V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
9th May - Jesus the Bread of Life Pt 4
Last week I made the point that Jesus and the gift of himself to us in the Eucharist is the Bread of Life for us now. There is much more however. He goes well beyond the present life. His gift goes into eternity - to eternal life and the Resurrection. “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever….” (vs 51). “Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day” (vs54).
These words and the reality they speak of gives us so much hope - a sure hope for the future. This in turn offers hope for our present life as well.
Spend some time this week with our Risen Lord within us speaking to us of what he in the Eucharist offers us.
2nd May - Jesus the Bread of Life Pt 3
As we meet our risen Lord with Faith in prayer, in his Word and in the Eucharist so often, Jesus is truly the Bread of Life for us over our long journey of life.
Jesus sustains our whole person - giving us courage, hope, and meaning in all the situations of our lives. He energises us also to love and to do good.
We become what we eat, as St Augustine said, and so Jesus not only is close and supports us right throughout life, but also we become his hands, his feet, his voice and his heart for others. His Risen presence acts through us as it did through his Apostles and the early Christians.
Spend some quiet time with our Risen Lord this week reflecting on how he is the Bread of Life for us NOW and has been all throughout our lives.
25th April - Jesus the Bread of Life Pt 2
Jesus goes further than calling us to Faith in him. He actually promises something unbelievable to many. He promises that he will give us himself in another way. “….and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world” (vs51). “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (vs55).
In simple words his flesh and blood means that what Jesus was promising and offering was truly himself - not just in a figurative or symbolical way.
When people protested, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (vs52) Jesus doesn’t back down. Rather he emphasises that he means to give us himself in this way. ‘Jesus replied, “I tell you most solemnly, if you do not eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you. Anyone who does eat my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Vs53-54).
We really need Faith to accept this as Peter did, “You have the message of eternal life, and we believe…” (vs68).
So spend some time in prayer relishing how we now have our Risen Lord in this simple and mysterious other way or form of the Eucharist. Remember also as we savour the Word of God, this too is Jesus, who is the Bread of Life for us and who feeds us in this way as well.
18th April - Jesus the Bread of Life Pt 1
In the Third week of Easter the Church always uses Chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel at the week day Masses. The Church, I believe, uses this Gospel on purpose to point out to us that here is a very special way in which we meet our Risen Lord. Over the next four weeks then I encourage you to read reflectively this special and long chapter of St John’s Gospel. I will also highlight a point or two from it.
Firstly you will notice there is much reference to ‘manna’. Apart from the frequent use of the word itself, the miracle of the loaves and fishes early in the chapter was indeed ‘manna from heaven’ for those thousands of hungry people.
Manna in the Old Testament was ‘The bread of life’ for the Jewish people wandering the desert. It was a floury substance which appeared overnight and which they gathered each day and made into bread for their sustenance - and for quite a period of their long journey.
Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to me will never be hungry…” (vs35).
The way to connect to Jesus so that he can be life-giving food for us is through Faith. “….you must believe in the one He has sent” (vs30). “….he who believes in me will never thirst” (vs35).
Spend some time in prayer letting those words of Jesus, our Risen Lord, sink in more deeply. Prayer will certainly help our Faith grow and our appreciation of Jesus as the ‘Bread of Life’ for us and our world.
11th April - Our Risen Lord Within
Each year, especially at Easter and throughout Eastertide, I believe we get special Grace to grow in Faith - not only in the fact that Jesus is risen and alive and guarantees our Resurrection when we die, but also and very importantly, that our Risen Lord lives within us.
As we sleep, as we work, and as we pray or rest, our Risen Lord within is moment by moment part of all that.
When we are with people who believe this such as when we are in church, our Faith grows.
Well beyond this though, I believe that Jesus is present in and part of everyone’s life - both through his Incarnation and Resurrection.
I would like to suggest something we could do this coming week. Besides looking within ourselves to acknowledge the presence of our Risen Lord - look to all the people around us, especially where there is good, or need, or suffering, or hurt, or worry. See in them that same Risen Lord.
Whether looking within or beyond ourselves, we could use Thomas the Apostle’s wonderful act of Faith, quietly whispering it in our hearts, ‘My Lord and My God’. Jn20:28
4th April - The Annunciation of the Lord
Today is the Feast of the Annunciation - the day we celebrate God’s Son being conceived by Mary, taking flesh and living among us.
Normally it is celebrated on the 25th of March, however it was transferred until today because the actual date this year fell during Holy Week.
Easter of course is the follow up to the Incarnation. This wonderful God who became one of us and one with us, then went on to do His special work of redeeming the world by suffering, dying and rising from the dead. Our Risen Lord not only conquered sin and death by rising and then returning to the Father, but is also now living with us - in us.
The main way we celebrate the wonderful reality of our redemption is of course in our Liturgy. A beautiful devotional way as well, together with the Angelus, is to pray the Regina Coeli daily from now until Pentecost.
I like to begin my day of prayer with the Angelus, or at this time, the Regina Coeli. It focuses me for the day on the fact that our God is Incarnate or Emmanuel, which means God-is-with-us. Now in Eastertide there is the further reminder that this God-with-us, is also our Risen Lord.
I quote this simple prayer for those who may not have it but wish to pray it in these days of Eastertide.
Queen of heaven, rejoice! Alleluia.
For he whom you did merit to bear, Alleluia,
Has risen as he said, Alleluia.
Pray for us to God. Alleluia.
V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, Alleluia.
R. For the Lord has risen indeed, Alleluia.
Let us pray:
God our Father, you give joy to the world by the resurrection of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through the prayers of his mother, the Virgin Mary, bring us to the happiness of eternal life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
28th March - Easter Octave
While the Easter Vigil, for those who had the privilege of celebrating it, or the Easter Sunday Mass, is such a joyful occasion and the highlight of the year, we need more time to drink it in. It is exactly because it is so rich, so deep, such a Mystery, that we need much more time to do this year after year.
The Church helps us by having restored the importance of the whole week following Jesus’ Resurrection as an Octave. In fact Eastertide - the 50 days to Pentecost - gives us much more time to ponder all this in our hearts, like Mary.
While Jesus is risen and dies no more, the cross, pain and suffering continues in people’s lives - and for many in our world it is just so heavy - especially where there is poverty, hunger, disasters, injustice and the scourge of war and conflict.
Jesus wants that to change and wants us to change what we can. Nevertheless there is still the cross in our lives whether it is small or big.
What Jesus is calling us to do is to embrace the cross in its many forms, as St Paul did, and to know the power of his Resurrection. In fact we can only embrace that cross by the power of his Resurrection. (Philippians 3:10)
21st March - Holy Week
We call this week ‘Holy’ because of the most important events in the history of the world that it commemorates and, in our Liturgy, relives in some way -the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
My plan this week in prayer is to spend time with Jesus, and be some way with him in what he went through.
The Readings of the Masses of the Day can help here.
The Passion of St Luke that we had on Palm Sunday could be good to slowly go through again. Luke can be called the ‘Gospel of Mercy’ and Jesus’ Mercy can be seen many times in this passage.
The Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, using our gift of imagination can draw us more into this mystery of Jesus’ suffering and death.
Whichever way or ways we use, not only will it draw us more to know Jesus and his deep love for us, and how he is with us in our trials, suffering and crosses. It will also prepare us to appreciate more his rising from the dead and the power of his risen life with us in the joys and sadness’s of our lives.
15th March - Prodigal Son continued
Please take up and read again in St Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 15:11-32, the story of the Prodigal Son. Please do more than this and go more deeply into it by spending some time imagining the scene.
Pope Francis, recently speaking of this father, said that while the son was not physically present to him, the father always held him in his heart. The Pope even imagines the father climbing onto the roof every day to look out for his son!
What Jesus says in the story is that the father races to the son as soon as he recognises him. He embraces him and kisses him tenderly before the son could say a word. Even when the son begins his prepared speech the father cuts him short and says, ‘Tidy him up and dress him up and let’s have the biggest party we’ve had for some time!’
What a welcome!
Now please put yourself into this story. Think of the times that you have needed the mercy of God and gone to our generous, lavish and merciful father. Think of how you have received that warm welcome and received his great kindness. Feel embraced by our wonderful God. In other words I am asking you for a few minutes to go back and savour the times you have experienced the mercy of God. The more we experience and drink in that mercy, the more that mercy will flow over from us to those around us.
8th March - Prodigal Son
Last Sunday we had the special Gospel of the ‘Prodigal Son’. Before the renewal of the Liturgy after the Second Vatican Council, this important and beautiful Gospel was never used on a Sunday. Now at least, in our three yearly cycle of Readings, we have it every three years.
How important is it? Cardinal Martini, a Jesuit, a Scripture scholar and the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan a few years ago, mentioned that it could be said that this story sums up the whole of St Luke’s Gospel - if not all the Gospels.
Jesus came to reveal to us how infinitely good, loving and merciful God our Father is. As Pope Francis said, Jesus is “the face of the Father’s mercy”.
By all that Jesus was, said and did, we see how generously merciful God our Father is.
The story Luke gives us is not a fairy story. Go to the end of St Luke’s Gospel and we see Jesus there on the cross. He prays for those who condemned him unjustly, tortured him and crucified him.
To the thief who said “remember me when you come into your Kingdom”, he quickly replied, “today you will be with me in paradise”.
Spend a few moments with Jesus thinking about and praying about all this.
29th February - Fasting and Christian Life
While the Church rules of fasting are now minimal compared with when I was young, the need and the value of fasting remains.
Without going into detail, we know that fasting properly done is a good help in turning to God, in Christian living and in providing for the poor and the needy.
Apart from fasting from food I came across this Litany recently in one of our Catholic schools newsletters.
A Litany of Lent
We fast from judging others,
but feast on patience.
We fast from apparent differences,
but feast on unity of all life.
We fast from words that pollute,
but feast on words that affirm.
We fast from complaining,
but feast on appreciation.
We fast from bitterness and anger,
but feast on forgiveness and mercy.
We fast from bitterness and anger,
but feast on forgiveness and mercy.
We fast from discouragement,
but feast on hope.
We fast from suspicion
but feast on trust.
We fast from idle gossip,
but feast on purposeful silence.
We fast from problems that overwhelm,
but feast on prayer that strengthens.
The last sentence in particular is so wise and sound. St Francis de Sales said, “When you are busy or worried, spend more time in prayer, not less”.
This is so important to gain the strength needed for our problems. In fact I believe that it is only in prayer that we obtain the Grace to do the other things listed in the Litany as well.
22nd February - The Door of Mercy and Lent
Pope Francis launched the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the 8th December last year with the solemn opening of a special door in St Peter's Basilica in Rome.
He said "The Holy Door will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope."
The Pope has opened a few more Holy Doors since for special reasons. Each Diocese has some designated Holy Doors. The Geraldton Diocese has two - the Cathedral and St Paul's Church in Karratha. City Dioceses would have more.
Whether you can access a Holy Door or not I would like to suggest this. Regard the door of your Church and every Church door as a "Holy Door." The reality is that when we go to Church, especially for Mass on the weekend, we are entering into the Mercy of God in a rich way as we encounter Jesus " the face of the Father's mercy." When we leave we are sent to share that mercy and be the human face of Jesus for all those we live with and meet.
Lent is a graced time to experience the mercy of God as well as to share it. Each time we enter and leave our Church door may it be a powerful symbol and reminder of this.
15th February - Lent - a rich time of Grace
Last week I encouraged you to sketch a simple concrete plan for Lent. You can include such things as prayer, fasting or sacrifices, almsgiving, embracing the cross in my life etc.
Whatever plan you may have sketched or still are forming, remember that Lent is not only a sacred time but very much a special time of Grace.
On Ash Wednesday itself I was finding something a little difficult, when I remembered it was Ash Wednesday, and immediately I did it generously. I believe it was more than the memory that it was Ash Wednesday. I believe that the help came from the Grace that Jesus and the Church were giving at this time.
So when the little plan I have gets difficult, or I find hard something I know God wants of me, remember that it’s Lent and that God’s Grace is readily available.
This Grace will lead me to trust Jesus more and resonate with what St Paul felt and wrote, “My Grace is sufficient for you, for my power is at its best in weakness. ..for when I am weak, then I am strong”. 2 Cor 12: 9-10
8th February 2016 - Lent
As I return from our Priest’s Retreat, my holidays, and other commitments in January, I also begin my first weekly reflection. Even though we are into our second month I wish you all a very happy New Year.
Lent is very early this year and will be upon us on Ash Wednesday the 10th of February.
Pope Francis said that “Lent is a time of drawing nearer to Jesus”. When he talks like that we know that he means Jesus both personally and in the person of others - especially the needy people of our times.
Therefore I ask you to do something very soon and that is to write down a few Lenten plans.
Firstly though, please stop and talk this over with Jesus as a trusted friend. Then sketch some Lenten plans. Having something written means that you not only plan well and make a commitment, but also that you can come back to these plans during Lent to see how you are going and even perhaps if they need refining.
28 December – The End of 2015
I offer a simple point to end my reflection this year – however I believe it is a very important one.
Towards the end of each year, various people and organisations review the year – it highlights, what was achieved etc. and that is good.
What would be wonderful would be for each of us to take some quiet time with our gracious and merciful God to thank Him for all that he has given us and done for us in 2015.
So much of God’s goodness is repeated each day. No doubt there were in this year some special good times for you as well. Perhaps there was the cross in one or more of its forms. Then there were times of failure and sin.
There is so much to thank God for – His gifts, His love and presence with us in difficult times and his generous mercy and kindness always.
May we find time to do this and if we are in family why not do it together?
I wish you all as the Italians say, “Buona fine e buon capo d’anno” – may you have a good ending and a good start to the New Year.
(This is the final ‘Thought’ for 2015. These will resume again in February 2016)
21 December - Advent - Mary’s Role
As we prepare for Christmas, for Christ to be born a new in our hearts, the Church always puts Mary before us in the last Sunday of Advent.
Who better than the one who prepared so well for Jesus herself and gave birth to this marvellous little infant - who better than Mary to help us open our hearts so that he can make his home even more with us?
The Church in one of the Advent Prefaces says that Mary longed for her Son and Saviour with ‘love beyond all telling’. The preface also says as we prepare for Jesus’ birth may he find us ‘watchful in prayer’ and that our hearts be ‘filled with wonder and praise’.
In other words Mary and the Church are encouraging us to take time to be at the crib now each day even for a few minutes in the business of the day.
As we do this, remember that Mary is there too. Ask her to help us prepare. We can even whisper the Hail Mary to her.
14th December - Advent - ‘A Time of Joy’
The Word of God for the Third Sunday of Advent was packed with joy.
It would be good to go back and reflectively read again the First Reading from Zephaniah - then the Psalm - then the Second Reading of St Paul to the Philippians. The Gospel doesn’t mention joy, however as John the Baptist prepared people for the coming of the Messiah, they were so excited and wanted to know what they had to do to change their lives for this.
What is the joy that God gives us? For an answer we could do no better than to go to Jesus’ words to his Disciples at the Last Supper. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy would be complete”.
Jesus used the Greek word “Chara,” taken from the word “charis” which means grace. That’s getting to the heart of what biblical joy really means.
Simply put, “grace” means “God leaning toward me, bending over me, inclining toward me kindly, favourably.”
That’s what God is and that’s who God is for me.
There is never a moment when God isn’t bending toward me that way. No matter what the situation, God is leaning toward me kindly, favourably.
We would do well to bring to mind this reality, this image of God throughout the remaining time of Advent.
We are all familiar with the human image of a parent leaning over, smiling and making happy sounds to his or her child. It is a good image of how God is leaning towards me with great love, moment by moment.
This love, this approach of God is our real source of joy. Many good things (trust, prayer, good living) will follow the more we believe this is how God relates to us.
7th December - Advent - ‘Welcome Jesus’
We are already a week into Advent which is all about the coming of Jesus. We celebrate his first coming at Bethlehem and the Liturgy at the beginning of Advent also turns our minds to his final coming at the end of the world. What concerns me more though, and I am sure all of us, is the end of our earthly world at the time of our death.
We might ask is there any other coming in between? For sure we have a special coming and a time of Grace each Christmas. However Jesus comes to us in so many ways every day.
Because of the first Christmas we have the great privilege of having Jesus live within us and of being sons and daughters of the Father. He comes to us in the gift of a new day and the extra day of life. He comes through the people around us in our lives, work, our family members, those who care for us etc.
May I suggest a simple prayer that we could use throughout Advent and during the course of each day - ‘welcome Jesus’. The beginning of each day, remembering that Jesus lives within, we could say ‘welcome Jesus’. Although he is there already when we say welcome it enlarges our heart and opens our heart more to him.
As we welcome a new day, we could also welcome Jesus the giver of that day. Likewise for the precious extra day of life that we receive from him - ‘welcome Jesus’. Then as we go through the day and mix with a variety of people let’s look beyond them to the Christ who is within them. As they come to us we could whisper in our heart, ‘welcome Jesus’. Another good time to say silently ‘welcome Jesus’ would be when someone asks us for something.
I believe in this way our hearts will be enlarged. Jesus will give us more heart. In turn we will give more heart to those around us because through any act of love and kindness, we are Jesus for them.
30 November - The Need of the Church and the Value of the Church
After having over various weeks reflected on the Church as a Building or God’s Household, as the Body of Christ or as the Grapevine, I think I have said enough to make clear Jesus’ plan. Obviously His plan is that we belong to Him and to each other. Therefore we cannot be a true or complete Christian on our own.
Each image has brought out something different as well. In each image though Jesus is central. He is the Keystone in the Building. He is the Head of the Body and He is the Vine or the Trunk of the Grapevine.
In all of them these images also show how crucial Jesus is. Without Him there is no Church.
Let’s keep growing in our personal relationship with Jesus in Faith, prayer, love and trust. This will automatically connect us to everyone else in the Church who are part of Him.
Likewise whenever we gather with other Church members - for a social, a parish meeting, a prayer meeting and especially the Eucharist, we will connect even more closely with Him.
23 November - The Church as the ‘Vine’ Pt2
Please begin this reflection by reading John 15: 1-8.
You can see there that this image of the Grapevine speaks also about producing fruit. Jesus is saying that we just can’t belong to the vine. We are called to produce fruit by the way we live and use our gifts.
As Jesus come to announce the Gospel - the Good News of God’s presence among us and God’s deep love for us - so we are called to produce fruit or share the joy of the Gospel. We are called, in other words, to make known to others God’s presence and deep love for all.
First and foremost let’s keep in mind each day of this week the words attributed to St Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always. When necessary use words”.
St Francis is saying to us to believe strongly first and foremost ourselves, in the presence of God in us and His deep love for us. This in turn will help others, who know us, to be likewise aware of God’s presence in them and His deep love for them. Because we are branches attached to the vine of Christ, our very Faith and example will produce this fruit in others.
16 November - The Church as the 'Vine
I want to return to my reflections on the Church. Over the past weeks we have reflected on the scriptural images of the Church as a Building and then as a Body - as the Body of Christ.
I want now to reflect on the beautiful image Jesus has given us of the grapevine, “I am the Vine and you are the branches” (Jn15)
Like the ‘body’ image, this image of the Vine is a living image of the Church. As the sap of the vine runs right through all the branches, so too Jesus’ pulsating life flows in each of us. He is in us and we in Him.
What a privilege - what an unimaginable gift!
Each day this week, spend a few minutes pondering this in awe and wonder. The very life of Jesus, Son of God, flowing in me. We could pause and do this, for e.g. just before we begin our daily prayers.
9 November - ‘All Souls Day’ Pt 2
Can God, as I mentioned last week, use or apply our prayers for our deceased, not only in the present, but also for them in the past?
God certainly can do this. Our Faith, supported strongly and taught by our Church, says so.
A great example of this is Mary the mother of Jesus. The Church teaches that in God’s plan Mary was conceived and born free from Original Sin. Now only Jesus’ saving work of Redemption gained forgiveness of sin. Mary was conceived well before Jesus was born, of course, let alone before He died and rose.
The Church teaches that Mary’s Immaculate Conception was brought about, or made possible, by the anticipated merits of Jesus’ Redemptive work. Now Jesus would have died on the cross at least some fifty years after Mary, His mother, was conceived. God applied the merits of Jesus’ Redemptive work to Mary in the past - some fifty years earlier.
Yes God can use our prayers for our deceased in many ways and certainly for their past as well as for the present.
2 November -‘All Souls Day’
Today I interrupt my reflections on the images of the Church because yesterday we celebrated All Saints Day and today All Souls. These two Feasts speak so much to us about the Church - how those in Heaven and those in Purgatory and ourselves on Earth are all one family and how we can help one another. Years ago we spoke of the Church in Heaven as the Church Triumphant, of those in Purgatory as the Church Suffering and us here on earth as the Church Militant.
November is the month of the Holy Souls and so I would like to say a word about praying for them.
The tradition of doing this is a long standing Tradition of the Church. In the Second Book of Maccabees 12:44 it says ‘..it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loose from their sins’ and in the Book of Revelations 21:27 it states that ‘Nothing impure or defiled shall enter Heaven’.
None of us are without sin, none of us are totally pure or totally in love with God. As a result we cannot fully behold and embrace God’s beauty, magnificence and glory. We need to be purified. Therefore we pray that this happen for those who have died in order that they fully fit to embrace our wonderful God.
There is another reason that I have for praying and continuing to pray for our loved ones even for the ones who are now fully with God in heaven. We must remember that our prayers uttered now in the present, are to God who in eternity sees all past, present and future as one. And God who is not limited by time, can apply our present prayers to our loved ones - even some years ago back in their past. In other words, our prayers now can be used by God even to help them die.
Next week I will talk more about this wondrous ability of our God.
26 October - Image of the Church as the ‘Grapevine’
From the two Pauline images of the Church [as a Building and as The Body of Christ] I want to move to a beautiful image given to us by Jesus - that of the Grapevine - Jn15:1-8
Before I write a few comments I invite you this week to stay with the Word of God - the text. If there is any place we can profit by reading and reflecting on a few lines of the Gospel each day, as Pope Francis encourages us to do, it is truly here with these rich words of Jesus. I invite you to do just that - in Lectio Divina fashion - or after the example of Mary who ‘pondered these things in her heart’.
19 October - Your part in the Body of the Church
To conclude on the reflection of the Church as the Body of Christ please read 1 Cor 12:27-30.
Have you ever wondered what your part in, or role or calling was within the Body of the Church. St Terese of Lisieux did and I would like to share her discovery by quoting direct from her autobiography. I am sure I am not breaking any copyright by doing this!
‘I was still being tormented by this question of unfulfilled longings for martyrdom and it was a distraction in my prayer, when I decided to consult Saint Paul’s epistles in the hope of getting an answer. It was the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of First Corinthians that claimed my attention. The first of these told me that we can’t all of us be apostles, all of us be prophets, all of us doctors, and so on; the Church is composed of members which differ in their use; the eye is one thing and the hand is another. It was a clear enough answer, but it didn’t satisfy my aspirations, didn’t set my heart at rest. Reading on to the end of the chapter, I met this comforting phrase: ‘Prize the best gifts of heaven. Meanwhile, I can show you a way which is better than any other.’ What was it? The apostle goes on to explain that all the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love, are absolutely nothing; charity is the best way of all, because it leads straight to God. Now I was at peace; when Saint Paul was talking about the different members of the mystical body I couldn’t recognise myself in all of them. But charity - that was the key to my vocation. If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a heart, and a heart burning with love. And I realised that this love was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act; if it ceased to function the apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. Love, in fact, is the vocation which includes all others; it’s a universe of its own, comprising all time and space - it’s eternal. Beside myself with joy, I cried out: ‘Jesus, my love! I’ve found my vocation, and my vocation is love.’ I had discovered where it is that I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of the Mother Church; that’s to be everything at once - my dream wasn’t a dream after all.’
12 October - Church as the Body of Christ Pt2
I trust that last week you were able to read and reflect on 1 Cor 12:12-26 on St Paul’s analogy of the Church as the Body of Christ. It bears a lot of reflection. Here are a few of my simple ones.
Vs 12-13: Paul only mentions Jews as well as Greeks who were the main ones at the time. Nowadays there are so many nationalities in the Church. We have many of them in our own congregations, each bringing their gifts to Australia and our Church. They have many gifts, especially of Faith and culture.
Vs 14-16: The foot or ear cannot say that they don’t belong to the body. St Pauls says, as we all know, that they do. Likewise in our Church it is sad for us when members of our body don’t come or don’t for various reasons belong. It is a good motivation for us to belong as strongly as we can and to treat such people with love. Our open attitude to them and relationship with them over the years may be the Grace they need to attract them back to, and even more deeply, to the Body of Christ, the Church.
Vs 17: Just as the eye or ear cannot be the whole of the body, as St Pauls says, we also know that we cannot be everything in the Body of Christ. We need all the different members to be a functional and healthy Church.
Vs 18 -20: While there are many parts to our human body we know that they all form just the one body. It is the same with the Church. Our differences don’t mean that we are separate and can go it alone. No these differences complement one another. When working in harmony the Church is a real strength.
Vs 21: So we certainly do need one another in the Church. If we think we don’t then we are deluded and if we try to live like that our Church is very handicapped.
No wonder at each Mass, and so millions of times a day, after the Our Father we pray for unity and peace in our Church. A united and strong Church will most effectively preach the Gospel and wondrously share the Joy of the Gospel.
Vs 22 - 25: How important in our Church is the need to be concerned for, and treat well, the weakest members of the Body. Jesus did - the poor, the sinner, the outcast, the ones who were frowned upon by others and society generally.
Vs 26: This speaks to us of the importance of sharing peoples sorrows and joys in the Church. The human body does it naturally.
5th October - Church as the Body of Christ
It is St Paul who gives us this practical and very understandable image of the Church as the Body of Christ. Jesus is the Head and we are the members.
This is a very different but complementary image of the Church. It is much more connected though than a building. In fact the body wonderfully created by God is brilliantly and organically connected!
I think we can do no better than to go to St Paul himself this week and read reflectively 1 Cor 12:12-26.
We could even do a few verses each day - stopping where it is appropriate and praying and seeing what practical application to our lives we could make.
28th September 2015 - Church as God’s household Pt2 (Ephesians 2:19-22)
There’s a lot to this household that we are part of in the Church. We have solid foundations - the ‘greats’ of the Apostles and the Prophets.
We are connected closely to them in our wonderful Church. They are not just some great people who taught us amazing things about God by word and more importantly by their deeds. We are united with them, one with them as we are with our families and our ancestors.
Jesus of course is the keystone - the main cornerstone. Jesus is the one who makes the building secure - holds us all together and keeps us strong and sound.
While the image of the Church as a building is not a living image, it tells us some special truths. There are many more stones resting on that sure foundation - all those wonderful people we also are part of.
We are stones too, built on and resting on all of them. Who we are now depends on them. We in the present day Church rest on the shoulders of Jesus and all those who form our wonderful Church.
There are many things to imagine, think and pray about and thank God for.
21st September 2015 - The Church as God’s Household
There are various references to the Church as being the house or household of God. It is another way of describing the Church which is the family or the People of God.
The classic quote is from Ephesians 2:19-22 ‘So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God’.
None of us are foreigners or wandering around as refugees. We are citizens - we belong. We are part of this special family.
Pope Francis echoes these beautiful words with the assurance that “the Church is not a private chapel for a select few, but a big hall where all are welcome”.
In speaking with his Apostles at the Last Supper Jesus told them that there were many rooms in his Father’s house and that he was going to prepare a place for them. Jn 14:1-3
These words are for you and me too. Jesus will make us ‘at home’ with him in heaven.
Jesus wants us to ‘at home’ with him now - and in his Church - no matter who we are, what we have done or what our situation is.
Think and pray about this great gift - how we all ‘part of God’s household’ and what it means.
14th September 2015 - Belonging to the Church
Recently I went to South Hedland to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of St John the Baptist Parish.
Apart from recalling in various ways the history, the Priests, Religious and people over that time - celebrating the milestone and giving God thanks - it gave me the opportunity to speak about the value of the Church and our Parishes in particular where we link into, belong and participate in that Church.
I drew on three images from the Gospel and New Testament which speak volumes about the Church. Over the next few weeks I just want to highlight them, make a few comments on them and invite our reflection and prayer with a view to appreciating even more the great Gift of Jesus and what he calls us to in the Church.
The three images are - the household of God, the Body of Christ, and the Grapevine.
Here I just want to make the point that we cannot be a true Christian and full Disciple of Jesus on our own.
I am sure we have heard people say, “I don’t need to go to church to be a good Christian”. We can be good people, do good things, believe in Jesus and get to heaven. However each of these New Testament images says that not only are we connected to Jesus, but also at the same time we are linked to each other.
As well as being individuals we are social beings and God has provided beautifully for us by giving us the great Gift of the family of the Church.
In this Church Jesus offers so much to us, as well as asking, in imitation of him, so much of us.
The full ‘Christian deal’ can only be in and through Jesus’ Church.
7th September 2015 - Let God Work in Me
I wonder if in times of quiet and prayer you have ever thought like this?
Why is it that after all these years:-
I feel I know Jesus very little?
I don’t feel caught up in God - in wonder at our majestic, infinitely powerful, awesome, beautiful God Creator - whose love and compassion is without measure?
Why am I not filled with awe at how God lives within me moment by moment through the Holy Spirit?
Why don’t I feel joy in praising God?
I am sure there are many reasons or questions like these, even for good Faith filled people who love God.
One reason for feeling like this at times is that God is infinite - without limits and in comparison I (although made in God’s image) am the tiniest of creatures and very, very limited. There is no comparison. Not only am I not on the same level, but as beings there is an infinite gap between us.
Recently I read a few beautiful words by St Augustine on the Eucharist which I believe throws much light on all the above.
“You will not change me into you like bodily food: but you will be changed into me”.
I don’t have to worry about any comparison or how big the gap is. God, in Jesus, has bridged that enormous gap.
All I need do now is to go confidently to God in prayer daily so that I may be changed into Him.
And every time I receive Holy Communion I know Jesus is changing me more into himself.