Reflection on Pentecost Sunday: 31st May 2020

Peace be with you

There are times when our life situation is so overwhelming that we wonder if we will ever experience the peace of Christ which is already within us. Jesus shows us how this is possible when almost immediately after his greeting, “Peace be with you” he speaks about forgiveness.

“Forgiveness reveals three goodnesses simultaneously. When we forgive, we choose the goodness of the other over their faults, we experience God’s goodness flowing through ourselves, and we also experience our own capacity for goodness in a way that almost surprises us. We are finally in touch with a much Higher Power, and we slowly learn how to draw upon this Infinite Source. The Spirit within us creates an unrelenting desire toward forgiveness and reconciliation. True Spirit-led forgiveness always frees and heals at least one of the parties involved, and hopefully both. To live in peace we need to extend forgiveness not only to all people but also to everything. We need to forgive reality for being what it is. Forgiving everything for being what it is becomes the only way we can finally live at peace.” [1]

“I’ve come to see that the deepest source of my misery is not wanting things to be the way they are. Not wanting myself to be the way I am. Not wanting the world to be the way it is. Not wanting others to be the way they are. Whenever I’m suffering, I find this war with reality to be at the heart of the problem. The answer to anxiety lies in focusing my attention upon that which is greater than those things about which I feel anxious. As I learn to rest and trust in the faithfulness of God, the anxious knots of my life begin to untangle. It begins to be possible to meet each day, not with fear and uncertainty, but with openness, acceptance and surrender.” [2]

Eckhart Tolle differentiates between our life situation and our life. “Underneath the various conditions that make up our life situation – which exists in time – there is something deeper, more essential: our Life, our very Being in the timeless Now. Only through surrender do we have access to it. Surrender is to relinquish inner resistance to what is.” This is the only way we can finally live in peace

Adapted: [1] Richard Rohr [2] Stephen Cope

John 20:19-23

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Reflection on 7th Sunday of Easter: 24th May 2020

Oneness

“May they be one in us.”

Groups of various sizes can experience different levels of oneness linked with a variety of common interests: religion, sport, creativity, nature. Has there ever been such a global experience of oneness which COVID-19 has thrust on us? Those moments when we sense that we are at one with the joys and sorrows of others are “sacramental glimpses. They touch eternity.” [1] They remind us that “we are already one with everything. All that is absent is awareness. Awareness allows us to know this reality, and our openness to the Spirit within us allows this awareness to become transformational. To be one with everything is to have overcome the fundamental illusion of our separateness.” [2] “I’ve often said that great love and great suffering are the universal, always available paths of transformation because they are the only things strong enough to take away the ego’s protections and pretensions. Great love and great suffering bring us back to God” [3]

All over the world images of the rainbow remind us that there is hope and light to follow these days of chaos. The rainbow also reminds us of our oneness. “Everything is a facet of the one thing. Think in terms of white light shining through a prism to reveal the full spectrum of colour seen by the human eye: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Each of these colours is part of the original whole and cannot be separated from it. Turn off the light source and the colours disappear. Now apply this metaphor to the world around and within you. Everything you see, think, feel, and imagine is part of and never apart from the same Source. We call this Source by such names as God, Reality, Brahman, Allah, One, Krishna, the Absolute and the Nondual. The list of names is long; the reality to which they all point is the same.” [4]

“We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.” [5] “A heart transformed by this realisation of oneness knows that only love ‘in here,’ in me, can spot and enjoy love ‘out there.’ [3] This is eternal life, experienced here, now.

Adapted : [1] Daniel O’Leary [2] David Benner [3] Richard Rohr [4] Rabbi Rami Shapiro [5] Thomas Merton

Gospel, John 17:1-11

After saying this, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said: Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son so that your Son may glorify you; so that, just as you have given him power over all humanity, he may give eternal life to all those you have entrusted to him. And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I have glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.
Now, Father, glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world existed.

I have revealed your name to those whom you took from the world to give me. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
Now at last they have recognised that all you have given me comes from you
for I have given them the teaching you gave to me, and they have indeed accepted it and know for certain that I came from you, and have believed that it was you who sent me.

It is for them that I pray. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All I have is yours and all you have is mine, and in them I am glorified. I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us.

Reflection on 6th Sunday of Easter: 17th May 2020

Love is His Meaning

Where are you going? Can we go? Who will stay with us?

Today’s gospel passage is part of a larger text known as the Farewell Discourse, (John Ch14-16), and it is Jesus’ goodbye speech to his disciples. The preacher Fred Craddock captures today’s scene in a memorable image, likening the disciples to children playing on the floor, who happen to look up and see their parents putting on coats. Their questions are three (and they have not changed): Where are you going? Can we go? Then who is going to stay with us? [1] No doubt the disciples found it difficult to understand Jesus’ words. Even with our gift of hindsight we struggle when he talks about leaving and coming, absence and presence, seeing and not seeing. It is only when with love we hold these realities together in tension that we will experience that paradoxically they are not mutually exclusive. [2]

In her song ‘Love Always’ Carrie Newcomer sings:
It takes some starts and stops to hold a paradox.
I keep trying to understand, and to hold it in both hands
How to know what can’t be done and still envision all that can.

That ‘starting and stopping’ involves a willingness to be open to a constant dislodging of our perception of Love. It involves a growing awareness that our actions do not earn us God’s love: they help make us present to the eternal, unconditional loving presence of God within us. It involves being at the correct starting point. We are familiar with the story of the traveller who stopped to ask someone the directions to his destination. “If I were you, I wouldn’t start from here,” was the reply.

Jesus’ starting point was his awareness that ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’ (John 14:11 ) The Spirit of Truth abiding in us will help us grow in awareness of our abiding in God who is Love. Love is who we are. When we get the ‘who’ right and realise that who I am is Love, then we will love God and love all that God has created. [3]

Adapted : [1] Kelly Anne Donahue [2] Michael Marsh [3] R.Rohr

John 14: 15- 21

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

Reflection on 5th Sunday of Easter: 10th May 2020

Don’t let your hearts be troubled

‘Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.’

Corrie ten Boom | MY HERO

Corrie ten Boom had plenty of cause for worry over the course of her lifetime. During World War II, she, along with her father and sister, provided a refuge in their home for a number of Jewish friends, playing a pivotal role in the Dutch ‘underground’ who sheltered Jews. Their home was eventually raided and the entire family arrested, her father dying in prison and her sister in a concentration camp. Corrie was sent to a series of camps but was released, and afterwards told her story in a book called The Hiding Place. Corrie’s heart must have been troubled, often, but her strong faith sustained her and became the lens through which she viewed her life story: ‘Every experience God gives us, every person he puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only he can see.’ None of us knows how the future is going to turn out, and that is precisely why we tend to worry.

Tríona Doherty

Neuroscience can now demonstrate that the brain has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. Our negative and critical thoughts are like Velcro, they stick and hold; whereas our positive and joyful thoughts are like Teflon, they slide away. When a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing comes your way, you have to savour it consciously for at least fifteen seconds before it can imprint itself in your “implicit memory;” otherwise it doesn’t stick. We must indeed savour the good in order to significantly change our regular attitudes and moods. And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro” negative thoughts.

Richard Rohr

“Just beyond the storms of personal chaos lies the profound indwelling power of love, the Source and true Centre”

Cynthia Bourgeault

Dwelling in that Love we find a new way of being, a new way of seeing what is real and true, a new way of truly living life to the full.

Reflection on 4th Sunday of Easter: 3rd May 2020

I Am the Gate

When we reflect on Jesus as the Good Shepherd, we have a cornucopia of themes on which to feast: loving; following; listening; being known; pastoring; nourishing; giving life; gentle caring; being lost and found. Each theme is a meal in itself, nourishing us as we reflect on its relevance in our own lives. In today’s second reading Peter speaks about Jesus’ response to suffering, especially undeserved suffering, leaving an example for us so that we can ‘return to our Shepherd’.

“When we suffer, everything in us wants to blame somebody. We may feel that it releases our anger, but it doesn’t really heal. Many studies have shown that most of the pain that we suffer is not from the incident itself, but it’s our resistance to it. It’s that constant voice that shouts, “This isn’t fair. This shouldn’t have happened to me. This is not right.” Although these reactions may be justified, the trouble is that they destroy the soul, because we keep replaying those voices over and over again. Jesus shepherds the soul by walking through the gate first and then he says, “I am the gate.” Life isn’t fair and if we expect it always to be fair, we are going to live every day angry, bitter and disappointed. It’s said that every expectation is a resentment waiting to happen. The way Jesus shepherds our soul is by leading us to a much deeper place where we don’t immediately fight, resist and oppose everything that happens to us. I offer you the following prayer. When we first read it, we will probably think, “This is impossible. I can’t do that.” But when we can, we will find the grace to say ‘Yes’ to life before we start with ‘No’. Most of us start the day with ‘No. I don’t like it; I resist it; I have to fix it, change it or even understand it’ – when most of the time we can’t. I offer this prayer, not because I know how to live it but because Jesus did it first and he will show us the way.

Adapted from Richard Rohr

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome. I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security. I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person or even myself.
I simply open to the love and presence of God and God’s action within.

Amen.

Father Thomas Keating

Reflection on 3rd Sunday of Easter: 26th April 2020

The road between the now and the not-yet.

Today’s gospel tells the story of two dazed and distraught disciples travelling along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Although they were probably not aware of it, these disciples were in what is called “liminal space”—a particular spiritual position where we hate to be, but where the biblical God is always leading us. The Latin root ‘limen’ literally means “threshold,” referring to that needed transition when we are moving from one place or one state of being to another. Liminal space usually induces some sort of inner crisis: you have left the tried and true (or it has left you), and you have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is a time of waiting, a time of transformation. “Waiting is the passionate and contemplative crucible in which new life and spiritual wholeness can be birthed.” (Sue Monk Kidd) It is in this crucible that the solid and fixed material of our lives dissolves and returns to its original state, becoming raw material for transformation. Like the disciples, we will be asked at some point to review the ideas which have accompanied us to this moment in our lives. Even our most sacred beliefs can become encrusted over time, worn out symbols of a living reality that is no longer so alive. We will be invited to bring the old ways into the crucible and heat them with the fire of our desire, vision, passion, and longing.

While we might romanticise this process, it comes with a certain devastation. It is not oriented in what we would ordinarily think of as self-development, but is a required “darkening” we must go through so that we can begin our work anew, with fresh vision. The various “crucible” moments of our lives will not be times of peace, joy, and contentment, but of revolution where we might not be sure if we will make it through to the other side. In many ways, we will not, at least the “me” we thought we were at the start of the process will be gone. If we do not engage consciously in the process of dissolution, as many have discovered, life will bring dissolution to us, by way of transition, change, and psychic upheaval of all kinds: the ending of a relationship we thought would last forever, a shift in our health, the loss of a job, an unexpected depression, the inability to find meaning. This disruption is a forerunner of wholeness but by nature the whole will always include the dark, not only transcend it.

Jesus offered the disciples a completely different lens through which to view their recent traumatic experiences, a lens which was to draw their attention to the nature of the spiritual journey—the paschal rhythm of suffering, death, and resurrection, This necessary suffering leads to new life as the authentic self that God created, that God knows so intimately and that God invites us to live free and unencumbered in his presence.

Adapted : Ruth H. Barton; Matt Licata

“Resurrection is when one moment reveals the meaning of all moments.”

Richard Rohr

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Easter: 19th April 2020

War and Peace

The Covid 19 crisis has been described as humanity’s Third World War and it’s a war in which we are all ‘on the same side’ against a common enemy. All war situations have similar core realities: the dead and dying, the wounded, both physically and emotionally, the heroes who work tirelessly on the front line, risking – and sometimes sadly sacrificing – their own lives, ‘the homeguard’ who also heroically keep the world functioning as best we can. Every war experience results in similar emotions: grief, anxiety, fear, confusion, helplessness, loss ….. Yet in the midst of our outer and inner pain, we have hope. Above all, we hope for peace. In today’s gospel, Jesus speaks the words we long to hear: ‘Peace be with you.’ The word ‘Peace’ (Shalom) is more than a wish for a good evening or peaceful day. It expresses the desire that the person receiving the blessing might be whole in body, mind and spirit. In the Greek, there is no verb so ‘Shalom’ can be taken either as a wish or a statement of fact – where Jesus is truly present to us, there is peace.

Today we see in Thomas a transformation from doubt to belief in the presence of Jesus. All that stuff about Doubting Thomas, the fact of his disbelief, is just Thomas’ starting place, nothing more and nothing less. It’s neither good nor bad, right or wrong. It’s a starting place. And we all have our starting places. The starting place for the story of our resurrection is whatever our circumstances are today. If we’re dealing with deep loneliness, sorrow, and loss, that’s our starting point. That’s the room which Christ enters. If we are locked in a house of fear, confusion, or darkness, that’s the place in which Jesus stands. If illness, old age, disability, or uncertainty are facts of our life, that’s the place in which Jesus shows up. If we feel lost, betrayed, disappointed, overwhelmed, that’s the house Jesus enters. If joy, gratitude, and celebration are the facts of our life today, that’s the starting point for our story of resurrection.

The walls and the locked doors of the disciples house could not keep Jesus out. At the present time all humanity is in lockdown, standing in the same house together. Whatever our religious belief, may our global community experience the Source of Life stepping into the midst of our house, through our locked doors as he breathes peace and life into us; as he breathes peace and hope into us; as he breathes peace and courage into us; as he breathes peace and strength into us. And that breath of peace is the key that unlocks the door.

Resurrection is not just an event or an idea. It is a way of being and living.

Various sources including Michael Marsh and Jane Mellet

“I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18)

Today I received an Easter message from our Superior General in Rome that I want to share with you. He writes…

Mary of Magdala loved the Lord, she was grateful for the good she had received from him. When Jesus dies, it is she who, ” early in the morning,” on that first day of the week, ” goes to the grave while it is still dark .” In this woman’s readiness, we see the deep desire residing in her heart: she wants to see the body of Jesus. But she cannot find it. In her desperate and somewhat confused search, it is eventually Jesus who comes to her calling her by name: ” Mary! “

When she returns to the disciples, Mary of Magdala sums up all that she has experienced in a small sentence: “I have seen the Lord!” Well, our Christian faith begins from and is based on these simple words. We believe in the Lord Jesus because a woman, Mary of Magdala, had first experienced the resurrection of the Lord.

In these days when we celebrate the central event of our faith, the Easter mystery, the kerygma , we remember that faith in Jesus is a gift, as it was for Mary of Magdala. A gift that must be desired from the depths of our hearts and sought with all our might. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt 7,7-8). “Those who put their hope in you, oh God, will never be disappointed; those who abandon you for no reason, they will be disappointed.” (Ps 25.3).

We celebrate this Easter 2020 in the very special and completely unexpected world context of the Covid-19 pandemic. So many people have been directly affected, so much suffering all around us, so many victims everywhere, so much uncertainty! We too have been badly hit, particularly in the Community of the Mother House . For this reason, in these days it is our duty to remember in a special way the brothers who left us. We thank the Lord for having had them as members of the same family here on earth, knowing that one day we will be together in our eternal home. Let us pray for their perpetual rest.

Easter tells us that the last word is not death but life. We are its witnesses. What we need today is to be people who look to the future with God’s eyes. The missionary disciple, each of us, knows how to say the word that is appropriate at the appropriate time. He can read the reality we live in with the wisdom of the Spirit. He can employ always-new keys to interpret what is happening. Being filled with the Life of God, he is capable of implanting hope in whatever place or situation he finds himself in. The night, its darkness is behind us. In front, we have only God’s promise.

I then wish to thank each of you for the closeness and fraternity you have manifested, in different ways, towards me. This last week, in fact, my mother left us physically and began her journey to eternity. She was a woman of great faith. ” I want my soul for God, “she used to say in particular moments when it was necessary to be honest and tell the truth. This phrase certainly expresses well the attitude that accompanied my mother throughout her life. For her, there were no half-truths. She always spoke what she thought and believed was right and true. All through her life, she had a particular concern for being honest and true, while having, at the same time, a great sense of God’s presence in her life. It was precisely this felt presence of God, which led her to live in that way. May she rest in the peace the Lord gives to the good and faithful servants.

I really wish each of you, and all friends and acquaintances, a very happy Easter! May the joy of the Lord’s living presence accompany you every day and fill your hearts with the gifts of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ” (Gal 5:22) .

Fraternally Yours,

Fernando García Rodríguez

Reflection for Easter Sunday: 12th April 2020

Celebrating Easter in the midst of COVID-19

I suspect many of us are tired of too many words at the moment: daily news updates on the virus – its symptoms and its heartbreaking consequences for those far and too near; perhaps we are even tired of words that try to offer comfort and make sense of it all; and, dare I say, we may even experience a measure of emptiness in participating in live-streaming of services.  During the weeks of Lent and especially during Holy Week, we have almost frantically looked for other ways to continue doing what we normally do and no doubt this will be our focus in our Easter celebrations. For some of us, our hearts may be closed to the traditional reflections on Easter and may even feel that there will be no Easter on April 12th 2020.

Our reality is that we live in both chronos time  (the measured time in which we live our daily lives) and kairos time (deep time/live-in-the-moment time/qualitative time). This year, we are being invited to live in kairos time, when Easter is an ongoing reality: life is always changing, but life never ends. We are also being invited to experience our global connectedness with each person and each creature. We are being invited to be one with all who suffer the pain of lockdown. This is a new experience for us. Perhaps it will expand our beings and open our hearts and arms to embrace those who have long been experiencing  different kinds of lockdowns  and separation from loved ones due to war, injustice, exile from their home countries, those experiencing a living bereavement of loved ones suffering from dementia or other illnesses. And how do we do this? We’ve been told many times in the past few weeks: Stay at home. Jesus gave his disciples a similar instruction: “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you. ” If these are the only words we sit with for some time every day, we will live the Resurrection in the present moment, and allow the Resurrection to change us now.

Pictures paint a thousand words, as does the picture of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar to a butterfly – Nature’s Easter Story.