25th Week Ordinary Time - Saturday
Now he was giving the crowds what they wanted, healing, miracles and nice words. But he knew that eventually those in authority would feel threatened by him and that they would close ranks against him. That is what always happens to a new prophet, political or moral, once they threaten the status quo, they are dispensed off.
25th Week Ordinary Time Year I - Friday
Psalm 42:1-4 Reflection:
In the readings today what struck me very forcefully was the psalm. It is the cry of the innocent man against his foes and his call for God to help him in his hour of need.
The psalm portrays a very close relationship with God. The man calls on God as a friend and helper.
“Defend me, O God, and plead my cause,” and later “You, O God, are my stronghold.”
The man sees himself as innocent and under attack from the wicked; they are cunning deceitful men.
The psalms are the purest form of prayer in scripture. They cover every aspect of human life; grief, sorrow, joy and happiness. They reflect a close intimate relationship with God.
The person praying the psalm can be seen as us, Jesus or the land of Israel, i.e. the whole community of believers.
Today I read this psalm as speaking of Jesus in the garden on Holy Thursday evening especially in the first two paragraphs.
“Send forth your light and your truth, let these be my guide.”
This prayer for help, which God must answer, should strike a chord with all of us.
The final verse, where the just man is vindicated, speaks of “going to the altar of God, the God of my joy.”
The psalms speak to all people in all time. They are pure prayer, wells of emotion that we often miss because they are set in between the first and second reading.
But they are worth listening too!
25th Week Ordinary Time Year I - Thursday
Gospel of Luke 9:7-9 Reflection:
Today we have one of those short gospels that reflect so much of what is happening in modern life that it is uncanny; Herod is confused about who Jesus is. Some people say that he is john the Baptist returned from the dead, others that he is Elijah, come as forerunner to the messiah.
Herod knows that he has put John to death but he is still confused. In his anxiety he wants to see Jesus.
How is this gospel relevant today?
Jesus still causes confusion. People cannot argue with either his teaching or his life. His teaching is perfect and his life is a perfect example of how to live it.
People can’t live up to his example and this makes them feel bad. But instead of trying to do better they turn on Jesus.
Some say he never existed, some say he is an ordinary person who has been elevated to this height by our imagination and others that he was a great man but only a man.
That’s the problem with Jesus, He causes confusion. The reason he causes confusion is that we are hard wired to understand and see God in things, but to experience this seeing of God we have to be willing to accept that God exists and to accept his authority in our lives.
That’s the big part, accepting the authority of God; if we can’t do this then Jesus can never make sense, so we do what mankind has always done, we rationalize Jesus out of existence, because if Jesus is not God then his whole life makes no sense.
But deep down every man, woman and child knows that Jesus is God, and while we want to do our own thing we can never admit this fact because admitting that Jesus is God means giving him authority in our lives.
And we could never do that, could we? We so much want to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.
25th Week Ordinary Time Year I - Tuesday
Gospel of Luke 8:19-21 Reflection:
Today we have one of those short gospels in which Jesus says something direct and unambiguous: ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.’
The setting for this statement is that the mother and brothers of Jesus have come looking for him. Perhaps they think that his preaching has gone too far in alienating the Pharisees and that they need to take him in hand. Most people don’t like to rock the boat too much.
Whatever the reason, they arrive and Jesus is told that they are outside waiting on him. Jesus does not treat his mother with disdain. Luke is using the story to bring out a very important point that the kingdom of God and the work that goes into building the kingdom comes before everything else.
The Christian message is that we should seek to do God’s will, obey his word and leave the rest to God himself. That is the sign and test of the person who follows Jesus and it is a constant struggle to resist the temptation to take control back to our self.
We begin to think that we know best and that we can tell others how to live. At this point we are generally beginning to usurp the word of God for our own ends.
Feast of St Matthew
Gospel of Matthew 9: 9-13 Reflection:
St Matthew has the honour of writing in his own gospel the record of his call. Jesus is walking past and Matthew is sitting at his desk collecting the taxes.
Jesus says to Matthew, ‘Follow me,’ and he got up and followed him.
I often wonder if this is what really happened. Some writers say that Matthew mush have heard about Jesus and had formed the opinion that he was a great prophet at least and that something in Jesus’ teaching that Matthew had heard must have caused conversion of heart.
Maria Valtorta in her writings on the life of Christ says that Matthew was already a secret follower of Jesus and that he sent money to Jesus to help with his work. We will never know for sure.
Caravaggio has a great painting ‘the call of St Matthew’ in which Jesus is seen standing in the light and Matthew and his friends are seated in the dark end of the room. The light flows in over Jesus’ head and shines directly on Matthew.
Matthew is seen holding his money, perhaps he is still at this moment unwilling to let it go. One of the men at the table is pointing at Matthew as if Jesus has asked for him by name.
We can all ask ourselves what is our reply when Jesus calls us by name and what is it that we are holding on to and won’t let go off.
Did Jesus call Matthew in an instant and did Matthew drop all and follow him?
Why not: Jesus had a mission for Matthew and Matthew responded by saying ‘yes.’ Jesus was and is no ordinary man, there have always in every age been people prepared to drop all, even their comfortable middle aged, middle class life, to do what Jesus wants them to do today.
But we have to be willing to do the simple things that Jesus calls us to do...love the neighbour, our enemy and those who hurt us.....
24th Week Ordinary Time Year I - Thursday
Gospel of Luke 7:36-50 Reflection:
Both of today’s readings speak about people being expected to behave in the manner expected of them; Timothy is a young man sent to be the leader of a church and thus expected to behave in a certain way. Jesus is looked upon as a prophet and thus the Pharisees believe that he should know a sinner when he sees one and that he should shun her.
That is the perennial problem with all of us; whether we admit it or not we expect people to behave in a particular way and when they don’t do that we get annoyed. Bracketing people into wee boxes is so easy. “I knew you would say that” or “I knew you would do that,” makes us feel so superior.
But there is something worse in this; it allows for nothing new, no growth, no new adventure of understanding or seeing a person or life in a new way.
The Jewish culture was very patriarchal; a man did not reach full maturity until he was thirty. Timothy was probably younger than this and thus had the problem of elders not taking him seriously.
Prophets don’t eat with sinners, and when Jesus went to the house of Simon and the ‘women with the bad name’ came in and washed his feet, the Pharisees expected him to reject her.
But Jesus so brilliantly turns the whole argument around on them. He shows that this woman loves much because she has been forgiven much. The Pharisees cannot argue with his logic, it is blatantly obvious.
Then he does something new to them; he publicly forgives her sins.
Only God was able to forgive sin. No man can assume that right. The Pharisees are confused.
When we have everything and everyone in neat little boxes what else can we be but confused when someone moves outside their box.
24th Week Ordinary Time Wednesday Year I
Gospel of Luke 7:31-35 Reflection:
Today's reading is one of the few pieces of scripture where Jesus is seen ‘giving out’ about the people. He is fed up trying to speak the truth to a people who just will not listen.
No matter what he says there are those who will twist it, turn it round and use it against him; if he tells them good things they complain and if he tells them f sorrow they also complain.
Jesus used the example of John the Baptist. When John fasted and lived in the desert people said he was possessed of evil spirits; when Jesus comes and lives an ordinary life preaching and teaching, they say: Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of sinners and tax collectors.”
Poor Jesus is facing an uncomfortable truth; people just want to do their own thing and shall justify it in any way. When God points out to us that we are doing wrong, we rationalize our behaviour in any way we can, even if that rationalization is illogical; we will bend the truth to suit our own ends.
That is human nature. Take a serious look at secularism and you find that it is nothing more than man’s attempt to justify doing whatever he wants with the gifts that God has given us in science and technology.
When we say that something is wrong in world politics rather than be told why it is not wrong we are told “This is real politics, morals don’t matter here.”
Human nature, even with 2000 years of Christian history is still the same; we want to justify doing what we want and when we can’t we come up with excuses.
I wonder how we shall feel when we meet the Truth!
24th Week Ordinary Time Tuesday - Year I
Gospel of Luke 7:11-17 Reflection:
This story brings back memories to me of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year because it was spoken of in one of the best talks I heard. It is the story of the widow of Nain.
Just as Jesus was approaching the town of Nain the funeral of a young man was coming out of the town gate. His mother was a widow and he was the only son. Luke tells us that when Jesus saw the woman he was moved with pity for her.
The speaker at the conference last year asked us why was Jesus moved with pity. The reason, he said, was that in this woman Jesus saw the image of his mother Mary after he was crucified. This a beautiful image, the Lord feeling sorry for someone because it foreshadows the grief of his own mother.
But there is also something else very comforting, that Jesus can feel our pain and sorrow from his own experiences here on earth. That’s what is so touching; we now know that Jesus feels for us in the same human way as we feel for others who are suffering.
The story of the ‘Widow of Nain’ brings home to us the family type of concern that Jesus has for us as we walk through this life.
It comforts me to know that Jesus is with us in our pain and that he feels for us. All this is impossible without the mystery of the incarnation.
24th Week Ordinary Time Year I - Monday
Gospel of Luke 7:1-10 Reflection:
When I read this piece of scripture this morning what struck me was the idea that in life we find faith in the most unexpected places. Most of us in some way have insular ideas that our people and culture are the group that follow this Christian message in the correct way and that real faith is to be found outside our culture or group.
The centurion was a foreigner and an enemy. He was a leader in an invading army that could do whatever it wished in the land. He was the last person in whom you would expect to find humble faith.
Somehow or other the centurion had heard about Jesus and had made a decision in his own heart that this man was someone special or else he would not have bothered to have sent envoys to Jesus.
The centurion also knows a little about authority and recognises that authority in another when he sees it. Where the centurion has authority over 100 men he understands that Jesus had authority over life and death.
There is a huge leap of faith here; one from natural authority to supernatural. What has the centurion seen or heard? We are not told.
It is the dame in life. When we find faith somewhere where we don’t expect it we have to understand that we do not know the full story behind the person showing the faith.
There is something beautiful in this; Jesus works in the heart of every man and woman. No one is left out.
That is the wonderful mystery of our God. Even in those who have never heard of him or who have totally turned against him, God stills talks to their hearts.
Don’t be surprised when you meet a centurion; they are all around us!
The Exaltation of the Most Holy Cross
or the Triumph of the Cross
This is an ancient feast which dates back to the seventh century and was originally brought into being to celebrate the return of the true cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heralius in AD629.
Over the centuries the feast has shifted focus from one of celebrating this return of the cross to Jerusalem and focused more on the Triumph of Jesus over death through the Cross.
In the Office of Vigils for today, St Andrew of Crete tells us that it is in and by the cross that Jesus defeats death. Although for the Jews there was a curse on any man who hung on a ‘gibbet’, Jesus used this horrible death to overcome all death and to win for us redemption from our sin.
While we were saying the Office of Readings this morning the thought hit me that modern people have lost the whole idea of sin in their lives. If we have no concept of sin then we can have no concept of redemption.
And yet God lets every person on earth know that we are in need of redemption. We know it by the way we feel uncomfortable with life and when we reflect upon the life we have led. Growing older we become more aware of how we have affected other people and how we have hurt many people as we have journeyed through this life.
There is a constant call from God in our hearts to repent. He has his own way of letting each one of us know that we are sinners and that we need his help. When we turn to him he makes the coming home as easy as he can.
But there is something else in the triumph of the cross, something deeper and more lasting. The Triumph of the Cross is more than anything else the guarantee that death is defeated once and for all.
Death on the Cross was not the end of Jesus. He rose again. And today we remember that not even the cross could overcome the love of God for his people.
The cross is Christ's glory and triumph
We are celebrating the feast of the cross which drove away darkness and brought in the light. As we keep this feast, we are lifted up with the crucified Christ, leaving behind us earth and sin so that we may gain the things above. So great and outstanding a possession is the cross that he who wins it has won a treasure. Rightly could I call this treasure the fairest of all fair things and the costliest, in fact as well as in name, for on it and through it and for its sake the riches of salvation that had been lost were restored to us.
Had there been no cross, Christ could not have been crucified. Had there been no cross, life itself could not have been nailed to the tree. And if life had not been nailed to it, there would be no streams of immortality pouring from Christ’s side, blood and water for the world’s cleansing. The legal bond of our sin would not be cancelled, we should not have attained our freedom, we should not have enjoyed the fruit of the tree of life and the gates of paradise would not stand open. Had there been no cross, death would not have been trodden underfoot, nor hell despoiled.
Therefore, the cross is something wonderfully great and honourable. It is great because through the cross the many noble acts of Christ found their consummation – very many indeed, for both his miracles and his sufferings were fully rewarded with victory. The cross is honourable because it is both the sign of God’s suffering and the trophy of his victory. It stands for his suffering because on it he freely suffered unto death. But it is also his trophy because it was the means by which the devil was wounded and death conquered; the barred gates of hell were smashed, and the cross became the one common salvation of the whole world.
The cross is called Christ’s glory; it is saluted as his triumph. We recognise it as the cup he longed to drink and the climax of the sufferings he endured for our sake. As to the cross being Christ’s glory, listen to his words: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified, and God will glorify him at once. And again: Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the world came to be. And once more: “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” Here he speaks of the glory that would accrue to him through the cross. And if you would understand that the cross is Christ’s triumph, hear what he himself also said: When I am lifted up, then I will draw all men to myself. Now you can see that the cross is Christ’s glory and triumph.
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