Refection on 19th Sunday: 7th August 2022

Faith believes in the existence of realities that at present remain unseen

‘If a man born blind were told about the nature of the colour yellow, he would understand absolutely nothing, no matter how much instruction he received. Since he has never seen any colours, nor their like, he would not have the means to form a judgement about them. Only their names would be grasped, since the names are perceptible through hearing. Such is faith to the soul. It informs us of matters that we have never seen or known, either in themselves or in their likenesses.’1

‘When we hear that God is love, in faith we assent to that and by way of analogy we know something of what that means because we know what love is in us. But the boundary-less expanse of God’s love is infinitely beyond what we are able to comprehend. Like the person born blind who has no substantive knowledge of what the colour yellow is, we have no substantive knowledge of what the infinite love of God is. Faith is a kind of a paradoxical knowledge of a knowledge that passes beyond the frontiers of what the intellect can comprehend. But although it is beyond what the intellect can comprehend, through the gift of faith we know it’s true in some obscure, intimate manner. There’s a certain comfort level, as well there should be, in how we’ve internalised our understanding of God, through the scriptures, and through liturgy, through reflection, through prayer and through reading spiritual books. All this is real, it’s important. But God is asking us not depend on, or identify with what we’re capable of understanding, but rather identify with what we’re incapable of understanding.’2

In today’s second reading, St Paul focuses on a few familiar Old Testament people in search of their real homeland who “died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them.” That is our faith journey. And what is our true homeland? “Make your home in me as I make mine in you.” (John 15:4) The path on our way home is ‘the transformative way of faith which welcomes unknowing and mystery. Faith is more how to believe than what to believe.’3

Adapted: [1] St. John of the Cross; [2] James Finley [3] Richard Rohr

Second Reading Hebrews 11:1-2.8-19

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he arrived, as a foreigner, in the Promised Land, and lived there as if in a strange country, with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. They lived there in tents while he looked forward to a city founded, designed and built by God.

It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who was already as good as dead himself, more descendants than could be counted, as many as the stars of heaven or the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these died in faith, before receiving any of the things that had been promised, but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them, recognising that they were only strangers and nomads on earth. People who use such terms about themselves make it quite plain that they are in search of their real homeland. They can hardly have meant the country they came from, since they had the opportunity to go back to it; but in fact they were longing for a better homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, since he has founded the city for them.

It was by faith that Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He offered to sacrifice his only son even though the promises had been made to him and he had been told: It is through Isaac that your name will be carried on. He was confident that God had the power even to raise the dead; and so, figuratively speaking, he was given back Isaac from the dead.

Reflection on 18th Sunday: 31st July 2022

The treasure God knows us to be

As Jesus warns, there are all kinds of greed. It might be about amassing money, land, or any tangible thing. But greed can also be about time, attention, approval, love, knowledge, power, control, being right, being in charge, or a thousand other things. Ultimately, though, greed is not about any of these things. They are just the symptoms or pointers to the deeper issue. The issue is not about quantity but a condition of the heart. Greed is really just a way of dealing with our own feelings of deficit and emptiness. It’s not so much about having enough but about being enough. When we believe ourselves to be deficient, when we lose belief in ourselves, when we feel we are not enough, then we get greedy. We use things and other people to fill the hole inside us.

How would we fill in the blanks in the following sentence: Greed deceives and convinces us that if we just have more ________ then we’ll be ________.

Greed uses external things to deal with internal matters and it rarely works. It leaves us wanting more, always seeking more money or the next word of approval. The thing is that greed steals and deprives us of what we most want. Greed thieves us of our lives. Greed works its deception and turns us back on ourselves and the grammar of our life soon becomes first person singular. “I will build larger barns.”

That doesn’t mean that possessions are inherently bad or wrong. The problem is when we give our possessions the power to name who we are. “Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions,” Jesus says. Somewhere deep within we already know this. We really do. This is not news for us. Think of our greatest hopes and dreams for any child. We probably pray that the child will find meaning and purpose in life; that they would look in the mirror and see their own beauty, that they would trust their own goodness and that they would discover their own holiness. The reason those things are our prayers, hopes and wishes is because somewhere deep within us we know and want those same things for our life. In those moments we catch a glimpse of the treasure that we are and want to be, the treasure God knows us to already be.

Adapted: Michael Marsh

Gospel Luke 12:13-21

A man in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Master, tell my brother to give me a share of our inheritance.’ ‘My friend’, he replied ‘who appointed me your judge, or the arbitrator of your claims?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’

Then he told them a parable: ‘There was once a rich man who, having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, ‘What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops.” Then he said, “This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and all my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul, you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time.” But God said to him, “Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’

Reflection on 17th Sunday: 24th July 2022

A Daily Rendezvous With God

In some way our prayer is diagnostic of our life. How we pray says much about our relationship with God. ‘The early church fathers, when greeting each other, did not ask about health, life, family, or anything else. Instead, they would ask, “How is your prayer?”1 ‘So when one of the disciples sees that Jesus “was in a certain place praying,” and asks him “Teach us to pray,” we can be pretty sure the disciple is asking for more than simply words or techniques. There is a longing and desire deep within him.2

‘In Jesus’ teaching and example, we notice the prayer of words in the Our Father and his encouragement to “ask” and “knock”. But Jesus also taught prayer beyond words: praying in secret (Matt 6:5-6), not babbling on as the Gentiles do (Matt 6:7), or his pre-dawn, lonely prayer (Mark 1:35), because your Father knows what you need even before you ask (Matt 6:8). We need ‘unsaying’ prayer, the prayer of quiet or contemplative prayer, to balance out and ground all ‘saying’ prayer.’3

Today’s first reading and the gospel reading emphasise persistence in prayer. ‘We need a daily rendezvous with God, with nothing on our agenda but love. There we will be taken to the deeper place where we discover the spark of the divine that is in our hearts’4 ‘While our prayer of words is an attempt to express to ourselves our relationship with the Great Mystery, the prayer of silence is not so much to express but to experience that mutuality. We acknowledge and rejoice that we are the beloved. We sit and wait until we know this truth in our body and in our memory. Anything we stay with long enough changes us, not God’3 ‘God gives God’s self as the answer to our every prayer.’2

The Salt Doll5

A salt doll journeyed for thousands of miles over land, until it finally came to the sea. It was fascinated by this strange moving mass, quite unlike anything it had ever seen before.
“Who are you?” said the salt doll to the sea.
The sea smilingly replied, “Come in and see.”
So the doll waded in. The farther it walked into the sea the more it dissolved, until there was only very little of it left. Before that last bit dissolved, the doll exclaimed in wonder, “Now I know what I am!”

[1] Theophan the Recluse; [2] Michael Marsh; [3] Richard Rohr; [4] James Finley; [5] Anthony de Mello

First Reading Genesis 18:20-32

The Lord said, ‘How great an outcry there is against Sodom and Gomorrah! How grievous is their sin! I propose to go down and see whether or not they have done all that is alleged in the outcry against them that has come up to me. I am determined to know.’

The men left there and went to Sodom while Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Approaching him he said, ‘Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner? Perhaps there are fifty just men in the town. Will you really overwhelm them, will you not spare the place for the fifty just men in it? Do not think of doing such a thing: to kill the just man with the sinner, treating just and sinner alike! Do not think of it! Will the judge of the whole earth not administer justice?’ The Lord replied, ‘If at Sodom I find fifty just men in the town, I will spare the whole place because of them.’

Abraham replied, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this my Lord, I who am dust and ashes. But perhaps the fifty just men lack five: will you destroy the whole city for five?’ ‘No’, he replied, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five just men there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘for the sake of the forty.’

Abraham said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry, but give me leave to speak: perhaps there will only be thirty there.’ ‘I will not do it’ he replied ‘if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘I am bold indeed to speak like this, but perhaps there will be only twenty there.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘ for the sake of the twenty’. He said, ‘I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.’ ‘I will not destroy it’ he replied ‘For the sake of the ten.’

Gospel Luke 11:1-13

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘Say this when you pray: “Father, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come; give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us. And do not put us to the test.”‘ He also said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, ‘My friend, lend me three loaves because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him”; and the man answers from inside the house, “Do not bother me. The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it to you,’ I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

“So I say to you: Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or hand him a snake instead of a fish? Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

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Reflection on 16th Sunday: 17th July 2022

Only One Thing is Necessary

‘Today’s gospel is not just about Mary and Martha but about us and the choices we make. Jesus is saying that choices matter. We are always making choices. Sometimes we choose unconsciously, sometimes quickly and easily; other times with great deliberation and struggle. Some choices are insignificant. They are forgotten the next day. Other choices have great meaning and significance and the consequences are long lasting. We are always discerning the one thing needed for this time, in this place and these circumstances. What is the better part, given our particular situation?’1

‘Jesus didn’t question Martha’s choice of hospitality. It was not her cooking, cleaning or serving that bothered him but that she was worried and distracted by many things. The root meaning of the word ‘worry’ is ‘strangle’ or ‘seize by the throat and tear.’ The root meaning of the word ‘distraction’ is ‘a separation or a dragging apart of something that should be whole.’ These are violent words: words that wound and fracture; states of mind that render us incoherent, divided, and un-whole. Jesus found Martha in just such a state of fragmentation — a condition in which she could not enjoy his company, savour his presence or find him present in her work in the kitchen.’2 ‘If we, too, find our inner life fragmented then perhaps we can hear Jesus’ words to Martha, and to us, not as a criticism, but as an invitation to choose to be present to Him, whether sitting at his feet or in the kitchen, or wherever we finds ourselves.’3

‘How do we be present, show up to the divine presence that is already and always before us? What is the one thing needed right now, in this moment? Not forever or what we think will fix all our problems and let us live happily ever after. Just for now. What is the one thing needed that will keep us awake, aware, open, receptive and present to Christ? Choose that. That is the better part but hold your choice lightly because there will be another choice to be made after that, and another after that one. We choose our way into life, love and relationships.1

‘For each choice we make, only one thing is necessary. It must be rooted in Jesus. It must begin at his feet.’2

Adapted: [1] Michael Marsh; [2]Debi Thomas; [3] Joel Osteen

Gospel Luke 10:38-42

Jesus came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking. Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered: ‘Martha, Martha’, he said, ‘you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.

Reflection on 15th Sunday: 10-July-2022

The first ‘neighbour’ that we must love is our self

When reflecting on gospel stories we are often encouraged to imagine ourselves as each character in the story. ‘A good place for all of us to start on our journey of learning how to love our neighbour with great love, is to see ourselves first of all as that wounded person dying on the road.’1 ‘Notice that he is the only character in the story not defined by profession, social class, or religious belief. He has no identity at all except his naked need.’2 ‘Before we can love others with any genuine compassion, we need to experience being loved by God, the most loving and Good Samaritan. At different times in our lives, we face situations which make us feel wounded and dying and desperate for some help. We long for restoration and wholeness. There is a great temptation to flee from the reality of our human condition. Denial and avoidance are our unconscious ‘priest’ and ‘Levite’, protecting ourselves from getting too close to our own pain and brokenness.

It is important to be gentle and courteous enough to accept and face up to the ‘woundedness’ deep within our psyche and spirit rather than pretend it does not exist by attempting to rearrange our lives in such a way that this darkness remains hidden. There it will fester and govern our lives at an unconscious level – until it eventually surfaces in another form. Difficult life situations are unwelcome intrusions into our lives but they can be what God uses to awaken that inner desire for deep healing and comfort for our wounded inner self.’1

‘The first ‘neighbour’ that we must love is our self, by surrendering to Love, by allowing God to see our woundedness, to see and love us as we really are rather than what we ideally wish to be. We will then want to give others this same experience of divine love, of being looked upon tenderly in their woundedness, be it physical, emotional or psychological. We will want to reach out to our neighbour with compassion, notice his/her wounds and touch them with gentleness.’3 ‘We will want to help others surrender themselves over to God infinitely in love with us and our unresolved matters and our fragility. God loves us wherever we are at.’4

Adapted: [1]
[2] Debie Thomas:Journey with Jesus
[3] Cynthia Bourgeault
[4]James Finley

Gospel Luke 10:25-37

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert Jesus, stood up and said to him, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’ ‘You have answered right,’ said Jesus, ‘do this and life is yours.’

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ Jesus replied, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by one the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him onto his own mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him. Next day he took out to denarii and handed them to the innkeeper. “Look after him”, he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.” Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?’ ‘The one who took pity on him’ he replied. Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’