Reflection on 21st Sunday: 22nd August 2021

“Lord to whom shall we go?”

‘It seems that we are born with a longing, a desire, and a deep hope that this thing called life could somehow last forever. It is a premonition from Something Eternal that is already within us. Some would call it the soul. Some would call it the indwelling presence of God. It is God in us that makes us desire God. It is an eternal life already within us that makes us imagine eternal life. It is the Spirit of God that allows us to seriously hope for what we first only intuit. Spiritual knowing, spiritual cognition is always really re-cognition. It’s the realisation that I already knew this. At some deep level I had a recognition, a suspicion, an intuition that this might just be true: that I might just be the son/daughter of the holy one, a child of God. It is an intuition which cannot be proven but only experienced. But then we hesitate and think, “Oh but that’s too good to be true.”

Perhaps this explains Peter’s striking response to Jesus’ question, “Do you also wish to go away?” Peter answers with another question: “To whom shall we go?” It is not the most flattering response in the world, but it is honest. Peter’s reply reveals his uncertainty about what is happening within him. Although he acknowledges that Jesus has “the words of eternal life” Peter doesn’t fully understand what that means because we can never grasp a mystery; we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it. That kind of surrender is needed if we are ever to experience the spirit who gives life. Peter and the others have found nourishment in Christ’s presence and in His teaching and they stay with Jesus precisely because he has been a source of new life for them. They will soon be entrusted with the mission of communicating that life to others. We may be tempted to walk away from what God is feeding us in our daily life experiences. But where do we go?’

Richard Rohr. Adapted

‘When your life awakens and you begin to sense the destiny that brought you here, you endeavour to live a life that is generous and worthy of the blessing and the invitation that is always calling you.
The eternal in me
Welcomes the wonder of this day.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love’

John O’Donohue

Gospel John 6: 60-69

After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, “This is intolerable language, How could anyone accept it? Jesus was aware that his followers were complaining about it and said, “Does this upset you?” What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. He went on, “This is why I told you that no-one could come to me unless the Father allows him.” After this, many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “What about you, do you want to go away too?” Simon Peter answered, “Lord who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe: we know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Reflection on 19th Sunday: 8th August 2021

Is There Life Within You?

How often are we asked the question: “How are you?” And how often do we give the standard answers: “Fine… I’m doing well… Things are really busy right now… I’m good.” Sometimes we add something about our family, our health, where we have been, or what we have been doing. More often than not those conversations focus on the circumstances of life but there is a difference, a vast difference, between doing life and having life within us. Most of us spend a fair amount of time, energy, and prayer trying to create and possess the life we want. In spite of our best efforts sometimes we live less than fully alive. We ask ourselves, “What am I doing with my life?” We wonder if this is all there will ever be. Is this as good as it gets? We despair at what is and what we think will be. Those questions and feelings are not so much a judgement on us, but a diagnosis of us. They are symptoms of our lack of understanding of what true life is.

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.’ Is there life within us? The question pushes us to discover our hunger for the experience of eternal life already given to each of us by the Father: “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father.” In her book Waiting for God Simone Weil wrote, ‘The danger is not that the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but that it should persuade itself that it is not hungry.’ In the Jewish Scriptures bread is often a symbol of the word of God. Jesus invites us come to him and to feed on his presence, and in particular to feed on his word. That word will shape our lives. It empowers us to live the kind of life that Saint Paul puts before us in the second reading: a life in which we love one another as Christ loved us, forgive one another as readily as God forgives us. That, in essence, is our calling.

We sometimes experience a taste of eternal life, when everything seems to fit together perfectly and all is right with the world, not because we get our own way but because we know our self to be a part of something larger, more beautiful. These are moments when time stands still and we wish the wonder of the moment will never end. And it tastes good.

Adapted: Michael Marsh

Second Reading Ephesians 4:30-5:2

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has marked you with his seal for you to be free when the day comes. Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ.
Try, then, to imitate God, as children of his that he loves, and follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God.

Gospel John 6:41-51

The Jews were complaining to each other about Jesus, because he had said. “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” “Surely this is Jesus son of Joseph” they said, “We know his father and mother. How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus said in reply, “Stop complaining to each other. No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets: They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father. I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the desert and they are dead; but this is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that a man may eat it and not die. I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.”
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Reflection on 17th Sunday: 25th July 2021

Gathering the Fragments

“Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.”

‘An important part of today’s miracle is how Jesus, with such intention, cares for the fragments following the feast. He sees the abundance that persists, the feast that remains within the fragments. We might think the marvel of the story is that there is enough for everyone. And yet for Jesus, enough does not seem to be enough. There is more: a meal that depends on paying attention to what has been left behind, on turning toward what has been tossed aside.’1

We ask God to “give us this day our daily bread.” And he does, in so many ways. There is so much abundance. And we also leave many fragments behind. Perhaps we have been blessed with moments of wonder and cannot feast on all at one time but each truly astonishing experience instils within us the confident belief that there is more to be revealed when we are ready. Perhaps we refuse some of the food offered to us because it tastes too bitter, it even hurts and certainly isn’t on our menu. Yet ‘Christ casts his circle around the fragments; he will not loose his hold on what is broken and in pieces. He knows the secret of the fragments that find their way into His keeping. He gathers them up: a sign of the wholeness he can see hidden in what has been left behind; a foretaste of the banquet to come, the persistence of plenty where there seemed only lack.’1

‘This miraculous feeding has always been seen as an image of the Eucharist. For the next five Sundays the gospel reading invites us to reflect on what it means to pray Eucharist, to be Eucharist, to do Eucharist, to live Eucharist. An Irish writer in medieval times described the Eucharist as a dangerous prayer because it expresses a readiness to let God transform us.’2

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.3

Adapted: [1] Jan Richardson    [2] galwaydiocese.ie   [3] John O’ Donohue

Gospel John 6:1-15

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.

Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii would only be enough to give them a small piece each.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?” Jesus said to them, “Make the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down.  Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, “Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.” So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.  The people, seeing this sign he had given, said, “This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

Reflection on 2nd of Easter: 11th April 2021

Opening locked doors

“The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” ‘We all know about locked doors. The locked doors of our lives are not so much about what is going on around us, but what is happening within us: fear, anger, guilt, hurt, grief, the refusal to change. There are a thousand different locks on the doors of our life and they are always locked from the inside. Some days it seems easier and safer to lock the doors of our house and avoid the circumstances and people in our lives. However, every time we shut the doors of our life, our mind or our heart we imprison ourselves. For every person, event, or idea we lock out, regardless of the reason, we lock ourselves in. Like the disciples in today’s gospel, we lock the doors and live in the past.’1

‘Forgiveness is the only way to free ourselves from the entrapment of the past. That is why forgiveness is so central to the Easter mystery. Old hurts linger long in our memories and are hard to let go. When we forgive someone, when we forgive ourselves, we experience a healing within ourselves; we unlock a door. When we refuse to forgive, when we hold onto the ‘sin’, when we retain that ‘sin’, we add another bolt to that locked door. 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. Can we also forgive reality? To receive reality is always to bear with reality for not meeting all of our needs and our conditions. To accept reality is to forgive reality for being what it is, almost day by day and sometimes even hour by hour. Only then will we finally experience Christ’s life-giving peace. We will then be free to unlock our doors, step outside and fully live. ‘2

Adapted: [1] Michael Marsh [2] Richard Rohr

Gospel: John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.’ After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained.’

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer, but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him: ‘You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’ There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.

Reflection on Palm Sunday & Holy Week: 28th March 2021

Betwixt and Between

During Holy Week, the liturgy invites us to surrender to the mystery of the cross ‘…which teaches us that the price we pay for holding together the contradictions within ourselves, others and the world is always some form of crucifixion.’1 We begin Palm Sunday by joining the jubilant crowds as they welcome Jesus as their Messiah with joyful cries of ‘Hosanna’. In contrast, in the same liturgical ceremony, we are reminded that the way of the palms will lead to the way of the passion. The liturgy of Holy Thursday and Good Friday leave us in no doubt that ‘Love is His meaning’2 When we kneel at the foot of the cross ‘Jesus teaches us how to stand against hate without becoming hate, how to oppose evil without becoming evil.’1

And Holy Saturday? In the days when Midnight Mass was celebrated at midnight, there was no liturgical ceremony on Holy Saturday. However, this is the day when our experience of the cross is ‘holding the tension between one space and another. This is called liminal space. (The Latin root limen literally means threshold.) It is in these transitional moments of our lives that authentic transformation can happen.’1 ‘Holy Saturday is the ultimate liminal space’.3 ‘What are we to do at such a threshold moment? The ancient Celtic tradition provides a simple response: in moments of transition, we are simply to be. We are to pause and acknowledge that a transition is taking place.’4 ‘In liminal space we sometimes need to not-do and not-perform according to our usual successful patterns.’1

‘A threshold is the moment of liminal space between that which once was and what is to come. When we cling tightly to our past experiences, we fail to recognise what is. Once we have outgrown our version of reality, we see a world that is vastly bigger than we imagined. Nostalgia can be a gift when we cultivate gratitude for the path we have walked. However, memories can deceive us if we believe that revisiting what once nourished us will sustain us moving forward.’4

‘Liminal space is a place in between what we were and what we are becoming. It is like a chrysalis for humans.’5 ‘How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.’6

[1] Richard Rohr [2] Julian of Norwich [3] Alison Barr [4] Brandan J. Robertson
[5] Byron McMillan [6] Trina Paulus: ‘Hope for the Flowers’

Readings

  • Palm Sunday: Mark 14: 1—15: 47 (Shorter: Mark 15: 1-39)
  • Holy Thursday: John 13: 1-15
  • Good Friday: John 18:1—19:42

Reflection on 3rd in Lent: 7th March 2021

Temple: a Consecrated Space

Today’s first and third readings speak about rules, sacred buildings and rituals which ‘are meant to bring us into the awareness of the divine presence in us and in all of those around us.’1  ‘The gospel isn’t about what is present in the temple but is about Jesus’ deep concern with what is missing.’2 ‘The gospel tells us what the temple had become: totally aligned with the king, the collecting of taxes and monies and the selling of forgiveness. Jesus takes a revolutionary approach to religion: from an emphasis on sacrifice by which we earn God’s love, to trust through which we know God’s love. And that trust happens in the human heart. Jesus is redefining ‘the temple’. He speaks of the temple of his body.  The temple is transferred from any kind of physical building to the human person. Years later, Jesus’ words will echo in Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. “Do you not know,” the apostle will ask them—and us—“that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”3

‘The temple was the centre of Jewish life.  It is what structured their community. It gave identity and meaning. We all have temples: things that we think give structure and order to our lives, provide security and stability. At least we think they do, until they fall.’2  We will only find new strength in our growing awareness of our divine identity, in our growing awareness that God is within us, that we are temples of God.

In a building that is not a building but the dusty halls of my spirit,
in a heart that is not just a heart but an intended-to-be-holy temple,
there are sheep and there are cattle that are not sheep and cattle
but the worries and concerns and the sorrows of life,
and there are dulled coins and doves that are not coins and doves
but the tarnished hopes and dreams of an aging mind,

and they clutter and crowd the courtyard,
cloud the air with their smells and voices,
their noises of stress and hunger overpowering the words of prayer.
Lord, come into the spaces of this yearning-to-be-holy temple,
cleanse this heart of distractions, help me clear the clutter, the noises.
Make it more of a place of listening, open to the mystery of your presence.4

Adapted: [1] Brian McLaren   [2] Michael Marsh  [3] Richard Rohr  [4] Andrew King

Gospel: John (2:13-25)

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

The Jews then said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

When he was in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, many believed in his name because they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to testify about anyone; for he himself knew what was in everyone.

Reflection on 4th Sunday: 31st January 2021

Inner Authority

‘There are two great strains in spiritual teaching: the priestly strain which respectfully holds the system together, and the prophetic strain which critiques the system, correcting and refining it from within. Moses both gathers Israel yet is the most critical of his own people. Jesus loves his people but is lethally critical of illusion, hypocrisy and deceit. In today’s gospel we have an account of the first exorcism, or recognising of a demon, and it takes place in the synagogue! The only way evil can succeed is that it has to disguise itself as good and one of the best disguises is the ostensible practice of religion. This is what prophets point out.’

Richard Rohr

‘Within the wider Near East (including Judaism itself), there was also a third, albeit unofficial strain of religious authority: a moshel moshelim, or teacher of wisdom, one who taught the ancient traditions of the transformation of the human being. The hallmark of these wisdom teachers was their use of pithy sayings, puzzles, and parables rather than prophetic pronouncements or divine decree. They spoke to people in the language that people spoke, the language of story rather than law. They stayed close to the ground of wisdom: the transformation of human consciousness. They asked those timeless and deeply personal questions: How do you go about losing your little life to find the bigger one? Is it possible to live on this planet with a generosity, abundance, fearlessness, and beauty that mirror Divine Being itself? These are the wisdom questions, and they are the entire field of Jesus’ concern.’

Cynthia Bourgeault

‘Jesus taught that the real authority that changes the world is an inner authority which comes from people who have lost, let go, and are refound on a new level. Unless we have walked through suffering, failure or humiliation, our words will tend to be fine but superficial, okay but harmless, heard by the ears but unable to touch the soul. Information from outer authority is not necessarily transformation, and we need genuinely transformed people today, not just people with answers. When the people in the temple listened to the ‘new teaching’ of Jesus, they recognised his inner authority. And they were amazed i.e. filled with wonder.’

R.Rohr

Gospel: Mark 1:21-28

Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught. They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching-with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of the year: 17th January 2020

“Come and see.”

“What are you looking for?” ‘How we answer Jesus’ question determines how we live, how we navigate the tragedies and pain of life, and how we relate to God and our neighbour. We answer it every minute of every day by our choices, the decisions we make, the priorities we establish and the relationships we create.’1 Underlying each personal response, there is a common search for our true home, ‘that place where we discover who we are, where we are coming from and where we are going to. It is where we learn to love and be loved.’2 Jesus tells us where to find our true home. ‘Make your home in Me as I make mine in you.’ (John 15:4) Like the apostles, we may ask, “Where do you live?” and with a sense of anticipation and awe we may respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come and see.”

‘How many times have we heard a child say: “Come and see …..” There is excitement and joy in their voice, maybe even a sense of urgency. Their words are an invitation to share in their discovery, to experience their world, and to participate in their life. It is an invitation to let our life and theirs come together as one. That’s why we can’t just sit back and say, “No, just tell me about it.” That’s not an acceptable answer. Children know that information and relationship are not interchangeable. We never outgrow the desire to invite and to be invited, to share our life with another in a deep and meaningful way, and to participate in something larger than ourselves. Would we rather read a travel brochure or travel to a new land? Would we rather know about Christ or know him?’1

‘The only way we can get to know another person is by immediate presence. You have to be around them to pick up their real energy; to experience how they live and how they love.’3 ‘Our relationship with Christ, with one another, and with ourselves must be a first-hand experience. A first-hand experience won’t let us stay where we are. It moves us to a new place. It transforms us in a way that information and facts about Jesus never will.’1

[1]Michael Marsh [2] Sister Stan [3] Richard Rohr

Gospel: John 1:35-42

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Reflection on 4th Sunday in Advent: 20th December 2020

“Yes”

‘If Jesus is the representative of the total givenness of God to creation, then perhaps Mary is the representative of humanity, showing us how the gift is received.’1 ‘When Mary says ‘Yes’ she makes her commitment without knowing much about what it will entail or where it will lead. When the mystery of God’s love breaks through into my consciousness, do I run from it? Or do I respond from my deepest, truest self, and say a “yes” that will change me forever?’2

‘Our truest self is who we always are in God. It is a gift, waiting to be unwrapped, waiting to be consciously received. The Presence needs to be recognized, honoured, and drawn upon to become a Living Presence. Once we surrender to this Christ mystery, this divine incarnation in our oh-so-ordinary self and body, we begin to see it in every other ordinary place, too.’1

‘How do we say yes to a life we did not choose? This yes is not something we can always summon on our own. It is not a response we can manufacture by our own strength of will.’3 We need only remember that we are saying our ‘Yes’ to God who is ‘a presence that spares us from nothing but unexplainably sustains us in all things.’4

“Be not afraid,” the angel tells Mary. ‘What fear do you need to let go of in order to offer your yes? How might it be to ask for the courage you need, and to open yourself to the ways this courage wants to meet you? You will know it by the strength that rises from within you to meet it, by the release of the knot in the centre of your chest that suddenly lets go. You will recognize it by how still your fear becomes as it loosens its grip, perhaps never quite leaving you, but calmly turning into joy.’3

Our yes response will then be “What aspect of God, what aspect of Love, am I being called to incarnate in the world today?1

Adapted: [1] Richard Rohr, [2] Kathleen Norris, [3] Jan Richardson, [4] J.Finley

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection on 2nd Sunday of Advent: 6th December 2020

Preparations… paths…awareness.

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

‘Whenever eastern monarchs entered upon an expedition or took a journey, especially through desert and new territories, they would send messengers and pioneers before them to prepare all things for their coming, to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments. The first century congregation or church was dry and in a desert, spiritually. It was John the Baptist’s task to prepare for the Messiah’s coming and to invite people to re-consider the paths they were following.’[1] He sowed the seeds of their growth in awareness by saying, “Among you stands one whom you do not know.” (John 1:26)

For John the Baptist, the most important preparation was repentance. ‘The word usually translated as “repent” is the Greek word metanoia; this might be best translated as “turn around your mind” or change. It is much more than just being sorry for the past. 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. In the wilderness we face the truth of who we are and what our life is like.’ [2]

And our path? ‘Travel the most ancient way of all: the path that leads you to the centre of your life. This journey is not about miles. It is not about how far you can walk or how fast. It is about what you will do with this moment. The treasure in our map is buried not at journey’s end but at its beginning.’ [3]

‘The real spiritual path is wherever you are. God is everywhere. The spiritual journey is a growth in awareness that what you are seeking is where you are.’[4] It is a gradual growth in awareness that the One we seek has always been within us. We use the invocation ‘Come’ many times in our prayers throughout the year, especially in Advent. What would happen if instead, we were to pray, “Help us grow in awareness that we are always in You and You are always in us.” That’s a bit longer! This year we may have more time available to sit with this prayer and in doing so, perhaps we might experience metanoia, a true change of heart and mind.

Traveller, the path is your tracks and nothing more. The path is made by walking.

(Antonio Machado)
Adapted from [1] ourancientpaths.org; [2] Michael Marsh; [3] Jan Richardson; [4] Imre Vallyon

Gospel: Mark 1:1-8

John the Baptist prepares the people for the coming of their Saviour

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’”

John the baptizer appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”