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

The Global Silent Minute: 9pm 21st December 2019

Pause for One Minute for One Humanity

We are invited to join the Global Silent Minute at 9pm on 21st December 2019

Amidst the challenges we face today, the Global Silent Minute is an opportunity to unite in thought, prayer, and meditation to create the future we imagine. The minute begins with the ringing of bells everywhere, as together we enter into one silent minute, calling on humanity to fulfill its highest potential and greatest destiny: peace on Earth.

The Global Silent Minute is inspired by the Silent Minute launched in WWII in London during the blitz as a call to citizens to unite daily in a silent minute for peace and freedom. Millions participated, and its success was acknowledged after the war as a “secret weapon” which the Germans could not counter. Today, our Global Silent Minute will be a powerful force in the creation of a better world for all.

Click here for the full story.

Will you join us?

Calendar changes for the Week starting 15th December

A few pre-Christmas changes to the schedule.

The following sessions have been cancelled.

  • Cuppa Chat on the 16th
  • Dementia Singing Group on the 17th
  • Pregnancy Yoga on the 18th December.
  • The Mother and Baby Yoga session on the 19th. This will return on Thursday 9th January.

Remember we are having a little celebration after Mass on Thursday 18th and that the Christmas and New Year Party is on Sunday 22nd 12:00 to 20:30

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Advent: 8th December 2019

Allowing God’s Word to Speak to Us

On 30th September 2019 Cardinal Vincent Nichols officially launched the Year of the Word under the title, ‘The God Who Speaks’.  His prayer is that we may all be enriched and transformed by the living Word of God.  Perhaps we may do no more than read the Scripture passages for each Sunday. But maybe we could spend more time with them, allowing God’s word to speak to us and transform us.

In today’s gospel reading, God speaks to us about repentance which is much more than just being sorry for the past. The word usually translated as “repent” is the Greek word metanoia; this might be best translated as “turn around your mind” or change. It involves a deep and radical change in one’s thinking and behaviour.  But most of us won’t move toward any new way of thinking or actual change until we’re forced to, which usually means some form of suffering or some disturbance that upsets our habitual path. Those are our experiences of inner wilderness where we face the truth of who we are and what our life is like. Sometimes we go to the wilderness, other times it comes to us. Either way it is hard work which most of us would rather avoid. There is no quick fix. There is no way out of or around the wilderness. The only way is through the wilderness. It’s the place where our lives can be transformed, the place we are most open to changing and being changed. For every wilderness there comes the word of God.

In the wilderness of exile the word of God speaks of coming home: ‘Make your home in me as I make mine in you.’

John 15:4

In the wilderness of doubting our self-worth the word of God speaks of our divine origin: ‘Let us make man in our own image and likeness.’

Gen 1:26

In the wilderness of the restlessness of anxiety the word of God speaks of stillness: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’

Psalm 46

In the wilderness of apparent absence of God the word of God speaks words of presence: ‘Truly Yahweh is in this place and I never knew it.’

Gen 28

Hidden within every wilderness is the beauty of divine presence.

Various sources including Michael Marsh

Thursday Evening Mass

We shall not be having the usual Thursday evening Mass on the 5th December. Instead there will be a requiem Mass at St Wilfrid’s at 1:45pm on the 5th for Sean Haslegrave who died in November. You can read the notice in the Lancashire Evening Post here.

On the 12th there will be Mass at the Centre as usual.

On the 19th we will also have Mass and afterwards there will be a bit of a Christmas celebration for everyone associated with the Xaverians and the Centre. Please do come and help make it a great evening.