Category Archives: Reflections

The Emperor’s Pardon

(Why go to Confession?)

Confession involves telling the story of our brokenness, of our failures…honestly and simply acknowledging what we are.

The story is told of a prince who was visiting Napoleon, and whom the Emperor wished to honour. Napoleon, it is said, gave the visiting prince permission to pardon a prisoner of his choice. The prince accepted the honour and went to a prison, but with no idea of whom to release. He spoke to very many prisoners, and every one of them said: ‘I, of all people do not deserve to be here.’ Each one had a tale of woe, a justification for their crime, a protestation of innocence, a rationalization, an excuse…

Finally, the prince spoke to a very notorious prisoner, one who had committed terrible crimes. This man, unlike the others, spoke plainly to the prince: ‘I committed evil deeds and I am receiving the punishment I deserve. I abused my freedom, and so my freedom has been taken from me. I, of all people deserve to be here.’ The prince granted that man the Emperor’s pardon.

When word went out that the prince had chosen the most notorious and brutal prisoner in the place, decent people were outraged and demanded to know what he was thinking. The prince explained: ‘The Emperor Napoleon granted me the right to extend his pardon, but nobody can pardon the innocent: I could offer the pardon only to the guilty.’

There is a humorous twist to the story, where the prince, after finally hearing an admission of guilt, says to the jailers: “Throw this man out of here, he is corrupting the innocents.” Legend and embellishment aside, the story underlines one of the main ingredients we need to make a good confession: honesty. Honesty with ourselves and before God.

Confession involves telling the story of our brokenness, of our failures, of our betrayals, of our falling flat on our face – of our need for mercy. It is about naming our need; not denying, not rationalizing, but honestly and simply acknowledging what we are. And the love of God comes pouring into that honesty.

This also sheds light on the old question, why not confess directly to God? There are several reasons, but to consider just one of them, we have a remarkable capacity to be subtle, with ourselves, to explain things away, to distort, downplay or exaggerate. To name things in the presence of a fellow human being, while it can certainly be more demanding, is also far more healing than simply turning things over in our mind. In every single relationship involving healing, be it with a doctor, a therapist, a spouse or a friend, the foundation is open, honest communication on the part of the one who is in need.

So, when the Church asks us to confess our sins honestly to a fellow-sinner entrusted with the Emperor’s pardon, she invites us to be honest with ourselves. It is ironic, not to say rather sad, that while the secular world has come to see the wisdom of ‘naming one’s stuff’ to another, Catholics often disregard this wisdom in the very context where it is liable to bring most healing.

Married people don ‘t expect their spouses to be perfect, but they do expect them to be honest. Love and honesty are closely related: honesty is a response to love and an openness to love. The same applies in our relationship with God.

I’ll conclude with an image I once heard for God’s judgment. Our faith assures us that each one of us will, when the pilgrimage of our life is over, be ‘held to account.’ But to be held to account is nothing other than to be invited to tell our story. And our judgment, this image goes, will be the whispering of our story into the ear of an understanding, loving Father. Confession is not the last judgment, but it is an opportunity to speak something of our story, of our neediness, of our brokenness, into the ear of our loving Father. Let’s not put it off; let’s not hold it back. Let’s not be afraid to approach a priest for the sacrament of reconciliation, and to confess or sins trustfully to a fellow sinner entrusted with the Emperor’s pardon.

Taken from Totus Tuus Edition 15 by Fr Chris Hayden

Totus Tuus website totustuus.ie

A Thorn in the Flesh

Yoko was an oyster who had had an easy life. At his birth he had been released from his mother oyster under the form of a small sphere and had swam for five days without ever encountering one of those deadly starfish who could have eaten him up. Then he had had the good fortune of finding a giant rock placed at just the right depth below the surface of the sea. He thereupon had attached himself to that hospitable rock and had settled down to a peaceful existence.

Gradually he had formed the two valves of his shell, feeding himself on the minute organic particles which he filtered from the water passing through his slightly opened valves. After five years Yoko had thus grown to a respectable size, and his valves had become so thick and hard that he no longer feared that a snail would drill a hole through them and devour his soft body. In short, since his birth Yoko had felt quite satisfied with the way things were going.

But one day his life was drastically altered. A grain of sand lodged itself into his shell, causing indescribable irritation to his tender tissues.

Yoko cried out in pain. “Damnation! A foreign body has penetrated my epithelium!”

And thereafter from a contented oyster Yodo became a wretched one. Night and day he fought the intruder, but to no avail. The more he endeavoured to expel the grain of sand, the more it bore into his flesh.

Now Yodo was by no means a pious oyster. He did occasionally think of praising God when a particularly tasty tidbit of organic matter entered his shell, but whatever religion he had ended there. However, faced with the totally new experience of pain, he decided that extreme measures were in order: for the first time in his life he prayed in earnest.

“Lord,” he pleaded, “please deliver me from this grain of sand.”

Naturally, his plea reached the ears of God, for God is just as present in the depths of the sea as in the heights of the sky, and he never lets a sincere prayer go unnoticed. So God spoke up as soon as Yoko had formulated his request.

“Yoko, my beloved oyster,” God said, “rest assured that your prayer has reached me.”

“Then you will grant me my wish?” asked the mollusk, “and rid me of this grain of sand which hurts me so much?”

There was a pause.

Then God answered gently, “I did not say that, Yoko. I only said that I was aware of your distress. Now, as to ridding you of it, that is another matter. You will have to trust my love for you and live with it for a while.”

This did not suit Yoko at all. He wanted action, and he wanted it now. This he told God in no uncertain terms. But God remained unyielding.

“Trust me,” he repeated, “and in the end all will be well.”

Of courses this was not at all to Yoko’s taste, and he was thoroughly disgusted with God. Humph! His talk about trusting him was all very nice, but he didn’t have a foreign body tearing away at his insides… So ran his thoughts. And for quite a while he ranted and raved at the insensitivity of God, at the cruelty of life, at the injustice of his fate, at his fellow oysters, at the sea currents and at everything in sight.

All the same, there came a day when his resentment finally spent itself, and he began to take stock of his situation. Bitterness, he reasoned, would not solve his problem. However much he blamed God for his plight, God had apparently made up his mind that events would run their course. On the other hand, however much Yoko fought the grain of sand, it would not go away. So, in desperation, Yoko opted for the only reasonable course of action left to him: he appealed to God once more, but this time for advice.

“Lord,” he prayed, “what shall I do?”

God answered, “Love your grain of sand.”

“What?” cried the oyster in utter disbelief, “you want me to love the cause of all my troubles?”

“Yes,” God replied, “that is what I would like you to do. But, of course, it is all up to you. You can go on hating your grain of sand and thus continue to be miserable for the rest of your life. Or you can love it and find happiness in the process.”

Yoko mulled this over in his mind for a long time. He was certainly keen on finding happiness, but the means to achieve this seemed to defy common sense. But then, as God had insisted from the start, this whole business was not a question of common sense but of faith in him. After all, he mused, what did he have to lose? He could hardly be more wretched than he was presently. Maybe he should take God at his word and see what would happen.

“All right, Lord,” he said finally, “I’ll do it your way, at least for the time being. I’ll try to love this monster inside of me. But you’ll have to show me how to go about it, because the only feeling I can experience at the moment is hate. I simply loathe that grain of sand.”

“That’s all right, Yoko,” replied God, “I know you can’t change your feelings by an act of the will. I’m merely suggesting that you love your grain of sand through an appropriate action on your part.”

“And what would that be?” asked the oyster.

“It’s really very simple,” said God, “Just make a nest for it in your body and leave it there in peace.”

Well that did not sound too impossible. So Yoko decided to give it a try. He gradually formed a cyst of tissue around the grain of sand. This took a long time, but eventually the work was done. The result was startling, for by now the pain, which had subsided by degrees, had completely disappeared.

“Well, well, well,” thought the oyster in amazement, “at least that part of God’s promise has already been fulfilled. If I can’t say as yet that I’m happy, at least I’m not miserable any more.”

And so time passed.

One day, God awoke Yoke from his afternoon siesta.

“Yoko, Yoko,” he called.

“Yes, Lord,” ansered the oyster.

“Remember, Yoko, I promised that, if you trusted me, things would go well for you? Now the time has come for me to fulfill my promise. Look down into your shell.”

Yoko was greatly surprised by this order. After all, he had learned from his early childhood that the interior of his shell was always plunged in darkness. And because of this, he had long ago given up looking into his shell. But now, prompted by God’s invitation, he looked in.

A strange sight awaited him. His entire body was suffused by a soft, white light. This originated from the part of his organism where he had made a nest for the grain of sand. And there, in the midst of the cistlike tissue which formed the nest, a perfect orb of matter was glowing. The grain of sand had become a matchless pearl.

The voice of God asked gently, “Are you happy now, Yoko?”

The oyster could not answer. His eyes were transfixed in utter fascination, feasting on the pearl. And, in a remote part of his mind, something in him wondered how it was possible that so much pain could produce so much beauty.

A story from Nil Guillemette, S.J. Greater Than Our Hearts – God-Tales for Young and Old.

‘The smallest of all seeds’

by Michael Commane in The Irish Times Saturday July 18th 2020 in Church Notes Thinking Anew

It was brought to my attention some days ago that an acquaintance referred to me as a “thug”. I presume it was about something I had written or a view that I had expressed. It appears we have different opinions on myriad subjects, theologically, politically and socially. It set me thinking and while I jokingly told friends I considered it a badge of honour, it did of course hurt me. Have I never referred to an opponent as a “thug”? Unfortunately, I too have used the word. When someone calls you a name you mull over it and spend some time thinking about it. We spend more time and energy thinking of the negative aspects people see in us than the positive ones. You wonder why someone might think badly of you and no matter who they are, most of us don’t want people to perceive us badly. The corollary is certainly true, when someone speaks well of us, we immediately are inclined to view them in more positive terms. On reflection, it dawned on me that the man who called me that name had never in his life sat down and spoken with me in any serious way. I always felt he was shouting at me.

And isn’t that so often the story of our lives? We form opinions of people, make judgements, yet knowing so little about them. Certainly, I often find myself forming opinions of celebrities and politicians without knowing the first thing about them. We can easily do the same about our neighbours or acquaintances. It might be based on how they look, the way they walk. Yes, it’s as superficial as that. Isn’t that why corporations and political parties spend so much time, money and energy on advertising? If they can manage to get their target audience to see someone in a a favourable light then they have the possibility of winning them over to their side, buying their product or voting for their candidate. Is it all as ephemeral as that? I suspect it may well be. Dogmatists and those with “notions” about themselves may claim that it’s objective standards, the teaching of the difference between right and wrong, that win people over to doing what is right and proper.

Of courses, that approach too has a role to play in the forming of a person and the structuring of good society. But we can never, nor must we ever, forget about the incidental words and acts of kindness that shape us and leave indelible marks on our psyche. Jesus tell us in Matthew 13:24-43 that “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”

Isn’t it a remarkable illustration of the effects of the smallest of things and then how significant they can become in our lives? Indeed, they are so influential that we continue to go back to them looking for shelter and protection, just as the birds seek shelter in the branches. And again, in Psalm 86 we are told that the Lord is kind and forgiving and most loving to all who invoke him. Little acts of kindness have the potential to swell into major moments in our lives. When we experience acts of kindness from another person, we will see that person in a positive and warm light. Alas, the reverses too is true, when someone disrespects us, it makes it far easier for us to see them in a negative light.

Maybe we are called to focus on God, who is love and compassion. Instead of looking for the weak and negative aspects in other people, we are encouraged to see them as the handiwork of God, who fashioned them. It’s easy enough to call a person a thug, and I may well deserve it, but it’s more gracious and uplifting to acknowledge another person’s moments of greatness and goodness, a potential of which we are all capable. If we all make greater efforts to be kind to one another. to understand people’s challenges and frailties, surely, we shall see them in a different light and they in turn will reciprocate those acts of kindness. Pie in the sky? No actually it’s the message of Jesus.

Editors remarks – May the Lord give us the grace…….

Deeper things under the surface

Fr Rolheiser writes in The Irish Catholic July 9th, 2020:

Imagine this. You are the dutiful daughter or son and your mother is widowed and living in an assisted living facility. You happen to be living close by while your sister is living across the country, thousands of miles away. So the weight falls on you to be the one to help take care of your mother. You dutifully visit her each day. Every afternoon, on route home from work, you stop and spend an hours with her as she has her early dinner. And you do this faithfully, five times a week, year after year.

As you spend this hour each day with your mother, year after year, how many times during the course of a year will you have a truly stimulating and deep conversation with your mother? Once? Twice? Never? What are you talking about each day? Trivial things: the weather, your favourite sports team, what your kids are doing, the latest show on television, her aches and pains, and the mundane details of your own life.

Conversation

Occasionally you might even doze off for a while as she eats her early dinner. In a good year, perhaps once or twice the conversation will take on some depth and the two of you will share more deeply about something of importance; but, save for that rare occasion, you will simply be filling in the time each day with superficial conversation.

But, and this is the question, are those daily visits with your mother in fact superficial, merely functionary because your conversations aren’t deep? Are you simply going through the motions of intimate relationship because of duty? Is anything deep happening?

Well, compare this with your sister who is (conveniently) living across the country and comes home once a year to visit your mother. When she visits, both she and your mother are wonderfully animated, they embrace enthusiastically, shed some tears upon seeing each other, and seemingly talk about things beyond the weather, their favourite sports teams, and their own tiredness. And you could kill them both!

It seems that in this once-a-year meeting they have something that you, who visit daily, do not have. But is this true? Is what is happening between your sister and your mother in fact deeper than what is occurring each day when you visit your mother?

Absolutely not. What they have is, no doubt, more emotional and more affective, but it is, at the end of the day, not particularly deep.

When your mother dies, you will know your mother better than anyone else knows her and you will be much closer to her than your sister. Why? Because through all those days when you visited her and seemed to talk about nothing beyond the weather, some deeper things were happening under the surface.

When your sister visited your mother things were happening on the surface (though emotionally and affectively the surface can look wonderfully more intriguing than what lies beneath it). That is why honeymoons look better than marriage.

What your sister had with your mother is what novices experience in prayer and what couples experience on a honeymoon. What you had with your mother is what people experience in prayer and relationships when they are faithful over a long period of time.

At a certain level of intimacy in all our relationship, including our relationship with God in prayer, the emotions and the affectivity (wonderful as they are) will become less and less important and simple presence, just being together, will become paramount.

Previous to that, the important things were happening on the surface and emotions and affectivity were important; now deep bonding is happening beneath the surface and emotions and affectivity recede in importance. At a certain depth of relationship just being present to each other is what is important.

Too often, both popular psychology and popular spirituality do not really grasp this and consequently confuse the novice for the proficient, the honeymoon for the wedding and the surface for the depth. In all of our relationships, we cannot make promises as to how we will always feel, but we can make promises to always be faithful, to show up, to be there, even if we are only talking about the weather, our favourite sports team, the latest television program or our own tiredness.

And it is okay occasionally to fall asleep while there because as Therese of Lisieux once said: a little child is equally pleasing to its parents, awake or asleep, probably more asleep! That also holds true for prayer. God does not mind us occasionally napping while at prayer because we are there and that is enough.

The great Spanish doctor of the soul, John of the Cross, tells us that as we travel deeper into any relationship, be it with God in prayer, with each other in intimacy or with the community at large in service, eventually the surface will be less emotive and less affective and the deeper things will begin to happen under the surface.

website editor says : highlighted in this article are the following two quotes which I find inspiring and hope that you do too.

“At a certain level of intimacy in all our relationships, including our relationship with God in prayer, the emotions and the affectivity (wonderful as they are) will become less and less important and simple presence, just being together, will become paramount”

“It is okay occasionally to fall asleep while there because as Therese of Lisieux once said: a little child is equally pleasing to its parents, awake or asleep, probably more asleep!”

What does sin mean to you?

by Fr Michael Commane – taken from The Irish Times Saturday 20th June 2020

Before writing this piece, I asked a number of people what sin meant for them. A journalist colleague said he found some forms of unkindness sinful. Two of my fellow priests said that sin meant missing the target.

What is sin? The concept of sin only makes sense in the context of a relationship with a personal God. Sin is the damaging of the integity of our friendship with God. And that also includes our relationship with other people and the world about us.

St Paul (Romans 5:12-15) tells us that sin existed in the world long before the law was laid down. The prophet Jeremiah (20:10-13) writes that the Lord has delivered the souls of the needy from the hands of evil men. In Matthew (10:26-35) Jesus assures us. “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my father in heaven”.

Sinner

My sense is Christ is more interested in the sinner than in the sin. Might it be possible that by placing an over-emphasis on law, rules and regulations, we are placing too much emphasis on the sin and moving away from mercy and empathy for the sinner?

I’m reminded of an incident that happened my late mother: when baking a cake on a Good Friday, she absentmindedly tasted some ingredients. She later phoned the local priest to know if she could receive Holy Communion later that day. He said she couldn’t and that it would be sinful if she did. That’s a long time ago. The unfeeling response to a woman trying to live her faith still troubles me. But what does it say about the priest and the theology he had been taught?

I find it more helpful to see sin as falling short of living up to the Christian ideal. Sin is intrinsically linked to putting ourselves first and above everyone, including God.

Most of all it’s important to stress that God in his mercy is always ready to offer forgiveness to the sinner. And that’s far stronger than the most persuasive seductions that come our way.

Remember, Jesus has died on a cross for you and me and the Holy Spirit is among us.

Everything to do with God is surrounded by mystery. That does not prevent us from trying to say something about God, and how we damage our relationship with God.

Breaking Bad

I remember in theology class a lecturer saying that sin was the breaking of a relationship with God. It has stayed with me. Just as our faith is essentially a relationship with God and one another, so too is sin the damaging of that relationship.

‘Breaking Bad’ is said to be one of the best TV drama series. It’s the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher, who is short of cash. He gets into the drug trade. Over the 62-episode series he moves from being a good person to being evil. It is inevitable the choices he makes will lead to his doom. The series charts how he destroys his relationships with those he loves.I am struck by the fact that it is a tale about falling from grace. White loses out on living a good or worthwhile life.

He totally relies on his own intelligence and cunning. He causes untold damage to himself and those close to him.

Isn’t that exactly what sin is, a falling away from the grace that God offers us, the damaging of our relationship with God and others?

When St Dominic founded the Dominican Order in the 13th century he insisted that the constitutions of the Order were not binding under sin.

An over-emphasis on sin is not at all the message of the Gospel.

Jesuit priest, Alfred Delp, who was murdered by the German authorities in January 1945, wrote in prison: “We believe more in our own unworthiness than in the creative impulse of God.

As an appendix to this article I found the following in The Bible Alive on 2nd July 2020 which might be of help to someone other than me:

Forgiveness is the human being’s deepest need. Fr Ronald Rolheiser spoke to many hearts when he wrote:

‘If the Catholicism that I was raised in had a fault, and it did, it was precisely that it did not allow for mistakes. It demanded that you get it right the first time….

If you made a mistake, you lived with it and, like the rich young man, were doomed to be sad, at least for the rest of your life…I have seen that mark on all kinds of people: divorcees, ex-priests, ex-religious, people who have had children outside of marriage, parents who have made serious mistakes with their children, and countless others who have made serious mistakes. There is too little around to help them. We need a theology of brokenness..We need a theology that tells us that mistakes are not forever, that they are not even for a life-time, that time and grace wash clean, that nothing is irrevocable. Finally, we need a theology which teaches us that God loves us as sinners and that the task of Christianity is not to teach us how to live, but how to live again, and again, and again.’

Editor’s comment: there is hope for us all.

The bread of the Eucharist for the life of the world

The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Today is the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. Sadly, our churches are still closed but the good news is that they will soon be open again. Have you shared in the Mass streamed on television or radio? Are you looking forward to returning? Did you miss receiving the Lord in Holy Communion? Did this enforced absence make you ask yourself what the Eucharist really means to you?

Today’s Gospel is taken from John, Chapter 6 which is all about bread, three kinds of bread in fact. With the first bread Jesus fed a multitude through the miraculous multiplication of five loaves and two fish.

The following day he exhorted the people to consider the miracle of the loaves as a sign to believe in him as the bread to satisfy the hungers of the spirit: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never hunger; whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

To believe in Jesus means a commitment to follow his ideals and teaching…as the way, the truth and the life. People who knew Jesus from childhood found it hard to make this commitment.

After bread for the body and bread of Faith, Jesus raised their minds to the third bread. He spoke in the future tense as this bread had not yet been given: “The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” It is no surprise that the people were deeply puzzled by this. So, Jesus rephrased his promise in six further statements. Seven statements. Seven is always the divine number in John’s Gospel. People were still puzzled but Jesus explained that they would understand this future bread in the light of the resurrection: “What if you should see the son of man ascend to where he was before.” It is the Risen Lord whom we meet in the Eucharist.

On the night before he died, at the Last Supper, he gave the blessed bread to the disciples, saying: “This is my body, given up for you.” And giving them the cup of wine, he said, “this cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.”

Banquet

For some 30 years the Son of God was on earth in a human body of flesh and blood. Now he is embodied in the consecrated bread and wine. Prepare yourself for returning to the banquet of the Eucharist by pondering on the words of Jesus.

I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.

The bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world.

Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him/her.

For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them.

As the living Father sent me and I draw life from the Father so whoever eats me will draw life from me.

“The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the body of Christ” (1 Cor.10:16).

Taken from The Irish Catholic June 11, 2020 – The Sunday Gospel by Fr Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap.

Novena to the Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Novena 2020

By David Stewart SJ

Thursday 11th June to Friday 19th June 2020

How to Pray This Novena

Set aside about 10 minutes each day. Take your time over the words you read. Linger over a word or a phrase. Think about its meaning. Share your feelings with Jesus, and wait quietly to see what comes into your mind and heart. Blessed John Sullivan tells us that God is delighted to see us, even if we don’t know what to say. God has our best interests at heart.

Beginning of each day

Prayer Moment – Let the Spirit of God lead you to a place of interior stillness and then allow yourself to become aware of God’s gaze on you, full of love and hope for you. That gaze is sustaining and life-giving. Ask, in your heart, for a deepening, interior awareness of how you depend on God for your existence.

Novena prayer

Lord Jesus, you have said, ‘Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you’. I come to you in faith and trust, in love and hope. Let me know your closeness to me, and your care for me and all who are dear to me.

My intention for this Novena is dear to me, and I know that what is important to me is important to you. Hear my prayer (mention your intention); grant what I ask, and may I always trust that in all that happens in life, you will be close to me as my friend, guide and saviour. And so, Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you.

Day 1 Thursday 11th June

God sustains my life

Scriptural Moment:

Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth,

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you have established;

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Moment for Reflection: Stay with the idea of your dignity as a child of God for as much time as you can manage today. Thank God for this. Notice what moves in your heart and your soul as you ponder these things.

The Desire: That I may know my utter dependency on God for my being and that I may wonder at the miracle of my own personal existence.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 2 Friday 12th June

God’s faithfulness to me

Scriptural Moment:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul

He leads me in the right paths for his name’s sake (Psalm 23)

Moment for Reflection: Note any new awareness, or repetition of an awareness you already have, of God’s care for you. What was happening in your own personal life when this inner knowledge became real for you?  If, at this moment, you feel a deepening of that awareness, however little, stay with it.

The Desire: That I may know a deep confidence in God’s caring for me, as I continue to wonder at my own personal existence.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 3 Saturday 13th June

God gives Godself to me, to us…

Scriptural Moment:

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ (John 1:35-39)

Moment for Reflection: Gently think about ways in which you’ve sensed God’s call and indeed God’s challenge to you. Ask to know that more deeply, more authentically; ask, too, for the grace to respond generously, that you may not be deaf to his call. Stay with whatever emerges in your reflection as long as you can; offer your desires to the Heart of Christ and, if a conversation with Christ grows out of your prayer, let it.

The Desire: That I may be more aware of how God calls me and of my freedom to respond.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 4: Sunday 14th June

Resistance to God’s call

Scriptural moment:

Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’ (John 8:1-11)

Moment for reflection: Become as honest as you can be about your selfishness, too much self-regard, self-righteousness and not enough humility, not enough openness to other people and their goodness. In your prayer, speak to Jesus about these things; let him respond to you with mercy and compassion.

The Desire: Asking for a profound, peaceful, personal sorrow for any infidelity to God’s call.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 5: Monday 15th June

God’s attitude towards us

Scriptural Moment:

He began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me.’ Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ (Mark 10:46-52)

Moment for Reflection: Have you ever thought of yourself as a ‘loved sinner?’ Or have you felt more a condemned sinner, wedged irretrievably in the consequences of sins, hopelessly caught up in your own sinfulness and that of the world? Our honesty and humility in prayer can help us to realise that we are not trapped and that it’s God’s desire to forgiven, not to condemn. Speak, in your heart, to God about how much you want to know that fact interiorly. St Ignatius suggests, in a wonderful passage of the Spiritual Exercises, that I might ask for the grace to express a ‘heartfelt cry of wonder’ at the forgiveness and mercy that has been given to me.

The Desire: A joyful awareness that I am a loved sinner, a heartfelt knowledge of God’s compassion.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 6: Tuesday 16th June

Knowing the person of Jesus

Scriptural Moment:

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4:17-19)

Moment for Reflection: Take a few moments to think about how Jesus described his mission. He has something more than just an impressive display to offer. His care was for those in need and this led to the rejection he experienced, not least in his own hometown, but everywhere.

The Desire: That I may know Jesus, become human for me, more intimately, love him more intensely and follow him more closely.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 7: Wednesday 17th June

Jesus moves towards his cross

Scriptural Moment:

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus.  (Luke 23:26)

Moment for Reflection: Later in the passion account, Jesus was clearly seen and heard to forgive, from the very cross, moments before his death by execution. His physical agony would have been intense. Yet he could, at that moment, still speak of mercy. We can ask for an interior knowledge of what he was going through. We can ponder, also the ways in which his heart will continue to go through agonies today. Reflect, then, on where he is crucified in our times, in the innocent, poor and weak, for whom he came into our history.

The Desire: That I may feel sorrow with Christ sorrowful, anguish with Christ in anguish, and that the reality of the mercy of God might reveal itself to me in the Passion of Jesus.

End with the Novena prayer

Day 8: Thursday 18th June

Jesus as he contuse to his cross

Scriptural moment:

These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, ‘None of his bones shall be broken.’ And again another passage of scripture says, ‘They will look on the one whom they have pierced.’ (John 19:36-37)

Moment for reflection: One of the soldiers, we hear, pierced the side of Jesus with his lance, penetrating to his heart, and out of his pierced side flowed blood and water. There is a tradition in the Church of thinking of this outpouring, from the Heart of Christ, as a fountain of sacramental life. We can ask, also his mother Mary, one of the very few who remained close to the cross when most of the others fled, to share with us what was in her heart at this moment, the sword that pieced her heart.

The Desire: That I may know Jesus, become human for me, more intimately, love him more intensely and follow him more closely. To feel sorrow and anguish with him.

End with the Novena Prayer

Day 9: Friday 19th June

Risen Christ, risen Christian!

Scriptural Moment:

We can ponder any of the appearances of the risen Christ in this time, perhaps particularly the Emmaus Road encounter (Luke 24:13-35) and how, for the two former disciples trudging wearily homewards, their great adventure apparently having failed, something unmistakably marvellous happened in their hearts. This sudden moment of consolation, not of their own doing, changed everything for them. Look also at the next passage, Luke 24:36-43 when he offers peace to his frightened friends.

Moment for Reflection: We cannot imagine what the actual resurrection was like because it is too much for us, but what we can imagine is how it must have been for those dejected followers who, after the events of Calvary, had thought everything was over. Think of the way Jesus appeared to the disciples many times. Imagine the Risen Christ offering his peace to the world and to you. Talk to him; tell him what you feel you need.

The Desire: To experience, interiorly and deeply joy with Christ risen, the joy he wants to share with his friends as he comes back to them, having overcome all darkness, all sin.

End with the Novena Prayer

Come Holy Spirit

As we celebrate this feast-day, there’s something we need to grasp and take hold of, because this is what the Church has taught since the beginning: through the grace of the liturgy it is as though what happened in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago is repeated again on this holy feast-day. The same Holy Spirit who came down upon the disciples huddled together in the Upper Room descends on us too.

Remind yourself that the Holy Spirit is with you. When the Holy Spirit came down at Pentecost, he instilled in the Church a dynamism and power which since then has been the principal agent behind all its fruitful work and mission in the world. Our plea to our readers today is to let the Holy Spirit come into your lives: invite him, welcome him and pray to him.

‘Whenever the Spirit intervenes, he leaves people astonished; he brings about events of amazing newness; he radically changes persons and history. Faith is not abstract talk, nor vague religious sentiment, but new life in Christ instilled by the Holy Spirit. Christ says to each of us: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). He is counting on every one of you, and so is the Church. “Lo,” the Lord promises, “I am with you always to the close of the age” (Matt, 28:20). I am with you. Amen!’ (Pope St John Paul II)

Taken from Bible Alive for Sunday 31st May – Pentecost. www.alivepublishing.co.uk

Readers I encourage you to also open Robert Barron YouTube and you will find a most remarkable treasure of teaching.

The Look of Jesus

In Luke’s Gospel we read: Peter said, “Man I do not know what you are talking about”. At that moment, while he was still speaking, a cock crew; and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter…and Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

“I had a fairly good relationship with the Lord, I would ask him for things, converse with him, praise him, thank him. But always I had this uncomfortable feeling that he wanted me to look into his eyes, and I would not. I would talk, but look away when I sensed he was looking at me. I always looked away, and I knew why. I was afraid. I thought I should find there an accusation of some unrepented sin. I thought I should find a demand there…there would be something he wanted from me. One day, I finally summoned up the courage and looked! There was no accusation. There was no demand. The eyes just said, ‘I love you’. I looked searchingly. Still the only message was, ‘I love you’.

(And I walked out, and like Peter…I wept.”

Look of love: Jesus’ gaze will change your life, Pope Francis says – extracts from Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

The gaze of Jesus can change a person’s life just like it did with St Peter, Pope Francis said.

“He always looks at us with love. He asks us something, he forgives us and he gives us a mission,” the pope said during an early morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The Pope said he was struck by the exchange of gazes in John 21:15-19, which includes Jesus, after the resurrection, asking Peter three times if he loves him.

When Jesus first met his apostle, “Jesus fixed his gaze upon him and said, “You are Simon, son of John; you will be called Peter”, the Pope said. “That was the first gaze, the gaze of mission” and Peter responded enthusiastically.

Then, after Jesus had been arrested and Peter denied Jesus three times, he feels the gaze of Jesus again and “weeps bitterly,” the Pope said.

“The enthusiasm of following the Lord was turned into tears because he had sinned, he had denied Jesus,” the Pope said. “That gaze changed Peter’s heart more than the first did. The first changed his name and vocation, but the second was a gaze that changed his heart; it was a conversion to love.”

The third gaze is recounted, the Pope said, when Jesus looks at Peter, asks him if he loves him and tells him to feed his sheep.

The third gaze, he said, confirms Peter’s mission but also asks Peter to confirm his love.

The Gospel recounts more of the conversation, with Jesus warning Peter that his future will not be easy and that, in fact, he also will suffer and die.

Ask yourself, “how is Jesus gazing upon me? With a call? With forgiveness? With a mission?” the Pope said.

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The Look of Jesus recounted above was on a piece of paper I treasure and every Good Friday I look at it and meditate on it. This year it spoke to me in a special way. At this time in the middle of lock down we sit a bit more and reflect on our lives what we have done and what we should not have done and what we have not done and should have done etc and often the people have died or moved away and something disturb us. Imagine now that you meet that person again and you have these same feelings that Peter had when he met Jesus after the resurrection. Imagine that you are afraid and the person you harmed is walking towards you and you are afraid to look into that person’s eyes. Imagine that when you do look, that person looks at you with only love. Imagine that the love they have for you is much much greater than the harm you might have done them. This is the meaning of resurrection. Not staying in the tomb with our fears but coming out into the light and receiving love.