Category Archives: Reflections

A Happy Easter

Taken from Bible Alive Easter 2021 www.alivepublishing.co.uk

We are an Easter people – Alleluia is our Song

‘Alleluia’ is an unusual word, native neither to English or Latin, rather it is Hebrew. Like ‘Amen’ its roots are in Jewish soil. This word of praise, jubilation and rejoicing can seem almost unintelligible, like childish babble, as if we are trying to express the inexpressible. ‘Alleluia’ is the song of the Easter people, as if we are saying: ‘In the presence of the mystery of Easter, our usual intelligible vocabulary is inadequate. When confronted with the superabundant mercy, love and power of God we can only stammer and babble in amazement.’

We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus

The Creed crescendoes to the proclamation of our belief in the resurrection of the dead on the last day and life everlasting. We firmly believe that just as Christ is truly risen we too will live for ever with him and he will raise us up on the last day. For as St Paul says, ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you’ (Romans 8:11). ‘The confidence of Christians is the resurrection of the dead; believing this we live’ (Tertullian).

Pieta

Now is my misery full, and namelessly it fills me.

I am stark, as the stone’s inside is stark.

Hard as I am, I know but one thing.

You grew – and grew, in order to stand forth as too great pain, quite beyond my heart’s grasping.

Now you are lying straight across my lap.

Now I can no longer give you birth.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord

Office of Readings: a excerpt from the addresses of St Andrew of Crete

Come, come, let us go up together to the Mount of Olives. Together let us meet Christ, who is returning today from Bethany and going of his own accord to that holy and blessed passion to complete the mystery of our salvation.

Happy St Joseph’s Day

An article from The Tablet 13th March 2021 by Richard Leonard SJ author of The Law of Love: Modern Language for Ancient Wisdom, Paulist 2021

St Joseph, has never had it so good, or, at least, he’s never had such a friend as in Pope Francis. The Pope announced that from 8 December 2020 the Church would have a special Year of St Joseph. It would honour “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence, who nonetheless played an incomparable role in the history of salvation.” In being tender, open to the demands of faith, obedient, creatively courageous and humble, Pope Francis says St Joseph is a model for all of us.

Devotion to St Joseph is a comparatively late development in Christian history. We know by the ninth century local churches had commemorations in honour of him as the husband of Mary, but this didn’t become a feast day in Western Churches until the twelfth century. Only then did devotion to St Joseph take off. Pius IX proclaimed St Joseph “Patron of the Universal Church” in 1870. Almost a century later, John XXIII added Joseph’s name to the first Eucharistic Prayer; and in 2013, Pope Francis extended that directive to Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV.

Christian art hasn’t been kind to him, usually depicting him as 103 not out, presuming that old men would have no sexual interest in young women. Those artists need to meet some of the old men I know. There is nothing in the gospel texts to indicate that Mary or Joseph were anything other than the marriageable age according to Jewish custom at the time: around 13 for girls; 18 for young men.

There are only five episodes involving Joseph in the gospels: the Annunciation: the Nativity; the presentation of the child Jesus in the Temple; as a refugee to Egypt; and the loss and discovery of the boy Jesus i the Temple in Jerusalem. One can see why the earliest Church may have been slow to make a fuss of him. He is not recorded as ever saying anything in the New Testament – not a word. He should be the patron saint of shy, hard-working backroom players who say little but do a lot.

Joseph is a dreamer: that’s how God communicates with him. In the Scriptures, his namesake Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob, is the famous dreamer and interpreter of dreams in the Old Testament. King Nebuchadnezzar, the prophet Daniel and King Solomon are just three others whose dreams were to have a dramatic impact on the destiny of Israel. There are plenty of people in the New Testament who dream dreams and see visions too, culminating in the Book of Revelation.

In the gospels, Joseph has a quartet of dreams: when he is told not to fear taking the pregnant Mary as his wife; when he is warned to flee to Egypt to escape Herod’s plan to kill Jesus; when he is given the all-clear to return to Israel; and finally, when he is told not to settle in Judaea but to go to Galilee.

Today we often dismiss belief in dreams as a fad of the new age. This is a mistake. God speaks to us however he needs to. If God has given us an unconscious and subconscious life, of which dreams are a sign, then God has a purpose for this gift, and it can be used for good. Long before Carl Jung, dreams were understood to be a gateway to our inner life and the mystical world, with St Joseph as their champion. If we refuse to take our dreams seriously, if we decide that God cannot or does not talk to us through our subconscious, then we will never realise their potential.

Even though the flight into Egypt is a theological story, it portrays Joseph’s transformation from being a dreamer to being one of history’s most famous refugees, fleeing a murderous dictator and saving the Saviour of the world.

Just as Matthew draws parallels between the dreams of the Joseph of Genesis with the dreams of Joseph of Galilee, we can see the parallels in our own lives too. Like the Scriptures, dreams need careful interpretation and discernment, but Joseph, the silent partner within the Holy Family, is testament to how a few words and great actions can save ourselves, our family and even the world.

When Pope Francic announced the Year of St Joseph, he also gave us a new prayer:

HAIL, GUARDIAN OF THE REDEEMER, SPOUSE OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. TO YOU GOD ENTRUSTED HIS ONLY SON; IN YOU MARY PLACED HER TRUST; WITH YOU CHRIST BECAME MAN. BLESSED JOSEPH, TO US TOO, SHOW YOURSELF A FATHER AND GUIDE US IN THE PATH OF LIFE. OBTAIN FOR US GRACE, MERCY AND COURAGE, AND DEFEND US FROM EVERY EVIL. AMEN

Editor: This is a lovely prayer and one we could easily learn by heart, take to heart and let often slip off our tongues. Thank you Pope Francis for this short prayer.

Happy St Patrick’s Day 2021

I praise and proclaim God’s name in all places, No only when things go well but also in times of stress.

Escape

In my sleep one night I heard a voice saying: ‘…soon you will go to your own country…look, your ship is ready…’ I ran away and left the man with whom I had spent six years…The power of God directed my way and nothing daunted me until I reached the ship.

I spoke to the crew…but the captain retorted: ‘On no account are you to go with us’…I began to pray, and before I had ended I heard loud shouting: ‘Come quickly…’ I went back…and they began to say to me: ‘Come on, we will take you on trust.. and we set sail at once.’

After three days we came to land and for twenty-eight days we made our way through deserted country. Supplies ran out and the party was worse for hunger. The captain said to me: ‘…you say your God is great and all powerful; why then can you not pray for us?’

I said confidently: ‘Turn sincerely with your whole heart to the Lord my God because nothing is impossible for him, that this day he may send you food…until you are satisfied; for he has plenty everywhere.’

With the help of God a herd of pigs suddenly appeared on the road…; they killed many and stopped there for two nights…After this they gave profuse thanks to God and I became honorable in their eyes.

(This excerpt was taken from The Little Book of St Patrick compiled and introduced by Don Mullan. It is based on two documents written by Patrick: Confession and Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus.)

Opening our secrets to the light

An article in The Irish Catholic 11th March 2021 by Fr Rolheiser www.ronrolheiser.com

You are as sick as your sickest secret! That’s a wise axiom. What’s sick in us will remain sick unless we open it up to others and to the light of day. As long as it’s a secret, it’s a sickness. However, perhaps the problem is not with what we keep secret, but that we keep it secret. Maybe the sickness is the secret rather than what we deem to be sick.

We relegate our fantasies to a sickness when we believe they are something we alone suffer from, something sick, shameful, and unique to us”

We all have our struggles, and we can thank God for that. The image and likeness of God inside us is not simply a beautiful icon imprinted in our souls. It’s fire, divine, insatiable, befuddling fire. By our very nature, there are complexities inside us that cannot make easy peace with the person we like to think we are. We all have wild fantasies and dark obsessions. Were our daydreams ever made public, they would reveal that we all nurse fantasies of grandiosity, of hatred, of vindication, and that we all are periodically caught up in the grip of various emotional and sexual obsessions. There are things in our daydreams about which we would be ashamed to speak. We all harbour fantasies that are wild, earthy, grandiose and egotistical. So we keep them secret and deal with them either by pathologising them (relegating them to a sickness) or by denying them.

We relegate our fantasies to a sickness when we believe they are something we alone suffer from, something sick, shameful, and unique to us. They are something we never want others to know about us. As a result, our fantasies and obsessions become something to be ashamed of, a dark secret, a sickness beneath our normal self.

Denial

Another option is denial. We can consciously deny that we ever have these thoughts and feelings. Denial saves us from feeling shame, but we pay another price for this in the end. Denying our thoughts and feelings is akin to living on the ground floor of a house and taking any garbage or anything else we do not want to deal with and simply tossing it down into the basement and closing the door. Out of sight, out of mind. For a while. Garbage doesn’t cease to exist just because we have pushed it into the basement. Eventually it ferments and sends its poisonous gases up through the vents to contaminate the air we are breathing.

However, and this is the point, the complex yearnings, obsessions and grandiosity inside our soul are not a sickness, nor something that we need to deny. Our soul, for all its wildness, is not sick.

The problem is that we lack an understanding of the deeper part of our soul, our shadow, and believe ther’s some sickness inside there – and it’s keeping this a secret that’s the actual sickness”

What is our shadow? Popular literature has given us a one-sided notion of what makes for our shadow. The popular notion is that our shadow is some dark, fearful place we are afraid to go, an inner desert we want at all cost not to venture into, inner demons that we want consciously to avoid. While we might at times feel those fears in the face of our own shadow, our shadow is not a dark thing at all. The opposite.

“In a healthy person, dark secrets generally hide the things that emanate out of the excessive light, divine energy, infinite longings, and godly grandiosity inside of us”

Here’s how our shadow forms. When a baby is born, it is luminous, wonderfully open and aware, looking around, simply drinking in reality. However, at this stage of life, a baby cannot think because it lacks an ego and thus lacks self-awareness. In order to form an ego and become self-aware, the baby has to make a series of massive mental contractions, each of which shuts it off from part of its own luminosity. First, early on in life, it distinguishes between what is self and what is other: I am not my mommy. Soon afterwards, it distinguishes between living and non-living: a puppy is alive, a stone is not. Sometime after that, it distinguishes between mind and body; a body is a hard, solid thing, thinking is different. Finally, and this is the critical piece in the formation of our shadow, at a point it its life, the baby will make a distinction between what it can consciously face inside of itself and what is too overwhelming to consciously face. In doing that, it forms its shadow by splitting off a huge part of its luminosity (the full image and likeness of God inside itself) from its own conscious awareness.

Our light

Notice that our shadow is made up of our light, not our darkness. As Marianne Williamson aptly puts it (in a phrase Nelson Mandela used in his inauguration address) it is our light not our darkness that frightens us. In a healthy person, dark secrets generally hide the things that emanate out of the excessive light, divine energy, infinite longings, and godly grandiosity inside of us. When we bring these into the light, we see that they are neither dark nor sick. The sickness lies only in not bringing them to light.

Editors comment: Always begin an article with a prayer to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will enlighten what we need to absorb.

The Joy of the Discovery

(taken from Bible Alive for Saturday 6th March 2021)

Did you know that the parable of the Prodigal Son is unique to St Luke’s Gospel? And yet, to believer and unbeliever alike, it is surely (along with the Good Samaritan) the most well-known and familiar of Jesus’ parables. For Jesus was sent to seek and save the lost. God is the God of mercy and kindness, always searching for us, always holding out to us the hand of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The wonderful thing about the three parables linked by the theme of something or someone being lost is that as we open ourselves up to the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we enter more deeply into understanding God’s love for us. These parables have the power to literally change the way we think: about God, about his mercy and about his love. Too often our emphasis is on what we have done or will do for God, rather than on what God has done for us in Christ. In the parables the shepherd and the widow represent God, and the sheep and the coin represent us. Neither the sheep nor the coin achieve anything other than being lost. It is the action, the initiative, the search of the shepherd and the widow which results in the joy of discovery of what was lost.

You see, our problem is that we imagine it is we who have to look for God, and so we easily lose heart and give up. In truth, it is the other way around – God is always looking for us. The mystery of faith is that we pursue God only because he has first put this urge within us. It is God who gives us the grace to seek him but all along we are being sought by God. In being found by him we discover who we really are – children of God made in his image and likeness.

God’s pursuit of us moves us towards repentance, for it is in these moments of repentance, sorrow and contrition that we touch the reality of ourselves and the reality of God. As St Augustine of Hippo said “Desire only God and your heart will be satisfied.” In receiving and experiencing God’s amazing mercy, our hearts are renewed, refreshed and satisfied.

‘We taste thee, O thou living Bread, and long to feast upon thee still. We drink of thee, the Fountainhead, and thirst our souls from thee to fill.’ (St Bernard of Clairvaux)

Reflection

We all need God’s mercy for we all have sinned. The only road back to God’s house passes through the mercy field. Mercy is God’s unmerited favour, of which we are “qualified” to receive because no qualification is needed. Both those who have gone far away from the Father’s house like the prodigal son, and those who are in the house like the first son, need God’s mercy and grace to understand deeply what it means to truly belong to God’s household.

(taken from God’s Word Daily Reflections 2021 St Pauls publication)

Don’t give up now

Three pieces of spiritual writings taken from The Living Spirit in The Tablet 20th February 2021

When He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards was hungry, He gave an opportunity to the devil to draw near, so that He might teach us through this encounter how we are to overcome and defeat him. This a wrestler also does. For in order to teach his pupils how to win he himself engages in contests with others, demonstrating on the actual bodies of others that they may learn how to gain the mastery.

This is what took place here. For, desiring to draw the devil into contest, He made His hunger known to him. He met him as he approached, and meeting him, with the skill which He alone possessed, He once, twice, and a third time, threw His enemy to the ground.

St John Chrysostom from The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers edited by M.F.Toal (Ignatius Press, 2000)

Lent is an opportunity to become Christian “anew”, through a constant process of inner change and progress in the knowledge and love of Christ. Conversion is never once and for all but is a process, an interior journey through the whole of life.

Pope Benedict XVI General Audience, 21 February 2007

But Jesus’ command is inexorable: if you want to walk with me, there are no excuses. No days off. You’re obsessed with riding your stationary bike every day and taking all your vitamins and checking your email and flossing your teeth. Well, this is your real obligation. It won’t kill you. You might get tired or bored or scared or fed up, but this is the condition for your walk with me. It doesn’t happen any other way. Put on your sandals or your sneakers or your hefty boots. Pick up that cross and let’s get going.

Margaret Guenther from Walking Home: From Eden to Emmaus (Morehouse, 2011)

Editors comments: did you get energized like I did through reading these three spiritual writers. Yes! Good. Then let’s get going together.

What will I give up for Lent?

Taken from The Irish Catholic February 11, 2021 by Fr Vincent Sherlock

Now there is a question. If Lent is about self-sacrifice, deprivation and slowing things down, then we have had the longest 40 days ever, in the wilderness that is called Covid. So much of what we enjoy, take for granted and rely on for normality in life has been taken away and personal sacrifice seems to be, quite literally, the order of the day. As we face towards the week ahead. Ash Wednesday and Lent, it is difficult to recall a time when our hearts have been heavier, our spirits more crushed and our faith more challenged.

Shrove Tuesday

And yet, that is where we are. In the coming days we will throw the mix on the pan, add some fillings and flavour and share a Shrove Tuesday meal – as long as we are in a “bubble”, otherwise it will be a solo journey. The tradition around this, as I understand it, was the clearing out of the kitchen presses so that the Lenten Fast could begin. It was something around the last taste of sweetness for a while and preparing for a few weeks of soul searching and sacrifice that would lead to Holy Week, the unfolding of its story and to the empty tomb of Easter and, of course the cracking open of the Easter eggs and the restocking of the kitchen cabinets. There was a pattern and a rhythm there, that sounded out the journey of faith and called out to us to try our best.

The big temptation for us all this year is to say, “I’ve had enough” and to turn our backs on the days and weeks that we call Lent. Thinking of that word, Lent, it reminds us that the days are lengthening and that brighter times are ahead. Could it also be a reminder to us that the world and the life we lead are “lent” to us, given to us “on loan” and that we need to be careful and respectful in the way we approach them? If we have been lucky enough to escape the impacts of Covid, might this be a time to express thanks for that? If, sadly, we have been impacted or maybe lost a loved one to this dreaded illness, might this be a time to remember the difference they made in our lives and to honour their memory through some form of reflection, self-awareness and in a lasting thanksgiving for the difference they made in our lives.

Offer

Has Lent this year something to offer us? Chances are, it has. It reminds us of the sufferings of Christ, of the temptations he experienced in the wilderness and that there can be at times much darkness around us. Into this darkness, come thoughts, doubts and pressures not of our making or choosing. In this darkness too, seeking to banish it – to conquer it, is Christ. It is with him and because of him we can and will come through this.

So, back to the question, what to give up for Lent 2021? Maybe grumbling, irritability, cynicism, apathy, despair, anger, hostility, negativity are among the things we might consider giving up. There is room too for taking up during Lent – kindness, encouragement, peacefulness, graciousness, patience, spirituality, awareness, tenderness, selflessness…ah, there is so much we could take up that could make a real difference, lengthen our days, and shorten the Lent!

We will not be gathering this year but maybe that gives us a chance to hear again the words of the gospel we read on Ash Wednesday: “Go to your private room, close the door and pray to your Father who is in that secret place and your Father, who sees all that is done in secret, will reward you.”

Enjoy the pancakes! Live the Lent and look forward to brighter days.

Editor: A wonderful reflection Fr Vincent Sherlock. Thank you so much.

God in Action

Taken from Gordon Linney’s article in The Times called ‘A universal and timeless significance.

God in Action.

It is difficult to express the Jesus/Christ relationship in simple language, but could it be otherwise?

We are grappling with profound mystery beyond words and beyond human understanding.

Brother Roger of the Taize community acknowledged the difficulty: “Together with the whole people of God, from all over the world, you are invited to live a life exceeding all your hopes. On your own, how could you ever experience the radiance of God’s presence? God is too dazzling to be looked upon. He is a God who blinds our sight. It is Christ who channels this consuming fire and allows God to shine through without dazzling us. Christ is present, close to each one of us, whether we know him or not. He is so bound up with us that he lives within us, even when we are unaware of him. He is there in secret, a fire burning in his heart, a light in the darkness. But Christ is also someone other than yourself . He is alive: he stands beyond, ahead of you. Here is his secret: he loved you first. That is the meaning of your life: to be loved forever, loved to all eternity…”

Editor: Oh God give us the gift of understanding.