Reflection on Easter Sunday: 17th April 2022

Hope and Believe

“Early, while it was still dark, Mary came running to the tomb”, while there was no hope, while she was in despair, while she felt lost, alone and bereft. The dawning of hope arises in those places where we are most hopeless, lost in the darkness of our despair. It is a hope that we are unable to engineer ourselves because it is a much larger hope than we can ever imagine. Unless the small picture that we have of our lives is shattered, we will not be able to awaken to the fuller picture that is possible. David Hawkins tells us that ‘every life crisis carries within it the kernels of a reversal, a renewal, an expansion, a leap in consciousness, and a letting go of the old and a birth of the new.’ 

John “saw and he believed,” although he didn’t yet understand. This belief does not rely on conceptual understanding. To believe is about opening one’s heart, with an inner knowing that something enormous and mysterious is happening and entrusting ourselves to God without having to understand exactly what it is or how it works. Jesus’ death and resurrection and the transformation process that this invites us into is so enormous and profound, mysterious and life-altering that to reduce it to one explanation is to lose the profound level of healing and deep transformation that it has the potential to evoke in us. What this calls us to is a response, not to try to reduce the ways of God to something our minds can understand, but rather to stand in awe and wonder as John did at the open tomb, believing that we are in the presence of profound life-altering mystery, and opening our hearts to that mystery, allowing it to transform us from within.

Adapted: Sharon Grussendorf

God of the empty tomb, untomb and uncover all that needs to live in us.

God of discarded cloths, your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left and what needs to be carried into the future. We yearn for insight and wisdom.

God of the wonder of Resurrection, remove our resistance to the surprising ways you choose to enter our lives.

Adapted: Joyce Rupp

Gospel John 20:1-9

It was very early on the first day of the week and still dark, when Mary of Magdala came running to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been moved away from the tomb and came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb’ she said ‘and we don’t know where they have put him.’ 

So Peter set out with the other disciple to go to the tomb. They ran together, but the other disciple, running faster than Peter, reached the tomb first; he bent down and saw the linen cloths lying on the ground, but did not go in. Simon Peter who was following now came up, went right into the tomb, saw the linen cloths on the ground, and also the cloth that had been over his head; this was not with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in; he saw and he believed. Till this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture, that he must rise from the dead.

Reflection on Palm Sunday: 10th April 2022

The day between dying and rising

From Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday we immerse ourselves in what we call the Paschal Mystery which includes the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. Although it is for liturgical and catechetical reasons, spread over a week, it should be seen as an indivisible single experience.1 Today we are being invited to slow down so that this week doesn’t go by without our taking the time to enter into its meaning, which is the ultimate meaning of our lives.2

Perhaps Holy Saturday is the day we find most difficult to respond to this invitation. We may even have the feeling that Lent is over. However, ‘this is the day that our cross consists of holding the tension between one space and another. This is called liminal space where we sometimes need to not-do and not-perform according to our usual successful patterns. It is in these transitional moments of our lives that authentic transformation can happen.’3 ‘Holy Saturday is the ultimate liminal space.’4

‘For Jesus’ followers it was a day of sorrow and bewilderment, bereft of the one around whom they had shaped their lives. This is the day between dying and rising. This day calls us to hold our anguish and our hope in the same hand. It invites us to marvel that when our hearts have been shattered, they somehow manage to keep beating, that we somehow manage to keep breathing. On this day we may identify with the psalmist when he says, ‘I have become like a broken vessel.’ (Ps 31). For this Lenten day, I offer you this blessing:

Blessing for a Broken Vessel

Do not despair. You hold the memory of what it was to be whole.
It lives deep in your bones.
It abides in your heart that has been torn and mended a hundred times.
It persists in your lungs that know the mystery
of what it means to be full, to be empty, to be full again.
I am not asking you to give up your grip on the shards you clasp so close to you,
but to wonder what it would be like for those jagged edges
to meet each other in some new pattern that you have never imagined,
that you have never dared to dream.’5

Adapted: [1] Living Space, [2] Living Liturgy, [3] Richard Rohr, [4] Alison Barr, [5] Jan Richardson

Reflection on 5th Sunday in Lent: 3rd April 2022

Allow ourselves to be loved and “gazed upon” by God.

As with last week’s reading, today we once again reflect on God as being loving and merciful. ‘The gospel story begins with a deathly accusation but ends with divine mercy. Where the community’s condemnation would have led the adulterous woman to death, Jesus’ mercy leads her to new life. A story that begins with exposing the sin of an individual ends with exposing the sinfulness of all. Where the people begin with awareness of the woman’s sinfulness, they are transformed, through encountering Jesus, into awareness of their own sinfulness. A story that begins with human testing of the divine ends with a divine invitation to repent, to a change of heart. Jesus reveals a new order in which all are called to repentance and to the experience of divine mercy, to the experience of being God’s beloved.’1

‘We can’t seem to know the good news that we are God’s beloved on our own. It has to be mirrored to us. Another has to tell us we are beloved. Jesus looked at the woman and said, “I don’t condemn you.” Before this gaze of Love, we gradually disrobe and allow ourselves to be seen, to be known in every nook and cranny, nothing hidden, nothing denied, nothing disguised. The wonderful thing is, after a while, we feel so safe that we know we don’t have to pretend or disguise any more. We don’t have to put on any kind of costume.’2 However ‘we can’t love and live on our own terms.’3 ‘We want to give ourselves to this love but we discover that we can’t get to where we want to go and stay in the comfort zone of where we are.’4 “Go, and sin no more.”

‘Letting our naked self be known by God is always to recognise our need for mercy and our own utter inadequacy and littleness. Knowing our need for mercy opens us to receiving mercy. We all stand under an immense waterfall of loving mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

‘God doesn’t love us because we are good. God loves us because God is good!’2

Adapted: [1] Living Liturgy [2] Richard Rohr [3]Thomas Merton [4] James Finley

Gospel: John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their questions, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go away, and don’t sin any more.”

Book Club: News

We next meet on Wednesday 27th April, 1.30pm at: The Carmelite Monastery, St Vincent’s Rd, Preston, PR2 8QA

Go through the gate to park in front of the Monastery.

Many thanks to Sister Josephine for being so welcoming.

There will be a collection for the sisters at the end of the meeting.

We will be discussing the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Please bring several copies of copies of the poem(s) you have chosen.

Thanks to Alastair for leading our discussion on the 23rd March on “The Road to Wigan Pier”. A most informative and enjoyable session which was greatly helped by Alastair’s summary sheet.

Lectio Divina: News

Our Lectio Group has been focussed on the reading for the Fifth Sunday in Lent Year C.

John 8:1-11 If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.

You can find the thoughts the group members have shared with us here.

PS: Please, let’s all continue to pray for peace.

Reflection on 4th Sunday of Lent: 27th March 2022

What about the Bath?

Episcopalian priest Michael Marsh speaks about an experience he had when teaching the story of the prodigal son. ‘Bob, a gentleman who was probably in his 70s, had been quiet and attentive throughout the evening. When I finished speaking Bob was the first one out of his chair. I could tell that he was upset. “What about the bath,” he demanded. “You didn’t say anything about the bath.” I had no idea what he was talking about and told him that I did not understand his comment. He became more agitated the longer he talked. “You know where he had been! The son was dirty and smelly. The father would never hug him, kiss him, or put a robe on him until the son first had a bath. Why didn’t you talk about the bath?” I explained that a bath was not part of the story, that we can never ‘get clean enough’ to go home. The father receives the son as he is. The son is immersed in his father’s love. Bob just could not believe that, so together we read the story again. When we got to the end his eyes filled with tears and he said, “All my life I thought this story said the son had to take a bath before he could go home.” I said to him, “And all your life you have been trying to get clean enough to go home.” He simply nodded in silence, tears running down his face.

Each of us can probably name parts of our life and being that we have judged unacceptable and unclean. They are the parts of ourselves that we dislike, condemn, and sometimes even hate. We allow them to declare that we are not enough to be God’s child, never have been, and never will be, so we exile those aspects of ourselves to the distant country. We then live as fragmented, broken, persons trying to get clean enough to come home. Over and over the voice of the Prodigal Son echoes in our ears, “Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The unclean parts of our lives are real, but they are not our final reality. Instead of keeping us from going home, they become the way home. They become places of healing, new life, wholeness and forgiveness.’

We, too, will then feel immersed in love. ‘You will experience the presence of God within you, which some theologians name uncreated grace. You can’t manufacture this by any right conduct. God isn’t going to love you any more than God loves you right now. We can’t diminish God’s love for us. What we can do, however, is to learn how to believe it, receive it, trust it, allow it and celebrate it.’               

Richard Rohr

Gospel Luke 15:1-3.11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said, ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them’. So he spoke this parable to them:

“A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. ‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating, but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father I have sinner against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feats, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it is only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”‘

Lectio Divina: News

Our Lectio Live today was real treat. It is always good to meet up in the Centre and today we welcomed some new members to the Group.

For today we were focussed on the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent Year C.

Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Some of the group have shared their thoughts with us and you can read them here.

Please continue to pray for peace in Ukraine.

Reflection on 3rd Sunday in Lent: 20th March 2022

Ask a Better Question

The poet, theologian and conflict mediator Pádraig Ó Tuama describes the Buddhist concept of “mu,” or un-asking.  If someone asks a question that’s too small, too confining, Ó Tuama writes, you can answer with this word mu, which means, “Un-ask the question, because there’s a better question to be asked:  a wiser question, a deeper question, a truer question,  a question that expands possibility and resists fear.

In today’s gospel some people come to Jesus with headline news of horror and tragedy. They are longing to make sense of the senseless. They are looking for formulas to eradicate the mystery because mystery unnerves us. Yet they already have an answer in mind. They show up hoping to confirm what they already believe. They come expecting Jesus to verify their deeply held assumption that people suffer because they’re sinful: that folks get what they deserve, that bad things happen to bad people. How different are the beliefs we hold about human suffering?  When the unspeakable happens, what default settings do we revert to?  Jesus typically responds by inviting the people to engage in a story. Theories don’t heal.  Formulas can be reductive.  Platitudes are flat.  And questions that call for shallow answers aren’t worth asking in the face of tragedy. But stories?  Stories open up possibility. Stories include, unmake, and transform us. The parable Jesus tells invites questions in several directions at once: 

In what ways am I like the absentee landowner, standing apart from where life and death actually happen?  Where in my life – or in the lives of others – have I prematurely called it quits, saying, “There’s no life here worth cultivating.  Cut it down”  

In what ways am I like the fig tree:  un-enlivened,  un-nourished,  unable or unwilling to nourish others?  In what ways do I feel helpless or hopeless,  ignored or dismissed?  What kinds of tending would it take to bring me back to life?  Am I willing to receive such care?  Will I consent to change?  Might I dare to flourish in a world where I have thus far been invisible?

In what ways am I like the gardener?  Where in my life am I willing to accept Jesus’ invitation to go elbow-deep into the muck and manure?  Where do I see life where others see death?   Am I brave enough to sacrifice time, effort, love, and hope into this tree — this relationship, this cause, this tragedy, this injustice — with no guarantee of a fruitful outcome?  

 Jesus asks us to repent, to change our minds and hearts. Imagine a deeper story.  Ask a better question.  Live a better answer.                     

Debie Thomas.

Gospel: Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir”, the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”