Reflection on 29th Sunday: 20th October 2019

Prayer

Today’s first and third readings give the impression that God can be manipulated, that if we yell at Him long enough eventually He’ll give in. We can’t talk God into things. Prayer is not to change the mind of God. It’s to change our mind.

Perhaps today’s readings are telling us that what we say, feel and think is heard by God. There is a dialogue going on. The important thing from our side is to stay in the dialogue, to believe that what we say, feel and think matters to God. Do we really believe this? Prayer matters when we know we are in a dialogue, that we are being heard by a sympathetic, empathetic ear on ‘the other side’. When we wholeheartedly enter into that dialogue, we change. And the very thing we first of all prayed for is re-assembled, re-directed and if we persist in prayer our intention, motivation and understanding changes. We reframe the question and little by little we learn to trust that God who is infinitely good, infinitely loving, infinitely merciful is hearing our prayer, holding it in an infinitely loving way. With our finite minds we cannot understand so he has to lead us to the trust we read about in the final sentence of the gospel. Do we want to be one of those people who little by little are edged into a bigger frame, a bigger picture, a more in-depth understanding of what we are praying for.

What is clear in today’s gospel is that the people who pray well are those who keep praying, those who keep the channels open. When we keep the lines open, we will grow in awareness of God’s Spirit within us filling us with the energies of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, trust, faithfulness, gentleness, forgiveness, compassion, understanding and the deep healings that we all need. Prayer does not change God. Prayer changes us. This will always happen if we rest calmly in this utterly safe Presence, allowing the Divine Gaze to invade and heal our unconscious, the place where 95 percent of our motivations and reactions come from. All we can really do is return the gaze.

Richard Rohr: Homilies. Adapted
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Reflection on 28th Sunday: 13th October 2019

Thanksgiving

Anne Voskamp writes the following: As I reflected on Luke 17, I remembered my Sunday School teacher Mrs Morrison and could hear her voice asking, “Do you always remember to say thanks?” Yes, I think I know this one, so I skim through the passage. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’” Wait. I trace back. Hadn’t Jesus completely healed him? Exactly like the other nine who were cured but hadn’t bothered to return to thank Him. So what does Jesus mean, “Your faith has made you well”? Some translations read, “Your faith has saved you.” Saved you? I dig deeper. It’s ‘sozo’ in Greek, the original language of the New Testament. Sozo means salvation, true wellness, complete wholeness. Jesus came that we might live life to the full. And when did the leper receive the saving to the full, whole life? When he returned and gave thanks. Our wellness, our wholeness is intimately related to the giving of thanks. Mrs Morrison hadn’t said that.

Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is necessary to live the well, whole, fullest life. Thanksgiving –giving thanks in everything- always precedes the miracle.

In Luke 22:19 we read: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them.” In the original language ‘he gave thanks’ reads ‘eucharisteo’. The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning ‘grace’. But it also holds the derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning ‘joy’. St Augustine says that without exception, all try their hardest to reach the same goal, joy. That has always been the goal of the fullest life – joy. And my life knew exactly how elusive that slippery three-letter word, joy, can be. But where can I seize this holy grail of joy? Is deep chara joy to be found only at the table of thanksgiving? Is it that simple?

As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible. Joy is always possible: whenever, meaning now; wherever, meaning here. The holy grail of joy is not in some exotic location or some emotional mountain peak experience. The joy wonder could be here! Here, in this piercing ache of now, joy might be – unbelievably – possible! Is the height of my joy dependant on the depths of my thanks?

Ann Voskamp. One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully, right where you are

Reflection on 27th Sunday: 6th October 2019

Quality not quantity

Like ‘prayer’, ‘religion’ and so many other words, the word ‘faith’ means different things to different people. Our understanding of Biblical faith has been very limited. What set us on the wrong path was making ‘ideas’ or ‘doctrines’ the object of religious faith, instead of a person. Our faith is not a faith that dogmas or moral opinions are true, but a faith that Ultimate Reality/God/Jesus is accessible to us – and even on our side. Jesus was able to touch and heal people who trusted him as an emissary of God’s love, not people who assessed intellectual statements and decided whether they were true or false. Such faith does not usually change our heart or our lifestyle.

We often interpret faith in terms of quantity. The apostles ask Jesus to increase their faith. We think we should have more faith. Jesus is not talking about quantity but about quality, the quality of our perception towards the moment.

Faith is an opening of our heart space or our mind space. Initially and foundationally, this is all that faith is but its effects and implications are enormous. Faith is our small but necessary offering to any new change or encounter. Such an opening of the heart and mind is entirely necessary to help us make fresh starts or break through to new levels. We normally have to let go of the old and go through a stage of unknowing or confusion before we can move to another level of awareness or new capacity. People of great faith often suffer bouts of great doubt (which is really fear) at many levels because they continue to grow at new levels.

Faith is a quality of seeing that allows us to expand our vision, to see things in bigger circles, in bigger realms and to know that at the centre of it all is a good and gracious and benevolent God. With such faith we can do impossible and wonderful things.

Richard Rohr: The Naked Now; Daily Meditations; Homilies

Reflection on 26th Sunday: 29th September 2019

The Chasm Within

There are many questions that arise when we interpret parables literally, turning them into a story of historical fact. When we do that the questions are usually endless and unanswerable. Neither can we, however, treat parables as merely metaphor or symbolism that have no real life implications for how we live. So what about today’s parable? What is it saying to us and what is it not saying to us?

Image result for lazarus gulf rich

At some point in our lives we have probably all been both the rich man and Lazarus. We can all name times when life has been good, full, and easy. Likewise we can name times when it has simply left us destitute, broken, and in sorrow and suffering. I don’t think this parable is asking us to make judgments about who is the rich man and who is Lazarus. Instead, it is asking us to acknowledge and deal with the gates and chasms that separate us from each other. The gate and the chasm are the same thing. The chasm that separates Lazarus and the rich man in the next world is simply a manifestation of the gate that separated them in this world. The rich man carried it with him into the next world. It was a part of him. The gate is a condition of the human heart. The gate that becomes a chasm always exists within us before it exists between us.

That means we must each examine our own heart to find the gates that separate us from ourselves, our neighbours, our enemies, those we love, and ultimately God. What gates do we live with: fear, anger, greed, pride, prejudice, loneliness, sorrow, addiction, busyness, indifference, apathy, hurt, resentment, envy, cynicism. Gates destroy relationships. Every time we love our neighbour as ourselves, every time we love our enemies, every time we see and treat one another as created in the image and likeness of God, gates are opened and chasms are filled. It is something we must each live our way into. It’s a choice set before us every day. It can happen in our marriages and families, at work and school, on the corner of parking lots, and in our prayers for the world. It can happen in the most intimate of relationships, or with strangers, and even with our enemies. It is not easy work but it possible. Jesus demonstrated that in his life, death, and resurrection. Gates were opened and chasms were filled. Christ’s love, mercy, grace, and presence make it possible for us to open our gates and ensure they do not become chasms. He is the image of our opened gates and our filled chasms, the image of who we most truly are and who we are to become.

Michael Marsh

Reflection on 25th Sunday: 22nd September 2019

Wise Management

“Give me an accounting of your management.” It may not have been those exact words but at some time in our life, probably many times, an accounting has been demanded eg from our loved ones, HMRC, our boss, our examination of conscience. Giving an accounting can be an uncomfortable and even a fearful time. We review our words and actions wondering, “What have I done? What have I left undone? What will happen to me? What will I do?” No one likes to have to give an accounting. We’re pretty private about our books. Not only do we not want others to see the balance, sometimes we do not want to see the balance ourselves. We do not want to face and deal with that reality. But that’s what this accounting asks of us.

Today’s gospel calls us to account for our management of all that we are and all that we have. The demand for an accounting often sounds like someone is in trouble. That’s how today’s parable begins. The manager has been charged with squandering his master’s property. He is going to be fired. He will lose his job, income, reputation, and status. A part of him is dying. At some level he will lose his life as he now knows it. We would expect the manager to get what he deserves. But that’s not how the kingdom of God works and parables rarely give us what we expect. So we ought not to be too quick to come to a final or definitive interpretation of this parable. The parable offers ambiguity and tension, not a neat resolution and that feels a lot like real life. The accounting that should have been the manager’s ruin became the starting point for a new life, new relationships, and a new home. The accounting demanded of this manager was both an ending and a new beginning, a death and a resurrection.

What if accounting is not about finding wrongdoing but new life? What if it’s about grace rather than punishment? That certainly changes our usual understanding of an accounting but isn’t that what parables are supposed to do? They change the way we see and understand. If a parable makes sense we’ve probably missed the point. The accounting of our management isn’t about numbers, wrongdoing, or punishment but about helping us see and orient our lives in a new direction. It enables us to respond to Jesus’ invitation: “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4)

Michael Marsh

Reflection on 24th Sunday: 15th September 2019

Make your home in me

The Younger Son

Leaving home is living as though I do not yet have a home, and must look far and wide to find one. Home is the centre of my being, where I can hear the voice that says, “You are my beloved.” I have heard that never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity and giving life and love wherever it is heard. When I hear that voice, I know that I am home with God and have nothing to fear. The younger son in me returns home in the very moment that I reclaim my sonship.

The Elder Son

The ‘homelessness’ of the elder son is more difficult to identify. After all he was physically at home and did all the right things. The more I reflect on the elder son in me, the more I realise how deeply rooted this form of homelessness really is and how hard it is to return home from there. Resentment and cold anger are not easily distinguished and dealt with rationally.
Both sons needed healing and forgiveness. Both needed to return home. Both needed the embrace of a forgiving father. All of us will someday have to deal with the elder son or the elder daughter in us. The question before us is simply: What can we do to make the return home possible? We must not only recognise that we are lost but must be prepared to be found and brought home. How? 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. Gratitude and resentment cannot co-exist since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as gift.

The Father

Today’s gospel is a story that speaks about a love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate. Though I am both the younger son and the elder son, I am not to remain them, but to become the Father. Do I want to be like the Father? Do I want to be not just the one who is forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but also the one who offers it as well? The return home to the Father is ultimately to become the compassionate Father.


Henri Nouwen: The Return of the Prodigal Son

Reflection on 23rd Sunday: 8th September 2019

Rooted and Grounded in Love

In today’s Gospel, Luke tells us Jesus was addressing “large crowds” where there would have been people in a variety of different places in their relationship to Jesus and his teaching. So many must have asked, ‘Who exactly is this teacher?’ Some people in that crowd may have had some awareness that Jesus was everything we are created to be.

Where do we find ourselves in that ‘crowd’? Do we truly and deeply long for all that is best, deepest, and most real in the human condition? Or, are we willing to settle for something less? Are we willing to allow some human relationship or our possessiveness to prevent our living fully our identity as being created in God’s image? If we desire true life, if we desire to live deeply and authentically we must take up our cross and surrender over and over any attachment, any clinging that might in any way separate us from the fullness of God’s presence in our lives. We will then ‘be rooted and grounded in love and have the power to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of the love of Christ and be filled with the fullness of God’ ( cf Ephesians 3: 17 -19) We will grow in awareness that love is not really an action that we do. Love is what and who we are, in our deepest essence. Love is a place that already exists inside of us, but is also greater than us. We know that we’ve found a well that will never go dry, as Jesus says (cf John 4:13-14).

Choosing life with Christ means that every relationship we have with people and possessions must be understood from a new perspective. When we make that choice, we will eventually see that there is a tremendous irony in Jesus’ challenge to the crowds – and to us. Our growth in awareness of who we are in God will lead us to see others in their deepest essence and we will truly love “father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself.”

Adapted from various sources: Christopher Page, Nate Holdridge, R. Rohr

Reflection on 22nd Sunday: 1st Sept 2019

Do we know who we are?

A story is told of a gentleman at Los Angeles airport. Bad weather had led to the cancellation of many flights and consequently there were many people stranded and forming long queues in an attempt to change their flights. One gentleman, who had been waiting patiently in line for some time, finally left his place and stormed up to the counter demanding that the agent find him a first class ticket to Chicago and to do so immediately. When the agent very politely told him to go back to his place in the queue and wait just as everyone else had to do, he pounded on the counter and shouted, “Do you have any idea who I am?” The agent calmly picked up the microphone and made an announcement to the entire airport: “Ladies and gentlemen. There is a man here who has no idea who he is. If anyone can identify him, will they please come forward.” With that, the gentleman took his place in the queue and waited.

The more we grow in awareness of who we are in God, the more humble we will be and the more we will realise that we are all gifted and beautiful, faulted and broken in our own ways. And each of us is loved by the God who created and sustains us. That gives us a dignity that we don’t have to earn and that can never be taken away. Humility is an inner attitude that candidly allows us to know, love and accept ourselves. If we are humble, we see our talents and accomplishments as gifts and recognise our limitations and failures as opportunities for growth. Humility allows us to see ourselves honestly. Humility is a virtue which allows us to love ourselves with no pretences. Humility really frees us to be ourselves and to grow and change. Humility frees us from the need or compulsion to wear a mask and pretend to be someone else.

Since the humble are secure, they are strong. And since they have nothing to prove, they don’t have to flaunt their strength or use it to dominate others. Humility leads to meekness. And meekness is not weakness. Rather, it is strength under control, power used to build up rather than tear down. The humble are not threatened either by God’s greatness or the reflection of that greatness in the talents of others. In fact, this is what naturally catches their eye and absorbs their attention – the goodness of God, wherever it may be found. The form of prayer that extols God’s goodness is called praise. The activity that honours God’s goodness in other people is called affirmation. The humble take delight in praising God and affirming people.

Do we have any idea who we are?

Adapted from a talk given by Fr Ferrer Quigley O.P.

Reflection on 21st Sunday: 25th Aug 2019

Choose Life

Today’s Gospel is a patchwork quilt of images: who will be saved, the narrow door, closed door, the master of the house refusing entry, the kingdom of God, being outside the kingdom, weeping and grinding of teeth, people coming from East and West, being first, being last. Perhaps this passage doesn’t fit in with our concept of a God who loves unconditionally. The temptation may be to file this gospel passage under ‘Remind me later’ or we may want to press the delete button! We may also try to unravel only one image and focus on that. How can we bring these images, these ‘patches’ together to create a beautiful work of art and then wrap this ‘quilt’ around us so that once more we experience the reassuring warmth of God’s eternal and unconditional love.

Perhaps the thread that joins the patches together is our gift of freedom. Most of the world religions have some concept of heaven and hell. Why? Because human freedom matters. We have to be given the freedom to say no to love and life, and one word for that is hell. Heaven and hell are not geographic places. They are states of consciousness and they are right now. We choose right now if we want to live in a living relationship with God and our neighbour or we choose to live a life of excluding others, protecting our own individual identities and possessions no matter what it takes to do so, choosing separation from the source of all life, love and joy. We are choosing our destiny right now. Do we want to live in constant opposition to others and life itself? Or do we want to live in love and communion?

When we choose love and life we choose to walk through ‘the narrow door’. Jesus’ listeners would have known he was referring to the ‘Eye of the Needle Gate’ in Jerusalem. The gate was so small that a man would have had to unload his camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead his camel through this small gate. Jesus is inviting us to let go of any baggage that prevents us from moving forward. However frightening that might feel, we need always remember that everything that matters, from all the experiences and encounters in our lives, has been internalised and is always part of us. It will continue to enrich us. When we realise this, we will find a new freedom in letting go of all that does not matter; we will be saved right now (‘saved’ is from the Greek meaning true wellness, complete wholeness); we will experience God within us right now.

Adapted from various sources: Donal Neary, Margaret Silf, R.Rohr

Reflection on 20th Sunday: 18th August 2019

I came to bring fire to the earth

Anthony de Mello tells the following parable of the man who invented fire: “A long time ago, there was a man who invented the art of making fire. He took his tools and visited a tribe in the north, where the climate was bitter cold. The man taught the people how to make fire. And the people were spellbound. He showed them many uses for fire: they could cook, keep themselves warm, keep predators at bay and dance by firelight. So they built fire and were very grateful. But before they could express their gratitude, the man disappeared, because he wasn’t concerned with recognition or gratitude. He was concerned only with their well-being.

The fire-making man visited a different tribe, and began to teach the art of making fire. Like the first tribe, this tribe was mesmerised. But the tribe members’ passion unnerved the tribe’s leaders. It didn’t take long for them to notice that the fire-making man drew large crowds, and the leaders worried about lost influence and power. Because of their fear, the leaders determined to kill the fire-making man and they devised a clever plan because they were worried that the tribe people might revolt. Can you guess what they did? The leaders made a portrait of the fire-making man, and displayed it on the main altar of the temple. The instruments for making fire were placed in front of the portrait, and the people were taught to revere the portrait and to pay reverence to the instruments of fire. The veneration and the worship went on for centuries. But there was no more fire.”

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin