Book Club: Benjamin Zephaniah

Eat Your Words by Benjamin Zephaniah

I am a veggie table
A table made of veg,
There’s so much fruit upon me
All living on the edge,
Life is hard
But so are plates
And tea can be quite hot,
And vegetarian poets
Make me nervous quite a lot.

At our meeting on Wednesday 22nd January we will discuss the Poetry of Benjamin Zephaniah.
Mike o’Callaghan says “From my reading so far, this should be entertaining and interesting.”

So, if your New Year’s resolutions permit, why not come along and discuss poetry? It could be both fun and thought provoking.

Reflection on Baptism of Jesus: 12th January 2020

You are my Beloved

At the beginning of his public ministry Jesus chooses to be baptised by John and it is significant that as he begins his mission he hears the words that every human being longs to hear and needs to hear: ‘This is my beloved….’ It is the experience of who we are in God that enables us to carry out our mission in life even in those times when it is difficult to experience love because of experiences of failure, humiliation, suffering and difficulties in relationships.

It is true that we not only are the Beloved, but also have to become the Beloved. It is true that we not only are children of God, but also have to become children of God. It is true that we not only are brothers and sisters, but also have to become brothers and sisters. If all that is true, how then can we get a grip on this process of becoming? If the spiritual life is not simply a way of being, but also a way of becoming, what then is the nature of this becoming? Could it be that:

  • our growing awareness of being the beloved will gradually lead us to stop identifying ourselves with our jobs, our emotions, our life situations? These are not who we really are.
  • finding people and places where we are reminded of our deepest identity will renew our experience of what is already within us?
  • celebrating our belovedness with gratitude and wonder for our many daily experiences of love, we will fully live even when life is full of hurt?

When we claim and constantly reclaim the truth of being the beloved, we soon discover within ourselves a deep desire to reveal to others that they are also beloved. Once we deeply trust that we ourselves are precious in God’s eyes, we are able to recognise the preciousness of others. At the beginning of a new year, today’s gospel tells us that being the beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence. Our main mission in life is to embrace our belovedness and to become who we are.

Henri Nouwen: Life of the Beloved. Adapted

News & Calendar updates…

On Wednesday 8th January, members of the Preston and Coatbridge Xaverian communities met in Carlisle for a planning day for programmes and projects over the coming year. It was a very fruitful meeting with many ideas shared about potential initiatives in the Coatbridge and Preston areas as well as in the Xaverian run parish in the Castlemilk area of Glasgow.

One exciting project we will be running in Preston is ‘The God who Speaks’ programme. As part of a national Bishops Conference initiative to spend 2020 focussing on the role of Scripture in our lives.

We are delighted to be hosting a number of gatherings which will take on a different Scriptural focus as its theme. Please click here to see the poster for more information. We hope you can join us on Saturday 8th February for the first of these events.

On a social side, we will be hosting our annual Burns Supper on Saturday 1st February at the Preston Centre. Come along and help us celebrate with members of the Preston community and Xaverian friends from across the country.

Another date for your diary is the Open Day for our Preston Centre which, this year, will take place on Saturday 4th July.

For more information on any of these, please contact us at preston@xavs.org
Keep your eyes peeled for further events and projects on our website and mailing list.

Reflection on The Epiphany: 5th January 2020

Take a different way home

Benozzo Gozzoli | Procession of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence (1459-60)

An epiphany is not an idea. As D. H. Lawrence said, people can do anything they want with an idea, but a truly new experience changes everything. Before you can do anything with it, it does something with you! Most of us prefer ideas and words; we are afraid of any authentically new experience. The Magi had to do that most dangerous of things: trust and follow their own limited experience. Which is all that any of us has! And God seems humble enough to use it in our favour. Unlike the Magi, we do not tend to allow stars to divert us to a new and unknown place. Most of us stay inside our private castles and avoid such questionable adventures. Yes, we avoid death supposedly, but we also avoid birth. We miss out on the great epiphany.

The feast of the Epiphany tells us that from the very beginning Jesus was someone to be personally experienced, and not just mentally agreed upon, proven, accepted or argued about. It is fairly easy to discuss and have opinions; it is much harder to be present to another and to meet them. The first allows us to maintain ourselves as we are; the second demands love rather than mere duty, surrender and trust rather than mere obedience.  What we celebrate in the mystery of the Epiphany is that it is God who is manifest, not our formulations of God! The mystery of the Epiphany is saying that God is perfectly hidden and perfectly revealed in the same physical place! God is shining forth in the most unwanted and unsuspected of places: the material and even vulnerable world.

Epiphanies, thank God, wake us up so we can in fact experience our experiences, learn from them and be transformed by them. We now have the ability to find God in all things, even the sinful, the broken, the painful and the tragic. Reality itself converts us. The actual is what leads us to God. Epiphanies leave us totally out of control, and they always demand that we change, that we go back home by a different route, yet realigned correctly with what-is. Reality is still the best ally of God, and God always comes disguised as our life.

Adapted: Richard Rohr

Women At Prayer

We have our next meeting of the Women at Prayer group on the 8th January at 2pm. This is a time of change and renewal as the lead into the New Year. Lets start by turning to God.

We will spend some time sharing, reflecting and praying together. A time of peace.  All women welcome.

If you want to learn more then please feel free to contact Rose. You can reach her by clicking here and going to the bottom of the page.

Reflection on Holy Family: 29h December 2019

Love

It can seem somewhat strange that we portray Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the ideal family to be imitated. We have to admit that there is nothing normal about this family: the boy was the Son of God, his mother was a virgin and we last hear about Joseph when Jesus was 12 years old. We do believe that they were loving and faithful people and in the second reading Paul invites us to ‘clothe ourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.’ The supreme work of our entire lifetime is to develop the capacity to know how to love. Love is a science; love is a discipline; love has to be our main priority every day. We are all naturally inclined to think that everything ‘is all about me’. Overcoming our basic self-centredness entails a willingness to say ‘I’m sorry’, a willingness to admit we are wrong and to ask for forgiveness. This comes with great difficulty for most of us. St Paul also reminds us three times of a basic need to say ‘Thank you’ – as often as possible to everyone and for everything in our lives. The author Ann Voskamp, embarked on a daily discipline of being open to the wonders which surrounded her, finding joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, pain, loss and daily duties. She discovered that where there is wonder there is thanksgiving.

More than anything else, love involves the ability to be present. And that takes work: to really be right here, right now, in front of this person and out of myself enough to feel their feelings instead of just mine. That is heroic for most of us. We can be so trapped in our own feeling that we cannot imagine what the other person is feeling right now. To put ourselves ‘in the other person’s shoes’ is the beginning of love. To make this our art form, our science, our daily decision – for love is a decision, not a feeling – we need to draw upon a love that is much bigger than our own, the love of God. The good news is that eternal and perfect Love is within us and we are already one in Love. Thomas Merton tells us that we just need to start becoming what we already are. All that is absent is awareness.

The gospel ‘yardstick’ of true normality is a life lived in a loving response to God, the source of love. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are rightly the ideal family to be imitated.

Adapted mainly from Richard Rohr’s homilies.

A Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians

Heard the one of the wife on the eve of their wedding anniversary reminding her husband by stating “Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary and I want a lovely gift. Something shiny, metallic and goes from 0 to 100 in seconds.” … So he bought her some bathroom scales. (Ouch!)

This time of the year gifts abound. Be it socks, aftershave and boxers for the men or perfume, jewellery and chocs for the ladies … Christmas is the time when we show our love through gifts.

That’s exactly the meaning of this feast. God loved us so much that he gave us his beloved son. He loves us so passionately, unconditionally, overwhelmingly, that he becomes one of us. This is the total gift that love demands…becoming one of us. This in turn demands a response from us. When you receive a gift, you respond positively…even if it may end up in the Charity Shop later!

Our response is to show our love in return. God’s love, so immense that becomes incarnate, must be mirrored by our love so intense that it becomes our mandate. “Love the other as I have loved you.”

As God comes to share our broken condition, we are called to enter into humanity’s brokenness. Emmanuel means God with us, and indeed God is with us especially in the broken… the poor, the marginalised, the victims, the forgotten, and the voiceless. There is no point in singing “Emmanuel, God is with us” if we don’t reach out to touch the God who is with us every day. God comes to offer hope, to set out a new vision, to encourage us, to care, to show compassion, to heal, to take away our despair, to show there is a different way… and we are called to do the same.

Christmas is a missionary feast. The angel is sent to the hill country of Nazareth, the Word is sent to the Virgin, Mary goes to Elizabeth’s, the shepherds get up and go, the Kings travel afar… Jesus is sent into our world, into our reality, into our lives. Jesus is the Missionary of the Father.

The story is full of going, being sent, journeying… and we too, in turn are to be heralds of the Good News, messengers of the Word which brings life, bearers of the love of God incarnate. We are to make Jesus born anew in our hearts, in our lives, in our world. We are to make God’s love become flesh, to become real, to be present again in our world. How? Amongst the tinsel and trappings, the turkey and the TV, the merriment and mayhem… each of us must make the time to pause, to pray and to plan.

  • What does Jesus mean to me?
  • Where is his light needing to shine?
  • How can I be God’s love for others?
  • Who am I being sent to?
  • Why am I waiting???

We used to use the phrase to mock someone who thought they were it… “So you think your God’s gift?” Well we are God’s gifts and if we show love through gifts, then this season must be the time to make of ourselves a gift to others.

We cannot delay, we must hasten, we cannot stand still. Our world needs urgently to feel the love of God and we must birth him with speed … yes, as fast as 0 to 100 in seconds!

Happy Missionary Christmas from the Xaverians.

Reflection on 4th Sunday of Advent: 22nd December 2019

Emmanuel: God is with us

There is no rational explanation for Jesus’ conception and birth. That’s where most of us get stuck with today’s gospel reading. That’s where Joseph got stuck as well. So he “planned to dismiss Mary quietly.” We shouldn’t be too surprised. Isn’t that what we tend to do when we don’t understand? We dismiss what makes no sense. We turn away from possibilities that don’t fit with our ideas, beliefs, and experiences. In dismissing what makes no sense, that which we don’t understand or can’t explain, we are refusing to open ourselves to something new. Sometimes that means we refuse to open ourselves to the life and opportunities God wants to birth in us and through us. What do we lose when we demand answers and refuse to live with questions, when we limit our lives to what we know, what’s familiar, what makes sense, and close ourselves to the not-knowing, to something new, different, or unexpected? Do we dismiss Emmanuel, God-with-us, by our searching for explanations and understanding rather than trusting and entering into the mystery?

The Marriage of the Virgin by Giotto (circa 1305)
 Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, Padua, Italy

Ultimately, Joseph took Mary as his wife. However, he first had to move beyond what he understood and what made sense. He had to allow God-with-us to transcend the limits of his knowledge. He had to let go of trying to put it all in terms of a rational explanation. This first had to happen within Joseph himself and it must first happen within us as well. It is a shift that happens within us.

That is our preparation for Christmas. It means that we are to see our whole lives through the lens of God with us. Instead of looking for answers let’s ponder what might be born in us, what needs to be born in us, what is waiting to be born in us. That’s how we open ourselves to the life and possibilities God offers us. That’s how we experience Emmanuel, God with us. That’s what Joseph did. He took Mary as his wife and opened himself to something new, something different, something unexpected, something unexplainable. He opened himself to the life and possibilities God offered and he named it all Jesus.

Michael Marsh

May we all have a wonderful Christmas and spend the New Year unwrapping the mystery of the reality of God-with-us.

German Language Classes

On Thursday afternoons and Evenings Michele offers a number of German language classes catering for beginners to more accomplished speakers. If you are thinking of improving your mind and want a challenge for the New Year then why not get in touch with Michele and learn a little more.

You can contact Michele directly by filling in the form here.

Reflection on 3rd Sunday of Advent: 15th December 2019

Retribution or Restoration?

Today’s first reading and the gospel speak of two kinds of justice: retributive justice and restorative justice. The gospel offers a very different picture of John from last week. Today he is a prisoner with a question, “Are you the one, or are we to wait for another?” If John did have doubts, it was because of the peaceful way that Jesus behaved, not at all like the violent revolutionary the Jews expected as their Messiah. John preached retributive justice – if people do something wrong, we punish them. That satisfies our need for what we think is justice. It just punishes the person, gets him out of sight. It doesn’t change the person. It restrains them. That’s how most people understand justice. Most people’s notion of purgatory and hell is based on retribution.

The first reading speaks about another kind of justice: restorative justice. This is the way God does justice. Isaiah’s prophecy tells us that God doesn’t come with punishment but in fact He is going to love us, restore us, heal us and transform us by loving us unconditionally. God “punishes” us by loving us more! It is only love that transforms the human heart. Restorative justice is to restore people to who they really are at their best, to change their mind and their heart. This happens when people experience love. Retribution might be a starting point. This was John’s teaching. But Jesus leads us much farther than that. Those who understand that transformation takes place through restoration, those people are ‘greater’ than John the Baptist. Punishment is the best that the unenlightened mind can do. It doesn’t really waken the heart or change the soul.

The third week of Advent is called ‘Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday’ reminding us of the celebration of Christmas soon to come. The readings and text of today’s Mass are full of joy. When we reflect on God’s restorative justice we deepen our awareness that God does not love us because we are good; God loves us because God is good. And then we can be good because we draw upon such an Infinite Source. Rejoice!

Adapted : M. Marsh, José Antonio Pagola, R. Rohr Homilies and Meditations