Easter Season Reflections by friend to the Society Teresa Keogh.
At school many of us learned the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit by rote and maybe, at that time, they made little sense. In today’s gospel reading we hear how the disciples received the Holy Spirit: Jesus ‘breathed on them.’ Breathing on someone is an intimate act; it revealed the love of Jesus for his disciples and through them, across history, to each of us.
The Holy Spirit is a great gift from God. The gift is revelatory. This gift of the Holy Spirit reveals God’s love for us; but it also reveals the fact that God trusts us to be co-workers, and with that comes responsibility and accountability. It is the Spirit working through us that turn us into loving people, capable of forgiveness, enabling reconciliation, showing mercy, people of joyful hope.
When we meet God face to face, the question won’t be ‘what did you do with the gifts I gave Maureen / Janet / Neil etc…?’ It will be ‘what did you do with the gifts I gave you?’
‘You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.’
(St Ignatius Spiritual Exercises #234)
The Feast of the Ascension
The Ascension has been depicted in various ways in works of art. Some pictures show Jesus’ feet sticking out from a cloud; others have his whole body hovering above the disciples. It was common in the Middle Ages for roof bosses to merely depict a pair of feet. But what do these images encourage us to celebrate?
R S Thomas in his poem The Absence says
‘It is this great absence
That is like a presence…’
Perhaps that is a way that we could view this feast day. Jesus ascending to heaven leaves a physical absence on earth that, paradoxically, makes him fully present in our lives. This is a challenging concept – we are both called and challenged to be Christ’s witnesses, to be Christ to one another, in our work, our communities, our homes, our families – and with those we find most difficult!
Sixth Sunday of Easter
In today’s reading from the gospel of John, we hear part of the Jesus’ farewell discourse. John’s gospel states ‘peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you’. We might listen or watch the news and wonder where this peace is in our troubled world. As Church, as community, and as individuals we might pray for peace, but where is it?
When we talk to each other about other people, or politics, or religion, or world leaders do we tend to demonise them? Are we critical of those in authority, those on the outside, those who have done something to us that we think is unfair? Those with different views or different values?
If we make a conscious connection with the inner peace bequeathed by Jesus, we might be more able to spread that peace through word and action. Perhaps we should pray for an inner/internal peace that is made external through what we do and the way in which we do it. It might also be helpful to consider that simply holding the tension between opposing views may be enough for peace to break through.
Fifth Sunday of Easter
To love one another as Jesus loves us seems a tall order; a holy hope! Perhaps we feel overwhelmed by this ‘new commandment’; perhaps it feels too big. Patrick Kavanagh in his poem The Great Hunger says:
‘God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday –
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears…’
It is in the small moments that we live this new commandment, both with those we know we love (the easy bit), but also with those we find difficult to love. It is the love of Jesus that we need to offer those who irritate us, those who have hurt us, those we find difficult to forgive, those on the margins, those who spark us to be judgmental. It is by this love that ‘Everyone will know that you are my disciples’ (John 13:35).
Fourth Sunday of Easter (Good Shepherd Sunday)
In today’s gospel Jesus speaks of the people he serves as ‘sheep’: ‘I know them and they follow me’. Even though the idea of being ‘sheep’ may not work for us culturally, there is still something heartwarming in the image of the shepherd who knows every one of his sheep and lambs; each one matters, and the flock would not be whole if one were missing.
We are then told ‘The Father and I are one’. Through God’s grace we are drawn into the dynamic of Jesus’ relationship with God, who also cares intimately and profoundly for each of us. Grace is the dynamic of this reading and our prayer might focus on us having the grace to meet God’s grace with gratitude.
Mary Oliver in her poem ‘Sand Dabs, Five’ says:
‘You can have the other words – chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.
I’ll take grace. I don’t know what it is exactly,
but I’ll take it.’
Third Sunday of Easter
In today’s gospel we have the familiar post-resurrection story of the disciples returning to what is familiar to them: fishing. They have left Jerusalem after Jesus’ death and travelled north to Galilee, returning to their old patterns and ways. Jesus appears to them on the shore of the sea of Tiberias, but they don’t recognise him. They have caught nothing, and so Jesus instructs them to ‘throw the net out to starboard’, where they find an abundance of fish.
Sometimes we can look for the Lord in the wrong places. For example, in prayer and discipleship, we cast our nets into familiar waters and find that we catch nothing. Perhaps when this happens, we are being invited to put out into deep water. Am I being invited to be with the Lord in a new way this Eastertime? In what way in my prayer and in my life do I answer Jesus’ question ‘Do you love me?’
Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday)
In today’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples, saying, ‘Peace be with you!’. Perhaps this suggests they were not at peace. Jesus appears to recognise his followers’ agitation, fear and doubt. We all go through periods when we are uncertain; when, like Thomas, we doubt in our heads what we know for certain in our hearts. It is consoling that this was similar for the first disciples who saw the resurrected Jesus!
Like the father whose son was healed in Mark’s gospel, we all, at times, have cause to pray ‘I believe; help my unbelief’.
Lent and Triduum Reflections by Philomena Grimley, SHCJ, Scripture References from Year C Liturgies.
We are all guests tonight, but mostly spectators at the enactment of the gospel. Foot washing. How do they do this in your church? Embarrassed volunteers? Each time just one (freshly washed) foot? Multiple laundered towels (for health and safety)? Yet that Last Supper night it was so real, so deliberate, so shocking. The washing of another’s feet was a menial task that could not be required even of the lowliest Jewish slave. But the hour had come. Jesus laying aside his outer garment in humble service is always laying down his life in love. All he asks of us is to receive this love that enables us every day to “Do this in memory of me”.
What’s GOOD about it? In other languages it is called: Sorrowful Friday, Silent Friday, Long Friday, Black Friday…..Hour by hour on this day we remember the passion of Jesus: the betrayals, the unjust trials, the grotesque mockery, the journey to Calvary and the utter humiliation of the crucifixion. We do this deliberately, because he is giving each one of us the uttermost proof of his love, God’s love. “No-one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for those whom one loves.” Will you be going forward to touch the cross today and allow yourself to be loved?
What’s on your “to do” list today? Last minute shopping for Easter perhaps? Packing to go away over the holiday weekend? Could you make room for a little Sabbath time, a little silence to ponder the mystery of that first waiting? “The women returned and prepared spices…Then they rested on the Sabbath.” Were they wondering what God would do after the agonies of Calvary, the desolation of the hurried burial? What is buried in your heart that cries out for resurrection?
The chocolate eggs and the Easter bunnies have been in the shops since January and climate change brought the daffodils out months in advance. But where were you last night? Did you stand in the darkness and witness the new fire? Did you follow and gaze on the wounded and glorious Easter candle, the Light of Christ? Did you hear again the amazing story of the triumph of God’s love over sin and death? Oh, how we need to be set free to celebrate this victory in our broken, wounded, greedy, violent and destructive world! So, “LET HIM EASTER IN US!” (Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ)
Passion Sunday, 14 April, 2019
This used to be called Palm Sunday. Will you be collecting a palm today? Did anyone ever show you how to weave it into a cross? Sadly, modern advertising has weakened the meaning of passion, since so many firms now tell us how passionate they are about their product! But true passion is a willingness to suffer for what you love. Hear it, feel it, in Luke’s account of the Passion today: “Jesus went on saying, ‘Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
Fifth Sunday of Lent, 7 April, 2019
March 11th 2019 marked the 30th birthday of the World Wide Web. But the founder deplores its misuse in spreading hatred. Have you been a victim of ‘trolling’ or ‘doxing’? Advice for those who are targets of malice includes: “remember that sometimes the best response is no response at all.” So, in today’s gospel, watch how Jesus deals with the malicious Pharisees, setting a trap for him and using a helpless woman as bait: silence. Then an inescapable challenge. For the woman he has only the compassion that heals, not stones that hurt and destroy.
Fourth Sunday of Lent, 31 March, 2019
Did you know that our star, the Sun, pours out four million tonnes of hydrogen every second in the service of life? That’s prodigal! But if you ask Google to define PRODIGAL almost every entry will say things like extravagantly wasteful, all rather negative. People connect that meaning with this Sunday’s Gospel, and call it the parable of the prodigal son. But Jesus was telling this story to make the judgmental Pharisees and the Scribes reconsider. Maybe we need to do that too. When you hear it notice the prodigal father and just “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us!” 1 John 3:1
Third Sunday of Lent, 24 March, 2019
Surprise! Surprise! But, we wonder, even worry, what kind of surprise will it be? For Moses, calmly shepherding his flock in the wilderness, it was life-changing: a burning bush; an encounter with the Mystery of God, calling him by name and calling him to nothing less than the liberation of Israel from slavery! Our God of Surprises is always calling us into relationship, love, freedom, into life! How might God be trying to attract your attention this Lent as you go about your daily life? How are you going to respond?
Second Sunday of Lent, 17 March, 2019
Did you know that 1,000 selfies are posted in Instagram every 10 seconds! In fact 93 million selfies are taken every day. Why? Is there something in us that makes us need to keep looking at ourselves and to be seen. Today’s gospel of the Transfiguration tells us: “While he was praying his face changed.” Jesus, the Beloved Son, was seeking the face of his Beloved Father.
“It is your face O Lord that I seek” Psalm 26. The wonder is that we are being called to share this relationship and to follow him. No need for selfies!
“Seek his face!” Psalm 26.
First Sunday of Lent, 10 March, 2019
What will satisfy our needy hearts? What will feed our deepest hunger? Jesus answers us today as he journeys with us through the Lenten desert; we whose lives are inundated by so many words, seduced as we are by our mobile phones, texts, emails, social media, breaking news, gossip, tweets, including Facebook, dare we say it!
“Not on bread alone are we nourished, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Deuteronomy 8:3
Why not “Taste and see!” Psalm 33
Ash Wednesday, 6 March, 2019
IT’S ASH WEDNESDAY! So, will you be going forward for your Brand Mark today? Will you stand in line to receive the Christian Logo, the Cross of Christ on your forehead? Will you remember that it was first traced there in fragrant oil at your baptism? Today it will be marked in gritty ash. Yes, we remember that we are dust, but we also remember that it was from dust we were lovingly created. So we are setting out again to journey towards Easter, to enter the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, to renew our Baptism, for we are marked for LIFE!