Refection on 21st Sunday: 23rd August 2020

“Upon this rock I will build my church.”

Throughout the gospels Jesus teaches his disciples through his choice of metaphors and similes which speak to them – and us – more powerfully than doctrines and legislations. Today’s use of the image of the rock, reminds us of the expression ‘He/she is as solid as a rock’ which we use to describe someone’s strength of character, with the implication being that that person will be immovable in his/her adherence to principles and beliefs.

Yet, let’s reflect on the image of a rock, from the smallest pebble on the beach to the largest and most intricate of rock formations. Whatever its size, each rock has undergone many changes before it has become the rock we are holding or looking at. Elements such as pressure, physical and chemical changes, tectonic processes, temperature, weather conditions and water have shaped and transformed the rock before us. And they will continue to change if they remain open to the elements.

On the recent feast of Saints Peter and Paul we reflected on the same gospel story, and we saw that when Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” he was referring to Peter’s faith and his understanding of the Christ Mystery. Peter has a moment of awareness of who Jesus really is – the Christ, in whom all things have their being, the Centre from whom we live and it is on a life centred on this awareness that Jesus builds his church (i.e. ecclesia : assembly of people/ disciples)

“We all have some centre from which we live. People, things, and experiences tend to become our anchor point, the centre of our life. They give us our bearings and stability. They not only shape how we live but, more importantly, who we are becoming. Jesus is always inviting us to go deeper, to look within and discover who or what our life is centred on, and then to re-centre. The life of discipleship is one of continual re-centring. As the elements slowly form and shape rocks over time so does a lifetime of openness and surrender to all the circumstances of our lives gradually transform us into people who witness and testify to God’s life, love, and presence in our lives and the world.”

Michael Marsh

Spirituality Centre: News

Just a wee update on where we are regarding the opening of The Spirituality Centre. With the current restrictions still in place is seems that our idea of opening in September has been pushed back. We are now looking at opening once the Furlough Scheme ends in October. There are a few reasons for this:

Looking at the guidance of the Preston City Council website and the UK Government web site it seems that we cannot open under the restrictions in place. We have no idea how long this is going to last and what the implications are.

Places that host conferences or exhibitions are to remain closed and because of current restriction meet with people you do not live with, or have “bubbled” with in other indoor public venues – this includes pubs, restaurants, cafes, shops, places of worship, leisure and entertainment venues or visitor attractions. You may still attend these places with people you live with or are in a protective support bubble with. You must take precautions to socially distance from one another wherever practical.

Other activities are discouraged, and face masks are now mandatory for almost all indoor spaces. Changes to cleaning regimes, entering and leaving, reception, numbers that can be permitted with social distancing have huge implications on our working and finances.

This is disappointing for the community here and for the wider community who use and appreciate the Centre. We continue with our small community mass on a Thursday evening and remember friends and family in our prayers. We also remember the wider Xaverian community and our missions that are suffering at this time. Suffering, not just because of Covid, but also because our ability to help support their work and their mission is severely limited by what is happening here.

I hope that I have better news the next time I write! Thanks for your support, patience and prayers.

Paddy

For more information please follow the links

Preston’s local restrictions

https://www.preston.gov.uk/article/2915/FAQ-on-local-restrictions-what-you-can-and-can-t-do-in-Preston

Business closures

https://www.preston.gov.uk/Businessclosures

UK Government Guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities/covid-19-guidance-for-the-safe-use-of-multi-purpose-community-facilities

Reflection on The Assumption: 15th August 2020

Blessed Believing

What if we really believed God is uniquely present and active in the circumstances of each of our lives, speaking a word? What if we truly believed there would be a fulfilment of the word spoken? What if instead of allowing our circumstances to determine what we believe, we allowed our believing to reinterpret the circumstances?

That would be blessed believing, Elizabeth and Mary type of believing, the kind of believing that gives birth to new life. That believing is at the heart of today’s gospel reading. Two pregnant women, neither of whom, according to their circumstances, should be or could be pregnant. One is too old. One is too young. One is barren. One is a virgin. Yet, both are pregnant.

Neither Elizabeth nor Mary allowed the circumstances of their lives to define who they were or limit who they might become. Believing for them is not so much about what they see but how they see. Each one believed she was more than the circumstances of her life. Elizabeth believed she was more than just a barren, childless, old woman. Mary believed that God loved her in her nothingness, in her littleness. Mary found favour with God. In Greek, ‘favoured’ means undeserved love, unmerited, totally free from the giver’s side. Mary doesn’t argue about her worthiness. She simply accepts that God can do what God can do.

Both woman saw, hidden within their particular situation, a deeper meaning and a new life. They believed through the circumstances of their lives. Each one trusted that the God of the impossible was somehow in the circumstances reshaping, transforming, and fulfilling her very existence. God was at work within these two women changing them, not their circumstances. So it is for each one of us.

”Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

Michael Marsh

GOSPEL Luke 1:39-56

Mary set out and travelled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour
for he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months
and then returned to her home.

Reflection on 19th Sunday: 9th August 2020

“It is I. Do not be afraid.”

More often than not we cry out to be rescued from the circumstances of which we are afraid. We want to escape the storm. We want to be picked up and set down somewhere else, somewhere that is safe, calm, and comfortable. Jesus didn’t do that for the disciples and he doesn’t do that for us. Instead, Jesus reveals himself in the very midst of the storm itself. Where else would he be, this one we call Emmanuel, God with us?

Jesus uses the ‘crossing the lake’ experience to show that the disciples are being invited to cross to a new level of faith, a new level of consciousness and to cross boundaries of understanding. He is always teaching them, journeying with them and using the real experiences of life to deepen their awareness of who he is and who they are. The very elements that threatened to destroy the disciples became the environment in which they recognise Jesus as the Son of God. What they first perceived as certain death they now recognise as new life and hope.

It makes no sense to think that the very elements that threaten our lives are the same elements from which new life comes. Almost everyone on our planet is finding it difficult to recognise God in the midst of so much suffering, uncertainty and fear for the future. It is when we hear Jesus’ words, “It is I. Do not be afraid,” and we respond to his invitation to “Come,” we will experience our sharing in his life, his energy. We will be able to walk through any storm knowing that “God is a presence that spares us from nothing, but unexplainably sustains us in all things.”

James Finley

We will often drown in our attempts to understand our painful circumstances or search for ‘quick-fix’ solutions. The secret is to trust in God who leads us to the edge of our own resources and we then surrender to the Absolute Source of perfect Love and infinite Life. When we surrender, we begin to discover an enormous space outside of our narrow experiences and plans. We discover the expansiveness and spaciousness of God, and of life, and it becomes possible to find peace in the midst of chaos.

Various sources: Sharon Grussendorff, Michael Marsh, Richard Rohr.

Gospel: Matthew 14:23-33

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.
Immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. ” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water. ” He said, “Come. ” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Reflection on 18th Sunday: 2nd August 2020

Abundance

The story of the feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. In Matthew and Mark there are additional accounts of feeding 4000 people. In all accounts, the disciples query how the crowds could be fed with the small amount of food provided. In some accounts, as in today’s gospel, the disciples wanted to send the people away to take care of their own food.

In the Gospel stories of ‘multiplication’ Jesus’ response is not only an act of compassion but it is primarily a revelation of the nature of divine compassion. He wants to create a new understanding of ‘enoughness’, of more than ‘enoughness’- as we see in the twelve baskets left over. The human mind is actually incapable of imagining anything infinite or eternal. So it cannot conceive an infinite love or a God whose mercy and compassion is everlasting. Every multiplication story emphasises abundance, that there is always much left over. It is a major mental and heart conversion to move from a scarcity model to an abundance model and to live with an attitude of gratitude. Our little tiny lives are connected with something bigger, something that matters, something eternal. Suddenly our ordinary lives have a transcendent and universal meaning. Whether we realise it or not, that is the hunger and thirst within each one of us.

Richard Rohr

Like the disciples, we count what is there though we too often focus on what is not there. And pretty soon the reality of our circumstances blinds us to the possibilities of what might be. Our vision becomes narrow and the world small. We see through the lens of scarcity or lack and not through the lens of abundance. The problem is not a lack of fish and bread but a lack of vision. We see things not as they are, but as we are. The abundance of God’s loving presence is hidden in plain view and often within the illusion of scarcity. Abundance is less a resource to be counted and more an interior quality, a presence, a way of being and seeing.

Michael Marsh 

Gospel Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Lectio Divina: News

Our thoughtful Lectio Divina group have been considering Matthew 14 13-21 You can read some of the thoughts they offer here.

We can learn from their example by reading and thinking how we personally relate to the Gospel passage. How does it speak to us, here and now?