A REFLECTION FOR THIS PRESENT TIME

“Jesus’ life of love is not a self-preserving love. It is not a hands-off-for-fear-of-getting-hurt love. It is not a passive love. It is not a love that refuses to deeply invest in relationship. What we see in Christ is sacrificial love. Merciful love. Love that values the well-being of others above itself. Love that will generously and fully pour itself out, whatever the cost, in order that the beloved might benefit, flourish, and thrive.” By Krish Kandiah

POPE FRANCIS REFLECTS ON JESUS AND THE STORM

The words of Pope Francis as he leads the global Church in prayer for the whole world. The famous columns reading out from the Basilica of St Peter’s symbolise the Church embracing the world in love and prayer – a ope that casts out fear and heals wounds. Will we be part of that loving, prayer-filled embrace?

Pope Francis says:

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

NEW YEAR REFLECTION

HAPPY NEW YEAR        A New Year is a time for reflection upon the past, and commitment to the future. Our Faith is a faith in the future – the future God and ourselves will forge together for our own lives and for the world. Our Faith is a faith in God’s New Beginnings, who always redeems and heals the mistakes and tragedies of the past and launches us confidently upon the paths of the future. Our Faith is faith in a God who walks with us through dark threatening valleys and light-filled joyous mountain tops – and helps us see the creativity and beauty of both! I wish you every blessing this new Year – let us together make it a Year of Communion for Mission, a Year of Contemplation, a Year of Friendship with our Emmanuel, our God who walks always at our side in our hearts.

ADVENT REFELCTION – THE GOD WHO ANNOUNCES

ANNUNCIATION – THE GOD WHO ALWAYS SPEAKS, ALWAYS CALLS

God never tires of bringing Good News, and whenever he does – something new is born! He announces first to Zechariah the priest and despite the priests lack of faith (!!), John the Baptist is born as the Voice for the Word. He announces to Joseph in a dream, and a new and more challenging dream is born from the shattered pieces of Joseph’s simpler dream of Mary. He announces to Mary and the Divine Son is born, the Word is made Flesh and our Universal Brother comes among us! Later, through Simeon and Anna He announces salvation and Light not just for the Jewish world but for all peoples. And always the Word and the Spirit work together to bring the New-Born into the world – the Word thrills the imagination and the Spirit overshadows and fills the waiting the heart. The God who speaks is the God who takes our flesh, our humanity to Himself and becomes the Emmanuel – God-with-us!

FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION – FEAST OF HUMANITY’S DIGNITY

The Feasts of Mary, the Mother of Jesus always look two ways! They reflect the wonder of Jesus, they reflect the wonder of being a disciple of the Lord! The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception teaches us that from the first moment of her existence in her mother’s womb, Mary was sinless. Mary yielded to her Redemption, her Redeemer from the beginning of her life. Her whole life was focused on the Father’s gift to the world through her of Jesus. We are all, like Mary, made in the image and likeness of God, carrying the Divine Spirit within us. We are created for wholeness and holiness. The fundamental truth of our human nature (as we see in this Feast of Redeemed Humanity) is that we are whole and holy, filled with God, full of Divine Promise! Sin is not our nature, but Holiness is! Believe in your holiness and joyfully yield, like Mary, to the wonder of God within us Who makes us Whole and Human!

PRIEST: Prophet and Shepherd

In our parish we pray each week for a different ministry and mission that serves our parish community. In the Third Week of Advent we are praying for the Ordained ministries of priest and deacon. 

This week, pray God’s Blessing and guidance for our Pastor, Richard and retired Deacon, Jack (and Joan his wife). All ordained ministry is to serve the growth of the Body of Christ, to enable the many ministries and charisms the Spirit distributes freely among the People of God – to encourage their growth and gather them all in unity. Ordained ministry must never replace or prohibit lay ministry and initiative. Challenge me if and when I do! (Richard). Please see reflection on Priesthood below:

The priest is the servant of the Eucharist, who gathers the People of God that the Spirit might form us as the Missionary Body of Christ, and then sends us out into the world to work with God – co-creators with the Father, bearers of healing Salvation with Jesus and renewers of the face of the Earth with the Spirit. The priest is our brother who walks with us and helps us listen together to the Voice of the Spirit in our times – to see ‘the Sign of the Times’ that we the Church might be God’s radical love poured out with abundant generosity into the hurting heart of the world. As a brother he is our shepherd who needs us all to be shepherds; he is a prophet who challenges us – and wants to be challenged by us! He is a leader who knows how to serve, a preacher who knows how to listen, a prophet who has the courage both to challenge and be challenged. The ordained priest and the Priestly People – journeying with one another in faith and love, forming each other as a People of Hope, a People of Love, a People of Mission – God’s People!

ADVENT REFLECTION

Fr Richard is a member of the Chaplaincy Team at St Brendans Catholic Sixth Form College. He offered this reflection at their All College Advent Assembly. Perhaps it might help your Advent Journey?

In a few days time some of us here are going to vote in the General Election. I know most of you do not yet have the vote. But this Election will shape the future development of the nations of the United Kingdom. We all have a sacred responsibility to reflect and act to shape that future – and not only for the UK. With the Climate Control Conference taking place in Madrid at the moment we are all being confronted with the urgency to take strong and decisive action now to secure the integrity of our planet for future generations. 

What has this got to do with the Christian Season of Advent? If you think Advent is about Christmas Lights and an excess of spending and partying, you are wrong. It is about what is our vision for the future? What responsibility are we going to take to shape a future where the dignity of every human person is safeguarded? Are we going to build a world free from poverty? Are we going to find ways to bring an end to armed conflict and replace weapons of destruction with tools of creativity? Are we going to change our life-style from one that exploits our Earth to one that lives in Communion with our beautiful and fragile planet and its creatures?

In the very first pages of the Bible we hear a story that tells us that God is entrusting the Earth to our care – not giving it to us to exploit and pillage! A few pages on we hear of some sort of prophet called ‘Balaam’ – he is described as ‘a man with far-seeing eyes’.This Advent is a call for all of us to be ‘men and women of far-seeing eyes’! Later prophets, like Isaiah, constantly challenged the people of their own time and us as well – will we build peace instead of waging war; will we free people of slavery and injustice, instead of always seeking our own quick profits; will we at last learn how to live in harmony and friendship with the planet, protecting the Forests and the animals.

The word ‘Advent’ means ‘the Coming’ – how we are to build the future towards the moment when all creation will radiate the Glory of God’s Love., for that s the goal of evolution.  As we Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus 

2000 years ago, we must decide to bring a new kind of world to birth … before it is too late. A world where the voices of the poor, the cries of those on the margins of society and the groanings of our wounded planet are listened to and allowed to rise to the top of every personal agenda and every political programme.

The birth of Jesus celebrates the infinite dignity and worth of every human person; so this child born homeless in a stable asks why are there over 120,000 children homeless and in temporary accommodation this Christmas in 2019 Britain; so this child who had to escape the tyranny of a vicious dictator and seek asylum in a foreign country begs us to find room in our hearts and our land for more of the 67 million refugees world-wide – and especially the unaccompanied child refugees; so this child who grew to become the Universal Brother teaching us we are all one family cries out to us to break down all walls of division, demolish the ideologies of racism, anti-semitism and prejudice. 

How will you celebrate the birth of this Child? Will you dare to catch the  Advent vision of a world filled with freedom, equality and human compassion: filled with a truly Divine Love.

Maybe you cannot vote in this General Election, but the future of our world is most surely in your hands. Don’t close your eyes and refuse to see; don’t close your ears and refuse to hear; don’t walk by on the other side while humanity dies and the Earth weeps. But harness your energy, your education and your passion and bring a new world to birth! … starting NOW!

AN ADVENT ‘HOME RETREAT’

You are invited to use the resources below – reflections and Scripture passages – as part of your prayerful celebration of this beautiful Advent Season. These find there origin in St Nick’s Parish Day Retreat on the last day of the ‘Year of Prayer’ ad the eve of the ‘Year of Communion’. They unite Prayer, Mission and Communion as an integrated whole, based on the theme of “Being and Communion”. Fr Richard McKay and Mrs Mary Hopper, who jointly led this Day of Retreat hope and pray that these reflections will help all who pray them to encounter God and find themselves in prayer, in mission and in community.

SESSION ONE:

INTRODUCTION TO THE  THEME

                                                  ‘BEING AND COMMUNION’

We live in a world of activity – we are valued by our achievements – we get caught up in the drive to succeed.

To get in touch with our deepest core we need to challenge the drives – Advent is an opportunity to create space to see and to hear anew! Advent is a period in the Church’s Year when we seek deeper ‘Enlightenment’. Jesus, like Buddha and so many other great religious leaders, guides us on a journey from darkness into light, from ‘partly living’ to ‘the fullness of life’. Entering into the silence of waiting means we hear those inner driving voices for what they are: blinding us to ‘the true God’; suppressing awareness of our true value and the diminishing of our true self; hiding from us our real purpose in the world.

Prayer is not about lots of words – but a deeper listening and a new seeing. It is not about becoming more ‘spiritual’ or ‘religious’- but about getting in touch with our deeper self, truer self in that silence and light that heals and sets free. This in turn will lead us to see God, self, others and all creation with new Vision, in a new Light. 

The Christian Church, together with many other Faith traditions have the practice of a rhythm of prayer through the day – times to stop and reflect, to lift our gaze in wonder at the glory and to feel the pain that needs the transfiguring touch of Divine Light; and to listen to the divine speaking through the world around us.

We invite you to engage in that ancient rhythm of prayer scattered through the day, as pegs on which to hang our silences during which the Light can grow. We invite you to stop awhile, ‘watch with Him’ awhile, and enter into the rhythm of the Church’s prayer, the rhythm of your own life in Christ. We ask you to surrender yourself to periods of silence and let God be with you, speak to your heart, lead you into the wilderness that is the place of love, betrothal and a sending out!

SOURCE OF BEING: WHO IS GOD REALLY? 

If God is God, then God is infinite – beyond the capacity of the mind to comprehend. All language about God (‘Theo-logos’) is essentially metaphor, helping us to approach and reflect upon Ultimate Truth that is beyond us. So the ‘metaphors’ are essential and meaningful but always limited, open to development to something more. In the end we cannot comprehend the Divine, but we can experience something of the Divine by allowing the ‘mind to sink into the heart’ (as the Russian tradition of prayer describes it). That is what contemplation is – allowing the ‘mind to sink into the heart’. 

The Hebrew and Christian Scriptures are at once the story of humanity’s developing and maturing understanding of the God we experience and God’s unfolding revelation of the Divine Self. These Scriptures are the story of a people growing in the Light. What does this ‘revelation’ tell us about the Divine: that all creation comes from the explosion of love into the nothingness – the  astronomers’ ‘big bang’ is this divine explosion of love. God is to be found in every atom of creation, God is at the heart of our evolving universe and the dynamism of the evolutionary process. But God is not simply creative power, but is loving relationship. The Divine, the Ultimate Truth and the Ultimate Power is absolute and infinite 

Love: Love is not a ‘thing’ but the dynamic of relationship – a ‘being in love’. Hence God is the pattern or network of loving relationship – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This ‘triune’ Love is the source of all creation and this Love is embedded in every atom of creation and the magnetism of all evolution. 

Before all else God is Love. Divine Power is Divine Love; Divine Creativity is Divine Love; Divine Justice (and Judgement) is Divine Love. Divine Love is not remote but involved – Love that creates, transforms and fulfils. This loving involvement of God in creation reaches its pinnacle, its deepest expression,  in ‘The Word made Flesh, dwelling among us’ (John 1: 14) So why do we fear God, who comes to share our humanity in all our frailty and weakness in the flesh of Bethlehem’s baby, in the vulnerability of the refugee child and family, in the Jesus who empties himself becoming a ‘slave’ condemned and executed as a slave on a Cross? 

And where do we find this Divine Presence? Embedded in Creation – yes; in the processes of Evolution (into Christ Omega) – yes; in the dynamic of human and social and political development – yes. And by entering into the inner sanctuary of the human person, into the core of our being, the ‘cave of the heart’. Infinite Love is the very centre of our being and there we enter into the Divine Dance and Dialogue  of Love. 

SCRIPTURES FOR REFLECTION

Exodus 3: 7-8a, 9-10, 13-14

The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. i have heard them crying for hep on account of their taskmasters. Yes, I am aware of their sufferings. And I have come down to rescue them, to bring them out of that country to a country rich and broad, flowing with milk and honey.’

And Moses said to God, ‘ If I go to the Israelites and and say “the God of your ancestors has sent me to you” they will ask, “What is his name?” 

And God said to Moses, ‘ “I am Who I am!”. Say this to them, “I am has sent me to you” ‘.

Matthew 16: 13-15

And Jesus asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say I am?’  [and then] He asked, ‘But you, who do you say I am?’

 

SESSION TWO:                  BEING: WHO AM I REALLY?

We have the joy of being made from dust and clay as well as divine breath (Genesis c2). We are the unity of body, mind and spirit. We are called to venture upon the journey of inwardness, walking to rhythmic beat of the divine heart at the core of our being.

Hindu spirituality speaks of the journey deep into the ‘cave of the heart’ there to discover the Divine Presence. The English country parson speaks of plunging into the cloud of unknowing there to know beyond knowledge. The Carmelite way speaks of climbing the Mountain to be transfigured or entering into the Interior Castle to find the King. Jesus undertook this journey – in the self-emptying of the incarnation, in being carried to the Temple to be acclaimed the Light of the Nations and Glory of Israel – not without cost! In journeying through the discovery of adolescence, finding a home in the Father’s House. In the trek to the Jordan River and the breakthrough of the Spirit. And then into the desert! Before His ‘going out’ – to the poor and broken, the despairing and hungry – there is this ‘going in’. Without inwardness there is no authentic mission, no true ‘being for others’, just the loss of self in a driven and faithless activism. 

Eric Fromm defines the human person as a ‘Freedom for Love’; the Judaeo-Christian tradition believes passionately that we are made in the ‘image and likeness of God’ – a God ‘Who is Love’. 

The inner person calls us to enter the cave of our hearts there to dialogue with the Divine – a dialogue of silent presence. Our contemporary world so often seduces us into superficiality or prizes only power, wealth, success and the sovereignty of the intellect: God delights in our drinking from the well of love that the Spirit creates deep within our inner cave. The Russian tradition of prayer speaks of the Mind sinking into the Heart and from that place ‘in the Heart’ being attentive to God – not an anti-intellectualism, but a nourishing of that within us that is beyond the intellect and therefore informs the intellect with a deeper wisdom.

Prayer, the prayer of stillness and silence, the prayer of being and gazing, the prayer of being and being with – this prayer immerses us into the Divine Mystery, the Cloud of Unknowing. This prayer leads us to our true self, our real humanity – our new humanity. From this Centre we can begin to radiate love, breath love into our torn world. The world may never know, never realise – but the world becomes a more loving place because you have gone to the Well in the Cave of the Heart and there drunk deeply of love – love to  be poured out as Jesus did.

So abandon yourself to this inner journey – so that journeying inward to God and Self, you might journey outward to your sister, your brother, your world with greater humanity, deeper love and more joyous hope. Jesus sends his disciples (us) out into our world, but without this inner journey there can be no Christian Mission – and without Mission and Service the journey inwards decays into an obsessive God-greedy alienating luxury. May  the God of endless loving always be in our Going out and our Coming in.

SCRIPTURE FOR REFLECTION

Ephesians 3: 14-21

This then is what I pray, kneeling before the Father from whom every fatherhood in heaven and on earth takes its name. In the abundance of his glory, may he, through his Spirit, enable your inner self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then planted in love and built on love, with all God’s holy people you will have the strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; so that knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you may be filled with the utter fullness of God.
Glory be to him whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine …

 

SESSION THREE   BEING FOR: ‘WHO IS MY NEIGHBOUR?’

Our Parish throughout its 171 years has welcomed different migrant groups. Today it welcomes over 60 different nationalities from all over the world – from every continent.  We touch the great challenge and gift of our time – the global phenomenon of migration. There are over 67 million refugees world-wide. What is it to be human, to be Christian in this context? Being human is to be in community, to find ourselves in the journey outwards enabling others to find themselves. To be the neighbour to the other is our identity. The Church is called to be just such a community, a sign of what community, what humanity can become . Being Community is being true to the God who is the Community of Love – being community is the essential ground of Mission, of being for, being the Neighbour. Made in the image and likeness of God we are made for ‘Otherness’, we are only whole and we find our centre in the ‘Other’, the Other at the core our being, the Other in the people, the society, the world around me.

Who do I not want to be in community with? Who do I refuse to be neighbour with? Our favourite parish hymn is ‘All are welcome in this place’ – we were challenged by the Holy Spirit to ask ourselves ‘Who are not welcome in our church?’ We rejoiced in our multi-cultural and multi-ethnic make-up; we were used to welcoming the poor, homeless, addicted, the refugee through our doors, not only to serve them, but to be with them, alongside them. But… what about the LBGT+ community? That was God’s challenge to us.

Who is God challenging you to welcome, to engage with? Who do you prefer to shun, avoid, judge, condemn? The migrant? the Muslim? the homeless? the mentally ill? the addict? the Gay? the young? the old? What are my fears? Jesus comes to bring a perfect love that will cast out all fear (1John 4: 18). He calls us to ‘cross over to the ‘other side’ to a land that seems dark to us, our Zebulun and Naphtali (Matt 4: 15-16) (that we might bring light, find light!). He left his Nazareth, his familiar ‘comfort zone’, to ‘be with’, an Emmanuel, to accompany, serve, protect. Pope Francis talks so much about the gift that the migrant is to us, that we are poorer in humanity if we build walls against the ‘stranger’. 

Jesus, the Word made Flesh, reveals to us who God is and who we can become, who we truly are at our deepest! He is the Flesh of a God whose love is truly Universal; he is the flesh of a humanity who risks having a heart as large as this God. The Word was made Flesh in the poverty and misery of Nazareth, the homelessness of Bethlehem and the refugee journey to Egypt. This is where and how God entered fully into the human drama, the human condition – in a place of turmoil, oppression, injustice, conflict. The Light of the World came to guide us into the darkness of poverty to discover the true light of love and humanity. We are challenged by this God, this brother who lives the ‘Option for the Poor’. The rich, comfortable and powerful will only find their true humanity by reaching out and receiving the gift the poor will give them. The poor, if we live with them, for them, gift us with our true selves. They bring us more light than we bring them! We cannot find ourselves, come into the Light unless we allow the poor to reveal to us our darkness, our poverty of heart.

SCRIPTURE FOR REFLECTION

Luke 10:  29-37

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’ In answer Jesus said,

‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of bandits; they stripped him, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead. Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side. In the same way of Samaritan traveller who came on him was moved with compassion when he saw him. He went up to him and and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him. Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the inn-keeper and said, “Look after him and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”
Now which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?’
He replied, ‘The one who showed pity towards him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise yourself.’

 

SESSION FOUR

BEING IN CREATION:  ‘COMMUNION OR DOMINANCE?’

Our Scriptures begin with a prophetic vision of the garden of harmony that God intends for all humanity and all creation – but that harmony we are constantly rejecting, we cannot cope with. So we spoil it and leave to build our own self-centred and wounded world. 

In our urban world we hardly notice the glorious rhythm of the seasons – the death of winter beginning to yield the flowering of New Life; the springtime of beauty and growth giving way to the harvest of fulness as the sun reaches its summer zenith; the transitoriness of fulfilment as the decaying and declining of autumn sets in; and finally the onslaught of the deep death sleep of winter when we touch emptiness and meaninglessness. The ancients were so at one with this rhythm of creation that they saw in it the struggle of the gods, their dying and rebirthing and the endless, meaningless struggle between light and darkness, death and life continues. As Pope Francis has reminded us (in the recent Pan-Amazon Synod), we need to rediscover and learn ‘communion with Creation’ from our indigenous sisters and brothers (eg of the Amazon basin), in order to ‘heal’ creation from the the ravages of human exploitation.

We are the people whose faith speaks of hope: that creation has purpose and goal. (see John 1: 1-5; Romans 8: 14-25; Eph 1: 8-10; Col 1: 15-20; Christ Alpha and Omega in Rev: 1: 8 & 21: 1-6) That our little lives in this great cosmos are indeed significant, God-touched, God-loved. Yet this very life-giving faith, this burning hope, this embrace of creating love of which we are  a part, has too often led us to control and dominate, rather than to walk in harmony and feel the rhythm of creation within and around us. And so our precious gifts and talent for science and technology has too often not enhanced but wounded our earth, polluted our seas, and starved our sisters and brothers. We are obsessed with ‘development’ for profit, rapid return on investments and ignoring the suicidal harm we are inflicting on ourselves and future generations by not living in harmony with the ‘rhythms of creation’. We call the indigenous peoples of forest and savannah, of coast and desert – primitive. Yet they listen to the trees and the wind-swept deserts and bend to their call and walk to their rhythm. Perhaps too late and too little we are to learn from them. 

In the silence listen to the earth – it is in your heart, your body, beneath your feet, before your eyes – let it enter your soul that you might live again. Worship the Creator who is still creating and wants to draw you into sharing the divine task of co-creating. Listen to the call of creation for in it you will hear the voice of the Creator and the cry of your own creativity.

SCRIPTURES FOR REFLECTION

Genesis 1: 27 and 2: 7-9, 18-20

God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them…

The Lord God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. God planted a garden in Eden, and there he put the man he had fashioned.. From the soil the Lord God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat…

And the Lord God said ‘It is not right that the man should be alone. I shall make him a helper.’ So from the soil, the Lord God fashioned all the wild animals and all the birds of heaven. These he brought to the man to see what he would call them; each one was to bear the name the man would give it. And the man gave names to all the creatures.

Romans 8: 18-23

In my estimation, all that we suffer in this present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us, for the whole creation is waiting with eagerness for the children of God to be revealed. His intention is that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the same glorious freedom as the children of God. We are well aware that the whole creation until this time has been groaning in labour pains. Not only that: we too, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we are groaning inside ourselves, waiting with eagerness to be set free.

ADVENT – THE VISION OF MISSION

Advent is a time for ‘people with far-seeing eyes’ – awakened to the reality of our world, ready to listen and to gaze: in order to recognise where, when and how Jesus comes in the 21st century (in the poverty, among the oppressed, disguised as an addict or as homeless, crying out for acceptance and freedom in the asylum-seeker, yearning for peace among the women and children who are the greatest victims of our wars). But you have to have courage to see and to hear – and more courage to speak and to act! The Spirit of God unfolds a vision of Mission – to transform the deserts and wastelands of our world into places of hope, rich and fertile in humanity and justice, healing and freedom. Our Mission is world-challenging and world-changing. Let our worship empower our mission, as we gaze upon bread from the fields and wine from the hills being transformed utterly in Christ by the Spirit and the Word through the ministry of the Church!