Saturday, April 12, 2014

Paul's Reflections 467 : Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Year A.

Homily Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. Year A.   13th  April, 2014     

 

 

It is really important as we enter into the most sacred days of the Church’s calendar, that we fully appreciate that we are not bystanders in some drama that is happening somewhere else…  to someone else….    In times long past….   We are drawn into the drama here and now in this time and place…… 

We are part of the crowds who welcomed Jesus with palms and cloaks at his triumphal entry.. it was us!!!.. and many like us, who proclaimed him Messiah..  and cried out Hosanna…  blessed is he who comes in the Lord’s name!!!..   and got whipped up into the excitement of declaring him King…. We (all these centuries later, KNOW that Jesus truly is the King.. and the Messiah… ) whereas the crowds back in Jesus time would have had all manner of assumptions and presumptions..  some may have simply been going along with the crowd at that moment..   drawn into the excitement..   actually…   we have to be wary that we too are waving and calling our Hosanna to the King for good and solid reasons…  

We also are sobered by the fact that  only a few short days later..  it was the same crowd ….. (the likes of you and me and heaps more like us).. who got whipped up into another frenzy of the crowd and cried out..  crucify him..  crucify him..  away with him…..   anyone who tolerates a man like this is no friend of the Roman emperor…..  take him away.!!!!! 

Christ died for us…..   He well and truly suffered and died for you and for me..  and for all…..   because we needed saving…    He didn’t just die for those virtually lost souls back there, as if they were worse than we are today…..    No…..   in so many ways..  big and small..  we were dead in our sin.. and he needed to bring us to life and suffer for us…..  and he did….

…..    After faithfully commemorating the Lord’s passion and death, we see things with new eyes…  and we understand deeper .. so when we now proclaim Hosanna to the King… we understand just what Jesus, Our King underwent to call us to live according to his ways..  and not our own self-focused and stumbling old ways…   

What Jesus did , he did out of love, of mercy, of service of self sacrifice….       And for that..  we thank God, we praise God and we worship God..  and we promise to follow Jesus and walk with him in his new ways

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REFERENCES:

·          FR. PAUL W. KELLY

 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Paul's Reflections 466 : Fifth Sunday of Lent. Year A. 6th April, 2014

Homily Fifth Sunday of Lent. Year A.   6th  April, 2014     

 

How inspiring the Gospel is of the Raising of Lazarus.  It speaks of the fact that Jesus is the Lord of the Resurrection. He not only rose from the dead but he put an end to death forever and promised us that all who trust in him will be called forth from the tomb like Lazarus, on the Last Day, the day of the Resurrection.  Meanwhile, we believe that those who have died are enjoying the rewards of eternal life in heaven until they are united body and soul at the great Resurrection on the last day.

But, the gospel means even more than this. Jesus shows us that God is at work bringing new life and resurrection to us who are still alive and on this earth.  Jesus (in so many ways) wants to raise us up, here and now, to a new and fulsome way of living and loving. God is constantly at work to resurrect us and bring new life (and changed life) to those who have suffered the many and varied ‘little deaths’ that comes along life’s path.

Jesus is also the Lord of New Beginnings, New ways of looking at things and New starts.  May God raise us up in many different ways in our present life!

 “Lazarus, come forth!!.....Unbind him, set him free !”

These words called lazarus out of the tomb.  They are beautiful words……. Words have power.  Words can create new realities……. 

When Jesus called out … “Lazarus, come forth!!!”   people objected…  “but..  it will be foul!!”  -   But their fears were unfounded. 

 

In our lives..  we may be trapped in many metaphorical tombs……  and when Jesus calls us forward to new ways, we might be tempted to say..  but lord…  what you will find …stinks….   It is past fixing..  its too awful to bring to light…  we must trust that the Lord knows what he is doing….  We ought NEVER be afraid that any situation in our lives, any sin, any mistake is beyond fixing…   it is not…  it might, in our eyes, stink…  but God knows what he is doing.. we can trust in him and come forth into the light.. and to a newness of life…..  

 

This gospel reminds us that words are indeed filled with power……  and of course, I truly believe there is one single WORD who gives power to all other words and phrases.. and it is the person and message of Jesus, who is THE WORD of God……  the word made flesh…..   Jesus is a DOING word, so the word of God, is a verb…….

 

Some other very special words have a powerful effect because they are so intimately connected with Jesus’ values//  his message and qualities about himself that they convey the qualities they describe….

 

these words are powerful, as though the Spirit hovering over them fills them with resonance…..  words such as

 

“Your sins are forgiven”

 

“Your debt is cancelled”

 

“Be Freed”  /  “Be released”

 

“Be Opened”

 

“BE upLIFTED FROM YOUR BURDENS”

 

“lazarus – COME-forth …… //   now unbind him…. set him free!”

 

“This is my body broken for you…..   this is my blood poured out for you as a new covenant”

 

I love these words….  I know you do too……    they fill us with hope… but more than that… they immediately begin to  achieving what they say…….  

 

SO, Jesus said a lot of words to people in his ministry…  sometimes the things he said really challenged the faith of those who were with him……   In the gospel today, jesus talks to them about God having the final say on suffering and death……   / Jesus is powerfully SHOWING that HE DOES CARE…. HE DOES LOVE US…..  HE DOES CARE WHEN PEOPLE SUFFER, DIE…   GRIEVE….  OR FEEL TRAPPED BY THEIR PAST SINS AND MISTAKES….. HE CRIES WITH US…..  HE SIGHS FROM THE HEART FOR US……..    AND HE SPEAKS WORDS OF CHANGE….. 

 

BE HEALED

 

BE FORGIVEN

 

BE FREED….

 

I GIVE YOU ETERNAL LIFE….

 

Surely it is only Divine love that fill us with life again….……  freed, healed, forgiven….  LOVED.

 

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REFERENCES:

 

·                    FR. PAUL W. KELLY

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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Paul's Reflections 465 : 30th March, 2014 - Fourth Sunday of Lent. A

Homily Fourth Sunday of Lent. A30th March, 2014     

 

 

I love this weekend’s first reading.   it is such a visually descriptive passage…… 

 

In the first reading, David is chosen by God and he is not the most likely of the candidates by human standards….Each of the sons of Eli would come forward,  and yet God didn’t choose them….   It reminds us that humans look at appearances…..  but God sees into the heart.

 

For us humans….    aren’t many things in life more like an audition for the Voice…   where people vote on how you come across… and use often very arbitrary standards to assess a person’s worth… and it has all too much with outer appearances…. and surface qualities. We live in a society where it seems (at times) that one’s whole “worth” can be judged by a few measly pieces of cobbled-together information…… and voted on by the whim of the majority….      How far this is from the way God thinks and acts…….  (thank goodness).

 

If we were to do a reality television show or a phone-in popularity vote of suitable leaders to be chosen by God,  then King David would never have been voted in………(one of his brothers who were taller and older and more impressive would have been chosen).....    John the Baptist would have been voted off the show in the first episode…..    St Peter would have been declared ‘the weakest link”…and ‘sent down’…...   And  …. Saint Paul … well, he would never have even made the short-list…. His previous history of well-meaning but quite misguided persecution of the early disciples of Jesus would have people asking “can he really be trusted???   …  “is he really on our side now??”……   the list goes on and on….    God does not judge by appearances but looks into the heart and sees us as we really are…. and loves us….. And thank goodness God is like this..   thank God others are not the judge and jury in most things in our lives.  

 

That first reading has the wonderful image, too, of the oil poured over the head of God’s chosen one. Being anointed as a prophet of God.  We use this symbol of anointing in our rituals even today…..    Anointing with oil… is a symbol of appointing, consecrating, commissioning and sending a person into mission.   This anointing oil is a symbol of royalty and leadership……   Even the name “Christ”, derives from the name “the anointed one”  and we are all united and commissioned to be joined to Jesus who is THE anointed one.. the Messiah and God the Son….

 

In baptism we use oil of chrism to join the baptized to Jesus who is THE priest, prophet and King……   in confirmation, we confirm the gifts of the Spirit in Baptism… and we commission, send and appoint the newly confirmed to be witnesses of Christ in their daily lives and vocations…..   to be united with Christ in living the good news…..

 

In the Gospel, the man born blind is shown coming not only to physical sight, but also coming to a clearer and clearer vision of faith… the man first thinks that Jesus is just a wonderful man who helped him… but as he goes along, he thinks of him as the messiah.. and finally as God’s son….     He suffers taunts and questions but stands firm….    this man stands as a wonderful example of discipleship….  of endurance and trusting in what God is doing.. the legalists around him become more and more disappointing… they are clearly blind and their hearts and minds are not only closed, they are antagonistic… their own responses bring them into disrepute…. 

 

A sobering lesson is here for everyone…  this man whom people judged to be a sinner, had understood the truth and meaning of Jesus better than the seemingly righteous and apparently “sinless” experts in the law. They could not get past their prejudices and pre-formed judgements of this man as a sinner and a lowly nobody… so they would not listen to his experience.. They would not give him the time of day…..   but he had the enlightenment of Christ in him…..    May the Lord help us to see beyond appearances, avoid jumping to conclusions based on outward qualities….  and help us to be open to everyone around us….    open to hear the good news in the most surprising places.. and people…

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The blind man is initially unsure what is happening, but he is sure of one thing, whatever people are making of his situation…   ‘he was blind and now he can see.”   The same cannot be said (spiritually) for the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, who really ought to know better but choose not to.

 

There is a lot of movement in this story…   there are people coming and going in this drama….   Jesus walks past the blind man, who received this free gift of sight apparently without even asking for it…  but he is certainly grateful…   then the crowd takes him to the Pharisees because they can’t believe its really the same person….   Then the Pharisees send him away..  and then the parents of the blind man come in and go out.. after carefully getting themselves out of trouble….  And then Jesus goes looking for the ex-blind man and speaks with him again/….  It is all wonderful…..

 

Now, not only has the man got his sight back… he can now see Jesus with the eyes of faith, which is an ever greater gift he has received….

 

The man believes in what Jesus tells him and worships Jesus.

 

The experts in the law and those considered publicly righteous, do not respond in the way they should to Jesus.  They will not listen to him, and they will not see what is really going on. They will not believe even when the blind see again.  

 

These people will not let go of their stubborn and wrong beliefs that physical conditions are caused by the wrongdoing or sin of the person or their ancestors…  they won’t let go of the false belief that God is punishing sick and disabled people for their sins or the sins of others….   It might seem a strange superstition to hold on to today, and yet, (you know) if you scratch the surface, I reckon there are still a lot of people who continue to believe at some level that God does go around punishing people who have done wrong and rewarding people who have done wrong.. in this life… by way of the things and illnesses that befall them… . This gospel and the teachings of Jesus make it quite clear that this is not how God operates and that this belief is wrong… and very unhelpful.    We know that there are many incidents of really good people who suffer terribly and they may not even get the respite they deserve in this life,   whilst other people who have apparently lead really bad live appear happy, healthy, and even prosperous … right to the end….    

 

As it says elsewhere in scripture… “the Lord makes his sun to shine and rain to fall on good and bad alike.”

 

In the midst of the natural disasters that happen around the world…... it is a very unhelpful and I think quite wrong thing to fall for the trap of thinking that this is some kind of punishment or action by God aimed at particular people or behaviours…   / God is a God of love who wants nothing but that which is for our good…  for all people…..    it is very difficult to make sense of some of the terrible things that befall people in different parts of the world… but we do well to avoid any simplistic explanations. God’s hand is to be seen at work not in the cause of these disasters, but rather in the compassionate and caring and loving response to those affected by it. God is to be experienced in the hands of those who work to heal and to rebuild and to help….  God is in the very midst of us;  suffering with us and for us and helping to bring life out of the worst that the world throws up at us…. 

 

Jesus has, in his ministry, a series of really key teachings and points to make and he targeted particular problems in the religious system of his day.  He named some of the problems specifically and warned his followers to be on their guard about them.  Some problems can be quite insidious and hard to shake…

 

In today’s gospel, he names ‘spiritual blindness’ (which includes an unwillingness or an inability to even realise that they have a blind spot in their attitudes and behaviour).   Jesus also highlights “hypocrisy” as a major stumbling block in the religious life. It is so hard to detect these things because (by definition) if something is hidden…it is hard to know that it is there. Also, if a person is not living up to what they appear to be doing outwardly, how can an observer tell the difference.  It is a real problem. Jesus reminds us, that it is in the fruits that we test the health of the plant.  It is in the actions and results of a person’s life that the true health of their spirituality and religiousness shows itself.

 

Ultimately, anything done in the name of religion that does not foster greater love of God, and love of neighbour as oneself, is not authentic Christianity.

 

May the lord show us any areas of spiritual blindness and open us up to love more and more as he calls us to do.

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REFERENCES:

·          FR. PAUL W. KELLY

 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Paul's Reflections 464 : 23rd March, 2014 Third Sunday of Lent. A

Homily Third Sunday of Lent. A  23rd March, 2014     

 

[ IMAGE: Samaritan Woman at the Well, by He Qi ]

 

Exodus 17:3-7 The people are thirsty. Moses provides the water. The conflict becomes epic.

Psalm 95:1-2, 6-7, 8-9 Meribah and Massah become synonyms for hardened human hearts.

Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 Faith brings peace, peace leads to hope, and hope in God does not disappoint.

John 4:5-42 A Jew and a Samaritan talk about water, religion, and the truth.

 +++

 

The People are thirsty in the readings…  and it is very topical, because people in many parts of this state and this nation…  and other parts of the world are truly thirsty for water…   water to drink…  water for their crops and stock…  water for their businesses….    We are crying out to our loving and merciful God to send us renewing and life-giving rain -  to soak deep and refresh and give life to all the areas in need….  

 

Water is essential… without it we don’t have life…  we don’t have cleanliness… and we don’t have produce and business…….

 

Jesus knew this… as he sat in the heat of the day and waited patiently for someone to come along and give him a drink of refreshing water.. for he had no bucket….   

 

But he had something to offer….   He had the waters of eternal life… the waters of baptism.. the lifegiving water of God;s word….    The eternal, living water of life that is his life, his teaching, his suffering, his death and his resurrection…   all done for us…  to connect us forever to God’s life….  

 

 

This encounter in the gospel is powerful….   It leaves a deep impression.. its one of the latin sentences that is printed on our church wall here at St Mary’s,,,,    over the altar of Mary…  on the choir side…   si scires donum Dei…  if only you knew the gift of God…   (and who it is who is offering it to you, then you would have been the one to ask and he would give you living water…    sir, give me this water always..  so that I don’t have to keep coming here to re-fill…   )  its beautiful, its delightful.    ….  

 

Jesus’ way of relating to the Samaritan woman is wonderfully human and inspiring…  Even though Jews and Samaritans were diametrically opposed to each-other and did not ordinarily associate or speak to one another…   nor did strangers  - men and women – speak to one another……    let alone accept a drink of water from them….  Yet..  it is so special.. so ordinary..  so natural.. as it should be ..  we are all God’s children…    all with God as the one Father…    Jesus did not even judge her…  but when the women tells him her own marital predicament, Jesus indicates that he knows this and commends her for her own perception and clarity …..    Jesus, after all, is not here to condemn and to distance, but to gather and to include…..    he is interested  in her spiritual welfare…  and he offers her what he offers us all..   the waters of eternal life……   The woman accepts his offer and goes and tells everyone to Jesus and her actions are evangelism… she goes back to her community and tells them about Jesus and leads them to him and then they experience him for themselves and accept……     without that familiar, non-judgemental, compassionate, kind and outgoing connection with others, we cannot hope to tell people about Jesus and expect them to come and see for themselves….  

 

Pope Francis has been teaching us all this in his first year as pope….  He is not saying anything radically different or new or anything that departs from what other popes and leaders have said..  but people are encountering and responding to that personal touch.. that welcoming, human, humble and kindly encounter and that is at the heart of our encounter with Christ…..     whom we each encounter ourselves and see and feel for ourselves what he is life… in the gospels, in our prayer, in the eucharist.. in how we recongnise and respond to Christ in eachother…  

 

May we be like a refreshing drink of living water to all we meet and encounter and respond to in our lives, in our homes in our community…..   

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REFERENCES:

·          FR. PAUL W. KELLY

·          Notes from Vince Dollison.

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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Paul's Reflections 463 : Second Sunday of Lent - A 16th March, 2014

Homily Second Sunday of Lent - A  16th March, 2014     

The message from the Heavenly Father to his beloved disciples at the Transfiguration (atop the mountain)  was This is my son, the beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased…  LISTEN TO HIM.” 

Very fittingly, Mr Wilson, principal from our St Mary’s Primary school, featured a little quote from Pope Francis.. and it very topical, so I have borrowed the quote…   Thank You Nathan..   God commands us to listen to his son…..   and on listening Pope Francis, in his encyclical: The Joy of the Gospel writes… 

“We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal: the desire to respond fully to God’s love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives.” (Evangelii Gaudium; The Joy of the Gospel p171) (end quote)

In this time of Lenten prayer, reflection, penance and good works, it is a very good time to reflect on how we listen, and how we see and perceive what happens around us.   It is an important opportunity to allow God to test us, to make sure that we are truly listening and not merely entering into the events and situations of our life ‘hearing what we want to hear, seeing what we want to see…  going into things with perceived assumptions and pre-formed views and opinions, which can be a massive barrier to truly seeing and hearing what God is really about.  

Connected to this, one scripture commentator asks a good question about what the disciples saw on the mountaintop. “Was Jesus transformed, or were his disciples? These three friends of Jesus were not always the most perceptive bunch. They weren’t a particularly wise or well-schooled group of folks, especially when it came to formal religious training. But on one special day they glimpsed the truth about their friend and teacher. The story of Jesus’ transfiguration in front of Peter, James, and John serves as inspiration and promise that we, too, can catch a glimpse of God’s glory, regardless of our walk of life or prior training. All that is required is a willingness to follow Jesus to the mountaintop.” And be truly open to the unexpected…   to be open to see and to hear without  spiritual tunnel vision….    The kind that does not actually expect to hear or see anything new or anything different from the way I think things are. 

The fact is, that Jesus was always glorious… he was always shining brightly…   in every moment of his life…  he was alive with the glory of being both fully God and fully human… the disciples only glimpsed this glory occasionally..  but it was always there… in what he did, and what he said. In his priorities and in his teaching….. in the everyday and ordinary, as well as the extraordinary.  This little glimpse of glory on the mountaintop was trying to teach his disciples to see and hear with the eyes of faith always…  not just on the mountain top…  

This applies to every aspect of our lives..  including our worship…..  familiarity and routine is great in different aspects of our lives.. including our worship.. Our masses are familiar in that they have a certain form and pattern that allows us to enter into the worship experience.  We hear the scriptures (God’s word) every time we come to mass…   But its good to ask ourselves..  what are we hearing.  When we hear a familiar gospel passage do we have a set idea of what its meaning is, to the exclusion of the new and endless insights that can be taken from these familiar texts…  do we ever tend to return to our favourite texts of scripture whilst editing out in our hearing or thoughts and reflection those more challenging or confusing or unsettling parts?   If we get a glimpse of something new, challenging, unsettling or different,  are we open to hear and perceive its message, or can we sometimes be tempted to filter it down the way we usually expect and understand the text.  The power of God’s word to transform us is very, very strong, but we must dispose ourselves always to be open to the new and unexpected and to EXPECT to be surprised, delighted, unsettled and transformed.   The transfiguration calls us all to really listen to the Father’s beloved Son and to expect to hear things that are worth listening and changing for.

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REFERENCES:

 

·        FR. PAUL W. KELLY

·        Newsletter – St Mary’s Primary School, Maryborough. Editorial of Principal Mr Nathan Wilson, quoting Pope Francis: Evangelii Gaudium; The Joy of the Gospel p171

·        PrepareTheWord.com. PrepareTheWord.com, ©2014, TrueQuest Communications, LLC.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

Paul's Reflections 462 : 9th March, 2014 - A Lenten Examination of Conscience, by Archbishop Mark Coleridge

Homily First Sunday of Lent. A  9th March, 2014     

 

 

On this First Sunday of Lent, we have the traditional Lenten Message from Archbishop Mark. This year in a special form of an examination of conscience:

PREPARING FOR JOY

 

A Lenten Examination of Conscience, by Archbishop Mark Coleridge

 

“THE joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and the lives of those who encounter Jesus”: with these words, Pope Francis begins his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, which I want to be the charter of the Archdiocese of Brisbane as we shape the future that Jesus wants.

True joy belongs to the Risen Lord and therefore to Easter, which is why Lent is a preparation for joy.

It’s a preparation for a new encounter with the Risen Lord who wants to share his joy with us, but also a preparation for a new encounter with other human beings, especially those who have least.

They too open the doorway to joy.

“Examination of conscience” is a phrase with a long pedigree.

It speaks of a time – perhaps even daily – when we stand before the truth of our life beyond all denial and self-deception, acknowledging before the God of mercy that we have failed.

As a period of preparation, Lent is a privileged time to examine our conscience.

It’s a time to sift our heart in order to see more clearly what it is that holds us back from encountering Jesus and each other, what it is that blocks our way to joy.

As we begin the Lenten journey, I offer an examination of conscience in which the words of Pope Francis will lead us.

I take the Holy Father’s words and then pose a few questions for you to ponder.

The questions are addressed to you individually, but we make this examination of conscience together because all of us have sinned and all need forgiveness.

We’re all in this together.

 

POPE FRANCIS

“The great danger in today’s world … is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” (2)

 

Am I conscious of some sense of sadness or anxiety in my life?

In what ways am I complacent?

What do I covet – not just desire but desire darkly?

Do I pursue pleasure, as if the accumulation of pleasures will compensate for a lack of joy?

Is my conscience in some way blunted or numbed?

POPE FRANCIS

“Sometimes we are tempted to find excuses and complain, acting as if we could only be happy if a thousand conditions were met.” (7)

 

Do I make excuses for what I have done and what I have failed to do?

Am I constantly complaining – about other people, about the Church, about society as a whole?

Am I unhappy because I expect too much?

Do I withdraw into myself because things are not just as I want them to be?

 

POPE FRANCIS

“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’.” (85)

 

Am I a disillusioned pessimist, quick to quarrel with others?

Am I a “sourpuss”, quick to be negative and to condemn others?

Am I a defeatist, too ready to raise the white flag, as if any attempt to proclaim the Good News is doomed before it starts?

Have I deep down given up on myself, other people, the Church, the wider society, the world, God?

 

POPE FRANCIS

“Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length … looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune.” (270)

 

Do I protect myself against inconvenience or discomfort, let alone pain or suffering for the sake of the Gospel, wanting Easter but not Calvary?

Do I look for a cosy niche, either personal or communal, which can protect me against the needs, the anxieties, the sufferings of others?

Do I see the Church as a comfy place for me to be rather than a field-hospital for the wounded whom we are called to tend?

 

POPE FRANCIS

“Today and always, the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor.” (48)

 

Do I really believe that the poor are the first to whom Jesus speaks the Good News?

Do I ask who the poor really are in our society?

Do I seek them out or do I avoid them?

Am I willing to listen to them and learn from them?

What might I learn from them?

Do I accept the inseparable bond between my faith and the poor? 

 

POPE FRANCIS

“A missionary heart … never closes itself off, never retreats into its own security, never opts for rigidity and defensiveness.” (45)

Do I have a missionary heart?

Or do I give in to individualism, preferring to retire into my own security, even the supposedly safe haven of a Church that looks inward rather than outward?

Am I too rigid in my convictions and positions, unwilling to listen to others and see things from their point of view?

Do I see the call to evangelise and the effort it involves as an optional extra in my life rather than part of my very identity as one baptised? 

 

POPE FRANCIS

“(One trap is) a sort of inferiority complex which leads [the baptised] to conceal their Christian identity and convictions. They end up stifling the joy of mission with a kind of obsession about being like everyone else and possessing what everyone else possesses.” (79)

 

In what ways does being Christian mean being different?

Do I forget or seek to deny that difference?

Do I have that sense of inferiority, always wanting to be the same as other people?

Do I play down my Christian identity and convictions in an attempt to be just like everyone else?

Do I see the work of evangelisation as a burden or imposition to be accepted by others but not by me?

POPE FRANCIS

“(Another trap is) acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist.” (80)

 

Do I really act as if God does not exist – feel, think and make decisions as if God were far removed from the reality of my life?

Similarly with the poor – is it as if they hardly exist?

And what about those who have never heard the Good News: have they gone missing too?

What have I been given that other people may need or be crying out for?

The Holy Father says that “a pastoral and missionary conversion … cannot leave things as they presently are” (25).

At the heart of this transformation, which is surely the goal of Lent, there is what the Holy Father calls “the power of tenderness” (270) or even what he calls elsewhere “the revolution of tenderness” (88).

The tenderness of God is the key to it all – that power which has touched us in the depth of our being and which we are sent to offer to others, especially those who need it most in a world that can be brutal.

This tenderness is the only power that can really turn our life around at those points where it needs to be turned around.

In the end, the Resurrection of Jesus shows the true power, the true revolution of God’s tenderness.

It’s this revolution which brings the eternal freshness of the Gospel, the freshness of Easter morning.

The journey of faith is always a journey from desolation to joy, from isolation to communion. Through the days of Lent we face the often concealed or half-recognised truth of our own desolation and isolation.

We do this so that when we come to Easter, we will come to the joy and the communion of which the Pope speaks in The Joy of Gospel and which, as he says, fill the heart and the entire life of those who encounter the Risen Lord

May it be so this Easter for all the baptised of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, called and sent to be “missionary disciples”.

 

 

 

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Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Paul's Reflections 461 : Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast and abstinence.

The practice of fasting was recommended by Christ, both by example and by teaching. Originally, fasting meant entire abstinence from food for whole or part of the fast day. In current Catholic practice, fasting means having only one full meal on a day. Smaller quantities of food may be eaten at two other meals but no food should be consumed at any other time during the day. Abstinence is the practice of abstaining from the use of certain kinds of food. From early Christian times hermits practised abstinence. St Anthony and his followers, for example, abstained from all food except bread, salt and water. The Eastern Church continues the strict ancient rule of abstinence from meat, eggs, dairy products, oil and wine during the whole of Lent. Catholics were once well known for their practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays. After the Second Vatican Council the often complicated rules concerning fasting and abstinence were simplified while the continuing need for such practices was re-emphasised. The use of other forms of penance, particularly works of charity or piety, was also encouraged. The present laws took effect in 1966. The law of fasting applies to people from 18 to 59 years old. Everyone aged 14 years and older is bound by the law of abstinence

The spirit of the law may invite us to extend the fast to things other than food – television or computer games, gambling or gossiping. The minimum fasting requirements make most sense when they are combined with prayer and almsgiving. These age-old disciplines reflect our most fundamental concerns: our relationship with God (prayer), with our bodies (fasting) and with others (almsgiving). The purpose of fasting and abstinence is not to punish but to teach us a detachment from whatever may keep us from God. Turning our hearts more toward God and less toward food helps make us more disciplined and more charitable. In addition, the practice helps us imitate the example of Jesus who fasted for 40 days in preparation for his ministry and provides a means of expressing our common repentance. (From Elizabeth Harrington – Liturgy Brisbane)  © Liturgybrisbane.

Jesus was baptized the voice of his Heavenly Father said… “this is my son, my beloved….  I am well pleased with him… listen to him….”….   so, what did Jesus do next….    He didn’t revel in this wonderful compliment..  this profound affirmation….   Instead……….He felt impelled by the Holy Spirit to go into the wilderness for 40 days…..   

Precisely because the love and favour of God being “everything to Our Lord” ……    if he had that… then fame, fortune, possessions and influence meant nothing……..    and the wilderness… the desert reminded him of his total connection to his Father in heaven, and the need to get reject anything that was not of his Father …..   If people were to listen to him.. he must speak ONLY that which comes from his Father’s will …. His father’s word….. this needed a deep time of preparation and prayer…. And letting go of all but that which lasts…….

The thing about possessions is -  do we really own them?  or do they start owning us……    the more we can possess… the more we start to want….. the more we possess… the more we worry about protecting, guarding, fearing losing of things….. it becomes a real catch-twenty two…

Lent is a period of six weeks give to the church by God….  As a time of fostering positive habits of prayer, self-denial and giving in time or resources for worthy causes… to build up spiritual health…. and foster habits that are so natural that literally our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing.

“the only things that we actually keep are the things we give away…”…  in one sense that sounds like a nonsensical contradiction…  but God’s thinking is not like human’s so maybe there is something in it….   we only really know we own something, when we are free enough to let go of it…..    or perhaps it means something deeper…… the only things worth possessing are the things that only make sense when given….  they do nothing if stored… like love, given freely without expectation, kindness and forgiveness without expectation of return….    acts of charity not for recognition or approval…..      random acts of kindness that no one will ever know we are the perpetrators of…//  I read a maxim once upholding that there is a odd economic principle associated with love -- the more love you give away, the more love you have.  It defies all other economic principles.

The gospel has a lot of wisdom in it… those things done for no other reason but love of God and not for anything else…   call us to a deep inner movement of the heart towards God because it does not get any other reward but to serve and love God in each other… actions for the glory and praise of God alone…

so, let’s make this time of lent a wonderful, Joy-filled time of self-denial and making space for God… fostering positive habits for the year round….    and may God who has begun this good work in us.. bring it to perfection… in the secret of our own hearts…