Last week we heard of a lawyer who asked Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The lawyer knows the great commandments of Love, but he does not know how to put them into action. Jesus tells him a story about how to do love. Love of God and Love of neighbour. Whatever is created and stored up on the inside will flow effortlessly to the outside.
In today's visit to the home of Mary and Martha this lesson is continued. Martha is the classic person who is stressed and distressed because, in her view, she has too much to do. She tells herself that her stress is made worse by the fact that her sister is not doing her bit. But the very situation she sees as a problem - Mary sitting at the Lords' feet to absorb His teaching - turns out to be her only hope for peace. It is Martha who must join Mary because she has the one thing necessary - a growing heart, filling with love for God which will give her everything she needs to be effective in the world.
This story of the integration of these two 'sides' of ourselves can be found in other religious traditions. There is a delicious story in the Sufi Wisdom literature. The disciple said to the master, 'I just saw a man who can fly!' The Master replied, 'Big deal, a bird can do that'. So his disciple said, 'And I met a man who can live under water!' 'A fish can do that', said the master. 'Then I met someone who, in the twinkling of an eye, can travel from one town to another'. 'The devil can do that', said the master. "If you truly want to find someone really extraordinary, find someone who can be with people and keep their thoughts on God.' The Master concluded.
Notice how the Master has no time for those who can only see God in the spectacular. The truly extraordinary life is the one that is lived in the ordinary world but is not of this world. But this is not a competition. It isn't as if we have to divide our attention and our energy into separate lives. Our contemplative hearts see more clearly that God is the ground and the horizon of our lives. What Mary brings is the wisdom of knowing that the time we spend at the feet of Jesus is never wasted. This inner wisdom of Mary can connect Martha to the outer world in a new way. The lure of God is present in every situation and in every circumstance. God is inside and outside as a strength which sustains us in all our ways and which commands us to focus our energy on building a just world. When we wake up to this revelation, this truth, we have integrated the two energies that flow with and
There is a prayer which, for some strange reason is positioned towards the end of the Lord’s Prayer, when it is prayed within the celebration of the Eucharist. "Deliver us Lord from every evil, and graciously grant us your Peace in our days. That by the help of your Mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all (stress) and distress. As we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ". Martha is the precursor for all who have too much stress and distress in their lives, who feel it is all too much and they just cannot cope with the demands which are weighing on them. And she has a very simple and beautiful lesson to learn and to share with us. That when what we are doing on the outside does not flow from our contemplative hearts we will be in trouble. Resentment and anger will be the early warning signals that we have pulled the plug on our soul. Her desired solution, to turn Mary into another frantic multi-tasker is not accepted by Jesus. Mary has chosen the better or good way. As it is written in the Book of Wisdom, "Although she (Mary) is but one, she can do all things (Martha), and while remaining in herself (Mary) she renews all things. (Martha) (Wis 7,27)
When looking to write about scripture or put together a homily I always research what others have said and very rarely do I find a piece written I feel should be shared in its entirety. This week is an exception and I was so moved by this piece from the Pastoral Review that I felt it should be shared. So, please enjoy and please mull over its content.
Last Sunday we heard about the mission of the seventy-two who were sent out by the Lord to proclaim the kingdom of God. This week, it is the scholar of the law who comes to Jesus and asks about eternal life.
Most of us are so familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan that we can easily hear it without really listening to it. It’s easy to do that sometimes with passages of scripture we know so well. The story is simple. A man who is going from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed, beaten, and nearly killed. It was a dangerous road. A priest and a Levite walk past the injured man, and a Samaritan stop to care for him. The Samaritan treats the wounds of the injured man with wine, oil, and bandages. The Samaritan takes him to an inn, pays for his care, and promises to pay for any additional needs when he returns. The Samaritan demosnstrates what is means to be a neighbour.
We want to be good neighbours. The law of God invites us to love God and love our neighbour. That is not a mysterious commandment. It is not something hidden from our view. This commandment is near to us, in our mouths and in our hearts. We know it and we can follow it.
The difference between the Samaritan and the priest and the Levite was more than just their actions. We do not know why the priest and the Levite did not stop to help the injured man. We do know why the Samaritan stopped to help the injured man: he was moved with compassion. From the compassion that he felt for this unknown injured man on the side of the road, the Samaritan carried out the love of neighbour.
We want to be compassionate neighbours. The word compassion means to suffer with. To be compassionate means that we are willing to suffer with those who are suffering. The Samaritan was willing to suffer and willing to sacrifice for the injured man. His act of charity cost him. It cost him wine, oil, and bandages made of cloth. It cost him comfort on the journey because he gave the injured man his own place on the animal he was riding. It cost him the two silver coins that he gave to the innkeeper, and whatever he would pay on his return. And it cost him the most precious gift that we can give to another: it cost him time. The Samaritan was willing to suffer with the suffering. That is what it means to be a neighbour.
And that is part of what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus. We suffer with the suffering. In union with Christ who suffered for us, we suffer with the poor, the injured, the sick, the rejected, and the dying. We suffer with those who have been cast to the side of the road in our society: the unborn, the immigrant, the elderly, the mentally ill, and the disabled. Each of us was marked with the sign of Christ’s glorious sufferings in our baptism. Every vocation is marked with the blessing of Christ’s holy cross. Mothers suffer with and for their children. Fathers suffering with and for their families. Teachers suffer with and for their students. Husbands suffer for their wives, and wives suffer for their husbands. Priests suffer with and for their people, and the holy people of God suffer with and for their priests. We are the neighbours, and we are the people Christ calls us to be when we are willing to suffer with those who suffer.
But we were not the first to suffer. We suffer in union with Christ on the cross. For in truth, we are not the Good Samaritan in the parable. We are the injured man. And Christ our Saviour traveling on the road to the heavenly city of Jerusalem looked and was moved with compassion for each of us. Jesus approached us while we were still sinners. He bathed us in the wine of his blood and anointed us with the oil of gladness. He carried us in his own body and placed us in the inn which is his holy Church. He left the two precious coins of his Word and his Sacraments until his return in glory.
And now, at the altar, we meet him. Our compassionate Saviour meets us in our suffering and gives us eyes to recognize his presence and eyes to recognize those who are suffering. Here we are strengthened to suffer with Christ and for Christ who willing and lovingly and compassionately suffered for us
Luke’s Gospel records two occasions of Jesus sending out disciples on mission. In 9:1-6 Jesus sends out the twelve apostles. Then, at the beginning of Jesus’ great Journey to Jerusalem, he sends out ahead of him 72 others in pairs to prepare the way. The sending out of this larger group is proclaimed in today’s Gospel (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20).
Both accounts of Jesus sending out disciples are meant to provide a model for Christian missionaries and to emphasize the missionary nature of the Christian Church and the supreme task of the Great Commission to go make (to form) disciples of all peoples. The Gospel today provides a sense of spirituality that should accompany the proclamation and the teaching of scripture and it informs us of the missionary life each of us should commit to as a follower of Christ. The instructions Jesus gives to the 72 has a lasting relevance and should be thought seriously about and explored by each of us and together as a community when considering our Christian mission.
The instruction given by Jesus suggests that for the most part the world is not going to give a friendly response to the gospel and in many cases it may be hostile. The reasoning behind this is that the world the 72 were being sent into had largely fallen out of the hand of God into the grip of spiritual forces, hostile to God and to the true interests of human beings. The 72 missionaries did not operate on benign or even neutral ground, they were being sent out into territory that had to be wrested from the grip of others who did not wish to hear the message. It was far easier and comfortable for people to reject the message or pretend not to hear and act on the message being proclaimed and explained to them. Reality was that not everyone wished to hear the good news. This was especially true when the good news challenged their present assumptions on how best to do things and challenged their current settled way of life.
Moving forward 2000 plus years we might like to explore and ask ourselves are today’s circumstances similar to and may best describe the society we live in today? We need to explore this because we are being asked, just as the 72 were asked, by Jesus to go out and prepare the way, to go make disciples and this going out and making disciples of all peoples is core to our Christian faith.
Undertaking what is expected of us as committed Christians is not always easy, it can be hard. This especially true when on reflection and contemplation we realise we have not got it right. What the Gospel asks us to do is to be wary of just accepting and living by the values prevailing in the world around us. Getting things wrong is part of life, to err is human we know that when we get it wrong it is best to learn and move forward.
Each of us is called to reach out to everyone around us, to see God in everyone and to go make disciples of all. We are encouraged to have a healthy prayer life; to study scripture; to go out and meet the marginalised; to stand up for those who feel no one listens or stands up for them; to bring Christ into the world around and about us. Christians are asked to make individuals feel that someone cares about them and that they belong to our family. However, whilst Christianity should be comforting it is not always comfortable and easy for us to put into practice. This is why we need to be supportive of each other, to be watchful and to help and assist with the talents and gifts each of us has to fulfil the mission of St Joseph the Worker and St Margaret Clitherow Parish Bracknel
The Beloved Son of God often refers to himself as the 'Son of Man'. Perhaps 'Son of Humanity' might be more
useful in our days. Either way, this is not just a title. It is clear that Jesus sees a new possibility for humanity
being born and emerging in himself. He gives humanity a new way of understanding ourselves and of how we
must be in the world. In today's Gospel, He begins by asking how people are responding to what He is proclaiming
and offering. This question is asked in the region of Caesarea Philippi where a counter proposal of violence is
being offered by the Romans.
His disciples draw a rough sketch of what people are saying. Some see Jesus as a prophet like the great ones
of olden days. But seeing Him this way, and not fully understanding Him, might limit us to viewing him just as an
instrument of judgement and social change. So Jesus then asks what His own disciples are saying. How are
they (or we) understanding Him. It is Peter who has a flash of insight but one which will need more work.
Jesus' identity and our own identity will not be found in the revival of a dead past, even if that is situated within
the prophetic tradition. Much more, it is about choosing to fall into the heartbeat of God and expressing this in
compassionate living. Jesus takes the 'confession' of Peter and goes off in a direction no one could have
foreseen. Peter has grasped the identity and mission of Jesus, and in return, Jesus reveals the true identity and
mission of Peter. Both identities are so interwoven that they cannot be separated.
Peter is given the gift of recognising who Jesus really is and what He is offering. Peter has been able to receive
this gift because of his relationship with the Father. We might say that Peter has made a trip to heaven and the
Father has shown him who Jesus really is. The view from heaven is the rock which survives every storm. But
there is a need to join understanding with action. When Jesus speaks, He is the Word of God. When His words
are understood and acted upon, they become an indestructible foundation. Heaven and earth are joined, forming
the rock on which Jesus can build the new humanity. It is this process of aligning heaven to earth that will be the
foundation stone on which the new humanity will gather. Jesus calls this gathering, the Church.
The rock that is formed by confessing Jesus as the only and eternal truth is bullet proof. Even when the gates of
hell are opened and all negativity is unleashed, it cannot prevail against the new humanity. This is because Peter
and all other disciples have the key to another set of gates - the gates to the Kingdom of God. The prayer of
Jesus, which begins with the words, 'Our Father...' , opens these gates every time it is prayed and heavens grace
flows on the earth.
With so many jokes flying around about St. Peter greeting people at the pearly
gates, it can be easy to miss that he is not designated as an afterlife security
officer. The gate for which he has the keys is in the heart of human life which
turns the flow of love in the world from a stream into a torrent. This is the
supreme act, the supreme sacrament of the new humanity. It is an act of
freedom and love flowing from their nearness to God. Disciples of Jesus are
free to engage with every situation which enhances life and free to disengage
from every action which contributes to death. This is the new paradigm which
is being offered by the Son of Man. In a world where Jesus is often and
deliberately misunderstood, He makes it clear that He wants a clearly worked
out revolution of awareness and action for those who get Him. The truth that
is revealed is as much about us as it is about Him.
St. Peter and St. Paul are amazing examples of how to grow into confident disciples. Yet they leave us with a
question about how we develop our understanding of Jesus and then integrate that understanding into our
behaviour. An artist might use broad brush strokes to guide us into acts of Love, Compassion, Mercy, Justice
and Forgiving. But that aside, His Word in us will take us to surprising places. The poet Denise Levertov,
reflecting on the fig tree that Jesus cursed, wondered if He was telling His disciples that they were withholding
'gifts unimaginable'. Perhaps we know we are getting closer to the truth when gifts unimaginable are flowing
through us into the world that He loved unto death
The 'Twelve' have just returned from preaching, teaching and healing and are celebrating what Jesus has given to them. Looking forward to some R and R (rest and recuperation) they are advanced upon by a new crowd. Notice how Jesus welcomes them! What looks like an interruption becomes a moment of grace, and Jesus will use the events to teach a very important lesson to the 'Twelve'.
As night falls in the 'desert place' the leadership see a problem and want to get rid of it by sending the crowds away. The ones Jesus has welcomed, His apostles want to dismiss and make them take care of themselves. But this desire does not reflect the values Jesus wants to teach. In His Kingdom, people take care of each other. They don't push people away when they are inconvenient. The future leaders of the Church must learn this lesson and pass it on. Jesus challenges them to take care of the people who are gathered but they object that they don't have enough resources. Five loaves and two fish are set against a backdrop of 5000 mouths. The twelve do the maths and decide it can't work. But Jesus takes a very, very different approach. He seats his guests, He accepts the five and the two and He looks to heaven, to the source of every blessing, to the One who provides. He blesses what He has and gives thanks for it. He breaks it and shares it. The bread and fish move towards the 5000 in the hands of the Twelve. The people eat and have their fill and there is a basket of food; one for each of the Twelve who did not know what they had.
The Parable is clear. It is very human to notice what we do not have. This is especially true when times are dark and friends are few. It is almost impossible for us to decide that there is enough to meet the need of everyone. So we push those in need down the road, telling them that they will have to take care of themselves. Jesus, on the other hand, invites us to gather and to give thanks for what we have. To view our resources as a gift and not as an inadequacy. Gifts fall under the spiritual law which goes, 'Freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give. And when we do this, we are blessed by the second spiritual law which says if we try to hold on to what we have, we lose it, but if we lose it for the sake of the Kingdom of God, we will find it. Those who receive the gifts in our hands will be satisfied and there will be gifts in return for the givers.
As you go through your life this week, try to take a good look at the people around you. It is amazing to watch our sisters and brothers return again and again to the challenges of life, companionship and work. It seems to be written in our DNA that we are at our best, and our happiest, when we find people and places to give ourselves to. Watch people break their bodies and pour out their blood in the pursuit of love and truth. In Sacred language they are engaged in the work of sacrifice and sacrifice is about making life holy by giving something back.
The Catholic community, in its Eucharistic joy, has been promoting this approach for centuries. And when the narratives of the suppers of Jesus, and especially the last Supper are reflected on with depth we see something truly beautiful. Jesus injunction to 'Do this in memory of me', is an invitation to imitate Him and to follow His Wisdom.
Jesus takes bread in His Sacred Hands. He identifies this bread with his embodied life. The very fact that He takes it is His hands should not be lost to us. He is much more than He seems. His transcendent self is ready for action and so must ours. This understanding allows us to return again and again to this place not as a random act but as who we really are.
Once Jesus has gathered His life in His hands, He gives thanks for it. It is a gift! It is a gift given by God, moment by moment, breath by breath, just like ours. Holding fast to this truth will increase our gratitude and gratitude will fill us up from the inside. Filled within, we flow without. The life freely given and received becomes the life we seek to freely give away - to break the bread and pour out the blood.
As we ponder the Eucharistic gestures of Jesus, we can become better at sacrificing! The teaching is clear. Transcendence, Gratitude and Sacrificing must be held together for full living. If we focus only on the transcendent, we run the risk of spiritual snobbery or that we are never really in the life we are living. If we only have gratitude, we risk becoming selfish and self-absorbed. We do not realise that as we are counting our blessings, we are separating ourselves from the communion of love. If we try to sacrifice without grateful hearts, we run the risk of becoming resentful. We pour ourselves out and find we are running on empty, so we short circuit the process and stop giving ourselves away.
So, whatever life sets before us in the days to come, remember to consult the One who knows how to break His body and pour out His blood.
I have heard it said, and I believe that it is true, that loneliness is one of the greatest challenges of our time. I am
sure that, like everything else, the reasons for this epidemic are complex. But I would suggest that one of the
major contributors to the problem is the rampant individualism which is embedding itself in our hearts and in our
communities. I think that personal freedom is a wonderful thing but only if it is celebrated as an equal partner
with the responsibility we have for each other.
It is astonishing to know that God is not alone - or lonely. In today's Gospel Reading, all three Persons of the
Blessed Trinity intertwine in this section of the last will and testament of Jesus. The Father is the transcending
source of Love; the Beloved Son is the historical embodiment of that Love; the Spirit is the journeying presence
of that Love who will guide humanity towards the truth. As He speaks, the Beloved Son judges that the fullness
of this truth can only be revealed over time. Meanwhile, the Persons of the Blessed Trinity are completely intimate
with each other. No-one speaks on their own but only what they hear from each other. Father, Son and Spirit
are a comm-unity and this community ensures the continuity between what has been revealed and what will be
I find it helpful to consider my many beliefs as a work in progress. This does not mean that they might turn out to
be false but that greater truths will be revealed and include the beliefs I hold now. These future beliefs are, of
course, hidden within the text of the Gospels. As things stand, we may not have the capacity to discern them
yet. Perhaps this is why Jesus tells His disciples that He has many more things to tell them but He is holding
back because they are not ready for them. Perhaps it is only when we have integrated a lesser truth that a greater
truth becomes available to us. The Spirit comes to make this spiritual development possible.
One of the guiding principles of Catholic Teaching in matters of relationships and
morals is the Dignity of the human person. This principle states that every person
is treated with dignity no matter what their physical, social or moral condition might
be. Human Dignity and the Dignity of all creation is inherent. It does not come and
go with circumstance and it cannot be ignored by any authority. On the ground,
this means that the principle of the Dignity of the Person is used as a reference
point, and is consulted again and again as we try to decide what kind of behaviour
and words uphold this principle. In short, what has to be done so that the Dignity
of the Person and of Creation is honoured in action?
From where does this principle get its power? It arises from the faith conviction that all of Creation is God's work
(see the first reading for today's liturgy) and that we are made in the image and likeness of God. If we are made
in the image of the Trinity then our personhood and our dignity has to be much, much more than we imagine it to
be. It means that we are essentially plural. It is in our capacity for relationship and the interpersonal flow of love
that we find our real self. The more we ponder this vision of the person, the more beautiful it becomes!
Which brings me back to the opening sentence in this reflection. This is not how we are used to identifying
ourselves. We are under huge pressure to think of ourselves as self-enclosed beings who have individual
disasters and destinies. In this worldview we are encouraged to compete and to step on other people's heads to
climb higher up the ladder of personal fulfilment. Our dignity is under threat from every turn. The negativity of
the other competitors and our endless capacity to compare ourselves with those who seem to have what we do
not, only seems to reinforce our sense of isolation.
But what if our dignity, flowing from the sacred heart of the Blessed Trinity, can only be accessed in relationship?
What if human dignity can only be seen as 'ours' and not 'mine' or as something which we find in solitude? What
if loving activity is what really defines and expresses our lives as persons? When we begin to think of ourselves
in this way, the Spirit draws us into an excitement we must pursue. There is a profound and life changing truth in
the teaching of Jesus, and it is simply this: we must escape from the prison of individualism with all the loneliness
and heartache it brings, if we are to be filled with the exhilaration and adventure of being made in the image and
likeness of God.
It is still the first day of the week and the movements of the new creation are still unfolding. In the morning, the Beloved Disciple and Mary of Magdala realise that Jesus is with God (Jn 20:1-18). Now, as evening falls, His disciples realise that He is still in their midst. In His Resurrection, Jesus is with them. In His Ascension, Jesus is with God. He is the bridge which connects and bolts together the Sacred and the Secular, the Divine and the Human. What Jesus was in His Advent, in His Living and in His Dying, He continues to be in His Resurrection.
But there is a huge difference between the pre and the post Easter Jesus. The Easter Jesus can find His way through locked doors and locked hearts. If you like, He manifests Himself as Presence emerging from within, calming the fears, the inner turmoil and the panic of His disciples. His Presence is remarkable and clear because He continues to bring the gift of Peace. This is what He promised. The overall sense of the text seems to be that 'the world' gives and takes away. Security can be very quickly replaced with anxiety. The world cannot sustain the Peace that does not fail. But Jesus sees Himself as the One whose nearness transcends the vagaries of time and of the world. He cannot stop the chaos. But He is present within, calming the heart, bringing Peace.
As Jesus moves from Word to action, he shows His disciples His Hands, His Feet and His wounded side. His disciples are expected to know how to understand this action. But what is it we have to know? How should we read the signs of the hands, the feet and the side?
Well, I think it goes like this. Jesus and the Father are One. But this oneness is not a private possession. It can only be sustained as it flows out, bringing life to all who ask to receive it. As He flows, Jesus gives glory to the Father. His crucifixion is the supreme expression of his Glory. It is the time and the place where Sacred Love and life are most visible and available. The secret hidden in the heart of the death of Jesus is that it unseals the fountain of Life! As an unnamed soldier rams a lance into the heart of the Beloved Son of God, he unwittingly starts a flow of blood and water. This flow is normally associated with birth processes. Through the opening in His side, His heart, in full communion with His Abba, becomes available as a life-giving birth for others. The openings in His hands and feet perform the same symbolic function. They are channels that make His Communion with the Father available and accessible to us. The Love that does not fail is mediated through His death because it is a Love that 'lays down its life for His friends'. It is this dawning realisation which leads His disciples to Joy. The Joy that cannot be taken away complements the Peace that the world cannot give.
But wait, there's more. Why does Jesus offer Peace a second time? The disciples are growing in their understanding. Once they feel the ground beneath their feet as Peace, the second conferral of Peace is an invitation to join the flow. It is the power for mission. Disciples receive the gift of the love that is stronger than death and which is mediated through the open wounds of the Risen Christ. But this gift will wither if they try to hold onto it as a private possession. It must be received and given away in a recursive dance of joy. This is why they are 'sent', co-missioned by Jesus in exactly the same way as he was sent by the Father. Disciples must give the life they have received to others. The chain is established.
Disciples will break the chain if they limit their capacity to receive the Holy Spirit. Like a Genesis rerun, the Risen Christ breathes into His disciples and they become a new creation - living by the breath of God. The Sign of their faithfulness will be the quality of the life of the community which is created and sustained by the word they preach. The only pathway to community is one that is created by forgiving. In a world where sin and no forgiveness separate people from God and from one another, disciples bring communion. Disciples must engage fully with this task. If we hold onto the sins that separate, the separation will continue. If we let go (forgive) community will grow.
The Power of the Resurrection of Jesus and His gift of the Spirit are experienced precisely as the freedom to overcome separation and build the communion of love. Is this the life I am living? If your answer is yes, we should celebrate. If your answer is no. Don't let it be so.
In our school history classes many of us will have studied stories about men and women and important events from near and far, people and events that have had an impact on society. The Acts of the Apostles is such a book from the bible.
There are many great stories in the Acts, stories about the people, customs and practices in the early Christian Church. Stephen is the first recorded Christian martyrdom and Stephen’s death led to a strengthening of the church rather than a decline which the authorities hoped for. The authorities on the death of Stephen began the great persecution of the Christian Church in Jerusalem.
Would we be brave to follow through our beliefs and loose our life, as we know it, for our faith? Today across the world there are people of faith in many countries who do this – they attend church and reach out in a Christian way to others and loose everything including in some cases their lives. One such person was Saint Oscar Romero from El Salvador who challenged the authorities, the wealthy and the powerful asking them to change their ways and policies so that the poor could have a better quality of life. In 1980 St Oscar Romero, an Archbishop, was shot dead whilst celebrating Mass.
St Stephen and St Oscar Romero both lost their lives (2000 years apart) because they were convinced following the teachings of Christ was the most important way to live. The second reading today is from Apocalypse also called Revelation. This book was written by a Jewish Christian Prophet who was part of the early Christian Church in Asia Minor. The church at the time was being persecuted by the Romans.
The second reading is a passage of scripture that is called the Epilogue and Benediction because it contains the final comment and a blessing on what John (the writer) had seen in his visions and received as prophecy. Jesus confirms his second coming; the passage summarises who Jesus is and what we must do to be recognised as a follower of Jesus. Are we willing to take up the challenges we are asked to by Jesus?
In today’s Gospel Jesus is praying just before his betrayal and arrest. Jesus has already prayed for his friends and disciples; Jesus then prays for all of us his future disciples. Jesus wishes each of us to know not just him but the Father who sent him and to live our lives as Jesus lived his. Jesus prays that each of us will know and feel the love of our Father in Heaven and be willing to share our knowledge with others.
So, the three pieces of scripture are linked. Between them they inform us why Jesus came into the world; the hopes and aspirations our Father in Heaven has for us; that we will never be left alone; we will always be loved and when the time comes Jesus will once again be amongst us as a living human being. The readings also allow us to see that living out our faith might not be easy. However, the positive relationship we should have with Jesus and our Father in Heaven, also allowing the Holy Spirit into our lives should give us all the love and nourishment we need to live out our lives as we are asked to – even in the difficult times and when the going gets tough.
St. John's Gospel begins with a revelation that we are loved beyond our wildest expectations. Now, in today's Gospel he tells us that loving Jesus in return is the only thing needed to receive and understand what He chooses to reveal. Those who love Him open their hearts, and all of their lives, to another kind of loving - a Sacred Love. This love brings strength instead of power. The Strength that will be needed to walk the pathways of Sacred Love in time.
As Jesus prepares His disciples for His death and departure, He speaks directly to their breaking hearts. There is a
secret hidden in the heart of every death. Wherever there is loss there will be a gain! Even more, The Holy Spirit will take up residence in the heart of every disciple and help them to remember and make this teaching their own. You might want to pause here to consider the beauty of this reveal.
Like every person who knows they are dying, Jesus wants to leave gifts for those who love Him. But there is no
financial legacy in His will. Instead He bequeaths the spiritual/mental enhancement that the revelation of His dying makes possible. And so, it is Peace that He wants to leave them. But not just any old peace. He calls it MY Peace. This is very different from the absence of stress, distress and fear. As Saint Paul wrote in his amazing letter to the Church in Rome, it is nothing less than the conviction that nothing can separate us from the Love which is our life. The non-abandoning presence of God is everywhere. On Calvary, the place of total loss, this Sacred Love is revealed as a protecting nearness which will not permit the final destruction of the Beloved.
Someone once said, "Where there's a will, there's a war". Few of us have not witnessed, or heard stories of the trouble caused by the cash inheritance. Inherited money can be dangerous. What was intended to help can cause hurt and division. Perhaps this is why in St. Luke's Gospel (Lk 12:13-14) Jesus refuses to divide a man from his brother over money. This same theme is repeated again in St. John's Gospel, where relationships are valued and cherished above all else. This is why Jesus' bequest to His disciples is something that will not hurt them or tear them apart. He leaves another gift - one that will be an active energy in keeping them in community. He leaves Peace, the only gift which can guarantee them a future. Peace does not divide people but restores them to one another.
If someone has left us the gift of money in their will, we might choose to spend it. Jesus has left us the gift of Peace. This gift cannot be spent. We can only remember it an act on it. Jesus is very clear that the gift of the Holy Spirit is given so that we will not forget, but perhaps even more to teach us the ways of Peace. We remember and we learn.
I heard a great story once of a man who left his family home in Ireland. He was not the eldest brother and the farm
would never be his. So, he went to America to seek his fortune. He worked hard to make a comfortable life for his wife and three children. He wrote to his brother every month 'with no news from this end' but always sent a cheque to help his family. His brother Michael wrote back every month 'with no news from his end' but never mentioned the cheque. When Tom reached the age of sixty-five a yearning to visit his home grew stronger in him. He decided to go and take his granddaughter with him. When he arrived back at the family home, there was tension in the air. His brother expected a rich 'yank' and he expected to meet a wealthy landowner. In each case, it wasn't true!
As the evening unfolded the two brothers found themselves alone in front of the big fire. Michael went to the cupboard and pulled out a beautiful homemade crusty loaf. Tom found his duty-free bag and produced a good Irish whiskey. When his granddaughter woke in the morning, she found crumbs on the table and a half empty whiskey bottle. But of Tom and Mick she saw nothing. She went to the bank door as the sun climbed into the sky and in the field, she saw them both, having a smoke and inspecting the earth the way a parent checks a new-born. They had stayed up all night. When they saw her, the waved and walked stride by stride together back to the house. As she waited, she knew that although she had not yet had to stay up all night to beat back the darkness with her love, when the time came, she would be able to do it. She shouted to them, "Wow, you made it all the way to morning!"
Peace. Is St. John right to say it is the only inheritance if any real value?
As Judas leaves to set in motion the events that will lead to the death of Jesus, there is no attempt to stop him. Instead, he is invited to act with haste. It is clear that Jesus understands His death as central to the purposes of God. Jesus is so completely at one with this purpose than the departure of Judas is like an overture to His exclamation.
It is clear, step one, that Jesus sees His death as a glorification and as a revelation of what divine love will do to save those who are lost. This revelation retells the truth about who Jesus really is: the One who is lifted up for all to see and who draws all people to Himself. In this one action he will reveal the truth about God, as a self-giving flow of life and of love to his children in their most frightening moment - the moment of their death. The twofold revelation of the Son of Man and of His Father strengthen each other. Their unity expressed and celebrated as mutual glorification.
It is also clear that the death of Jesus will change the bonds of Love which have grown between Him and His disciples. But it isn't simply that it is His time and not theirs. Rather, He is moving ahead of them, pioneering the way. This is why St. Paul refers to Him as first-born from the dead. (Col.1:18-19)
Finally, Jesus sees His dying as the supreme expression of the Love He has been talking about from the beginning. As He lays down His life for His sheep (Jn.10:15) He creates a new Commandment. The world of His disciples is rocked when they are lifted far outside their human inability to love God and their neighbour, into a first love that flows through the person of Jesus. The new Commandment is an invitation to recognise and remember the Son of Man who joins us in our deepest fears and sustains us in our greatest losses.
This new beginning - God loving us without regret, without end and to breaking point - requires a huge shift in the imagination of every disciple. Consider this insight from James Mackey,
"I simply will not feel my own life, my own self, as grace of gift of God, unless someone values me ... I may see, at first blush, this stands the whole logic of the reign of God on its head... The logic should surely read: first feel all life land existence as grace, and then feel inspired to be gracious to others. Not, first feel the grace of some human presence,
feel forgiven, accepted, served then begin to feel all life and existence as grace, and feel inspired to be gracious to others. But it is really a universal human idiosyncrasy that is operative here, not a matter of logic... Most of us can only sense ourselves and our world valued and cherished by God when we feel valued and cherished by others".
(Jesus: The Man and the Myth [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist, 1970]170)
In other words, we come to know and love Sacredness through our humanity. This is the colossal insight of the New Commandment. If disciples can keep faith with the memory of what Jesus has done. If they can aspire to uphold and live a kind of loving that springs from the heart of God's Heart, the presence of Jesus will be eternally available to them. And when other people witness and experience the disciples of Jesus upholding the primacy of Sacred Love in all things, they will be drawn to the well from which it springs. Love will be the tip off that we are disciples of Jesus.
I imagine that every home is filled with loves reminders. There might be photographs of people we have loved and lost. There may be other objects which, worth next to nothing should they be presented at the antiques road show, hold immeasurable richness of the Love that we have grown and shared with others. Some of us may even have a crucifix to remind us of the gift of that 'first love' which flows through Jesus. Most of the time we may take their presence for granted. But every now and again they call to us to pause and remember moments of joy and laughter or moments of prayer.
But the cross of Jesus should be a unique and priceless treasure in every disciples home. We belong to a community and to a tradition which has carried the memory of Jesus through time and space so that we can touch it and make it our own. This is the legacy of people who tried their best to live in the Love that does not fail. When they stumbled and fell, they found their way to forgiveness and started again. The community to which I belong has bridged the centuries from the time of Jesus so that He can speak to my own heart.
We have this gift and we also have the gift of Sacred Scripture. Both are needed if we are to remember the love of Jesus and His Commandment that we should uphold the primacy of Love in all things and bring Love to bear on every violation of Love which we meet along the way. Whenever two or three people are gathered by this truth, an indestructible community is formed. We call this 'the church'. But what I am beginning to see more clearly is this. Remembering the love of Jesus so that we can love one another takes a home and a heart big enough to hold the photographs of cherished family, friends and even pets, and allowing them to stand side by side with the cross
CATHOLIC PARISH OF ST JOSEPH & ST MARGARET CLITHEROW
St Joseph’s Church. 39 Braccan Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1BE (Directions)
Tel: 01344 425729
South Berkshire Pastoral Area
The parish is part of the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust registered charity 246871
St Joseph’s Church. 39 Braccan Walk, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1BE (Directions)
Tel: 01344 425729
South Berkshire Pastoral Area
The parish is part of the Diocese of Portsmouth.
Portsmouth Roman Catholic Diocesan Trust registered charity 246871