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.
After the Resurrection we are dealing with a newly revealed presence. In every story we notice that the people involved do not recognise Jesus. Mary Magdalene thinks he is the gardener; the disciples on the way to Emmaus think he is another traveller, walking along the road; in today’s story, he is another fisherman standing on the shore. He looked like everybody else. The limited presence we called Jesus has become a universal presence available beyond all the limitations of space, time, ethnicity, nationality, class and gender. Jesus has now become a universally available presence whom we call the Christ in whom “were created all things in heaven and earth; everything visible and invisible.” ( Col. 1:16) The Christ Mystery is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything. All is an apparition of the Divine.
Albert Einstein is supposed to have said, “There are
only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The
other is as though everything is a miracle.” We opt for the latter when we
learn to offer a daily ‘Yes’ to the forgotten reality that all creation is both
the hiding place and the revelation of God. Faith in God is to have confidence in reality
itself, to believe that God is in the reality of our lives, that God is
revealed in everything and everyone. Then, like John we can truly say, “It is
Richard Rohr ( Adapted): Homilies; The Universal
A week ago we celebrated the Resurrection. There comes a time, however, when we must live the resurrection. One week after Easter, is our life different? Where are we living: in the freedom and joy of resurrection or behind locked doors? What do we believe about Jesus’ Resurrection? If we want to know what we believe, we need to look at our life and how we live. Our beliefs guide our life and our life reveals our beliefs. We’re not all that different from Thomas. We each live with at least one “unless clause.” Unless I see, unless I touch, unless I feel, unless I experience, I will not believe. It reveals our struggle and desire to believe. It also reveals our misunderstanding of faith and the resurrection. The resurrection of Christ does not meet our conditions. Each condition becomes just another lock on the door. Resurrection empowers and enables us to meet our conditions. It lets us unlock the doors and step outside even when we don’t know what is on the other side.
Resurrection does not undo our past, fix our problems, or change the circumstances of our lives. It changes us, offers us a way through our problems and leads us into a future. God cannot lead us into the future until we are ready to let go of the past. That is why forgiveness is so central to the Easter mystery. We understand what it means to forgive others and even ourselves. Can we also forgive reality? To receive reality is always to “bear it,” to bear with reality for not meeting all of our needs and our conditions. To accept reality is to forgive reality for being what it is, almost day by day and sometimes even hour by hour.
Regardless of our circumstances Jesus shows up bringing life and peace, offering life and peace, embodying life and peace. Life and peace are Resurrection reality. The life and peace of Jesus’ Resurrection enable us to live through our circumstances. He gives us his peace, his breath, his life and then sends us out. We are free to unlock our doors, step outside and fully live.
We might identify with the women through the events of that first Easter morning. They came to search and found an empty tomb. Then they were told they were looking in the wrong place: ‘Why look for the living among the dead?’ Finally they had to adjust to the staggering good news that Jesus was alive when they thought he was dead. Does their story remind us of our journey when we found life again where we thought there was none? We discovered that we had been looking in the wrong place.
No one saw the resurrection because there was nothing to see. The crucifixion is an historical event; the resurrection is a faith event. Easter is more than a feeling moment. It is a faith moment.
We can know little Easters all year round and if we develop a recognition of and a taste for them, they will deepen our faith in the Resurrection even when we do not feel the joy at the time of its celebration.
Our little Easters are those moments when we feel hope press against our spirit. Our little Easters are those moments when something that has died in us is raised to life again. They provide quiet reassurance that God keeps raising dead parts of our spirit to life.
We live the Resurrection when we try to live in the present moment, when we allow the Resurrection to change us now.
Taken from a variety of sources
“How does one become a butterfly?”
“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
If we are to be transformed by our reflection on the mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, it will be helpful to focus on one aspect so as to avoid becoming overwhelmed by so many images. This can be a difficult choice to make but the opening verses in today’s Gospel reading offer a very powerful image. Jesus takes bread and wine, His Body, His Blood, and he gives thanks.
Can we take our full life in our hands, even ‘those things which cannot be fixed but can only be carried.’ (Megan Divine) Can we then give thanks? “Thanksgiving is inherent to a true experience of wholeness. Thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. How do I fully live when life is full of hurt? How do I wake up to joy and grace and beauty and all that is the fullest of life when I must stay numb to losses and crushed dreams and all that empties me out? For forty long years, God’s people daily ate manna – a substance whose name is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?” Hungry, the Israelites chose to gather up that which is baffling. For more than 14,600 days they took their nourishment from that which they didn’t comprehend. They found soul-filling in the inexplicable, on that which has no meaning. They ate the mystery. They ate the mystery. And the mystery, that which made no sense, was like ‘wafers of honey’ on the lips.” What mysteries have I refused, refused to let nourish me, and in so doing have been unable to taste the flavour of honey they contain, unable to find the wonder they contain?
“Where there is wonder there is thanksgiving.” Ann’s life became one of openness to the wonders which surrounded her, finding joy in the midst of trauma, drama, pain, loss and daily duties. She learned to slow down, catch God in the moment and give thanks.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’ it will be enough.”
‘If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain as he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.’ (Goethe). Jesus sees the potential in every person he meets. Today’s gospel shows us how in his presence people feel capable of more. He guides them to the realisation that their growth is far from finished. Mercy gives the sinner a future when there seems to be no future. He recognises the wrong done but does not demand a penalty for it. This gospel passage models mercy at its very best. Mercy looks at others with compassion, it understands, it does not condemn, it sets free, it enables, it gives life. This ideal continues to inspire many, but for a variety of reasons Jesus’ example of tenderness and mercy proves difficult to imitate. Some of the hindrances to that imitation need to be named if we are to overcome them.
One obstacle is fear. The scribes and Pharisees are very uncomfortable with moral failure. According to their standards of justice the sinner must pay the price for what he/she has done. If the law is not kept and failure isn’t punished then the danger is that chaos will take over and chaos is very scary. In their eyes the observance of the law makes for order and that keeps chaos at bay. For Jesus too the law gives direction to life, but he looks to its deeper significance and to the need to understand each individual who seeks to follow its guidance.
Another obstacle is the self-centredness that wants more, whether it is more freedom, more control, more material goods or more power. This attitude finds tolerance and forgiveness very demanding. It is becoming increasingly evident that the more individual our views and beliefs become, the higher the levels of intolerance.
A story that begins with deathly accusation ends with divine mercy. Where the community’s condemnation would have led the adulterous woman to death, Jesus’ mercy leads her to new life. A story that begins with exposing the sin of an individual ends with exposing the sinfulness of all. Where the community begins with awareness of the woman’s sinfulness, this encounter with Jesus makes them aware of their own sinfulness. A story that begins with human testing of the divine ends with divine invitation to repent. Jesus reveals a new order in which all are called to repentance and the experience of divine mercy. Jesus’ desire for us is not death but new life.
Sources: galwaydiocese.ie/reflection; Living Liturgy
I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. I realise that the real sin is to deny God’s first love for me, to ignore my original goodness. Because without claiming that first love and that original goodness for myself, I lose touch with my true self and embark on the destructive search among the wrong people and in the wrong places for what can only be found in the house of my Father. The younger son’s return takes place in the very moment that he reclaims his sonship.
The Elder Son
Both sons need healing and forgiveness. Both need to come home. Both need the embrace of a forgiving father. But it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed at home. The ‘lostness’ of the elder son is more difficult to identify. After all he did all the right things. His form of ‘lostness’ is deeply rooted and it is hard to return home from there. Although we are incapable of liberating ourselves from our frozen anger, we can allow ourselves to be found by God and be healed by his love through the concrete and daily practice of trust and gratitude. Trust is that deep inner conviction that the Father wants me home. As long as I doubt that I am worth finding and put myself down as less loved than my younger brothers and sisters, I cannot be found. Gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as gift. Gratitude, however, claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift, a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son
Today’s gospel is a story that speaks about a love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate, Being in the Father’s house means that I make the Father’s life my own and that I be transformed into his image. The return to the Father is ultimately to become the compassionate Father.
Lent is intended to be a time of new life, a new springtime. The story of the fig tree is a reminder of the areas where there is zero growth in our lives. That stagnation could be the consequence our fears, prejudices, judgements and condemnations, the need for control, the victimisation of others and our impoverishment of God. Without even being noticed, buried anger can drain away the energy that could foster growth and peace.
God does not cut down life. God gives, sustains, and
grows life. He is a compassionate and caring gardener who seeks to nourish
life, who is willing to get down on his hands and knees, to dig around in the
dirt of our life, to water, even spread a little manure, and then trust that fruit
will grow. This gardener sees possibilities for life that we often cannot see
in our own or each other’s lives. Fruit, for this
gardener, is not a payment, a transaction, or a ransom for being permitted to
live another day. It is instead the result of mutual love, relationship, and
presence. It is the evidence of life.Jesus does not seem as
concerned about why people die as why people do not live. Everyone dies but not
all truly live. Jesus’ call to repentance (i.e. change of heart ) is the
invitation to choose life.
Now is the time to examine the fig tree of our life. Where is our life bearing fruit? Where is it not? Where do we need to spend time, care, and energy nurturing life and relationships? What are our priorities and do they need adjusting? Who or what orients our life? Are we growing or are we “wasting the soil” in which we have been planted? Repentance is the way to life, the way of becoming most authentically who we are and who, at the deepest level, we long to be. Ultimately, repentance is about choosing to live and live fully.
In Spanish the word
manana means tomorrow or some
unspecified time in the future. In common usage it often refers to postponing
something, putting it on the long finger, delaying a response, not getting
ruffled by events but adopting a carefree attitude. When one Irish man was asked
if his language had a word that corresponded to manana, he said that it had in fact three words but none of them
conveyed the same sense of urgency!
The transfiguration of Jesus must have been a glorious experience for Peter, James and John. They wanted to stay there, as we all do when we have a peak experience. But they had to descend into the valley, to live their lives, to follow Jesus. It doesn’t seem that we grow in depth if we only have peak experiences, if we stay on the mountain top. Things have trouble growing on mountaintops. Beyond the tree line almost nothing will grow because it is too cold and there is a lack of moisture. Living things grow best in the valley: they can develop roots; they are grounded. While they may lack the excitement of mountain peaks, valleys tend to be growing places. But it is in the valley that we really acquire depth, rootedness, strength and flexibility. That is where we are called to mature emotionally and spiritually. Of course, we need both; we can’t always live in the valley.
Often our reading of this story focuses on what is seen but do we sometimes emphasise the light of transfiguration to the exclusion of the voice of transfiguration? We are looking but are we listening? A voice came from the cloud and said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” ‘Listen’ is the only thing the disciples are told throughout this whole event. Listening is central to transfiguration. Yet Luke records no words or teaching from Jesus during this event. Jesus is silent. So it must be about more than words, instructions, and lessons. True listening is an interior quality, a way of being. It is more about the heart than the ears. And it is more about silence than words. Ultimately, listening is about presence.
Listening creates an opening through which the transfigured Christ enters and transforms us. Listening asks of us intention, attention, and letting go of the things that deafen us. Anything that destroys or limits presence is a form of deafness. We are being told to be present, to be open, to be receptive to the one who is always present to us, whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley or covered by the cloud of unknowing.