Reflection on 3rd Sunday of Easter: 26th April 2020

The road between the now and the not-yet.

Today’s gospel tells the story of two dazed and distraught disciples travelling along the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Although they were probably not aware of it, these disciples were in what is called “liminal space”—a particular spiritual position where we hate to be, but where the biblical God is always leading us. The Latin root ‘limen’ literally means “threshold,” referring to that needed transition when we are moving from one place or one state of being to another. Liminal space usually induces some sort of inner crisis: you have left the tried and true (or it has left you), and you have not yet been able to replace it with anything else. It is a time of waiting, a time of transformation. “Waiting is the passionate and contemplative crucible in which new life and spiritual wholeness can be birthed.” (Sue Monk Kidd) It is in this crucible that the solid and fixed material of our lives dissolves and returns to its original state, becoming raw material for transformation. Like the disciples, we will be asked at some point to review the ideas which have accompanied us to this moment in our lives. Even our most sacred beliefs can become encrusted over time, worn out symbols of a living reality that is no longer so alive. We will be invited to bring the old ways into the crucible and heat them with the fire of our desire, vision, passion, and longing.

While we might romanticise this process, it comes with a certain devastation. It is not oriented in what we would ordinarily think of as self-development, but is a required “darkening” we must go through so that we can begin our work anew, with fresh vision. The various “crucible” moments of our lives will not be times of peace, joy, and contentment, but of revolution where we might not be sure if we will make it through to the other side. In many ways, we will not, at least the “me” we thought we were at the start of the process will be gone. If we do not engage consciously in the process of dissolution, as many have discovered, life will bring dissolution to us, by way of transition, change, and psychic upheaval of all kinds: the ending of a relationship we thought would last forever, a shift in our health, the loss of a job, an unexpected depression, the inability to find meaning. This disruption is a forerunner of wholeness but by nature the whole will always include the dark, not only transcend it.

Jesus offered the disciples a completely different lens through which to view their recent traumatic experiences, a lens which was to draw their attention to the nature of the spiritual journey—the paschal rhythm of suffering, death, and resurrection, This necessary suffering leads to new life as the authentic self that God created, that God knows so intimately and that God invites us to live free and unencumbered in his presence.

Adapted : Ruth H. Barton; Matt Licata

“Resurrection is when one moment reveals the meaning of all moments.”

Richard Rohr

Reflection on 14th Sunday: 7 July 2019

One word that occurs in all three readings today is “peace”. Isaiah speaks of God sending “flowing peace, like a river”. Paul speaks of the peace and mercy that come to all who become “an altogether new creature”, a genuinely transformed person in the image of Jesus. And, in the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to bring peace with them to every house they enter. This peace is not dependent on outside circumstances. It can exist even when we are surrounded by storms. It is the peace Jesus experienced after his prayer in the garden. It is the peace that Paul experiences, even though he has had his share of the “cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” and bears in his own body the marks of Jesus’ pain and suffering.

What is this peace? “When we keep our spiritual centre, our spiritual ground; when we know what is essential i.e. to know who we really are at our deepest level, then we experience true peace. Only then can we share what we have to offer.”

R.Rohr

We are called today to become labourers with Jesus in the harvest that is the society in which we live. It is a society that seems so rich and prosperous and yet is so impoverished of the security and peace it so frenetically seeks to find. We are called today to labour so that our society may be gradually transformed into a place where the values of the Gospel, often so little understood even by ourselves, will prevail.

Christianity is not an end in itself. It is simply a very effective way of becoming that altogether new kind of human person that Jesus and Paul speak about. This new person has a deep sense of both God’s utter transcendence and utter immanence, the God who constantly calls us beyond where we are and who, at the same time, deeply penetrates our being and our every experience. This new person lives a life of perfect integrity and truth, a life of deep compassion and concern. This new person lives in freedom and peace.

Living Space / Sacred Space

“Let there be an opening into the quiet that lies beneath the chaos, where you find the peace you did not think possible and see what shimmers within the storm.”

John O’ Donohue

Reflection on the 2nd Sunday in Lent: 17th March 2019

Listen

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.

Often our reading of this story 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 Chosen; listen to him!” ‘Listen’ is the only thing the disciples are told throughout this whole event. Listening is central to transfiguration. Yet Luke records no words or teaching from Jesus during this event. 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.

Listening creates an opening through which the transfigured Christ enters and transforms us. Listening asks of us intention, attention, and letting go of the things that deafen us. Anything that destroys or limits presence is a form of deafness. We are being told 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.

Queen of Apostles website; Michael Marsh