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.”

Reflection on 1st Sunday in Advent: 29th November 2020

Longing

If we were to write a Christmas wish list for 2020 and compare it with our 2019 list, what a stark contrast there would probably be between both lists. In 2019 our list would possibly be full of things we would like. This year’s list would no doubt show that in our longing and in our waiting to be once again with those we love, we are deeply experiencing the true spirit of Advent. When we are in the presence of those who love us we see an image of our true selves reflected in their eyes. “Advent is a time of heightened awareness that invites us to see ourselves as God sees us, insofar as that is possible.” [1]

“There is a story about a church in the Netherlands. On entering the building, everyone would stop and bow in the direction of a white-washed wall. It was a tradition that nobody questioned. They felt it was the right thing to do. One day the parish decided to renovate the church. They began to strip the paint off the old walls. While doing this they discovered traces of a painting on the wall towards which everyone bowed, but nobody knew why. Very carefully they peeled off the layers of whitewash. What emerged was an ancient and very beautiful painting of Christ. Nobody was old enough to have had seen it. But now they came to understand why they almost instinctively persisted in honouring the wall that concealed the glorious work of art. The holy work of Advent is a little like that. It peels away the false veneer to reveal and restore, in the midst of our activities and our anxieties, the unique masterpiece within us. Is this the destiny for which our hearts are always longing?” [2]

By taking time to sit with God we will grow in awareness of who we truly are in Him. “When we sit still with all our heart, we bear witness to ourselves and to the world that there is no place to go.” [3] Only in God will our deepest longings be fulfilled. In today’s gospel Jesus tells us to be alert and to keep awake. “Spirituality means waking up, becoming aware.” [4] When we are grounded in the practice of loving presence we will be alert to the master’s unexpected revelations of his presence in everyone and in all creation. In our awakened moments we will know that ‘the master’ is always with us, fulfilling our deepest, perpetual yearning to be fully known and fully loved.

[1] José Antonio Pagola; [2]Daniel O’ Leary; [3] James Finley; [4] Anthony de Mello

Gospel: Mark 13:33-37

Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.

Therefore, keep awake-for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”

Reflection on 33rd Sunday: 15th November 2020

Commendation or critique of exploitation?1

The cultural lens through which we read Scripture is completely foreign to the cultural lens in which Scripture was originally written or read.2  We usually interpret the parable of the talents in today’s gospel and that of a similar scenario in Luke’s gospel (Lk 19), as an exhortation to develop our God-given gifts. Our heroes are the slaves who returned their talents with interest. We dismiss the unprofitable slave, but people of a peasant background recognize him as the hero of the parable. How can this be?3 He unmasks the fact that the master’s wealth is derived entirely from ruthless business practices, usury and the cynical view that the rich will only get richer while the poor become destitute. Unwilling to participate in this exploitation, this third slave took the money out of circulation, where it could no longer be used to dispossess another farmer and his family. The consequence of the third slave’s non-cooperation is banishment to the “outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” We have presumed this to be “hell,” and so perhaps it is—that is, the hell on earth experienced by those rejected by the dominant culture.4

Moreover, if we assume, as does the traditional interpretation, that the master is a figure for God, it is a severe portrait indeed. The man/nobleman in the parable is Archelaos, the son of Herod, who had gone on a three year furlough to Rome after becoming king. He expected his stewards to collect the same unfair taxes that he had. He wanted them to oppress the poor as he had, and then he would rake in the whole profit.5 The master represents the god of this age, the one who teaches and models the morally reprehensible behavior of stealing from the poor to make themselves rich. Jesus is teaching us that we can expect the same fate as the third slave when we try to live according to His new commandment.2

Church historians, as early as Eusebius (339 AD) have known of this interpretation of this parable and several commentators assert that it is understood more correctly as a cautionary tale about the world than as a parable about the kingdom of God. (In the original Greek the words “kingdom of heaven” do not appear in v.14—those words were inserted later.)4 The third slave is the one who is prepared to accept the consequences of his convictions. Nowadays we would call it civil disobedience. We would say that he is responding to a deeper truth; and this deeper truth always leads us into conflict with the superficial truth.5 We need the courage of the third slave to become God’s compassionate presence in the midst of pain and marginality.

Adapted  [1] Justin Ukpong, [2] Jeremy Myers, [3] Carl Schafer OFM[4]Ched Myers & EricDeBode, [5]Richard Rohr

Gospel: Matthew 25:14-30

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who, before going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Gospel reflection for 32nd Sunday: 8th November 2020

Readiness

The context of today’s gospel is the in-between time of Jesus’ Ascension and the awaiting of his coming again, which his followers thought to be imminent. So the question of how to live in this in-between time – and always – is what this parable is speaking about. Keeping in mind that symbolic language seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of teaching spiritual realities, we could understand the oil to symbolise living in readiness and this oil is also clearly a metaphor for something that we and only we can do, that someone else can’t do for us and can’t give us.1 “The oil symbolises our own distinctive inner connection to the Source of eternal life. The truth of this oil is: you have to have your own. One cannot develop spiritually by taking the consciousness and action of another as your own.”2 So it is not that the wise virgins are selfish and refuse to share their oil; it’s that it simply cannot be done.

Today’s gospel begins, “The Kingdom of heaven is like this” and it is a way of Jesus describing what he meant when on another occasion he said, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” We experience the kingdom of heaven within us when we live out of the same consciousness and mindset as Christ, and our actions flow from that same place. When we live “in Christ,” (to use the phrase St. Paul uses 164 times), we are rooted in that spiritual Source which sustains us when circumstances in our life become difficult or when what we hope and long for never seems to come. In our parable, these difficult life circumstances and delayed hopes are symbolised by the fact that the bridegroom is delayed in coming, and night has fallen.3 When we continually let go of what dims the light within us (when we trim the wicks) we will experience a deepening of our oneness with the true Source of life and light.

Each one of us makes our own journey; each one of us ‘meets the Bridegroom’ in our unique wonder-filled moments that come our way. We cannot make that journey for anyone else.4 No one can make that journey for us.

Adapted from: [1] Martha Kirkpatrick
[2] John Shea
[3] https://christchurchcanoncity.weebly.com/
[4] Daniel O’ Leary

Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus told this parable to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”