Reflection for 4th Sunday of Advent: 23rd December

Once again our reflection is provided by Cathy York.

Christmas Blessing

May you give and receive love generously.

May each person who comes into your life
be greeted as another Christ.
May the honour given the Babe of Bethlehem
be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.

May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul.
May it be a foundation of courage for you
when times of distress occupy your inner land.

May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children
be awakened within you.
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation
of whatever you too easily take for granted.

May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened
as you gather around the table of festivity and nourishment.

May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains.

May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust
this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.

May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart
and visit the One who offers you peace.

May you bring this peace into our world.

Joyce Rupp

Reflection for 3rd Sunday of Advent: 16th December

Do the Next Right Thing

“What should we do?” The question in today’s gospel strikes at the very core of our being. It comes to us in many different ways. Regardless of how it comes about, that question brings us to a crossroads. It is a place of discernment and decision and ultimately a place of metanoia (i.e. change of mind and heart). We must begin looking for a new direction for our life.

Many years ago a dear friend and mentor pointed out to me some hard truths about my life. I remember asking him, “So what should I do now?” He looked at me and simply said, “Go do the next right thing.” That was not an answer that I either understood or wanted. As our discussion continued I realised he was not telling me to go fix my life all at once. He was only asking me to take the first step in a new direction. “What should I do after that,” I asked him. His answer was the same. “Go do the next right thing. And after that go do the next right thing.” He set me on a path of metanoia. These small and simple, though not necessarily easy steps would become life changing behaviour.

That is exactly what John the Baptist tells those who ask him, “What should we do?” It is asked three times – by the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. He told them to go and do the next right thing. John did not tell any of them to go and be something different. Instead he called them to be who they are but in a different way. He did not tell the tax collectors to go find an honest living. He asked of them honest tax collecting. He did not tell the soldiers to stop being soldiers but to be soldiers who respected others and understood the danger of power. He called the crowds to remember that their life is bound up in their neighbour’s life and there is no room for indifference, complacency, or miserly giving.

Metanoia is not just about us. It is connected to and happens in relationship with God and our neighbour. It always restores, enhances, and gives life. It is not about escaping the circumstances of our life but about engaging those circumstances in a new and different way – God’s way. Metanoia opens us to see ourselves and each other as we really are in God.

Michael Marsh

Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent 9th December

Time in the wilderness

Time in the wilderness, it seems, is the norm for God’s people. After the Israelites left Egypt they went to the wilderness. It was their preparation for the promised land. After Jesus was baptised he went to the wilderness. It was his preparation for his public ministry. And in today’s gospel “the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert.” The word of God and the wilderness always go together. That was true for John the Baptist and it is true for us. Name any wilderness of your life and there will be a corresponding word of God.

  • In the wilderness of exile the word of God speaks of coming home.
  • In the wilderness of broken relationships the word of God speaks reconciliation.
  • In the wilderness of self-doubt the word of God speaks of your being beloved.
  • In the wilderness of scarcity the word of God speaks generosity and abundance.
  • In the wilderness of sin and guilt the word of God speaks mercy and forgiveness.
  • In the wilderness of loss and sorrow the word of God speaks healing and joy.
  • In the wilderness of emptiness and barrenness the word of God speaks fullness and fruitfulness.
  • In the wilderness of death the word of God speaks resurrection.

There’s something about the wilderness. It’s the place where our lives can be transformed, the place we are most open to changing and being changed. Hidden within every wilderness is the beauty of divine presence. Every year at this time the season of Advent invites us to listen to the word of God in our wilderness, to experience the divine presence that sustains us in and carries us through the wilderness. It is not the final word but the first word, the creative word, the word that calls us to examine our lives, to turn around, to change our way of being, to see the world, one another, and ourselves in a new way. This is the repentance (change of heart) to which John the Baptist calls us. Ultimately, it is the call to love and be loved.

Michael Marsh

Our thanks, as always, to Cathy York.

Reflection for 1st Sunday of Advent 2nd December

Daily Focus for Advent

May these stars of Divine Love and Light shine through you this Advent season.

  1. Let the Star of Hope blaze through discouragement, doubt, and disgruntledness.
  2. Let the Star of Kindness radiate through your words and actions.
  3. Let the Star of Remembrance glitter in thoughts of good people and good deeds.
  4. Let the Star of Satisfaction shine through your expectations, wants and desires.
  5. Let the Star of Understanding beam love to those with whom you cannot relate.
  6. Let the Star of Laughter sparkle in your eyes and in your smile.
  7. Let the Star of Openness be a wide ray of love in your heart for those in need.
  8. Let the Star of Acceptance nudge you to receive the unwanted ones.
  9. Let the Star of Forgiveness draw you nearer to those with whom you are alienated.
  10. Let the Star of Courage grow bright in whatever requires your inner strength.
  11. Let the Star of Joy dance in the corners of your heart that have forgotten to sing.
  12. Let the Star of Gratitude encourage you to be generous with your gifts.
  13. Let the Star of Patience permeate that which you find difficult and irritable.
  14. Let the Star of Wonder draw you to appreciate the beauty in and around you.
  15. Let the Star of Justice lead you to make a positive choice for those in need today.
  16. Let the Star of Equanimity glow through your concerns and struggles.
  17. Let the Star of Faith beam through you, reminding you of the Core of Love in you.
  18. Let the Star of Appreciation gleam in your thankfulness to all who bless your life.
  19. Let the Star of Charity keep you balanced in your needs of self and others.
  20. Let the Star of Enthusiasm sparkle amid your tiredness and hurried pace.
  21. Let the Star of Compassion draw you into the world’s wide expanse of suffering.
  22. Let the Star of Delight lift your spirit and help you to see joy in simple things.
  23. Let the Star of Devotion glisten in your work and in the care you offer to others.
  24. Let the Star of Love shine through you to the persons you would rather avoid.
  25. Let the Star of Peace be a ray of steadfast calmness and tranquillity within you.

Joyce Rupp

Reflection on the Feast of Christ the King 25th November

Christ, the King of the Universe

The official name of today’s feast is Christ the King of the Universe, an attempt to reach a universal understanding of what’s going on. The Franciscan understanding is that the first idea ( the Alpha) of history is that God wanted to materialise; God who is spirit, who is shapeless, who is formless, wanted to take form. That’s Plan A. Most Christian understanding of history is based on a ‘Plan B’, that everything started with a big mistake – which is a terrible way to start history. ‘Plan B’ sees Jesus as a ‘mop-up exercise’ correcting Adam and Eve’s supposed fault. Plan A is that this material universe reveals the invisible God. That’s what it means for the Christ to be the King of the Universe. Jesus himself rejects the title of king. “That’s not what I’m about. I just came to reveal the Big Truth, not to be a king in your worldly sense.” Rather than ‘king’ maybe we should use the words ‘the first revelation of what’s going on’, ‘the inner DNA of everything’.

The Christ is not the same as Jesus. Jesus has existed for only 2000 years. The Christ, the king of the universe, has existed, according to our understanding of the universe, for 14.6 billion years! We call it ‘the Big Bang’. That’s when God decided to show God’s self. That’s the Incarnation. That’s the Alpha point. The Alpha and the Omega are the same thing. What God revealed as Plan A -that God is in the universe, in creation, in every creature, in everything that exists – is a revelation of the mystery of God. I hope you recognise that that means you are inside of something very sacred, very beautiful and inherently holy.

So Jesus doesn’t come to proclaim any kind of domination or control of history. He simply says, “I am naming the deepest meaning of history and the deepest meaning of humanity.” That’s why, in a moment in time, this eternal Christ mystery came as a person that you and I call Jesus. This is the deepest, the biggest and vast meaning of the feast of Christ the King of the Universe.

(Richard Rohr. Adapted)

Reflection on 33rd Sunday 18th November

Find eternity in each moment

The words in today’s gospel are not meant to be ominous or scary. Jesus is not talking about the end of the world but about the end of all worlds. Everything passes. Nothing lasts forever. Our great hope is that there will be something that we can grasp onto, something that’s eternal, something that’s God. We want the absoluteness, the eternity of God. We live in a world of passing things, where everything changes, nothing remains the same. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself! That’s a hard lesson to learn. This is not meant as a threat. This is meant so that we grab onto this day, we grab onto this life and we appreciate that it is all gift and while we breathe it in we enjoy it and know that it is another moment of God. To be present to this moment and to live it fully is the only way to experience eternal life. The people who take this moment seriously take every moment seriously, and they already experience heaven. Heaven is whenever we taste life to its fullness, when we enjoy the moment, when we know that it is a gift from God and it will not last. And yet that very ‘will not last’ is an invitation to go deeper into the moment and touch upon that which lasts forever. That’s the paradox; that’s the mystery; that’s what our rational minds cannot understand and yet that’s what the saints have always come to teach us. If what we do doesn’t lead us into an eternal now, an eternal moment, an always true moment, an always loved moment, then we have not lived the moment at all.

Richard Rohr (Adapted)

There are moments when time stands still and we wish the moment would never end. In that moment we are in the flow, the wonder, and the unity of life – and it tastes good. Daniel O’Leary says that in these moments we touch eternity and because of that they do live forever.

Reflection on 32nd Sunday 11th November

Remembrance

Today is Remembrance Sunday, a day to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.

During November, the final month of the liturgical year, the Church invites us to remember those who have nurtured us in body and spirit, our loved ones who have gone before us, our teachers and guides who have encouraged us and enabled us to be where we are today.

The vibrant display of Autumn leaves remind us that our reflections on death are tinged with mixed emotions: love, gratitude, joy, sadness, fear, the pain of loss, a feeling of emptiness, a sense of hope. “The Autumn leaves are subtle reminders that we are asked to let go of many things throughout our lives. Every time we surrender something, we connect with our death, with the ultimate moment of letting go. Autumn is an opportunity to reflect on and claim that reality. Autumn is a necessary transition between Summer’s fruitfulness and Spring’s new life. No new growth will come unless Autumn agrees to let go of what has been. The same is true of our lives.

Let the Autumn tree symbolise yourself; for each part of the tree reflect on the following questions:

The roots: Who and what has given you nourishment and vitality in your life? Who and what ‘roots’ you in your time of significant change?

The trunk: What are your strengths? What events have channelled new life in you?

The leaves: What is dying in your life now? What do you feel called to let go of?

The bark: Who or what protects you, comforts you?

The terminal buds on the ends of the branches: What is your hope?”

Joyce Rupp: May I have this Dance?

Inevitably the letting-go process is accompanied by what we would describe as the painful experience of emptiness, a vacuum. “There is no such thing, either in the world or in the heart, as a literal vacancy, as a vacuum. And whatever space is really left by death, by renunciation, by parting, by apparent emptiness, there is God.”

Karl Rahner

Once again we thank Cathy York for this apt reflection.

Reflection on 31st Sunday 4th November

Love yourself

“Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” Do we really love ourselves? Do we have a list of all that we think is wrong with us … how we look, how we behave? Do we continually compare ourselves with others… their talents, their possessions? Do we identify ourselves with what we have and what we do? Is this who we really are? Are we afraid to experience the wonder of who we are in God? Are we afraid to believe in our own greatness? Are we afraid of the unknown? Or perhaps it is more true to ask if we are afraid of losing the known.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson. Her words were quoted by President Nelson Mandela in his 1994 inauguration address.

We are being called to recognise and respond to God’s loving presence in ourselves and in every single person we meet, irrespective of how they behave. And that is true even when the person acts in ways totally contrary to God’s way. In fact, it is precisely then that the God in me has to reach out and affirm God in the other… our neighbour.

Various sources

Reflection on 30th Sunday 28th October

Let me see again

Once again we hear Jesus ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Last week, we saw that James and John responded to that question by requesting positions of prestige. This week, a vulnerable Bartimaeus’ response is ‘Let me see again.’ We can perhaps identify with the pain he has experienced in having lost the ability to see and his pain of having forgotten the beauty of all that is around him.

We are all aware that there are different ways of seeing. To illustrate this Richard Rohr tells the following story:

Three Ways to View the Sunset

Three men stood by the ocean, looking at the same sunset.
One man saw the immense physical beauty and enjoyed the event in itself. This man was the “sensate” type who, like 80 percent of the world, deals with what he can see, feel, touch, move, and fix. This was enough reality for him, for he had little interest in larger ideas, intuitions, or the grand scheme of things. He saw with his first eye, which was good.

A second man saw the sunset. He enjoyed all the beauty that the first man did. Like all lovers of coherent thought, technology, and science, he also enjoyed his power to make sense of the universe and explain what he discovered. He thought about the cyclical rotations of planets and stars. Through imagination, intuition, and reason, he saw with his second eye, which was even better.

The third man saw the sunset, knowing and enjoying all that the first and the
second men did. But in his ability to progress from seeing to explaining to “tasting,” he also remained in awe before an underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connected him with everything else. He used his third eye, which is the full goal of all seeing and all knowing. This was the best.

The mystical gaze builds upon the first two eyes — and yet goes further. It happens whenever, by some wondrous “coincidence,” our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and non-resistant. I like to call it presence. It is experienced as a moment of deep inner connection, and it always pulls you, intensely satisfied, into the naked and undefended now, which can involve both profound joy and profound sadness. At that point, you either want to write poetry, pray, or be utterly silent.

‘The Naked Now’ Richard Rohr

The more we can see our life experiences in the same way as the third man, then the deeper the pain we feel when circumstances cloud that vision. Then our prayer is also: ‘Lord, let me see again.’ When we lose sight of the wonder of who we are in God we are like the little 4 year-old girl who whispered to her baby brother: ‘Won’t you tell me what God feels like. I’m starting to forget.’

Reflection on 29th Sunday 21st October

Can we drink the cup?

Jesus’ cup is the cup of suffering, not just his own suffering but that of the whole world. Sooner or later, life is going to lead you (as it did Jesus) into the belly of the whale, into a place where you can’t fix, control, explain, or understand (usually very concrete and personal; it cannot be merely theoretical). That’s where transformation most easily and deeply happens. That’s when you’re uniquely in the hands of God because you cannot “handle” it yourself.

In other words, you have to enter into at least one situation in your life where you’re not in control, you’re not ‘number one’, you’re not the best, you’re not in charge, you’re not right, you’re not winning – and see how you deal with that. And if you can come through that and come out the other side still happy, still trustful, still loving, saying ‘Yes’ to whatever each day brings – then you have gone through the mystery of death and suffering and coming out the other side better and more alive and more in love and, believe it or not, even more happy and more free. You have been led to the edge of your own resources, and learned how to rely upon The Resource, The Source: God. Then you know, maybe for the first time, who you really are. And it’s not just you but the God who is in you and with you and for you more than you are for yourself. And then you can freely do what Jesus says at the end of today’s Gospel reading: You don’t come to be served, but to serve; you don’t come for others to take care of you but you want to take care of others, the way you have been so beautifully taken care of.

Richard Rohr

‘I slept and dreamt that life was joy,
I woke and found that life was service,
I served and found that service was joy.’

R. Tagore