“Love one another just as I have loved you.” These words are so familiar to us. Perhaps this new commandment is our raison d’etre, our daily aspiration. We may even have the T-shirt. Surely Jesus’ command to love one another was nothing new for the disciples and those of their time. The commandment is well known in the Old Testament: ‘Love God with your whole heart and your neighbour as yourself.’ So what is new?…. “Love as I have loved you.” When we reflect on these words, what are our thought processes? Do we look for various Scripture references which speak of God’s love for us and in them find a God who loves unconditionally, a God whose love is indiscriminate, a God who is loving, caring, forgiving, compassionate, understanding and self-sacrificing. We find so many qualities of love for us to emulate. We are constantly looking for ways in which we can do this, ways in which we can show that we love as Jesus loved. But do we have the correct starting point? We are familiar with the story of the traveller who stopped to ask someone the directions to his destination. “If I were you,I wouldn’t start from here,” was the reply. Jesus’ starting point was his awareness that “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:11) ‘How we embark on our journey of loving others is rooted in our personal experience of who we are. Love is not something we decide to do now and then. Love is who we are. We are created in the image of God and God is love. We were created by a loving God to be love in the world. When we get the “who” right and realise that who I am is love, then we will do what we came to do: Love God and love all that God has created.’[1] ‘Jesus commandment to us is not that we should wear ourselves out, trying to conjure love from our own easily depleted resources. Rather, it’s that we’re invited to abide in the holy place where all love originates. We can make our home in Jesus’ love. Our love is not our own; it is God’s, and God our source is without limit, without end. “Love one another as I have loved you.” For our own sakes. And for the world’s.’ [2] [1] Richard Rohr [2] Debie Thomas GOSPEL John 13:31-35 When Judas had gone Jesus said: “Now has the Son of Man been glorified, and in him God has been glorified. If God has been glorified in him, God will in turn glorify him in himself, and will glorify him very soon. My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Gospel Reflection 4th of Easter: 8th May 2022

You cannot get there, you can only be there

Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly to the Jews. “Since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans.” Yes, we are not worthy of being one with God, which is eternal life. However, the Jews created a worthiness contest, imposing performance principles which were meant to help us earn or deserve God’s love.

‘Scripture assures us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. The image described in Genesis refers to our original goodness which cannot be increased or decreased. Nothing can change that. “My me is God.” (Catherine of Genoa) We surrender to God’s likeness in varying degrees and stages. The spiritual journey is about realisation, not perfection. It is about awakening, not accomplishing. You cannot get there, you can only be there. But for some reason, that foundational being-in-God is too hard to believe, too good to be true. Only the humble can receive it because it affirms more about God than it does about us. The ego does not like that. The ego makes life all about achievement and attainment. Yet union with God is really about awareness and realignment. It is not that if I am moral, then I will be loved by God; rather, it is that I must first come to experience God’s love, and then I will—almost naturally—be moral.’[1] ‘Each one of us has our own venue where we experience the presence of and our oneness with the One in whose image we are created. For some it might be reflective reading of Scripture, for others it might be art, or poetry or silence. A daily rendezvous with God in those venues will take us to the deeper place where we discover the spark of the divine that is in our hearts.’[2] Then we will discover that the divinity within ourselves is one and the same in all individuals, all creatures, all of life. This is everyone’s supreme purpose in life, this is our vocation.

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. It is also known as Vocations Sunday. ‘The word vocation is rooted in the Latin for voice. Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. I must listen for the truths and values at the heart of my own identity.’ [3]  We are all called to shepherd each other. “Our calling as shepherds is not to introduce something new, but to reveal, purify and intensify what is already there. Every shepherd is called to be a Sacrament of the mystical, a reminder for others of their divine loveliness.” [4]  

Adapted:  [1]Richard Rohr   [2] James Finley  [3] Parker Palmer                         [4] Daniel O’ Leary

FIRST READING                                                           Acts 13:43-52

Paul and Barnabas carried on from Perga till they reached Antioch in Pisidia. Here they went to synagogue on the sabbath and took their seats. When the meeting broke up, many Jews and devout converts joined Paul and Barnabas, and in their talks with them Paul and Barnabas urged them to remain faithful to the grace God had given them.The next sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of God. When they saw the crowds, the Jews, prompted by jealousy, used blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly. “We had to proclaim the word of God to you first, but since you have rejected it, since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, we must turn to the pagans. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said: I have made you a light for the nations, so that my salvation may reach the ends of the earth.” It made the pagans very happy to hear this and they thanked the Lord for his message; all who were destined for eternal life became believers. Thus the word of the Lord spread through the whole countryside.

But the Jews worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory.  So they shook the dust from their feet in defiance and went off to Iconium; but the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

GOSPEL                                                                             John 10:27-30

Jesus said: “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life: they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me. The Father who gave them to me is greater than anyone and no one can steal from the Father. The Father and I are one.”

Gospel reflection for 3rd Sunday of Easter: 1st May 2022

The Dawn of a New Day

‘When life gets difficult, when we become lost, confused, and afraid, when the changes of life are not what we wanted or think we deserve, we try to go back to the way it was before, to something safe, something familiar. We revert to old patterns of behaviour and thinking. No wonder that after the events of the previous days, Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” My hunch, however, is that Peter is not really trying to catch fish as much as he is fishing for answers. We can leave the places and even the people of our life but we can never escape ourselves or our life. We take ourselves with us wherever we go. Peter may have left Jerusalem but he cannot get away from all that happened during those three years of discipleship. So he fishes for answers. What have I done? What were those three years about? Who was Jesus? Where is he? Who am I? What will I do now? Where will I go? What will happen to me? Peter is dark night fishing. We have all been there, asking the same questions as Peter, looking for our place in life, seeking peace, and some sense of understanding and meaning; fishing through the darkness but ‘catching’ nothing. We come to the limits of our own self-sufficiency, when we have nothing to show for our efforts and nothing left to give. We are empty. But this emptiness is not the end or a failure. It is a beginning.’1

Then “it was light and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus.” He looked like another fisherman. ‘The limited presence they had called Jesus has become a universal presence we call the Christ who is available beyond all the limitations of space, time, ethnicity, nationality, class and gender. He no longer looks like the Jesus the disciples knew. He looks like you and me. The Christ Mystery is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything and is encountered in ordinary occupations like fishing and is present in all the circumstances of our lives.’2

Returning to the familiarity of our former routines may help initially but at some point we may become aware that we need to ‘cast our nets’ in another direction, that we need to see and do things differently. Only then will we experience what it means to be “filled with the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19), a fullness that belongs to everyone. (The number153 refers to the fact that at that time in Israel the Jewish people believed that there were 153 nations on earth.)

‘The dark night of fishing has given way to the dawn of a new day, new hopes, new possibilities.’1

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

Gospel John 21:1-19

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything friends? And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’ They knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

Reflection on 5th Sunday in Lent: 3rd April 2022

Allow ourselves to be loved and “gazed upon” by God.

As with last week’s reading, today we once again reflect on God as being loving and merciful. ‘The gospel story begins with a deathly accusation but ends with divine mercy. Where the community’s condemnation would have led the adulterous woman to death, Jesus’ mercy leads her to new life. A story that begins with exposing the sin of an individual ends with exposing the sinfulness of all. Where the people begin with awareness of the woman’s sinfulness, they are transformed, through encountering Jesus, into awareness of their own sinfulness. A story that begins with human testing of the divine ends with a divine invitation to repent, to a change of heart. Jesus reveals a new order in which all are called to repentance and to the experience of divine mercy, to the experience of being God’s beloved.’1

‘We can’t seem to know the good news that we are God’s beloved on our own. It has to be mirrored to us. Another has to tell us we are beloved. Jesus looked at the woman and said, “I don’t condemn you.” Before this gaze of Love, we gradually disrobe and allow ourselves to be seen, to be known in every nook and cranny, nothing hidden, nothing denied, nothing disguised. The wonderful thing is, after a while, we feel so safe that we know we don’t have to pretend or disguise any more. We don’t have to put on any kind of costume.’2 However ‘we can’t love and live on our own terms.’3 ‘We want to give ourselves to this love but we discover that we can’t get to where we want to go and stay in the comfort zone of where we are.’4 “Go, and sin no more.”

‘Letting our naked self be known by God is always to recognise our need for mercy and our own utter inadequacy and littleness. Knowing our need for mercy opens us to receiving mercy. We all stand under an immense waterfall of loving mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

‘God doesn’t love us because we are good. God loves us because God is good!’2

Adapted: [1] Living Liturgy [2] Richard Rohr [3]Thomas Merton [4] James Finley

Gospel: John 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their questions, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? ‘No one, sir,’ she replied. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go away, and don’t sin any more.”

Reflection on 4th Sunday of Lent: 27th March 2022

What about the Bath?

Episcopalian priest Michael Marsh speaks about an experience he had when teaching the story of the prodigal son. ‘Bob, a gentleman who was probably in his 70s, had been quiet and attentive throughout the evening. When I finished speaking Bob was the first one out of his chair. I could tell that he was upset. “What about the bath,” he demanded. “You didn’t say anything about the bath.” I had no idea what he was talking about and told him that I did not understand his comment. He became more agitated the longer he talked. “You know where he had been! The son was dirty and smelly. The father would never hug him, kiss him, or put a robe on him until the son first had a bath. Why didn’t you talk about the bath?” I explained that a bath was not part of the story, that we can never ‘get clean enough’ to go home. The father receives the son as he is. The son is immersed in his father’s love. Bob just could not believe that, so together we read the story again. When we got to the end his eyes filled with tears and he said, “All my life I thought this story said the son had to take a bath before he could go home.” I said to him, “And all your life you have been trying to get clean enough to go home.” He simply nodded in silence, tears running down his face.

Each of us can probably name parts of our life and being that we have judged unacceptable and unclean. They are the parts of ourselves that we dislike, condemn, and sometimes even hate. We allow them to declare that we are not enough to be God’s child, never have been, and never will be, so we exile those aspects of ourselves to the distant country. We then live as fragmented, broken, persons trying to get clean enough to come home. Over and over the voice of the Prodigal Son echoes in our ears, “Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” The unclean parts of our lives are real, but they are not our final reality. Instead of keeping us from going home, they become the way home. They become places of healing, new life, wholeness and forgiveness.’

We, too, will then feel immersed in love. ‘You will experience the presence of God within you, which some theologians name uncreated grace. You can’t manufacture this by any right conduct. God isn’t going to love you any more than God loves you right now. We can’t diminish God’s love for us. What we can do, however, is to learn how to believe it, receive it, trust it, allow it and celebrate it.’               

Richard Rohr

Gospel Luke 15:1-3.11-32

The tax collectors and the sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what he had to say, and the Pharisees and the scribes complained. ‘This man’ they said, ‘welcomes sinners and eats with them’. So he spoke this parable to them:

“A man had two sons. The younger said to his father, “Father, let me have the share of the estate that would come to me.” So the father divided the property between them. A few days later, the younger son got together everything he had and left for a distant country where he squandered his money on a life of debauchery. ‘When he had spent it all, that country experienced a severe famine, and now he began to feel the pinch, so he hired himself out to one of the local inhabitants who put him on his farm to feed the pigs. And he would willingly have filled his belly with the husks the pigs were eating, but no one offered him anything. Then he came to his senses and said, “How many of my father’s paid servants have more food than they want, and here am I dying of hunger! I will leave this place and go to my father and say: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your paid servants.” So he left the place and went back to his father.

While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly. Then his son said, “Father I have sinner against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the calf we have been fattening, and kill it; we are going to have a feats, a celebration, because this son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate.

‘Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. “Your brother has come” replied the servant “and your father has killed the calf we had fattened because he has got him back safe and sound.” He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out to plead with him; but he answered his father, “Look, all these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed your orders, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property – he and his women – you kill the calf we had been fattening.”

‘The father said, “My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours. But it is only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found.”‘

Reflection on 3rd Sunday in Lent: 20th March 2022

Ask a Better Question

The poet, theologian and conflict mediator Pádraig Ó Tuama describes the Buddhist concept of “mu,” or un-asking.  If someone asks a question that’s too small, too confining, Ó Tuama writes, you can answer with this word mu, which means, “Un-ask the question, because there’s a better question to be asked:  a wiser question, a deeper question, a truer question,  a question that expands possibility and resists fear.

In today’s gospel some people come to Jesus with headline news of horror and tragedy. They are longing to make sense of the senseless. They are looking for formulas to eradicate the mystery because mystery unnerves us. Yet they already have an answer in mind. They show up hoping to confirm what they already believe. They come expecting Jesus to verify their deeply held assumption that people suffer because they’re sinful: that folks get what they deserve, that bad things happen to bad people. How different are the beliefs we hold about human suffering?  When the unspeakable happens, what default settings do we revert to?  Jesus typically responds by inviting the people to engage in a story. Theories don’t heal.  Formulas can be reductive.  Platitudes are flat.  And questions that call for shallow answers aren’t worth asking in the face of tragedy. But stories?  Stories open up possibility. Stories include, unmake, and transform us. The parable Jesus tells invites questions in several directions at once: 

In what ways am I like the absentee landowner, standing apart from where life and death actually happen?  Where in my life – or in the lives of others – have I prematurely called it quits, saying, “There’s no life here worth cultivating.  Cut it down”  

In what ways am I like the fig tree:  un-enlivened,  un-nourished,  unable or unwilling to nourish others?  In what ways do I feel helpless or hopeless,  ignored or dismissed?  What kinds of tending would it take to bring me back to life?  Am I willing to receive such care?  Will I consent to change?  Might I dare to flourish in a world where I have thus far been invisible?

In what ways am I like the gardener?  Where in my life am I willing to accept Jesus’ invitation to go elbow-deep into the muck and manure?  Where do I see life where others see death?   Am I brave enough to sacrifice time, effort, love, and hope into this tree — this relationship, this cause, this tragedy, this injustice — with no guarantee of a fruitful outcome?  

 Jesus asks us to repent, to change our minds and hearts. Imagine a deeper story.  Ask a better question.  Live a better answer.                     

Debie Thomas. https://www.journeywithjesus.net

Gospel: Luke 13:1-9

Some people arrived and told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices. At this he said to them, ‘Do you suppose these Galileans who suffered like that were greater sinners than any other Galileans? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen on whom the tower at Siloam fell and killed them? Do you suppose that they were more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem? They were not, I tell you. No; but unless you repent you will all perish as they did.’

He told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard and he came looking for fruit on it but found none. He said to the man who looked after the vineyard, “Look here, for three years now I have been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and finding none. Cut it down: why should it be taking up the ground?” “Sir”, the man replied “leave it one more year and give me time to dig round it and manure it: it may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down.”

Reflection on 2nd Sunday in Lent: 13th March 2022

A Wonderful Experience

The mountain top experience referred to in today’s gospel is a unique peak experience for Peter, James and John, another revelation of Jesus as the Beloved Son and an invitation for us to rediscover our belovedness. ‘Each one of us has our own venue of transformation/transfiguration. For some it might be art, for others it might be poetry or silence or whatever experience takes us to the deeper place’1 where we experience the presence of and our oneness with the One in whose image we are created. Like the apostles, we want to prolong those peak experiences. Jan Richardson beautifully describes how we might feel: ‘Believe me, I know how tempting it is to remain inside this blessing, to linger where everything is dazzling and clear. We could build walls around this blessing, put a roof over it. We could bring in a table, chairs, have the most amazing meals. We could make a home. We could stay. But this blessing is built for leaving. This blessing is made for coming down the mountain. This blessing wants to be in motion, to travel with you as you return to level ground. It will seem strange how quiet this blessing becomes when it returns to earth. It is not shy. It is not afraid. It simply knows how to bide its time, to watch and wait, to discern and pray until the moment comes when it will reveal everything it knows, when it will shine forth with all it has seen, when it will dazzle with the unforgettable light you have carried all this way.’2

From the comfort of our own homes it is easy to relate to the beauty and truth of these words. But what will they mean to all who are suffering worldwide from war and climate crisis? With Jan Richardson we pray ‘for every place broken by violence and hatred; for every person in pain and grief, this blessing is for you, from me, in sorrow and hope : There is nothing a blessing is better suited for than an ending, nothing that cries out more for a blessing than when a world is falling apart. This blessing will not fix you, will not mend you, will not give you false comfort; it will not talk to you about one door opening when another closes. It will simply sit itself beside you among the shards and gently turn your face toward the direction from which the light will come, gathering itself about you as the world begins again.’2

We pray that each person in pain will, in time, be able to reconnect with whatever renews their spirit and will again experience the wonder of God as “a Presence that protects us from nothing but unexplainably sustains us in all things.”

[1] Adapted : [1] James Finley [2] Jan Richardson: paintedprayerbook.com

Gospel Luke 9:28-36

Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up the mountain to pray. As he prayed, the aspect of his face was changed and his clothing became brilliant as lighting. Suddenly there were two men there talking to him; they were Moses and Elijah appearing in glory, and they were speaking of his passing which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were heavy with sleep, but they kept awake and saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As these were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you one for Moses and one for Elijah.” – He did not know what he was saying. As he spoke, a cloud came and covered them with shadow; and when they went into the cloud the disciples were afraid. And a voice came from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.” And after the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. The disciples kept silence and, at that time, told no one what they had seen.

Reflection on 1st Sunday in Lent: 6th March 2022

Ritual

Ritual is an essential element of our lives. This fact has been established by studies carried out in various fields – psychology, sociology, anthropology and theology. ‘Ritual is to be cherished as a life-sustaining system for individuals and their communities.’

New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship.

If we examine our lives, we will discover that hardly a day passes without us participating in some form of ritual associated with events such as our daily meals, home-making, participating in a team sport, the development of a relationship, preparations for a wedding, for birthdays, for Christmas, for Easter. ‘Ritual helps to ‘connect’ us with those aspects of our lives which we consider important. Ritual entails an element of commitment. It challenges us and invites us to live a certain lifestyle which may involve the decision to change our present lifestyle. Rituals are an expression of our innermost search for meaning in our lives. They renew and revitalise us. True ritual is life-giving for those who fully participate.’

Michael Pennock

The liturgical cycle is rich in ritual experiences but it could be said that we experience the elements of ritual most intensely during the season of Lent. We enter into this season with a sense of purpose and awareness that this is a special time to reflect on ‘the true purpose of all spiritual disciplines, which is to clear away whatever may block our awareness of that which is God in us.’

Howard Thurman

Giving something up for Lent is a custom which may help us do this ‘but this can become simply a way that I show God – and others – how strong I am. It is more about me than my relationship with God.’

onlineministries.creighton

‘Today’s Gospel story follows immediately on from Jesus’ baptism. Each of the three temptations touches on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, which had been revealed at his baptism: ‘This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.’ Secure in the knowledge of his divine identity, Jesus had the strength to overcome the temptations which were temptations to the misuse of power for purposes less than God’s purpose.

R.Rohr

‘Do we approach the coming weeks of Lent as an invitation to spend time in the ‘desert’ of quiet times, rediscovering our divine identity? What if our Lenten ritual this year is to reclaim and re-treasure that which is of ultimate importance and infinite value – people, relationships, justice and compassion, forgiveness, beauty, and time to reconnect with whatever renews our spirit and deepens our experience of love? As we reclaim and re-treasure we somehow get ourselves back. We’re more whole, more complete.

J. Richardson

Gospel Luke 4:1-13

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil for forty days. During that time, he ate nothing, and at the end he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.’ But Jesus replied, ‘Scripture says: Man does not live on bread alone.’

Then leading him to a height, the devil showed him in a moment of time, all the kingdoms of the world and said to him, ‘I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, for it has been committed to me and I will give it to anyone I choose. Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered him. ‘Scripture says; You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

Then he led him to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said to him ‘throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: He will put his angels in charge of you to guard you, and again: They will hold you up on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’ But Jesus answered him, ‘It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him, to return at the appointed time.

Reflection on 7th Sunday: 20th February 2022

Compassion

‘Compassionate action means working with ourselves as much as working with others.’1 When we are at the receiving end of the negative actions of others, we are asked to look beyond the actions themselves and see what is at the root of their negative behaviour: ‘fear, anger, jealousy, ignorance, indifference; being overpowered by addictions of all kinds; arrogance, pride, selfishness. We are being asked to have compassion and to care for these people and also not to run from the pain of finding these things in ourselves.’2 ‘What if I should discover that the most impudent of offenders are all within me; and that I stand in need of the alms of my own kindness; that I, myself, am the enemy who must be loved — what then?’3 ‘Compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all the wounded parts of ourselves, all those imperfections that we don’t even want to look at. As we learn to have compassion for ourselves, the circle of compassion for others becomes wider.’2

In the scientific study of positive psychology, self-compassion is considered to be the most important topic in psychology. ‘Why? Because we learned through experience, in our own life and the life of our clients, that it affects virtually everything. We believe the relationship we have with ourselves shapes our daily experiences profoundly. If we do not accept ourselves for who we are and we feel that we can only be “enough” if we reach certain standards, we are bound to a life of suffering.’4 ‘We continually struggle with the paradox of the mixture of good and bad within ourselves, within others, within reality. We can only surrender to the mystery of that paradox by trustfully allowing God to lovingly hold together the opposites within us, within our neighbour, even our enemy and within reality itself.’5 ‘Compassion does not originate in us. It begins with God.’6 ‘In choosing to be compassionate, we are yielding to the compassionate nature of God flowing through us. Compassion is the love that recognises and goes forth to identify with the preciousness of all that is lost and broken within ourselves and others.’1

Adapted: [1]James Finley [2] Pema Chodron [3] Carl Jung [4]
https://positivepsychology.com [5] Richard Rohr [6] CS Lewis

Gospel: Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who love you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to received, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.”

Reflection on 6th Sunday: 13th February 2022

Do Something

We are accustomed to hearing the Beatitudes expressed passively, i.e. in accepting or allowing what happens to us without our active response. Archbishop Em Elias Chacour writes: ‘Blessed is the translation of the word makarioi, used in the Greek New Testament. However, when I look further back to Jesus’ Aramaic, I find that the original word was ashray which does not have this passive quality to it at all. Instead, it means to set yourself on the right way for the right goal; to get up, go ahead, do something.’ Jesus is not talking about doing virtuous deeds so we’ll be rewarded later. He is talking about making transformational choices so that we will experience eternal life now. He is asking us to make the choice to:

  • be poor, ‘begging for the things of the spirit, gratefully receiving 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;

Piero Archiati

  • be hungry and ‘find our deepest aliveness within God’s aliveness; – be open when we experience the brutal emptiness of mourning, believing that the tendrils of our grief trailing out into the unknown become intertwined in a greater love that holds all things together’;

Cynthia Bourgeault

  • ‘trust God more than the external circumstances of our lives.’

M. Marsh

The followers of Jesus must have struggled to understand and accept his teaching. There are times in our lives when our life situation is so overwhelming that the last thing we want anyone to say to us is, “Be happy” – even if that person is Jesus!

Eckhart Tolle differentiates between our life situation and our life. ‘There is something within you that remains unaffected by the transient circumstances of your life situation, and only through surrender do you have access to it. It is your life, your very Being.’

When we are experiencing the physical, emotional and psychological consequences of difficult life situations, the something we do may simply be to turn to ‘our little survival strategies, our rituals of nurturance, that we know if we’re faithful to them, we will be more grounded, more present. It might be a real, real, long hot shower, a walk around the block, being in touch with nature, a phone call, making muffins, having a sip of tea. In that rested state, grounded in who we are in God, we can then move forward as best we can to touch with love the hurting places in ourselves and others.’

James Finley

We will then experience the Kingdom of Heaven, ‘which is really a metaphor for a radical transformation of consciousness.’

R. Rohr

Gospel Luke 6:12,20-26

Jesus came down with the twelve and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he said: “Blessed are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now: you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now: you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven. This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

“But alas for you who are rich: you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now: you shall grow hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now: you shall mourn and weep.

“Alas for you when the world speaks well of you! This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.