Saturday, February 18, 2017

7th Sunday Year A Collect

The Collect for the 7th Sunday Year A reads as follows:

Grant, we pray almighty God,
that, always pondering spiritual things,
that we may carry out in word and deed
that which is pleasing to You.
 

In making this prayer tangible, the following reflective questions emerged:

1. What spiritual things do I always ponder?
2.  What words and deeds do I want to carry out  to please God?
3.  What do I think is pleasing to God?
4.  What  are the benefits and disadvantages of pondering?


In Today's Gospel we hear the commandment to love- to love our neighbour and ourselves. As part of loving our neighbour we also need to love those whom we consider to be our enemies, since they too are loved by God and are our brother or sister in Christ.

Loving one’s enemies can be daunting, but Jesus is not telling us to have warm feelings towards everyone who has ever hurt us.  In some cases, that would be truly impossible!  Love is an act of the will, not a matter of emotion.  Loving our enemies is a matter of reigning in our bitter thoughts, refusing to be mastered by resentment, and consciously choosing to offer people goodness and kindness.. It means choosing to pray a blessing on them, especially the right blessing of eternal life with God. 

By ourselves, we cannot measure up to Jesus’ call to perfection.  But we are not alone.  Christ is in us, and He is our hope of glory.  Ultimately, the call to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect rests in the hands of God. Only He can bring the changes in our hearts that will enable us to fulfil such a high calling.  Our task is to cooperate with His transforming grace.  Jesus was crucified not only for us, but also for those we resent.  If we ask Him to fill our hearts with His mercy, He will bring us closer to His perfection by empowering us to choose to love and bless at all times.

God loves all people.  He wants His gospel to come to each person- even our enemies.  When He set us free from our sins, he commissioned us to bring the Good News of His freedom to others.  Through our decisions to forgive and to love, the Holy Spirit will move freely in his world that so desperately needs him.  The Spirit will enable us to pray for those who have wronged us.

                                                        
We have another week of Ordinary Time before we head into Lent.  If you are like me, I need to get my mind into gear as to what I will do for Lent.  I have to start thinking early. However it is good to see how we are progressing so far this year at this point.
 
May you be blessed during the week.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

6th Sunday of Year Year A

The Collect for the 6th Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

 
O God, who teaches us that
You abide in hearts that are just and true,
grant that we may be fashioned by Your grace,
as to become a dwelling pleasing to You.
 

 
In making this prayer tangible for during the week, the following reflection questions emerged:
 
 
1. What does it mean to me for God to abide in my heart?
2. What areas in my life need to be reviewed in the light of being just and true?
3.  Dwell on the word fashioned and consider the synonyms associated with this word to enrich your reflection.
4.What does God's grace mean to me?
5. What does it mean to be a dwelling pleasing to God?
6. What areas of my life need review in reconciliation to receive God's grace?

Mt 5:17-19:

"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.   For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

  

In the Gospels, Jesus talks about God’s mercy and love.  However, we can tend to forget that He is also a God of justice whose laws we must obey.  God doesn’t want us to follow his commands out of a fear of punishment, or out of a desire to make him happy with us.  The call to obedience goes much deeper.  It has to do with our dignity as the crown of His creation.  God demands our obedience because He has a plan to fulfil, and he has called us to be co-workers with Him in bringing that plan to fruition. 

 

At creation, God told our first parents to ‘fill the earth and subdue it and to have dominion over creation (Gen 1:28).  As heirs of this commission, we are called to make this world – and our heart into a fit dwelling place for the glory of God.  We are called to manifest His character to the world and bring His love into every aspect of life on earth.  The commandments of God are not just chores to which we must diligently apply ourselves.  They are part of our heritage as a royal people (I Peter 2:9)

 

Mt 5: 20-26:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'  But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.    Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny".

 

Forgiving and being reconciled with those who have hurt us is probably one the most challenging thing we face in life.  On the one hand, we want to be free of our hurt.  Yet, at the same, time, we feel justified in our anger because we have been wronged.  In many cases, if left to our own resources, we would never be able to bring about true reconciliation.  Here are two approaches which may be useful in helping you forgive the wrong of others who have hurt us.

 

Approach 1:

 

Using Corinthians 13.  Recently I went to a symposium on St Thomas Aquinas.  I wont go off the point here to tell you all about that, but  in amongst all the wisdom and discussion of the day, I brought home this little gem. 

 

In Corinthians 13 on love, it talks about those who brood over the injuries that are done to them.  I have to say that I do tend to fall into this trap at times ( probably more often than I wish). 

Why I found this so very helpful was I pondered on the word brood.  When I brood over something, I more than just dwell on it, it becomes like a stuck replay of the event, the words, the situation.  Then the more I brood, the darker the cloud of my heart, soul and overall well being.  Everything then becomes magnified even more,the injury deeper and a sense of anger, resentment and later hopelessness emerges strongly.

 

Now here is the clincher- If I love myself in a healthy manner, then I do not need to brood since brooding is not healthy to my well being.  If I love myself healthily, then I will let go of the hurt because it is not good for my well being.  This to be is a great starting point when people do hurt us and it is hard to let go and forgive.  Obviously we need to go further than this as God asks us to love our neighbour by forgiving them.  However, I have found so far with this approach that the ongoing situations which had troubled me ( which I had brooded over and over again) have now been let go.  The people are the same.  I am the same in one sense but I feel free.  I have stopped myself from brooding over the situations which have caused me hurt.   I am finding too that I am stopping myself when I want to brood again.

( keep you posted on how this works out long term and whether it is a way to forgiveness).

 

Approach 2

 

 

We need to ask ourselves though, who delights in divisions and broken relationships more than Satan, the ‘accuser of the brethren’ (Rev 12:10). Here, spiritual warfare with Satan can be quite strong.  In his relentless attacks again the people of God, the evil one constantly seeks to accuse us to each other, to remind us of our own and other people’s faults so that we will suspect, blame and accuse them ourselves.  Jesus however, told us to make peace with our accuser (Mt 5:25).

 

We can ‘make peace’ with the devil- and so silence his accusations- by agreeing (to a point) with the thoughts he suggest to us.  When he reminds us of how deeply someone has hurt us, we can say ‘Yes that is true.  I have been deeply hurt.  However, I know the power of the Cross-.  Jesus has forgiven me and has forgiven that person as well.  I have been hurt, but Jesus is my healer and he can restore this relationship.’ 

 

Or when the devil brings up our own sins- either of the distant or the recent past- we can take a similar approach.  ‘ Yes, I have done wrong. You’re right; I’m not worthy of God’s love.  But He loves me anyway and he sent His Son to free me from guilt and condemnation.  Thank God I’ve been forgiven. The evil one when tempting Jesus used Scripture.  We too can use Scripture as our safeguard and strength in his attack against us.

 

The whole truth, therefore, includes not only our sin, but also the blood of Jesus that has overcome sin for everyone.  If we want to experience peace and freedom, we need to start by accepting God’s forgiveness for ourselves on a very personal level, and then it is more possible to forgive others as well.  Each day we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us as we start taking steps to forgiveness.  Even if they are small, Jesus will pour out unexpected blessings on us.

 

May you have a blessed week loving God, neighbour and yourself healthily.

 

 
 
 


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Fifth Sunday Year A

The Collect of the 5th Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

 
"Keep your family safe. O Lord, with unfailing care,
that, relying soley on the hope of heavenly grace,
they may be defended by your protection".
 
 
In making this prayer tangible for during the week, the following reflection questions emerged:
  1. Why do I need to ask God for my safety?
  2. What does God's unfailing care mean to me this week?
  3. Why do I need to rely soley on the hope of heavenly grace?
  4. What does the hope of heavenly grace mean to me?
  5. What does it mean to be defended by God's protection?
  6. What reasons might I give to someone who asked why does the Church use this Collect  as the Opening Prayer for Mass on the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time?


Today's Gospel from Matthew offers us some challenges or we may even feel quite challenged and confronted by it.  When a person feels hesitant about himself/herself or about the Church, it is tempting to retreat to a private world, where his/her faith is his/her business and no one else’s.  It is safer or so it seems.  It is riskier putting the lamp on the lamp stand as it might fall and break or we may fear that other people's criticism may break our personal spirit.    But the risk has to be taken if the lamp is to give light…. God’s light.  But radiating God’s light is not just an end in itself.  We need to radiate God’s light, so that others may give glory, not to us, but where the glory truly belongs- Your Father who is in Heaven. 
 
Are you going to be salt of the earth or a light to the world this week in your life? 
 
Of course we need to be seasoned  and salty in our faith if we hope to be salt of the earth to others for God's honour and glory.  That means keeping our own faith flavoursome.  Remember in the time of Jesus, salt was a key ingredient to keep things fresh, seasoned and flavoursome. 
 
Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending a seminar-Thomas Aquinas symposium.  There were 4 fabulous speakers who had different topics related to our faith and what St Thomas said about them.  It took some effort to arrange my calendar and go interstate to attend.  However, today I feel seasoned and refreshed because of all the words presented yesterday I came home with a key point from each presentation that I can apply to my life.  It has not only refreshed my soul but whilst sitting there yesterday listening, I realised what I needed to do to apply them to my life.
 
So we need to continue to nourish our faith, keep the light lit and keep it seasoned and fresh. Sometimes it might mean we spend a retreat day to hear good speakers on faith topics that interest us. Maybe it means attending week day mass with a different attitude- perhaps a more tuned in response to Mass or it might mean we make a decision to dwell on the scripture- either scripture read during the week at Mass or we focus on the Sunday readings and keep them seasoned in our hearts during the week.   Perhaps it might mean seeking out some quiet time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  Whatever you choose, choose something. 
 
Even taking a stocktake of your faith is a great start. It is looking at the stale, the tried and tested which perhaps were relevant for you in earlier years but has become just a habit not a real refreshed help anymore.  It is about being discerning as to what is still refreshing and useful for you and what has just become stale and shows you no more light.
Go to Mass next Sunday knowing that you have tried to live out this Gospel this week.
 
The other challenge is to examine our motivation. It is always lovely to receive compliments and positive feedback. We need to receive this and should accept it graciously. Graciously because it is through the power of God who has made it possible for us to do our task well.  We can thank the person for their kind words but we also can thank God in our hearts as well with a simple Thank you God.
If our ministry or good works is for own honour and glory then it may be wise to think again in the light of today's gospel.  So examining our motivation, attitudes and our way of being is vital if we are to sort out our chaff within ourselves.  Ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we need to see and hear about ourselves this week.

It is interesting to note that World Youth Day in 2002 had as its theme this very Gospel passage.  Perhaps you might like to listen to the theme song from WYD 2002.
 
What will you do to keep your faith refreshed and salty
so that you can be salt of the earth for others? 
 
How will you keep your faith shining brightly as a light to the world this week?
 
 

 



Saturday, January 28, 2017

Fourth Sunday Year A

The Collect for the Fourth Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

''Grant us Lord our God,
that we may honour You with all our mind.
and love everyone in truth of heart.''
 
In making this prayer tangible for during the week,  the following reflections questions emerged:
 
  1. What does it mean to me to honour God?
  2. How do I honour God with all my mind?
  3. What steps do I need to take to renew, refresh, revitalize my whole mind?
  4. What does the phrase ''in truth of heart'' mean to me?
  5. How do I learn to love myself in truth of heart this week?
  6. How will I love others in truth of heart this week?
Today's Gospel from Matthew is from Chapter 5 Vs 1-12.

chapter 5:

Verses 1-2: Teaching with Authority and the impact on his listeners
We are told that Jesus went up the hill and taught. High places were important to Jewish people in that it was a representation of ‘God, Heaven, the Creator and such like’.  So Jesus going up the hill to teach is an important phrase.  It is also important when it is compared to Chapter 7:28-29, when we are told that Jesus taught with Authority not like the Scribes and Pharisees. Chapter 8:1 is important because it tells us that not only did Jesus come down the hill, but also great crowds followed.  In other words, his teachings had a great impact on those who listened to Him.
 
 
Then from vs 3-12 we hear what is known as The Beatitudes.  If you look in my Scripture series of Matthew, you will already find I have written on the Beatitudes. 
 
However my suggestion for this week is this.  Why not find a place of height and take your bible with you- go up a hill somewhere.  If you are not able to physically go up a hill, then why not ''Google'' a mountain scene and visualise yourself there.  Read this gospel again slowly and meditatively.
What has great impact for you right now?  All of the Beatitudes are important obviously but which one impacts on you as you read and ponder?  Then as you are guided by the Holy Spirit through your senses, choose one of them and decide on your action plan of how you can live it out this week. Perhaps these setting of the beatitudes   or  the beatitudes may add to your sensory choice.
 
There may occasions during the coming week where the beatitude you have chosen does not seem appropriate.  Is it the way we are thinking about it?  Does it need to be re-framed in our mind to be able to put it into action in this particular circumstance. Perhaps we are called in this situation to apply another of them.  Become familiar and use all of them as this is what we are called to do, but choosing one and applying it in your life this week may indeed be helpful to yourself and to others.  You will be putting the Collect of today's Mass into action.
 
The beatitude is indeed the attitude of the Christian- God's blue print for our attitude.
 
Will YOU embrace God's blueprint this week?
 
 
 



Saturday, January 21, 2017

Third Sunday Year A

The Collect for the Third Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

 
"Almighty and ever-living God,
direct our actions towards Your good pleasure,
that in the name of Your beloved Son,
we may abound in good works."
 

In making this prayer tangible, the following reflection questions emerged:

1. What does the word action mean and how does that affect  the direction of my actions.
2. What actions will I direct towards God's good pleasure this week?
3. What attitude might I adopt when I direct my actions towards God's good pleasure?
4. What does  God's good pleasure mean to me?
5. What does scripture say about faith and good works?
6. What can I do about actions I have done previously that were not totally directed towards God?


The second half of chapter 4 relates to Jesus' mission. You will note that Jesus fasted first, then was tempted  by the devil (vs 1-11). This may not be read at Mass at the Gospel but it is important to know.  Why because Jesus then  began to preach 'Repent for the kingdom of God is close at hand'. After preaching this simple but powerful message, He then began to call the disciples, the two pairs of brothers-Simon and Andrew, and James and John.  You notice that the word Repent is in the present tense.  It means for us that we are continually needing to repent. It is an ongoing process.
Just this command of Christ's teaching is worth serious meditation during the week.

As His fame became known, He also ministered to the people in need of healing from all kinds of diseases. In other words, Jesus prepared himself for His ministry by fasting and prayer, and experiencing temptations of the devil. We too need to strengthen our resolve in the ministry that Jesus has asked of us to be ready to serve by appropriate preparation.

ACTION PLAN FROM CHAPTER 4
This week as we reflect on chapter 4, we may wish to:
  • Consider how the devil tempts us and how we reject his invitation to sin.
  • Consider our ability to fast to strengthen our souls. It is important to take on what is practical, since not everyone is physically able to fast from food without becoming sick. If you know, like myself that fasting from food is impractical for health reasons, then consider other ways of fasting.
  • Consider marking off in the diary time for a retreat. Even a retreat at home is possible if time is set aside and family respect and are supportive of our needs.
  • Consider our vocation and what Jesus has called us to do.  How do we encourage others to follow Jesus?
  • Consider how we can bring the ministry of healing to others whether through intercessory prayer and/or through the gift of healing that we may possess. How can we continue the healing mission of Jesus?
How does our action plan compare with Jesus?  May Chapter 4 inspire us to consider how we are continuing the ministry of Jesus and to follow His action plan-preparation of soul through fasting, experience trials and temptations of the devil, before preaching the Good News and engaging in ministry of healing
 
 
                                            How will this Gospel affect your life this week?


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Behold the Lamb of God-2nd Sunday of Year A Collect

The Collect for the 2nd Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

Almighty ever living God.
who governs all things,
both in Heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of Your people,
and bestow Your peace on our times.
We make this prayer through Christ our Lord.
 
In making this prayer tangible, the following reflection questions emerged.
 
 
1. What does the phrase Almighty ever living God mean to me?
2. How might I use this phrase as prayer, affirmation, consolation during this week?
3. As Almighty ever living God governs all things, then this means everything about me too.  How might this reality change the way I respond to God this week? Does it change the way I feel (eg if I am feeling anxious, worried, depressed).o
4.What is my image, thoughts,  experience, understanding of a merciful God?
5. Do I believe in the power of my prayer to God?  Am I persistent and relentless as I plead for my needs and the needs of others and the world?
6. What does God's peace mean to me? 
Perhaps I might offer this prayer during the week'' bestow your peace on our times"  on the train, at my workplace, parish, in the car, with the family at meal times. Wherever you are, why not ask God to ''bestow Your peace on our times".
 
You would think that as today is the Second Sunday of Year A that our Gospel would be from Matthew, as this will be the synoptic Gospel from which we will be reading most of the year.  But no, the Church provides us with part of chapter 1 from John's Gospel.  Why?
 
Today's verses from Gospel of John follow on from the Baptism of Our Lord, which we celebrated last week.
Today John the Baptist points out Jesus ''Behold the Lamb of God". He testifies and gives witness to the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. He provides the evidence of what he saw and heard. Unlike Herod with the visit of the 3 Kings, John the Baptist was not afraid that he would lose his power or identity as a prophet or that he could lose some of his followers.  He spoke for the truth and pointed out Jesus, living out the mission that was given him- to point the way to Jesus.
 
When I hear this Gospel I think of the chorus Behold the Lamb of God from Handel's Messiah.  You might like to listen to it as you ponder this Gospel.  The other piece of music that comes to mind is Bizet's Lamb of God.  Here are the links to both pieces of music.
 
So the question arises Am I like John the Baptist and point out Jesus to others?  If not, what are the hesitations/blocks in doing so?  Often we do not want to come across as a ''bible basher'' or perhaps worse seen as mentally ill.  Perhaps, we feel that we would like to do more but feel that society has silenced our voice.  We only silence our own voices if we do not open our mouths.  Think about it for a moment.  No sound comes out if we do not open our mouths.
 
We also can point others to Jesus by our lives and how we lead them.  Using words is of course one way- an important way, but at the right time for the listener.  Just like anything else, it is about timing. We need to trust God and keep planting the seeds-the seeds of our words, our way of being, way of life. Can others distinguish something different about us? We must not let fear, reputation and the ways of the world hinder our efforts.  As the Collect says God governs everything in Heaven and on earth.  He will govern our faltering efforts, our inappropriate timing for the listener if we are sincerely desiring the good for the other person and love Jesus.
 
Perhaps we would like to do more but feel we do not know the answers to our faith.  Perhaps we feel silly if we were asked some questions and we could not answer them.  Why not think of these questions this week and think about what would you say if someone asked you them. 
The key is to start or restart afresh.  There is always more with God.
 
So, who will you point to Jesus this week?
 
 
 
 


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Solemnity of Epiphany



The Collect for the Solemnity of the Epiphany reads as follows:

O God, who on this day
revealed Your only begotten Son to the nations
by the guidance of a star,
grant that in Your mercy,
that we, who know You already by faith,
may be brought to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory.
 
 
In making this prayer tangible,  the following questions emerged:
 
 
1. How does God reveal Himself to me?
2. How does God give me guidance?
3.What does  the guidance of a star mean for my life during this week/year?
4. What does my faith mean to me?
5.  Reflect on what it might mean to behold the beauty of Your sublime glory.
 
 
 The Magi were most likely wise men from Syria who made a special study of astrology. Due to this they were believed to have knowledge beyond that of humans. Later, they became portrayed as Kings. In the adoration of the Magi, the prophecies foretelling the honour which the people would give to the God of Israel were fulfilled . In the Magi, the Fathers of the Church saw in their gifts symbols of Christ's royalty  Gold, Incense-divinity and Myrrh- Passion.The Feast of the Epiphany is the manifestation of the Son of God made man.
 
The Magi however stayed focused on what they came to seek- they were guided by the star, which filled them with delight because it helped them find what they came to seek- Jesus, Mary and Joseph in the manger. They were able to do him homage and offer their gifts.  It is interesting to note the reaction of Herod who was governed by power and who
  • felt threatened at the possibility there may be another king ( someone to threaten his job), 
  • played the game pretending he wanted to worship also ( sought out information about the threat and how he might overcome the enemy).

Who do we identify in this Gospel? Are we like the crowd who were perturbed?  Do we become perturbed when we do not understand a new situation?   Is there a Herod in our personality? If so, what might we do about this aspect of our personality?  Are we like the  3 Kings, enquirers of the faith? Do we continue to enquire and deepen our faith?  What would Joseph and Mary thought about their 3 kingly visitors to the manger? I wonder what they thought about it all.  We do know that Mary pondered all these things and treasured them in her heart. What would the babe experienced?

 We too need to stay focused and to give the Christ child homage- let us bend our knees and offer our gifts to Him.

Let us stay focused and be guided by the light of the star of faith

during this Christmastide and throughout 2017.