Sunday reflection 26 June

Readings: 1 Kings 19:19-21; Psalm 16:1-11; Gal 5:13-18; Luke 9:51-62

Today’s Gospel feels harsh. All the more so for those of us who are grieving the loss of loved ones. So let’s dig a little deeper. The Gospel begins by saying that ‘the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled’. Readers and listeners at that time were expecting the end times imminently. This sets an important context. If the end is coming soon, what are you going to do? Will you commit to what you believe and live that out? Or will you be half-hearted?

In the spirit of end-times judgment, James and John were happy to judge the Samaritan village (remember the Samaritans are mortal enemies of the Jews) – but Jesus ‘rebuked them’. We hear the echo from elsewhere in the scriptures – leave judgment to God.

So we return to the tough stuff. If the world is ending, do you commit? In this context, those interacting with Jesus come up short. They are half-hearted. We are not in end-times but do well to question our own commitment in faith. Do I live what I believe?

This can be contrasted with the call of the prophet Elisha who responded to God’s call through Elijah after first tending to his family with an action that clearly demonstrated a break with his former life on the land. Hard to plough when the plough has been burned up!

The second reading picks up on the theme of living what I believe in two ways. We hear the oft-repeated phrase to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. To live that I must behave with self-respect as well as be respectful in my dealings with others. This is a constant challenge – on one front or both. The other point is about being whole-hearted in living what we believe rather than doing it when we feel like it. 

As we return to ‘ordinary time’, it is good to ponder such daily challenges of faith.

Feast of Corpus Christi Sunday 19 June

Readings: Gen 14:18-20; Psalm 110:1-4; 1 Cor 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

This idea of the body of Christ has a number of meanings. The most obvious and yet subtle is in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. As Paul says in today’s second reading, we remember Jesus Christ every time we celebrate the Eucharist. We ‘proclaim his death’ speaks both to how he died – lovingly and with integrity – and also that he rose. Following ancient beliefs in the Church: we become the body of Christ as we consume the bread and wine (St Augustine). We celebrate our connection with each other in Christ. More than that, we share our giftedness. I don’t have to have all of the answers – I can rely on those around to help and support me with their giftedness. A very comforting notion. This is developed in today’s Gospel. We are fed by the body of Christ, abundantly. Not just fed by the Eucharistic species but also supported and nurtured by other members of this community in Christ. 

At the fraction rite, the priest can say ‘may the body of Christ bring us to everlasting life’. Our salvation – yours and mine – comes in community when I no longer rely on myself. Our salvation also comes for community – I am meant to build others up, build community in my turn.

Another facet of the body of Christ is the power which is in the community that is created. The community resembles the Trinity in whose image we are created. This explains why we are so ‘at home’ in community. We are each made for relationship, for community, for love. 

This is what we acknowledge and celebrate today.

Feast of the Trinity Sunday 12 June

Readings: Prov 8:22-31; Ps 8:4-9; Rom 5:1-5; John 16:12-15

Human arrogance being what it is, humans have thought they control God, saying where God is and where God is not, as well as ascribing human traits to God – a God made in the image of humanity, not the other way around. Rather, all our words about God are not God. Our finite brains can only ever glimpse the infinite. Thus we believe in one God that manifests in three ways: the Creator of all that was, is and is yet to come; God-with-us who showed humans how to live and love, how we can follow God in our lives; the Holy Spirit, the Animator who reminds each of us of God’s promises and who continually gives us choice so that no matter where things are now that we can turn them, with God’s help, to the good.

This is the God that says to each of us, time and again, NOT ‘I love you when…’ nor ‘I love you if…’ but ‘I love you’. God says to each of us, despite our thoughts to the contrary, ‘You are enough. Rest in my love’. 

Today’s readings speak of God being at play in creation and delighting in humanity. The Holy Spirit will remind us of ‘what he hears’, as though gathered at the divine kitchen table with the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit guides us ‘into all truth’. Thus the truth is not an object to be found. Rather it is something toward which we are guided – maybe even grow into. As our experience and hopefully wisdom grows we are better able to grasp the truth – about ourselves, others, life…and God. The Trinity are our companions on life’s journey, until we reach our destination – in God.

Pentecost Sunday 5 June

Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Ps 104:24-34; 1 Cor 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23

As human beings we get caught up in ourselves and our egos: what I can and cannot do. Our egos motivate us to do some task so that they can bask in the glory: ‘look at me. I can do such and such’. In terms of faith, of advancing God’s reign, such activity is counterproductive. Rather, as people of faith, anything is possible through the Holy Spirit.

Gifts are made manifest in individuals but they are meant for community, to build community. Gifts only reach their full potential in community. This helps to keep our egos at bay while also fostering the servant leadership that Jesus modelled for us. By using our gifts to build community we promote unity in diversity.

By respecting individuals and building community, this promotes peace, referenced I today’s Gospel. The Gospel also notes that once we receive the Holy Spirit we are sent by Christ. First we use our gifts, then we build community, then we go out into the world, promoting love and peace thereby bringing God’s reign closer.

Our egos don’t like such a course, of faith in action: ‘what about me?’ By behaving and acting in this way we bring everyone with us – promoting peace through unity in diversity – all thanks to the Holy Spirit.

Feast of the Ascension Sun 29 May

Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-9; Eph 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53

As we draw closer to the end of the Easter season, the Feast of the Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry and his return to heaven. As Jesus states in today’s Gospel he must ascend for the Holy Spirit to be with us. Such references to the Holy Spirit point us toward Pentecost. 

The Holy Spirit is God’s ongoing presence in the world. It stirs our hearts and reminds us of everything we have been taught about Jesus, about God. It is through the action of the Holy Spirit within us that we can put it all together by acting in faith with integrity in our lives.

It is through the Holy Spirit that ‘the eyes of our hearts are enlightened’. The Holy Spirit is the ‘promise of my Father’ in today’s Gospel. It is the Holy Spirit that allows us to speak as witnesses of Jesus. It is only through the Holy Spirit that we can praise God.

The feasts of the next few Sundays draw us to the heart of the mystery of our faith. We are each broken vessels, yet also imbued with God’s gifts. Our task is to discover and share those gifts with the community. It is only through the eyes of faith, opened by the Holy Spirit, that we can glimpse such gifts in ourselves and others. So we marvel at the work of God – Father, Son and Spirit – in our lives.

Connection

For Arvi

When I am not

caught up

in my own stuff,

I have the grace

of connection

with others:

their gifts

their joys

their sorrow

their frustration.

Then I remember

that right relationships

brings God’s reign

closer

…and makes me whole.

Sunday reflection 22 May

Readings: Acts 15:22-29; Psalm 67:2-8; Rev 21:10-14; John 14:23-29

Lent and Easter occur each year as a spiritual ‘reset’: discard our old habits and adopt practices and a frame of mind that will draw us closer to God and God’s reign. Today’s Gospel sets out the promises for those who believe.

Firstly, Jesus said, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love them,
and we will come to them and make our dwelling with them.” There can be times when we feel adrift and alone – but this promise of faith of God being with us? Happy that person! Yet, it is a different way of saying what we hear at Christmas: Emmanuel – ‘God with us’. If we truly love Jesus that means that we pray regularly and are also a person of love and compassion to those around us. So our faith and living it are what connect us to God.

Likewise with that connection in faith we will listen to and hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit – so that we can call to mind at the right time the teachings of Jesus. Thus the faith connection can keep us on an even keel through life’s challenges.

The third promise Jesus makes in this Gospel is peace. Our faith connection can help us to deal with what life throws at us and can allow us to be people of love and compassion. Surely a consequence of that is being at peace.

So, whether it is through our connection with God – as Father, Son and Spirit – or through being at peace, faith brings rewards that are worth the effort.

Sunday reflection 15 May

Readings: Acts 14:21-27; Ps 145:8-13; Rev 21:1-5; John 13:31-35

What might the full life of Easter look like?

In today’s Gospel Jesus says: ’Love one another as I have loved you’. We have heard these words so many times – and their challenge remains. When we want to judge and hate on others, we have missed the point of our universal connection in Christ, in God, with every other thing in the universe. Instead we are judging and hating on part of ourselves. When we greet others with acceptance and compassion – we make their day, and our own.

That brings us to the second clause in that sentence: ‘as I have loved you’. Let’s say we’re getting it right, we’re loving, accepting and compassionate – but are we doing as Jesus did – who loved unto death? That’s a big ask. That really raises the bar. Thus the ongoing challenge of this passage.

The second reading reminds us of a central tenet of our faith: God dwells with us. Yet our hang-ups or feelings of lack of worthiness push God away – somewhere, anywhere else. I am sinful – so are we all – but God dwells with us. We do not earn this. It is grace. We know of and ‘believe’ in grace but are we willing to let go in our hearts and minds and accept our failings – and so accept God’s unearned favours to us?

As much as we can live this we will be closer to the full life – and our salvation.

Sunday reflection 8 May

Readings: Acts 13:43-52; Psalm 100:1-5; Rev 7:14-17; John 10:27-30

Over the past few weeks the readings have spoken about coming to faith, a journey best taken intentionally. Today’s readings speak about being ‘the sheep of his flock’ and that we ‘hear his voice’. If I am on an intentional faith journey, how am I encouraging that?

One way might be to see and foster my connection with those around me. How am I behaving as a brother or sister to others? Then we can take it one step further to follow our spiritual brother, Francis of Assisi, and behave as a sister or brother to all of creation. In what ways might that change my behaviour on an everyday basis?

If I am a sheep of his flock how am I working for justice and right relationships that will bring God’s reign? As a Church, how are we sheep of his flock? The kind of systematic harassment and persecution faced by early Christians is a long way from our current reality. Rather the Church finds itself in a place of relative power. Such power should only be used to bring God’s reign through justice and right relationships. In that sense much good has been done and is being done in hospitals, schools and other church-run charitable institutions. Yet, Pope Francis’ exhortation to pastors to ‘smell like the sheep’ is important. Many of us have been fortunate to be looked after in that way. Would that that were universal. As an organisation that does not fully embrace and utilise the God-given gifts of women, I pray that this Mother’s Day will mark the beginning of a change in the Church.

In the Gospel, Jesus says that ‘my sheep hear my voice’. On this intentional journey of faith, may we each take the time to listen for the voice of Jesus in prayer, scriptures, creation and our interactions with others.

Sunday reflection 1 May

Readings: Acts 5:27-32; Ps 30:2-13; Rev 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

The journey of coming to faith has highs and lows. There may be times when we are emboldened to speak of our faith, like the apostles in the first reading, and it doesn’t matter what the consequences are. We are happy to speak the truth of our faith.

Then there are times when it is all too much and we can feel like we are drowning until we feel God’s rescuing hand like in today’s psalm.

When things are going well we can see God’s hand in the people and events of our lives, turning things towards the good. Then there are times when we sit in awe and wonder at God’s majesty – that we might glimpse through God’s creation – such as today’s second reading.

Today’s gospel addresses the challenge of public lack of faith by Peter, who denied Jesus three times. Our leaders deserve to be held to account for their behaviour but it’s best for all of us if we leave the judging to God. Though that is easier said than done during an election campaign! Peter was a flawed individual but paid for his faith with his life. How might I hold up to such scrutiny?

The reassuring thing for us is that if Peter can stuff up so monumentally, our mistakes can be forgiven too. And when it comes to our leaders, of whatever situation, be compassionate with their faults – without putting them on a pedestal.