Reflection Sunday 14 August

Readings: Luke 12:49-53

Living a life of faith can be challenging. There are plenty of distractions: Am I working hard enough? Do I look good in what I’m wearing? Do I have the latest gadget? So we each have a choice: follow God or ‘go with the flow’. 

It is easy to categorise Jesus as the person who preached peace and love. There is plenty of scriptural evidence to support this contention. Today’s Gospel shows that he is not so easily pigeon-holed. The Gospel gives us a glimpse into prophetic Jesus. Jesus who acknowledges that following him is a challenge and that following him will divide opinion – including opinion in the same home. Meek, mild Jesus upsets nor offends anyone – the one who comforts the afflicted. 

Then, as now, there existed structural injustice including those who did very well out of the status quo. Ensuring there is justice for those afflicted requires passion – and something like ‘the fire’ to which Jesus refers in today’s Gospel. So prophetic Jesus ‘afflicts the comfortable’ – challenging the status quo. In so doing, division is created between those who wish to follow Jesus and those who follow the very human instinct of not wanting things to change.

What will my choice be?

Reflection Sunday 7 August

Readings: Psalm 32; Heb 11:8-19; Luke 12:32-48

Today’s Gospel is written with the backdrop of the second coming of Christ. Seen in many places in the New Testament, it is clear that this second coming was expected to occur at any moment. This explains the sense in the reading of ‘being ready’. While that did not occur, there is a genius in being ready since we are not in control of our lives so it is best to know that we are doing as we should – we are being our best selves. In this way we are living up to the gifts God has given us, as well as making the most of the gift of life. We are present, we are aware; we are not passing time, waiting for something or someone else.

Faith is a gift from God. It is neither deserved nor earned. Why do I have faith? I could say a lot of things but do any of them really name why? The Letter to the Hebrews speaks of those who benefited from their faith, such as Abraham. Because faith is a gift from God, that is why we can say we have been ‘chosen by God’. This is not about us being deserving – it is a gift from God. The question is: what are we going to do with that gift? Will we value and appreciate it? Will we do what we can to develop that gift of faith? Will we live by God’s rules – love, compassion, justice and mercy? Like all of God’s gifts, it is not just for me, it is for benefit of the community.

Vision

The sun’s dimming rays

create a swathe

of colours,

sky and cloud,

blue, white, gold,

shades of grey

across the sky.

These along with textures from clouds

combine to form

this unrepeatable and ethereal

vision of a sunset.

I am grateful for the beauty

and I thank God

for this grace

along with the gift of sight

and a glimpse of my tiny thread

in the grand tapestry of creation.

Reflection Sunday 31 July

Readings: Ecc 2:21-23; Col 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21

Humans can live in a way where they are constantly striving to have more. The accumulation of ‘stuff’ is proof of our capacity, our status. While the names and type of ‘stuff’ accrued has varied over the centuries, the desire, dare I say, addiction has not. Our society has a myriad ways of enhancing the externals. In so doing we forget a fundamental fact about humanity – we are human beings not human doings. Better to live out the message of Oscar Romero of El Salvador: ‘Strive not to have more but to be more’.

This lesson emerges from today’s readings. In the first reading, Ecclesiastes points towards the foolishness of striving to have more since we lose it all at death, along with the lack of appreciation of those who have not earned things. Colossians reminds us that all externals and all our desires are as nothing. What matters, rather, is our connection in Christ. 

These points are amplified in today’s Gospel, beginning with Jesus saying ‘one’s life does not consist of possessions’ (Luke 12:15). In case the point has not been made sufficiently, Jesus tells a parable outlining how pointless it is to store up material wealth rather than being ‘rich in what matters to God’. What is that kind of rich? Rich in terms of doing justice and being in right relationships with those around us.

Reflection Sunday 24 July

Readings: Gen 18:20-32; Ps 138:1-8; Luke 11:1-13

We can each get so caught up in our achievements, our ability – foolishly thinking we have control over our lives. Then something will occur to open our eyes, such as grief. We each need God. If we are lucky we will remain ‘awake’ after such an experience, but there are so many forces, within and without, that want us to return to the illusion.

This week’s readings each take up this theme. The first reading sees Abraham pleading with God on behalf of the people of Sodom. He slowly bargains God down such that if God finds 10 innocent people in Sodom, the city will be spared. We know what happened. A city living in the illusion of control.

The responsorial psalm emphasises that God answers those that call for help – those whose eyes have been opened.

After we acknowledge our need of God, what then? The Gospel has Jesus teach his disciples how to pray – through the Our Father. This makes us each sisters and brothers. Jesus goes on to teach them that in their dealings with others they can get what they want through persistence. But God loves each of us unconditionally. So if we want help from God, thus acknowledging our lack of control: ‘ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’.

Silent reminder

Moon 

constant

and changing,

silent witness

to everything on Earth.

When my internal disquiet

drives me to 

‘Do something!’

The moon is a reminder

that change can come

even when all

seems still

Reflection Sunday 17 July

Readings: Gen 18:1-10; Luke 10:38-42

How do we encounter God? And how does God encounter us? 

Such questions are wrapped up in today’s readings. In the first reading, Abraham is hospitable to the LORD who appeared as three enigmatic strangers. As a consequence of this hospitality Sarah is promised a child. While Judaism is fiercely monotheistic it is not the first time that God takes on plural form [Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;’ (Gen 1:26); see also Gen 3:22: Then the Lord God said, ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil;’].

The exchange between Abraham and the LORD is marked artistically by Andrei Rublev and his icon. Art forms such as iconography are another way God encounters us and we encounter God.

Today’s Gospel brings us the characters of Martha and Mary. This is another example of the value of digging a little deeper into the Scriptures. On face value, Jesus tells Martha off. Mary has the ‘better part’ of being in the presence of Jesus. So the story can be extended to the importance of prayer and contemplation in one’s life. A different reading acknowledges that we each have Martha and Mary within us: the part that needs to act and the part that needs to be connected to God. The trick is finding the balance – so that our action is guided by prayer. Thus wholeness and holiness. In this way God can encounter us both through our prayer and through our action.

Reflection Sunday 10 July

Reflection     Sunday 10 July

Readings: Luke 10:25-37

In today’s Gospel someone who wants everything in black and white (sound familiar?), asks Jesus to clarify things for him. He concludes by asking ‘who is my neighbour?’. In the first century, there were expectations to care for one’s neighbour. Legalism is still alive and well, as we know. I’ll do the right thing – so long as it’s not ‘too much’ – I don’t want to put myself out. In today’s language: ‘Who am I supposed to care about?’. 

Jesus’ reply, the parable of the Good Samaritan, is still powerful reading but may need a little ‘translating’ for us to understand its full power. Immersed in Jewish society as Jesus was, a Samaritan was the ‘nemesis’ of the Jew. This enmity went back hundreds of years. I’m not sure that we have an equivalent – a sporting analogy would be banal. But imagine someone you hated treating people in a way that ‘your own’ do not. 

Jesus turned the world on its head, then and now. It’s not about who is ‘in’ or ‘out’, acceptable or not. To emphasise that point, those that did not take care of the person who had been attacked were the very ones expected to. What mattered was showing mercy – a quality that belongs to God – which was demonstrated by the ‘enemy’. First, this ‘enemy’ sees the need, does something about it and follows up. Surely this forces all who read this story to think about our classification of people, as well as our behaviour towards others, especially those in need.

Who am I supposed to care about? The answer is simple – every human being.

The challenge is as great today as it was for the Jewish listeners of Jesus.

Crowned

Another fresh winter’s day

comes to a close

bathed in reds

that glow

and bathe the sky.

Crowning this tableau

a slender crescent moon

setting.

Such beauty

is a reminder

of the grace

of each day.

Sunday reflection 3 July

Sunday reflection 3 July

Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; Psalm 66:1-7; Gal 6:14-18; Luke 10: 1-12; 17-20

Amidst the cold of winter, when we stay inside more frequently due to the lack of appeal of leaving our heated space, existential questions can pop into our minds whether we like it or not.

One such question is ‘How should I be?’. The season can seem to guide our answer, thus, in winter, we are inclined to ‘retreat’ and do little. Maybe even feel sorry for ourselves because it isn’t warmer or we’re not escaping the cold somehow. Taking a broader view, the question is asked and answered by the responsorial psalm. As we live our lives in their everyday matters, we are encouraged to ‘cry out to God with joy’. In winter!?! Are you kidding!?! Yet there are so many reasons for joy, whether it is our health, our family, our friends, our gifts, skills and abilities, our job, the activity that makes us feel most ‘alive’…or the simple and powerful fact that we are alive.

Underneath some of our personal disquiet, can be a sense of restlessness: ‘what else should I be doing?’ or ‘am I enough?’. Amidst such restlessness, there is no peace. Thus it is interesting that in today’s Gospel, the disciples sent out in pairs by Jesus and proclaim ‘peace to this household’ and that if a peaceful person lives there, ‘your peace will rest’ on them, ‘if not it will return to you’. Shortly thereafter they are to say that God’s reign ‘is at hand for you’. This seems to suggest a closeness between peace and God’s reign.

Returning to the earlier thought, how can there be joy if we are not at peace? 

Maybe if I can engage in reflective practices that include being grateful for the many facets of my life, I can feel enough, I can be at peace…and so ‘cry out to God with joy’?