Category Archives: Reflections

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.

Peace!

Where Hope finds its roots by Gordon Linney in Church Notes in The Irish Times 18 April 2020

A while ago Daragh Curley, a schoolboy from Co Donegal, was in the news when it was revealed that he, a Manchester United football fan had written to Jurgen Klopp, the successful manager of Liverpool United, asking him to lose a few games and give his Man U a chance.

Klopp replied, wishing Daragh well, but explained that he could not let his team lose as that would disappont Liverpool fans.

The fact that Klopp, a renowned sports personality replied speaks well of the man.

Last year he faced a much more difficult situation leading up to Liverpool’s European Cup final. Dave Evans, a Liverpool fan, living in New Zealand, had hoped to be in Madrid for the game but sadly could not travel because he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Klopp, who is German, heard of this shortly before leaving for the game and contacted Evans by video using his best English: “Hi Dave, Jurgen Klopp here from Liverpool, here in a moment – like an hour before we leave to Madrid. I heard about your story and of course it is something really difficult to take in even for me but of course you…I wish you from the bottom of my heart all the best and I’m Christian so see you.

With these words – I’m Christian so see you – Klopp shared his Easter faith with the dying man. He explains: “To be a believer, but not to want to talk about it – I do not know how it would work! If anyone asks me about my faith, I give information. Not because I have claim to be any sort of missionary. But when I look at me and my life – and I take time for that every day – then I feel I am in sensationally good hands. And I find it a pity if other people lack this sense of security – although they don’t know it, of course, because otherwise they would probably look for it.”

Klopp’s point about security connects well with tomorrow’s Gospel reading.

When Jesus came to his disciples after the resurrection they were hiding in a locked room; these, the friends who had betrayed him, denied him, who hid when he was arrested and ran away when he was dying.

They must have felt ashamed. Yet when Jesus greeted them, he did not accuse them: “Where were you when I needed you? You let me down.”

Instead he said “Peace” and in that one word reassured them, gave them the security Klopp talks about.

That encounter between Jesus and his disloyal followers assures us that there is no need to hide from the God who is love no matter how we may have failed in the past.

Jurgen Klopp spoke about his faith when he responded to that poor man in New Zealand but as Fr Henri Nouwen saw at the funeral of a Donegal farmer, words are not always necessary: “The priest and a few men carried the humble coffin to the cemetery. After the coffin was put in the grave, the men filled the grave with sand…Two men stamped with their boots on the sod, so it was hardly possible to know that this was a grave. Then one of the men took two pieces of wood, bound them together in the form of a cross, and stuck it in the ground…No words, no solemnity, no decoration. Nothing of that – but it never has been made so clear to me that someone was dead, not sick but dead, not passed away but dead, not laid to rest but dead, plain dead. When I saw those who men stamping on the ground in which they had buried their friend, I knew that for these farmers of Donegal there were no funeral home games to play. But their realism became a transcendent realism by the simple unadorned wooden cross saying that where death is affirmed, hope finds its roots.”

That cross said what was needed.

Noli me tangere

“Don’t cling to me,” said the risen Lord to Mary Magdalene, as she reached out to the one she loved, the one she thought she’d lost. His words have a particular poignancy in this strange time, when touch is barred, and love is expressed by staying away; when we are asked to follow the events of Holy Week with our churches closed and Communion denied.

There is an intensity to Jacopo de Cione’s Mary. Her world has been shattered, but now reality is shifting beneath her again. The Lord’s feet are walking away from her, but His expression is tender, loving and reassuring.

And then there is that incongruous garden hoe, set against delicately draped gold and pink fabric. He won’t be weeding with it, but it signals a mystical promise, to cultivate the soil of our hearts.

The way the figures float against the background give the painting a timeless imminence, as if the Lord is speaking to us now. And what He is saying is this: “Do not cling to what you know. Do not seek me where you left me…”

I have thought often of this scene in these last few days, as we at the Jesuit Refugee Service have grappled with how to express our closeness to refugees without putting them in harm’s way. It has involved a radical laying aside of assumptions.

It is easy to miss the Lord in the anxiety of times like these. But He meets us in our confusion and calls us by name.

We are denied the physical experience of Communion, but we trust that the master gardener will tend the Word He has planted in our hearts.

This year there will be no public celebration of Easter, but He is risen nonetheless; and like Mary, He tasks us, still, with sharing the good news.

Taken from The Tablet Easter Issue 11 April 2020

Sarah Teather is director of the Jesuit Refugee Service UK

Word of God

To help the Church grow in love and faithful witness to God, Pope Francis has declared the third Sunday in Ordinary Time to be dedicated to the Word of God. “The Bible is the most widely distributed book, but it is also perhaps the one most covered in dust because it is not held in our hand,” an archbishop said. Francis said, “a day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a yearlong event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. We need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness. The third Sunday in Ordinary Time falls during that part of the year when the Church is encouraged to strengthen its bonds with the Jewish people and to pray for Christian Unity. That means the celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God has ecumenical value, since the Scriptures point out, for those who listen, the path to authentic and firm unity.”

On the same subject from The Spiritual Way of the Carthusian Order ‘When Silence Speaks’ by Tim Peeters:

Nourished by the Word: lectio divina in the Carthusian order

According to Dom Marcellin Theeuwes, the rediscovery of the Scriptures is one of the greatest gifts for the Church in the past decades. Lectio divina, or the spiritual readying of the Bible, is

no theological or exegetic approach to the text, but rather a meditative reading in order to give one’s own personal existence an enlightened understanding about God, salvation, inner repentance and a conversion towards the Spirit. In the lasting contact with the sacred text, the divine and Christian significance of human existence and reality will slowly appear. One discovers how God really desires to meet his people. The biblical revelation becomes a personal revelation. God acts in the same way with all who are called by Him and at the same time He acts quite personally with each of them. The sense which is given to history in the Scriptures is also the sense of our personal life…In this spirit, the reading of the Bible received a central place in the life of the ancient monks under the magnificent name lectio divina. A divine reading not only of the sacred text, but through the text of your own person and life. The Spirit who inspired the sacred text transforms the Word of the Scripture into a personal Word in our heart. For this reason, the reading of the Bible was no secondary occupation for the ancient monks, but it unites with silent prayer as the two sides of a coin or as the same movement up and down. God and humanity, who search for each other and who speak with each other from heart to heart.

St Paul, Apostle

It was Saint Paul more than anyone else who showed what man is and how great is the nobility of our nature, as well as what capacity for virtue this human animal has. Every day he advanced in stature, every day he fought with ever-renewed keenness against the dangers threatening him; he showed this when he said: ‘I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead.’ When he was expecting to die he summoned others to share his joy, saying, ‘You also should be glad and rejoice with me.’ Again he actually leaped with joy at the dangers and insults and every dishonour which pressed on him, as he wrote to the Corinthians, ‘I am content with weaknesses, insults, persecutions.’ He called these the weapons of righteousness, showing that from them the greatest benefits are reaped.

Therefore he was always undefeated by his enemies. Everywhere he was beaten, insulted, and reviled. He treated it all as though it were a triumphant procession setting up trophies of victory everywhere on earth, glorying in them, giving thanks to God, saying, ‘Thanks be to God who in Christ always leads us to triumph.’ So he sought dishonour and insults in his preaching of the gospel more readily than we seek honours. He sought death more than we seek life, and poverty more than we seek riches; and he looked for work to do more than others look for rest. It was not simply that he looked for more, he looked for much more.

There was one thing, and one thing only that he feared and shunned, and that was to give offence to God. Just as there was one thing he longed for, to please God.

He was rich with the love of Christ which was the greatest of all things to him. While he had this, he reckoned himself the most blessed of men. Without it he had no wish to be numbered among princes and rulers and powers. Possessing love he wished to be among the lowliest of men, among those being chastised, rather than without love to be among the loftiest and honoured. There was one torment for him, to fall away from this love. That for him was hell, that was damnation. That was the sum of all evils.

Even so to find this love was joy. This to him was life, it was the whole world, his angel, things present, things to come, the kingdom and the promise. This was the sum of all blessings. Anything else which was not concerned with this he regarded neither as painful nor as pleasant. Things visible he considered of no more worth than withered grass. Tyrants or peoples breathing fury seemed to him like gnats. Death, torture, and a thousand torments he thought of as child’s play, provided only he could endure something for Christ’s sake

A reading from a homily by St John Chrysostom Hom 2 on St Paul.

It says in the Bible Alive for 25 January: ‘At the very heart of everything that Paul wrote and did was his lucid and clear understanding of what happened to him on the road to Damascus’. Everyone has this moment of conversion when we were going one way and we turned and went another. Why? It says in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1428 that it is a movement of a “contrite heart,” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. It happened to me. It happens to you. That moment should be nurtured, remembered, and dwelt on often as Paul could not be separated from that moment he met Jesus.

LIGHT OF THE WORLD

This great mystery of your love, of how you come to us, each of us, of how you come to share our lives, in spite of all our unworthiness, in spite of our preoccupation with so many worldly things!

This indescribable wonder of how You, Lord of all, have a place for each one of us in your heart, in your kingdom, and how you wish to share your life with us, your divinity, and of how you wish us to share our lives with you to find a place for you in our hearts!

Such is the infinite wonder of your unbounded love for us.

This is the inside page of a little booklet called Light of the World – a treasure for anyone and written by The Prayer Trust www.theprayertrust.org.uk.  

These thoughts appear in the front cover of the booklet called Light of the World by THE PRAYER TRUST www.theprayertrust.org.uk.

The Lord’s Prayer

Albert Einstein was once at a lecture in New York when, as it finished, a student who wanted to go and study for a doctorate asked him what area of study he could recommend.  Einstein replied, “Study prayer; we have got to find out more about prayer.” The student, himself a scientist, was gobsmacked; he thought the Nobel Prize winner and world famous physicist would point him towards nuclear studies or further work on the atom but no, he recommended prayer.

Today we encounter Jesus’ teaching on prayer, which is more radical, challenging and life-changing than we may at first realize because it encourages an approach or attitude to prayer which we might not share or even appreciate. The Lord Jesus positively and unambiguously encourages a bold, confident, even brazen attitude towards approaching God in prayer. The Lord wants us to cultivate a way of praying that is hopeful, expectant and sure of God’s goodness and generosity.

No prayer captures this more beautifully and perfectly than the Our Father, which the Lord himself taught us to pray.  The Our Father is the Magna Carta, the blueprint, for all prayer.  Despite being so short and compact, it encapsulates the essence of prayer and the very heart of our relationship with God. St Augustine said of the Our Father: “If you run through the petitions of all holy prayers, I believe you will find nothing that is not summed up and contained in the Lord’s Prayer.”  Jesus further uses the story about a bold and persistent neighbour, who has the hind of a rhino and simply refuses to take no for an answer, to reveal that God the Father is not like the unwilling neighbour, but is a generous, kind and benevolent provider for his children’s needs.

‘Who is God?’ and ‘What is God like?’ are the most important questions we can ask.  Today’s Gospel sheds a dazzling light on these eternal questions. We discover who God is more through prayer than any other spiritual exercise, for it is in prayer that the Spirit works in us to expand not just our minds but our hearts, our imagination and our horizons.

The Lord’s Prayer is the best of all prayers. All prayer requires five excellent qualities which we find here – our prayer needs to be confident, ordered, suitable, devout and humble.’ (St Thomas Aquinas)

Extract from Bible Alive for Sunday 28th July 2019 – 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time.