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.”

Reflection on All Saints: 1st November 2020

Beggars for the things of the spirit

‘Just as the Ten Commandments are the core of the Jewish way of life and a law to follow, so the Beatitudes are the core of the Christian way of life. The Beatitudes are not commandments. They are not so much things to be done or rules to be kept as deep-down attitudes of mind. And, in fact, their observance is only possible with a deep love of God and of other people. They can never be kept fully – they are goals that are always calling us further. They never leave any room for complacency. One can never say about the Beatitudes what the rich man said to Jesus, namely, that he had kept all the commandments since he was young.’1

It is no coincidence that the first Beatitude is: Blessed are the poor in spirit, because theirs is the kingdom of God. ‘The Greek translation is “Those who become beggars for things of the spirit will live in fullness.” Now what does it mean to be a beggar? A beggar is a person who has nothing and knows he has nothing. Only he will experience human fullness who experiences the freedom of searching, of looking for, of being a beggar for the things of the spirit. This is a tremendous and beautiful statement of being on the way, being on a journey and never stopping, of never being satisfied.2

The beggar in us learns ‘to trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives.’3 The beggar in us gratefully receives every gift of insight, every gift of each enlightened moment, every gift of each experience of unconditional love, every gift of growth in awareness of our oneness with everyone and everything. Our response will then be to live the Beatitudes, to ‘cultivate and cherish what we own in common, especially in a time of fragmentation and in a time of a splintering of humanity.’2

Adapted: [1] Living space /Sacred Space website; [2] Pietro Archiati [3] Michael Marsh

The Gospel according to Matthew (5:1-12)

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Reflection on 29th Sunday: 18th October 2020

Truth Cannot always Take Sides

“Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” Today’s gospel is an example of ‘either/or’ thinking; all or nothing thinking. When presented with two alternatives, most people think that by choosing one we have the total truth. We call this dualistic thinking. The dualistic mind knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation.  We do need the dualistic mind to function in practical life, however, and to do our work whatever that may be. It’s helpful and fully necessary as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble over these very issues.

Jesus unmasks the question for what it is: an effort to trip him up rather than an inquiry proceeding from a sincere desire to know the truth. The Pharisees are religious conservatives who abide by the law and do not believe in cooperating with the Romans. Nor do they pay taxes to the Roman government. The Herodians totally compromise themselves with the Roman oppressors and pay all the taxes they want.

Jesus pleases and displeases both sides. He doesn’t answer their question. We can’t really be sure what he means. That leaves us in the middle, where we don’t like to be. It’s a place where we can’t be absolutely certain that we’re right, where the only righteousness is God; where we’re never sure that we are good, because only God is good.  This is the rare space or place we call faith – where we have to live with a certain degree of darkness, anxiety and ambiguity. Many of us have not been taught how to live by faith. We’ve just been taught how to live with answers – so that we can prove that our group is right. When we grow in awareness that Christ lives in everyone and in all Creation, we come to realise that whatever choices we have to make, very few alternatives are mutually exclusive when we are listening and responding to Christ who is our Way, our Truth and our Life.

Adapted. Richard Rohr

Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that belong to him and to God what belongs to God.”

Reflection on 28th Sunday: 11th October 2020

We request the honour of your presence

When we read today’s gospel it’s a great relief to remember that there are different kinds of truth in the bible. In the early centuries of Christianity authoritative teachers such as Augustine and Gregory the Great spoke of seven “senses” of Scripture. 1 Later scholars taught that there are nine kinds of truth found in Scripture: scientific, which was primitive science; geographic; historical; mathematical; human character and relationships; moral; proverbial; symbolic truth which is found in parables, myths and allegories; spiritual truth, a record of the relationship between God and his people. The Bible is primarily spiritual truth. 2

In the first reading Isaiah introduces the theme of universalism, that whatever God is doing, he is doing for everyone. 1 “The Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines.” In the gospel we find that the indirect, metaphorical, symbolic language of a story or parable seems to be Jesus’ preferred way of teaching spiritual realities. He also makes frequent use of hyperbole, exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally. Jesus invites everyone, ‘good and bad’ alike, who is willing to come to the banquet which is a symbol of eternal life. ‘One thing that distinguishes the first-invited guests from the second-invited guests is Presence. The second-invited guests showed up. The first-invited guests did not. The wedding hall was filled with the second-invited guests but the first-invited guests would not come. That’s the main difference between the two groups.’ 3

The key to experiencing the infinite, unconditional, loving generosity of God is to just show up, to be present. We can then pray “Lord, you are always present to us. Help us to be present to you.”

Sometimes we just can’t accept that God could be so generous – which is the spiritual truth in today’s gospel. By accepting God’s invitation to be present, ‘we are inside a different mind that will enable us to see our life from a worldview of abundance. I recently saw a Hubble telescope picture of the Sombrero Galaxy which lies at the southern edge the Virgo cluster of galaxies. The mass of the Sombrero is equivalent to 800 billion suns. The universe contains many billions of galaxies, and each galaxy contains many billions of stars! Read that again if it did not blow you over! God is clearly into abundance and excess and he invites us to share in that largesse, first in receiving it, resting in it and then allowing it to flow through us towards all people and all creation.’ 1

1 Richard Rohr; 2 Kieran Sawyer; 3 Michael Marsh

1st Reading: Isaiah 25:6-10

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1-10

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them.

The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

Reflection on 27th Sunday: 4th October 2020

What is our cornerstone?

In relation to architecture, a cornerstone is traditionally the first stone laid for a structure, with all other stones laid in reference to this stone. A cornerstone marks the geographical location by orienting a building in a specific direction. Some cornerstones include time capsules from, or engravings commemorating, the time a particular building was built.

Today’s gospel asks us to look at the cornerstone which determines the direction of our lives. “This gospel is an allegory about negative energy, the spirit of rejection. The tenants are antagonistic and oppositional about everything. They beat or stoned or killed everyone. Oppositional energy just knows what it is against. It is sort of a sad substitute for vision, yet negative people feed on it. It knows what it is against but it doesn’t know what it is for, what it is in love with. What we reject and hate says much more about ourselves than about the people we hate or reject. If we want to know what or who our real God is we need to look at what we reject: if we reject poor people, our god is riches, money and success; if we reject foreigners, it is because we have made a god of our own country; if we reject anybody different from us then we have idolised ourselves, we’ve made a god of ourselves. What we fear or reject tells us what we really worship.”

Richard Rohr

What are we for? Are we in love with anything or are we just against ‘bad people’? When fear and rejection is our starting point, we are subconsciously creating a foundation stone which consists of our own self-centred priorities. However, when love becomes the cornerstone which determines the direction of our lives, we will see what we need to renounce and yet “we won’t need to renounce it we will just need to understand its true value and it will just drop from our hands.” (Anthony De Mello) In the second reading St Paul gives us an alternative to the spirit of rejection. “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things and the God of peace will be with you.” These ‘things’ – and many others – are already placed in the timeless capsule of our Christ-centred cornerstone.

2nd Reading: Philippians 4:6-9

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces its fruit.”