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

Betwixt and Between

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

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

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

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

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

Readings

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

Lectio Divina: News

Our Lectio Divina group considered the Gospel for Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

You can read their reflections here.

One of the group wrote “On Friday we celebrated our ‘First Birthday’, if we can call it that; a full year of Lectio Divina online. It seems that it has passed very quickly. I must say, that for me, this is the work of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if this has benefited many people outside the group but it certainly has benefited all of us. The support from everybody in the group has helped us all to get through these lockdowns and keep our spirits high.”

Reflection for 5th of Lent: 21st March 2021

True Life

“Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.” ‘What is the life we have to lose and what is the life we have to find? Thomas Merton speaks of the false self and true self. It is the false self that has to die, but we are all so attached to it. Our false self is who we think we are but our thinking doesn’t make it so. We define ourselves by our singularity, our separateness, our differences, and we spend most of our life over-defining that. All the stuff that we pretend to be and we think we are, is almost entirely created by our mind, our culture, our family. That is what is passing, that is what is going to die. That is not who we are. We confuse this idea of ourselves with who we actually are in God. St Paul tells us that ‘we are hidden with Christ in God’. The Eastern religions describe it as the ‘face you had before you were born.’ Jesus is inviting us to return to our anchored self, our eternal self, our true self where we are all exactly the same – the beloved of God.

R.Rohr

If we can risk losing our false self, true love and community are possible. “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”

The seed is in the ground.
Now may we rest in hope
While darkness does its work.

Wendell Berry

After reading the above poem, the composer Andrew Maxfield said, “I fell in love with the word darkness. Often I associate the idea of hope with light, and so the connection to darkness caught me off guard. But in the life of a seed, darkness is indeed the context of hope, where hope must be greatest before the realisation of that hope opens into the first glimpses of light and bits of green.” If we allow darkness to do its work within us as we go through the process of dying to who we think we are, we will discover who we really are. Our grain of wheat will then become bread for others.

Gospel John 12:20-33

Among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. These approached Philip, who came from Bethsaida in Galilee, and put this request to him, “Sir, we should like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew, and Andrew and Philip together went to tell Jesus. Jesus replied to them: “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you, most solemnly, unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest. Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life. If a man serves me, he must follow me; wherever I am, my servant will be there too. If anyone serves me, my Father will honour him. Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father glorify your name!” A voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

People standing by, who heard this, said it was a clap of thunder; others said, “It was an angel speaking to him.” Jesus answered, “It was not for my sake that this voice came, but for yours. Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of the world is to be overthrown. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself”. By these words he indicated the kind of death he would die.

Reflection on 4th in Lent: 14th March 2021

Eternal Life

“God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Unfortunately, the phrase eternal life is often misinterpreted to mean life in heaven after you die — as are kingdom of God and its synonym, kingdom of heaven — so I think we need to find a better rendering. If eternal life doesn’t mean “life after death,” what does it mean? Later in John’s Gospel, Jesus reduces the phrase simply to life or life to the full. Near the end of John’s account, Jesus makes a particularly fascinating statement in a prayer, and it is as close as we get to a definition: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). So here, eternal life means knowing, and knowing means an interactive relationship with the only true God and with Jesus Christ.’1

To know and to be known; to love and to be loved: these are our deepest longings. When we are with someone who knows us, ‘the eyes of the other receiving me, delighting in me, enjoying me and looking at me – make me feel like me and my best me! When we allow ourselves to be perfectly received, to be totally gazed upon by the One who knows everything and receives everything, we are indestructible. From God’s side, the gift is total, once and for all and forever. God’s face is turned towards us absolutely. It is we who have to learn to return the gaze.’2 And when we do, we experience eternal life, we ‘touch eternity’3

“God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” ‘The only thing that separates us from God is the thought that we are separated from God. That’s all. It’s all in our head. We can’t be separated from God. When we surrender to that reality, allow it, enjoy it, draw upon it – that’s what it means to be saved; that’s what it means to have eternal life’2

Adapted: [1] Brian McLaren  [2] Richard Rohr  [3] Daniel O’ Leary

Gospel (John 3:14-21)

Jesus said to Nicodemus: The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be condemned; but whoever refuses to believe is condemned already, because he has refused to believe in the name of God’s only Son. On these grounds is sentence pronounced: that though the light has come into the world  men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God.

Reflection on 3rd in Lent: 7th March 2021

Temple: a Consecrated Space

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

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

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

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

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

Gospel: John (2:13-25)

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

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

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

Reflection on 2nd in Lent: 28th February

Listen to Him

‘The transfiguration of Jesus must have been a glorious experience for Peter, James and John. They wanted to stay there, as we all do when we have a peak experience. But they had to descend into the valley, to live their lives, to follow Jesus. It doesn’t seem that we grow in depth if we only have peak experiences, if we stay on the mountain top. Things have trouble growing on mountaintops. Beyond the tree line almost nothing will grow because it is too cold and there is a lack of moisture. Living things grow best in the valley: they can develop roots; they are grounded. While they may lack the excitement of mountain peaks, valleys tend to be growing places. But it is in the valley that we really acquire depth, rootedness, strength and flexibility. That is where we are called to mature emotionally and spiritually. Of course, we need both; we can’t always live in the valley.’1

‘Often our reading of today’s gospel focuses on what is seen but do we sometimes emphasise the light of transfiguration to the exclusion of the voice of transfiguration? We are looking but are we listening? A voice came from the cloud and said, “This is my Son, my Beloved; listen to him!” ‘Listen’ is the only thing the disciples are told throughout this whole event. Listening is central to transformation. Yet Mark records no words or teaching from Jesus on the mountaintop. Jesus is silent. So it must be about more than words, instructions, and lessons. True listening is an interior quality, a way of being. It is more about the heart than the ears. And it is more about silence than words. Ultimately, listening is about presence.’2

‘We need to find our venue of transformation. For some it might be art, for others it might be poetry or silence or being vulnerable in the presence of that person in whose presence we’re taken to the deeper place. Each one of us needs to find our own place that grants entrance into the deeper place and then be faithful to that.’3 ‘Today we are being invited to find that place, to be present, to be open, to be receptive to the one who is always present to us, whether we are on the mountaintop or in the valley or covered by the cloud of unknowing.’2

Adapted :[1] Queen of Apostles Community qac-ohio.org [2] Michael Marsh [3] James Finley

Gospel: Mark 9:2-10

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.

Lectio Divina: News

We are once again in the Lent Season and it has been a very popular Lectio session.

The group considered the Gospel for the 1st Sunday in Lent Year B.

Mk 1:12-15 Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels looked after him.

You may read their thoughts here. Perhaps their observations will encourage your own reflections on the passage.

One person of the group sent both a reflection and this ‘chant of praise’ after today’s Lectio.

‘I just went in the garden and the first thing I noticed were the wild freesia nodding their little heads. The fragrance is divine. I was reminded that in all the darkness in the world, God is still creating beauty. He is unstoppable, new life is bursting forth everywhere. The birds know it they are singing their hearts out in praise and glory.

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord
Let the earth hear his voice
Praise the Lord praise the Lord
Let the people rejoice Oh come to the Father through Jesus the Son
And give him the glory great things he hath done ‘

Reflection on 1st in Lent: 21st February 2021

Be open to transformation

‘The last sentences of today’s gospel are considered by many as the summary of Jesus’ teaching. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” i.e. now. We don’t die into it; we awaken into it. The Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness. It is a whole new way of seeing, which happens when we ‘repent’ which means to change our mind or turn around. Whatever course we are on we may have to do a 180° turn. And this will entail spending time in the wilderness. “The spirit drove Jesus into the desert.” We seldom freely choose our times of change, transformation or conversion. We are usually driven towards them. Circumstances change, fall apart and undo ‘business as usual’. It’s usually only then that we change. We don’t change until we have to.’1

Today’s gospel encourages us to allow that transformation within us. ‘So many of our external securities are being dismantled as we go through the traumatic experiences of Covid. We all rely on the constancy of the structures of society so when the structures suddenly break open, we start to break open. That’s what trauma is: we can tolerate anything as long as the centre holds, but it’s very scary when the centre starts to go. Lent is a time to reground ourselves, a time to deepen our awareness that our centre is God in whom we live, and move, and have our being, and in these moments of realisation we see that fear has no foundations.’2

All over the world images of the rainbow have reminded us that there is hope and light to follow these days of chaos. Today’s first reading tells us that this good news is grounded in God’s covenant of love with all people and all creation. ‘This infinite love of God is our origin’2 On Ash Wednesday we are reminded that “the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground” (Gen 2:7) This is not meant to be a ‘doom and gloom’ reminder, but a moment of awe and wonder, knowing what God can do with dust.

‘So let us be marked not for sorrow. And let us be marked not for shame.
Let us be marked not for false humility or for thinking we are less than we are,
but for claiming what God can do within the dust, within the dirt,
within the stuff of which the world is made.’3

“Be open to transformation and trust the good news.”

Adapted: [1] Richard Rohr [2] James Finley [3] Jan Richardson: Blessing the Dust

1st Reading: Genesis 9:8-15

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the desert. He was in the desert forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Reflection on Ash Wednesday: 17th February 2021

We begin Lent by blessing and being blessed by the ashes of the palms used in last year’s Palm Sunday celebration. Do we see this as a ‘doom and gloom’ experience, or do we come filled with hope, knowing what God can do with dust?

Blessing the Dust

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners

or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

Did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing

that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made,
and the stars that blaze
in our bones,
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge we bear.

Jan Richardson

Lent 2021

Lent 2021 begins next Wednesday. Ash Wednesday begins our Lenten journey and gives us time to prepare for the Paschal Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We call this period of time Lent, from to derive from the old English for lengthen, because the daylight gets longer as we enter springtime.

Lent was a time when people wore sackcloth and ashes, to show that they were sorry for their sins. Today, we will wear Ashes, to show that we recognise our sinfulness and our willingness to change. Although, this year the symbol of our ashes will not be as usual! Many of us will asked or be asked “what are you giving up for Lent?” and this is a good starting point, but we should remember that Lent is more than giving something up, it is about change and there are three pillars of Lent to help us:

  1. Prayer (justice towards God)
  2. Fasting (justice towards self)
  3. Almsgiving (justice towards neighbour)

Lent gives us a focus, a period to step back from our routines (whatever they are given the past year!) and see what our values and priorities are. What we need to remember is that these three Lenten pillars have in common is that we should be doing them already! They are not something special that we do only for Lent. We only increase these virtues during Lent, and hopefully it carries over for the rest of the year.

Here are some further suggestions to help with our Lenten journey this year:

Lenten Calendars

Lenten Saints:

Lenten reflections/ideas