Reflection on 30th Sunday: 25th October 2020

Love

“A person is bored to death with a story they have heard repeated over and over but have never really listened to.”1 Is this true of ourselves and our listening to the Gospel stories? ‘When we hear Jesus’ familiar teaching “Love your neighbour as yourself” we almost always hear that wrong i.e. we hear “Love your neighbour as much as yourself.” If we listen closely to Jesus however, there is no ‘as much as’ in his admonition. It is “Love your neighbour as yourself” or “Love your neighbour as being yourself—as a continuation of your very own being. It’s a complete seeing that your neighbour is you. There are not two individuals out there; there are simply two cells of the one great Life.’2

‘It is the same Source and the same Love that allows each of us to love ourself, others, and God at the same time! If we don’t live from within our own centre of connection and communion with God, we’ll go spinning around in many directions. The true goal of all religion is to lead us back to the place where everything is one, to the experience of radical unity with all of humanity and all of creation, and hence to the experience of unity with God.

How we embark on our journey of loving others is rooted in our personal experience of who we are. Love is not something we decide to do now and then. Love is who we are. When we get the “who” right and realise that who I am is love, then we will do what we came to do: Love God and love all that God has created. We are created in the image of God and God is love. This is the basis for the corporal works of mercy, for social justice. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world.’3

How can we possibly be bored if we truly listened to the words spoken in Scripture, if we truly listened to the Word? ‘Love is our origin, Love is our sustaining ground and love is our destiny. We may ask ourselves, “What will become of me if I surrender to this Love which permeates every moment of our lives?” What will become of us if we don’t?’4

[1] GK Chesterton. Adapted from [2] Cynthia Bourgeault, [3] Richard Rohr, [4] James Finley

Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Poetry and Book Club: News

On Wednesday 28th October our Poetry and Book Club will be taking a look at the poetry of Seamus Heaney.

The group will meet on Zoom at 1:30.

If you are a little nervous of using Zoom and would like some help, then Mike o’Callaghan is giving a tutorial on Tuesday 27th October at 7.30 with the aim of getting you to the point where you are confident you can get logged onto a Zoom meeting and able to say “Hello”.

You can find out more about the group and contact Mike by reading this.

Lectio Divina: News

This week our Lectio has been deeply personal. One of our group sent this to us all. It is not intrinsically Lectio, but in these thoughts, that all of us subscribe to, we see the reflection of another gift we receive from Lectio, one not shown in our written reflections.

‘I just want to say how much I appreciate your intimate sharing each week. It is not easy to be so vulnerable, but I believe that this is how God guides us to become a safe supportive community. It is his way of showing us how to love ourselves and so love our neighbours. And he does all this by loving us first. Amazing. Prayers for all of you.’

Our Lectio Divina for this Friday took the Gospel reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) Matthew 22:34-40 The greatest commandment “To love God is to love one’s neighbour.”

Read the reflections from the group here.

If you are inspired to join the group you will be made most welcome. Have a read here and see how to make contact.

Reflection on 29th Sunday: 18th October 2020

Truth Cannot always Take Sides

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Today’s gospel is an example of ‘either/or’ thinking; all or nothing thinking. When presented with two alternatives, most people think that by choosing one we have the total truth. We call this dualistic thinking. The dualistic mind knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation.  We do need the dualistic mind to function in practical life, however, and to do our work whatever that may be. It’s helpful and fully necessary as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble over these very issues.

Jesus unmasks the question for what it is: an effort to trip him up rather than an inquiry proceeding from a sincere desire to know the truth. The Pharisees are religious conservatives who abide by the law and do not believe in cooperating with the Romans. Nor do they pay taxes to the Roman government. The Herodians totally compromise themselves with the Roman oppressors and pay all the taxes they want.

Jesus pleases and displeases both sides. He doesn’t answer their question. We can’t really be sure what he means. That leaves us in the middle, where we don’t like to be. It’s a place where we can’t be absolutely certain that we’re right, where the only righteousness is God; where we’re never sure that we are good, because only God is good.  This is the rare space or place we call faith – where we have to live with a certain degree of darkness, anxiety and ambiguity. Many of us have not been taught how to live by faith. We’ve just been taught how to live with answers – so that we can prove that our group is right. When we grow in awareness that Christ lives in everyone and in all Creation, we come to realise that whatever choices we have to make, very few alternatives are mutually exclusive when we are listening and responding to Christ who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.

Adapted. Richard Rohr

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that belong to him and to God what belongs to God.”

Mission Sunday: 18th October 2020

Today, over one billion Catholics all over the world observe today as World Mission Sunday. This annual observance was instituted 94 years ago in 1926 by Pope Pius XI’s Papal decree. Every year since then, the universal Church has dedicated the month of October to reflection on and prayer for the missions. This annual celebration gives us a chance to reflect on the importance of mission work for the life of the Church. It reminds us that we are one with the Church around the world and that we are all committed to carrying on the mission of Christ, however different our situations may be.

Pope Francis writes in his 2019 World Mission Day message, Baptized and Sent. “This missionary mandate touches us personally: I am a mission, always; you are a mission, always; every baptized man and woman is a mission.” Hence the Holy Father calls on all Catholics and the Church to revive missionary awareness and commitment. In his 2020 message our Holy Father want us to discharge our mission duty by volunteering with prophet Isaiah “Here am I, send me” (6:8) to alleviate the suffering of our Covid-19-stricken brothers and sisters.

The Bishops’ Conference in England and Wales, in Scotland and in Ireland have their own mission offices and more information about how they are part of the global mission of the church are here:

The Church, according to Vatican Council II, is “missionary” in her very nature because her founder, Jesus Christ, was the first missionary. God the Father sent God the Son, Incarnate in Jesus, His Christ, into the world with a message of God’s love and salvation. Thus, the evangelizing mission of the Church is essentially the announcement of God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation, as these are revealed to mankind through the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. How should we evangelize? By exemplary and transparent Christian life, by prayer and by financial support. The most powerful means of preaching Christ is by living a truly Christian life: a life filled with love, mercy, kindness, compassion, and a spirit of forgiveness and service. Prayer is the second means of missionary work. Jesus said: “Without me you can do nothing.” Therefore, prayer is necessary for anyone who wishes to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. All missionary efforts also require financial support because the love of God can often be explained to the poor only by providing them with food, medicine and means of livelihood. Hence, on this Mission Sunday, there is collection in all churches in all countries to help support the missionary work and all missionaries!

Lectio Divina: News

Our ever faithful Lectio Group have once again been looking forward to this coming Sunday. This week they have considered the reading from Matthew 22:15-21 ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

You can read their reflections here.

Remember that you can always join in. New members will be made most welcome. If you are worried about the technology then let us know and we will do what we can to help.

Lectio Divina: News

Our Lectio Group has been busy meeting on line to discuss the reading for Sunday 11th October 2020. As usual some of the group members have generously recorded their thoughts and shared them with us here.

New members are always welcome to join the group. You can find out more about the group and how to join by clicking here.

Reflection on 28th Sunday: 11th October 2020

We request the honour of your presence

When we read today’s gospel it’s a great relief to remember that there are different kinds of truth in the bible. In the early centuries of Christianity authoritative teachers such as Augustine and Gregory the Great spoke of seven “senses” of Scripture. 1 Later scholars taught that there are nine kinds of truth found in Scripture: scientific, which was primitive science; geographic; historical; mathematical; human character and relationships; moral; proverbial; symbolic truth which is found in parables, myths and allegories; spiritual truth, a record of the relationship between God and his people. The Bible is primarily spiritual truth. 2

In the first reading Isaiah introduces the theme of universalism, that whatever God is doing, he is doing for everyone. 1 “The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines.” In the gospel we find that the indirect, metaphorical, symbolic language of a story or parable seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of teaching spiritual realities. He also makes frequent use of hyperbole, exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Jesus invites everyone, ‘good and bad’ alike, who is willing to come to the banquet which is a symbol of eternal life. ‘One thing that distinguishes the first-invited guests from the second-invited guests is Presence. The second-invited guests showed up. The first-invited guests did not. The wedding hall was filled with the second-invited guests but the first-invited guests would not come. That’s the main difference between the two groups.’ 3

The key to experiencing the infinite, unconditional, loving generosity of God is to just show up, to be present. We can then pray “Lord, you are always present to us. Help us to be present to you.”

Sometimes we just can’t accept that God could be so generous – which is the spiritual truth in today’s gospel. By accepting God’s invitation to be present, ‘we are inside a different mind that will enable us to see our life from a worldview of abundance. I recently saw a Hubble telescope picture of the Sombrero Galaxy which lies at the southern edge the Virgo cluster of galaxies. The mass of the Sombrero is equivalent to 800 billion suns. The universe contains many billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains many billions of stars! Read that again if it did not blow you over! God is clearly into abundance and excess and he invites us to share in that largesse, first in receiving it, resting in it and then allowing it to flow through us towards all people and all creation.’ 1

1 Richard Rohr; 2 Kieran Sawyer; 3 Michael Marsh

1st Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-10

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Reflection on 27th Sunday: 4th October 2020

What is our cornerstone?

In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference to this stone. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction. Some cornerstones include time capsules from, or engravings commemorating, the time a particular building was built.

Today’s gospel asks us to look at the cornerstone which determines the direction of our lives. “This gospel is an allegory about negative energy, the spirit of rejection. The tenants are antagonistic and oppositional about everything. They beat or stoned or killed everyone. Oppositional energy just knows what it is against. It is sort of a sad substitute for vision, yet negative people feed on it. It knows what it is against but it doesn’t know what it is for, what it is in love with. What we reject and hate says much more about ourselves than about the people we hate or reject. If we want to know what or who our real God is we need to look at what we reject: if we reject poor people, our god is riches, money and success; if we reject foreigners, it is because we have made a god of our own country; if we reject anybody different from us then we have idolised ourselves, we’ve made a god of ourselves. What we fear or reject tells us what we really worship.”

Richard Rohr

What are we for? Are we in love with anything or are we just against ‘bad people’? When fear and rejection is our starting point, we are subconsciously creating a foundation stone which consists of our own self-centred priorities. However, when love becomes the cornerstone which determines the direction of our lives, we will see what we need to renounce and yet “we won’t need to renounce it we will just need to understand its true value and it will just drop from our hands.” (Anthony De Mello) In the second reading St Paul gives us an alternative to the spirit of rejection. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things and the God of peace will be with you.” These ‘things’ – and many others – are already placed in the timeless capsule of our Christ-centred cornerstone.

2nd Reading: Philippians 4:6-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces its fruit.”