Reflection on 22nd Sunday’s Gospel Sept 2nd

Our reflection this week is once again kindly contributed by Cath York.

Tradition

Those of us who are into gardening know we have to prune our bushes and shrubs. Otherwise, they can get too big and the flower or fruit loses its quality. Jesus was in many ways a pruner. He pruned back the traditions that had come to acquire an importance they did not deserve. Gardeners are also familiar with the term ‘perennials’. The term (per- + -ennial, “through the years”) is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter-lived annuals.  The dictionary definition of ‘perennial’ is: lasting or existing for a long or apparently infinite time; enduring or continually recurring.

Many spiritual writers speak about The Perennial Tradition or Perennial Wisdom. The Perennial Tradition points to recurring themes and truths within all of the world’s religions. At their most mature level, religions cultivate in their followers a deeper union with God, with each other, and with reality. At their immature levels, religions can be obsessed with the differences that make them better or more right than others.

The theme of today’s readings is the nature of true religion. Jesus was very aware that religious tradition can hide God as well as reveal God. An important dimension of his work consisted in pruning back those elements of the tradition that were hiding God. In his pruning he tried to highlight what was most important in God’s eyes. The precise difference between Jesus and the Pharisees was that they looked at the external activity whereas Jesus looked at the heart, the source of activity. They looked to the fulfilment of law and tradition while he looked to love and commitment. They looked at the letter of the law while he looked at its spirit.

In the second reading, James tells us to ‘humbly welcome the Word which has been planted in you’ and that Word is God Himself. The message of Perennial Wisdom Tradition is “Don’t settle for anything less than the truth of your Christ-self.” This is the self that is not only at one with Divine Presence, it is at one with the world, and with all others who share it as their world. All that is missing is awareness.

(Adapted from Association of Catholic priests and Richard Rohr)

 

Reflection on 21st Sunday’s Gospel Aug 26th

You have the words of eternal life

“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” Believing in Jesus and his teaching requires letting go of what we think we know of God and allowing God to act in a whole new way. Israel’s expectations of who the Messiah would be blocked the way for some to see God acting in a new way and offering a whole new way of relating to us. Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. Peter’s response to Jesus’ question, “Do you also wish to go away?” is striking. He doesn’t say, “Yes, of course,” but he doesn’t quite say “No” either. Instead, he answers back with another question: “To whom shall we go?” It is not the most flattering answer in the world, but it is honest. Peter and the others have found nourishment in Christ’s presence and in His teaching and they stay with Jesus precisely because he has been a source of new life for them. They will soon be entrusted with the mission of communicating that life to others.

Peter’s reply reveals his uncertainty about what is happening within him. He is like the fledgling in Anthony de Mello’s story. “I have nothing to hold onto,” the bird said when it began to fly. Although Peter acknowledges that Jesus has “the words of eternal life” he doesn’t fully understand what that means because ‘we can never grasp a mystery; we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it. That kind of surrender is needed if we are ever to experience the spirit who gives life.’

Richard Rohr

‘Those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.’

Pope Francis

Reflection on 20th Sunday’s Gospel Aug 19th

Our reflection this week is kindly contributed by Cath York.

Is there life within us?

How often are we asked the question: “How are you?” And how often do we give the standard answers: “Fine… I’m doing well… Things are really busy right now… I’m good.” Sometimes we add something about our family, our health, where we have been, or what we have been doing. More often than not those conversations focus on the circumstances of life but there is a difference, a vast difference, between doing life and having life within us.

Doing life or having life; that’s the issue Jesus is concerned about. That’s the focus of today’s gospel. It is so important that it has been the subject of the last several Sundays of gospel readings. Each week has brought us closer to the unspoken question behind today’s gospel: Is there life within you? That’s a hard question and one which many of us will avoid or ignore. We will turn back and walk away rather than face the question. “Fine,” “busy,” “good,” and “doing well” do not answer the question. We cover it up. The question pushes us to discover the hunger within us and the life Jesus wants to feed us. That’s what Jesus has been after these last few weeks.

When Jesus says, “Eat me. Drink me.” He is talking about more than just physical or biological life. He’s talking about that life that is beyond words, indescribable, and yet we know it when we taste it. We get a taste of it when we love so deeply and profoundly that somehow we are more fully alive than ever before. Sometimes everything seems to fit together perfectly and all is right with the world; not because we got our way but because we knew our self to be a part of something larger, more beautiful. 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.

When we choose a lifestyle that enables us to find nourishment in Christ’s presence in every aspect of our lives, we will become more aware that we have his life within us and our doing will be rooted in Christ and we will live fully wherever we are, whatever we do.

Michael Marsh (adapted)

Reflection on 19th Sunday’s Gospel Aug 12th

Kindly contributed by Cathy York

The Bread of life

Once again Jesus makes the claim: “I am the bread of life.” ‘I AM’ is God’s own name, which Jesus applies to himself. And he is the Bread of Life. We should note that he is not talking primarily here of the Eucharist, of Holy Communion. Rather, Jesus is saying that he, his whole way of life, his teaching, his attitudes and relationships towards his Father and people, everything that the Gospel tells us about him is real nourishment and food for our daily living. Not to know and assimilate Jesus in this way is to be starved of essential nourishment for living a full life. To eat that bread is to have one’s whole life impregnated with the spirit of Jesus. And, in the Gospel, that is a definition of life. Such a person is fully alive – now and forever. We eat that bread by absorbing into ourselves the spirit, the truth and integrity, the love and compassion, the generosity and peacefulness of Jesus. (Living space)

Jesus invites us come to him and to feed on his presence, and in particular to feed on his word. In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the word of God. When we keep coming to Jesus and feeding on his word, that word will shape our lives. It empowers us to live the kind of life that Saint Paul puts before us in this morning’s second reading, a life of love essentially, a life in which we love one another as Christ loved us, forgive one another as readily as God forgives us. That, in essence, is our calling.
(Association of Catholic priests)

Reflection on 18th Sunday’s Gospel August 5th

Kindly contributed by Cathy York

Come to Me


In today’s first reading we are told that for 40 years God’s people daily eat manna. When the Israelites see it, they say to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. Hungry, they choose to gather up that which is baffling. They fill on that which has no meaning. For more than 14,600 days they take their daily nourishment from that which they don’t comprehend. They find soul– filling in the inexplicable.
They eat the mystery.
They eat the mystery.
And the mystery, that which made no sense, is like “wafers made with honey” on their lips.

When we find ourselves famished, groping for more, we can choose. When we find ourselves despairing, we can choose to live as the Israelites gathering manna. When our life experiences lead us to ask “What is it all about?” can we allow these rents in the canvas of our lives to become places to see: to see through to God? How do we choose to allow the holes to become seeing-through-to-God places; to more-God places? How can we fully live? ( Ann Voskamp. One Thousand Gifts)

We can find the answer to these questions in our Gospel reading. “Come to me. Believe in me.” Ultimately, Faith means letting Jesus make his home in us, so that he can transform us in a permanent way. It means making space within for Jesus to not only dwell there but also to let his attitudes and values influence us in our way of life. Jesus tries to lead the disciples to long for this life that lives forever. The people hunger for living bread but he hungers to live in them to be bread that is assimilated into them. Jesus is the one who makes sense of what we are about. ( Fr Gerry Pierce )

Reflection on Gospel 17th Sunday

Kindly contributed by Cathy York

Doing the Maths

Philip has done the maths. He has estimated the number of people in the crowd, how many loaves of bread it would take to feed them, the cost of a loaf of bread, and calculated that “six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.” There is not enough to go around. Andrew concurs, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Andrew has also done the maths and there is just not enough to go around.

It seems that is how we often approach life – by doing the maths. We count what is there though we too often focus on what is not there. And pretty soon the reality of our circumstances blinds us to the possibilities of what might be. Our vision becomes narrow and the world small. We are unable to see a way forward, unable to see the Christ in our midst. We see through the lens of scarcity or lack and not through the lens of abundance.

As long as we approach life by doing the maths, as a problem to be solved, there will never be enough to go around. Jesus was not asking Philip to do the maths when he said to him, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” It was a test. Would Philip look around or would he look within? Would he see with his physical eyes or with the eyes of his heart? Would he focus on what was not there or would he focus on Jesus?

The problem was not a lack of fish and bread but a lack of vision. The abundance of God’s presence is hidden in plain view and often within the illusion of scarcity. Abundance is less a resource to be counted and more an interior quality, a presence, a way of being and seeing.
Michael Mars

Reflections on Gospel for Sunday July 22nd

“Come and rest awhile.”

“Sabbath can refer to a single day of the week, a day of rest. Sabbath is also a way of being in time where we remember who we are, remember what we know and taste the gifts of spirit and eternity. Sabbath time is sacred time.
We need Sabbath-keeping not only for ourselves but also for the times when we go forth to heal the wounds of our world. Whatever we build, create, craft or serve will have the wisdom of rest in it. Rested and refreshed, we more generously serve all those who need our care. The human spirit is naturally generous: the instant we are filled, our first impulse is to be useful, to be kind, to give something away.

The world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people.

A closer reading of Genesis reveals that the Sabbath was not simply a day off! It says, ‘On the seventh day God finished God’s work’. The ancient rabbis teach that on the seventh day, God created menuha – tranquillity, serenity, peace and repose: rest, in the deepest possible sense of fertile, healing stillness. Until the Sabbath, creation was unfinished. Only after the birth of menuha, only with tranquillity and rest, was the circle of creation made full and complete.”

On the seventh day, God created rest.
Wayne Muller: Sabbath

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know
Be still
Be
Psalm 46

This reflection was kindly contributed by Cathy York

Gospel Reflection for Sunday 15th July: Take nothing for the journey.

Some prayer practices encourage us to read a passage of Scripture and be aware of a few words which speak to us, then quietly reflect on them, maybe even repeating them during our time of prayer.

“Take nothing for the journey.”

The journey in today’s reading is the journey of going out from ourselves and living the Gospel message wherever we are. And what is that message? St. Paul answers that question in the second reading: “Before the world was made God chose us.” And also in John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” This is the message we are asked to bring to everyone we meet. But we are told: “Take nothing for the journey.”

We are asked to leave behind our preconceived ideas of having sole ownership of the understanding of the message, of being the only ones who experience God. Richard Rohr talks about Fr Vincent Donovan and his missionary work with the Maasai in Tanzania. When talking to the Maasai about the seven Sacraments, Fr. Donovan described the Sacraments as physical events and encounters when we could experience the transcendent or the holy. He could see that the Maasai were puzzled and dissatisfied to hear there were only seven Sacraments. One elder finally spoke: “We would have thought that there would be at least 7000!”

“Take nothing.”

On our journey we walk together with so many companions, nourishing each other with our experience of “the fullest truth of our being, and if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”

(Pope Francis. The Joy of the Gospel)

“Take nothing.”

If we travel unencumbered by baggage and with an open mind and heart we may also be nourished and sheltered by Nature. Again, we read John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

St. Francis and the Sacraments

The following legend attributed to St. Francis shows how he allowed Creation to share so many experiences of the Creator.

I once spoke to my friend, an old squirrel, about the Sacraments as being means of experiencing God. He got so excited and ran into a hollow in his tree and came back holding some acorns, an owl feather, and a ribbon he had found. And I just smiled and said, “Yes, dear, you understand: everything imparts His grace.”

“Take nothing.”

This reflection was kindly written by Cathy York.

Gospel Reflection: How do we see?

Jesus has come to Nazareth, his own town, to bring the good news and the healing that he had brought to the other towns of Galilee. But the people did not want to hear His message, one that spoke about the need to change. So they diverted from it by focusing on his person. The people rejected the messenger. They knew all about him! Who did he think he was anyway? After all, was he not just one of them? There was nothing that he could teach them. They were frozen in prejudice and there was no way in which his message could melt the ice in their hearts.

The people of Nazareth thought they knew Jesus well. The image they had of Jesus, which they held on to with great tenacity, became a block to their learning more about him. Too easily we assume that we know someone, when, in reality, we only know one side to them. We can form strong opinions on the basis of past experiences. We can become so attached to these opinions that even when the evidence is there to challenge them, we are completely unmoved. There was more to Jesus than the people of Nazareth could know. Indeed there is always more to every human being than we are aware of. That is true even of those we would claim to know well, such as family members and good friends. We are each made in God’s image. There is a profound mystery to each one of us. We can never fully probe the mystery of another person’s life. We each need to approach everyone with the awareness that there is more here than I can see. It was Jesus’ very ordinariness that made it difficult for the people of Nazareth to see him as he really was, in all his mystery. God was powerfully present to them in and through someone who was as ordinary, in many respects, as they themselves. God continues to come to us today in and through the ordinary, in and through those who are most familiar to us. In the religious sphere there can be a certain fascination with the extraordinary and the unusual. The gospels suggest that the primary way the Lord comes to us is in and through the everyday. This is what we mean by the Incarnation. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The ordinary is shot through with God’s presence.

Association of Catholic Priests

This reflection was kindly selected by Cathy York.