Reflection on the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 17th Feb 2019

The ‘How-to-Be’ Attitudes

The temptation is to think that the beatitudes are rules or conditions for being blessed or receiving our heavenly reward. They are not that at all. They are not about building up, accomplishing, or acquiring. They are about letting go, surrendering, living with a vulnerable and open heart. That does not mean we run away, back down, or isolate ourselves from the realities of our life and world. It means we engage them in a different way, Jesus’ way. The beatitudes teach us to trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives. They invite dependence on God rather than self-reliance.

In the trauma and setbacks of life we discover that we cannot do life by ourselves. As we admit our need of God we find purity of heart. The arrogance of self-sufficiency gives way to meekness. We realise that all that we are and have is from God and we begin to know ourselves as poor in spirit. Our own misfortunes awaken and connect us to the pain of the world for which we cannot help but mourn. We think less about ourselves and become merciful to others. We have nowhere else to go and so we turn our gaze back to God. The longer we gaze at God the more we hunger and thirst for righteousness, for God’s life, and we become peacemakers reconciling ourselves to God and our neighbour. This is the life for which Christ’s disciples are willing to be persecuted, a life of righteousness, the life for which Christ died and rose again.

The beatitudes are not so much about what we do (our actions), but how we do, (our being). They are less about actions and more about relationships. To live the beatitudes is to live a life of reckless, exuberant, self-abandonment to God and our neighbour. That’s called love. The only reason we can do that is because we know and trust ourselves to have already been blessed by God. We live the beatitudes as a response to God blessing us. That is the way of Christ. That is not only the way forward through this life, it is the way to life. If we are to follow Christ it must become our way.

Michael Marsh

As always, thoughtfully selected for us by Cathy York who has prepared all our Sunday reflections despite the impression the website has given by attributing them to John, who only posts them. This problem is now solved and we have a way of attributing them correctly.

Reflection on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 10th Feb 2019

Put Out Into Deep Waters

Jesus called Peter, James and John to something completely different to what they knew. When he said, ‘Put out into the deep’, Jesus was saying, ‘I am taking you into unknown territory, into something you are not familiar with; but I will bring great things out of this if you trust me.’ The Lord is also saying something similar to us. Life is a constant ‘launching out’, being taken out of comfort zones and experiencing a loss of control. The Lord is saying to us not to be afraid of ‘deep waters’, of the unknown, of what can be very frightening. He is with us. Not only that, but if we trust him, He can bring great good out of it. To enable us to grow, God often has to lead us to places and situations that we would rather avoid.

The unseen boundary between two worlds is known as threshold. This symbolic line marks the division between who we are now and who we will become. The word “liminal” comes from the Latin word limens, meaning “threshold.” A liminal space, the place of transition, waiting, and not knowing is a unique spiritual position where human beings hate to be but where the biblical God is always leading them. It is when you have left the tried and true, but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is when you are between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. If you are not trained in how to hold anxiety, how to live with ambiguity, how to entrust and wait, you will run, you will do anything to flee from this terrible cloud of unknowing.

These thresholds of waiting and not knowing our “next” are everywhere in life and they are inevitable. Each ushers in a new chapter of life, and each holds varying degrees of disruption. Whether it is graduation, a new job and career, being overwhelmed by debt, new homes, new cities, marriage, divorce, sickness, life stages, changing friendships – all will disorient us for a while, regardless of our awareness during the transition. Liminality requires acceptance of mystery and a heart full of trust. The challenge is to give ourselves fully to the process of change while being unsure and unclear of how this liminal time will affect our future.

During these times of mystery our prayer must be a simple request: that we be reminded that we have not been abandoned; that we hear the sometimes tiny voice within that whispers wordlessly, “You are always loved. You are never alone.”

Various sources

The Care of Creation – A talk by Fr Xavier Jeyaraj SJ

An update on this event. Fr Xavier is going to speak at St Wilfrid’s Parish Centre in the afternoon and at the Xaverian Mission in the evening. He will present us with an interesting question “Is Leadership too important to be left to Leaders?”

For the afternoon session click here

For the evening session click here which gives details on how to book. Booking advisable as we are limited to an audience of 80.

Reflection on the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 3rd Feb 2019

Our picture of God

A young girl was bent purposefully over her copybook, her pencil poised in a clear declaration of intent. When her mother asked what she was doing, she said she was drawing a picture. ”Of what?” the mother asked. “Of God,” was the answer. “But you can’t draw a picture of God,” her mother declared. “No one knows what God looks like.” “Well they will, when I have finished drawing,” replied the girl, nodding her head.

In a sense we could say that Jesus drew for us a picture of what God is like. The Jews in the synagogue were angry when Jesus reminded them of God’s mercy towards a Gentile widow and the Gentile leper Naaman. Jesus made it clear that God is the God of all peoples; he belongs to all classes; no one is excluded from his love; he is not subject to our caprice or prejudice. Eckhart Tolle wrote of how prejudice can degrade another human person: “Prejudice of any kind implies that you are identified only with the thinking mind. It means you don’t see the other human being anymore, but only your own concept of that human being. To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” In effect, Jesus declared that God has no favourites, that there are no privilege cardholders to receiving love and compassion, that all are equal shareholders of God’s love no matter who we are, where we come from and whatever our socio-economic status. We don’t earn divine favour by the titles we hold, but receive it freely from the unconditional love of God for us.

The challenge for us is to draw, in our own lives, a picture of God that is in line with what Jesus gave us. When we have finished drawing our picture, will God recognises himself in it?

Association of Catholic Priests

Thoughtfully selected for us by Cathy York.

Capacitar sessions – An update

These monthly sessions are proving very popular, so popular that we need to make sure that participants book. Previously bookings were taken on reception but we need to change that. In future all bookings need to be made directly with Anne Harrison, the facilitator. You can book on any of the upcoming courses by filling in the enquiry/booking form by clicking here. Anne will allocate places on a First Come First Served basis so if you are interested then now is the time. If you book and find you are unable to come then please let Anne know so the place can be freed for another person.

Note: when you fill the form in you are asked for a date. Please do not be alarmed if you see the letter ‘S’ after the day of the month. It is an error we are trying to correct. Just pretend you didn’t see it. 🙂

A Journey with Mary and Joseph

Not all the events held at our Centre are public. Here is an account of one of those private group events.

On Saturday, December 1st. Women Together in the Diocese of Lancaster organised an Advent day of Prayer in the Xaverian Mission Spirituality Centre (formerly Tabor) Preston. It was led by Father Nyagasaza Bideri who runs the Centre. From the start, although it was a grey, wet and dreary looking day, we received a very warm, hospitable welcome from him. We felt immediately that he had been looking forward to our coming there and had been preparing for the day with care and enthusiasm. He told us that it was to be a day of joy!

The greatest reality in our lives is our relationship with God. So, first, to help us allow God to heal our hearts from all that hinders His love embracing us, Father Bideri led us in an unusual reflection on the elder brother of the prodigal son and his troubled relationship with the father. In an interactive session, together we identified all the troubling elements that the elder son refused to let go of in himself. In naming these we could let go of all the same elements we recognised in ourselves. So we were ready then to open up to the love of God at work in the lives of Mary and Joseph before the birth of Jesus, tracing their spiritual journey through scripture and art.

We celebrated Mass together at midday and after lunch shared a very joyful session with carols and seasonal hymns illustrated on the computer as we enjoyed singing along. A half hour of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament then followed and we drew the day to a close with song and prayer and blessing, grateful to Father Bideri for this lovely introduction to the Advent Season.

Women Together has a long history in the Diocese of Lancaster since it was first established by Bishop Brewer to give women a voice and opportunities to deepen and develop their faith and encourage the service that flows from that. So on the same day the organising committee took the opportunity for a “grass roots” consultation with all who came. In the spirit of Pope Francis we know that we need to listen and learn from women themselves what kind of topics and days they want to share. We asked permission to use their contact details for future publicity as we will see what suggestions were made and what can then be planned ahead.

Philomena Grimley SHCJ

This article first appeared in the Diocesan VOICE and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.

Wi-Fi update

We have been doing a little work on the Wi-Fi in the Preston Centre. You should now be able to pick up a reasonable service in most of the public rooms of the Centre with the exception of the Healing Ministries.

The network you should join is Xaverian Guest.

If you have any issues with the service it would be good to hear from you so that we can investigate. The best way to report an issue is by filling in the enquiry form which can be found at the bottom of the Enquiries page.

Reflection on the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: 27th Jan 2019

Good News

Today’s gospel reading is often described as Jesus’ inaugural address, his mission statement. He is saying very clearly what he is going to stand for and it is summarised so simply. He ends the quote from Isaiah with the proclamation of a year of favour from the Lord. Jesus omits the words which follow in Isaiah 61:2 : “and the day of our God’s vengeance”. Jesus does not quote these words because he has not come to proclaim judgment. His message is different. It’s not a message of retribution or retributive justice. This is a classic text for what we call restorative justice. God’s justice is fulfilled by lovingly and patiently remaking us into His image and likeness. Jesus announced that he has come to replace the old Jewish love of law with a new law of love.

What we hear depends greatly on what we bring to our listening. Poverty might be about money or material needs such as food, clothing, or housing. It might also be poverty of love, hope, or meaning. The captive might be a prisoner, an addicted person, or one overcome by anger and resentment. Blindness is not only physical but can also be emotional or spiritual. Oppression happens in hundreds of ways from physical or emotional violence, to racism, to fear, to profound sorrow. Today Jesus brings us good news of healing and freedom. With one foot in the past and one in the future we straddle and completely miss the present. We become captive to what was, oppressed by what might be, and blind to what is. To the extent we are unable to hear Jesus’ words we are either stuck in the past or living in a future we do not yet have.

Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Hearing is about more than sound. It is about our presence, openness, and receptivity. We must be willing to take into ourselves the reality and truth of what is spoken. We must also be willing to take into ourselves the life and presence of the one who is speaking. Jesus is not just speaking words. He is speaking new life. In his speaking and our hearing his life and our life become one life. And it is happening today.

Various sources

Once again we are favoured by Cathy York who writes these thoughtful reflections for us. Thanks Cathy.

Reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: 20th Jan 2019

Jesus’ First Sign

The literal interpretation of Scripture is the least helpful. The symbolic level is the level filled with meaning that changes our lives. John’s writing is full of symbolic language. We would miss much if we were to see here only a ‘miracle’ by which Jesus helps a young bridegroom who finds himself in an embarrassing position on his wedding day. We don’t know if the events in today’s Gospel really happened in this way, but there are a lot of give-aways that there is a deeper message here.

One of these is the focus on the six stone jars that were used for purification rites, for ceremonial washing. Much of the history of religion is about ceremonial washing where the emphasis is on purification because we are not perfect enough. The jars in today’s Gospel are empty. Jesus filled the jars to the brim with wine. This is not just a miracle story. It is a transformational story about what Jesus is bringing about in the history of religion. We thought that religion was about a list of requirements which we have to fulfil so that God will love us.

As in so many Scripture passages, matrimonial imagery is used in today’s Gospel to tell us that what God wants with humanity is a love affair, a marriage. We find it difficult to accept that God would want such an intimate relationship with us, so we keep going back to the six empty jars of purifying water, to fulfilling the law. But laws don’t teach us how to love. In today’s Gospel, Jesus changes the focus of religion from a religion of legalism to a religion of love, filled to the brim with joy and celebration. And this is his ‘first sign’.

Richard Rohr and Living Space website. Adapted