-11), angels appear next to the disciples as they gaze after the rising figure. The angels ask, “Why are you standing here staring up into heaven?” Most of Christianity has been doing just that, straining to find the historical Jesus “up there.” Where did he go? We’ve been obsessed with the question because we think the universe is divided into separate levels—heaven and earth. But it is one universe and all within it is saturated with the presence of God. The whole point of the Incarnation and Risen Body is the revelation that the Christ is here—and always was! The Ascension is the revelation of the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. Jesus didn’t go anywhere. He revealed himself as the universal omnipresent Body of Christ. That’s why the final book of the Bible promises us a new heaven and a new earth, not an escape from earth. (Revelation 21:1), We focused on “going” to heaven instead of living on earth as Jesus did—which makes heaven and earth one. It is heaven all the way to heaven. What we choose now is exactly what we choose to be forever.
Various sources: David Benner, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr
The Holy Spirit will remind you of all I have told you.
Jesus said these words to his apostles at a time of transition in their lives, at a time when they must have felt that all their dreams were about to be shattered, that everything that mattered to them was about to be lost.
‘One of our greatest fears, and the cause of so much resistance to change, is that we think that we are on the verge of losing irrevocably what we have valued from the past. Don’t be afraid that in letting go you are losing anything at all, because everything that matters, from all the experiences and encounters in your life, has been internalised and is firmly lodged in your heart. It is yours. It is part of you. It travels with you and can never be lost. It will continue to enrich you. Walk on with empty hands so that you will be able to receive the gifts that are still to be given to you.
We internalise what matters. When we realise this, we find a new freedom to move forward. We internalise what matters. We can safely let go of what doesn’t matter, just as our own bodies absorb all that is good and life-giving from what we feed them and let go of the waste.
When we are in transition, we cling to small tokens that remind us of the past. Holding that cherished item may be an excuse to wallow in regret for what has been lost. Or it may be a gentle reminder that all those memories have become part of who we are now and we have every reason to revisit them with gratitude but no reason to let them swallow us up in fantasies about how the grass was always greener in the field we left behind.
Margaret Silf. The Other side of Chaos
“The Holy Spirit will remind you of all that I have told you.” A definition of remind is ‘to awaken memories of something’ God speaks to us in so many ways: in the words of Scripture, in the people we meet every day, in the circumstances of our lives, in the places we have visited and in the wonders of Nature. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to awaken in us the many treasured memories which we have internalised and which nourish us and remind us of who we are. When holding these life-giving memories, may we feel more fully alive in the present moment, more hopeful for the future and may we experience true peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
Surely Jesus’ command to love one another was nothing
new for the disciples and those of their time. The commandment is well known in
the Old Testament: Love God with your whole
heart and your neighbour as yourself.’ So what is new? — “Love as I have loved you.” This is how
we are to love. Love is not what we do, it is how
we do it.
When we reflect on the words ‘…as I have loved you’,
what are our thought processes? Do we
look for various Scripture references which speak of God’s love for us and in
them find a God who loves unconditionally, a God whose love is indiscriminate: a
God who is loving, caring, forgiving, compassionate, understanding and
self-sacrificing. We find so many qualities of love for us to emulate. We are
constantly looking for ways in which we can do this, ways in which we
can show that we love as Jesus loved. Do we have the correct starting point? We
are familiar with the story of the traveller who stopped to ask someone the
directions to his destination. “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here,” was
the reply. Jesus’ starting point was his awareness that “I am in the Father and
the Father is in me.” (John 14:11)
How we embark on our journey of loving others is rooted in our personal experience of who we are. Love is not something we decide to do now and then. Love is who we are. We are created in the image of God and God is love. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. When we get the “who” right and realise that who I am is love, then we will do what we came to do: Love God and love all that God has created. It is not really what we do that matters. It is the energy we do it with. We can tell immediately if there is love energy coming from the person we are with. When we truly experience God who is Love, when we know that our heart keeps beating with His energy, then we become Love. We also know this to be true of others as well as ourselves. “To love another person is to see the face of God.” (Les Miserables)
The verses that follow today’s reading tell us that Jesus’Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, not for “any good work, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’? [Psalm 82:6] If he called you ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be wrong—then why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I say that I am the son of God?’
The Jews did not know Jesus. They were not ready or willing to believe that what God has done in Jesus, he has done everywhere: putting together human and divine. In today’s first reading, Paul and Barnabas also met with a similar resistance from the Jews when they preached the good news. “Since you reject it and judge yourselves to be unworthy of eternal life, we are now turning to the Gentiles.” When the Gentiles (the outsiders) heard this, “as many as had been destined for eternal life became believers.” For the Jews it was all too much to believe, just as it is for us. We are a creation of God from all eternity. Our DNA is divine yet we are born in human form. How can we believe this when there is so much evidence to the contrary? We are so aware of our limitedness. How can we be sons and daughters of God? Yet that is the assertion that Jesus makes and he says that we are to follow him in believing this.
To follow Jesus is to know who we objectively are from all eternity, to know that we are created with the same personhood, the same identity, the same combination of divinity and humanity as he was. Nobody achieves this to perfection. It’s not a question of being perfect. It’s a question of our deepest core identity. We are created in God, by God and for God. The main difference between Jesus and the rest of us is that Jesus believed it and most of us don’t. He knew, he trusted and allowed himself to be God’s Son. Let’s allow our daughterhood, our sonship to be a daily choice; to daily allow and surrender to this glorious good news of who we objectively are in God from all eternity. This is the eternal life experienced by those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow him.