Reflection on 25th Sunday: 19th September 2021

Letting go

According to the astronomical calendar Autumn begins on Wednesday, September 22nd. ‘Autumn leaves are subtle reminders that we are asked to let go of many things throughout our lives. Autumn’s energy causes us to take stock and decide what to hold on to and what to let go. No new growth will come unless Autumn agrees to let go of what has been. The same is true of our lives. This is a universal principle – in order to grow, we must release something. We are in a constant process of integrating new information, aspects of ourselves, perceptions and ideas and we come to realize that some old ways of doing things no longer work. Although we must all let go of some things, we also integrate those experiences into our psyches as wisdom. The leaves that fall lose their form, but as they break down into compost, their transformed substance continues to serve the growth and well-being of the tree.’

Constance L. Habash

In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to let go of two of their misconceptions. Firstly, he wanted to prepare them, again, for bad news (the Passion) and good news (the Resurrection), but they did not want to hear him. Jesus’ prediction of the future was incomprehensible because it did not coincide with the disciples’ hopes and plans. Secondly, Jesus presents to his disciples a completely different interpretation of the word ‘greatness’, one which involves being last, one which involves being of service. ‘It is significant that Jesus brings a child to illustrate this point. In Jesus’ day, even more so than now, children were among the most powerless and most vulnerable of society. And so the disciples, who had been arguing about greatness and with it of course power, were redirected by Jesus to radically shift their focus and to open their arms to the powerless. He also said that welcoming the lowest of the low is not simply a nice thing to do. When we welcome the least of these, we are welcoming the presence of Christ that is found in each person we meet. We are developing a relationship with Jesus himself and through Jesus, with the Father who created us all.

Chrissy Cataldo

‘Whenever we are called to let go of something safe, secure and familiar we are invited to be birthed again. Each radical change in our lives summons us to a greater fullness, to a more complete transformation of our inner self.’

J. Rupp

Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.

Gospel: Mark 9: 30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death: and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.” But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all. He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”

Reflection on 24th Sunday: 12th September 2021

Who do you say that I am?”

 ‘Who we say Jesus is has everything to do with who and how we are and will be. In some ways our answer says as much or more about us than Jesus. We are always living into the question, moving from simply knowing about Jesus to knowing him. It’s not that Jesus changes. We do. We not only discover Jesus anew, we discover ourselves anew.’1 Peter’s response, “You are the Christ.,”  leads to another question: What do we mean by ‘the Christ’?

‘Christ is not Jesus’ last name. The word Christ is a title, meaning the Anointed One, which was Peter’s understanding of who Jesus is. But a study of Scripture, Tradition and the experience of many mystics reveals a much larger, broader and deeper meaning to ‘the Christ.’ The three Synoptic Gospels are largely talking about Jesus, the historical figure who healed and taught and lived in human history; whereas John’s Gospel presents the trans-historical ‘Christ’ (which is why so very few stories in John coincide with Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The prologue to John’s Gospel (John 1:1-11) is not talking about Jesus; it’s talking about the Christ. All that came to be had life in him. The entire sweep of the meaning of the Anointed One, the Christ, includes us and includes all of creation since the beginning of time. St Paul never met the historical Jesus and hardly ever quotes Jesus directly. In almost all of Paul’s preaching and writing, he is referring to the Eternal Christ Mystery or the Risen Christ rather than Jesus of Nazareth before his death and resurrection. The Risen Christ is the only Jesus that Paul ever knew! When we believe in Jesus Christ, we are believing in something much bigger than the historical incarnation that we call Jesus. In Jesus the Timeless Christ became time bound.’2   James Finley makes use of poetic language and symbolism to beautifully describe our experience as we grow in awareness of who Christ is:   

Let’s say you’re at the ocean and you’re just ankle deep. It’s true you’re only ankle deep, but it’s also true you’re in the ocean. It’s also true if you just keep going, it will get plenty deep soon enough. Now here’s something deeper. What if the middle of the ocean is infinitely deep? And what if the infinite depth of the ocean infinitely gives the infinity of the totality of its depths to your ankle-deep degree of realization of it?

Adapted: [1] Michael  Marsh   [2] Richard Rohr (from his various writings)

Gospel: Mark 8:27-35

Jesus and his disciples left for the villages round Caesarea Philippi. On the way he put this question to his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” And they told him. “John the Baptist,” they said, “others Elijah; others again, one of the prophets.”  “But you,” he asked, “who do you say I am?” Peter spoke up and said to him, “You are the Christ.” And he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him. 

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and to be put to death, and after three days to rise again; and he said all this quite openly. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him.  But, turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said to him, “Get behind me, Satan!  Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.”

He called the people and his disciples to him and said, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it “

Reflection on 23rd Sunday: 5th September 2021

Openness

‘Today’s gospel isn’t simply a story about Jesus turning a particular deaf man into a particular hearing man. This is a story about each one of us. It is more about spiritual deafness than it is about physical deafness. Hearing and deafness are not determined by our ears, but by what’s in our heart, the way we love and relate to one another. We are either open or closed to the connection with God, with one another and with the world. Sometimes we choose to be open or closed depending on people, places, and circumstances. We have selective hearing. We hear what we want to hear. When we are spiritually deaf we assume that ours is the only or the most important voice to hear. We are closed to new ideas, understandings, and experiences. Unopen to new ways of thinking, behaving, and relating, we continue business as usual and nothing ever changes. It is a lonely, isolated existence.’1

‘What is said clearly is not always heard clearly. Every message is filtered as it is being received. How it is actually received depends on what is happening in the listener. The capacity of the disciples to hear clearly and interpret accurately was inhibited by factors such as fears, expectations, anxiety and what we call spiritual blindness. It’s quite a journey from hearing what we want to wanting what we hear. Like the first disciples, we develop ways of evading what we find seriously challenging, of shutting out what threatens or disturbs, of sidestepping what makes demands.’2

‘The cure for our spiritual deafness is not to hear but to be open. Hearing follows openness. “Ephphatha.” That’s what Jesus tells the deaf man. He doesn’t say, “Now hear!” He says, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” He says the same thing to you and me. Jesus is always speaking, “Ephphatha,” to the closed parts of our lives. The openness to which Christ calls us transforms and heals our lives. It reconnects us to God and one another, offering new life, new beginnings, new hope, and new possibilities.’1

‘You can always open more
and there is always more to open to.’3

[1] Michael Marsh [2] galwaydiocese.ie/reflection [3] Stephen C. Paul

Gospel Mark 7:31-37

Returning from the district of Tyre, Jesus went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, right through the Decapolis region. And they brought him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they asked him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, put his fingers into the man’s ears and touched his tongue with spittle. Then looking up to heaven he sighed; and he said to him, “Ephphatha”, that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.

And Jesus ordered them to tell no one about it, but the more he insisted, the more widely they published it. Their admiration was unbounded. “He has done all things well,’ they said “he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”

Reflection on 22nd Sunday: 29th August 2021

Wisdom Tradition

In the film ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, the main character Tevye says, “Because of our Tradition everyone knows who we are meant to be and what God expects us to do. Without Tradition our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof. Tradition helps us keep our balance.”

While this is true, it is not true of Tevye’s initial understanding of the word ‘Tradition’ which undergoes a major shift as the plot unfolds. His daughters lead him to eventually conclude that there is an aspect of life that is stronger than their traditions: love. “Love is the new style,” he says. ‘This love is not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but it is the animating force that holds us together.’

Dr. Barbara Holmes

‘Many spiritual writers speak about Perennial Tradition or Perennial Wisdom. The Perennial Tradition points to recurring themes and truths within all of the world’s religions. Religious traditions can hide God as well as reveal God. 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.’1 ‘Perennial Tradition or Wisdom teaching focuses on the necessity of our transformation starting from the inside out. Often our lives are so imbalanced that it is hard to walk this transformative path. Wisdom teaching is never a one-size-fits all approach. A Wisdom teacher is always looking for our ‘stuck’ point. What is it that is preventing our growth?’2 Do we want to be right or do we want to be in right relationship? Do we want to be correct or do we want to be connected?1

“This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.” “I will remove their heart of stone. A new heart will I give them.” (Ezekiel) ‘Jesus came as an awakener of the heart. Cynthia Bourgeault describes Jesus as ‘the master cardiologist’. The head is a great tool for reading the quantitative universe but when that runs the show we end up thinking that the goal of life is in accumulating and box-ticking and the world becomes a series of objects. The heart is the organ of perception that reads the qualitative universe, that reads the realm of beauty, truth, joy and peace. When we move through the world in our heart, the world becomes a temple of presences.’2 We then know who we are meant to be:
‘My deepest me is God.’3

[1] Richard Rohr [2] Matthew Wright [3] St Catherine of Genoa.

Gospel Mark 7 1-8,14-15,21-23

The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus, and they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with unclean hands, that is, without washing them. For the Pharisees, and the Jews in general, follow the tradition of the elders and never eat without washing their arms as far as the elbow’, and on returning from the market place they never eat without first sprinkling themselves. There are also many other observances concerning the washing of cups, pots and bronze dishes. So these Pharisees and scribes asked him “Why do your disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?” He answered, “It was of you hypocrites that lsaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations, You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.” He called the people to him again and said, “Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency envy, slander pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.”

Reflection on 21st Sunday: 22nd August 2021

“Lord to whom shall we go?”

‘It seems that we are born with a longing, a desire, and a deep hope that this thing called life could somehow last forever. It is a premonition from Something Eternal that is already within us. Some would call it the soul. Some would call it the indwelling presence of God. It is God in us that makes us desire God. It is an eternal life already within us that makes us imagine eternal life. It is the Spirit of God that allows us to seriously hope for what we first only intuit. Spiritual knowing, spiritual cognition is always really re-cognition. It’s the realisation that I already knew this. At some deep level I had a recognition, a suspicion, an intuition that this might just be true: that I might just be the son/daughter of the holy one, a child of God. It is an intuition which cannot be proven but only experienced. But then we hesitate and think, “Oh but that’s too good to be true.”

Perhaps this explains Peter’s striking response to Jesus’ question, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter answers with another question: “To whom shall we go?” It is not the most flattering response in the world, but it is honest. Peter’s reply reveals his uncertainty about what is happening within him. Although he acknowledges that Jesus has “the words of eternal life” Peter 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. 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. We may be tempted to walk away from what God is feeding us in our daily life experiences. But where do we go?’

Richard Rohr. Adapted

‘When your life awakens and you begin to sense the destiny that brought you here, you endeavour to live a life that is generous and worthy of the blessing and the invitation that is always calling you.
The eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love’

John O’Donohue

Gospel John 6: 60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, “This is intolerable language, How could anyone accept it? Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, “Does this upset you?” What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, “This is why I told you that no-one could come to me unless the Father allows him.” After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe: we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on the Assumption: 16th Aug 2021

The already and the not yet

When contemplating the feast of the Assumption, we need to look at the meaning of what the feast is about rather than being too literal in our understanding of how it is described. ‘The mystery of Mary is that in her we see the beauty of the beginning from which we come (the Immaculate Conception) and the beauty of the end to which we go (the Assumption). Our lives become fascinating to the extent that we can expand, extend our mind, our consciousness, our memory to the very beginning and we can anticipate in hope, in awareness, in conscious ideals, in goals, in dreams, the final end.’1

We can experience this expansion of our being in the most unexpected moments. ‘While pondering the Magnificat, Mary’s song made me think about a passage in Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking-Glass, in which the White Queen tells Alice that memory works both ways and it is a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. One of the things that strikes me most about Mary’s canticle is that in singing about how God turns the world upside down, she sings as if these things have already come to pass. In Mary’s chosen tense, God has already accomplished the righting of the world. Mary knew, as we know, that redemption and restoration was still a work in progress. But so transformed was Mary that she could sing of this as though it had already happened. She is remembering forwards. We call that hope. In a recent episode of Star Trek: Voyager the characters were trying to fix the space-time continuum. In explaining what’s going on, one finally said, “I gave up trying to figure out tenses a long time ago.” Mary’s kind of hope, the kind that bends our understanding of time and tenses, recognises that God has a very different relationship with time than we do.’2

‘The Magnificat speaks of the already and the not yet. It testifies to God’s work to reconcile all creation, work that has already begun and will continue forever. Like Mary, we are invited to be intimately involved in this work. Mary was carrying the hope of the world inside her. What is God seeking to bring forth in my life that enables me to participate in the transformation that God is working in all creation?’3

Adapted: [1] Pietro Archiati [2] Jan Richardson [3] Julie Clawson

Gospel: Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? From the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ And Mary said:

'My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has scattered the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones
and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things,
the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant,
mindful of his mercy –
according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever'.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.

Reflection on 19th Sunday: 8th August 2021

Is There Life Within You?

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. Most of us spend a fair amount of time, energy, and prayer trying to create and possess the life we want. In spite of our best efforts sometimes we live less than fully alive. We ask ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?” We wonder if this is all there will ever be. Is this as good as it gets? We despair at what is and what we think will be. Those questions and feelings are not so much a judgement on us, but a diagnosis of us. They are symptoms of our lack of understanding of what true life is.

Eckhart Tolle differentiates between our life situation and our life. ‘Underneath the various conditions that make up our life situation – which exists in time – there is something deeper, more essential: our Life, our very Being in the timeless Now.’ Is there life within us? The question pushes us to discover our hunger for the experience of eternal life already given to each of us by the Father: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father.” In her book Waiting for God Simone Weil wrote, ‘The danger is not that the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but that it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.’ In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the word of God. Jesus invites us come to him and to feed on his presence, and in particular to feed 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 the second reading: 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.

We sometimes experience a taste of eternal life, when everything seems to fit together perfectly and all is right with the world, not because we get our own way but because we know our self to be a part of something larger, more beautiful. These are moments when time stands still and we wish the wonder of the moment will never end. And it tastes good.

Adapted: Michael Marsh

Second Reading Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.
Try, then, to imitate God, as children of his that he loves, and follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

Gospel John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said. “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” “Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph” they said, “We know his father and mother. How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus said in reply, “Stop complaining to each other. No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father. I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
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Reflection on 18th Sunday: 1st August 2021

Bread in our wilderness

‘In today’s first reading we are reminded that for 40 years God’s people daily eat manna in the wilderness. When the Israelites see it, they say to one another, “What is it?” for they did not know what it was. ( The Aramaic man hu  means  “What is it?”) 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. 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?        

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?’1

If we continue to read the rest of Exodus 16 we will find that the Israelites were told, “Gather as much as you need. No one is to keep any of it until morning.” Only on the sixth day could they gather twice as much. ‘The Israelites learn that the manna God gives them is for their present need. Like them, we are invited to stay with God in the now, to trust that He will nourish and strengthen us tomorrow in the same way He does today. Tomorrow’s need, whatever it is, can drive us to fear and to clinging to whatever we are familiar with,  something we see. Trust in God is being willing to trade it for what we can’t see.’2 ‘To stay in God’s hands, to trust means that I have to hold a degree of uncertainty, fear and tension.’3

                                           “Believe in me.”

Adapted : [1] Ann Voskamp. One Thousand Gifts  [2] Laurie P. Short  [3] R.Rohr

First Reading: Exodus 16:2-4.12-15

The whole community of the sons of Israel began to complain against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness and said to them, “Why did we not die at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart’s content! As it is, you have brought us to this wilderness to starve this whole company to death!”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now I will rain down bread for you from the heavens. Each day the people are to go out and gather the day’s portion; I propose to test them in this way to see whether they will follow my law or not.”

“I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel. Say this to them, ‘Between the two evenings you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have bread to your heart’s content. Then you will learn that I, the Lord, am your God.'” And so it came about: quails flew up in the evening, and they covered the camp; in the morning there was a coating of dew all round the camp. When the coating of dew lifted, there on the surface of the desert was a thing delicate, powdery, as fine as hoarfrost on the ground. When they saw this, the sons of Israel said to one another, “What is that?” not knowing what it was. “That” said Moses to them “is the bread the Lord gives you to eat.”

Gospel: John 6:24-35

When the people saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into boats and crossed to Capernaum to look for Jesus. When they found him on the other side, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered: ‘I tell you most solemnly, you are not looking for me because you have seen the signs but because you had all the food you wanted to eat. Do not work for food  that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal.’

Then they said to him, ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants? Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ So they said, ‘What sign will you give to show us that we should believe in you? What work will you do? Our fathers had manna to eat in the desert; as scripture says: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’  Jesus answered: ‘I tell you most solemnly, it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven, it is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’  ‘Sir’, they said, ‘give us that bread always.’ Jesus answered: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.’

Reflection on 17th Sunday: 25th July 2021

Gathering the Fragments

“Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.”

‘An important part of today’s miracle is how Jesus, with such intention, cares for the fragments following the feast. He sees the abundance that persists, the feast that remains within the fragments. We might think the marvel of the story is that there is enough for everyone. And yet for Jesus, enough does not seem to be enough. There is more: a meal that depends on paying attention to what has been left behind, on turning toward what has been tossed aside.’1

We ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” And he does, in so many ways. There is so much abundance. And we also leave many fragments behind. Perhaps we have been blessed with moments of wonder and cannot feast on all at one time but each truly astonishing experience instils within us the confident belief that there is more to be revealed when we are ready. Perhaps we refuse some of the food offered to us because it tastes too bitter, it even hurts and certainly isn’t on our menu. Yet ‘Christ casts his circle around the fragments; he will not loose his hold on what is broken and in pieces. He knows the secret of the fragments that find their way into His keeping. He gathers them up: a sign of the wholeness he can see hidden in what has been left behind; a foretaste of the banquet to come, the persistence of plenty where there seemed only lack.’1

‘This miraculous feeding has always been seen as an image of the Eucharist. For the next five Sundays the gospel reading invites us to reflect on what it means to pray Eucharist, to be Eucharist, to do Eucharist, to live Eucharist. An Irish writer in medieval times described the Eucharist as a dangerous prayer because it expresses a readiness to let God transform us.’2

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.3

Adapted: [1] Jan Richardson    [2] galwaydiocese.ie   [3] John O’ Donohue

Gospel John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii would only be enough to give them a small piece each.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” Jesus said to them, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.” So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.  The people, seeing this sign he had given, said, “This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

Reflection on 16th Sunday: 18th July 2021

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. 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 taught that on the seventh day, God created menuhatranquillity, 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.’1

‘We know that Jesus cultivated a regular contemplative practice in his own life and ministry. Neuroscience shows that contemplative practice literally re-wires our brain and lays down new neural pathways that allow for compassion to be expressed through our lives. Jesus invites his apostles – and us – to adopt this practice of grounding ourselves in God, then engaging the day out of that grounding. He retreats, not to run away, but to prepare to re-engage and serve in a way that is whole and full, without burning out and losing ourselves in the process.’2 ‘Sabbath time prevents us from becoming too enamoured of our own abilities to perform wonders but deepens our awareness that God is the Source of all that we are able to do.3

The world aches for the generosity of a well-rested people.”1

Adapted [1] Wayne Muller: Sabbath  [2]Matthew Wright  [3] Barbara Reid

Gospel Mark 6:30-34

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, “You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while”; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat.  So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.  But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.