Friday, August 28, 2015

Paul's Reflections 506 : Homily Twenty second Sunday of the Year B 30th August, 2015

Homily Twenty second Sunday of the Year B  30th August, 2015

Deuteronomy 4:1-2.6-8       Observe God's law
James 1:17-18.21-22.27      Word planted in you
Mark 7:1-8.14-15.21-23       Listen and understand



This weekend’s readings take a very practical angle on the meaning of our discipleship. We are called to take special care to be just, honest, and charitable toward everyone. What a different tone the world would take if everyone took this angle.

As Christians, the proper application of our religious beliefs leads to very important practical consequences for our lives and actions. The readings this weekend send a powerful message: What is the point of calling ourselves “followers and servants of God” (in other words: “Christians”), unless our practical actions reflect the justice, charity, forgiveness and loving/practical acts of kindness that God asks us to show to one-another.
“True and untarnished religion is acting justly, helping the poor, the widow, the orphan and helping those who are most in need.”
Jesus warns his critics that if their religion goes no further than compulsively observing outward actions and stylized symbolic rituals whilst (at the same time) not living the message of practical love, kindness and fairness (which these rituals represent and symbolise attempt to foster within us), then it is really nothing more than a false (and hollow) practise of “religion”. 


“The value of a person’s good works is not based on their number and excellence but on the love of God which prompts the person to do these things.” as Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591) so ably points out. “Love, justice and charity are the more key indicators of an authentic discipleship that mere outward observances of one’s rituals. Ideally, the two go together and reinforce and nurture each-other.” 

I had often understood the first reading to mean, you must observe each and every law and commandment that God gives (which is certainly true), but a closer inspection of this text shows that there is more to be found here….. “You must add nothing to what I command you, …….” That is, you must not ADD to God’s laws. 

 
It is clear from the Gospel that by the time of Jesus, people had indeed been adding to God’s law and loading people down with unnecessary burdens and difficult observances that for most people were impractical and frankly impossible to achieve. So, living in God’s favour became something exclusive, for the lucky minority… The large majority of people were too busy with the messy demands of everyday life to be able to keep all the rules and rituals that were now being lumped on them if they were to be considered righteous and good. “Holiness” and “peace” became rare commodities, which were now well beyond the reach of most people. This could never have been God’s plan.  
 
Also, the keeping of the commandments of the Lord your God was in order to “demonstrate wisdom and understanding.” ((Deuteronomy 4:1-2. 6-8) . this starts to make things clearer: The whole point of the law was that God gave it to the people as a help to their welfare and growth and so that people could deeply reflect the values and priorities of God.

I particularly like scripture passages that expressly NAME the virtues and qualities of Christian life.. You can feel a tangible energy and desire for those virtues.. It is clear that these qualities resonate in our very soul…..

The psalm this weekend, goes on to explain in detail:
How the “just” will live in the presence of the Lord.
The just will live in the presence of the Lord BY…….

- Walking in the ways of blamelessness,
- Acting with justice
- Speaking honestly
- Avoiding wrong
- Not gossiping or slandering others
- Honouring the Lord.
- Keeping promises
- Not “ripping-off” people
- Not allowing oneself to be “bought off” from their principles.
 
The second Reading (James 1:17-18. 21-22. 27) confirms this practical advice: and we should always aim to “do what the word tells us, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.” It is a reminder that we can easily deceive ourselves about our motives and intentions, but we should be on guard against such self-justifications that can happen so often. The true test of “pure, unspoilt religion,” is the practical actions of “coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world. (There are many values in the world that are not consistent with the gospel).

Finally, in the gospel, Jesus warns us about people who “honour God with only lip-service, and all the while their hearts are actually far from God.” Jesus asks us to look inside ourselves and see the things that will distort our faithfulness to God: Unfaithfulness, lust, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. These are the inner movements of the heart and they must be crowded out by the positive values and virtues of God: faithfulness, purity, reverence, respect, detachment from material things, love, honesty, appreciation, affirmation, self-sacrifice, and so on. The virtues of the gospel build us up and crowd out anything that is inconsistent with the gospel.

Christianity is not primarily a set of doctrines and Laws…. Christianity is about a Person, and relationship to that person – Jesus Christ, who is the revelation of God….. 
 
All the law and the prophets and all of the Bible… (Old and New Testament)…. Are not an end in themselves, but allow us to encounter God, and particularly encounter the Person of Jesus Christ… Christ IS the Gospel…. The Gospel is not a book it is a person, God the Son, Jesus Christ. He himself is the Message of God…  The law of God is not a thing it is a person: Christ. He IS the Law. He is THE WORD of God… and he is the last word on everything…… // Christianity is therefore only secondarily about what he says… but rather, first and foremost, what Jesus says is an expression of WHO he is, and his values and his nature… His relationship with the Father and his invitation for us to be part of that inner life of God is the essence……….. 
 
Christianity is a relationship not a concept or a philosophy or merely a set of rules…. And whenever it is turned into mere concepts or merely a set of rules or philosophies, it gets disconnected unless it CONNECTS us to the person and values… of Jesus. This is not to say that there are no rules and doctrines in Christianity. They certainly are. But they all serve to point us to Christ who is the one Rule, the one Word.
 
Jesus was struggling against legalism in today’s gospel…. The lawmakers and law keepers seemed to be more interested in what people could not do, rather than focusing on what they should or could be doing in response to life’s real problems. It would be equivalent to a peron saying: “ I have kept all ten commandment. Wherever it said.. “thou shalt not”… I “didst not!!”… That is all very well, God might reply, but  “also, you actually did not Do anything else either!!!! ”  -   Surely our Christian faith is also about positive action as well as refraining from negative acts… 
 
Whilst it IS true that the ten commandments features a list of some do’s and quite a lot of don’ts, Jesus’ point in the gospel this weekend makes it clear that the sins which he has reserved most criticism for are for “things done,” not merely things “avoided”……
 
The law makers in Jesus time focused too much on appearances….. on outward actions, whilst ignoring the inner realities of their attitudes and hypocrisy….. Focusing more on what one should refrain from doing rather than encouraging inner growth and nurturing constructive attitudes and loving responses towards others…….There is a certain safety in refraining from doing things, and avoiding things………

It is possible to make sure we never get hurt or hurt others by avoiding any meaningful engagement with them…….

We might be able to prevent getting disappointed by others. If we do not want a complicated life, we could try to achieve this by refusing to love but this would defeat the call of the Gospel. The final criticism of the law of Jesus’ time is that it had become an end in itself…..the law did not seem to exist for humans.. but the law had become an end in itself for humans to observe.

Jesus corrected the error…. It is possible to go through life seeming righteous and appearing to observe the letter of the law, but at the cost of never risking anything and never getting one’s hands dirty and by never really doing anything bad or good.

 
In response to that, Jesus is shown risking everything and giving everything to honestly address genuine human need.

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References:
Fr Paul W. Kelly



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Friday, August 21, 2015

Paul's Reflections 505 : Homily 23rd August, 2015 - Twenty-first Sunday of the Year B

Homily 23rd August, 2015  -  Twenty-first Sunday of the Year B

Joshua 24:1-2.15-18          One God or other gods?
Ephesians 5:21-32              Body of Christ
John 6:60-69                   Holy One of God



At the risk of sounding repetitive, I would like to point out again that in the first reading, the people are faced with a decisive question:   Will you keep following the Lord, or will you go after other priorities and values and false gods.   The response of the people is very telling: ‘We have
 no intention of deserting the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors out of the land of Egypt, the house of slavery, who worked those great wonders before our eyes andpreserved us all along the way
 
This is yet another example of the people REMEMBERING.  The people are calling to mind, in a very clear way, the blessings and graces of the past.  If we DO NOT keep remembering the gifts of the past, we will almost certainly fall by the wayside.  We MUST keep thanking God and remembering the countless blessings and graces that God has already given us along our life journey.  Then, we too, can say to the Lord, We have no intention of deserting the Lord who has done so much to support and accompany us along the way.
 
And this leads us to (as the psalm says) …. “ bless the Lord at all times,  his praise always on my lips”
 
the second reading is jarring and challenging to modern ears, but one line that makes sense of this all is this:  “….for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because it is his body - and we are its living parts.”  This text of the second reading is meant to be understood as acknowledging the equality and dignity of man and woman and encouraging people to put eacother first, the way one would treat one’s own very self. !!!!
 
the Gospel affirms Jesus as the source of all inspiration and grace.  In the midst of very challenging new concepts and ideas, that really challenge the would-be disciple and follower of Jesus, there is this simple reply:  “Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’   This foundational belief in Jesus as out source of eternal life and of truth, allows us to keep trusting, keep believing and keep going deeper into our heart and soul so that we will truly follow Jesus even in times of challenge and newness and of confusion.
 
It is also interesting to note, that…
“Even after this, these same followers denied knowing Jesus and betrayed Him in various ways.  The most important reality is to know that Jesus always will invite us to follow Him again, even when we turn against Him.  Our hearts must be open to conversion, as were the hearts of those disciples who left Him and yet returned to follow Him once more.
 
Always we come back to the reality that we must choose to serve God or be against Him.  We must choose to follow Jesus Christ or be against Him.
 
There is no middle ground except for repentance once more.  God has sent His Son to redeem us and to share the divine life with us.  We must seek to respond to the invitation of God.  Even if we have gone away from the Lord Jesus, He still invites us to return.  Let us not be afraid of turning back to the Lord if we have left Him.  If we have remained faithful, let us strive to love Him even more. 
 
In this life, we must constantly keep our faith alive.  This requires of us a daily effort to live in the Word of the Lord, to let that Word form us and to allow the Word to convert all within us that is not yet completely given over to the Lord. This means, prayer, reflection on the scriptures and openness to the formation and challenges of Our Lord’s words of eternal life, that challenge and impel us ever more forward, out of our comfort zones.
Let us walk in the ways of our God (A)

In response to Our Lord’s words in the gospel.  “Many of Jesus’ disciples said: ‘This word is hard’. The Greek word used in the original text of this Gospel means ‘the words of Jesus were hard to Accept, not hard to understand !!

The people listening to Jesus KNEW EXACTLY what Jesus MEANT by his speech, they were simply having a very difficult time accepting this message and its challenges for them.

That puts an interesting ‘extra spin’ on the reaction to Jesus.

Our Lord KNEW that his teaching was quite challenging and difficult. He was inviting anyone who chose to follow him to make a full, active and committed CHOICE, and not just happen to follow him around because he cured people and miraculously provided them with bread on a couple of occasions.  HIS was is spirit and life, but it is also the WAY OF THE CROSS, and would require a complete transformation of heart and mind....

True, Jesus was clearly saying that unless you eat his body and blood in Eucharist, you cannot have his life in you.  But the biggest challenge for the people who were casually following him was, 1. Jesus was making the claim that he was THE full embodiment of the very ‘life of God’ and he was asking those who followed him to accept this, and submit to him as the absolute authority of God. Some were not prepared to do that.  2. Jesus was saying that following him meant the highest standard of moral life, of accepting and taking into one’s life and actions, the values and practices of the Kingdom of God, the values of the Gospel...

People stopped following Jesus NOT because they were having intellectual difficulty comprehending the meaning of his teaching, but rather, because he was challenging their lives and it was requiring a change of vision and action that they were not prepared to make.  They refused to follow him because they found his message too challenging for them.

Jesus goes on to say something else really key, that puts a new perspective on our lives and actions... he says  .. “the life-giving power is ‘Spirit’ , the flesh gives no help....  It iss important to make a really clear distinction here....

Jesus was using words that indicate that he was NOT saying the BODY is bad and useless and the Spirit is all good.... Not at all...  In fact,  the incarnation (God becoming human)  and the resurrection and ascension of the Lord into heaven, shows us that the Body is sacred and holy and is intended to be glorified by God in Heaven.   So, rather, Jesus was saying there is a distinction between the Spiritual and the earthly, base aspects of our lives... The Spirit gives life and meaning and significance to our actions...   SO, for Jesus... it is not so much what we do, but the Spirit with which we do it.   “the real value of something actually is found in the aim and intention”   .. 
For example, “if I eat only for the sake of eating and not for the intention of keeping myself nourished and healthy so that I have the energy to live my life in service of God and others, then the flesh is at work and the Spirit is not engaging me.   If I exercise, merely for the sake of exercise or to build myself up,  as opposed to the Spirit of keeping myself fit so that I can care for the body God gave me and be able to do the work God wants of my life... then the Spirit it misplaced...  “the things of the flesh gain their value from the Spirit in which they are done”.

Jesus tells us, HIS WORDS ARE SPIRIT AND LIFE. Jesus gives our lives meaning. Only Jesus can tell us what life is really about and put the meaning and Spirit into what we do and who we are. Christ alone can give us our true purpose and meaning and the power to work out that vocation in our daily lives, and gain the strength to resist the constant opposition that can come from around us and even from within us, the opposition of contrary values and philosphies of life that do not give true life and lasting  meaning.
I constantly wonder to myself... some of the things that worry us and bring us down... surely many of these things could be transformed I let go of the worldly interpretation of things and see things with the different eyes that God sees and values things in.....

I don’t mean to be utterly negative about our modern society... and its values... but i must say there are some strong values and philosophies that are so dominant and so powerful in our society that if one accepts them, it can make one’s life miserable......  it can send one down a path of constant futility,...  i speak for example of our wider societies ‘cult of beauty’.....  ‘the cult of slim-ness’.... the ‘cult of exercise’.... Again, there is nothing wrong with us taking care of the resources we have, including our bodies,... but again last night i was watching a show about celebrities and diets and how they are forced to do all these drastic diets to get thin for a movie role or a premiere... and how the tabloids comment on the weight and looks of a person and happily splash a photo of some star without makeup or their hair all messed up..... I had to turn it off in disgust... are we not ruly sick of this shallow concept of the meaning and value of a person.....   //..     And those reality shows.. Remember those ones that show people behaving badly whilst travelling on airlines....  (which is just about people getting upset that they have been delayed, refused entry or some such thing) ...... Again I switched off the tv the other day when an ad came on....  ‘why have two rival boxers been booked onto the same flight’///why???....because the public cannot get enough of manipulated tension and "aggro'; to give the show ratings.. that’s why... ‘  //  It would not be deemed "much of a show" if it was a quiet day at the office...//

Even the value of the person....  it does not take much to see that if you scratch the surface there is a powerful value system in our society saying.. ‘my value is in my job alone.....  my true value is all about my ability to be able to do things.....  my value is in what I own and where I stand on the ladder of society....’   
Jesus says that this is NOT where our true value lies at ALL.....   But his words are too hard for many and they refuse to follow...

Jesus, thank goodness, does not water down his teaching in order to keep those who are turning away. In fact, he steps up the strength of his message even more. He will not back down.   And thankfully, he turns to his disciples and says... ‘Are you going to leave too?”  and St Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit replies bravely and truthfully...  “where else could we go... there is nowhere else to go....YOU have the words of everlasting life.”  YOU have the truth Lord, why would we turn away from true meaning....  no matter how challenging....
Lord, help us to keep following your ways, and Lord, help us to reject all that is contrary to your values.....   May your life and your Gospel transform our hearts, minds and bodies...

[From reflection by Paul Kelly,
also

Daily Study Bible. Johns Gospel. William Barclay. also,
(A) MONASTERY OF CHRIST IN THE DESERT. ABBOT’S HOMILY.]


Friday, August 14, 2015

Paul's Reflections 504 : Homily 20th Sunday of the Year. - B 16th August, 2015

Homily 20th Sunday of the Year. - B 16th August, 2015

Proverbs 9:1-6  --   Come and eat
Ephesians 5:15-20  --  Always thank God
John 6:51-58     --      Living bread



In the readings this weekend, we hear of Jesus telling the crowd in no uncertain terms that he is offering himself to them in Eucharist, so that as they eat the bread and drink the chalice of Eucharist, they are taking in the presence and person of Jesus into their hearts and becoming united with Christ and his mission.   Jesus wanted to make it quite clear that he wanted us to become living, cooperating and free instruments of his grace, and that this included receiving Eucharist so that we could be as closely united to Jesus in our lives and in our work as was even imaginable.  What a profound and amazing gift Jesus gives to us.

I have a favourite example of a little everyday example of God’s grace… in something interesting..  I was looking around online for some piano music, and I came across some albums of George Gershwin, (1898 – 1937), the brilliant American composer and pianist. This album I came across was called “Gershwin plays Gershwin” -  and I was intrigued. Since these “recordings” of his music were made between 1916 and 1933 and of course, sound recording was not at all “hi-tech” back then, I thought they would be scratchy and terrible,  (even allowing for the modern digital restoration and enhancement techniques),  But these recordings turned out to be as clear as if we were hearing them here and now……But, I asked myself, how was this possible???? How could this be perfectly clear but be the playing of the actual Gershwin??  The answer is, because Gershwin “recorded” in a technique that was (arguably) the forerunner of digital technology, yes, even way back in the 1920’s….. You see, he recorded his music on “piano rolls”... Paper rolls with little slots cut into them that exactly replicated his playing and were designed to be played back on a real piano; a “pianola” or the type. SO, these are effectively modern recordings of his own playing, amazingly experienced as he were played the music in person.  

 
I mention this example because the activity of God’s Holy Spirit through us humble humans, has often been compared to the human breath being breathed into a finely tuned musical instrument.  When the Holy Spirit fills us up and inspires our actions effectively,  it is not like a scratchy, faded, old recording of a bygone event, but rather it is truly God’s gracious action, in and through his cooperating human instruments…   here and now, for real, clear and effective…  


In some ways, the sacraments are God’s perfect digital music….   God is really and truly touching us in and through his presence in his sacraments…  not just a pale symbol or sign that harks back to a long-gone event, but a perfect and real re-presentation of God’s actual presence and action in and through the sacramental encounter.   So, when Jesus gives us the Eucharist, the bread broken and the chalice poured out for us,   this is truly the presence of Jesus in his Body and Blood. Not merely a scratchy copy, but the real thing, presented to us.  We are asked to take in his body and blood in Eucharist, to be united with him body and soul and to take in words in the Scripture and to become a finely tuned instrument through which God’s grace can be experienced here and now in this world and in this community.   A true miracle, better than any human technology could ever achieve… 


Another thought……..

When I was at the Seminary, we had the option to learn a little bit of Latin. A few of us felt that since this was a very important part of the tradition of the church, we should at least have an opportunity to have a grasp of it.
 
I am glad I did this…  but really, how I learnt any Latin is a mystery of religion. It was so difficult. There were so many irregular verbs, and declensions… My mind boggled. And I would come to the classes feeling I had not put enough preparation into the next classes, so I would worry that I would not be able to answer any questions about it. Mysteriously, though, several things deep seem to seep into my brain, (as if by a form of osmosis); That is, just by being immersed in the language of Latin, some things did stay with me…
 
For example, pronunciation stuck with me, and the general structure and basic vocabulary stayed with me. And also, a few phrases really struck me, some for various reasons…..   
 
Our lecturer, Fr Michael McClure, would present us with old Latin hymns and get us to pronounce the Latin contained in these beautiful hymns……   I was intrigued one day when we were reciting an old hymn set to the words of Thomas Aquinas, a great Doctor of the Church……   It was a hymn to Jesus….  And the mysterious Latin words echoed out….   “O Pelicanus”…..
 
I thought to myself…. How odd…. That sounds like… it looks like Aquinas is saying to Jesus as “O Pelican” !!
 
How odd…. Surely I have mistranslated…. But no… I had not…….    But why a pelican?…..    why would a pelican be a symbol of Jesus??
 
And here lies an interesting story….. 

The symbolism of a mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend.  In ancient thinking, the humble pelican was believed to be very self-sacrificing to its young, especially in times of famine…..The mother pelican was seen to wound herself (it ‘vulns” herself; as in another Latin word from the same origin as the word ‘vulnerable,” that is, able to be pierced); striking her breast with her beak, to feed her young with her own blood, to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life.  This legend, as I mention, comes from a slight observational confusion…..   A pelican feeds her young by regurgitating food that it has stored in its upper throat. This regurgitation occurs by the bird lowering and raising its neck repeatedly onto its breast; hence its actions look like it is piercing its own breast and a reddish fluid flows out which the young then feed from…… So, even though it is a misunderstanding, the symbolism is still clear and beautiful……


Given this tradition, one can easily see why the early Christians adapted it to symbolize our Lord, Jesus Christ. The pelican symbolizes Jesus our Redeemer who gave His life for our redemption and the victory over sin and death he made through His passion and death. We were dead to sin and have found new life through the Blood of Christ. Moreover, Jesus continues to feed us with His body and blood in the holy Eucharist.


This gospel today reminds me about this because Jesus is using very clear and very dramatic and almost “unpleasant” words to explain how he intends to be made present to us and to allow us to draw life from him by partaking in Eucharist; which is clearly a sharing in the body and blood of Christ so that we might be united in Christ’s life.


The other little Latin that has stayed in my head, almost like a little jingle, are the words of a saying, again from good old Saint Thomas Aquinas: Christ is “non confractus, non concisus”    ……     It is a strange little saying, but nevertheless this is an important point….  When the Eucharist is celebrated, we break the bread… and Christ is present in his body and blood in the Eucharistic bread….  But, at the same time, Christ is never broken, nor is he chewed, (non confractus, non concisus)…..Even though we receive him in this special way…. Jesus is not parceled out or divided, by the sharing of the bread….  We each receive Jesus fully, and draw life from him as we take this food of grace; his body and blood. …..

 

It reminds me of when I was preparing for First Holy Communion, the nuns preparing us reminded us…  do not chew the host, or else you are biting Jesus.  Well, that was what I thought they meant anyways.  Now that I know a bit of Latin, …..   Yes, we do believe we are receiving Jesus in what looks like bread and wine….  It is truly Christ present….However….   even if we were to chew the host we are not chewing Jesus… It does not work that way…. Nor are we breaking him or dividing him……. 

Jesus had the problem of conveying the meaning of the Eucharist to his followers, and it was very hard… It is quite clear that he MEANT them to understand the dramatic reality of the action of the Eucharist, whilst at the same time not wanting them to be so repelled by the idea of eating flesh and blood…… Christ truly meant us to understand that in Eucharist we truly receive him in his body and his blood and become connected to him and his life.  

 

All that matters, and I am forever grateful to my long-suffering Latin lecturer for this, is that Christ gives his life and body and all for us…. And Christ wants to enter into a relationship of faith and life with him that is so close that we are to be truly united with Christ, and that what we celebrate here in this Eucharist is the real and tangible expression of the life that we share with “God made flesh” - for the life of the world…….  

 

The “Pelicanus”… whose chest was pierced, and his own life force flowed out… so that we might have life……  

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Collect

O God, who have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
Through our lord Jesus Christ, your son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the holy spirit,
one God, forever and ever.

++++++++
References:
Fr Paul W. Kelly






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Saturday, August 08, 2015

Homily Nineteenth Sunday of the Year - B 9th August, 2015

Homily Nineteenth Sunday of the Year - B   9th August, 2015     



The readings for this weekend are inspiring and beautiful, and continue the clear Eucharistic themes from the Gospel.

Jesus is the true bread from Heaven. He is the bread of life. Anyone who eats this Bread from Heaven will have eternal life.   Jesus gives us true nourishment to continue on the path of life and discipleship.

There is a line in the first reading that really strikes me.   The prophet Elijah is physically, spiritually and emotionally exhausted. He is ready to give up.  It all seems too much, and too hard.  So, God sends an Angel to help him.  The Angel wakes him up twice and says " get up and eat, or the journey will be too long for you."    I think that is a very telling piece of advice.  Following God is a difficult and challenging task.  It is not an easy path, even if it is the path of life.   It is possible, with God's help to complete this journey of discipleship and follow the path that God has set for us, but it needs the training of an athlete.  And it needs nourishment and strength from God.   What this is saying is You WILL NOT be strong enough, you will certainly NOT be resilient and nourished enough UNLESS you take the support and nourishment that God asks of you and offers you.    This is our task, as well as God's gift.

If we think that we can be effective disciples of Jesus who do what JESUS wants and not merely what WE might want;…  and if we think we can do the task of discipleship that Jesus has set each and every one of us, WITHOUT making use of the nourishment that Jesus gives us, we are kidding ourselves…  The nourishment Jesus gives us is regular Eucharist,  and regular nourishment and challenge from listening to God's word in the scriptures.  The nourishment we need to take is also regular prayer life, in community and also privately.   The food we need to take, (lest the the journey become too arduous for us), is the support and challenge of the community of faith and also the nourishment from the person, message and values of Jesus.

In addition. The second reading, From Saint Paul to the Ephesians, is very special.  It really encourages us to become a people who have been transformed as disciples of Christ, in our  actions and attitudes, as well as in name.  The quality of our discipleship will show itself in the way we act. Saint Paul encourages the community:

"Never have grudges against others, or lose your temper, or raise your voice to anybody, or call each other names, or allow any sort of spitefulness. Be friends with one another, and kind, (forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ).

Try, then, to imitate God, (as children of his that he loves), and follow Christ by loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place…."  (Ephesians 4:30 - 5:2,  Jerusalem Bible).

Oh, what a wonderful, life-giving community we are called into.  And it is attained not by sheer willpower and determination,  but by regular nourishment and refreshment by God's grace, that is found and given to us in the sacraments and in God's word. This allows God's grace to grow in us, and crowd-out anything that is not consistent with the Gospel.
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REFERENCES:
 
FR. PAUL W. KELLY



Friday, July 31, 2015

Paul's Reflections 502 : Homily Eighteenth Sunday of the Year - B

Homily Eighteenth Sunday of the Year - B     

Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15
Ephesians 4:17, 20-24
John 6:24-35


The people of Israel started to grumble…….    And also the people in the gospel start murmuring or grumbling amongst themselves after hearing Jesus’ message about the bread of life. 

In the wilderness when the people grumbled against God and against Moses….  they were short of food and tired and hungry and were regretting putting their faith and hope in God and his servant Moses. They started shockingly looking back to their time of slavery and fooling themselves that it was not so intolerable after all and that slavery might have been better than what they were now enduring.  They had forgotten the horrors of their time of slavery and subjugation in Egypt.

In response to their needs and despite their grumblings, God gave the people bread (manna) in the desert to sustain them….. 

 In this gospel passage, the grumbling people also receive bread....  in the the person of Jesus, who is the true bread of life…….. Jesus  as the bread of life feeds us by the bread that is his Word, (the word of God),  and he feeds us with the bread that his his presence and values, and most importantly, he feeds us with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist. 

But unlike the wilderness experience….   Jesus gives them eternal life…..  not just short term satisfaction…

It is good, in the face of this gospel for each of us to ask ourselves some important questions….

Are there things about our lives //or about how we stand with God // that are a source of grumbling or discontent. Are there aspects of our lives where we are tempted to lose heart and not trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God and that God does care about us and only wants the best for us. Do we sometimes doubt that God wants us not only to exist but to thrive,  and experience eternal life….   to the full…

In what ways might we be invited to more open, more willing to learn from God? …..  
How might we allow an even more open attitude to being taught by God…… // 
As with any student/ teacher relationship…..    we can learn the most if we are willing to put aside our preconceptions, and be challenged to look at things in a new way, according to the mind and wisdom of the teacher…  
In ways different from the usual attitudes and approaches we have habitually taken…. 

The challenge is for us to accept the gifts and graces and small miracles of daily life, when and where they occur….    
For the converse if not always true….    God does not always answer our requests and demands in the time or in the ways that we demand … And this can tempt us to grumble or complain or tempt us to lose hope….

But God does send us what we need, and God constantly teaches us the ways to put on HIS mind and his ways and transform our mind and heart to that of Christ, and most importantly he gives himself to us, to strengthen our life journey…

The people in Jesus' time grumbled, because they doubted Jesus' assurance that he would be with them in a real and tangible way always…..    As the bread of life…..  as the Chalice of eternal salvation………….

There is a saying in the bible…. "God spoke and it was created"…. So it is not so hard to believe that Jesus, at the last supper said to his disciples…. I want to give you something that will make me present to you in a real way..,… so… I am saying to you…. Every time you eat this bread and drink from this chalice .. you are receiving me… you are encountering me…..  I guarantee it…..

And why could not Jesus do that? … Why would he not do this necessary thing?….. and of course.. this is exactly what he did….. 
Let us pray that each time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist… it will strengthen us to live as Christ in the world….

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

REFERENCES:

 

·          FR. PAUL W. KELLY



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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Paul's Reflections 501 : Homily Seventeenth Sunday of the Year B 26th July, 2015

Homily Seventeenth Sunday of the Year B  26th July, 2015
2 Kings 4:42-44 -- Twenty loaves
Ephesians 4:1-6 -- Preserve unity
John 6:1-15 -- Five loaves



“Bread with Dignity


This weekend's first reading and Gospel are closely connected. They speak of God’s compassionate feeding of the people in their times of need.

In the Gospel, it has been noted that Jesus is very careful to make it clear that his actions, (in feeding the crowd), are not meant to be any kind of “show of power and wonder” and was not intended to win him popularity. In fact, Jesus shuns popularity and swiftly leaves the scene after the extraordinary event, in order to prevent the popular enthusiasm of the crowd from rising up and people trying to make him an earthly King.

Jesus’ actions are motivated only by compassion and from concern for the real needs of his people. He calls on his disciples, (us too!), to do everything we can, and to use all the resources we have available to be “food for the hungry and help for those most in need.”

In the context of our life journey, it is so encouraging and reassuring to remember that God is the one who gives us what we need in due season. God has our concerns in his heart. God works to give us what we need, and he calls upon others to assist in meeting of the real human needs of others. When we are tempted to lose hope or to question, then the words of the Scriptures remind us that God is completely faithful and desires that we be fed. God is generous, but God does not want us to waste even a crumb of the graces and blessings he gives us.

I read an excellent reflection during the week. It was attributed to Mother Teresa, but it was more likely written by another. However, a copy of the following reflection was kept on the wall in her office.

“People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred;  
forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior
motives; be kind anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you;
be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others may destroy overnight; create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous;
be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten;  
do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it may never be enough;
give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never simply between you and them anyway.”
 
The only thing I would add is that the Gospel does not make
'judgement' or 'self-justification' into the common bond between us, but rather God makes ‘love’ and ‘goodwill’ and ‘generosity’ as the true bond that unites us. We recognize the presence, action and love of Christ in everyone around us, (so in that sense it is also between us and others) and ultimately it is between us and God.  We "love our neighbour” precisely because God's presence is in everyone around us, whether the others recognise it in return, or whether (or not) they recognise the beauty of God’s indwelling Spirit in themselves or in their own actions.

The second reading has Saint Paul imploring us, (pleading with us), to “live a life worthy of our vocation.... in humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love,”
I think it is fair to say that Saint Paul would not have needed to plead with us to “bear with each other” if it was already an easy thing to do. It is not easy to follow the way of Jesus. It does not always come naturally to ‘bear with one another in patience and love,’ even if it is what we were made for, and destined for. Because, we are being called to live in communion with God and to allow God to transform our humanity into images of God’s Divine life and values///

Following the way of Jesus’ gospel is life-giving and true, but it is also the ‘road less travelled’ and not the easy path. It requires clear and resolute “decision, commitment and a life-long and determined change of vision, values, head and heart.”
The first reading and the gospel remind us that it is very good to continue to trust in the Lord. These passages of Scripture teach us to continue to believe that we will always have enough and even a little left over. They teach us to rely on God's providence in our own lives and also in God's teachings.
 
This weekend’s gospel is again a reminder of the contrast between God’s power and our concept of possibility.

In human eyes, we often cannot imagine how God could intend and also manage to achieve the good news for all people. We humans, who are naturally finite in our physical form, (and are all too well aware of our limitations, and the limitations of resources, money, food, energy, ability), struggle to imagine how God might be able to achieve the things that are so essential in the good news.

But Jesus, in the gospel reminds us that God makes use of our finite and limited offerings and transforms them into things that can be used by God to achieve things beyond our wildest imagination.  God does not even ask us to comprehend it, (if that is even possible), Jesus just asks us to keep offering what we have, so that God can transform it.

Echoing this gospel, every Sunday we come forward with humble and basic gifts of bread and wine, and ask God to transform them into the very real presence of God for our strength and nourishment. And God generously grants our request.

So too, we go out from here, offering ourselves and our humble, finite skills and talents to God; asking God to transform these into tools for the establishment of God’s Kingdom in the daily events and places of our lives. And, God graciously grants this request too.

There is another really beautiful thing, that again shows that Jesus never stops at half measures. Jesus’ miracle with the loaves and the fishes is amazing enough. But, HOW he distributes the miraculous loaves and fishes is also PROFOUNDLY important. Jesus could have had this huge and plentiful supply given out by saying something like: “Okay everyone, line up!!  We will hand this out.” That is to say, Our Lord could have insisted in handing out the bread and fish like the recipients were just beggars, recipients of charity….  People merely grabbing and clutching at the food. But no!! Jesus respects each person’s dignity. He asks that everyone sits down, in groups….  In little community groups. The food is brought to the people and they eat it, as equals and with all dignity.  Truly a second miracle has occurred…..an equally needed miracle.  Yes,  we have people who are in physical need; and we also have people in our society who are crying out for a sense of dignity, for equality and who do not want to be treated just like a number. We have people still, who cry out for human and respectful interaction and an experience of real and nurturing community.

Jesus gives us both nurturing and dignity, and asks us to do the same. And so, in a little while, we will again bring forward our humble gifts of bread and wine and, along with them: ourselves. We come as humble, graced, finite and sinful people; asking God to transform us and our gifts into the gracious things that God will use to change the world to be a place of generosity and respect and dignity.

Let us come to the table of life and be generously fed.

+++++
References:
Fr Paul W. Kelly
+ Some ideas taken from: Gustavo Gutierrez, “sharing the word through the liturgical year.”

 



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