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.

Reflection on 4th Sunday: 30th January 2022

Love

“A person is bored to death with a story they have heard repeated over and over but have never really listened to it.”1 We could say the same about hearing a single word e.g. the word Love. In today’s first reading ‘Paul writes less about what love is and more about what love does.’2 So much of our world is focused on making us feel like human “doings” instead of human beings. Moving into solitude and silence enables us to overcome the external pressure to perform and enables us to simply be.3

Last week we spoke about the practice of Lectio Divina  (Divine Reading) which has been a recognised way of praying the Scriptures, where we keep returning to a word or phrase which deepens our experience of God. Today we could sit with the word Love and really listen to what it says to us about God and about ourselves. Perhaps we may stay with just one of the following descriptions of love:

God is love.

God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him/her.

‘Love is who we are.

Love has an infinite quality like the very being of God!

Divine love is absolute open-heartedness. When we’re in that space, our energy flows outward and even expands.

We were created by a loving God to be love in the world.’3

How can we possibly be bored if we truly listened to what the word Love says to us? ‘Love is our origin, Love is our sustaining ground and love is our destiny. We may ask ourselves, “What will become of us if we surrender to this Love which permeates every moment of our lives?”  What will become of us if we don’t?’4

[1] GK Chesterton; [2] Joel Ryan; Adapted from [3] Richard Rohr; [4] James Finley

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13

Be ambitious for the higher gifts. And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.  If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a symbol clashing. If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all. If I give away all that I posses, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.  Love is always patient and kind: it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. 

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue for ever; and knowledge – for this too, the time will come when it must fail. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.  When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child, and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me. Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face. The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.  In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

Reflection on 3rd Sunday: 23rd Jan 2022

What do we bring to our listening? 

‘Today’s gospel reading is often described as Jesus’ inaugural address, his mission statement. He is saying very clearly what he is going to stand for and it is summarised so simply. He ends the quote from Isaiah with the proclamation of a year of favour from the Lord but he omits the words which follow in Isaiah 61:2 : “and the day of our God’s vengeance.” Jesus has not come to proclaim judgment. His message is not one of retribution or retributive justice. This is a classic text for what we call restorative justice. God’s justice is fulfilled by lovingly and patiently remaking us into His image and likeness. Jesus announced that he has come to replace the old Jewish love of law with a new law of love.’1 We know only too well how those in the synagogue responded to Jesus’ words. The verses following today’s reading indicate how ‘they closed their minds to the message and the messenger. The whole episode shows that what we hear depends greatly on what we bring to our listening.’2

What do we bring to our listening to God when he speaks to us? We have heard the weekly readings so often. Do we really listen to them?  For many years the practice of Lectio Divina  (Divine Reading) has been a recognised way of praying the Scriptures, where we keep returning to a word or phrase which deepens our experience of God’s oneness with us. ‘We are like a child who chooses the same bedtime story night after night and never tires of hearing it. It’s not just the book that the parents are reading. It’s also the way the parents and child are connecting in the reading of the book and delighting in their relationship.’ [3] ‘Hearing is about more than sound. It is about our presence, openness, and receptivity.’ [4] When we bring these qualities to our listening we are like the pre-school child who was listening to his teacher tell a story. When it was finished, he rubbed his tummy and said, “I feel so full!”

At the beginning of each year, let us become as little children and bring the familiar Scripture stories and sit in the presence of God. ‘We’re not listening for information. It’s not our intention to be transformed or to grow, although that will happen. Our desire is simply to be in relationship with the Source of infinite love.’3 And maybe we will hear Jesus say to us, ‘This is being fulfilled today even as you listen.’ 

Adapted: [1] Richard Rohr    [2] galwaydiocese.ie/reflection    [3] James Finley  [4] Michael Marsh

Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 

Seeing that many others have undertaken to draw up accounts of the events that have taken place among us, exactly as these were handed down to us by those who from the outset were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, I in my turn, after carefully going over the whole story from the beginning, have decided to write an ordered account for you, Theophilus, so that your Excellency may learn how well founded the teaching is that you have received. 

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised him. 

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the Synagogue on the sabbath day as he usually did. He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written: ‘The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me.  He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.’ 

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down. And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to speak to them, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.” 

Gospel Reflection on All Saints: 31st October 2021

Experiencing the Holy

‘On All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Nov. 2), we are invited to be aware of deep time when past, present, and future time all come together as one. If you have Celtic sensibilities especially at this time of year there is a heightened recognition of this time being a “thin place” between this world and the next. These are the days when the other world and this world come together. This is when the invisible world and the visible world meet.’1

‘Reality for us is determined by and limited to the five physical senses. If it cannot be seen, tasted, touched, smelled or heard then for us it is not real. We tend to live with a veil that separates the exteriorized world of tangible, measurable, rational information from that other world, the inner world of mystery, transformation, and encounter. There are moments, however, when we stand in the “thin place” where the veil is parted between this world and the other world, between heaven and earth, between the divine and the human, between matter and spirit, between the eternal and the temporal. In the thin place the duality of those pairings disappears and we now stand in union, wholeness, and ultimately holiness. Thin places invite us to step outside the five senses, to step outside what we know, what we can understand and explain. They invite us to be astounded by the greatness of God, to enter the tremendous mystery of God’s presence and love.’2

We each have our own experiences of thin places: when we feel one with the divine in our relationships with others; when we taste wonder in nature, literature, music and art; when we welcome a child into this world as they take their first breath at birth; when we accompany a loved one as with their last breath they leave this world. ‘We do not often talk about our experiences of these thin places. It is not because those encounters are not real. It is, rather, because they are too real, too real for words. Words could never describe the experience and would only diminish the mystery and greatness of that encounter. In the thin places we know that we not only stand in the presence of the holy but we experience our own holiness, our union with God.’2

The more we allow our ‘thin place’ experiences to deepen our awareness of the reality of our wholeness, our union with God, the more we will know that we are truly blessed and we will want all people to experience that blessedness. Our response will be to live the beatitudes, to be involved in the building up of the world we live in, helping to make it a place of truth, love, compassion, justice, freedom and peace.  

[1] Richard Rohr   [2]  Michael Marsh

Gospel Matthew 5:1-12

Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill.  There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.  Then he began to speak.  This is what he taught them: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.  Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them. Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Gospel Reflection on 30th Sunday: 24th October 2021

Let me see again

Once again we hear Jesus ask the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” Last week, we saw that James and John responded to that question by requesting positions of prestige. This week, a vulnerable Bartimaeus’ response is ‘Let me see again.’ We can perhaps identify with the pain he has experienced in having lost the ability to see and his pain of having forgotten the beauty of all that is around him.

We are all aware that there are different ways of seeing. To illustrate this Richard Rohr tells the following story:

Three Ways to View the Sunset

Three men stood by the ocean, looking at the same sunset. One man saw the immense physical beauty and enjoyed the event in itself. This man was the “sensate” type who, like 80 percent of the world, deals with what he can see, feel, touch, move, and fix. This was enough reality for him, for he had little interest in larger ideas, intuitions, or the grand scheme of things. He saw with his first eye, which was good.   

A second man saw the sunset. He enjoyed all the beauty that the first man did. Like all lovers of coherent thought, technology, and science, he also enjoyed his power to make sense of the universe and explain what he discovered. He thought about the cyclical rotations of planets and stars. Through imagination, intuition, and reason, he saw with his second eye, which was even better.

The third man saw the sunset, knowing and enjoying all that the first and the second men did. But in his ability to progress from seeing to explaining to “tasting,” he also remained in awe before an underlying mystery, coherence, and spaciousness that connected him with everything else. He used his third eye, which is the full goal of all seeing and all knowing. This was the best.

The mystical gaze builds upon the first two eyes — and yet goes further. It happens whenever, by some wondrous “coincidence,” our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and non-resistant. I like to call it presence. It is experienced as a moment of deep inner connection, and it always pulls you, intensely satisfied, into the naked and undefended now, which can involve both profound joy and profound sadness. At that point, you either want to write poetry, pray, or be utterly silent.

Extract from The Naked Now’ Richard Rohr

The more we can see our life experiences in the same way as the third man, then the deeper the pain we feel when circumstances cloud that vision. Then our prayer is also: ‘Lord, let me see again.’ When we lose sight of the wonder of who we are in God we are like the little 4 year-old girl who whispered to her baby brother: ‘Won’t you tell me what God is like. I’m starting to forget.’

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Gospel Mark 10:46-52

As Jesus left Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting at the side of the road.   When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout and to say, “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.” And many of them scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he only shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have pity on me,” Jesus stopped and said. “Call him here.” So they called the blind man. “Courage,” they said “get up: he is calling you,” So throwing off his cloak, he jumped up and went to Jesus. Then Jesus spoke, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Rabbuni.” the blind man said to him, “Master, let me see again.”  Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.”  And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.

Gospel Reflection on 28th Sunday: 10th October 2021

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

You come here not to gaze at God
but to let God gaze at you1

We could stay with these words for as long as it takes to reawaken our awareness that we already ‘possess’ eternal life. Like the man in today’s gospel, we can’t fully understand what that means ‘because we can only allow ourselves to be grasped by it. That kind of surrender is needed if we are ever to experience the Eternal within us.’2 Jesus looked steadily at that young man and loved him. ‘Jesus saw that the young man had identified himself with his possessions. His sense of self was wrapped in his belongings. To give them up he felt that he would lose himself.’3 So he went away sad, for he was a man of many possessions.

‘Our ‘possessions’ can take the shape of a person, ideology, place or thing that we have an attachment for: someone or something to whom we have handed over the power to make us happy or unhappy. To really hear a symphony, we must be sensitively attuned to every instrument in the orchestra. When we take pleasure only in the drum, we cease to hear the symphony because the sound of the drum has blotted out the other instruments. A preference does not damage our capacity to hear and enjoy the other instruments, but the moment our preference turns into attachment, it hardens us to the other sounds and we suddenly undervalue them. Awareness, rather than renunciation, shows us the loss we suffer when we overvalue the drum and when we turn a deaf ear to the rest of the orchestra. When we no longer think that our happiness depends on a person, place or thing, we will move through life living from one moment to the other, wholly absorbed in the present, carrying with us little from the past, living in the eternal now. And we will have found in our heart the answer to the question, “Master, what is it that I must do to gain eternal life?” ‘4

[1] Words quoted in a Hindu temple [2] R.Rohr [3] Matthew Wright [4] Anthony de Mello

Gospel Mark 10:17-30

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, “Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” And he said to him, “Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.” Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, “There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, “My children,” he said to them “How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were more astonished than ever. “In that case” they said to one another “who can be saved?” Jesus gazed at them. “For men” he said “it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.”

Peter took this up. “What about us?” he asked him. “We have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.”

Reflection on 21st Sunday: 22nd August 2021

“Lord to whom shall we go?”

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

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

Richard Rohr. Adapted

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

John O’Donohue

Gospel John 6: 60-69

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

Reflection on 19th Sunday: 8th August 2021

Is There Life Within You?

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

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

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

Adapted: Michael Marsh

Second Reading Ephesians 4:30-5:2

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

Gospel John 6:41-51

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

Gathering the Fragments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel John 6:1-15

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

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