Sunday, September 10, 2017

Collect for 23rd Sunday of Year A

The Collect for the 23rd Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

O God, in whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your sons and daughters
that those who believe in Christ
may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.
├Źn  making this prayer tangible for this coming week, the following reflection questions have emerged:
1. What does it mean to me to be redeemed by God?
2. What does it mean to me to receive adoption from God?
3. What does it mean to me a son/daughter of God?
4. What difference will being a son/daughter of God make in my life this week?
5. What would it mean to me to receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance.
6. what areas of my life are a hindrance to true freedom and how might I move towards freeing these areas in order to receive true freedom from God?
7. What one change will I make in my life  this coming week to be a better disciple/ a better person to my family, friends, work colleagues, parishioner, a stranger and to anyone I meet?
Today's gospel provides us with a model for approaching reconciliation.  Obviously the three fold model is not something that occurs, one after the other in a short space of time- no, there is genuine effort, sincerity of heart and allowance of time that can heal ( not always) in between different phases of the reconciliation process.
I think it also needs to be pointed out here that when there has been significant hurt/distress that the process of reconciliation will take longer. Our hearts do not run to a timetable.  Some hurts/distress may end up being forgiven but not necessarily  seeing the person who was involved in the hurt.  We may find our own way to be at peace through prayer and kindly thoughts towards that person without actually reopening the relationship. In some cases, reopening the relationship may indeed to be to our own detriment of well being. It does not mean that we have not forgiven the person. In fact, it may be the most loving thing to do for our own well being and for theirs as well. 
The important thing from this Gospel today is Jesus invites us to think about process in reconciliation- to realise that reconciliation needs the initial heart to heart with only the people concerned and then if that is not able to be resolved, then mediation involving others may be required.
This topic is close to my heart this week- I have a family member who has not contacted me in 6 years. The phone call came out of the blue so I am shocked and stunned.  I have not rushed to answer the request to meet.  I am still shocked- the past re-emerges and it is difficult not to play the tapes of the past in my mind. Is it the loving thing to do to meet?  Some people would say yes and some no and some perhaps would say a yes and a no.  There is a case for a yes and a case for the no and I wish for wisdom to know what to do- what is the most loving thing to do for both parties.   There are just so many questions and thoughts.  I ask you to pray for me so I do get the wisdom to know what is the best thing to do. What is God requiring of me in this situation?
Reconciliation is definitely a process but at the basis of it needs to be a sense of trust and respect for both parties.  Where is trust and respect, people can have differing opinions and still be friends. We do not have to be the same as the world would want us to believe. Where trust and respect is present in a relationship, both parties can make mistakes, perhaps even hurt the other party by their behaviour/actions but even though trust and respect may be dinted/damaged, their friendship will likely to endure.  Take the trust and respect for granted- then it is likely to be a different story.
As we listen to this week's gospel, we might like to think about all our relationships- what makes them a good relationship, what can be improved or in my case with my estranged family member, do some more thinking/ take action to pick up the phone. We can appreciate the relationships that are working well and nurture them more by thanking God for His blessing on them.  We can ask for assistance in the relationships that need improvement and where relationships are irrevocably damaged, ask for the grace to leave them (if that is required) but with a loving attitude.
May this week's gospel challenge you to think about all your relationships and their quality including your relationship with God.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Collect for the 22nd Sunday of the Year A reads as follows:

God of might, giver of every good gift,
put into our hearts the love of Your name,
so that, by deepening our sense of reverence,
You may nurture what is in us as good
and by Your watchful care,
keep safe what You have nurtured.

In making this prayer tangible for this coming week, the following reflection questions emerged:
1. What are the good gifts God has given me in my life?
2. What good gifts do I ask for and wish to receive from God?
3. What does God's name mean to me?
4. How do I react when others misuse it?
5. What can I do to heighten other people's awareness of when they misuse God's name?
6. What does it mean to me to be nurtured by God in my life/this week?
On a personal note, I wish to share with you an experience I had with a friend who is not a Christian.  When I first met her, she used to use God's name in conversation a lot.  As I did not know her very well, I kept quiet and did not say anything. Then one day not long later I had had enough of it, I decided that it had nothing to do with not knowing her well, but everything to do with God's name being misused. So I asked her politely to stop using God's name in that way as it is offensive to Him and to myself who honours His name as a Christian.  She apologized and said it was a bad habit she had got into and had wanted to get out of it but did not know how.  So I suggested she come up with a range of expressions she could use instead. Then that way, she would have a choice of expressions to use.
The point of my sharing with you this experience is that we, as Christians often put up with all sorts of things thinking that we are tolerant to others, but in fact no helping them appreciate our faith.  In Australia  ''Oh my God or OMG is used so frequently-  when I hear it said now, I just say ''that's great to hear you are praying''- it soon stops it. Hopefully it makes people think. 
Perhaps you can do the same in your circle of friends and acquaintances.
In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we have to, as disciples deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him.  We may wish to think about:
  • What does denying ourselves mean- what areas in my life could I make a start. Motive is key here- we are denying ourselves out of love for God and in the process, God will make something good for us out of our love of Him expressed through your denial/fasting. 
  • What is/are the cross/es in our lives that God has given us to take up daily?  Remember, even though at times it feels like the cross is too heavy and we cannot go on, God gives us a cross that we have the strength to carry- He never gives us the cross without the graces to manage the cross. We need to ask for those graces and ask Jesus to carry the cross with us- He always carries the heavy end.
  • How do I follow Jesus- what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? The 4 keys are prayer, fasting and receiving the Sacraments regularly ( receive Communion at Mass as often we can and ensure regular/monthly (as Pope Francis recommends)  attendance at Sacrament of Reconciliation.
We cannot hope to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him if our motive is not love for God.  We have to have some type of relationship with Him. Our motive of love of God is key.
If we have forgotten this,  then start small. One small act of denial done with love in our hearts for God is worth everything to God. Yes, even that second piece of cake that you would love to eat- gone without for love of God is worth everything to God because, in His eyes, YOU are worth everything to HIM.  Motive is the key and keeping it in the forefront of my mind, helps me significantly, especially when I am tired/exhausted or feel it is all too much.
Starting small but working it into our day gets us into the habit of it and soon, it becomes part of our own nature. One small act one day becomes 7 small acts in a week, and 365 in a year.   Remember motive is key- love for God.
We may not understand the cross that God has given you- but we do know that God gives us a cross that we can manage- He never crushes our spirit beyond what He knows we can do.  Sometimes, we give up long before our God given strength.  Have you ever looked back on part of your life when the cross was incredibly heavy to carry and thanked God for carrying it with you.  Perhaps you wondered how you got through that phase of your life.  I know I have and have been slow to realise God's nurturing through it.   Today's Collect is a reminder of the loving caring and nurturing God we serve.
Finally let us remember this week that the purpose for our lives is essentially ''to know, love and serve God here on earth and be happy with Him for ever''.  ( Catechism of Catholic Church).
Let us be the best disciples we can this coming week.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Twentieth Sunday of Year A Collect

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

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 surpasses every human desire.
In making this prayer tangible for this week, the following reflection questions emerged.
1. What does God's love mean for me?
2.  How is my love for God? What one aspect will I change this week?
3. What challenges do I have in relationship with God's love for me?
4.How will I live out my love for God this week by loving Him in all things and above all things?
5.What are the promises that God offers and that we wish to attain?
Today's Gospel of the Cannite Woman bringing her need to Jesus expresses not only the faith of the woman, in face of rejection but shows that with perseverance she is able to get the healing for her daughter.  Parents want to be able to give the best to their children, but when they are sick, they will go to extraordinary lengths to assist the sick child in order that they will be well again.   This woman is no different.  She is persistent in her requests to Jesus, not for herself, but for her sick child.
Some people might think that God is a begrudging  God wanting us to grovel before Him, before He considers our need.  No definitely not.  They are mistaken.  .
When we are praying and/or interceding for another person, we too need to be persevering and persistent.  God hears the first time- in fact He knows the need before we even ask.   Being persevering in prayer when interceding is important as it brings not only the request but the people for whom we ask closer to God and ourselves as well.  We enter into dialogue with Him about our concern, just as the Cannite Woman did with Jesus.  When we recognize that we have nowhere else to turn, clinging to the only One who can answer us is an act of faith.
We need therefore to pray with faith when we are praying ourselves, but especially when we are interceding for other people and we need to persevere in asking, knowing that God will bring something good from our prayer.  It may be not we asked or what the person thinks that they need at that time, but God will always do what is best for us.  We need to persevere in prayer and pray with faith. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nineteenth Sunday Year A

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

Almighty ever-living God,
whom, taught by the Holy Spirit,
we dare to call God our Father,
bring, we pray, perfection in our hearts
the spirit of adoption as Your sons and daughters
that we may merit into the inheritance
which You have promised.
In making this prayer tangible for the week, the following reflection questions emerged:
1. How would you describe your father (either living or deceased)  to someone who had never met him?
2. What qualities  of my father reflect/ed God as Father?
3. What does it mean to me to call God as my Father?
4. What does it mean to me to be a son or daughter of God?
5. How will being a son or daughter of God make a difference in my life this coming week?
6.  What changes in my attitudes/behaviours will I make this week to merit my inheritance?
Matthew's Gospel Chapter 14:22-33 is the story of Christ commanding Peter to come to him across the water.   I love this gospel because of the encounter Peter has with Jesus.  Peter has enthusiasm and faith and yet  fear and doubt.  He is willing and enthusiastic to follow Christ's command to walk on the water and whilst he has faith, he is successful at what he thought was impossible. Of course, as soon as he took his eye from Jesus  and allowed doubt and  the fear of the wind to grip him, he faulted. However he cried out with a prayer from the heart ''Lord save me'.
Peter's enthusiasm and faith in Jesus is there to remind us that we too must possess these qualities. We must be prepared to give our all in faith and trust Jesus with the outcome.  Without that initial step of Peter from the boat, he would not have experienced his walking on water- something no doubt he thought impossible. Remember he was a fishermen so knowledge of the water was like the back of his hand to him. He trusted Jesus in his heart initially to do what he asked. Do we do the same?
Then of course there is Peter's doubt and fear which sets in.  Why does it set in? Precisely because he took his eye and focus from Jesus and allowed self doubt and fear to rule his thoughts.  He looked down rather than kept his gaze on Jesus.   I don't know about you, but I can sure relate to this side of Peter's personality.
So how is this story from the gospel relevant to us?  Let's be practical for a moment.  Perhaps you have a new business,  craft or hobby or language you would like to learn or have started. Maybe you started it, like Peter, with enthusiasm and joy and you made some progress in learning or starting the new business.  You started or want to start with enthusiasm because you know with God's help you can learn this new skill.   However then you met up with the knockers in life- perhaps yourself as the inner critic or perhaps others who made unhelpful comments. These added up in your mind and the doubt and fear crept in or it might have hit like a force of wind.
Either way, you no longer saw the goal of learning the new skill with the help of Jesus as the goal, but the doubt and fear grip you instead.  Do you cry out in faith and in fear ''Lord save me''. Do we hear the voice of Jesus say '' Courage it is I''.
God gives us both the enthusiasm and faith and the doubt and fear  in our personalities but we can choose to live with one or the other.  Which one will you choose?
 Let us stay focused as we keep our eye on Jesus this week. 


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Transfiguration of Our Lord

The Collect for the Transfiguration of Our Lord reads as follows:

O God, who in the glorious Transfiguration
of Your Only Begotten Son
confirmed the mysteries of faith by the witnesses of the Fathers
and wonderfully prefigured our full adoption of Sonship,
grant we pray, to your servants,
that, listening to the voice of your Only beloved Son,
we may merit to become co-heirs with Him.
In making this prayer tangible for during the week, the following reflection questions emerged?
1. What does the feast of the Transfiguration mean to me?
2. How does this feast impact on my life and how might it impact this coming week?
3. What does it mean to me to be a co-heir with Christ?
4.  What is the quality of my listening to the voice of Christ in my prayer and in my life?
5.  What are the hindrances/blockages that get in the way of my listening to the voice of Christ?
6. What steps will I take during the month of August to work towards removing one of those blockages.
Let us think for a moment what are the qualities required for listening- listening to a friend, listening to a programme on TV/radio or listening to nature?
1. There needs to be a decision/choice to listen. Without this conscious choice to listen, then we may be still hearing aurally but not consciously. The choice to listen changes the nature of our listening.
2. We need to be receptive to what we are hearing. If we listen to a friend with the attitude of we are waiting for them to finish so we can launch into our own monologue, then our friend will not have felt listened to and we have lost an opportunity to be receptive to someone else. Listening is a two way process. We need to listen with our ears and our heart and with our mouth shut.  You know the old saying that God gave us 2 ears and one mouth for a reason.
3. We need to let go our own needs/ agendas/thoughts when we truly listen to another person. We need to listen with our heart.
4.We need to tune in to what the person is saying and often what the person is not saying- what is between the lines...body language can give us vital clues but when we are really tuned in, we can pick up what is really being said and felt.
5. We need to suspend our own thoughts/agendas or hypotheses( even when they are accurate) so that we can truly listen.  The other person may not be ready to hear what we have to offer- they need at first to be heard and often people who are heard and feel heard make their own decision/choice of what to do. It becomes obvious to them and we do not need to actually say it.  We, by listening have given them a path of receptivity to themselves.
When we listen to the voice of God, many people find it frightening because they are not used to being receptive, silencing the noise of life around them to find the quiet inner voice of God within them.
A lot of what I have said about listening above also applies to our listening to the voice of God. Obviously we cannot see God so do not have the benefit of body language but as we come more accustomed to listening to God, we do understand at some level His body language for us.
First there is the choice/decision.. this is crucial.  I want to listen to what God wants to say to me. Perhaps God does not want to say something to me but He would like me to be in His presence.
We need to silence the outer chatter, which initially can be tricky if we do not know how.  Learning to slow down our breathing and using a phrase or word when the outer chatter pops up in our mind can be most useful as it helps us to refocus and to reaffirm our choice to listen to God and to be in His presence.
Remember listening on a human or God level is a two way process.  Often we may have a lot to tell God- He is listening.  How much of our conversation with God is us talking and us listening? 
The other aspect about this Feast that is important for us is that it gives us hope of future glory- our future glory. We too will be transformed when we get to Heaven.
However, we can start the process now- the decisions we make for good/evil/not so good,  the temptations we avoid, the decisions we make to grow in our faith and to live it out with passion and zeal- all of these steps are part of our process of transformation.  Sometimes people are given a 180 Degrees transformation but for many people it is a day to day choice in little things that lead to a transformation of equal magnitude.
Sometimes we are given moments of mountain top experience which, like the disciples do not want to come down the mountain- it is wonderful for us to be here.  My recent holiday is one such experience which has been a transforming moment for my life- something very precious. 
So take a moment to examine your life- what is good/ what needs improving and what needs to change.  Make the decision to explore and bring God into your exploration- listen and be receptive to what God is telling you right now for your life.
God truly listens to us so why not give Him a listening ear this week.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Soul selfie-15th Sunday of the Year.

With the best of intentions I hoped to write my usual posts for the Collect for the 14-15th Sundays.  I still may be able to write about this Sunday's readings but I am on holidays in UK. It is a long way from Australia obviously, but what I am realising is that in parish life, the same situations arise.  There are the people who get in there to help, the people who fear losing status so engage in all sorts of behaviours which are not helpful to the overall good.  There are the same problems and needs essentially- when I say the same, I mean there is a similar theme of need or desire.

I took this trip for a priest friend of mine's silver jubilee which was celebrated in style with a lovely Mass  followed by a garden party in the church's lovely English garden. No end of trouble had been spared to make the celebration one which will be remembered for many years to come by these parishioners.  Obviously they wanted to give my friend ( their parish priest) a beautiful celebration to express their gratitude to him for all that he means to them, which by the way, is enormous.

As a guest of the parish priest and never having been to UK to this parish, it was a little daunting for me as making small talk is my strong suit.  However, the amazing part about the whole day for me was this feeling of belonging there as if I had been .in their parish all my life.  This is significant because I have been in my own parish many decades.  This is not meant to be a downer on my own parish but just an expression of how I feel at this moment in time whilst I am on holidays.

What is also gratifying for me is to see how much his parishioners love him.  I have had many parishioners share with me their thoughts about their lives and how my friend, as their pp has impacted for the greater good in their lives. It is beautiful to hear for me for so many reasons- especially as he is my very good friend.  When there has been so much scandal and negativity about the priesthood in general and catholic life, it is great to see a parish who is displaying  catholic life in a parish at its best.

Obviously there had been a lot of preparation for the big day and all went beautifully, My priest friend was actually overcome and overwhelmed with so much love.  It was a delightful sight.
Still although it was a fabulous day, it was obviously to me that this parish have put in a lot of hard work at so many levels to make their parish what it is. Something like I experienced does not happen if it is not already there.

Anyway last night and today, I went to his Masses to experience his parish yet again.  At the family Mass, I have never seen so many young children.  This was not any school Mass or special Mass- no, just an ordinary Sunday Mass- but nothing ordinary about it.  For me, I am on holidays- so no responsibility of playing the organ or singing or playing and singing these last 2 weekends.  It was interesting to hear a different repertoire of hymns and part of the Mass.  I am lapping up the nurture for my soul as well- so important to regroup and soak up something for myself.  It is not only a holiday but turning out to be a retreat for my soul.

So I have shared something of my experience here.  I would love to share so much more. 
However I want to say how important it is to make parishioners welcome- something sometimes we can overlook, how vital it is to be connected as a parish and to work together as a community. all it takes is a smile, a nod, a hello to start with to the person in the seat next to you or in front.  That nod can be everything for someone feeling down, out of it, confused, worried or a visitor. I found it was taking the risk too- stepping out of my usual comfort zone and saying hello.  I asked myself whilst I am here how I would feel if I walked into my parish for the first time? Would I feel the same belonging as I have had the privilege to experience here in this lovely parish?  Daunting question but a necessary one, I think, to consider what we, as a parish could embrace in a tangible and centred manner.

It is vital it seems to me that if the parish priest/ pastoral council have a vision to try your best to embrace it and to support him as much as possible in the way that you can.  What ever you can to build up your own faith and the faith of others by your presence and support of your parish, the more we reflect Christ and his church in a beautiful way.

I do support my own parish in many ways but this holiday has given me time to appreciate, reflect, reenergise myself so that when I go back, I can commit once again with an enthusiastic and energetic heart. In the light of today's Gospel, sowing the seed in whatever way I can is important. God asks of us to sow in whatever proportion we can.- if we are capable of 100 fold, then we must do that, but if 60 fold or 30 fold is in reach of our capacity, then we must do all we can to reach our true potential in sowing the seed. I ask myself what is my true capacity and in the light of the seed types, what do I need to do to encourage growth in myself, in others and in my parish.

Perhaps this post might help you reflect on your commitment to your parish.  Perhaps too, it fits in with today's Gospel of sower and the seed.  I always like to ask myself when I hear this Gospel as to which seed am I right now.  Obviously we can be all seeds but at different times in my life,   I resonate with a particular seed type. It is always useful for me since it is like a photo or snapshot of my soul- perhaps it is like a selfie.!!!

So why not this weekend as you listen to today's Gospel take a selfie of your soul.  Ask yourself which seed are you right now?  Which seed do you want to be and what will you do this coming week to move towards becoming that seed?  What seed/s could you sow for your parish?

                                               May your soul selfie be an opportunity for change and growth in you.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Fourteenth Sunday of Year A

The Collect for the 14th Sunday of Year A reads as follows:

O God, who in the abasement of Your Son,
have raised up the fallen world,
fill your faithful with holy joy,
for on those you have rescued from slavery to sin
you bestowed eternal gladness.
In making this Collect tangible, the following reflective questions emerged.
1. What does it mean for me that Christ has raised a fallen world?
2.  What is the slavery and sin in my life?
3. What does it mean for me to  have eternal gladness.
4. How can I have eternal gladness every day?