Reflection on 32nd Sunday: 10 November 2019

Living a resurrected life

In today’s gospel reading we have a familiar scene of Jesus being asked a question by a group or individual with their own opinion about the answer to that question. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection and the problem they presented to Jesus was based on a tradition, known as levirate law, by which a man was expected to marry the childless widow of his brother. This was so that the dead man’s name would be carried on to the next generation. (It was presumed and expected, of course, that a son would be produced.) The Sadducees felt that, without belief in life after death, there is no problem. The dead simply disappear into oblivion. But, for those who did believe in the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees felt their hypothetical problem created an insoluble solution. As in similar ‘trick question’ situations, Jesus leads his listeners to a growth in consciousness; he invites them to ‘die’ to religious convictions which prevent them from being fully alive. He explains that life after death is a completely different plane of existence. In Christ we enter into a new relationship with God and with all other people. This relationship transcends blood and marriage and our concept of time. ( “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”) And we can live that resurrected life here and now.

Death is the doorway to resurrection. There are degrees of death before the physical death. We die when we hit the depths of suffering, beyond where we are in control, when everything falls apart, when nothing makes sense. We all have moments like that and if, like the seed planted in the ground, we allow that darkness to do its work, new life emerges. Until we go through that transformative experience at least once, we do not know about resurrection. We only believe in Resurrection if we have already experienced it beforehand. When our lives fall apart, we move to a deeper level, we find our deeper source which we call God and we start drawing life from that source. That’s resurrection. And we can live that resurrected life now.

Adapted: Richard Rohr meditations and Living Space website

Women at Prayer

An Invitation For Women of All Ages

We meet on the first Wednesday of the month from 2-3pm at the Xaverian Missionary Spirituality Centre

Suggested donation of £3

Upcoming meetings:

Dec 4th, Jan 8th (not 1st), Feb 5th

Reflection on 31st Sunday: 3 November 2019

Touching Eternity

When we hear about someone whose words and lifestyle have influenced the lives of many people, we want to find out more about that person and if possible see him or her for ourselves. This might entail getting away from all the pressures that crowd in on us; risk being different; being willing to see things from a different perspective. And often that longed-for encounter – either in person or through that person’s writing or art – brings about a transformation in our lives. Zacchaeus’ story is our story and when he meets Jesus his experience of being loved unconditionally gives him an insight into who he really is in God and who everyone is in God.

“Tradition has passed on a beautiful story about Zacchaeus. It concerns his life after he had met Jesus in Jericho. Every morning, taking a bucket with him, he left his house and about an hour later he returned. Curious to know what he was doing, his wife followed one morning at a distance. She saw Zacchaeus go back to the tree from which Jesus had called him. He filled his bucket with water from a stream nearby, poured the water at the roots of the tree, spent some time in silence and then set off for home. When he returned home his wife asked what this ritual meant. ‘I go back to water the memories,’ he replied. Meeting Jesus was a very significant turning point in his life. It had changed him forever, giving a new direction and impetus to everything he undertook. It was so precious that he wanted to keep the memory alive and continue to be energised by the experience. He had learned the wisdom of watering memories that give inspiration and vision.” (Galway diocese website)

Our personal history of transformation is always linked to particular people, places and moments when least expected our inner being gazes in wonder at a new insight into Creation and to who we are and in whose image we are created. These moments are not limited to quiet times, nor restful environments. Time, place and situation may determine how long we can savour each moment, but each experience transforms us and expands our being. “Those special times of disclosure, of spiritual ‘peak moments’, of maybe fleeting and timeless experiences of ‘otherness’ are sacramental moments. They last forever because they touch eternity.”

Daniel O’ Leary

Reflection on 30th Sunday: 27th October 2019

The prayer of the humble

“God, I thank you that I am not like….” How would we end that sentence? Jesus’ parable sets a trap for us, a trap that stops us and brings us face to face with the reality of our life and our relationship with God. Who is the Pharisee trying to convince – God or himself? His prayer is directed not so much to God but to himself. He is not describing his faith or spiritual practices. He is keeping score. Anytime we begin keeping score of our own life or the life of another we need to know that something deeper is going on. Score keeping can be a way we either deny or try to overcome the feeling of emptiness, the loss of meaning, the brokenness of our life. We use it to deny what is dead within us, as a way of convincing ourselves that we are okay and our life is fine. The problem is that when we think we have everything – answers, doctrine, law, piety, reputation, stuff, success – when we think we have the requisite number of points, then we have no need of God. We have no need of resurrection and we choose to remain dead.

From the outside the Pharisee and tax collector seem very different. They are not, however, as different as we might think, for on the inside they are both dead; lost, broken, and in need of God. The difference is not their place in society. The real difference is that the tax collector knows he is dead and the Pharisee does not. The difference is that the Pharisee keeps score and the tax collector cries out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner! One who is missing you. One who is in need of you. One who is and has nothing apart from you.” This parable is the invitation to stop keeping score, to acknowledge and hold before God the dead places of our life: the failures and disappointments; the break ups and break downs; the emptiness, sufferings, addictions; the places of our life where we no longer dream dreams, have visions, or prophesy. That is what the tax collector did.

The tax collector went home justified, not because he was good or better than the Pharisee, but because he offered God a dead life not a scorecard. God did not withhold anything from the Pharisee. We don’t know what happened after he got home but we know this: a choice now lay before him, the choice to walk into his own resurrection. That does not tell us how the story ends. It tells us, rather, how it might begin.

Michael Marsh

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