Reflection: Sunday 27 November

Readings: Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Matt 24:37-44

And so we begin Advent, our time of preparation for Christmas, when we celebrate God coming among us. This is a time of excitement and anticipation for many. For others, it is a time when absence is highlighted and pain is increased. This tension must be respected if we are to speak about life.

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks of what God’s coming will look like, war will be no more. While there have been times in human history where advances are made in bringing peace, it is clear such progress is not linear. God is among us but there are those who march to the beat of a different drum.

The parousia or second coming of Christ was expected imminently in the first century. The second reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans and today’s Gospel of Matthew show this. During this time of Advent it is good for us to consider our preparedness to celebrate God’s presence among us at Christmas – am I ready for God’s self-gift to me? Am I living a life that is true to my beliefs? And if my answer is ‘no’ what am I going to do about it? Today’s readings challenge us to be the best version of ourselves, establish habits that enable our best selves to shine.

Again and again our faith confirms that, while we must each do our part of individual conversion to what God asks of us, we find our salvation in community. Thus I need to think about ‘we’ rather than just ‘me’. Am I ready to do that? This could be a goal for our Advent journey.  

Reflection: Sunday 20 November

Readings: Col 1:12-20; Luke 25:34-43

‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36). This quote from John’s Gospel is at the heart of our understanding of today’s feast of Christ the King. There have been many times over the centuries when the Church has adopted a triumphal persona – aligning itself with temporal power, including crowning kings, queens and emperors. But this is not the type of king that Jesus is. It is not just a matter of a correct understanding of the type of king that Jesus is and what God’s reign looks like but this feast provides a salutary lesson to us about power and how we should wield it.

The second reading gives us an idea of the scope of the Christ – universal: ‘in him, all things hold together’. Take a moment to ponder that – and let it blow your mind! It doesn’t really matter where you start, on the macro level of the vastness of space with all its galaxies or the micro level of the sub-atomic, along with everything in between. ‘in him, all things hold together’ – now there’s a statement!

Since Jesus Christ is king, what does his reign look like? Paul tells us that God’s reign comes through a Greek word that is translated as ‘righteousness’. Rather than leap to ‘self-righteous’ with its pejorative connotations, the Greek word can also be translated as ‘justice’ and ‘right relationships’. Those are words we humans can get our heads around more easily, emphasising the relational nature of our salvation: ‘whenever you did this to one of the least of these members of my family, you did it to me’ (Matt 25:40). 

If we humans hold power over others, then we need to use that power to promote justice and right relationships. This is the servant leadership of Jesus at the foot washing of the disciples: ‘So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you’. Such is the kingship of Jesus. 

Sacraments

A young woman

dies in her mother’s arms.

Past devastation

and panic,

Hope flickers.

No life signs

for 10 minutes.

A glimmer remains,

a bare spark

which over 20 years

is fanned into flame

By love.

We gather in a church

named ‘Resurrection’

to celebrate

a different kind

of resurrection

fashioned by

Faith, hope and love.

Each person who speaks

is a living sacrament

Or awed in their presence.

‘The greatest of these is love’

from St Paul

is never more true

over this time 

that is a loving embrace

for all privileged 

to be present.

As the priest prays

‘May the body of Christ

bring us to eternal life’

he names 

the wondrous reality

of our salvation

so powerfully

on display.

The power of music

Went to a gig

With my son.

Great show

And the performer helped

The crowd really get into it.

More than once 

He said:

‘Thank you for the chance

To sing for you tonight’.

That blessing of music

Cut both ways.

Communion

A term of significant theological heft

Takes many forms.

A beautiful version 

Was on display 

As the crowd

Clapped and danced along

But singing 

In unison,

Crowd and performer,

Is precious.

More precious still

Sharing this

With my son.

Reflection: Sunday 13 November

Readings: Mal 3:19-20; Ps 98:5-9; 2 These 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19

A number of today’s readings speak of justice. We all want to be treated justly. But what does that look like? Surely we need to move past subjective notions – justice is more than ‘I got what I wanted’. When we speak of justice, fairness is never far away. Yet, let us not be stuck in ideas of fairness where everyone ‘gets the same’. We need only look around at any group of people, acknowledge their array of differences, then note that for everyone to ‘get the same’ treatment, punishment or reward would, in fact, be manifestly unfair. That there are political forces wishing to treat a given legal situation ‘the same’ without giving due weight to an individual’s circumstances should make us wonder what else is going on.

Since ‘the Lord comes to rule the earth with justice’ what might that look like? Justice in the bible is frequently fighting for those who are downtrodden: ‘there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays’. 

Justice also looks like doing the right thing, being a good example and working for the good of the community as we see in Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians.

The Gospel gives us another window on to justice. There are times when we have no power over a situation but can still choose what we do, so we maintain our faith in God, in Jesus – and the immediate result is pain. Like those before us over the centuries, we need to stay the course and know that God will take care of the rest – in this life or the next.

Eclipse

So many natural

wonders

pass us by

as we lose

ourselves

in lists and imperatives,

obligations and striving.

Yet if we open ourselves

to ponder

and be moved

by nature

it fosters a

sense of connection

with life.

I am here

in this place.

Also, gratitude

at the gifts

I am given

that, graced,

I do not earn.

Such a focus can

eclipse

and relativise

what would consume

me

and my days

while adding

stress and anxiety

and little else.

Reflection Sunday 6 November

Readings: 2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14; Ps 17; 2 Thess 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38

It is apt that as we begin the Sundays in the Church’s month of remembrance that the readings should focus on resurrection. As we grieve the passing of our loved ones, the resurrection can be a comfort. They live again, with no suffering, potentially joining other departed loved ones. The first reading from Maccabees is an example of those who suffer in this life, trusting to God’s mercy and compassion. Sadly, contemporary examples abound, whether such examples are overseas or in Australia, like the murder of 15 year old Cassius Turvey. Belief in God’s love and justice keeps us sane and keeps us from despair.

Maybe we can emulate God’s justice by advocating for those in challenging situations. There are plenty of opportunities to do so, in terms of groups or activities to join. We do not have the power to completely change situations but by working with love we bring justice, and a type of resurrection, no matter how small. We also must not underestimate the impact of our example of working for justice can have on others.

As we think about our departed loved ones, our minds and hearts can go to negative, unhelpful places. Instead, may we remember their love – for us and others – that they demonstrated throughout their lives. Since we believe that God is love (1 John 4:8), let us think of our departed loved ones and their love being in God. May we remember the many promises of our faith, one of which we hear in today’s Gospel, that our God is God ‘of the living, for to him all are alive’.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Reflection Sunday 30 October

Readings: Wis 11:22-12:2; Luke 19:1-10 

‘We all make mistakes’ is a common saying. It is helpful for perfectionists such as myself. I can beat myself up about some perceived failing for quite some time. Eventually I realise that most of what I was upset about was in my head. Compassion for myself is important. So too is compassion and understanding for others and their mistakes. Life is so much easier when I realise/remember that others make mistakes too. No-one is perfect.

Around the same time it is good to call to mind how God sees everyone and everything. God loves ‘all things that are’ since God called them into being. Thus we are called to see people and all created things as God does, with love.

But human games, principally associated with our egos, get in the way. Who’s the most important? Who’s the most worthy? God doesn’t care about such ego parlour tricks. It’s about love – agape – self-sacrificing love. Do I truly love others? Do I love myself?

Zacchaeus, despite his wealth, was on the outside of Jewish society since he both worked for the Romans as a tax collector and likely profited from his fellow Jews. Zacchaeus was touched by the message of Jesus and wants to turn his life around. For God, through Jesus, this is an opportunity, to ’come to seek and save what is lost’. 

So, we need to live our lives in as loving a manner as we can – and not judge those who are trying to turn their lives towards wholeness and holiness. No-one is worthy of God’s love – it is grace. We are called to love the same way…with all its pain and messiness.

Reflection Sunday 23 October

Reflection     Sun 23 October

Readings: Ps 34; 2 Tim 4:6-8; Luke 18:9-14

Who knows what others endure? Who knows of another person’s quiet desperation? God alone.

Unchosen poverty has many different faces. As humans it is so easy to judge, so easy to give advice. I know – I do it myself: ‘They should do this or that’. Thus the timeless wisdom: ‘walk a mile in their shoes’. And that assumes they have shoes.

Ultimately, our salvation comes through our relationships. These are the situations in which that which is good in us is affirmed and points of growth are revealed. My experience is that my awareness of my own shortcomings increases my compassion towards others. In that way we can echo the tax collector in today’s Gospel by praying: ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner’. The next time we wish to judge someone else, we should remember we do not know of other people’s struggles.

When the ‘Lord hears the cry of the poor’, may we hear it too. May we open our hearts and be God’s hands, in whatever small way, to lift someone else up. As Mary Mackillop said, ‘never see a need without doing something about it’. Then we will be able to echo Paul in today’s second reading: ‘I have competed well; I have finished the race’.

Reflection Sunday 16 October

Readings: Ex 17:8-13; Psalm 121: 1-8; Luke 18:1-8

Despite having experienced what Shakespeare described as the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’, our egos can delude us into thinking we control our own destiny: ‘I am the master of my fate’. Even more, that we are ‘less’ or ‘weak’ if we need anyone else. 

Today’s readings remind us otherwise. In the first reading, so long as the hands of Moses which hold the staff of God are raised, Israel had the better of the fight. The point is emphasised in the responsorial pslam: ‘our help is from the Lord’. 

Yet there is so much money to be made by reinforcing the ‘control’ worldview – and people buy into it, literally. Which is why fear is ‘sold’ so easily since its origin is a lack of control. Media and politicians have a field day trying to wield fear. Thus we each need to have faith in God – that God will provide. But this is not ‘magic’ that falls from the sky. When we build relationships, when we build community – in families or elsewhere – we look out for each other, we help each other. This love that we share in community is God. And so we can proclaim that ‘our help is from the Lord’. 

However we can each be guilty of lack of trust in others or be guilty of selfishness. This can be a daily struggle. Something we work at. This raises the question from the Gospel: ‘when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’ Rather than despair because of our frailty, better to embrace the wisdom: ‘one day at a time’.