Reflection on Easter Sunday: 21st April 2019

Easter is a Faith Moment

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.”

‘Hope for the Flowers’ by Trina Paulus

Reflection on Passion Sunday: 14th April 2019

Thanksgiving

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?

Ann Voskamp. Adapted

“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.”

Meister Eckhart

Reflection on the 5th Sunday in Lent: 7th April 2019

Divine Mercy

‘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

Reflection on the 4th Sunday in Lent: 31st Mar 19

Going Home

The Younger Son

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

The Father

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.

Henri Nouwen: The Return of the Prodigal Son

Reflection on 3rd Sunday in Lent: 24th Mar 19

Choose life

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 is willing to dig in the dirt of our lives

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.

Michael Marsh

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!

Reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Lent: 17th March 2019

Listen

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.

Queen of Apostles website; Michael Marsh

Reflection on the 1st Sunday in Lent: 10th March 2019

Temptation is more than just saying ‘No’

Today’s Gospel story follows immediately on from Jesus’ baptism. Each of the three temptations touches on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, which had been revealed during his baptism: ‘This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ “Notice that each of the three temptations is preceded by the same verse: ‘If you are the Son of God…’ The first way the evil one tempts any of us is to make us doubt our divine identity. Once we think we are no good, we are lost.” (R.Rohr) We can so easily find our identity in what we do, in what we have, in what other people think of us, instead of in who we are, which can so easily be overlooked or forgotten in our crazy, hectic, tightly scheduled, work-oriented lives.

The type of temptations we experience and the circumstances by which they come are unique to each one of us because they reveal what’s inside us, what fills us. That’s why just saying no is an overly simplistic understanding of this gospel and an inadequate response to temptation. Temptation is less about a choice and more about our identity and direction in life. Who am I? Where is my life headed? We answer those questions every time we face and respond to our temptations. We face ourselves and learn the ways in which our life has become disconnected from the original beauty of our creation and the transfiguring presence of God. Temptation offers us something to be discovered and the opportunity to recover ourselves. Regardless of what we see there within us, it’s just information, a diagnosis. It’s not a final judgment, a conclusion, or our grade on God’s final exam! We don’t pass or fail our temptations. We learn the truth about how we see ourselves. We learn the truth about the direction of our life and who we are becoming. This learning is neither easy nor pain free but it is the necessary learning which leads us to change our hearts (repent).

Now is the time to spend time in the ‘desert’ of silence where the inner life thrives. We need to create a time and a space to allow God to reshape and redirect our life, to return us to the truth of who we are, daughters and sons of God, beloved children, with whom He is well pleased. The angels of God will hold on to us when we can’t hold on to ourselves.                                                                         

Various sources

Reflection for the start of Lent: 6th March 2019

We begin Lent by blessing and being blessed by the ashes of the palms used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration.  Do we see this as a ‘doom and gloom’ experience, or do we come filled with hope, knowing what God can do with dust?

Blessing the Dust

Hubble image of deep space looking back to the formation of the early galaxies.

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.

Jan Richardson

Reflection on the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 3rd March 2019

Put the oxygen mask on yourself first

We are familiar with the pre-flight instructions, “…make sure to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to help someone else put on theirs.” The same is true spiritually; we must breathe deeply of God’s Spirit ourselves before attempting to help others. When we attempt to teach or lead others, and we haven’t opened ourselves to God’s Spirit within us, we’re putting on a front, a mask, a costume. The word hypocrite is from the Greek word meaning play-actor.

In his letter to the Galatians, St Paul describes the working of the Spirit of God as the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Joyce Rupp says that she used to think of these fruits as ‘things’ given to us, something in a gift box. Then she began to think of them as energies, dynamic sources of growth already within in us. We can choose whether or not to act upon these energies, whether or not to allow them to become effective in us.”

When we are asked to take the risk of reaching out to another, to offer forgiveness to the heart that rejects us…..

Spirit of God, fill us with the energy of your love.

When we walk with sadness …..

Spirit of God, stir the energy of your joy within us.

When anxiety and concern take over our spirit…..

Spirit of God, deepen in us the energy of your peace.

On those days when our anger flares because our agendas aren’t met…..

Spirit of God, draw us towards the energy of your patience.

When we stop giving people our acceptance and understanding…..

Spirit of God,awaken in us the energy of your kindness

As we struggle to believe in our own gifts and blessings…..

Spirit of God, strengthen in us the energy of your goodness.

As we struggle amid the many changes of growth…..

Spirit of God, move us with the energy of your faithfulness.

When harshness or abruptness dominates our moods…..

Spirit of God, bless us with the energy of your gentleness.

During those experiences of growth when we are tempted to doubt all the ways we have known you…..

Spirit of God, renew in us the energy of awareness of our true self in you.

Spirit of God, you call us to open our minds and our hearts to receive your energising, transforming radiance so that we will follow your loving movement within our lives. We trust in your powerful presence within us.

Joyce Rupp

Reflection on the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time: 24th Feb 2019

Be compassionate

Compassionate action means working with ourselves as much as working with others. In order to feel compassion for other people, we have to feel compassion for ourselves and as we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others becomes wider. In choosing to be compassionate, we are yielding to the compassionate nature of God flowing through us. Compassion is the love that recognises and goes forth to identify with the preciousness of all that is lost and broken within ourselves and others. To care about people who are fearful, angry, jealous, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, arrogant, proud, miserly, selfish, mean, you name it—to have compassion and to care for these people means not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves. It means acknowledging our need for healing if we are to heal others.

Pema Chodron. James Finlay

May you desire to be healed.
May what is wounded in your life be restored to good health.
May you be receptive to the ways in which healing needs to happen.
May you take good care of yourself.
May you extend compassion to all that hurts within your body, mind, and spirit.
May you be patient with the time it takes to heal.
May you be aware of the wonders of your body, mind, and spirit and their ability in returning you to good health.
May you be open to receive from those who extend kindness, care, and compassion to you.
May you rest peacefully under the sheltering wings of divine love, trusting in this gracious presence.
May you find little moments of beauty and joy to sustain you.
May you keep hope in your heart.

Joyce Rupp